Re: the definitions of evolution

Date: Mon Oct 08 2001 - 14:13:03 EDT

  • Next message: Michael Roberts: "Re: Destroying the myth about Copernicus and humanity"

    In a message dated 10/8/01 6:51:19 AM Mountain Daylight Time,

    > I have always found Keith Stewart Thomson's "Marginalia" column in the
    > American
    > Scientists (70:529-531, 1982), to be very helpful. Thomson distinguishes
    > three
    > meanings of evolution:
    > Evolution as Pattern (e.g. fish preceded amphibians in fossil record)
    > Evolution as Process (e.g., fish gave rise to amphibians in fossil record)
    > Evolution as mechanism (e.g., natural selection)

    This does seem like a useful classification; however, for the discussions on
    this list I think we must add one more:
    (4) Evolution as Metaphysical Explanation
    This would be the non-scientific extrapolation from "Evolution as Mechanism"
    to the philosophical conclusion of the absence of God. In other words, the
    "God-of-the-Gaps" viewpoint that, once a "natural" physical mechanism for
    something is found, that is a complete explanation at all levels and there is
    no "room for God."

    I think the root of many of our problems is that many people equate
    (3) Evolution as Mechanism
    (4) Evolution as Metaphysical Explanation.
    This philosophical error is made by some popularizers of science who like to
    think of science as having pushed God out of the picture (Richard Dawkins,
    for example). But many Christians also seem to equate the two (ID advocates
    Phil Johnson and John Wiester come to mind). Since Evolution as Metaphysical
    Explanation is clearly incompatible with Christianity, Christians who accept
    the Dawkins equation of (3) with (4) are forced to oppose Evolution as
    Mechanism as though the truth of the faith were at stake.

    Of course this equation of (3) with (4) is totally wrong from the standpoint
    of Biblical Christian theology that recognizes God's sovereignty over nature.
     This can be easily seen by substituting for "evolution" some other natural
    process (like "rain" or "star formation") for which the Bible tells us God is
    ultimately responsible. Unless we can get rid of this unbiblical attachment
    of God-excluding meaning to explanations of physical processes by natural
    mechanisms, arguments about evolution will continue to hinder our witness to
    those outside the church and endanger the faith of those inside it.

    I can also mention that I outlined a somewhat similar set of meanings of
    "evolution" (with 6 different categories) in something I wrote a while back:

    Dr. Allan H. Harvey, Boulder, Colorado |
    "Any opinions expressed here are mine, and should not be
     attributed to my employer, my wife, or my cats"

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 08 2001 - 14:13:48 EDT