Intelligent Design theistic evolution

Advice: Reserve now for major conference on theistic evolution

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Theistic EvolutionHey, springtime in Philadelphia. Can you get your institution to pay? 😉

From David Klinghoffer at Evolution News and Science Today:

Update: The deadline to register for this event is Monday, April 2. We strongly advise registering now to reserve your place.

As philosophy, theology, and sociology, theistic evolution is a fascinating and extremely influential phenomenon. Less so as science, since on that score it’s basically a rebranding of traditional evolution for a religious audience. Yet the rebranding effort itself carries many lessons with it.

One of the remarkable things about theistic evolution is how resistant it is to counterarguments. Evolution News has spent weeks, concluding today, rebutting a book by prominent BioLogos author Dennis VenemaAdam and the Genome. Yet it would be entirely in character for that community to just go paddling along as if the book had not be systematically deconstructed.

“paddling along” is a good way of describing the situation, a “mot juste.”

Theistic evolution got started as a way of reconciling Christianity to Darwinism but then Darwinism started to collapse, along with the churches that embraced it. But such institutions are still funded by outside or dead sources. Could be some relationship there. More details from Klinghoffer.

13 Replies to “Advice: Reserve now for major conference on theistic evolution

  1. 1
    john_a_designer says:

    What do we mean by theistic evolution (TE)? If you believe in descent with modification are you a theistic evolutionist? Most people, including YEC’s don’t believe that God specially created cocker spaniels, so they at least accept so-called microevolution. Does that make them TE’s? (Of course, the Darwinist with an airy-wave-of-the-hand just extrapolates from microevolution to macroevolution and says that explains everything even the things we can’t explain– Huh?) What about ID’ists like Michael Behe, Michael Denton and our very own gpuccio who believe in common descent? Are they TE’s because of their belief in common descent? Denton, as far as I know, is an agnostic when it comes to religion. Behe is a devout Roman Catholic. What about gpuccio? I don’t know. Maybe he can tell us.

    Whatever label you put on it I think there are two ways to look at TE. First, evolution is guided and directed; or second, evolution is not guided or directed but got started by God who remains hidden behind the scene. In my opinion the second option is blatantly absurd.

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    What do we mean by theistic evolution

    JAD,

    Good question. But I think the even more fundamental question is What Is Evolution?

    Andrew

  3. 3
    jdk says:

    re 1: TE is not deism, so it is not the second option JAD mentions.

    TE accepts that evolution, just like all other events in the world, manifest the will of God, but that the work of his will manifests itself to us as the work of natural processes: the ways in which he causes the world to be as he wants it is beyond our human understanding.

  4. 4
    john_a_designer says:

    I was thinking of the Francis Collins/ Bio-Logos approach to TE.

    John West provides a good summary.

    The Collins/Barr Approach: A God Who Misleads?

    Stephen Barr identifies himself with the position of Francis Collins who argues that although evolution looks like “a random and undirected process,” it nevertheless could have been guided by God. “Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.” [Collins, The Language of God, p. 205.]
    Barr takes me to task for highlighting Collins’ use of the word “could” because I implied that “Collins is not sure whether God did in fact know beforehand. Anyone who has read Collins’s book, however, should realize that Collins absolutely and unequivocally holds the belief that God knows all events from all eternity.” Really? In the same book that Collins says that God “could” have known and specified the outcome of evolution, he also claims that much of our DNA is basically junk that certainly was not the product of God’s intentional design. In particular, Collins goes on at length about “Ancient Repetitive Elements,” which he disparages as “genetic flotsam and jetsam” that make up “roughly 45 percent of the human genome.” [emphasis added by JAD] Collins concedes that “some might argue that these are actually functional elements placed there by the Creator for a good reason, and our discounting of them as ‘junk DNA’ just betrays our current level of ignorance. And indeed, some small fraction of them may play important regulatory roles. But certain examples severely strain the credulity of that explanation.” [Language of God, p. 156, emphasis added] In other words, Collins rejects as credulous the idea that such DNA were planned by God for a reason. So much for the idea that God knew and specified the outcomes of evolution from eternity.

    https://evolutionnews.org/2009/06/god_and_evolution_a_response_t_2/

    In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins writes, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    As an ID’ist I ask, ‘If something appears to be designed isn’t it logically possible it really could be designed?’ Dawkins argues that the “design” is only apparent. Collins, from the impression I got from reading his book, appears to lean more towards Dawkins view than the ID view. In other words, Collins believes that evolution is an unguided guided process. That kind of view is logically incoherent.

