Friday, June 10, 2005

The Christian Confusion about Evolution: A Proposal for Divine Selection

Let us begin at the beginning.

It is important for the purpose of this seminar to limit all meanings of evolution to biological evolution. We do not refer to all manner of evolutionary ideas now adopted by many fields of inquiry.

Biological evolution states that all living things share a common ancestor by descent with modification. Charles Darwin did not discover evolution (but he proposed natural selection). His grandfather Erasmus Darwin published one of the first formal theories on evolution in his two volume Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life in 1794 and 17964 .

In 1801, almost 60 years before Charles Darwin published his ideas about natural selection, Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck (1744-1829) whom history would know simply as Lamarck introduced the idea of evolution.

Charles Darwin’s contribution was the plausible mechanism called natural selection, which sorts random mutations, privileging those which maximizes optimal survivability. Lamarck’s mistake was to suggest that function creates the organ, e.g., giraffes have long necks from trying to feed from tall tress rather than organ provide function, e.g., tall giraffes survive better because they can feed from tall trees.

Biological evolution is a fact and can be observed in nature. Darwinism is a theory to explain the fact of evolution by adopting the mechanism of natural selection.

The science and religion argument is not over the fact of evolution but over the theory of Darwinism. We are sometimes confused over this and think that the central issue is evolution itself when we think of evolution as necessarily Darwinian. This has led the Christian Intelligent Design movement to insist that evolution is not a fact but rather an hypothesis while creationism is a scientific program. This is not a helpful caricature of an already disputed notion. Few scientists and informed lay people deny the idea of evolution. What we are uncertain of is the mechanism behind it and the implications for our future existence.

The notion of ‘special creation’, i.e., that God created each new species separately from others is not biologically tenable. This does not mean that it is untrue, but that it cannot be a ground for an understanding of biology. Some would say there is no warrant for such an understanding even from the Bible itself. The majority of confession Christians in science do not hold to the theory of special creation for each species but believe that after the initial events of creation, possibly with distinct acts of creation for planet and animal life, all species of life forms came out of continuos lines of existing species. This expands the idea of a common ancestor to one of several early ancestors.

What are Post-Darwinian Theories of Evolution?

Charles Darwin lived and wrote at a time before modern Mendelian genetics and molecular biology became understood and incorporated into the many theories of evolution. After Darwin, several modern evolutionary theories emerged to account for observable nature.

Post-Darwinian evolution consists of both Darwinian and Non-Darwinian theories which incorporate the latest scientific findings discovered after Charles darwin’s death. Darwinian theories of evolution generally points to an accidental beginning with no need for a creator God and a bleak future after biological corruption, or death. Non-Darwinian theories of evolution posit a theory by which it is possible to reconcile evolution with a biblical explanation of creation along with an optimistic hope for a future when biological limitations on our brains will no longer constrain what our minds can achieve.

Every Christians ought to know this: there is no single theory of evolution today. While they share a common belief that life is continuos with each other so that man for example, is a kind of animal and that viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are part of animated matter, they do not agree with the mechanism or even the source of life. For example, some theories argue for natural selection while others for what I call divine selection.

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