Helen De Cruz (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Institute of Philosophy), recently posted a brief article “A Darwinian Dilemma for the Theist Who Accepts Evolutionary Theory.”
Despite the fact that Dr. De Cruz is clearly one of the brighter bulbs in the chandelier (she has PhDs in philosophy and archaeology, her areas of interestes are things like Cognitive Science of Religion, Cognitive Archaeology, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, and her home institution doesn’t come up on my spellcheck) she has posted a very readable article that theists (namely Christians) who are also evolutionists might want to read.
Evolution, as we all know, challenges traditional Christian notions of how and when humanity (and the cosmos) began. These traditional notions come from the Bible, namely Genesis 1 (God created in 6 days) and Genesis 2 (Adam was the first human formed out of dust in an act of special creation by God).
Some of us who are Christian and accept evolution focus on the biblical interpretation side of this issue and write books and blogs explaining why a literal (scientific, historical) reading of the Bible is placing more of a burden on the Bible than it is prepared to deliver.
But there are many other sorts of challenges that thoughtful Christians need to think about, which is where philosophers like Helen De Cruz come into the picture.The point of her article is basically this. One way that Christians commonly reconcile Christianity and evolution is by claiming that God is present in the evolutionary process by guiding it toward an end. That means that, despite the apparent randomness of evolution (stochasticity), God’s way of creating is by a guided evolutionary process–even in the smallest subatomic details–that moves toward a goal or end (Greek “telos”), namely, we humans created in God’s image.
In other words, evolution is not random (stochastic) but purposeful (teleological).
Now, you need to read the article to see the details, but De Cruz’s main point is that the stochasticity (randomness) of evolution doesn’t seem to be “apparent” but real. If that’s so, you can’t claim that God’s purpose can be “seen” in evolution (at least not “seen” in a scientific sense) because “purpose” means “not random.”
I think if I said more I’d just confuse the issue more, so read the article. But, one last thought.
I can imagine some might be tempted to use this idea of the randomness of evolution as an excuse to dismiss the whole idea because of how (seemingly) incompatible it is with God’s existence. “See!! Evolution and Christianity ARE incompatible, like I’ve been warning you all along!!!! If evolution is random, it needs to be rejected by anyone claiming to believe in God, because God isn’t random.”
Let me say, slow down cowboy. The reasons for accepting evolution are still there, even if evolution raises some serious questions. The proper way forward is not to dismiss evolution like a bad dream, but to accept the theological challenge and the need to work through it.