[asa] Re: "Theistic Evolution" as a term

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Sun Dec 28 2008 - 15:58:08 EST

"I agree that a history of this term [theistic evolution] would be very interesting." - Ted Davis

Thank you, Ted, for responding positively to my question about the coining (origins) of TE. I would definitely be glad to learn more about it from anyone who can offer something on the topic. My access to English-language books is rather limited these days.

If I am reading your message properly, Ted, it seems the following would at least be involved in your definition of TE: "the concept that God creates through evolution -- or, equivalently, that evolution is divinely guided" - Ted

Where I have a problem with this is in the apparent conflation of an origin (creation) with a process (evolution). Secondly, the duo 'theist' plus 'evolution' goes beyond biology, because the biological theory of evolution does not involve 'divine guidance.' Is this acknowledged as a common fact among biologists? The second point seems to be why Keith Miller not too long ago here on the ASA list said that TE is not 'science,' but philosophy, which is precisely the grounds on which I am contending (even wrestling) with it.

George Murphy quoted John Zahm: "Having eliminated from our discussion the forms of Evolution held by the divers schools of monists and agnostics, there now remains but the third form, known as theistic Evolution." (1896)

This seems to support the negative rather than the positive sense of TE, it is something that came up because other things didn't work or was deemed 'appeasement' rather than a positive contribution to knowledge. The contemporary usage of TE seems to display a mix of apophatic theology with positive science too. My curiosity is when TE 'emerged' in a popular sense, rather than simply stating that "many theists, including Christians, accept biological theories of evolution." To me, the former is not the equivalent of the latter.

George himself then added: "The church authorities were not happy about the [Zahm's] book, which said that some versions of evolution, if shown to be true scientifically, weren't a threat to the faith..."

This is why I suggest that any 'proper' or potentially consensus definition of TE, in the 'modern' sense of the term, *must* include the idea that it is conceived as an 'anti-warfare' recipe for understanding science and religion (plus sometimes philosophy); that is, it was 'born' (origins) in the context of confrontation and controversy and cannot be understood outside of that context. This does nothing to address the content of the term TE, but rather simply exposes the actual environment(s) in which it was proposed, presumably mainly in America (but please say otherwise on this if known as well).

"The capitalizing of Evolution in the text seems odd but I suspect that that's just a stylistic matter." - George (re: Zahm's Evolution and Dogma, 1896)

Having now read quotations from Zahm's text, it is also worth noting that he does not capitalise 'creation,' which does make the capitalising of 'Evolution' stand out even more. In addition, I am reassured by Zahm's rejection of the 'social discrimination' evident in Darwin's  "Descent of Man" which is far too often under-represented in discussions of evolution and Darwinism. (http://books.google.fi/books?id=5AaRo8c2-JYC&pg=PA185&lpg=PA185&dq=john+zahm+theistic+evolution&source=bl&ots=GKoPmoaMHL&sig=YMyGI1zS0yWvwUit1nzJTisuzqQ&hl=fi&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA185,M1) One of the acute problems with 'theistic evolution' in my opinion is that its proponents underplay anthropology and morality, in comparison to biology and geology, - this is why I liked Jackelen's observation about 'anti-evolution' so much.

One of the things I'd like to see from those who would like to be called 'theistic evolutionists,' regardless of what I think of that particular label, is a clearer repudiation of the wrongful, damaging things said by Charles Darwin, i.e. his errors. This move would help to separate the terms 'evolutionist' and 'Darwinist,' which is one thing that the IDM is attempting to do. Once a person realizes that Darwinism (here I mean purely the ideas of Darwin himself exponded, and not the many Darwinisms invented by his followers and advocates of their own worldviews) is *not* consistent with religion, including but not limited to Christianity, in the sense that Darwin was himself 'agnostic' about religious things, and likely died a non-believer, at least in the sense of rejecting revelation and many other central Christian tenets. Perhaps Gilberson's attempt to 'Save Darwin' and the coming Darwin celebrations will not artificially remove his "Descent of Man"
 debaucheries of spirit in seeking to promote 'pure science' in a neo-Enlightenment sense.

It is the responsibility of TEs to clarify their position, not only about biology and geology, but also with respect to the implications for anthropology, sociology and psychology, which as far as TE is a philosophy of science and religion goes, it cannot any longer be the *same* as it was in 1896 or in the latter half of the 19th century. There are many new knowledges on the table to discuss that were not available then. Dobzhansky and the inclusion of 'cultural evolution,' imposed from below, is one clear and present example.

Ted says, "What was meant by the term today, in general terms, is precisely what they meant then." And then follows this by suggesting that TE means "God's way of creating."

I assume this is why such support is given to the text "Perspectives of an Evolving Creation," though to me it is an oxymoron; it obviously (and purposefully!) conflates origins with processes of change. A.N. Whitehead is a key figure in helping to unravel and unpack this confusion. Does this seem to show us as furthre apart or as closer together in our views - not sure?

As for the term MN, Ted, I think we should leave it for now in order to concentrate on TE, though there are significant overlaps between these two terms, how they are both (mis)applied and/or (mis)used.

Warm regards, now from Finland,

Gregory

p.s. I'm quite sure that Mike Gene's take on this would be interesting, as he has witnessed the great tension and sometimes offence made by IDists towards TE, yet his perspectives involve both evolution, creation and ID woven together into One...

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Received on Sun Dec 28 15:58:26 2008

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