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Theistic evolution: There is no clear definition of the term, says reviewer of a critique

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Theistic Evolution From Nathan Muse at Apologetics 315, a review of Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique,

It should be noted that the scientific critiques in this volume are not new. The beauty of this project is distilling them into one volume. Even if some readers will not be completely convinced by the scientific critique in these chapters, the reader is given much food for thought.

At the very least, a byproduct of this section is showing that the scientific position of TE suffers from being ill-defined and nebulous. There is no agreed upon scope of the evolutionary process and no clear definition of the term itself. Indeed, some have criticized this volume’s definition of TE as not being accurate. But since the definition in the book is based on referenced quotes and statement by major proponents of the position, it would seem the bigger issue is with TE itself. More.

Theistic evolution is best seen as a way of maintaining non-naturalist traditions, including Western religions, whie accepting naturalism (nature is all there is). Theistic evolutionists would be the last to notice the problems that are currently engulfing naturalism. Which is a ty because that is the real story today.

See also: William Lane Craig takes on Adam and Eve

Theistic evolutionist tilts at the God of the Gaps (again)

Mock at your peril! Naturalism is a jealous fraud

Can the rot of naturalism be stopped? Relating information to matter and energy might help

15 Replies to “Theistic evolution: There is no clear definition of the term, says reviewer of a critique

  1. 1
    Quaesitor says:

    When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time that He assured them of his continual presence, giving being to every reality. And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world was not the work of chaos, which owes its origin to another, but it derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.

    — Address of His Holiness Pope Francis on the Occasion of the Inauguration of the Bust in Honor of Pope Benedict XVI, Casina of Pius IV, 27 October 2014

  2. 2
    ScuzzaMan says:

    The Pope critiques God’s Word, huh?

    Some uncharitable persons might suspect him of arrogance.

  3. 3
    john_a_designer says:

    Am I a theistic evolutionist? Here is what I believe: (1) the age of the universe and the earth are what science says they are– several billions of years old. This is virtually beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    >(2) Descent with modification. Consider for example, dogs. There are several breeds of dogs: German shepherds, St. Bernard’s, Cocker spaniels etc. There is no doubt that the different breeds of dogs vary widely in size and appearance. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, our domestic dogs are members of the genus Canis which “includes the dog-like carnivores: the domestic dog, wolves, coyotes and jackals.” Dogs, wolves and coyote are classified as different species, however, some domestic dogs can interbreed with wolves and wolves can interbreed with coyotes. As Darwin noted in the Origin of Species this an example of artificial selection (in the case of domestic dogs) and natural selection in the case of the broader canis genus. Scientifically I consider this very well established. Indeed, not even the most YEC would argue the Cocker spaniels were specially created.

    However, when it comes to extrapolating this process all the way back I’m skeptical. It is yet to be established that natural causes are sufficient to explain so-called macro-evolutionary change. Even staunch evolutionists like the late Stephan J. Gould and Richard Lewontin have chided their colleagues for relying on just-so stories. But why are their colleagues relying on just-so stories? Because apparently that’s all they got. If that’s true then what’s the argument for macro-evolutionary change? We believe it, therefore, it’s true? Why not be honest and just admit that “we don’t know”? Obviously if you don’t know you’re relying on your philosophical world view. Lewontin concedes as much in his now infamous NYT book review of the late Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. But that’s just bait and switch. Aristotle coined the term metaphysics and metaphysics is not science (or at least what we term science today.) However if you are going to allow metaphysics a place at the table doesn’t that mean you need to reserve a place for ID, or even creationism?

    By the way, a couple proponents of ID Michael Behe and Michael Denton accept common descent– a view that Darwin himself championed. But because they question the neo-Darwinian mechanism to explain evolutionary change they are dismissed as heretics… The neo-materialists are just a dogmatic in their thinking as the YECs are in theirs.

