theistic evolution

This tag is associated with 15 posts

“Remarkable Creatures” by Tracy Chevalier – Creationism, women, and paleontology

rc-chevalierRemarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a historical fiction novel based on the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, early fossil hunters in England. It raises an astonishing number of worldview questions related to women, paleontology, and creationism, and we will here discuss just a few of these issues. There will be SPOILERS in what follows, but it is history!

Paleontology, Creationism, and Controversy

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Remarkable Creatures is its survey of the controversies surrounding the discovery of fossils that challenged reigning scientific and religious paradigms. One of the greatest challenges was to come to believe that extinction had occurred. Think about it: if all you ever knew was the living beings around you, what possible reason would there be for thinking that those beings could die out, such that none were left anywhere? Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot’s finds of creatures like icthyosaurus challenged even the greatest thinkers of the time to come up with new paradigms for fitting these creatures–which didn’t exist anywhere on earth at their time–into reality.

For a time, it was thought that the bones of icthyosaurus were just those of a crocodile. But then Mary Anning discovered a complete fossil that included huge eyes (eyes that even had bones in them!). This forced people to the realization that these truly were novel creatures.

It’s a fascinating thing to think about, because the problem wasn’t just that it forced them to come up with a new concept–extinction. It also led to theological crises. After all, why would God create creatures that would all die out? One pastor in the book was particularly disturbed by this notion. He argues with Elizabeth Philpot: “All that you see about you is as God set it out in the beginning. He did not create beasts and then get rid of them. That would suggest He had made a mistake, and of course God is all knowing and incapable of error…” (144, citation from large print edition [only one they had at the library]). Philpot then comes back, noting that rock formations change and that if creation is supposed to be without change, how could rock fall or change a cliff face? The pastor ultimately comes back by saying that “God placed the fossils there when He created the rocks, to test our faith…” (145). Chevalier cleverly puts an answer in Philpot’s head: “It is my faith in you [the pastor as interpreter of Scripture] that is being tested, I thought” (145). The pastor, it should be noted, was also using, as was commonplace, Bishop Ussher’s chronology of the world, which put the date of creation “on the night preceding the 23rd of October 4004 B.C.” (144). Philpot wryly remarks- “I had always wondered at his precision.”

Another idea that was prominent at the time was the notion of anatomical laws or conformity with Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being. According to these ideas, there is a kind of hierarchy of being that puts humans at the top (usually) with other creatures in stages below that. It is not evolution, for it predates that idea. Instead, it is a way of ordering those creatures which exist now according to some principles. Mary Anning’s finding of a plesiosaur challenged this chain of being by violating the ways that creatures were supposed to appear or exist.

Late in the book, Elizabeth Philpot is finally questioned on what she thinks about the fossils and God. She is pleased to finally be asked:

I am comfortable with reading the Bible figuratively rather than literally. For instance, I think the six days in Genesis are not literal days, but different periods of creation, so that it took many thousands–or hundreds of thousands of years–to create. It does not demean God; it simply gives Him more time to build this extraordinary world. (391, again note reference from large print edition)

Although this is a work of historical fiction, these debates continue into today. Some groups still use Bishop Ussher’s chronology to date the age of the earth. Although few would argue that there are no extinct creatures, new forms of the same arguments have led to the young earth creationist movement, in which people argue that the Bible requires us to believe that all the creatures that are extinct were alive at the same time as humans. I have personally had conversations with young earth creationists who say that fossils are one way God tests our faith (I know of no young earth organization who would use this argument, thankfully). Scientific findings continue to challenge entrenched religious beliefs.

One is perhaps left to wonder, like Philpot’s thoughts, on how some people get so much precision. The Bible nowhere puts a date on creation. Nor does the Bible demand that all creatures that have ever lived were allowed at the same time. Yet these beliefs persist, and many Christians insist that if one does not hold to them, they are not true Christians, or are perhaps abandoning Scripture. As in Mary Anning’s time, we still have much work to do. We cannot let our external paradigms (things like Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being, or perhaps more germane, our own assumptions about how texts ought to be read “literally” and what the word “literal” means) determine how God is allowed to act or what God may communicate to us.


The book does a good job portraying the way the contributions of women were ignored or even stolen. Mary Anning was an expert fossil hunter–self taught. Yet time and again, men used her expertise to find their fossils and then take credit for the finds. Although her contributions were acknowledged later, her life of poverty is a sad testimony to the way that unequal treatment of women can so easily be perpetuated. The book portrays this unequal treatment in many ways. First, there is the exclusion of both Philpot and Anning from societies of geologists (this was before paleontology was a separate field of study from geology). Second, social norms provide for a simple way to create inequality. When one sex is given the benefit of the doubt (men, in this case) while the other is considered permanently damaged even by gossip about impropriety (women), restraints upon the social movement and capacity of the latter follow by necessity. Third, the contributions of women were ignored.

Unfortunately, parallels to each of these scenarios continue today. Women are excluded from certain groups or positions (such as those who keep women from becoming pastors), thus creating spiritual inequality. Conventions of purity culture, for example, treat women as “impure” or “damaged goods,” putting the onus on young women to abstain while simultaneously removing blame from young men. The power of imagery–objectification of women–continues to impact both women and men in negative ways. We can learn from Remarkable Creatures that much progress has been made, but it also points us in the direction of more work to be done.


