What about Theistic Evolution?

Many lines of evidence show that the earth is far younger than alleged by uniformitarians.

 

WHILE there have been those, such as Nilsson, 1 who rejected organic evolution just because the scientific evidence was against it, most of those who have taken a stand against it have done so because it was in conflict with the record of Creation. There is nothing unscientific in such action. Few, if any, scientific questions can be settled with scientific evidence alone, if by scientific evidence is meant that obtained by scientific investigation and experiment. It is always necessary to use some more general in formation. The general information, of course, should be as reliable as possible; and the creationist believes that in the Scriptural record of Creation he has such reliable information.

Readers will, no doubt, be most familiar with the work of creationists who are Christians. There are Jewish creationists, of course;2, 3 and Modern Creationism should be, it would seem, a logical view for a Moslem.

Theistic Evolution

As is well known, not all of those who are called Christians have taken a stand for Creation. Many, even in high places, just go along with evolution. Or, if the disagreement of evolution with Christianity becomes too sharp to be ignored, many look for some compromise. And often the compromise is called Theistic Evolution.

There is a difficulty in attempting to discuss theistic evolution, in that it is hard to get a clear statement of what is really entailed. It seems, however, to be the view that evolution happened, much as is claimed under atheistic evolution, but with the added statement that God was involved somehow. On this basis, it is possible to divide theistic evolution into varieties, or branches.

Some, who call themselves theistic evolutionists, say that God was present, but are unwilling to allow that He did anything. To put it bluntly, such people hold that things evolved, while God sat and watched them. This view is rather like that ascribed to the Epicureans of old. So it might be called the Epicurean branch, or variety, of theistic evolution.

As far as scientific evidence goes, the Epicurean theistic evolution is indistinguishable from atheistic evolution. For nobody would expect that God's presence, if He actually did nothing, would be shown in the fossils, or in any other kind of scientific evidence.

Likewise, this brand of theistic evolution is open to exactly the same objections as the atheistic kind. These objections have been discussed before; it will suffice to note one at this point. The Epicurean, like the atheist, must hold that things came about by chance and natural selection. But it has been shown that the improbability that the present state of affairs could have come but by chance is enormous. 3, 4, 5 So the Epicurean, like the atheist, is in conflict with all probability; and can hold his view only by claiming to believe in things which have been shown to be so improbable that they may as well be called impossible.

Other theistic evolutionists, perhaps rightly dissatisfied with the Epicurean position, say that evolution was the means by which God created things. If God used means, He must have done something—He intervened. So those who hold this variety of theistic evolution might be called Interventionists.

Actually, the statement of what is meant here is still not very clear. Those who hold it, however, seem to mean that they believe that living things changed from one kind to another, over a considerable period of time, in the way which is claimed by atheistic evolutionists. But the Interventionists do not think that the changes from generation to generation came about by chance; they hold that-God intervened to cause them.

Thus the Interventionist is logically better off in one respect, at least. He is not committed to belief in improbable events, at least not so simply. For very improbable things can happen under direction, and God is considered to have intervened to direct things.

Since the actual changes are supposed to have been the same as those which atheistic evolutionists allege, and since there is a diversity of opinions among the latter, it is necessary to split this variety of theistic evolution once more.

To the Gradual Interventionist (to in vent a name), evolution is framed to agree with what seems to be the commonest view held by atheistic evolutionists. That view is, that living things changed slowly, even imperceptibly, from generation to generation, until completely new kinds of creatures had arisen.

The objection which can be advanced against gradual intervention is that there is absolutely no evidence for it. The fossil record does not show any slow, gradual, continuous change from one kind to another. Nor is any such thing happening among creatures living today. Neither is there a continuous variation between kinds; a continuous merging of the horse kind with the cow kind, for instance, as would be expected if those kinds had arisen gradually from some common ancestor.6

There are other objections. Consider the origin of birds,7 or more generally of flying creatures, from organisms which could not fly. If this came about gradually, there must have been many generations of creatures, neither one thing nor the other, which were not suited to any way of life, either on the ground or in the air. Of course, God could have intervened to sustain these misfits miraculously. But there are no fossils of misfits, nor evidence that the alleged misfits ever existed at all. And certainly there are no whole races of misfits being miraculously preserved today. . . .

Of course, some evolutionists, who were not theistic, have recognized the force of these objections to gradual evolution. Probably Goldschmidt is the better known; and his proposed solution, which has been called the Hopeful Monster, is also well known. It is commonly stated in the form: "once a reptile laid an egg from which a bird hatched." 8 It is not very clear whether that statement is intended to be taken literally; but nobody seems to say how it is to be taken if not literally. In theistic evolution, such a happening would surely be a miracle; thus in that context the concept might well be called the "Hopeful Miracle."

The first thing to be noted about the "Hopeful Miracle" is that proponents have really left off being strictly evolutionists. The outlook has merged with what has been called progressive creation, at least as far as the scientific evidence is concerned.

Those who hold progressive creation believe that God indeed created things, possibly the various kinds after their kinds; but that the creation was done from time to time over a long period, certainly not in six days. Thus they hope to reconcile the Scriptural account with the alleged geological time.

Now the fossil of an animal, even supposing it to be the first of its kind, would clearly not show whether, if God created it, He created it out of nothing, or out of lifeless material, or out of the egg or embryo of some other kind of creature. So the hopeful miracle variety of theistic evolution, and progressive creation, are scientifically indistinguishable.

