Thursday, November 19, 2009

Theistic evolution and intelligent design (part 4): "Will you marry me?"

Hearkening back to my original post in this series, I mentioned that I thought neither the "Theistic evolutionists" nor the proponents of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) have it right. I pointed out in part two that theistic evolutionists should, at their very heart, be proponents of intelligent design. In parts 3a and 3b, I spent most of the time talking about the IDM, but did mention that all Christians should be intelligent design (notice the lowercase letters) proponents of some sort.

Why can't then these two positions (theistic evolution and intelligent design) be married together in some way?

Sure, the natural mechanisms of biological evolution (that is, descent with modification, natural selection operating on variations caused by mutations) can promote diversification and speciation. But how does that detract from the fact that this universe and everything in it was part of the Designer's grand plan? Isaiah 45:18 says that God "did not create it [the earth] to be empty, / but formed it to be inhabited." It was God's plan in the beginning that earth should be filled with life. And if I may be so bold: human life was part of His plan as well. In other words, things may have evolved, but life was still designed.

Look at it this way. There are a lot of quotes from famous scientists that tread the edge of intelligent design, while at the same time vehemently denying it. For example, Francis Crick (in his book "What Mad Pursuit") says the following: "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." Uhm, excuse me, but why not both? No, seriously, one would correctly infer from this quote that biological entities, at the very least, appear designed. They do. The common evolutionist answer to that is the appearance of design is what we would expect given the mechanisms of evolution.

I have two things to say to that. First, how do we know? I think that's coming pretty close to putting the cart before the horse. Although I would tend to agree with that statement, I am still disgruntled that we take that at face value and don't test it.

Second, that statement (as well as the quote by Dr. Crick) relies on a false dichotomy. It's either designed, or it evolved. Theistic evolutionists and IDM proponents (and most people in general) play into that game, perhaps unknowningly. Most theistic evolutionists I know are uncomfortable with the idea that life is designed, even though I believe that's a natural consequence of their philosophical position. But we don't have to fall into that trap! Even though God may work through the natural laws and processes that He created, there is no reason to believe that life didn't evolve with a purpose, with a design!

In other words, I'm saying that if you're a Christian, and you believe that evolution correctly describes the history of life on earth and the diveristy of life we see today, you should still believe that it has been designed for the benefit of humanity. And that's just based on a philosophical/theological position. It doesn't even take into account the scientific evidence in favor of that position. (Perhaps I'll describe that evidence at a later date.)