Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Theistic evolution and intelligent design (part 2): what is theistic evolution?

Last time I rambled about this topic, I remarked on an article describing the Catholic position on cosmic and biological evolution. At the end of that post, I said that neither Theistic evolutionists nor Intelligent design proponents have it right, and that I would have to go into deeper detail about exactly what "Theistic evolution" and "intelligent design" mean, in this context.

In this post, I'll talk about what seems to me to be the most commonly held aspects of theistic evolution. Although, I admit that these may not in fact be the most commonly held, but only appear to be that way because they are held by the loudest proponents.

In summary, it seems that theistic evolutionists are only a step away from deistic evolutionists. Deism, in contrast to theism, is the view that a god or gods created the universe, but sits back and watches as everything unfolds, with little or no participation or intervention. Most theistic evolutionists would adamantly claim that this is not their stance...adopting such a stance would deny the deity of Christ, for example. But it seems proponents of theistic evolution are uncomfortable with the idea that God had a hand in any sort of physical, chemical, or biological process perhaps up until the time of Abraham, and maybe even after. (Again, they would not deny that God specially sought after a relationship with humans.)

Here's an example: a quote from Ken Miller, a quite famous theistic evolutionist and professor of biology at Brown University (and author of "Finding Darwin's God" and "Only a Theory"). He said, "Why would God have to break the laws of physics that He created?" In other words, if God directly intervened in the history of the universe for creation purposes, that would go outside the laws of physics. But God is the author of the laws of physics. Why couldn't He have just set everything up at the beginning so everything would play out as he wanted it?

There is more to this story, though. Miller's stance in his second book, "Only a Theory", is that a creationist God, who intervenes over the course of history, specifically in creating new life forms throughout the history of the earth, would be a bumbling, mistake-prone God. Consider all of the plant and animal species that have gone extinct over the last 500+ million years. It would seem like a creationist, intervening God just couldn't get it right.

I don't see how adopting a near-deistic point of view saves you from this precipice, though. Theistic evolutionists, as far as I can tell, still affirm the sovereignty of God, it's just that His plan was enacted from the get go and required little-to-no "midcourse corrections", as it were. In that case, given all of the life that has arisen and gone extinct, wouldn't a theistic evolutionary God also seem to be not "getting it right?"

So here's the beef I have with theistic evolution. I would argue that a theistic evolutionary point of view may be scientifically tenable, but it's full of philosophical loopholes. If we dig really deep into its philosophical tenets, we find that either we believe that human existence is an evolutionary accident (thereby denying the sovereignty of God), or it is part of God's initial, divine, cosmic plan. If we take the second to be true, and follow it to its logical, philosophical conclusions, then every life form that lived and died on this planet was part of a grand design by the cosmic Designer Himself. This further implies that life was indeed designed, a position that every proponent of theistic evolution would be uncomfortable with (at least, upon inference from hearing many theistic evolutionists speak).

So, what's the deal?