Remarkable Creatures is a fascinating read. Although it is dry at times, it provides much insight into a number of discoveries that changed the world. It highlights the careers of two women who contributed much to paleontology in its formative stages. Perhaps most importantly, it challenges us to keep improving, to keep thinking, and to keep observing God’s remarkable world.


Tracy Chevalier, Remarkable Creatures (New York: Penguin, 2010).


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Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

Mary Anning: Plesiosaurs, Pterosaurs, and The Age of Reptiles– A post that highlights the contributions Mary Anning made to the paleontology. It particularly focuses on how these discoveries pre-dated Darwin.



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.



Sunday Quote!- Evolution: A Materialist and an Idealist Weigh In


Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Evolution: A Materialist and Idealist Weigh In

John Warwick Montgomery is one of those rare thinkers who seems equally at home in just about any subject with which they engage. I’ve been reading through his phenomenal book, The Shape of the Past and been blown away by the breadth of topics covered. What is more amazing is how he relates them back to the central topic: historiography. The second part of the book is a series of essays on various subjects. In one of these, on Marxism and Materialism, he writes:

Evolution means natural development to the materialist; it means teleology in the universe to the idealist. (234, cited below)

The quote is particularly poignant because it shows how even having what many consider raw data requires interpretation. One person can interpret evolution as confirmation of naturalism, while another might interpret it as teleology–goal orientation–found within the universe.

Be sure to check out The Shape of the PastIt is a fascinating work.


John Warwick Montgomery, The Shape of the Past (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008 edition [originally published 1975 by Bethany Fellowship]).


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Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for discussions about all kinds of topics including science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!


Book Review: “Who Was Adam?” – 10-Year Update by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross


Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross is a major work on human origins from the group Reasons to Believe, an Old-Earth Creationist think-tank. This edition, the 10-Year Update, features over 100 pages of additional material analyzing recent discoveries.

The book is organized in such a way that the first two parts are the original book, while the third part is all new material and analysis. Rana and Ross do an admirable job surveying an immense amount of scientific material related to human origins. They present what they argue is a scientific, creationist model (called the Reasons to Believe model [hereafter referred to as the RTB model]) on human origins. This model includes predictions and testable hypotheses. For example, one of the main predictions is that humans–homo sapiens sapiens–are utterly unique and that their cultural capacity will turn out to be unmatched. Thus, any alleged ancestors of humans will not demonstrate continuity of culture and the like.

They take as confirmation of this prediction the notion that biologists have not managed to put together a solid order in which to place the fossils that are alleged to be human ancestors. Without any such family tree that can be confirmed, the notion that humans evolved, Rana and Ross argue, remains a theory and the question of human evolution is not a fact. They conclude this after having looked at a number of major fossil finds while identifying difficulties with dating them, difficulties with taxonomy and identification, and more.

The updated portion of the book is significant. Those wondering if it is worth getting for this update should know the answer is in the affirmative. There are over 100 additional pages filled with analysis of more recent discoveries and how they impact the RTB model of human origins. To their credit, the authors frankly admit areas in which their predictions were mistaken or their model is challenged. Perhaps the most interesting section is that in which Rana and Ross analyze various behaviors thought to be evidence of early culture among hominids and the like (chapter 23). They show that these behaviors might be anthropomorphism of animal behavior. The chapter on junk DNA shows how scientific discovery has confirmed one of the predictions of the RTB model, and the concluding pair of chapters analyze arguments for and against the RTB model and its viability.

One critique I have is particularly evident in the original work (not in the expanded materials, though), is the occasional use of pure rhetoric to try to make a point. For example, in discussing hominid and homo fossils, Rana and Ross argue that the connections between these fossils has not been established. They therefore conclude that “Without these connections, human evolution cannot be declared a fact but remains a theory” (42). I find this type of wording unfortunate.

Some of the other reasoning behind the RTB model seems possible to go either way (i.e. towards evolutionary theory or the RTB model). For example, Chapter 6 outlines a number of conditions which are to demonstrate humans arrived at the just-right timing for human civilization to flourish–something the RTB model would predict. On the other hand, the authors state the evolutionary model would not necessarily predict this. However, it seems that–from my admittedly limited understanding of biology–the evolutionary model would also predict something similar because life adapts so well that if there was a “just right” circumstance for a type of life, that life would be selected for. Whether this is accurate or not is a different question (and whether I have it right), but it doesn’t seem like this is necessarily evidence for RTB over and against evolution.

The difficulty of evidence that could go either way is one of the biggest difficulties throughout the book. Arguments are often made that because the RTB model allows for a specific piece of evidence, that means that the RTB model is still viable. But there is a difference between confirmation of a model and lack of disconfirmation. It would be more reassuring to have more specific scientific evidence in favor of the model rather than simply being able to be subsumed into it.

At times I also wondered whether certain aspects of the RTB model were necessary for them to defend. For example, the insistence on reading the ages of early humans in the Bible as literal periods in which humans lived for 900+ years. They acknowledge in the expanded section that there has yet to be confirmation of this and that findings so far challenge this idea, yet they continue to hold it as part of the model. I can’t help but think it is a superfluous part that doesn’t actually contribute much to the overall workings of their model.

Who Was Adam? is a significant work worthy of a careful reading by any interested in Christian perspectives on human origins. It provides Christians insight into an Old Earth Creationist perspective on human origins, while also providing enough raw information for readers to draw their own conclusions and formulate their own ideas. It will challenge Christians on their thinking and perhaps force people to re-evaluate their own theories. It is a valuable resource despite having what I see as some difficulties throughout. It is recommended.

