Origins - Theistic Evolution

Triceratops SkeletonThere's a lot of people out there want you to think you have to believe that the world was made in six days or you're not a proper "Bible-believing Christian" - whatever that means. This is a load of codswallop, you can live in the 20th century and be a Christian.

Why This Page?

I'd originally not intended to put any material of my own on this site; I'm just some farty whose ideas have no more validity than anyone else's. Frighteningly, however, the Christian side of the Web seems to be dominated by folk of Creationist beliefs, as any search on any search engine using 'theistic evolution' or 'creationism' will show you. Why this should be I don't know. Most of the major denominations accept Theistic Evolution (The Roman Catholics, for starters!). Perhaps it's because it's only an issue to the Creationists, so only they bother to address it.

CreationAnd for me, it's not inherently an issue. I don't give a flying one whether you take Genesis literally or not. But I do get wound up by three things:

  1. Trash science - moon dust arguments, magnetic field strength arguments..
  2. Trash logic - argument from incredulity, straw men...
  3. Trash theology - believe what I believe or you're not really a Christian

In order to attempt to redress the imbalance, I've devoted this page to the issue. Here are both material by me, and links to evolution and particularly theistic evolution on the web.

It's a hard path to tread, putting together a page like this from a Christian perspective. I do not want to be self-righteous. This is a failing I find in some creationist pages and some atheistic evolution pages, which fall over themselves to mock and denigrate those who take a different view. It is hard to argue against something without seeming this way, especially something with as little scientific content as 'Creation Science', but I will attempt to do so. My concern is not with creationism per se (if your theology leads you unavoidably to a literal interpretation of the early parts of Genesis than that's fine), but rather with the errors propagated within Creationism, and especially the Young Earth variety.

Nevertheless, I do think it is important that this viewpoint is aired. It is my firm belief that insistance on a literal reading of the Creation story in Genesis 1 is a serious barrier to accepting the Gospel for scientists, especially those working in the fields of Earth sciences, biology or physics. It is a barrier for the scientifically literate layman. It is not a core Christian belief, and its raising to an issue of salvific importance misrepresents the gospel and thus is an unnecessary impediment. I know from myself that if it had been presented as an integral part of Christianity to me, I would never have become a Christian. Thanks be to God, I heard the gospel in an environment where the discoveries of mainstream science were accepted. It was only later I came across what was for me the strange phenomenon of Creationism.

T rexSo, if you are a Young Earth Creationist, please don't be offended. At the very least, realise that I accept the Young Earth creationist as a valid fellow Christian, equal with me before the sight of God. And please grant me the same grace. At the end, what unites us must be greater than what seperates us.

What is Theistic Evolution?

Theistic Evolution is not a defined belief system. A theistic evolutionist is a person who accepts that evolution is the scientific description of how organisms change over time; that all organisms have got here through descent with modification. At the same time, he is a theist - he believes in a God who is both personal and concerned with His creation (as opposed to a 'wind it up and let it go' Deist God)

Theistic Evolutionists could thus belong to any of the three main monotheistic faiths, or to any other theistic belief system.

As such, there is still a variety of opinion amongst theistic evolutionists. Some, such as Michael Behe, do not believe that abiogenesis (the transition of non-living to living systems, which is a quite seperate thing from evolution) can occur without the intervention of God. Others, such as Dr. Howard J. Van Till, believe that God created the universe in such a way that what He desires will occur through natural processes, and that abiogenesis will probably be fully understood by science one day. Personally, I'd be inclined to go along with that, and even say that the outworking of God's creative process and natural laws are much the same thing. It's complicated, and I'm no theologian, so I'm loathe to try to expand on this here. If enough people ask (or challenge) me, then I'll give it a stab. Dr. Van Till, by the way, is an evangelical Christian, and a professor of physics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is not the sole preserve of theological liberals!

An important difference between theistic evolution and creationism is that theistic evolution is not part of our theology. It is informed by our theology (that God is personal and involved) and our science. We do not try to tell Creationists that they are not proper Christians. We might feel we have to point out where they are not good scientists, however.

A note on the term 'Creationist': It is a great shame that I have to disavow the term 'creationist'. I would have liked 'creationism' to mean merely affirming of the Christian (and indeed Islamic and Judaistic) Creation doctrine, that God is the Creator of all things - Patrem omnipotentem, factorem cæli et terræ, et omnium visibilium et invisibilium - which all orthodox Christians affirm. Alas, it has come to mean those who reject mainstream scientific explanations of origins, and specifically young earth creationists.

Resources on this Site:

(all these are © Karl Thornley (Me!!) 2001)

Is Creationism Consistent? A little essay by me pointing out that Young Earth Creationists are in fact less consistent in their approach to Scripture than we theistic evolutionists.
The Lie Another little essay..this is about the lie that both atheists and fundamentalists sell you - that you have to choose between atheistic evolution and Christian creationism. You don't
The Creation-Evolution Spectrum A brief look at a range of ways believers reconcile science and Genesis.
The Bombardier Beetle, or, Shooting Yourself in the Foot Creationists often use the Bombardier Beetle as proof of intelligent design. Unfortunately, it's a really bad example for them to use. This is why.
Things you Don't Have to Ignore to Accept Evolution This is a detailed look at a typical creationist diatribe on the web. It is entitled 'Things one must ignore to believe in evolution'. Funny thing is I've never ignored any of them. The ones that are actually true, anyway...
10 Dangers of Theistic Evolution not so Dangerous Just in case the bad science doesn't get you, the Creationists will try scaring you. This little essay has been floating around the web for far too long. As far as I can tell it originates from Answers In Genesis. Seeing as it looks superficially frightening, I decided to have a close examination of its nasty pointy teeth. This lion is a pussy-cat, really.
Does Jesus Force us to Accept Young Earth Creationism Of course, you know I'm going to say no. Seriously, this is a consideration of the argument put forth that Jesus accepted a literal interpretation of Genesis and therefore we must as well.
How I Understand Genesis
What it says. Some folk like to insist that anything less than a literal reading is 'rejecting' or 'not believing' Genesis. This is why it is not, and why the charge fails.