    Personally I am not convinced common descent is true– though I can’t rule it out as being logically impossible. My position then is somewhere in between the two extremes (and close to the middle) YEC and unguided “blind watch maker” evolution. At the very least I am very sympathetic to some form of ID. It explains a lot of things a purely naturalistic hypothesis cannot.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    I am a theistic evolutionist.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    john a designer:

    (1) the age of the universe and the earth are what science says they are– several billions of years old.

    The age of the earth depends on how it was formed. The 4.5x billion years depends on the untestable assumption that all accretion debris was thoroughly melted. If that didn’t happen then the age is of that debris and it says nothing about when the earth was formed.

  6. 6
    john_a_designer says:

    The age of the earth (or universe) is not the topic of this thread. I am simply stating where I agree with the science.

  7. 7
    ET says:

    john a designer:

    I am simply stating where I agree with the science.

    What science?

  8. 8
    john_a_designer says:

    For those who are not familiar with the Lewontin quote, (btw what’s been happening on Mars?) here it is for the nth time.

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....of-demons/

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    ET:

    What science?

    Mung Science!

  10. 10
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.

    The way I read that …

    “If evolution was possible, it would require the (special) creation of beings that could evolve from one form (species, body plan, function) to another, since evolution could not create them but depends upon them.”

    As it stands, we have found no such beings.

  11. 11
    Nonlin.org says:

    Another review of the book:

    1. Theistic Evolution relies on the assumption that Darwin was right. Without that, there is no Theistic Evolution. Conversely, Theistic Evolution could not be invalidated by any philosophical or theological analysis if Darwin were right. In addition, the science, philosophy and theology (religion) separation is imaginary as shown. At close to 1,000 pages, the book is way too big, and should be split in two or three volumes. To make it more effective, an even better alternative would be to focus on the scientific argument with way fewer chapters dedicated to philosophy and theology. And in that case, Darwinism and not Theistic Evolution would be the real subject of the book (as is always the case).
    2. Given the number of different perspective one can view the subject, it makes perfect sense that this book is a collaborative effort. The downside of this collective work is that not all views fit well together to create a unified message, but this is mitigated by the nice structure of each chapter that starts with a summary, continues with clearly defined subsections and ends with a conclusion.
    3. Too bad the authors refer several times to Judeo-Christian ideas showing an unnecessary, restrictive regional bias. Without one bit of extra effort, they could have discussed about the Abrahamic heritage instead, and Intelligent Design is even more inclusive if one is willing to research other cultures. This omission can be corrected in further editions and does not alter in any way the analyses and conclusions presented.
    4. Some the most important ideas of this book are:
    a. The problem of origin of information
    b. New genes and proteins are very rare (so far impossible to obtain by random variation)
    c. Significant mutations are not compatible with embryo survival
    d. Even if “natural selection” were nonrandom, it would not matter as it is not what generates innovations
    e. Bioengineering requires sustained, unnatural intervention from the engineers; design and not “evolution” is how we get anything done
    f. Biochemistry nanovehicles design example shows abiogenesis to be an impossibility
    g. Computer simulations of “evolution” are complete failures without a designer
    h. Protein formation cannot be traced back to DNA as RNA is modified after DNA transcription and proteins are modified by glycosylation; protein location in the cell is also critical the their effectivity
    i. EES proponents recognize problems with the theory of evolution but have no valid solutions
    j. Embryo development is orchestrated with DNA playing a very limited role
    k. Embryology, the fossil record, and phylogenetic trees do not support evolution when exaggerated claims are rolled back
    l. Hominins fall into two distinct groups: ape-like and human-like with a distinct gap between them
    m. Genetic difference between humans and apes are far greater than reported and show human uniqueness
    n. Scientism (science worship) is widespread as science is more biased than claimed
    o. Methodological naturalism is not justified and unscientific
    p. Theistic evolution is incompatible with several biblical creation accounts from Genesis (even with less literal interpretations)

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Nonlin @ 11

    Interesting. Thank you.