The Good

+Frank evaluation of own model after 10 years
+Offers much insight into research of hominids
+Plenty of data means readers can form their own conclusions
+Genuinely valuable update with much new material

The Bad

-Some unfortunate reliance on rhetoric
-Methodological concerns

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.


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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)


Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam? (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe Press, 2015).



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

What is the relationship between Christianity and science? – An Overview of 4 Views


There are several different ways that Christians perceive the relationship between science and religion. Science & Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard Carlson provides some insight into the major positions Christians hold regarding this relationship. Here, I will outline these major positions and then provide a few of my own thoughts on the relationship between science and Christianity.


The Bible is more Authoritative than Science

The book’s taxonomy files this under “creationism,” but I file it under Concordism because there are different views of how this interplay between science and the Bible play out on these perspectives. The first example is that often exhibited by creationists of both young- and old-earth perspectives. On this view, the Bible is the ultimate authority for all truth, including scientific truth. Thus, in any place where science is thought to conflict with what the Bible is purported to teach, so much the worse for science. Wayne Frair and Gary Patterson, arguing for this perspective, note that “Science is a human activity” and “Science is motivated by the full range of human emotions and ambitions, and the history of science is replete with examples of human greed…” (20-21, cited below).

Thus, on this perspective there is often an understood–whether inherent or spoken–distrust of the findings of scientists. Science is a human activity and so can be seen as full of errors and “replete” with examples of human motivation driving conclusions. On the other hand, the Bible is of divine origin, and so it may be trusted absolutely. Any conflict must be decided in favor of the Bible.

Qualified Agreement 

Creationists of all varieties might also hold to a kind of “qualified agreement” regarding science and Christianity. Those who affirm this position argue that science provides support for biblical Christianity. Stephen C. Meyer writes, in his essay, “when correctly interpreted, scientific evidence and biblical teaching can and do support each other” (130). This model holds that scientific theories do have wider metaphysical impact, but that this impact will be seen, ultimately, to support a biblical worldview.

Meyer doesn’t explicitly state this, but most forms of this model also hold that science and theology can mutually benefit from correctives to each other. Scientific discoveries might force us to rethink the extent of the Flood, for example, while a teaching of creation out of nothing in the Bible can serve as a corrective for metaphysical speculation alongside multiverse and other theories. Many different interpretations of this model are possible, and some would not allow for much mutual correcting.


The independence model ultimately views science and Christianity as operating in largely different spheres. Commonly known as non-overlapping magisteria (or NOMA, for short), those who hold to this model argue that we must “not make blanket claims about the supposed religious implications of scientific theory” (83) and that models which see science and Christianity as trying to answer the same questions ultimately lead to conflict. Science and religion are viewed as “different models of knowing” which do not overlap, and so they offer little threat whatsoever to each other (71-72).

Thus, the Bible is seen as a book which teaches us theological truths, while science teaches us about the natural world. Jean Pond argues that we must live as non-bifurcated people. It is not that we live compartmentalized lives with science and Christianity in different compartments. Rather, it is just the acknowledgement that different methods govern different aspects of reality. She uses a metaphor of interlocking fingers—each finger is different and independent but locked together they are stronger (90-92).


Here I use the terminology found in the book once more, because I think it is a helpful way to envision this final model. The Partnership model envisions science and Christianity as working side by side and explaining the same sets of data. However, they explain them in different ways and are able to offer correctives to each other. Howard J. Van Till argues that this view allows for a view of creation that we can constantly learn more about and see as constantly changing.

However, where this model differs from concordism (the qualified agreement model) is those who hold it argue we should fully accept scientific consensus as telling us about the history of the natural world and that this consensus simply corrects theological views whenever there is conflict. Thus, in a way, this model gives priority to the findings of science over theological views about origins. However, Van Till argues that this is not a kind of science trumps religion model, but rather than we should view creation as “fully gifted” with a function economy that means God made creation itself self-sustaining.


Each position has its own set of difficulties, though I think some are more plausible than others.

Regarding concordism, one of the biggest issues can be found in the first position: that of the comparison between the human origin of science and divine origin of the Bible. While it is true that the Bible is divinely inspired, any reading of the Bible is a human act of interpretation. Thus, to claim that science has human motivations possibly leading it astray while ignoring that very same possibility in reading and interpreting the Bible is misguided. Often, those holding this position tend to reduce the Bible to their specific interpretation of the Bible, and then anything which conflicts with that is rejected. The title I gave to this view, “The Bible is more Authoritative than Science” reflects the truth: ultimately, the Bible has God’s authority. But as people use titles like this, we find that often the “Bible” means “my interpretation thereof.” I conclude that this position holds to a view of science and Christianity which is too naive to be affirmed consistently.

The Qualified Agreement model avoids this inconsistency, but it does so at the cost of being ambiguous at points. In what way, exactly, is there qualified agreement? How does theology inform science and vice-versa? Who ultimately decides if there does seem to be a simple contradiction between the two? These questions are left largely unresolved by this model. There is much that turns upon how we take the clause of Meyer’s that “when correctly interpreted” theology and science support each other.