  5. 5
    jdk says:

    I know nothing about Collins, but the TE that I am familiar with would agree that “Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.”

    Or, as I would phrase it, “what is chance to us is not chance to God.”

    I think the big point is that TE is not just a position about evolution, but rather a much broader position about God’s presence in the world. It is the theological belief that everything, from the daily events and overall course of our personals lives to the largest-scale history of the universe, is caused and upheld by God’s presence in all the natural events that we see around us.

    Many a Christian has invoked this belief when they have avoided a catastrophic event (perhaps missed a plane that later crashed), and stated that it was God’s will, and part of God’s plan for them, that they miss that plane and live rather than catch the plane and die.

    And yet, if we examine the course of events leading up to missing the plane (perhaps an alarm clock broke, or a wreck disrupted traffic), we as human beings would see nothing but naturally-caused events.

    To the TE, what happens via natural causes, every single moment, is a manifestation of God’s presence. Just because something has a natural cause, and perhaps includes elements that appear as chance to us, doesn’t mean that God is not involved.

    It’s not that the world isn’t designed: it’s that there is no distinction separating the design of some special things from the rest of the world’s event.

    This is my understanding of TE.

  6. 6
    johnnyb says:

    The term “theistic evolution” has largely come to mean “Theistic Darwinism”. That may be an unfortunate equivalency (and may even be one we want to try to change), but that is what has happened. Those who call themselves TEs are unquestionably actually Darwinists, while those who believe in a guided common descent usually go under the ID banner. Technically, their views are “theistic evolution”, but in common terminology TE=Darwinism.

  7. 7
    jdk says:

    I know TE’s who would disagree pretty strenuously, as per my remarks in 5. TE has come to equal “Darwinism” in the minds of opponents of TE, but many TE’s see critical distinctions.

    The complication is separating metaphysical and theological beliefs from tentative scientific conclusions based on human experience. Many people support the mainstream scientific theory of evolution without supporting a metaphysical commitment to materialism and yet without supporting ID. TE’s fall in this category, as do I (although from a different perspective than TE’s.)

  8. 8
    john_a_designer says:

    Jay Richards offers some pertinent insights in his review of Alvin Plantinga’s book, Where the Conflict Really Lies. (It’s a book about the so-called conflict between science and religion.)

    Contrary to some contemporary theistic evolutionists, [Plantinga] understands that an event can’t be both guided and unguided, both purposeful and purposeless. [emphasis added] Far too many discussions of “God and evolution” appeal to God’s mystery or his transcendence or his majesty or the fact that he’s “not a Cosmic Tinkerer,” to disguise a contradiction. Plantinga doesn’t talk about “horizontal” versus “vertical” causality (as physicist Stephen Barr does). He doesn’t cite St. Thomas’ references to “contingency” and “chance,” which had different meanings for Thomas than they have in the modern Darwinian context. And he doesn’t make reconciliation easy by just stipulating a teleological definition of “random.” He does discuss the possibility that an event might appear unguided to us but still be guided by God. There’s no contradiction in that case because the event isn’t really unguided. Looking unguided and being unguided are two different properties…

    Even when they do not explicitly deny the possibility of purpose and design, Darwinists intend to make teleological explanations in biology superfluous. Darwin, unlike some earlier materialists who were content to appeal to blind chance, wanted to accommodate the appearance of purpose and teleology in the biological world. “Chance” determines which variations arise (to speak commonly though somewhat paradoxically), but not which variations are selected and perpetuated. This has led some scholars to describe Darwin’s theory as itself teleological.3 But this is sloppy speaking, since it blurs the whole point of Darwin’s proposal. He sought to provide an explanation for the appearance of purpose, but without recourse to real purpose.

