For a Change of Pace - Which Old Earth scenario seems more likely?

I am addressing this thread specifically to @Eddie (to give him some time to decompress from the fairly intense discussions we’ve been seeing lately).

But anyone else who has a preference can go on record as well.


Which Evolutionary or Creationist scenario do you think is most likely to be true?:

  1. An Old Earth Evolutionary process, with God’s full engagement and design?


  1. An Old Earth process where God periodically creates a new species by miraculous means or anything else that would be characterized as something like sudden special creation, either coinciding with the extinction of what might be considered a predecessor species, or nearly so?

If some “Young Earth” scenario seems more likely than either (1) or (2) above, just mention that as your preferred scenario.

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(1) I don’t know what the phrase “Old Earth” with capital letters is doing in the first option. If you are talking about a genuine macroevolutionary scenario, obviously the earth would have to be old, so it’s redundant, and second, putting “Old Earth” in capitals will make people think of Old Earth Creationism (OEC), which is confusing. If you change the phrasing to “Bacteria to man macroevolution…” then it’s more understandable.

(2) Both of your scenarios involve intelligent design, so from an ID theory point of view neither one is preferable to the other.

(3) It’s not clear that there isn’t a compromise version possible, i.e., that there are some acts of special creation, interspersed with periods of natural-cause evolution, with God being involved directly in the first type of action, and indirectly in the second (by sustaining nature).

(4) I have no idea how to calculate which of the two (or three) scenarios is more likely to be true. Any such calculation would require prior assumptions, and different people will allow different prior assumptions.

(5) I’ve already said many times that I accept the general view that the earth is old, so your afterthought question wasn’t necessary.

The only thing that can be said is that it looks as if there has been some evolutionary change, and so any view that denied any evolutionary change at all would unlikely to be true. So if your second option is meant to deny any evolutionary change, then I would say it is less likely; but if it allows for some evolutionary change, then I would consider it a candidate – but then it would be the “compromise” position mentioned above.

So if you revise your question to a choice between “macroevolution controlled by God”, “macroevolution controlled by God but involving some acts of special creation” and “special creation, no significant evolution at all”, I’d say that the first two are “more likely” – but I can give you no formal calculation to justify “more likely.”

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I’ve come to the conclusion that getting anything clear out of Eddie is unlikely. When asked for a scenario he responds with nothing but disclaimers.


What’s unclear about my final paragraph?

What you call the “disclaimers” were necessary to rearrange the material in the question into something that could be meaningfully answered. Once I did that, I answered the question. I suspect that most readers here will be able to understand my answer. If they don’t, they can ask me for clarification on particular points or phrases.

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Thank you for your labors. I’m sure that it was much easier to ask those questions than it was for you to answer them. But let’s take a look at what I think makes the central core of your assertions:

[1] “The only thing that can be said is that it looks as if there has been some evolutionary change, and so any view that denied any evolutionary change at all would unlikely to be true.”

This was a very brave sentence for you to formulate, Eddie. So, let’s say it holds down one end of the spectrum of possibilities.

And on the other side, I would like to plunk down the “Genealogical Adam” scenario (or 2 or 3 of them if you don’t have a favorite). I have frequently commented that @swamidass is actually more willing to discuss Adam and Eve as the product of miraculous special creation than Behe is. I find that ironic … and fitting … considering that Behe holds back despite his well established connection with the I.D. community - - presumably because he is a professional scientist.

Joshua is a professional scientist, who has no formal role within the I.D. community, and yet Joshua is able to freely and enthusiastically embrace special creation for 2 humans of notable significance within the Biblical narrative. Life is full of strange twists, yes?

And now we come to you, Eddie. I find your lack of certainty about where you are on the spectrum I am tracing out to be pretty surprising. You are pretty darn certain about oh-so-many-things … about things that are crucial, and about things that are not crucial - - and now, at last, about things that you are quite sure you aren’t sure about!

Joshua and I are a little less vague: we both feel strongly that the special creation of Adam and Eve is not the thing that would justify overturning millions of years of evolutionary evidence. So it’s easy to include a few more miracles, while continuing to hold firm (quite tightly!!!) to the fundamentals of evolutionary theory.

