Do Christians Need to Reconcile Evolutionary Theory and Doctrines of Divine Providence and Creation?

I think the dynamics are somewhat different between YEC and ID.

YEC makes, at core, what I would regard as empirical claims, e.g.:

  • The Earth/Universe is less than 10,000 years old
  • There was a recent world-wide flood within that time period
  • All life is divided into a dicrete number of immutable ‘kinds’

ID on the other hand makes less directly-empirical, but more directly related to evolution claims, e.g. that:

  • evolutionary processes cannot generate ‘new information’ (for rather vague definitions of “new” and “information”)
  • there exists structures that are “Irreducibly Complex” that therefore cannot evolve
  • there is an “edge of evolution” acting as a tightly binding constraint on what can evolve
  • that natural selection only acts by breaking existing structures

I would consider it unreasonable to expect Evolutionary Biologists (in particular, or scientists in general) to simply wave off such direct attacks on their field, simply because they are (empirically) vague. (In the same manner that the vague claim that “you’re a murderer” is no less offensive than the more specific claim that “you murdered Joan Doe on August the 3rd at 10pm with an ice-pick” for the fact that it is less empirically specific.)

Letting the claims go unanswered gives the impression to the wider, less informed, public that the claims have some merit. Purposefully leaving all less directly-empirical claims go unanswered simply encourages creationists to concentrate on such claims as it would allow them to avoid criticism and allow them to give the impression that they have ‘stumped’ mainstream science.

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Right. With YEC those first two claims quickly bump into the laws of physics. Rather than defending the laws of physics, point to the very strong empirical evidence and ask if they have any alternative physics to offer. They cannot defend their own claims. It is much the same with Kinds, which invokes a sort of hyper-evolution and impossible biology. The only defense is that it’s more like evolution than anything else in YEC, which makes them go quiet really fast in my experience.

YEC is also bad theology, and going after their theology will knock them off their anti-science script very easily. There are some science-minded Evangelicals on FB that I like to tag team with. They argue the science, I argue theology, and the poor YEC doesn’t know what hit them. :wink:

These ID claims all fail on falsifiability. Any “stepwise pathway” we might find to demonstrate evolution of new information, IC structures, or going beyond “the edge” could also be designed, and we would never be able to tell the difference. The Designer could be evolution itself, and ID has no answer to that. ID depends on having no definition of the designer than can be tested (There are some exceptions which test very specific hypotheses, like Ewert (2006)).
Breaking existing structures is how IC system are thought to arise (ie: scaffolding). ID is really arguing against itself here.

Again, empirical evidence is great, but not if it means tacitly accepting the opposing claim as a falsifiable scientific hypothesis. This becomes a sort of Loaded Question (ex: “When did you stop beating your spouse”) that have no right answer. The scientist must define and defend their own position, AND try to define and deny an undefined claim at the same time. The IDC is free to move goalposts because they have no position to defend. Being well informed doesn’t make anyone a great debater, and the IDC aren’t going to play fair.

This is why so many arguments tend to go on forever or until one or both parties tire of it - there is no end because there is no question. This might be entertaining, I still enjoy the occasional outfoxing of a befuddled IDC, but “winning”, so much as that is possible, means either beating down their argument until they give up OR making them defend their own claims (which they cannot). The latter requires some patience to set up, but I find it to be far more effective, and far less effort, than playing Whack-A-Mole with IDC arguments.

I understand, but it’s not our job to defend science against empty claims. Science Works, giving us new discoveries, inventions, patents, medical treatment, and opening new areas of fruitful research. There is no alternative to the scientific method, and no IDC can answer that.


The claim “God guided evolution” may be a good example of what you are talking about. It is entirely possible for someone to fully accept the scientific theory of evolution and still believe that God guided evolution in some way. In this case, it would be wrong to reflexively challenge the claim.

I agree. That is the best approach.


