5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution
On this blog, I've argued against Darwinian evolution in a handful of different blog posts. I used to think that Christianity and macro evolution were incompatible, but I'm beginning to think more and more that there's really no incompatibility between the two after all. Now, don't misunderstand me here. I am not a Theistic Evolutionist. I still think Darwinism is just as false as I did back when I thought they were incompatible. All I'm saying is that I'm more open to the idea of TE than I used to be. I'd like to share some of my reasons why in this blog post.
1: Evolution, By No Means, Proves That Atheism Is True
There's a lot of evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview that has no relevance to whether or not Darwinian Evolution is true. Even if Darwinian Macro Evolution were proven to be true, that would not give us adequate epistemological grounds for concluding that atheism is true. Even in the realm of science, there would still be a massive load of evidence for the handiwork of a Creator. The Big Bang theory and the second law of thermodynamics shows that the universe had an absolute beginning out of nothing about 14 billion years ago, which provide powerful warrant for affirming the second premise in an argument for God's existence known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument says that whatever has a beginning to its existence had something to cause it to come into existence, since the universe came into existence, it follows that the universe has a cause of its existence. Once the two premises are proven true (as I show in chapter 1 of my book Inference To The One True God and in my article "The Kalam Cosmological Argument") we then do a conceptual analysis for what properties the cause of the universe must have. The conceptual analysis shows that the universe must have been brought into being by a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, uncaused, personal Creator.
Then we have, on top of the origin of the universe, the powerful fine tuning of the universe. Over the last 50 years, scientists have discovered that the laws of physics must take insanely narrow values in order for the universe to possibly contain life. If even one of these physical laws had been tweaked in just the slightest, marginal way, life could never exist in the universe at any place at any time. The odds that these different physical constants and quantities would take the values they do are so low that no one could take seriously the notion that they became that way by chance. The best explanation is Intelligent Design. I unpack this argument in detail in my blog post "The Fine Tuning Argument For God's Existence (updated version)" and I go into even more detail in chapter 2 of Inference To The One True God.
There's also local fine tuning. What do I mean by that? I mean that besides the laws of physics, which affect the entire universe, there are hundreds and hundreds of different factors about our galaxy, solar system, and Earth-moon planetary system which have to be just right in order for life to exist on this planet. If our planet were any closer or farther away from the sun, life couldn't exist. If our moon were any larger or smaller than it is, life couldn't exist. If any of the 4 gas giants were a little big bigger or smaller, or were closer or farther away from the Earth, life couldn't exist on this planet. It is far too improbable that these factors should be as they are. The best explanation is that a Creator shaped our region of the universe so that we could exist. I go into this argument in great detail in chapter 3 of my book Inference To The One True God.
Aside from these 3 scientific arguments for the existence of a Creator-designer of the universe, we have philosophical arguments for God's existence as well. There's The Moral Argument, There's The Ontological Argument, and there's The Trancendental Argument.
We also can make a powerful historical case for the resurrection of Jesus, which I do in my blog posts "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 1" and "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 2", and in chapter 8 of Inference To The One True God.
We also can make a case for the divine inspiration of The Bible by making arguments from fulfilled prophesy, which I do in "5 Fulfilled Prophesies That Make Non-Christians Uncomfortable". and there are 4 other reasons to believe that The Bible is God's Word as I point out in "5 Reasons To Believe The Bible Is Divinely Inspired" none of which depend on Darwinian Evolution being false.
All of these arguments do an end-run around the issue of Special Creation VS. Darwinian Evolution. I can give the atheist Darwinian Evolution for free. I really can. I can give the atheist Darwinian Evolution for free. He still has to deal with all of these arguments. If these arguments are sound -- and I think they are -- then Christianity is true.
2: The Imageo Dei Isn't Damaged By An Evolutionary Account Of Origins
Many Christians object to evolution because they think that it's incompatible with the doctrine that human beings are made in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27). They argue that if we came from lower primates, then we can't bare God's image. If we came from lower primates, then we're merely highly advanced hairless monkeys. I've never really found this to be a good objection to Theistic Evolution. I think when you understand what the imageo dei is, then however humans came about is irrelevant to whether or not we bare God's image.
