Thursday, January 18, 2007

On Origins, Creation & Intelligent Design [updated 02/02/07]

This post originates from a comment on this thread on Uncommon Descent. Using it as a starting point, I've fleshed out a little analysis of the current theistic creation beliefs.

Its time to shake up this blog and bring in some "non-churchy" topics!

Those who consider themselves believers in Jesus Christ (and indeed, followers of Islam, Judaism, and other theistic religions) hold to a number of different beliefs when it comes to the origin of humankind, evolution, creation, age of the universe, age of the earth, etc.

Below I've attempted to briefly summarise the various different positions and camps, with particular emphasise on the scientifically credible Intelligent Design movement.

Neo-Darwinian Macro-Evolution
Otherwise known as 'Blind' Evolution or ontological materialism. The standard scientific world-view and belief, that of an unguided natural process of evolution, from inert chemicals to human beings like you and me. The Talk.Origins and Pandas' Thumb crowd represent this point of view. Known supporters include Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Steve Jones, author of Almost Like A Whale.

Theistic Evolution.
'Guided' Evolutionary process. Big bang, old universe, old earth. God guided the processes of 'nature' to evolve inert chemicals to the modern man and woman. A brief refutation of theistic evolution, by "Propadeutic". I believe Glenn R Morton (DMD Publishing) would be classed in this category. Simon Conway Morris, author of the book "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe", also holds to this belief. For a classic defense of the compatibility of evolutionary theory and the Christian faith, see Can a Christian Be an Evolutionist?.

Intelligent Design.
Intelligent Design is a scientific disagreement with the claim of evolutionary theory that natural phenomena are not designed. ID claims that natural laws and chance alone are not adequate to explain all natural phenomena. Intelligent Design implies special creation, but is not dogmatic about who or how this would come about.

It can be said that that intelligent design (ID) theorists pretty much break into two general camps:

  • Common Design - These guys suggest that one day the designer started with a previous work, and reworked a new species — humans. In this view there was clearly a first human pair — Adam & Eve. Some would say William Dembski holds to this view.

  • Common Descent - This community believes that if we trace our origins back, we find some ape that also was the ancestor of the chimp and the Neanderthal. So-called "front loaders" would also be in the category (see below). It also includes Michael Behe.

    (On Common Design vs Common Descent, see this blog at The Design Matrix.)

    Common Descent itself can be broken up into two clear groups:

    • One group, the front-loaders and others, believes that the pattern that gets to humans already existed in that common ancestor. It naturally unfolded, just like a flower grows out of a tree. This camp contains players such as Mike Gene (pseudonym), Krause, and Dr. John Davison.

    • Another group assumes that there is evidence of active genetic engineering (agency) in the recent lineage of man. They would point to customized human DNA that doesn’t seem mutable by natural processes such as the HAR1F gene. Some would say that Behe falls into this latter camp.

Progressive Creationism (Reasons To Believe / Hugh Ross).
This believes that God created progressively, the seven days not corresponding to literal human days. Micro-evolution (changes within species) and speciation is taken for granted. ChristianAnswers.NET have written a condemning rebuttal of this position. From an opposite point of view, Glenn R Morton has also written a rebuttal of Hugh Ross's beliefs. See Also: New Creationism page. I think Answers In Creation, formed in response to Answers in Genesis, provides a good defense of the old earth viewpoint.

Youth Earth Creationism (YEC)
Also known as scientific creationism. Young earth and young universe. Usually believes in a recent global flood, and asserts that entire fields of modern science are completely wrong (geology, radiometric dating, cosmology) as well as condemning evolution. Usually believes in a form of micro-evolution (change/mutation within species), and even speciation (new species forming), as long as said changes do not introduce new genetic information which is seen to be beneficial (as only a Designer God could do that). Ken Ham's Answers In Genesis provides a defense of this viewpoint.

Most young-earthers would not associate themselves with Intelligent Design. A few intelligent design folks, such as Salvador Cordova, are apparently wide open to considering a young earth perspective.

Update: I've stumbled across a blog series called Science and Christianity which looks promising, although I haven't looked at it in any detail.


Anonymous said...

Cool, this is very helpful Albo - it'll let me get to grips with this stuff over the next few weeks. Can you do the same with ethics? Remember the categories based around the concept of graded absolutist?

Anonymous said...

Check out this very helpful website on the science/theology debate:


Alastair said...

Your link to "God, Humanity & Cosmos" produced some interesting reading. In particular, its a very good summary on a lot of history of the science-faith debate, in with particular attention paid to quantum theory, big-bang cosmology, and evolutionary theory.

However, I do detect something of a liberal slant on the site. For example, consider the statement below:

"The need to move away from the historical Fall has been strongly emphasised by the scientist-theologians.See for example Polkinghorne, J, Reason and Reality (London: SPCK, 1991) pp99-104, Peacocke, A, Theology for a Scientific Age (London: SCM Press, 1993 expanded edn) pp222f.Peacocke takes the argument in a helpful direction when, drawing on his idea that relationship with God and right perception of our environment represent the highest-level ‘emergent’ in the biological hierarchy, he argues that humans’ ecological niche includes a right relationship with God, which for all sorts of reasons - some genetic, some cultural, some as mysterious as the appearance of evil in Gen.3 - continues to elude us."

Note entirely sure what such a viewpoint does to one's theology of the Cross!

However, it does bring up the an interesting point about the fall (no scientific evidence for it whatsoever), which would be worth debating in detail at some point.

Another part of the site stresses that they don't seem to believe in a soul or spirit: certainly they don't see it helpful to talk about such things. I think this is giving away too much to the prevailing world-view of materialism. Disappointing, given the obvious exposure to quantum mechanics the author(s) have. I may cover this in another post (evidence for the soul).