The independence model provides the easiest solution to conflicts perceived between science and Christianity. It simply states that there can be no conflict because the two aren’t even discussing the same realms of truth. What it gains in simplicity, it loses in clarity, however. We are left wondering how we are to take it that matters of faith simply have nothing to say about, for example, the bare existence of the universe. If it is true that science and Christianity do not overlap and speak of entirely different realms of knowledge, what do we do with the Christian claim that the universe was created? Is it not actually about the material universe but rather some kind of spiritual truth that we don’t yet know? Moreover, the independence model seems to assume a view of the world in which there are two buckets: spiritual and material, and those buckets are entirely independent of each other. That is, if I am considering something, it is either spiritual or material, but it cannot be both. This seems to be an overly simplistic view of the universe and one which is difficult to square with the apparent unity between the spiritual and physical within much of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

The Partnership model is appealing in its language, but difficult to understand. It has most of the same problems as the “qualified agreement” model: how do we decide which one is correct when science and theology come into apparent conflict? Why does the partnership model give priority to science in most of these matters? What does it mean to claim that creation has functional economy, and how do we square that with miracles found in the Bible and the doctrine of creation?

Ultimately, I think we still have much work to do in finding an adequate model of science and Christianity. Each of the models surveyed here have aspects that are useful but they each have some difficulties to resolve. I recommend reading Science & Christianity: Four Views to provide a deeper look at these models if you are interested in the topic.


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What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Origins Debate– Here is a collection of many of my posts on Christianity and science.


Science and Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard F. Carlson (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000).



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Who Made God?” by Edgar Andrews

Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews offers a witty, heady read for Christians looking to interact with some of the most recent scientific theories. Targeted at Christians who have been befuddled by the latest scientific theories, interested skeptics who want to see if Christianity has anything to say about science, or Christian apologists looking to bolster their scientific knowledge, the book is a resounding success.

Interestingly, Andrews gets the title of the book out of the way quickly. Andrews argues against the common atheistic retort, “Well if God made everything, who made God?” He writes, “Because cause and effect is only proven for the physical world, we can no longer insist that cause and effect are relevant when it comes to the origin of a spiritual entity like God.” I am not sure about the strength of this response. It seems to potentially put God outside the rules of logic, something of which most theists are very wary. A more convincing response, in my opinion, is to simply point out that the concept of God includes necessity. Theistic arguments are designed to show just this–that God is the uncaused ground of being.

Who Made God, however, quickly jumps into stride and doesn’t look back. Andrews lucidly argues that while science can describe events and put them to the test, it cannot explain things in the sense of a comprehensive explanation. Science, for example, “doesn’t tell us why there is [a force of gravity]” (30).

Without slowing down Andrews jumps into a clear explanation of String Theory and its attempts to be a “theory of everything.” Even were science to unify into a theory of everything, however, Andrews point would still stand. The theory would offer descriptions of how things happen, but it wouldn’t explain why the theory itself worked. He also offers a few critiques of string theory, such as the counter-intuitive nature of the theory (48).

Andrews continues on, offering God as a “hypothesis.” He argues that “the methodology of science” can be applied to God (58-59). He argues that Victor Stenger’s God: the failed hypothesis fails on a number of levels. Stenger claims that God “should be detectable: (1) by scientific ‘models’; (2) by scientific measurements… (3) by scientific ‘methods'” (67). Against this, Andrews points out that Stenger is trying to exclude God from existence by “having it both ways.” Stenger argues that God should be detectable, but cannot be because the measurements of science are restricted to the physical. Obviously, this begs the question against theism.

Andrews also addresses nothing, by which I mean the redefinition of “nothing” into “something” often done by atheists (see the debate between Lawrence Krauss and William Lane Craig). He points out that they often use “nothing” to reference vacuum and/or empty space or dark matter. But this is either deliberately misleading or just incomprehensible (97ff). As the atheists who say this often admit themselves, this “empty” space is hardly “nothing.” It is full of energy. But beyond space, beyond the existence of our universe, outside of space and time–that is what is meant by “nothing” (105).

The God hypothesis is vindicated when it comes to the evidence from astronomy and physics. The low entropy state of our universe (117-118), along with its origin (98ff) both point to a creator. Andrews moves on to argue that the origin of the laws of nature must also point to the God hypothesis (138-153). He then goes on to argue that our biological origins, the information found in cells, and the diversity of life have their best explanation with God. To cover these arguments fully would double the size of this review, but I found these arguments just as exciting as the rest of Who Made God. A sampling: proteins and DNA must have information in order to function correctly (181ff); origin of life theories can only be explained with the God hypothesis (196ff);  evolution is nonfalsifiable (214-216); natural selection is a tautology (219-220); junk DNA isn’t junk (234ff); mutations really only help within dynamic populations and cannot lead to new species (230ff [through 240]). Andrews isn’t finished there, however, he tackles arguments for and against mind/body dualism (250ff).

Another strength of Who Made God is the format. There is a summary of each chapter prior to its contents, along with definitions of important terms. Humor is found throughout the work as the author tells funny stories or makes witty comments about the arguments. These aspects increase the readability of the book to a great degree.

This is not to say the book is without faults. Andrews’ treatment of the Ontological Argument was a bit abrupt. I’ve written on the argument before (see my posts here and here). Andrews’ critiques don’t apply to the most current versions of the argument. The most commonly used ontological argument is the modal version developed by Alvin Plantinga and others. This version of the argument doesn’t appeal to human ideas, but to modal necessity and possibility. To his credit, Andrews does point out that some philosophers find the argument compelling.