So why is this so difficult for you, Eddie? If Joshua or I are completely flexible on God engaging as maximally as possible in the design, guidance, control and delivery of any and every specific genetic or evolutionary attribute that an Intelligent Design proponent would consider reasonable or expected … why would any person such as yourself need to abandon any parts of the chemistry, biology or physics of evolution - - knowing fulsomely that God is behind it all?

Why, for example, would God create specific species of proto-whales, or proto-carnivores, or name any proto-species you might imagine? If he has full control of evolutionary creation, why would he use evolution for somethings and not for others?

In the old BioLogos days, we would have quite a bit invested in the whole Adam and Eve question. But now, here we are at PeacefulScience.Org … and there is no more Adam & Eve question. A solution has been offered… and pretty much as Biblically oriented as most anyone would reasonably wish for. So what exactly is left that Special Creation “fixes” you haven’t already accepted as “fixed”?

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Why thank you, George. :wink:

Sure he is, and I think that’s an improvement on BioLogos. I give him points for not dogmatizing about “the inescapable results” of modern genetic science the way Venema etc. did.

Of course he does, because, unlike Joshua, Behe is not writing “religion and science” or “faith and science” material. He is putting forward arguments for design based on empirical evidence. So mention of the Bible is inappropriate. But I suspect that, being Catholic, he accepts a historical Adam and Eve, even if he chooses not to talk about that subject when he is making arguments for design. (Of course, he could be a maverick or unorthodox Catholic, and not accept the Church’s teaching regarding a first couple. I don’t know; I haven’t asked him. But I’ve seen no evidence so far, from the few remarks he has made about his personal religious beliefs, that he has unorthodox tendencies. If someone claims he doesn’t believe in a first couple, they would have to provide evidence for that – a hacked e-mail, a conversation overheard in a bar, etc.)

Why should I pretend to certainty on matters where certainty is not, my view, currently obtainable? Why shouldn’t I be intellectually cautious? Beside, you didn’t ask me to state anything with certainty; you asked me only what I thought was more likely. And I answered. I said that any view which denied all evolutionary change was unlikely. So obviously I consider views that allow some evolutionary change to be more likely. So if Old Earth creationists allow some limited evolutionary change within their overall creationist view, and if Young Earth creationists don’t allow any, then I would consider Old Earth creationism a more likely scenario than Young Earth creationism. That’s clear enough, isn’t it?

As for the decision between theistic evolution and Old Earth creationism (with some evolution thrown in), it’s hard to say which scenario is “more likely.” Both groups accept an old earth and many if not most OECs are content with a human race that is older than 6,000 years. OEC has room, timewise, for considerable microevolution; the “kinds” don’t have to be species. I am pretty sure there are some OECs who think that the basic “kinds” created were at the level of family or even order, not species, and that evolutionary change proceeded from those basic kinds. Really the crucial difference is over how often God acts directly vs. indirectly (i.e., merely by sustaining natural causes). And how do I determine which frequency of divine action is “more likely” than another? Neither the Bible nor Christian theology gives a clear answer. Further, from the point of view of ID theory, it’s irrelevant. God could design an evolutionary process to output certain things, or he could leave nature wandering and occasionally jump in and steer events. ID doesn’t really have any tools for telling the difference.

I haven’t contradicted that. I agree that it’s possible that purely natural macroevolution from bacterium to man has occurred, and that after man evolved, God could have directly created a special couple. Joshua assures us that this possibility is compatible with what the human genome tells us. I don’t have the expertise to confirm that, but I’ll take his word for it, tentatively. But it’s hard for me to get really excited about the idea, because I read Genesis 1 and 2 differently; I don’t read them as two sequential accounts of two different creative activities of God. So even if the genetic science is fine, it’s in the service of a reading of Genesis that I don’t adopt. The most I can say is that I have nothing against the idea, and if I’m ever brought around (by exegetical rather than genetic considerations) to read Genesis 1 and 2 differently, I might well adopt Genealogical Adam as my position. As it is, I don’t oppose Genealogical Adam, because I’m not so certain of my own reading of Genesis that I dismiss all other readings. But on my current reading, I don’t need Genealogical Adam. Still, I regard it respectfully as a legitimate position on the table. Shouldn’t that be enough for you? Do I have to swear allegiance to something or be an implacable foe of it? Can’t I reserve judgment?