What is the image of God? No one knows for sure, but a general consensus among theologians is that human beings have rational cognitive faculties, the ability to discern between right and wrong (i.e a moral compass), and that we have free will. No other creature in the world has these abilities. Animals don't have the ability to reason, nor can they discern between moral good and moral evil, and none of them have free will. At least in the libertarian sense, though I do think animals have "free" will in the compatiblist sense. In fact, this isn't purely a Christian notion, even Aristotle said that an essential property for a human nature is "rational animality". Well, if these theologians are correct (and I think they probably are), then even if we evolved from lower primates, we're still made in God's image.
When homosapiens finally came about, God inserted into the soul of the homosapien species, a spiritual component which would allow man to have some of the same features God has (i.e the ability to reason, know right and wrong, and freely choose things rather than act purely on instinct).
It is true, that none of the "homo" cave men which homosapiens evolved from bore the image of God, but the final product does. Here's an illustration to show you my point: one day a painter decided to create a self portrait. He only spent 2 minutes on the portrait every day, so it took him quite a while to get done. He painted a little for 2 minutes one day, and then painted some more the next day, also for only 2 minutes. He did this every single day for a month until he was finally finished. Now, every intermediate stage of the self portrait did not bare the artist's image. They looked nothing like him. However, the finished product did bare the artist's image. It looked exactly like him. Each individual stage of the painting didn't bare his image, but only the final product did.
In the same way, although each previous stage in "the ape man march" didn't bare God's image, the guy at the front of the ape man march does.
3: Molinism Provides A Way That God Can Direct Evolution While Still Being Faithful To The "Randomness" Of The Theory
In the film The Case For A Creator, based on the book of the same name, Lee Strobel expressed an objection to Theistic Evolution that he's held for decades. He said that evolution is described by most scientists today as a blind, undirected process. And he said "How could God direct an undirected process? How could God have purpose in a system that has no plan and no purpose? It just doesn't make since! It didn't make sense to me in the 1970s, and it doesn't make sense to me now."
I used to agree with this objection of Strobel's, but I don't anymore. I love Strobel, but I've got to disagree with him on this point. One day, I was sitting in the porch swing of my front yard thinking about lofty philosophical and theological stuff while my dog Max sat next to me. I was thinking about Molinism and how it allows God to have meticulous control over everything that happens in the world while simultaneously allowing human beings to have libertarian free will. God can control what happens in the world by acting on His middle knowledge; His knowledge of what any creature would freely do in any circumstance. God knows "If Bob were in circumstance X, he would freely choose action A over action B". So, if God wants Bob to choose action A, God can get him to choose A by placing him in circumstance X. God places Bob in circumstance X, and lo and behold, Bob chooses A.
It occurred to me that if God could control human history without causally determining everything, then He could probably direct evolutionary history in exactly the same way. God could know "If this species of animal were in this part of the world with these conditions in place, then this genetic mutation would occur, and natural selection would preserve it". Or God could know "If X happens, then this population would move to this part of the region where this genetic mutation would occur." And in order for God to get those genetic mutations to occur, He could use His middle knowledge to actualize a possible world where those animals are in just those circumstances so that the mutations do occur, and natural selection does preserve those changes.
God could use His middle knowledge of what would occur under any given circumstance, to direct evolutionary history toward His envisioned goals. He's not causally determining evolutionary history any more than He causally determines the daily choices of human beings, but He just puts animals in circumstances knowing how they would change if they were in those circumstances.
Sitting on that porch swing, I was amazed at such a realization. I thought to myself "I think Darwinian evolution is bunk, but if I became a theistic evolutionist, this is the view I would most likely hold!" It was ground breaking for me because I used to think that, unless you were an interventionalist like Michael Behe, then you pretty much stripped God of His role as being the Creator of the human race. I thought that on non-interventionalist views of TE, you had a sort of "Spectator God" instead of a "Creator God". On this view, God creates and fine tunes the universe, and maybe even specially creates and designed the first single celled organism, but then He just kicks back and watches everything unfold randomly. But, combining Theistic Evolution with Molinism, that objection of mine evaporates. God isn't a spectator God on this view. He's very active in making sure homo sapien sapiens evolve from the lower primates which evolved from that single celled organism in the primordial soup! He's not causally determining the evolutionary processes, nor is He creating animals out of nothing, but He's using His middle knowledge to orchastrate the history of evolution to produce the kinds of creatures that He wants to create. Therefore, on this view, human beings are not an accident even if we developed through a "random", "undirected" process.
Charles Kingsley, an Anglican Priest, and a friend of Darwin, once said "We knew of old that God was so wise that He could make all things; but behold, God is so much wiser than that, that He can make all things make themselves."