    Darwinists have followed in this tradition. They claim that random mutations are sifted by natural selection, and this blind and purposeless process as a whole gives rise to things that look designed, but aren’t. They don’t mean that natural selection and random variation are just a small part of the story. They intend for the Darwinian mechanism to provide a more or less sufficient causal explanation of the feature in question, though they often include other secondary physical factors alongside natural selection. The total set of blind physical causes is intended to provide the complete explanation of the feature. And that intention is incompatible with God guiding the mutations. [emphasis added]

    https://evolutionnews.org/2012/04/whats_in_a_word_1/

    Richards also quotes Ernst Mayr:

    “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically. It no longer requires God as creator or designer (although one is certainly still free to believe in God even if one accepts evolution).

    Darwin’s theory of natural selection made any invocation of teleology unnecessary.”

    In other words, Mayr is okay with religious belief as long as it’s just a personal subjective belief. But that is incompatible with the belief that God is the creator of the universe, life and the human soul, which means that everything was created and designed for a purpose. The Darwinian world view, on the other hand, is dysteleological, meaning there is no plan or purpose to evolution, nor is it a result of any kind of purpose or plan.

    Richards comments after quoting Mayr, “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. Since Mayr was one of the preeminent leaders of the Darwinian tribe in the twentieth century, I’m inclined to trust that he knows what Darwinism is.”

    So any true kind of “theistic evolution” cannot embrace Darwinian evolution since it claims to be a ubiquitous explanation of how life evolved.

  9. 9
    jdk says:

    I generally don’t respond to quoted material, as those people aren’t here to respond. But I would like to respond to this quote:

    Richards writes,

    He [Plantinga]does discuss the possibility that an event might appear unguided to us but still be guided by God. There’s no contradiction in that case because the event isn’t really unguided. Looking unguided and being unguided are two different properties…

    Yes, this is the TE position I am describing. Everything is guided, because the presence of God’s will is omnipresent. We, however, see with human eyes, and so we see the world flowing from one moment to another according to natural processes, which necessarily includes contingent events that we see as “chance” in respect to their consequences. We can’t see the continual and pervasive guidance of God in an empirical way, although the TE accepts that that guidance is there as a matter of faith.

    Yes, there are prominent people like Mayr who are materialists. They think they are right when they describe evolution from a materialistic perspective, but the TE perspective I am describing would say they are confusing their metaphysical position, which can’t be proven, with our more limited human perspective.

    Unfortunately, people on both sides of TE’s have come to use “Darwinism” to mean a materialistic view, which leaves TE’s in the middle: they don’t accept the materialistic metaphysics, but they don’t accept the various positions that state or imply that God has had to act in special ways in order to bring about the long history of life as we see it.

    So IDists reject TE and throw them in with the materialists, which misunderstands TE, as explained above.

    The issues are really theological: different (and unprovable) ideas about the nature of God and how his presence is manifested in the world.

    So, JAD writes,

    So any true kind of “theistic evolution” cannot embrace Darwinian evolution since it claims to be a ubiquitous explanation of how life evolved.

    Yes, TE’s don’t embrace materialistic Darwinism, and materialism is a metaphysical position, not a scientific position. But TE’s can, and do, embrace the mainstream theory of evolution as the best theory of life based on what we, as limited human beings, can experience (given that we can’t see the world as God sees it.)

  10. 10

    JAD @ 8: Good stuff. Thank you.

  11. 11

    jdk at 9 (and earlier): Very helpful explanations of TE. Thank you.

  12. 12
    jdk says:

    Thank you.

  13. 13
    ET says:

    Yes TEs say that evolution is guided somehow and that we were intended. But they also say that we cannot tell the difference between that and nature. We cannot know how God works or some stupid thing.

    And unfortunately for Mayr evolution by natural selection doesn’t explain what he thinks/ thought it explains

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