I haven’t abandoned anything I regard as established science, and I haven’t rejected even what I regard as speculative science – various people’s particular proposals for evolutionary mechanisms. I’ve said I reserve judgment regarding the “how” of evolution. That’s compatible with admitting that variations exist, mutations exist, selection exists, horizontal gene transfer exists – I’m merely holding back assent from any particular formula that quantifies the exact weight of those and other mechanisms. What’s wrong with that?

I haven’t endorsed special creation (meaning a series of miraculous fiats, occurring in six days or maybe longer) as fact. I doubt the world was created in six calendar days, but special creation might have taken place over a greater length of time. On the other hand, evolutionary creation is also a possibility. Both are compatible with a God who designs and controls the outcomes of creation. Why do I need to roll the dice and pick one or the other? If either one is compatible with what I consider to be sound theology, why can’t I defer judgment indefinitely? Why is it important to you that I say one or the other?

I’ve given you an old universe, an old earth, an old human race, the reality of evolutionary processes, and a non-fundamentalist reading of Genesis; the only things I haven’t specified are (1) whether or not evolutionary processes are due entirely to natural causes alone, or are sometimes the result of special divine actions, and (2) whether, if due entirely to natural causes, those causes are those currently popular among gene-focused biologists, or include some other causes (possibly teleological) that are regarded as suspect by those biologists. But why should I need to specify those things? According to your own account, neither of them is really important, anyway; they are details that don’t need to be settled to carry on with Genealogical Adam. The broad picture you have of God and evolution, I have not opposed.

As far as I can tell, your attitudes regarding the details of evolution are more flexible than those of, say, Jonathan Burke. He demands that I subscribe to current orthodoxy regarding mechanism, right down the line. It’s really him, more than you, whose approach I reject. I disagree with you on some things – your characterization of the position of various ID and TE proponents, for example – but those are exegetical differences. On the big picture – God is behind the specific results of evolution in a real (not merely pro forma) way, and God could have acted directly in the evolutionary process at some points – you and I are in agreement. Aren’t we?


Ahhh… the wheels turn so slowly… but ever so finely…


My position is that God could very well act directly in the evolutionary process at some points.
But as some here are prone to ask: “What does that mean? What would it look like?”

And this is where I harken back to my earliest “masque de drama” at BioLogos:

One way for God to act directly in the evolutionary process is to supernaturally expose genetic molecules to radiation, molecules of compounds, or physical impacts sufficient to cause damage and/or re-design.

Another way for God to act directly in the evolutionary process is to introduce physical changes to the Earth’s climate or ecosystems, by literally aiming an asteroid at Earth. I’ve mentioned this scenario multiple times - - and I point out (again) that this could be purely natural action (front-loaded from the moment of creation), or it could involve supernatural activity by miraculously creating the asteroid of sufficient size and velocity somewhere out by Jupiter, or beyond the solar system. Naturally, I’m inclined to prefer the purely natural approach.

And a third way for God to act directly in the evolutionary process, but which is not as appealing to me, is to directly extinguish or kill off gametes or even embryos of generations or portions of generations.

The power of the “Genealogical Adam” stance is that there is absolutely no reason to overturn any part of modern (or even some of the bolder “advanced modern” science?) in order to accommodate God’s creation of life on Earth.

While I speculate on the various ways God could use miraculous methods to influence Evolutionary Processes … I never once propose miraculous methods of producing a whole new species in the blink of an eye. To me… that is - - pure and simple - - overturning science for no good reason. And this is what I was ever-so-slowly shaping our discussion towards, @Eddie.

And then you made a dash to the finish line and introduced the phrase: “…and God could have acted directly in the evolutionary process at some points – you and I are in agreement. Aren’t we?”

We certainly are! I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised!

With this one caveat:
As long as you don’t suggest that God created hundreds of distinct species, via special creation, long ago before humans ever made contact with them - - and then replaced them, again, by means of a new set of specially created replacement species… all in a way that makes it look like they evolved over long periods of time, rather than created in moments.

