Ashwin: is evolution guided or unguided?

Scientists who spend time on communicating about science to people definitely seem to care.
And the communication is contradictory when it comes to the importance of “guided evolution”.

Right now, I would settle for @sfmatheson admitting that there are two opinions here and that I am not misunderstanding both people somehow.

Maybe he’s right and Ashwin is still wrong. Do you see how that’s possible? God-guided evolution is unscientific in the same way that Last Thursdayism is unscientific. And yet it’s still evolution, and still falls within the definition of evolution, which definition says nothing about randomness or natural processes or God.


His claim is simple.
People who hold to a God guided evolution disagree with the scientific theory of evolution.

That’s a yes or no kind of statement. You can’t really have it both ways.

Disagreement is a word with a specific meaning.

Someone like @swamidass would say (I guess) that God guided evolution does not disagree with the scientific theory.

If someone holds gravity is caused by invisible magic pixies pushing downward on things does that disagree with the scientific theory of gravity? Can you give us a yes or no answer?

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Just to clarify, the theory of gravity has always had pixies in it… Gravity itself is a pixie.
When Newton, proposed his theory, the idea of objects acting on each other from a distance was the pixie, and gravitational force itself was an unknown.
With Einstein, the pixie is “Space-time” and how “mass” (another pixie) cause spacetime to distort.

There is always been a ghost in the system in the theory of gravity.

Evolution however is a theory about how history happened. Somewhat similar to the big bang theory.
So, you can take my question as to whether biologists acknowledge the ghosts in evolutionary theory.

It seems to me God-guided evolution is equivalent to God-guided rain. Sure you can suppose God is hiding behind the curtain dialing the knobs so that specific drops of rain land on specific spots on the ground, it’s just completely unnecessary to explain the phenomenon of rain.

The “mainstream scientific” view of rain isn’t that God is definitely not in fact guiding rain to the ground, rather that it’s an unneeded multiplication of entities. When they do the weather forecast, I don’t tend to see God-symbols in the clouds making areas of high and low pressure develop.

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So according to you, the idea of guided evolution disagrees with the scientific theory of evolution because it’s the same as saying pixies cause gravity.

Then wouldn’t “guidance” or the lack of it be an important part of the theory of evolution?

Lile I said earlier, you can’t have it both ways.

That’s true. But we were talking about whether god-guided evolution is evolution. That’s true too. A claim can disagree with the scientific theory of evolution and still be evolution. Surprise!

I’d say it’s more accurate to say that god-guided evolution (minus dumb arguments for guidance) is entirely consistent with the scientific theory of evolution, but also extends beyond.

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@John_Harshman: Would it be fair to say that, God guided evolution disagrees with the scientific theory of evolution in the same manner that someone like Behe disagrees with the scientific theory of evolution? (He holds to common descent. So I assume you would categorize his claim also as “evolution”).
In what manner does the concept of God guiding evolution disagree with the theory?

@swamidass: If i understood you correctly, your contention would be that its beyond the scope of Science to prove/disprove God’s guidance and the concept of God guided evolution would be a theological position which does not contradict/disagree with the scientific theory.
Would this be a fair description?

No. This would be a fair description:

what’s the difference from what i wrote. I would like to understand better, hence the question.

We aren’t really discussing whether or not science can prove or disprove design or not, but whether it has or not. It hasn’t. So any inference to guidance is extending beyond science. That’s independent of whether or not we think science can prove or disprove design or not.

ok… fair enough.

You mean that there is no way to distinguish God-guided evolution from non-God-guided evolution? That’s why it isn’t science.

I’d say that Behe proposes a form of God-guided evolution, yes.

It disagrees with the theory in that it proposes a mechanism for which there is no evidence. You could construct a version of God-guided evolution for which no evidence could in principle be found, but that isn’t what Behe does. If you did such a thing, it wouldn’t contradict with the scientific theory, it just wouldn’t be science. It’s like proposing a law of gravity that accepts Newton and Einstein and adds gravity fairies.


Can I summarise by saying that some forms of "god guided evolution disagree with the scientific theory while others dont?

That would be a step back from claiming all versions disagree with the scientific theory.

You could but you’d still be wrong. There is no evidence for any external supernatural guidance in evolutionary processes and lots of evidence no such supernatural intervention is necessary. As a personal position it’s perfectly fine to assume God is behind the scenes pulling the strings but that’s not a scientific position. You’ve left the realm of science and entered a religious / philosophical one.


That depends on what “disagree” means. Some forms don’t contradict the evidence, just as gravity fairies don’t contradict the evidence. But they still posit an unnecessary cause outside the theory, which might be considered disagreement too.


In a very, very narrow sense, Coyne is right. If God’s guidance is detectable and is easily distinguishable from unguided natural processes across all of life then God’s guidance is both unscientific and scientifically disproven. On the other end of the spectrum, if God’s guidance is indistinguishable from a lack of guidance or undetectable then claiming God is guiding evolution is also unscientific.

We should also remember that unscientific is not a synonym of false.

Science, by its very nature, can not rule out the undetectable actions of any deity or supernatural entity. What science can do is construct a model of what unguided evolution would look like and then see observations match the model with some sort of statistical significance.

I also think there is a difference between unscientific and antiscientific. There are many scientists who hold unscientific beliefs. In fact, I would suggest that every single scientist and every single human holds some sort of unscientific belief. I believe that my mother is one of the most wonderful mothers in the whole world, and it is based on whole list of entirely unscientific and subjective evidence. As humans, we can have a foot in both the unscientific and scientific worlds and be just fine. Where I think we run into problems is when we pit those two worlds against each other. No one wins in that scenario.

Certainly this is a correct statement - - because when you add GOD into the scenario, it is by definition no longer science.

But it is still possible to construct a sentence where we are only talking about non-miraculous events, that were arranged by God to happen in order to execute his short and long term evolutionary plans.

Behe prefers this kind of discussion… God designs … but his implementation (at least until the arrival of humans) is all natural lawfulness … nothing about Free Will (or any other category of the miraculous) in particular!