Sunday, April 3, 2011

Evolution's Connections

Belief in evolution, and by extension, theistic evolution as it is understood today, is as old as the proposals of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species in 1859. Historically however, ideas of a self-existent natural world and even primitive concepts of “evolution” have been present for many centuries. The formal theory of evolution of life forms on this earth, along with the startling proposal of a mechanism to drive it (natural selection), offered to an eager world by Charles Darwin in 1859, burst on the scene as an attempt to bring clarity to the formerly blurred picture. We could draw analogy to the recent advent of high definition, big-screen color television compared with the performance of early small-screen black-and-white receivers of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The worldview of naturalism, which provides a foundation for the structure of evolutionary theory, also came into clearer focus. Naturalism has captivated large segments of our culture. It was not widely seen as a fully-developed worldview before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. In the decades following that landmark publication naturalism came to be recognized as a major worldview.

The Center for Naturalism ( provides a proper perspective for anyone who desires an accurate account of the origin of the naturalistic worldview foundations of evolution. Their website states, “The Center for Naturalism promotes naturalism as a comprehensive worldview –- a rational and fulfilling alternative to faith-based religions and other varieties of supernaturalism.” The website states further, “Though Darwin’s theories caused political and cultural turmoil, they also helped give birth to a new school of American philosophy, known as naturalism, which emerged as an alternative to traditional thought by grounding philosophical thought thoroughly inside nature.”

John Dewey (1859-1952), whose thinking influenced many generations of educators, is described in The Center for Naturalism’s website: “John Dewey -- a widely read philosopher, theorist, cultural critic, and public intellectual, inspired generations of philosophers in the United States with a system he called 'pragmatic naturalism.' " The website continues, “Here, at last, naturalism took its place as an explicit worldview (albeit with many variations), based on a broadly empirical, scientific epistemological commitment, but going beyond science by making that commitment the basis for ontological claims about the world – namely, the denial of the supernatural.”

Evangelicals who promote theistic evolution do not wish to have their beliefs associated with philosophical naturalism. Their desire, instead, is to appear to be supportive of science. The question must be asked: What worldview drives the science which supports evolution? How strong and how reliable is this science? What presuppositions drive that science? We must not forget that as Christians, we are committed to the discovery of truth above our commitment to science.