4: There Might Be A Way To Harmonize The Historicity Of Genesis With Darwinian Evolution
One of my biggest theological problems with Theistic Evolution is that I thought you had to adopt the allegorical view of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. After all, evolution doesn't produce simply 2 individuals. You don't end up with one man and one woman on an evolutionary view, but many men and women. This is why many TE's like Francis Collins of Biologos adopt a view that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are allegory. I've addressed the many, many problems with the allgorical view elsewhere, so I won't rehash that material here. I'll just simply say that the scriptural evidence strongly militates against such an interpretation.
However, there are some TEs who hold to a historical view of Genesis. They adopt certain models of Genesis which would allow us to affirm a historical Adam and Eve, and historical Noah, while also affirming an evolutionary theory of origins. Now, I haven't investigated these in too much depth, but one of the models states that Adam and Eve were not the first couple, but one of the first couples. God chose Adam and Eve to represent the human race (the federal headship doctrine) and that's why scripture focuses so heavily on them rather than on these other humans.
It could also be that the reason scripture focuses on them is because that it's only their descendants who are alive today. As the genealogies in Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and the gospels of Matthew and Luke show, Noah and his sons are descended from Adam and Eve. It could very well be the case that the offspring of other homosapiens that evolved, got washed away by the Genesis flood, leaving no descendants for the rest of human history. Every human alive today is descended from Noah's family who was descended from Adam. This would also explain why everyone "dies in Adam" (Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15). We "die in Adam" because we're all descended from Adam. We don't "die in" anyone else, because we're not descended from any other human. This is because their ancestral lines ended when they were killed in the flood!
Now, I haven't investigated these models too intensely. The only knowledge I have of these is what TEs have told me in online conversations. However, I do plan on investigating them at some point in the future....once I'm done with my current studies. Hopefully I can find a model with the lowest number of exegetical problems. I'm not in too much of a hurry though, because, as I said, I still think macro evolution is false. I believe God created all animals and humans through special creation.
However, of the models I've investigated so far, the one I briefly described above seems the most plausible to me.
5: "Evolutionary Creationism or Intelligent Design" Is A False Dichotomy
One need not choose between evolution and intelligent design, per se. One could argue that God designed the laws of physics (The Fine Tuning Of The Universe), and our galaxy, solar system, and planet (The Local Fine Tuning), and even designed the very first single cell. In this third example of design, one can still appeal to all of the arguments creationists uses; the DNA-Information argument, the irreducible complexity argument, and so forth. One need not renounce ID entirely in order to be a good evolutionary creationist. One could simply say that God's hands-on intervention stops after the first life form is created. After that, He simply chooses to direct the evolutionary processes through His middle knowledge (as I said in point 3 above), or you could adopt a sort of interventionalist view like Michael Behe does. Michael Behe is a theistic evolutionist, but he only thinks God intervened in places where natural processes couldn't get the job done (e.g irreducibly complex structures).
For these 5 reasons, I'm a lot more open to the idea of Evolutionary Creationism (a.k.a Theistic Evolution), then I used to be. I still think evolution is false, but I no longer think it's incompatible with Christianity. Now, some people reading this might wonder "Well then, why don't you embrace it if you think it's compatible?" -- Because I still don't think it's true! I find that Darwinian processes cannot get the job done. There are genetic barriers that cannot be crossed, and micro evolutionary changes have proven time and time again to be cyclical, not accumulative. Moreover, I find that most arguments in favor in Darwinism presuppose atheism. What I mean by that is that most of the arguments assume that God had no part in the creation of life. They rule out creation a-priori, interpret the evidence based on their naturalistic presuppositions and then say "Look at how strong the evidence is!" The argument from homology is one such argument (i.e the similarities in structures between different species of animals). This could be explained either by common ancestry, or by a common design plan. Now, it is not the purpose of this article to get into this material, but I unpack this more in my blog post "Why I'm Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution".
Just because something is compatible with Christianity, that doesn't mean that I should embrace it. I think that the existence of leprechauns and unicorns are consistent with my faith, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start professing belief in the existence of leprachans and unicorns! I need good reasons to believe leprechauns and unicorns exist. Likewise, I need good reasons to believe macro evolution is true. I have encountered good reasons to believe neither.
*How NOT To Argue Against Macro Evolution
*5 Reasons To Believe That Molinism Is True
*Why I'm Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution
*Is Molinism Biblical?