Theistic evolution as creationism for academics (part 1)

On December 20th 2005, the landmark science education case in Dover, Pennsylvania was settled with the honorable John Jones finding that Intelligent Design (ID) was “not science,” and was unable to “uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

The key player for the evolution lobby was the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). One of the NCSE’s expert witnesses was Brown University biologist, Ken Miller, who has written extensively on his views regarding Christianity and evolution (most notably in “Finding Darwin’s God”). The fact that Ken Miller is a practicing Catholic seems to have been a key factor in the NCSE’s selection, as it allowed them to decouple evolutionary biology from atheism. (Another witness, a Catholic named Julie Smith, was the parent of a girl who had been labeled an “atheist” for accepting evolution.)

Ken Miller’s testimony was extremely helpful in the Dover Trial, but I question whether Ken Miller and other so-called “theistic evolutionists” really ought to be counted as wholly on the side of science. Rather, I would argue that the model of theistic evolution as espoused by Ken Miller, Francis Collins and others remains, fundamentally, another form of creationism in much the same way that ID does.

In spite of the fact that they sat on opposite sides of the Pennsylvania courtroom, Ken Miller and ID proponent Michael Behe (a biochemist at Lehigh University*) have quite a lot in common. First of all, like Miller, Behe is a devout Catholic. Despite Behe’s hero status among traditional creationists, he also accepts common descent (though you won’t hear him admitting to that on the church lecture circuit).  Miller and Behe both believe – as is the official doctrine of their church – that human evolution would have been impossible without the intervention of God, whom they believe bestowed upon our lineage consciousness and morality (via an immortal soul). Like Behe, Miller suggests that God may have guaranteed the inevitability of Homo sapiens by introducing certain choice mutations. Their one key difference arises here as well, though. While both find this form of intervention plausible, Dr. Miller expects it would be practically undetectable, whereas Michael Behe considers it an essential part of a new evolutionary synthesis. (At least Behe makes his claims superficially open to scrutiny.) Miller disagrees with Behe’s criticisms of evolutionary biology, and considers his alternative to be a disagreeable “God-of-the-gaps” approach. However, when one steps away from biology, the differences between the two of them fade away entirely and Miller’s creationist roots – as well as the hypocrisy of his God-of-the-gaps accusation – become even more apparent.

According to Ken Miller and his ilk, God is still the creator of the universe. On this account, God’s agency has simply taken a step backward in time. As creator of the universe, it was God’s job to formulate the laws of physics to carry out his will. In order to support this theology, the theistic evolutionists point to the supposed “fine-tuning” of the physical laws and constants to allow for life. Some even suggest that the location of the Earth within our sun’s habitable zone is evidence for divine purpose. Though I am not sure whether Behe or Miller actually endorse that particularly fallacious argument, they do both claim that the universe in general is designed by God to bring forth human life capable of choosing to attend mass every Sunday.

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*The Biology Department at Lehigh has basically disowned him, even going so far as to put up a disclaimer that they do not endorse his involvement with the ID movement.

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Filed under Accommodationism, Christianity, Religion

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