The Trouble with Theistic Evolution

Greg interviewed Stephen Meyer on Sunday's radio program, who had some very helpful thinking about theistic evolution.  He offered questions and problems from a biblical and a scientific standpoint.  (Here's the program - it's in hour three, which you can skip to in this enhanced version with chapter marks.)  Meyer is the author of Signature in the Cell (and Greg interviewed him about the book).

Meyer said it's important to first clarify which definition of evolution theistic evolutionists (TE) use.  There are three definitions of evolution: 1. change over time, 2. common descent, 3. the mechanism of change-undirected natural selection.  As in any discussion, it's important to understand the terms.  Different TEs may use different definitions.  The first definition is uncontroversial - living things change over time.  Either the second or third definitions are problematic for the Biblical record and believing in a Creator. The second two definitions also have scientific problems that should call into question adopting evolution at all.  Common descent undermines the historicity of Adam and Eve, and alternative interpretations leave serious theological problems.  Regarding the third definition, God can't direct an undirected process. (More on this in a moment.) 

TEs want to influence the church to adopt the view.  Some think the church is out of step scientifically and it would enhance our effectiveness with unbelievers if we adopt what science has purportedly proven.  There serious scientific reasons to question that.  And there are serious theological reasons to question the compatibility of theism and evolution.  If they wish to make their case, they first need to be very clear about the terms before expecting anyone to consider their view. 

TE, of course, accepts that Darwinism is true and attempt to harmonize it with theism.  But there are good reasons to seriously question Darwinism in the first place.  Meyer said that the fossil record is conflicting and discontinuous - it doesn't support Darwinian evolution. Some TE suggest that God front-loaded the design for the universe and let it evolve on it's own.  However, Meyer said that the evidence just isn't there to support this idea.  Study of the cell shows that there isn't enough information built in to account for the variety and complexity of life we observe in the universe.  Meyer explains it more in this video.

Mutation is inadequate to explain the creative power for the variety of life.  Mutation produces very little new information - not enough to build proteins, which are the fundamental building blocks for life.  Meyer told us that there's already discussion among Darwinists to formulate a new theory of evolution replacing mutation as the mechanism of change because they're recognizing it's deficiency.  That is the very core of Darwinian theory.  If evolutionists are finding it lacking explanatory power, why should theists adopt it?

Further, the idea of an unguided process is built into Darwinism. It's not an extraneous detail that can be removed and replaced with a guided process.  Some TE explain that there's randomness in the indeterminacy of the outcomes, but God guides it to an outcome.  But a necessary part of Darwinism is the unguided nature of the process, not only the indeterminacy of the outcome.  If God guides, then it's not evolution. If God doesn't guide, then it's not theistic.

Darwinists say that we observe design, but it's deceptive - it's really random.  Creationists - whether young or old earth - agree that there's design and use that as evidence of a Designer. TE accept that things appear random or really are random, but that God is sovereign over it all.  TEs have different ways of explaining this.  But this is truly God of the gaps because it's not based on evidence - they've already acknowledged the randomness of Darwinism.  It may be a faith statement based on theology, but it's not scientifically or rationally based on any evidence inherent in the universe if it truly appears to be random.  That is very different from creationists arguing from the observation of design in the universe for a Designer.

Darwinism fails on the merits so why try to marry it to theism?  Meyer finished with a warning against marrying Christianity too closely with scientific theories that may be rejected in time as they're studied more. (And that seems to be a real possibility for Darwinism.)  He explained that the Roman Catholic church's opposition to Galileo was not primarily for theological reasons, but because the church sided with the scientific consensus of the time that Galileo was challenging.  The church associated itself too closely with a theory that was eventually rejected.  Darwinism has scientific problems.  It presents theological problems.  So there are both scientific and theological problems against theistic evolution.  Rather than making the church more effective by adopting evolution, it could end up making us even more irrelevant as science changes.

Check out the Faith and Evolution website, which explores whether it's consistent to be a Christian and evolutionist.  Another good resource is Jay Wesley Richards' book God and Evolution. And here's an article Greg wrote about theistic evolution.

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Melinda Penner