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I don’t think our modern category of “species” is what the Biblical writers had in mind, so even if I were a creationist, I would speak of “kinds” rather than species, and the number of “kinds” specially created would be much smaller than the number of species that they eventually became, by diversification.

You’ll have to ask an Old Earth Creationist, such as AJ Roberts, who posts here (very courteously and intelligently), how much evolution OECs allow after the original creation of “kinds”, and for an estimate of how many “kinds” OECs think were specially created. I am not familiar enough with their discussions on that subject to say reliably what they think.

The fact that you don’t dogmatically rule out the possibility that God subtly “steers” evolution puts us in basic agreement. We might still disagree on how the first life forms came into being, since it’s not clear to me that inanimate matter has “the right stuff” to become living without rearrangements that would most likely require intelligence. But perhaps you are open to special divine action even there. (Francis Collins is!) But again, I’m less interested in trying to nail down a border between what took place naturally and what required miracles, than in recognizing the features of life which seem to scream out for a design explanation. Whether the design was actualized through cleverly arranged chains of natural causes, or involved a few special divine actions, is to me a less intellectually interesting subject than the contemplation of the design itself.

Marcos Eberlin apparently has the same focus. He seems to be more interested in establishing the existence of foresight than in claiming that any miracles were required for the implementation. At least, that’s what he seems to say to a questioner in one of the reports about his new book.


I would be perfectly willing to say God created the first 100 living one-celled living creatures on Earth…

… But completely opposed to the Special Creation of any multi-celled creature, anywhere on Earth, at any time.

Why? Because once life is up and running, the evidence says all “KINDS” can be produced by God-Guided Evolutionary processes.

There is simply zero warrant for the idea that God created any kinds “de novo”. 2 humans, per the"Geneal.Adam" scenarios is all we need to make the Biblical narrative function… and they do not require overturning the natural evidence we have in hand!

@AJRoberts, as per @Eddie’s suggestion, I hope you can answer a slightly different question:

Does RTB require de novo created Kinds? In my view, once God provides for the unicellular origins of life, and once we have Geneal.Adam/Eve… what would push us to the idea that even ANY KINDS had to be specially created?

While good conversation is never a bad thing I must admit any attempt to predict the likelihood of what God would do to me is like discussing like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Once we go beyond what is spelled out in the Bible, we are dealing purely in speculative, subjective opinion. Perhaps a fun discussion, but one with one way of evaluating the accuracy or any of what’s being discussed.

This is especially true, when Christian’s argue and divide themselves over these issues.

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What you’re saying, whether you realize it or not, is that science is pointless and useless. That doesn’t seem like a good position to take.

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Science is useful, and evidence based. It should evaluate our theories against science. Maybe I misreading @gbrooks9 question, but the question seemed to be more about how likelihood of different theories about how God (the supernatural) acted behind the scenes. I don’t believe this is a question science can evaluate.


Technically, that isn’t true. Once we go beyond what is spelled out in the Bible, you have millions of years of Evolutionary evidence… which is really no more testing than asking how does god make it RAIN!


I was asking for a personal opinion… I wasn’t asking for probabilities…

That’s fine, I just don’t like seeing Christians argue over personal options. Seem’s pointless and divisive. This isn’t really directed specifically at you, your post just presented a jumping off point for me to comment/rant on something a find highly frustrating on PeacefulScience, as well as in a larger Christian context.

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Which is why it is strongly recommended that you live by the testimony of God’s natural laws… there’s nothing to dispute. God makes it rain by condensation and evaporation. You don’t have to guess how it rains…

Sure it can. It can at least decide between some scenarios. That’s why he keeps hitting on separate creation of species or kinds. The scientific evidence supports universal common descent. Separate creation of kinds would require God to simulate the sort of data we expect from common descent. I don’t think any creationist thinks that’s a good idea or supports such a scenario. That, incidentally, is what genealogical Adam gets around: the data all come from the evolved human species, and two created individuals merged into that population are invisible. Genetic Adam, on the other hand, requires a faked evolutionary history of common ancestry.

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