Another issue with Who Made God is the sometimes unconventional use of philosophical terms. For example, Andrews defines “phenomenology” as “The way phenomena… manifest themselves” (27). Phenomenology, however, is most commonly used (in philosophy) as the study of consciousness. Outside of philosophy, it generally refers to conscious experience or sense experience, not so much about the phenomena themselves. While the definition is not wrong, it caused some confuse, and may confuse other readers familiar with the other, more conventional uses. Another uncommon definition was given for “Monism.” Most often, the term refers to the idea that all of reality is one [i.e. it is all material, or all immaterial]. Andrews definition makes sense in context (he defines it as “The idea that mind is nothing more than the brain at work” [257] but that definition in philosophy of mind is more often used for “reductionism” which Andrews defines differently as well).

However, neither of these negatives outweigh the significant positives found throughout Who Made God. You know that I’m nitpicking when my main critique focuses on a couple unconventional definitions, particularly when Andrews uses valid definitions that simplify the terminology for the reader.

Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God is unique among the slew of apologetics books written at a popular level in that it offers a nearly comprehensive argument for Christianity based upon various scientific theories. Despite a few small flaws, I unreservedly recommend this book to all Christians looking to increase their knowledge of biology, physics, and astronomy. Andrews clearly and succinctly explains several scientific theories in terms which are easy to understand, while also showing the relevance for the “God hypothesis.” Readers will come away convinced that when it comes to science, their faith stands on firm ground. Books with scopes this broad most often shine their lights upon lots of topics and illumine none. Readers will find that Who Made God illumines nearly every topic it touches, bringing new insight and clarity into often confusing issues.

Source: Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? (Darlington, England: EP books, 2009).

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy free of charge by EP books. My thanks to both Edgar Andrews and EP books.



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The Life Dialogue: Theistic Evolution 4

This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.

I recently read a very interesting article on theistic evolution by Loren Haarsma and Terry M. Gray entitled “Complexity, Self Organization, and Design.” Interestingly, I found what I think are some of the most interesting arguments for the theistic evolutionist position, but I also found some of the hardest objections to the position (scientifically) that I have stumbled across.

I’ll start with the interesting evidence for their position. First, they note that the word “design” doesn’t belong exclusively to the Intelligent Design theorists, because theistic evolutionists argue that God designed the initial laws which gave rise to evolution and eventually humanity. In other words, God foreknew and intended for mankind to evolve, and set up the laws such that we would (or at least that some sentient beings with which God intended to interact would arise, 289).

They further argue that “With the right set of rules, a random, iterative process can start with a simple environment and self-assemble a complex environment” (293, emphasis theirs). The arguments for this position are interesting to me, and I am no scientist, but it seems to me that the three ways from which they argue for this possibility make more sense to me if there is some kind of intelligence behind the process.

The three strategies for self-organized complexity they argue are:

1) Preprogrammed self assembly– “…pieces are designed so that random interactions between them eventually lead to assembly of the desired complex object(s)”

2) Information transfer from the environment– objects incorporate information from the environment through “a process of random exploration and feedback”

3) Interaction among agents– “random interactions and feedback” lead to “increased productivity or survivability” (290)

It seems to me that 1) could be simply incorporated into laws at the beginning of the universe  (but these laws would have to be designed, as the authors point out). 2) seems to me as though it simply couldn’t be totally random. For evolution to work, on the understanding I’ve gleaned from my readings, the complexity would have to aid the survivability of the entity. I think a problem here is that there is no way to determine when/why/how the random interactions suddenly latch onto those things which are helpful. If it truly is a random process, then it would randomly continue to select for characteristics, casting off old ones and making room for new ones.

Incorporating natural selection doesn’t seem like it would help much here either, because then those random selections which are negative would terminate the species. So my problems with 2) are twofold (even granting that God Designed the laws such that these interactions would occur): 1. there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for the process stopping the random selections (and therefore keeping the trait); 2. we aren’t talking about computer algorithms here, we’re talking living entities–if they select the wrong traits, they die.

Ultimately I found these arguments interesting reading, but I just don’t see how they support Theistic Evolutionism more than, say Intelligent Design. The authors do make the interesting point that it could have been the case that God set up/designed the laws such that life would arise, but the ways that complexity is integrated into the process seems to me, at least, to demand further explanation.


Haarsma, Loren and Terry M. Gray, Complexity, Self-Organization, and Design, in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, edited Keith B. Miller, p. 288-309.


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The Life Dialogue: Theistic Evolution 3

This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.

Theistic Evolution’s (hereafter TE) primary problem for the Christian is, of course, theological in nature. Perhaps the greatest challenge to TE is the doctrine of original sin. Recently, I investigated what advocates of TE had to say about this doctrine.

