Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Untenability of Theistic Evolution

A reader has alerted me to an essay by Bart Klink, a Dutch atheist [The Untenability of Theistic Evolution].
I think that from all the arguments mentioned above, the believer, and especially the Christian, is on the horns of a dilemma. The one horn is that he takes his religion, including its holy book, seriously, which leads to scientific conflicts. The other horn is that he avoids all conflict with science, which reduces his creation story to myth and leads to deism or atheism. Conservative Christians often choose the first horn, with scientific untenability as consequence. Proponents of theistic evolution are forced to choose the latter horn, with philosophical and theological untenability as consequence. Besides this, the theistic conception of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good God is hardly compatible with the process of evolution.
I agree with the main points of the article. Most versions of theistic evolution still conflict with science in one way or another and the only way to avoid conflict entirely is to adopt some form of deism.


  1. I'm not sure where the conflict is? At least in terms of liberal forms of religion. From the article I gather that revisions of theism are untenable but then of course there's Judaism that largely works with such a theism, liberal Protestantism as well. So I'm not sure how untenable such a revision is, in actually existing religious communities.

  2. Most versions of theistic evolution still conflict with science in one way or another and the only way to avoid conflict entirely is to adopt some form of deism.

    Or dump theistic evolution as a 'brand' altogether. I can think of a few Catholic philoso-bloggers, like Bill Vallicella, Siris and Scott Carson, for example, who have no problem with evolution but would not agree that it follows they must be considered theistic evolutionists.

  3. Dwight: Klink's essay is largely about the contradictions TE introduces into Protestantism. Many don't apply to the more liberal strands however it seems to me that:

    ...[Miller] states that we must view the story through the lens of a metaphorical interpretation, which is problematic in itself (as shown above). He continues by stating that the evolutionary understanding of human beings as selfish but altruistic basically accords with the Christian portrayal of us as sinful but moral.But this move appears to hinge upon a misunderstanding of the point of the story of the Fall: that Man was good (God created him "very good" per Genesis 1:31), but became sinful because of a choice.

    poses a formidable obstacle to any attempt to reconcile Christian doctrine with evolution.

    I agree though that little of the above applies to Judaism, as most of the problematic doctrine is post-hoc Christian reinterpretation of Genesis. Judaism does lean on the creation story primarily as an account of present human nature, so Miller's approach can work there. (It's not entirely out of the woods though as the divergence between human will and the Divine sense of justice is still left unexplained.)

  4. Larry, are you suggesting that some forms of deism don't conflict with the science of cosmology?