Does Evolution Need God?

Many on this forum think that God guided evolution (essentially, that evolution was what God used to create).

Now, the question is: If God guided evolution, would/does (macro)evolution need God’s action in order to work properly?

I look forward to reading your responses!

(Edit: Better title)

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I would be interested in hearing from @swamidass, @Gbrooks9, and @cwhenderson in addition to our friends @Patrick and @T_aquaticus (and any others who may have an answer). What do you guys think?

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A bit swamped, but I’ll answer when I can. I’m curious how @gbrooks9 would take this.

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I know the feeling :wink: .

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I don’t think that question actually makes sense.

The people who believe that God guided evolution, surely also believe that God is engaged in everything. So the question of “need” simply does not arise.

I don’t think that is a knowable answer, empirically speaking. The best we can do is to say that the mechanisms we observe in nature are sufficient to produce the outcomes we see. What we can’t do is determine what God’s role in those natural processes is, or if God acts outside of those processes in a way that we can’t detect empirically. At some point you would have to determine what God can or can’t do, and that seems problematic from a theological point of view.

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I have not seem any evidence of God-guided anything. The universe, the world, and the people of the world seem to be behaving just like you would expect if there was no God or no God guidance nor interactions.

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Thank you all for the responses!

It has been interesting to read the responses of thoughtful atheists (and/or agnostics) like yourselves, and it will be interesting to see some responses from our friends in the TE/EC crowd like @gbrooks9 (not to constantly put him on the spot :wink: ). In many ways, this question was kind of geared toward them…

The question probably has more to do with evolution than God, but that is an interesting point which we may see more of when the theistic evolutionists show up.

Unguided mechanisms in nature which somehow manage to blindly (not to mention improbably) produce a staggering variety of outcomes which are so complex and sophisticated that they appear to be designed? That would strike me as rather dubious.

That aside (as it has probably been discussed to death on numerous other threads), @T_aquaticus has the key answer here (so far): if natural processes (evolution) can completely account for the status of life on this planet today (which I [and probably others] am not conceding), then the answer to the question posed in this topic would be no.

That’s highly debatable. But, once again, that is a topic that has probably been discussed (not to mention debated :wink: ) a lot on other threads.

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12 posts were split to a new topic: Freedom, God, and Evil in the World

Happy to oblige, @swamidass!

@J.E.S, my usual recipe for God guided evolution is:

1] God decides what mutation and when. (When a human is born with a congenital defect, many might see it as an act of God.)

2] God decides what the environmental factors will be that affect the reception of the mutations. (When the dino-killing asteroid hit Earth … wiping out of all the larger sinus made it possible for mammals to start to evolve.)

3] Old Earth creationists have already come to terms with the oddities if God using such a ling time scale. But for God there is no time at all. All the steps described in creation all happen in an instant anyway. So it seems that the timeframe is not for God… but for humanity!

God doesn’t seem to want humans to expect instant gratification!

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Thanks for obliging us, @gbrooks9!

Your answer indicates that you believe God was deeply involved in the evolutionary process, correct?

So (according to your perspective), do you think that the evolutionary process would get along just fine if God was not involved in any way? Or, do you think that divine involvement (like you described) would be necessary for evolution to produce the outcomes we see today?

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Thinking on this I’m confused on the phrasing. What does it mean to “work properly” in your mind? Are you asking if the results of evolution processes alone would be the precise results God intended from the beginning? Or are you asking if God’s directly is needed in some ongoing basis to enable to produce what we see in the biological world?

I’m confused…


I suppose I am asking: Do you believe that evolution needs God’s guidance in order to produce what we see in the biological world? Or, would you agree with @T_aquaticus when he says:

A post was merged into an existing topic: J Mac Seeking a Pupil

I’m going to clarify this a bit, by referencing a more common claim. It is often said that evolution is sufficient to explain the diversity of life we see. For example:

I think this is false. Here is why…

  1. First of all, biological evolution depends on several things for which we have no good account (physical laws, abiogenesis or a first cell, etc.).

  2. Second, the course of evolution depends on “stochastic” events we couldn’t have predicted, like the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, and other “chance” events. We have no way of distinguishing between chance and providence. It seems almost certain that some of these contingent events were fundamentally important to produce what we see here. For example, both humans and chimps had the same starting point, but only we are anything like humans. Why are we different? Some combination of providence and chance.

  3. Third, the claim of “sufficiency” is a universal negative claim about the nature of life, and science cannot usually make these sorts of claims. For evolution to be sufficient, every step along the way to us must have been possible to evolve without any providential inspiration of God. I’m not sure how we could possibly know this about everything that has evolved when we have not had (and will not have) ability to study in detail everything in the history of life that has been made.

  4. Forth, the claim of “sufficiency” seems to be false because evolution depends on contingent events (e.g. that asteroid). They are unpredictable events that profoundly shape the final product of evolution, even though evolution itself has no account of how these events arise. So evolution seems obviously not to be a sufficient explanation for the diversity of life.

I can agree that it appears as if everything we see could have been produced by natural processes. However, I’m not sure how to distinguish between between God’s action and natural processes. God could have inspired a mutation here or there, but how would we know? It would look just like a natural mutation to us. How in the world could we know that it was a special mutation?

So yes, I do think God was necessary, for several reasons, and science has not ruled out God’s guidance in origins. Evolution is certainly not a “sufficient” explanation of life. However, it is not at all clear how he providentially governed evolution.

I could go on about how evolution is not “sufficient”, but this of course should be balanced that with fact that none of the ID arguments have been convincing to me either. Evolution is not sufficient to explain everything, but it certainly explains a lot. It seems more a matter of prior belief about God’s involvement than anything about the evidence. As I pointed out before, if God inspires a mutation, how could we possibly know He did? How could we establish that it was not a “natural” mutation?


All above is true, and doesn’t require the existence of God to be true.


Exactly, which is why we should not say that evolution is sufficient to explain the diversity of life. This seems to be a very strange and indefensible claim.

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@swamidass, @Patrick

My thoughts exactly… :wink:

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I think a better way to put it is:

Evolution is a legitimate but incomplete account of how the full diversity of life arose. It makes a great deal of sense of the complex patterns we see in biology, but it is certainly not the whole story. Alongside our confidence in evolution, there is a great deal we do not know, and may never know, about the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of our origins. While we see no direct scientific evidence for God’s action here, even scientists are regularly startled into an awe and wonder by the beauty and the grand of life. There is no good account for why it had to be this way.

This description, it seems, is more truthful that defensively retorting that “evolution is sufficient”.


Evolution is certainly sufficient to explain the diversity of life to a reasonable confidence level.