Resources Elsewhere:

This list is far from complete or definitive. I've not included every site, but rather favoured sites that are particularly good or have lots of good links for you to research further. This is the way the web works!

Defences of Theistic Evolution:

Theistic Evolution A rather conservative (theologically) site defending theistic evolution. It's important to realise that this is not a theologically liberal position, as many onnthe creationist side would like to paint it.
Talk Origins There aren't a lot of sites (proportionally) that defend theistic evolution. Good old, fortunately, has a nice essay on the subject. This is it.
Theistic Evolution This is Jes Marie Creech's site. She is a research scientist in Texas, and does know about that which she speaks of.
Finding Darwin's God: The New Battle over Evolution. Science Teaching, and the Search for Origins April 14-15, 2000 The University of Kansas Keynote Address "Finding Darwin's God: The New Battle over Evolution." Kenneth R. Miller Professor of Biology Brown University Providence, Rhode Island. This chap knows what he's talking about as well (he's got a higher degree in biology from a real University, where you have to do more than spout fundamentalist clichés to get your degree). He's also the author of Finding Darwin's God which I heartily recommend.
Kenneth Miller This is Ken Miller's Home Page.
Kenneth R Miller - Life's Grand Design And this is another article by Ken Miller. Yes, OK, I like this bloke!
Keith Miller's Home page Keith Miller's home page at Kansas state University Department of Geology.
Christian Students in Science An evangelical organisation that doesn't shout it but is clearly accepting of modern mainstream science, which begs the question about theistic evolution being 'liberal'. This one is really useful for you science students out there getting a hammering from the fundamentalists down at the CU. Seems a bit short on updates though.
Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies Lots of good stuff from a sane Christian perspective. Unique as far as I know in having Christian evolutionist homeschooling resources! I think it's just a couple of blokes, but good stuff nevertheless.
Evolution and Christianity This is Benjamin Redelings theistic evolution page. Links, explanations.
Christians in Science Good articles in the 'Articles' section (where else?). Questions whether there is any real religious significance in evolution.
Voices for Evolution Is a list of theistic organisations, churches etc. which have affirmed that there is no conflict between their religious beliefs (mostly Christian) and mainstream science.
American Scientific Affiliation This is a Christian organisation, hence its placement here. Interestingly, this organization of evangelical Christian scientists was formed in 1941 to support a young earth creationist interpretation of the Bible. Before long, the young geologists who were core members of the group found their honest appraisal of the evidence driving them to reject this interpretation. ASA members now have a range of views across a spectrum from old earth creationism to theistic evolution.

Critiques of Young-Earth Creationism

Creationism is not Science
Why Creationism is not worthy of the name 'science'. This is crucial, because it's also the reason why it should not be being taught in state (that's 'public' to you Americans, British 'Public' schools are fee-paying private establishments) schools.
The Flood in Creationism So much depends on this. Shame it doesn't work.
The Creation/Evolution Controversy A very good analysis of Creationism. Lots of good bits, and interesting pages.
Creation Science: An Evolution Revolution An excellent critique of 'Creation Science'.

Scientific Defences of Mainstream Science

Matson-vs-Hovind Refutes the arguments of Kent Hovind. I've got nothing particularly against Hovind as opposed to any other pseudo-scientist, but this illustrates the total vacuousness of Creation Science well.
The Talk Origins Archive This is a treasure trove. You hardly need go any further to get the mainstream scientific position. Herein are the answers to Creationist's canards, and a list of transitional fossils (the ones the creationists tell you don't exist, remember?) that I never knew existed. You can also find out what Punctuated Equilibrium really is (hint: it's not a crocodile laying an egg and a chicken hatching out of it, as one Creationist site would have you believe. Lying toads!).
Greene's Creationism Truth Filter Funny thing is, when you try to filter the truth out of Creationism, everything goes straight through the filter paper...
Taxonomy, Transitional Forms, and the Fossil Record. By Keith Miller - a Christian again. A nice examination of the creationist argument that there are no transitional fossils, using some, erm, transitional fossils.
Frequently Encountered Criticisms in Evolution vs. Creationism A fine collection of all the usual Creationist arguments. And why they're a pile of dingo's kidneys.
Triadobatrachus A nice account of an early frog. Isn't it funny how much like a form in between modern frogs and early amphibians it looks? I wonder why that might be?

Light Relief

The Non-Moving Earth Web Page Didn't I tell you this is what you get if you take the Bible literally? Yes, boys and girls, the poison didn't start with Darwin, but with Copernicus!
The Book of Creation This one is meant to be funny! Which it is.
The Evolutionary Tales This is a very good rendering of the various arguments - theological, philosphical, and scientific, surrounding evolution, cast in verse in the style of Geoffrey Chaucer by Ronald L. Ecker. Total respect and kudos for the hard work here.

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