In a message dated 10/8/01 6:51:19 AM Mountain Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
> I have always found Keith Stewart Thomson's "Marginalia" column in the
> Scientists (70:529-531, 1982), to be very helpful. Thomson distinguishes
> 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 | SteamDoc@aol.com
"Any opinions expressed here are mine, and should not be
attributed to my employer, my wife, or my cats"
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