Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thoughts on Theistic Darwinism

Recently, the topic came up that one could believe in God and Bible, and still believe evolution.

It was suggested that rejecting evolution because of Genesis is based in a historically recent and unnecessary reading of the Bible. Well, firstly, I would say that there are many true christians who do believe in evolution, and that a christian can possibly believe it. However, I believe that a literal reading of the Scripture denies evolution. Even the gap theory, which explains that the seven "days" were not literal days, but rather ages. This does not make sense to me, because the plants would have all died within those ages before the sun. Also, I think that macro-evolution denies that man was the created in the image of God, separate from the beasts, and that he sinned as described in Genesis. From another point of view, evolution is scientifically false. There seems no reason to believe in it at all.

In any case, it got me thinking about the topic, and I remembered this article I'd read. Randy Hay wrote this piece about why he rejected the idea of theistic Darwinism, and I found it very thought-provoking and compelling. So here it is:


As you’re probably aware it is not my wont to write about Controversial Issues. Recently, however, I’ve had a couple of requests for the account of my conversion from theistic Darwinism, so I decided to go ahead and take pen in hand.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m being frivolous or grotesque in what follows. In point of fact, I had to quit writing at one point because discussing things like “Adam’s father” is more than a little disturbing. But I really think these questions need to be asked, and this is the only way I could do it.

(By the way, I don’t use the term “conversion” carelessly. Evolution is presented as almost a sort of religious belief; it’s something you’re asked to “believe in”...and those who ask the question often have a touch of fervor in their voice.)

While scientific evidence—or the lack thereof—played a part of my rejection of evolution, it was the hokey Hollywood movie Clan of the Cave Bear that led me to my actual conversion, back in the mid 80's.

In case you never saw that one, it is about a group of “early men” and Daryl Hannah. I can’t remember if they were supposed to be CroMagnon Men, Neanderthal Men or what. While Nebraska Man was actually a peccary tooth (oops, Science must have goofed) the romantic name appeals to my Midwestern heritage so I’ll call them Nebraska Men...or, better yet, Nebraska Dudes.

Anyhow, the movie is about a group of these fellows. One evening they’re sitting around the old fire, and Nebraska Dude gets an idea in his head about Nebraska Chick Daryl. Since people aren’t human yet they don’t have Orthodox marriage...and the Dude has his way with her.
The thing is—the thing that wrenched me from my world view—was the fact that she didn’t want him to.

There was question here I couldn’t evade, and that shook me to the core of my being. It was this: Was it morally wrong for the Dude to force himself on her?

If the Chickette was an animal it couldn’t be wrong. God hadn’t breathed a soul into her yet, and soulless animals aren’t morally responsible beings; how can they be victims of immorality? God supposedly created survival-of-the-species, and the species needed to reproduce to survive. In this Darwinian paradigm the Dude notched a good work.

But, cheesy as this movie was, it didn’t allow that interpretation. Nebraska Chick was crying out in agony; she was being violated, trying to escape. You were rooting for her; there was no moral ambiguity. The Dude clearly wasn’t advancing the species; he was committing a crime.

The questions rattled around in my this really what made me who I am? If these are supposed to be non-people, why is it so disturbing to see the Chick violated? If they’re actually people, how can they be “early man”?

Once you ask these questions, you can’t get away from next: when the dudes bludgeon other dudes to death is it heinous murder or Darwinian morality?

This leads to the deeper question of why would God create us through violence and death, and then suddenly reverse all the rules when we became homo sapiens? Our forebears were supposed to kill, loot and pillage for thousands of generations to make us who we are; and now we’re expected to be appalled and shocked when people do that today? Cain is a bad fellow for doing what everybody had been doing for millions of years?? One moment the earth is a nightmare of bludgeonings, starvation, rape and dismemberment, and then suddenly God makes it Paradise?

This divine flip-flopping smacks of Islam and their heaven, where it’s OK to do sins that are forbidden on earth.

You can have theories about the Dudes (or any “early men”) not being real people; but as soon as it is made a little more non-theoretical for you—as in even a B movie—that all goes down the drain. The morality and anthropology just don’t add up.


Once you start asking these questions you can’t stop.

If evolution is true, if man comes from monkey, Adam’s parents were animals. This begs the question: When Adam’s father died, did Adam mourn for the death of a human or an animal?

If Adam’s father was an animal then there was certainly no cause for grief. I was pretty sad when my rat Alfred keeled over when I was six, I must admit....but that is quite different from grieving for the loss of a human. No, you can’t have real grief over an animal the way you have grief over a person. The Fathers tell us we’re not supposed to; it’s sinful.

But try to picture it. Try to picture Adam grieving for his father the way you would mourn a rat, or even a hamster or a budgie. He heaves a sigh, grabs Dad’s foot and drags his corpse over to a hole, rolls him in and packs the dirt down, hopping up and down on it, hoping there won’t be any dogs or coons coming along to dig it up.