Robin Collins argues in his essay “Evolution and Original Sin” that the doctrine of original sin should be redefined into what he calls the “historical ideal” (HI) view (469). Regrettably, I believe Collins fails to provide an adequate theological defense of his view. Further, I believe there is actually a stronger way for TEs to defend against the “problem” of original sin. Collins’ argument has several key features:

1) Adam and Eve were not historical figures, but rather representatives of early mankind, having evolved from hominids (470). Collins does allow that perhaps Adam represents the “stem father” of humanity–that is, representing the first group of early hominids which arose as the human race (486)

2) The Garden story “represents an ideal state that was never realized… Genesis 2 falls into the category of a ‘golden age’ story” (470)

3) Original sin refers to the “sinful choices” of early hominids, the “continuing sinful choices” of their ancestors, and “the resulting bondage to sin and spiritual darkness that is inherited from our ancestors and generated by our own choices” (471)

Collins continues by interpreting Scripture in this light. First it should be noted that Collins takes science as one of the means by which we can interpret Scripture, despite his own assertions that the Bible is not a science or philosophy book (compare 475 to 482ff). He begins by interpreting Romans 1:18-32, but he believes the more important verses are in Romans 5:15-19. Paul writes in Romans 5 that:

“For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

These passages seem to suggest that Adam was indeed one man, just as Jesus is one man. Collins argues, utilizing Swinburne’s argumentation in Revelation, that a speaker’s message does not necessarily include the presuppositions as part of the intentional conveyance. One immediate problem with this (though Collins seems to view it as a bonus) is that Paul is seen as either not necessarily believing what he was saying–which seems unlikely–or he was profoundly mistaken in his presuppositions. The statement is to be distinguished from the presupposition. “The statement is whatever the speaker, by public criteria, is seeking to add to the existing beliefs of the hearers” (Swinburne, Revelation, 30). The problem is that I don’t think this argument applies here, for it seems that Paul is not just presupposing that there is one man, but also utilizing that presupposition as part of what he is seeking to add to his hearers’ existing belief. For Paul is saying that it is one man through whom all mankind fell, so, too, is it one man through whom all mankind is saved.

The argument that Paul and his hearers shared the presupposition of one man, and therefore this is not part of his intended message, misses the context of Paul’s message. For Paul makes this statement in his letter to the Romans, not to fellow Jews who shared his presuppositions! Therefore, it seems to me that although the “one man” part of the statement could be taken as a Pauline presupposition, it is also part of the message conveyed. He is intending to add to his hearer’s existing belief (borrowing from Swinburne’s phrasing) that one man fell for all and one man atoned for all. This message is almost vacuous on an account which inserts possibly thousands of hominids in for the first “one man” (something Collins has no hesitation doing, see page 481 “…understand Adam… as theologically representing both everyman and the very first members of the evolving group of hominids that had gained moral self-consciousness”). I see no reason to accept such an interpretation textually.

I’ll leave out Collins’ interpretation of Genesis 1-4 for now, as I believe summing it up in the above points is sufficient. Rather, I want to turn now to an evaluation of his argument. First, I note that it seems necessary to add to the above outline of Collins argument the following clause:

4) Scripture is not inerrant–it is inspired in the sense that God “enlighten[s]” humans to “grasp new truths about the nature of reality and God” (473)

I reject 4 as incompatible with sound formulation of doctrine. I’ll not specifically address his argument point-by-point as that would fill up too much space. The main problem with Collins’ account of original sin is that it trivializes certain Bible passages (notably Psalm 51:5) and misinterprets others. But I don’t want to get into the finer details of his account. I think that Collins’ account is actually extremely weak. Only those willing to accept point 4) above will be able to take such a view on original sin as possible. Is there a way for TEs to avoid this uncomfortable assumption? I think there is.

Original sin, on TE, can be almost what it is on other views. The key feature is to point out (as Hugh Ross, an Old Earth Creationist does) that it is only human death that is explicitly seen as the consequence of sin. Thus, God can be seen as letting evolution happen until beings capable of moral reasoning evolve, then specially creating souls within humans or setting souls up in such a way that they emerge from humans (the latter view seems less plausible, but I’ll ignore that for now). God chose two specific hominids, planted souls in them, and placed them in a garden. The rest of the Genesis story can be taken fairly literally, with some modifications here and there, and original sin loses no meaning. Thus, the TE needs to acknowledge special creation of 1) The universe/matter/etc. and 2) Human souls. This doesn’t seem like an implausible “out” for the theistic evolutionist.

Finally, I want to address a few minor points in Collins’ essay. The first is that he seems to think special creation is somehow a negative thing. When critiquing other views, for example, he asserts that if God brought Adam and Eve into the garden to speak with them, He’d have to teach them a language, “which would involve a major act of special creation” (493). This is counted as a negative against a sort of Old Earth Creationist account. But I’m then curious as to what Collins thinks of the creation of the universe! Surely this “special creation” is an even more major act than teaching some animals to speak a language! I don’t see any plausible way for a Christian to use the presence of divine action as an argument against other views. Second, Collins seems to reveal some tendencies of agreeing with Intelligent Design (p. 496ff, for example, he argues for “theistically guided evolution”–how does this differ from ID?).

Thus, I think Collins’ view of original sin on TE is actually a weaker argument than that which can be made. I think the theistic evolutionist can augment his/her view with some acts of “special creation” and thus maintain a view that allows for inerrancy of Scripture without having to twist it as much as Collins does. Perhaps, however, I’m merely reflecting my own tendencies rather than accurately representing TE. If this is the case, however, and TE simply cannot coincide with the doctrine of inerrancy, for example, then I find this a strong reason for rejecting TE, particularly in light of competing models like intelligent design or Hugh Ross’s RTB Model.


Collins, Robin. “Evolution and Original Sin.” Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. Edited Keith B. Miller. Wm. B. Eerdman’s. 2003.