    1. Theistic Evolution relies on the assumption that Darwin was right. Without that, there is no Theistic Evolution. Conversely, Theistic Evolution could not be invalidated by any philosophical or theological analysis if Darwin were right.

    Yes, even more. We know that Darwin (or “evolution”) cannot be falsified really. So, TE is a very safe position. It really just accepts anything that is called ‘evolution’ – Darwin or otherwise. Today there are some hard-core Darwinists who are TE, but many just back away from the science – willing to accept any materialist claim for science, holding (what they think is) a trump-card of God behind everything and anything that is proposed. Others, like Ken Miller have sold themselves entirely to Darwin, to the point that they invent their own theology so God will fit into the picture somehow.

    At close to 1,000 pages, the book is way too big, and should be split in two or three volumes.

    Interesting. Yes, I find it hard to imagine how anyone could get 1,000 pages on this topic without repeating a lot. But then again, as pointed out, if the book critiques Darwinism, as it should in my opinion, then it is worth that kind of detail.

    To make it more effective, an even better alternative would be to focus on the scientific argument with way fewer chapters dedicated to philosophy and theology.

    If the book is an ID perspective, then science should be the only focus. IDists have no claim to theological or philosophical expertise – or even to a consensus in those views. I don’t know how TE can be criticized theologically unless it is from a unified theological position.

    And in that case, Darwinism and not Theistic Evolution would be the real subject of the book (as is always the case).

    Yes. Very good point. I take it farther – it’s really a materialist/atheist story of origins that should be the subject. How that is incompatible with theism. Because, as we know, Darwinism can be shown to be totally absurd and false but its adherents merely can move to an “extended synthesis” of the falsified theory, or come up with an entirely different set of materialistic mechanisms. They don’t really need Darwin, as such. Just some kind of story of blind, mindless forces in the universe as the substitute for God.

    The downside of this collective work is that not all views fit well together to create a unified message, but this is mitigated by the nice structure of each chapter that starts with a summary, continues with clearly defined subsections and ends with a conclusion.

    Again, if the book contains different theological perspectives then why condemn TE which is just another theological perspective? If the authors are ecumenical with tolerance for various and contradictory faith-proposals, then I wonder how they agree that they, together, are correct about theology and TE is not correct.

    Too bad the authors refer several times to Judeo-Christian ideas showing an unnecessary, restrictive regional bias. Without one bit of extra effort, they could have discussed about the Abrahamic heritage instead, and Intelligent Design is even more inclusive if one is willing to research other cultures.

    Yes, if the authors do not understand that ID is independent from and compatible with any variety of Faith traditions, and in fact, ID is compatible with some forms of atheism – then the book is essentially useless in my view.

    I will admit, that most people who promote ID have a single faith tradition (Evangelical Christianity) that they hope will be supported by ID. They use ID as an apologetic for Protestant Christianity, at the same time, cleverly saying that “ID is just science”. Well, we can’t have it both ways. If ID is “just science” – then it can be used by any or even No faith traditions and get the same results.
    Other IDists require that science itself has to change in order for ID to be accepted as science. But that seems wrong and absurd to me.
    “ID is just science (as long as you accept an entirely different view of science than mainstream science does).” That seems dishonest. If one must create a new or different idea of the scope of science, in order to accept ID as science, then the statement “ID is just science” is not accurate.