Good point. Here there is a belief but no claim, therefore nothing to be falsified. Compare that to the claim “XXX is Irreducibly Complex, therefore is much be intelligently designed.” This is a claim which cannot be falsified. Even if we determine exactly how XXX evolved, there is nothing to stop The Designer from using that same pathway to design. There is the temptation to reflexively challenge this claim, and we might spend great effort presenting the evidence supporting evolution to no good end, because there is no argument to falsify.

Trying to contradict an unfalsifiable claim = Wrong Argument.
Showing how the claim is not falsifiable = Right Argument.

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Assuming you are saying “IC system, therefore it must be ID” . . .

Not sure if I agree with you on that one. If we find a plausible natural explanation then it does do away with the necessity of a designer. If you fill the gap then you refute the God of the Gap. If someone states that they believe IC systems are designed, then that is closer to being unfalsifiable. I would then ask why they would single out IC systems, but that would be part of a larger discussion involving the types of questions you are a proponent of.


I think there’s a difference between a person who says “hey, looky! Irreducible complexity! That’s a hallmark of design!” and a person who says “no plausible pathways exist for irreducible complexity to arise by natural processes, ergo, whenever you see irreducible complexity, design is the only possible explanation.” The former is certainly not falsifiable, but the latter is.

I recall some years ago being quite surprised at how a friend of mine who turned out to be into some really weird religious extremism had a completely intuitive, evidence-free sort of position which amounted to “just look at all the stuff! The stuff! All the stuff! Big crazy complicated stuff! How can you not believe in God? How can you believe in evolution?” I confess that, schooled as I was in more structured argument, I was sort of bowled over by the Argumentum Ad AllaTheStuff, to which I had little to say beyond “really? That’s actually your position on this?”

And when you do encounter the Argumentum Ad AllaTheStuff, it is perhaps a mistake to try to characterize it as an empirical argument as opposed to the kind of emotional bag o’barf that it actually is. But what the antacid is which neutralizes that, I have no idea.

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I have nothing against plausible explanations. It does away with the necessity of design, but cannot falsify design. The filled gap then becomes how the designer did it, and the IDC hops over to the next gap.

I don’t have any specific claim to refute, I’m attacking the notion that IDC can have a scientific hypothesis to be falsified. Behe has made some specific claims about how design can be falsified by showing the “stepwise pathway” to evolution of an IC system. Behe is wrong because this still would not falsify ID. Most ID claims have no hypothesis which can be falsified.

By all means fill the gaps where you find them. What I’m saying it that we should not accept the premise that an ID hypothesis can be falsified. We should not passively accept this premise by failing to mention it. We can shut down most of these Gap arguments by demanding a falsifiable claim, and we should.


Ah. That makes sense. We should expect that those who want to advance IDC hypotheses should be able to formulate a testable hypothesis to advance. Show us how you know something IS designed. That’s a tall order.


This is also why it is nonsense to say that if something evolves in the lab, ID is falsified. What exactly in ID makes it impossible for the Designer to do his thing in a lab? Doesn’t he have an entry pass?


I frequently ask a similar question – does the claim that things are “random” means that Divine Providence can’t be involved mean that God is barred from casinos? (I suppose it would make sense in that an omniscient deity would automatically be a card counter, and they get barred. :wink: )

It sometimes seems that God is only as omnipotent as the argument currently under contention needs him to be.

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Yes, such notions are non-scientific interpretations of our reality. Nothing wrong with that, unless people pretend this is science.

I’ve said it before, when it comes to mutations, one person’s random particle is another person’s Act of God. Who knows?

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We should also question the purpose or utility of ID. Why is ID put forward to begin with? Is it to better understand biology in a scientific sense, or is ID only useful as support for specific religious ideologies? Given the lack of ID based scientific research, I think the answer becomes obvious rather quickly.


Because God did it.

Open your eyes man! Look at the flagella. There is no way something as complex as that could have come about via solely unintelligent processes. Think man, think!

What is obvious is that you and other evolutionists are blinded by materialistic science and cannot see the light of ID. I hope that light pierces the thick cloud of scientific materialism that covers your mental faculties :wink:

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