Sunday, November 7, 2010

Theistic Evolution and Modern Science

The recent Vibrant Dance Symposium and its avowed purpose “to understand the landscape of faith/science interaction” brought together a blend of viewpoints from “expert witnesses.” Theistic evolution (TE) was prominently represented. This position is frowned upon by many Christians but readily embraced by others who feel, as described by C. John Collins in Science and Faith – Friends or Foes? "…that natural events are God’s action by ‘ordinary providence’ –- that is, that God designed a universe so well that he could simply keep it in being and it would go on to generate life, and eventually us.”

Theistic evolution is the position of the BioLogos Foundation, established by prominent geneticist Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project. The current president of BioLogos is Darrel Falk, who served for many years as biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He was a Vibrant Dance Symposium plenary speaker and panelist. BioLogos literature states “The leaders of BioLogos believe that the findings of modern science are compatible with Christian faith.” They also say they “are committed to promoting a perspective on the origin of life that is both theologically and scientifically sound.”

Theistic evolutionists would concur that belief in molecules to man evolution relies on “the findings of modern science.” My previous blog posts have referenced the existence of errors in both theological and scientific interpretations of reality. When disagreements occur between them, there is obviously an error in one or the other, or perhaps both. When theistic evolutionists use the phrase “findings of modern science,” they really mean modern evolutionary science, complete with the paradigm of “molecules to man” evolution. Theistic evolutionists do not believe intelligent design within earth’s life forms is scientifically detectable as do most old earth and young earth creationists and everyone in the intelligent design movement.

Darrel Falk’s plenary address relied on genetic evidence from DNA sequences, particularly the similarity between primates such as chimpanzees and humans in those sequences. To the theistic evolutionist, such similarities point to common ancestry. Falk spoke in some detail about three such lines of evidence: (1) repeated DNA sequences called ALu, (2) apparent fusion of two separate chromosomes in chimps into a single chromosome in humans, and (3) similarities in DNA coding patterns for protein synthesis. Such a brief review does not begin to do justice to Falk’s proposals. What is clear, however, from his proposals is that evolutionist arguments use a filter which allows them to interpret genetic information in terms of common ancestry. Creationists and intelligent design advocates, by contrast, infer the operation of common design strategies of an intelligent designer as an equally valid explanation for genomic similarities. Researchers regularly uncover stronger evidence to support such an interpretation. As additional evidence accumulates that “quirks” in the genome such as common ALu elements or so-called “junk” DNA found plentifully in all primates have a previously unrecognized purpose rather than being meaningless artifacts left over from our ancestors, the molecules to man paradigm appears to be weakening.

It is certainly true that God could have originated a “fully gifted” creation (a term suggested by Howard Van Till) which possessed the ability for life forms to acquire their present complexity without any additional theistic interventions in the time frame between the Big Bang singularity and the present. Accumulating evidence seems to tilt us away from this belief. Ultimately, each person needs to examine the plentiful evidence manifest in our cosmos and its life forms and decide for himself. It is not, however, simply a “pick and choose” matter of what best suits the way we choose to think. Such issues have great significance as we refine our personal worldviews.