Swinburne, Richard. Revelation. Oxford University Press. 2007. (A later edition than that cited by Collins, I’m utilizing my own text)


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The Life Dialogue: The Interaction of Science and Faith

This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.

While I’ve explored some of the major perspectives of this debate within Christianity, one element I’ve left untouched is the different approaches people take on the interaction between science and faith.

This interaction can be seen in (at least) four ways:

1) Faith and Science are both accurate and support each other in a mutually beneficial relationship–this view, interestingly enough, is advocated by all sides of the dialogue I’ve explored before: intelligent design, old and young earth creationism, and theistic evolution

2) Faith and Science discuss completely different realms, and as such are both accurate, but independent and non-overlapping–this is often referred to as the “Independence” theory or “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” (check out this post for an interesting exploration of this possibility)

3) Faith and Science are at odds, and we should favor Faith–this view is often advocated by those who feel uncomfortable with scientific discoveries they may feel challenge Christianity and Scripture

4) Faith and Science are at odds, and we should favor Science– this view is often favored by those who believe their religion must “keep up” with current science

Now, it seems to me that 1) should be the favored position by those interested in the interaction between science and faith.

First, 4) seems unacceptable because it endorses giving up truths of Scripture or belief as scientific discoveries emerge. This also means that faith must change as science does. This is not an attack on science; rather, it acknowledges that science can and does often change to correct theories, etc. Take the following hypothetical situation: science advocated some position z which seemed to be in confrontation with doctrine y, but then later science found that z was untenable–instead, it was x which was more likely, and x served as scientific affirmation of y. This convoluted scenario seems problematic for those who endorse 4), for they would give up y at first, but then would they take y as true again once x was advocated?

3) seems equally unacceptable because the opposite scenario would work to show potential absurdities in such a view. On this view, take the following example: science takes position z which serves to support the doctrinal position y, but then new discoveries are made which show that x is really the case, which goes against y. The scientist, however, can run multiple tests that demonstrate beyond a doubt that x is indeed the case. It doesn’t seem to me to be intellectually honest to say that x is not the case. Doctrine y would need to be evaluated Biblically and evaluated to see if it really fit the picture, not only that, but x and z would have to be evaluated Biblically.

2) seems to fare little better. Clearly there are places that science and faith will overlap, as has been demonstrated in this series of posts on the Life Dialogue. It seems as though the advocate of 2) would have to argue that any apparent overlap between science and faith is really just that: apparent. It seems to overlap but in reality it does not. However, the advocate of 2) could simply advance the argument that perhaps these positions do overlap in a sense, but the overlap doesn’t matter, as they are investigating different parts of reality. Faith explores the metaphysical aspects of a situation, x, while science explores the empirical aspects.

So why do I prefer 1)? I take for granted that faith explains reality. The claim, for example, that “God exists” seems to me not only obvious, but demonstrably true. Science also explains reality. Thus, as I accept that both science and faith explain reality, I believe that they must operate in a mutually beneficial way: where one has nothing specific to say, the other takes over, where they both have things to say, the interplay will occur. But I see no reason to deny aspects of faith for science or vice versa. Thus, it seems to me that the Christian doesn’t need to deny science, but neither should he/she deny aspects of her faith.


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The Life Dialogue: Old Earth Creationism 2

This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.

Last time I wrote about Old Earth Creationism (OEC), I referred to Hugh Ross’s More than a Theory. Perhaps the most interesting part of Ross’s “Reasons to Believe” (RTB) Model was that in order to harmonize a seeming mix of creationist, intelligent design (ID), and theistic evolutionist (TE) views, the model argued that humans were specially created. This was, I perceived, partially to avoid the problem that can be leveled against TE or ID, which is that man died before sin, which goes against Scripture. Thus, by asserting that mankind was specially created, and only died when humanity fell into sin, the RTB Model avoids this charge.

I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t only for theological reasons that the RTB Model made this argument. Rana and Ross (hereafter I’m going to say “RR”) argue in Who Was Adam? that there is reason to believe that Adam and Eve were specially made by God. RR assert that while the fossil record does indeed show evidence various hominids (distinguished importantly from humans), none of these can be seen as evolutionary stages or transitional forms that lead to humans.

The RTB model holds that God created the first humans through divine intervention, that all humanity came from Adam and Eve, that humanity originated in a single geographical location, that God created Adam and Eve fairly recently (10,000-100,000 years ago), that humanity’s female lineage would date later than the male lineage, that God prepared Earth for humanity’s advent and created humans at “a special moment” for humanity, human beings share physical characteristics with animals, that humanity displays distinct characteristics from animals, that life spans of humans were much longer at one time, that a universal flood shaped early human history, and that humanity spread from somewhere in or near the Middle East (RR, 43-51).

Clearly, I don’t have time to outline the entirety of their argument in a post. I’m only going to hit on the major points.

RR argue that molecular anthropology point to humanity’s origin from a mitochondrial Adam and Eve (73 and the pages surrounding). This is due to DNA evidence pointing not to multiple origins, but simply one X and one Y chromosome giving rise to the rest of humanity. This is evidence supporting a number of points in their model outlined above.

The next stage in their argument reflects the same idea that I’ve expressed before: different views of the same evidence are possible. I see ways to take the data RR presented here as evidence for evolution, but I also see how it can be interpreted as support for OEC. RR point to the fossil record, which contains various hominids. The archaeological evidence, however, does not support anything more advanced than the most basic usage of tools for these hominids. This, they argue, reflects the “image of God” in humanity. Early humans (contrasted here with hominids) arrive with complex tools immediately, religious beliefs and practices, etc. (77ff, 139ff).