Is this what it means to be created in the image of God? To be begotten of a the union of animals, and to see your father pass without grief? To have no hope he will be resurrected? Wasn’t Adam a saint and type of Christ? Is it fitting for a saint and type of Christ to hop up and down on his father’s grave? Isn’t this what we’d actually expect from a Mafia guy rather than a saint?

Or perhaps I was being over-fanciful; perhaps there was no pit. Perhaps Adam simply dragged Pops off away from the camp and left him to the carrion-eaters.

The problem with that is, what happens if God turns the nightmare-world into Paradise before Adam Senior decays? Doesn’t a paternal corpse spoil the whole aesthetic of Eden? This question is even more pressing if Adam wasn’t a real person as we know it; if he was just a symbol of newly-emerging homo sapiens. If this is the case, if “Adam” is really a whole race of Dudes, then there are going to be a whole lot of corpses in Paradise; millions of guys who didn’t quite make it in time (and of course plain old non-human animals as well). Isn’t “Adam’s” first job going to be to clean up the corpses before he tends the garden? Where do you stash corpses in Eden? There can’t be any carrion-eaters after God suddenly turns the hellhole into Paradise, because death is temporarily suspended.

There had to have been corpses in the Paradise of theistic evolution; but if there were corpses then it wasn’t Paradise. And God can’t have suddenly cleaned them all up for us, because then there wouldn’t have been any fossils, which are what supposedly reveal this wonderful edifying picture of our divine origin.

Or maybe all the stuff about Paradise was symbolic; if Adam was symbolic, why couldn’t the garden be symbolic, and the angel and the sword too? Maybe it wasn’t an actual place as we think of it. But then...if it wasn’t a real Paradise then there wasn’t a real Fall; and if there wasn’t a real Fall there wasn’t a real Redemption; and if there wasn’t a real Redemption we really don’t have much to look forward to after the next beer.


Perhaps this is all the wrong paradigm. Perhaps God created our souls piecemeal, bit by bit. Perhaps the elder Mr. Adam was half man and half animal and had half a soul.

How can you have half a soul? Isn’t the body inextricably tied to the soul? Death is when body and soul are separated, and resurrection is when they’re re-united. If you have half a soul, it seems to me you can’t have more than half a body. Which half would it be, the horizontal half or the vertical half? Or would you be diagonal? I’m sure you could get a pretty impressive-sounding scientific name out of that one. (However, I’ve scrutinized Orthodox iconography and have yet to come across the figure of DiagonalMan.)

If Adam Sr. had half a soul, then his forebears must have had less: a third of a soul, a quarter, 9% or 2% or whatever. As a coffee drinker I can’t help thinking in those terms: a tall soul, grande soul, a venti soul .... or, to paraphrase Steve Martin, a half-caff double cap soul, with a twist of lemon. What about being created in the image of God? Are these percentages applicable to how much our forebears bore the image of God? What’s the ratio of soul to image? When can you say you are created in the image of the Dude, and when in the image of God?

And at what point were they human? What percentage of a soul do you need to be human? What percentage of a soul do you need to have moral responsibility? To be a victim? Did the Dude commit half a rape? If the Dude and Chick were each half-human, it must have added up to a quarter of a rape; .5 x .5 = .25. You can’t deny the math. Still, if he committed any amount of rape, didn’t he sin? How can there be sin before the Fall? Isn’t sin what the Fall is?
Getting down to brass tacks, why would God breathe 2% soul into Nebraska Dude? Why not just be done with it and create Adam?

Indeed, why create a nightmare world of death and pain in which the Dudes lope around furtively, hoping they haven’t lost their matches? Don’t we all really sense that death comes from our sin rather than a fiat of God? If you saw Clan you’ll understand what nasty things happen if you’re a dude without fire. Assuming you don’t die a horrible death by disease, ambush, saber-tooth tiger, bushwhacking or raptor, the cold will get you every time. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to live in that world. You’d be better off living in a pagan myth than the ghastly slaughterhouse of evolution. And if God did create the world a nightmare, why didn’t He just tell us about it? Why paint such an idealized picture of the world before the Fall? Why not tell us the truth about ourselves? If Scripture misleads us here, how do we know it doesn’t mislead us about other stuff?

— Not to belabor the point, I found the propositions inherent in theistic evolution so absurd I turned the movie off before it was over and became a creationist.

Adam was...well, Adam.


Silas Reinagel said...

Cool essay. Randy's writing style reminds me a lot of Donal Miller and Rob Bell.

Josh said...

I just noticed somethingabout the objection at the start that it's based on a historically recent of the Bible. Well, my first thought is so what? Is the objectioner trying to say that any argument put forth recently is neccessarily wrong? Also, it seems like he's saying his viewpoint isn't clouded by modern thought, that he is outside his time period. Well that is an absurd thought, for no one is, and it sounds like an appeal to old things against new things (is their a name for that?) My last thought is, of course it's historically recent! Evolution is a rather recent thought, it's only around 150 years old after all! My point being that time is not a valid appeal to make point in an argument.

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