Evolutionary creationism

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Template:Creationism2Evolutionary creationism, or Theistic evolution, is the general belief that some or all classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of the scientific theory of evolution.

Theistic evolution holds that the acceptance of evolutionary biology is not fundamentally different from the acceptance of other sciences, such as astronomy or meteorology. In this view, it is held both religiously and scientifically correct to reinterpret ancient religious texts in line with modern-day scientific findings about evolution. This synthesis of religious teachings with science can still be described as creationism in holding that divine intervention brought about the origin of life or that divine Laws govern formation of species, but in the creation-evolution controversy its proponents generally take the "evolutionist" side. For this reason, some on both sides prefer to use the term "theistic evolution" to describe this belief.

The term evolutionary creationism is used in particular for beliefs in which God transcends normal time and space, with nature having no existence independent of His will. It allows interpretations consistent with both a literal Genesis and objective science, in which, for example, the events of creation occurred outside time as we know it.

Contents

Spectrum of viewpoints

Evolutionary creationism is a variant of creationism which accepts microevolution and macroevolution while retaining a theistic interpretation of evolution. Theistic evolution is accepted (or at least not rejected) by major Christian churches, including Roman Catholicism; some Judaism denominations; and other religious organizations that lack a literalist stance concerning holy scriptures. With this approach toward evolution, scriptural creation stories are typically interpreted as being allegorical in nature.

As cited below, several religious organizations accept evolutionary theory, though their related theological interpretations vary. Additionally, individuals or movements within such organizations may not accept evolution, and stances on evolution may have adapted (or evolved) throughout history.

See also sections of Abrahamic creationism on "The Christian Critique of Creationism" and "The western world outside the United States".

Deism

Deism is belief in a God or first cause based on reason, rather than on faith or revelation. Most Deists believe that God does not interfere with the world or create miracles. Some deists believe that a Divine Creator initiated a universe in which evolution occurred, by designing the system and the natural laws, although many deists believe that God also created life itself, before allowing it to be subject to evolution.

One good example of this is the recent (December 2004) conversion to deism of the former atheist philosopher Professor Antony Flew, who now argues that recent research into the origins of life supports the theory that some form of intelligence was involved. Whilst accepting subsequent Darwinian evolution, Flew argues that this cannot explain the complexities of the origins of life. He has also stated that the investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved."

Some Deists contend that God ceased to exist after setting in motion the laws of the universe.

Other variants

Another perspective is that a Divine Creator engineers quantum events, in a manner which is apparently random, thus exercising authoritative power over nature.

Alternatively, a Divine Creator may intervene through miracles, in the creation of souls, in an afterlife, or ways beyond known physics.

Christianity

  • Church of England [1] (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&q=evolution+site%3Acofe.anglican.org)
  • Roman Catholic Church [2] (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html) [3] (http://www.cin.org/jp2evolu.html) In 1950, Pope Pius XII, in the papal encyclical Humani Generis, stated that the "Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter" with the stipulations that souls are direct creations of God, and all true humans are descendants of a particular individual, Adam and Eve. Although couched in terms of caution, the encyclical is notable for its permitting the teaching of evolution. In 1996, Pope John Paul II stated that "new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis," and again concluded that "if the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God." However, as John Paul II recognized in his 22 October 1996 Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences, "since the Encyclical Humani generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII had already stated that there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on [certain] conditions". Thus, as a practical matter, evolution had been taught in Catholic primary and secondary schools, not to mention universities, for decades before 1996.
  • Eastern Orthodox Christianity, for the most part, has no arguments with science. It feels that the Genesis text does not have to be taken literally even if formally it recognizes Adam and Eve as the first humans and features them in icons of the Resurrection. There is a strong tendency in the church to ignore these kind of arguments as meaningless and unimportant for salvation.

Christian Justification for Evolution

Evolution contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis; however, according to the two oldest branches of Christianity (Orthodoxism and Catholicism; and most Protestant Churches, these days), Biblical Literalism is not mandatory. Some feel that seeing Genesis as a myth or as an allegory has been considered a "cop-out", and that it was always interpreted literally until Evolution came and disproved it. Others would state that the concept of a myth is not synonymous with being "false"; and that a myth is "a truth in unfamiliar clothing" (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield all support this interpretation).

Historically, Biblical Literalism came about with the rise of Protestantism; before Protestantism, the Bible wasn't interpreted completely literally. The "metaphorical/literal" distinction arose with the rise of the Scientific Revolution (although its source could be found in earlier writings, such as those of Herodotus). It was considered heretical to interpret the Bible literally at times (c.f. Origen, St. Jerome), and St. Augustine -- one of the early theologians of the Christian Church -- was in fact the first person to propose a theory of Evolution of species.

