I will say what I said on Jon’s blog…
Getting our definitions straight is essential to sorting this out and preventing us from talking past one another. We can’t tell to what extent we agree or disagree without it.
For example “Descent with modification” is one definition of evolution, I guess a preferred one around here. To me it could also be a form of creationism or at least intelligent design, depending on how the modifications occur. For example, farmers breed animals for certain traits and get them through descent with modification. They select far more powerfully for desired traits than nature does. So that fits this definition of evolution, but surely it is intelligent design as well.
Let’s have a thought experiment: Now suppose instead of farmers who went around selecting for traits, God Himself did so. If a certain group got a rate mutation that would produce a benefit if paired with another mutation which existed only in a second isolated group He would know it and be able to put those two populations together so that they would have the suite of mutations that, when combined with yet another rare mutation four generations from now, would result in a new function. So He is using Divine knowledge to leverage natural processes to produce something new. I would say that is evolution (descent through modification), intelligent design (intent drives the changes not natural selection) and “soft-touch” creationism (He intervened in the natural world to produce outcomes even if He never touched the genomes directly, He merely guided natural events in a way that nature would not in herself at anything like the same rate).
Now suppose that instead of taking the role of a selective breeder (with perfect knowledge) only, He also assumed the role of Genetic Engineer. That is, instead of strictly waiting for Nature to come up with mutations which could be combined to create new function, He did just what our engineers do. He made cuts and inserts in genetic code. Maybe nature would never get a particular protein to fold just right waiting for chance or mutation so He inserted a gene which would. So when our scientists make mice which glow because jellyfish genes have been inserted in them, and this population breeds, is this “descent with modification”? Well maybe, but the modification did not come wholly by NATURAL descent. It is doubtless intelligent design and specialcreation, and questionably evolution as well.
That said, such a situation could still involve natural descent, but that would not be where the modification would come from. Take the gap between a fish and an amphibian. What if over the course of thirty or forty generations He put just enough changes in each generation that they would still be able to be birthed and bred by natural means but each generation would also be further toward the amphibian end of things. This so that even though no amphibian was created out of thin air, or clay, one still had a very different creature through only forty generations removed from the fish, thanks to genetic engineering moving things a bit further along each generation. That is “descent with modification” but the modification is via genetic engineering. So is that evolution, special creation and intelligent design all rolled up into one?
Like Jon, I don’t think “natural selection” or any of the natural means we have discovered could have on its own produced the vast diversity we see today or in the fossil record. I think nature had help. And I think some of this arguing we are doing over it is because we are talking past one another on terms.
I can help here. Genesis chapter one is describing creation in two realms in parallel. High heaven where His will is done quickly, perfectly, and without His having to do it Himself. Then there is where we live. It is a creation suitable for beings like us. We can’t execute His will without His help either, just like the natural universe.
So the reason it looks like evolution is that it was supposed to be like TE. The natural universe just couldn’t pull it off without His subsequent (in some way) intervention. The first four and a half minutes of this video gives more detail even though its main focus is on a difference in time…