Thursday, May 23, 2013

God Of The Gaps: Theistic Evolution And The Search For New Gaps

In my on going examination of theistic evolution, I've noticed that the old god of the gaps argument has continued to "evolve" (pun intended). I'm also realizing how many approaches to evolution theism offers. Here are some of the main options:

Young Earth Creationists - believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that all animals species including man were created in their current forms according to how the Bible describes it.

Old Earth Creationists - believe the Earth is billions of years old, basically as old as mainstream science says it is, but that life was still created by an act of god in a linear fashion with simple organisms created first and more complex organisms created later.

Theistic Evolutionists - believe the Earth is billions of years old, basically as old as mainstream science says it is, and that life was either started by an act of god, or developed as the result of natural laws developed by god, and allowed to evolve either with or without god's direct guidance, but will unfold according to god's plan of resulting in the evolution of human beings.

Within these three main approaches there are many other subgroups. Each group contains their own god of the gaps theory. The YECs think there's a gap between every species, but they all concede that microevolution occurs (which is really just a little bit of macroevolution). Once an "alleged" transitional fossil is found linking two species, their tired old tactic is to now argue that there are two gaps instead of one - resulting in a constantly moving goal post. Many OECs however will concede that some speciation can occur but only does so within arbitrarily imposed limits. 

It's theistic evolutionists that I want to focus on here, because of the three positions listed here, they hold the most intellectually tenable one, and that makes them to most formidable to contend with.

On his website's weekly QandA segment, William Lane Craig has said he has no problem accepting "a bat and a whale to have a common ancestor" and how "trivial in the grand scheme of things such a development would be". He even has no problem entertaining the ease with how "the evolution of amphibians from fish or birds from reptiles is miniscule compared to whole tree of life postulated by the [Darwinian] theory, for it still only involves evolutionary development within a single phylum." 

Wow. It's really amazing how far some Christians have embraced evolution. Someone like Craig just a few decades ago would probably be outright denying evolution altogether, as do about half of all Americans today. Now there's no time wasted arguing against whether species or genuses within a single phylum can evolve, but Craig's use of language makes the evolution of fish to mammals look like it's mere microevolution compared to a sponge and a fish. In Craig's version of theistic evolution, such an evolutionary leap from sponges to vertebrates via common ancestry is a "mind-boggling extrapolation from limited instances of microevolutionary change to conclusions that far outstrip the evidence."

In other words, for some theistic evolutionists like Craig who believe god's involvement is necessary, the Cambrian explosion where many of today's animal phyla appeared is the new god of the gaps. No longer is speciation contended, now the god of the gaps is over whether different phylum can have common ancestry. 

Perhaps Craig isn't researched into the fossil record surrounding the 30 million year long Cambrian explosion, but the Burgess shale in Canada and others around the world show a fair amount of fossil evidence for the evolution of major phyla. Sure we don't have a complete trail of fossils, we never will, but there is no grand mystery large enough to punctuate Darwinian natural selection with the need to insert the hand of god into the evolutionary tree of life. There are also vast resources out there available to anyone looking to conduct research like books, blogs, Wikipedia and for the lazy, YouTube. But, speaking of god's hands....

"Maybe God is instead more like the artist who enjoys getting His hands dirty in the paint or the clay to fashion a spectacular world", Craig Wonders. "Why not?'

God obviously doesn't have hands, but I'm sure that was a figure of speech. Anyway, Craig's artistic god who enjoys getting his hands wet in the clay amounts to nothing more than pure speculation. I can just as easily speculate that maybe god takes pleasure in giving babies cancer, or arbitrarily deciding which babies get cancer, and which ones don't. I can also speculate that god takes pleasure in designing all the wonderful genetic mutations that make millions of us suffer so miserably, or that god takes pleasure in designing the mutations that have resulted in diseases like smallpox, the bubonic plague, and leprosy, and enjoys unleashing it onto millions of animals and people to watch them suffer.

It's all pure speculation on Craig's part, a game I can enjoy playing too, because if you entertain the idea that god guides evolution and takes pleasure in it, then all the diseases and disorders which are the direct result of genetic mutations (which is the backbone of how evolution occurs), force you have to entertain the possibility that god's "hand" was somehow involved in them.


  1. "a bat and a whale to have a common ancestor" and how "trivial in the grand scheme of things such a development would be"

    Wow, that's a pretty incredible statement from WLC. If you can connect a bat and a whale, why not just go the whole way? Hopefully it's just a matter of time.

    1. You gotta applaud some theists for at least being persuadable by the evidence, but some of them just don't want to concede too much, because they know that if they do that, they'll be letting the Darwinists look good, and so they have to find some kind of gap they can use to insert the hand of god into. Hence they'll always be in search of new gaps.



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