Re: [asa] Orthodox Christian view of evolution and kreationizm - was denominational change

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Mon Oct 26 2009 - 09:53:15 EDT

Gregory, I respond to the following paragraph.

>>> Gregory Arago <> 10/25/2009 10:05 AM >>> writes:

Likewise, for Ted to say that Pupin "was absolutely a TE" is misleading.
First of all, people didn't call themselves 'theistic evolutionists' in the
early 20th century, so Ted is retrodicting here (which serves as rhetorical
display to make the label TE look better today, i.e. just how IDists are
retrodicting when they say Newton was an 'IDist'). Or pehaps, better to say
that I simply define 'TE' much more narrowly than Ted does. To define 'TE'
in his way includes quite a large number of people, very few of whom have
satisfactorily 'limited evolution' in a way that could be called 'Orthodox
Christian' (e.g. the recent post, that started a new thread, was not
speaking about 'Orthodox' but rather about 'orthodox,' - orthodox biblical
studies). And that is a major problem (i.e. this one of 'limiting
evolution', in the face of some Protestant views of 'evolutionism' as a
totalising ideology), one which current Catholic statements in recent years
 helping to rectify.


Ted replies:

Gregory, as we have pointed out to you before, the term "theistic
evolution" was in wide use in the early 20th century. It appeared at least
as early as the 1890s, when Catholic biologist John Zahm used it, and by the
1920s it was widely enough known that Bryan used it to label the views of
those Christians accepted common descent--which he deplored. Please repeat
this back to me, as follows: "Yes, Ted, you are right, there was such a
thing as 'theistic evolution', by name, in the 1920s."

As for the term "theistic evolutionist," I can't say how widespread that
term was, simply b/c I haven't alerted myself to looking for it. Was that
specific term in use? Did people apply to themselves? Perhaps they did,
but I don't think that is a very important issue in the context of
understanding the point I was making, which you are commenting on. My
working definition (which I have also stated frequently here) is that a TE
is someone who believes that God used evolution to create humans and other
organisms--whether or not they applied the term, "TE," to themselves. Thus,
for example, (as discussed in the first part of my Compton essay in PSCF),
biologist Horace Mateer in 1895 wrote about TE, as a describe in this way,
using partly his own words:

<Evolution, including human evolution, resulted from “the interaction of
certain forces operating in the direction of a progressive change from some
unknown primitive condition of things.” This was simply “the divine
mode of creation whereby God has wrought out the existing order of things
through the continuous operation of His creative power.” >

If you want to say, Gregory, that Mateer did not call himself a "theistic
evolutionist," then you could be correct on that narrow point. But the
passage above (esp the quotations) speaks for itself. Mateer accepted and
taught evolution, including human evolution; he also expressly called it
"the divine mode of creation," and thus it's entirely fair to call him a
"theistic evolutionist" by the definition I've offered. If the term
"theistic evolution" itself were not in use a that time, then I would be
more sympathetic to your point, Gregory. But, it was, and given Mateer's
views he fits the description perfectly.

If you want to define the term more narrowly, go ahead. But don't say that
I'm misleading anyone. As for Pupin's views, the immediate topic of your
commentary, I am not aware of any evidence that you know anything about him
or his views. Nor am I aware of any evidence that you know anything about
the history of evolution and Christian beliefs in the relevant period (late
19th through early 20th centuries). I would be happy for a correction from
you, Gregory, citing any specific work you have published or describing any
projects underway--in which case please give me some idea of the primary
sources you are working with. I will be the first to admit that I am
neither omniscient nor infallible; my conclusions about this period may well
be mistaken. But, unless you can show me that you have some genuine
competence to offer a different interpretation of the actual views of actual
people from the relevant period, than I am simply going to conclude that you
don't have a leg to stand on here, Gregory.


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Received on Mon Oct 26 09:54:07 2009

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