RR argue that humanity came about when the conditions were exactly perfect for human civilization (97ff). This, combined with various arguments against the common descent of man from hominids (including the argument that there is no clear way to set up such a chain [139ff]), scientific analysis of and arguments refuting ideas that we came from either neanderthals (179ff) or chimpanzees (199ff), and finally examples of how “Junk” DNA is actually useful lead to the conclusion of RR’s argument:

“Genetic studies of human population groups signify that humanity had a recent origin in a single geographical location from a small population, with genetic links back to a single man and single woman… The research also demonstrates that humanity and human civilization arose relatively recently near (or in) the Middle East to fill the earth… The archaeological record reveals a veritable explosion of human culture–anthropology’s ‘big bang’–which marks the appearance of God’s image… At no other time in human history has the biblical account of humanity’s origin held greater scientific credibility than it does today… man is the crown of God’s creation (248-250).”

It seems to me that RR make a fairly strong case for their side, but the evidence they present could be easily used by theistic evolutionists (arguing within Christianity here) as well. Thus, I don’t think RR have definitively shown that the RTB Model is superior in regards to the origins of man, though they have offered a compelling argument that ties in with the rest of the RTB. Taken as a whole, I believe the RTB Model offers superior explanatory power in a number of aspects. Not only that, but as seen in Who Was Adam? it avoids the theological argument against views like Theistic Evolution or Intelligent Design.

I continue to find the RTB Model perhaps the most compelling of any side of the Life Debate within Christianity. As I’ve noted before, I don’t see any reason to throw myself in fully behind any of these views. Rather, I intend to pick and choose based on my presuppositions. In all things, however, Christ has preeminence (Colossians 1:15ff).


Rana, Fazale and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam? Navpress. 2005.


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The Life Dialogue: Christian Presuppositions and Science

This is part of a series of posts on the debate within Christianity about how life diversified on earth (i.e. evolution, creationism, ID, or something else). See other posts in the series here.

I’ve been reading a whole lot of material on this debate for this series of posts. I’ve been reading from all sides of the debate. As such, I’m often presented with completely conflicting views of interpretation of the same data or conflicting views about overall methodological approaches.

Thus, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how it is the Christian should interact with this whole debate. It dawned on me as I was eating dinner today (and reading through a creationist magazine–I like to multitask) that most of the driving force behind this whole debate may simply be with the methodology. There seem to be two major groups within the Christian community who are arguing on this issue. One group asserts that Christians absolutely must keep up with science, and that this means jumping on board with the entire methodological approach inherent in contemporary science. The other group asserts that Christians should indeed keep up with science, but should do so while acknowledging that God is going to be intricately connected at all stages.

This is perhaps the absolute center of the entire debate. What presuppositions do Christians have when entering the “life dialogue” (as I’ve called it)? I tied this almost immediately with Paul K. Moser’s idea in The Elusive God that philosophy should be done differently by Christians, who assume God exists, and therefore focus philosophy around God. Should not science also be done differently by Christians?

What I mean to say is that basic to the Christianity is the idea that God not only created the universe and all things visible and invisible, but He also loves and interacts with that same creation. For Christians interacting with science, I think this must mean that Christians should enter any kind of scientific inquiry acknowledging that there are points not just historically (as in the case of Jesus or any number of Biblical events) but also biologically, astronomically, etc. (see Psalm 19:1-6 for reasons to think this). This doesn’t support a “God of the Gaps” proposition, in which God is thrown in anywhere that science can’t describe, but it does support a God who interacts with the universe.

The problem is that mainstream science does not share such propositions. Unfortunately, despite Christian origins of science (see here), science today seems to take naturalism as absolutely true. Thus, it is simply not a fair field of play for Christians. I see this happening often in theistic evolution. It seems to me that many some Christians seem to think that we can never assert that God did something (other than the things recorded in the Bible) in physical history. But I don’t see any reason why Christians should be encouraged to embrace wholly the naturalistic presuppositions of contemporary science. Christians, I think, should instead try to use their own paradigms to interpret scientific data. If God is seen as creator and sustainer of the universe, what does that mean for biology, astronomy, physics, or other fields of scientific inquiry? I don’t think Christians should have to operate under a naturalistic worldview in order to explore science.

Christians should make use of science. I would never argue otherwise. My point is that Christians shouldn’t be Christians in one realm (outside of science), but atheists in another realm (within science).

So what does this mean for the “life dialogue”? I tend to think that any view of the diversity of life that attempts to completely cut God out of the equation is ultimately deistic or atheistic, not theistic/Christian. Questions for Christians in this debate could be “What does this mean to our relationship with God?” or “What was God doing during this time span?” If the answer to either question is “nothing”, then it really doesn’t mean that much to the Christian. I believe that all truth will have relevance to our relationship with God. God is never inactive. He doesn’t passively sit back and “let it happen.” This can be seen in Scripture (see Psalm 104 for a particularly wonderful account of God’s interaction with the world).

Thus, as I continue in this “Life Dialogue”, I’ll be analyzing positions based on these presuppositional questions as well: What do these accounts of the diversity of life teach us about God and what do they mean to us?


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