There are several objections, on strictly scientific grounds, which may be brought against either of these views. First of all, it is unlikely that anyone would try to hold such ideas, if he did not believe that the Earth is very old. If it is admitted that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, creation in a short time, say six days, is the most reasonable view. Now in fact, there are many lines of evidence to show that the Earth is, in fact, far younger than is alleged by uniformitarians.9 This evidence is not well known, because of the difficulty of publishing anything which conflicts with uniformitarianism.

Another point which must be considered is the occurrence of symbiosis. 10 There are creatures which live together, which depend absolutely on each other. And they are often of quite different kinds. One may even be an animal, and the other a plant. This is true, for in stance, of figs and wasps, 11 or of yucca and the yucca moths. 12 Now if progressive creation is given the same order of origin as is held by evolutionists, in most cases one member of the above pairs existed long before the other. How, then, did the earlier member survive? Or, if it was able to live independently, how was symbiosis established later?

Another objection is that, in trying to make everything agree with the fossil record, progressive creationists, or others having similar views, may be leaning on a broken reed. For there are places in which fossils are in the wrong order, according to uniformitarian interpretations.

The excuse offered has been that older rocks were overthrusted over younger rocks, although there was no independent evidence to show that any such event ever occurred. Besides, there are good reasons for believing that such overthrusting would be mechanically impossible. 13 It would appear, then, that creatures did not, in fact, come into being in the order in which evolutionists say that they did. So the progressive creationists are trying to explain a situation which in fact has been falsely assumed to exist.

I have tried, so far, to discuss theistic evolution strictly in terms of scientific evidence. As for progressive creation, however, with which one variety of theistic evolution was seen to merge, there is also a Scriptural argument to be considered.

Those who believe in progressive creation commonly maintain that creation, from time to time, over perhaps many millions of years, can be made to agree with both the Scriptural record of six days and with the uniformitarian interpretation of the fossils. But in fact, the fossil record does not agree well with the alleged evolution and diversification of living beings from the so-called simple to complex.

As it is usually interpreted, the fossil record shows, not only that new creatures came into being from time to time, but also that some kinds disappeared. The dinosaurs, for instance, are considered to have become extinct rather suddenly. If, then, the hopeful miracle, or progressive creation, is to be ascribed to God's intervention, it is surely logical to ascribe the disappearance of creatures to the same Cause. In other words, one should then ascribe to God progressive creation and annihilation. (Or would the annihilation be retrogressive?)

Now there is no mention of any such annihilation in Scripture except in one case: the Flood. But to make progressive creation agree with evolutionary thinking would surely require a half-dozen or so annihilations, of which there is no hint in Scripture. Maybe the last statement should be qualified slightly. There are, it is true, those who believe that an other annihilation is hinted at in Scripture: the gap which some think comes between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. But be that as it may, nobody has ever claimed that there are a half-dozen or so gaps.

Besides, it has been shown that one Creation, along with one annihilation, that which occurred at the time of the Flood, are enough to account for the fossil record and the other evidence. The proper scientific attitude to take, then, is to apply Ockham's Razor, which is the principle that causes should not be multiplied needlessly. One Creation and one annihilation will account for the evidence; why strive to invent more?

It has been shown that of the varieties of theistic evolution, one, the Epicurean, coincides with atheistic evolution as far as the scientific evidence is concerned. Another, the Hopeful Miracle, is synonymous with progressive creation. For some of the varieties which have been proposed there is really no evidence, and there are strong objections to all variations. This is true even on scientific grounds, and it is highly unlikely that anyone would even think of theistic evolution on primarily theological or Scriptural grounds. So the most believable account of the origin of things is the Scriptural one, of Creation in a relatively short time, a few thousand or so years ago.

 

 

Note:

Readers should be advised that many creationist scientists who do not support theistic evolution in any form are convinced that there is ample geological evidence for overthrusts, that overthrusts are a testimony to the violence with which the planetary crust was broken up during the Flood, that belief in a recent origin of the present surface features of planet Earth and the life it supports must be based principally on the chronological data in the Bible, and that the Bible does not disallow the conclusions from various lines of evidence that planet Earth now contains mineral substance that was in existence long before Creation Week.

R. H. BROWN

 

1 Nilsson, H. 1953. Synthetische Artbildung, Verlag C. W. K., Gleerup.

2 Trop, Moshe 1975. Was evolution really possible? Creation Research Society Quarterly 11(4):183-187.

3 Ben Uri, M. 1975. Interest in Creation week and in the Flood in Israel, Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(2):83.

4 Rodabaugh, David J. 1975. Mathematicians do it again, Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(3):173-175.

5 Coppedge, James P. 1973. Evolution: possible or impossible? Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

6 Davidheiser, Bolton 1975. Horse brain, cow brain, Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(2):88, 89.

7 Cousins, Frank W. 1971. The alleged evolution of birds (Archaeopteryx) (in) A symposium on Creation III, Edited by Donald W. Patten. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pages 89-99.

8 Goldschmidt, R. B. 1940. The material basis of evolution. Yale University Press. See especially pages 390-395.

9 Morris, Henry M. 1975. The young Earth, Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(l):19-22.

10 Kaufmann, David A. 1975. Symbiosis, Bible-Science Newsletter, September, page 2.

11 Brauer, Oscar L. 1972. The Smyrna fig requires God for its production, Creation Research Society Quarterly 9(2):129-131.

12 Keithley, Willis E. 1972. The yucca and its yucca moth, Creation Research Society Quarterly 8(4):228.

13 Burdick, Clifford L. 1975. Geological formations near Loch Assynt compared with the Glarus formation, Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(3):155-156.


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April 1977

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