Theistic evolution is an accommodation or blending of Darwinian ideas into religious texts. Essentially, it is the idea that an all-powerful deity used the “tool” of evolution to create biodiversity.
According to the Pew Forum, 25% of Americans believe that humans evolved due to God’s design.
Some theistic evolutionists call their stance, “Creation by Natural Selection.” Could this be a viable position, are supernatural forces involved in the natural process of evolution? What does the evolutionary community have to say about theistic evolution?
Charles Robert Darwin, the author of the Origin of Species, is an icon of historical importance. His main contribution to the world was his idea of an unintentional, breeder-less version of artificial selection which he called natural selection. Darwin communicated to the evolutionary community that he believed species, aka biodiversity, to be mutable and therefore emerged into existence via adaptations brought on by natural forces. In the last pages of his great work, he described how the process of evolution takes place due to natural laws.
“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”
Theodosius Dobzhansky is one of the most prominent evolutionary biologists and geneticists to have ever lived. His words have been quoted countless times and his words most quoted are, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Dobzhansky is a notable author and has been published and cited in seemingly endless scientific journals. When it comes to evolution via natural selection, Dobzhansky wrote about the likelihood of supernatural involvement. “What a senseless operation it would have been, on God’s part, to fabricate a multitude of species ex nihilo (Latin for: out of nothing) and then let most of them die out! There is, of course, nothing conscious or intentional in the action of natural selection.”
Edward O. Wilson has authored over twenty books, received two Pulitzer Prizes, was given the National Medal of Science, and held a professorship in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University from 1956 to 1996. In his book, From So Simple a Beginning, Wilson writes: “Evolution in a pure Darwinian world has no goal or purpose: the exclusive driving force is random mutations sorted out by natural selection from one generation to the next.”
Francisco J. Ayala is an accomplished professor and evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine. Under the eye of the famed evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ayala received his doctorate in 1964. He also has served the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as President and Chairman. Being the author of over nine hundred publications and thirty books, Francisco J. Ayala is most definitely a person in field which he knows well. In the highly respected Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Ayala describes evolution.
“It was Darwin’s greatest accomplishment to show that the complex organization and functionality of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process–natural selection–without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent. … The scientific account of these events does not necessitate recourse to a preordained plan, whether imprinted from the beginning or through successive interventions by an omniscient and almighty Designer. Biological evolution differs from a painting or an artifact in that it is not the outcome of preconceived design. The design of organisms is not intelligent but imperfect and, at times, outright dysfunctional.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, Jerry A. Coyne is the author of Why Evolution is True and has communicated that:
“If you accept even a little bit of divine tinkering in the evolutionary process, you’re not standing on some inclusive middle ground—you are, as P.Z. Myers said, halfway to crazy town. There can be no compromise with superstition, for superstition is the camel’s nose in the tent of science.”
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist that held a position at the University of Oxford as Professor for Public Understanding of Science, he is the founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, and a renowned author of many books. He has stated that, “a true understanding of Darwinism is deeply corrosive to religious faith,” and that there is “no scientific reason to believe any sort of supernatural creator. That came with the understanding of Darwinian evolution.”
Many other experts in the field of evolutionary biology are also very clear about the fact that Darwinian evolution by means of natural selection is just that, natural… and not supernatural in anyway. So, what does this mean when it comes to theistic evolution?
Theistic evolutionists claim evolutionary processes to occur naturally, yet a supernatural being guides said processes either naturally or supernaturally depending on the situation. Biologists describe evolution as a 100% natural process. The idea of a supernatural being initiating a 100% natural process and stepping away, or is the “man behind the curtain” of evolution, sustaining all the intricacies that “science” cannot explain… well, this describes evolution as being less than 100% natural. According to biologists, there is NO supernatural element to evolution in anyway. Not when it comes to its initiation, nor when it comes to the ongoing “emergence of species.”
Theistic evolution is completely rejected by those whom have created and support the idea of evolution. The evolutionary community views the idea of theistic evolution as illogical, void of empirical support, and by no means a true representation of Darwinian evolution. Renowned experts in the field of evolutionary biology view theistic evolution as completely false. Biologists are in agreement that supernatural mechanisms are not involved in any Darwinian evolutionary processes whatsoever.