Re: [asa] Ditch Darwin To Advance Theory of Evolution, says Professor of Evolutionary Biology

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 16:18:43 EST

I'll respond generally to Matt's comments--I touch on some of the
same ground that Ted, but since I come from a professional biologist
background, I suspect it might be nuanced differently. Nuanced might
be a generous word here.

I see about as much need for a Theistic Evolutionist textbook as I
see for a Theistic Chemist textbook or a Theistic Physicist textbook
or ... name your discipline. The scientific use of the "natural",
"random", "undirected", etc. have no NECESSARY theological
implications. I think that it's possible to use those three terms
from a scientific point of view and, in fact, have the whole process
completely determined by God, His decree, and His providence. But
God, His decree, and His providence are not part of my scientific
description (at least in science as it is publicly practiced today).
I really don't understand why that's so hard to understand.

Some biologists--those who are Philosophical Naturalists (and
Creationists who don't believe that God can providentially operate in
the world and not leave fingerprints all over the place) give
theological implications to those words. Other biologists--like
myself--understand God to control even the "natural", the "random",
and the "undirected". Most biologists probably don't think too hard
about it--I'm guessing if they were pushed they would limit their
understanding of the terms to scientific descriptions.

Similarly, Darwinism--natural selection occurring on random
variations--has no NECESSARY theological implications and can be
understood as a "simple" scientific explanation. Now I happen to be
open to non-Darwinian mechanisms of evolution (as are many
evolutionists). Principles of form and morphology, principles of self-
organization, mutator genes, lateral gene transfer, endosymbiosis,
evo-devo genetics (macromutations), chromosome rearrangements,
exaptation/pre-adaptation. Technically speaking, these are all non-
Darwinian mechanisms and probably important in "macroevolution".
However, if you broaden the definitions just a bit, most of these are
forms of variation. It's just a not as narrowly construed as the neo-
Darwinians imagined. The principles of form and morphology and self-
organization are to some degree alternatives to natural selection.

But all of these things are part of the professional evolution
discussion--there's nothing unique about being a theist here--I'm not
sure that uniquely theistic ideas are even influencing the
conversation. Matt's appeal to Shapiro and Doolittle are examples.
This is the evolutionist community "self-correcting". While these
things seem to become fodder for Creationist and ID causes, they
arise out of evolutionist research. As with all of science there is
progress and correction. It seems that the only folks who treat
Darwinism as an ideology are the Creationists and ID folks.

Now it may be true that there would be public relations benefits to
doing the Matt suggests. But then it becomes semantics and not
science. There's no real different between "random mutations" and
"changes in the genome" if "random" is properly understood (although
I understand the point with respect to mutator genes).


Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Mon Mar 5 16:19:01 2007

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