In ancient times, the modern concept of "literal" would not have been familiar. Nothing was either purely literal or purely metaphorical, but was conflation between the two, and this is why the myths were so important. Myths were explanations of natural phenomena; they weren't "false", but on the contrary they were true descriptions. Many examples can be brought in here, such as the Hades and Persephony myth, which serves as a description of the seasons.

Islam

Many Muslims believe in evolutionary creationism, especially among Sunni Muslims and the Liberal movements within Islam. More literalist Muslims, including followers of Wahhabism, reject any form of evolution as incompatible with the Qur'an. However, even amongst Muslims who accept evolution, many believe that humanity was a special creation by God. For example, Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, an American Muslim and specialist in Islamic law has argued in Islam and Evolution (http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/evolve.htm) that a belief in macroevolution is not incompatible with Islam, as long as it is accepted that "Allah is the Creator of everything" (Qur'an 13:16) and that Allah specifically created humanity (in the person of Adam; Qur'an 38:71-76).

One of the main criticisms of evolution by Muslims is their assertion that it was created by and supports atheism, and so it is argued that it should be rejected (see for example, Why Darwinism is Incompatible With the Qur'an (http://www.harunyahya.com/incompatible02.php)). Nonetheless, a sizeable minority of Muslims can be described as evolutionary creationists.

See also Islamic creationism.

Judaism

In general, the major Jewish denominations accept theistic evolution, with the exception of some Orthodox groups. The general approach of Judaism is that the creation account in the Torah is not to be taken as a literal text, but rather as a symbolic work. Indeed, Maimonides, one of the great interpreters of Torah in the Middle Ages, wrote that if science and Torah were misaligned, it was either because science was not understood or the Torah was misinterpreted. Maimonides argued that if science proved a point, then the finding should be accepted and inform the interpretation of scripture.

See also Jewish creationism.

Hinduism

There is little or no tension between Hinduism and the scientific theory of evolution. Therefore, Hindus could be regarded as theistic evolutionists, although they rarely use this terminology.

Evolutionary biologists who were also theists

Although evolutionary biologists have often been agnostics (most notably Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin) or atheists (most notably Richard Dawkins), from the outset many have had a belief in some form of theism. These have included Alfred Russel Wallace (18231913), who in a joint paper with Charles Darwin in 1858, proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace was effectively a deist who believed that "the unseen universe of Spirit" had interceded to create life as well as consciousness in animals and (separately) in humans.

An early example of this kind of approach came from computing pioneer Charles Babbage who published his unofficial Ninth Bridgewater Treatise in 1837, putting forward the thesis that God had the omnipotence and foresight to create as a divine legislator, making laws (or programs) which then produced species at the appropriate times, rather than continually interfering with ad hoc miracles each time a new species was required.

Both Ronald Fisher (18901962) and Theodosius Dobzhansky (19001975), were Christians and architects of the modern evolutionary synthesis. Dobzhansky wrote a famous 1973 essay entitled Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution espousing evolutionary creationism:

"I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's, method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.
Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ...the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness."

More recently, Kenneth R. Miller professor of biology at Brown University, has written Finding Darwin's God in which he states his belief in God and argues that "evolution is the key to understanding God". Other Christian evolutionary creationists include Derek Burke, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Warwick and R J Berry, Professor of Genetics at University College London, who has written extensively on the subject.

Criticisms of theistic evolution

The major atheistic criticism of evolutionary creationism is that of all forms of creationism: the belief in a supernatural creator, which violates both the naturalism and falsifiability requirements of scientific philosophy (see also rationalism). Another criticism of some forms of evolutionary creationism (especially those of deists) are that they are simply a belief in a God of the gaps, where anything that cannot currently be explained by science is attributed to God. For example, the physicist Dr Paul Davies has stated: "I flatly reject the argument that the origin of life was some sort of miracle. To be sure, we don't yet know how it happened, but that doesn't mean a cosmic magician is needed to prod atoms around."

Theists often reject evolution primarily on the basis of their scriptures. Most monotheistic scriptures contain a creation story describing an event in which animals and humans are instantly created by a supernatural being, typically each in a different way, which seems to contradict the process of natural selection if taken literally.

Young Earth creationists criticize theistic evolution on theological grounds (see External links).

See also

References

External links

Proponents of theistic evolution

Opponents of theistic evolution

Topics about or related to Creationism
Types: Creationism - Young Earth Creationism - Old Earth creationism - Day-Age Creationism - Gap Creationism - Progressive creationism - Evolutionary creationism
Related concepts: Creation according to Genesis - Omphalos hypothesis - Intelligent design - Specified complexity - Dating Creation - Theistic realism
Pseudoscience: Creation science - Creationist cosmologies - Creation biology - Created kinds - Flood geology - Vapor canopy - Modern geocentrism - Flat Earth creationism

Controversy: Creation-evolution controversy - History of creationism - Creation and evolution in public education - Quotes about creation and evolution

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