    If ID is a religious position – then honesty requires it to be presented as such. If ID fits within secular science, as science is practiced today, then ID is not an apologetic for any one religion. It is just science – and people can draw whatever theological conclusions they want from it. ID has nothing to say about the theology or even the philosophy.

    a. The problem of origin of information
    b. New genes and proteins are very rare (so far impossible to obtain by random variation)
    c. Significant mutations are not compatible with embryo survival
    d. Even if “natural selection” were nonrandom, it would not matter as it is not what generates innovations
    e. Bioengineering requires sustained, unnatural intervention from the engineers; design and not “evolution” is how we get anything done
    f. Biochemistry nanovehicles design example shows abiogenesis to be an impossibility
    g. Computer simulations of “evolution” are complete failures without a designer
    h. Protein formation cannot be traced back to DNA as RNA is modified after DNA transcription and proteins are modified by glycosylation; protein location in the cell is also critical the their effectivity
    i. EES proponents recognize problems with the theory of evolution but have no valid solutions
    j. Embryo development is orchestrated with DNA playing a very limited role
    k. Embryology, the fossil record, and phylogenetic trees do not support evolution when exaggerated claims are rolled back
    l. Hominins fall into two distinct groups: ape-like and human-like with a distinct gap between them
    m. Genetic difference between humans and apes are far greater than reported and show human uniqueness

    All of that seems to be ID and anti-materialist sort of stuff and has nothing to do with a critique of Theistic Evolution as such.

    p. Theistic evolution is incompatible with several biblical creation accounts from Genesis (even with less literal interpretations)

    This assumes that the authors of the book are competent in their interpretation of the Bible and that there is some reason why anyone would need to pay attention to what they have to say. An interpretation of the Bible comes from a Faith tradition – that is, a religion.

    I think a full-scale attack on TE, complete with theological propositions, from the ID camp is an indication of despair and loss-of-mission from IDists. I believe the real engagement with atheistic science has been diminished and lost — not because ID has failed, but because ID has been successful! But this success for ID has just silenced Darwinism, and pushed open arguments into the dark and closed world of academia.

    In the past decade, I’ve seen much less open hostility towards ID from all sides. The hostility and opposition is still present, maybe even worse, but it is not expressed as openly and as rashly as before.

    One reason, some will suggest, is that atheistic-science has totally dismissed ID and no longer takes it seriously. I very much doubt that. I think ID is known to be a strongly held position against Darwin, and quietly, more people accept ID.

    Stephen Meyer’s books and arguments, for example, continue to hold up well and have not been refuted. They have not even been adequately analyzed by Darwinian-opponents. I see this as a victory for ID, and a collapse for Darwinism.

  13. 13
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I mentioned that Ken Miller “invents his own theology” — but that’s what people do. On what basis do IDists claim that their theology is better? Is there a religion that ID wants everyone to believe in?

  14. 14
    Nonlin.org says:

    SA,

    Thanks for the feedback. Darwinism might appear un-falsifiable, but it can be shown to be an intellectual fraud:

    Gradualism fails – http://nonlin.org/gradualism/
    Natural selection fails – http://nonlin.org/natural-selection/
    Divergence of character fails – http://nonlin.org/evotest/
    Speciation fails – http://nonlin.org/speciation-problems/
    DNA “essence of life” fails – http://nonlin.org/dna-not-essence-of-life/
    Randomness fails – http://nonlin.org/random-abuse/
    Abiogenesis fails – http://nonlin.org/warmpond/
    Science against Religion fails – http://nonlin.org/philosophy-religion-and-science/
    etc., etc.
    And let’s test it again and make sure it fails again and again: http://nonlin.org/evotest/

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Nonlin
    Good analysis on your site. It’s difficult to argue against any of that.
    The fact that evolutionists will just shift the argument and change the theory, does indicate to me, that the whole thing is a fraud.
    But at the same time, a supposed theory that predicts nothing and makes no fixed claims, cannot be falsified. For example, gradualism. Yes, that should be a cornerstone for Darwinism. But going back to S.J. Gould – ‘evolutionary theory’ remains unaffected even if gradualism is proven false. So there can be bursts of innovation followed by stasis, and Darwin supposedly remains correct.
    But that’s just mythology – a materialist creation story, where blind, undirected forces cause things. No matter how they are caused, the evolutionary mythology just posits this invisible god of materialism that creates all the diversity of life.

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