Pointing out these intermediary positions is a good way to help people understand that there is some complexity to this discussion. However, it is my view that this model may actually be counter-productive, particularly when promoting evolution in various faith communities. I believe that those of us that support the coexistence and coherence of evolution and an Evangelical expression of the Christian faith need a much better model if we are to make any progress on this issue within the Evangelical community.The problem relates to how the continuum is put together in the first place. As Steve points out, Scott assumes a priori that if you are on the bottom of the continuum at the evolution end, you have no faith in God, whereas if you are at the top, you interpret the Bible literally. I am reminded by what Jerry Coyne had to say in his review of Ken Miller's book Only a Theory:
The reason that many liberal theologians see religion and evolution as harmonious is that they espouse a theology not only alien but unrecognizable as religion to most Americans.Steve and others, including myself, would disagree. This is why TEs walk a very thin line. We are castigated by the YEC crowd as having fatally compromised our faith in the acceptance of an old earth and evolutionary theory and yet we are pilloried by the philosophical naturalism crowd who assume we either have to check in our brains at the door when we go to church or that we don't think the Bible is the word of God (Jesus Seminar, anyone?). Steve also suggests that the scientific criterium is incorrect as well, in that it assumes an inverse of the religious criterium. There are other things. It assumes that there is a difference between Theistic evolution and evoutionary creationism, a difference that has certainly never been made clear to me. Also, placing evolutionary creationism right smack against progressive creationism is sort of like sitting in row 6 on an airplane where smoking is permitted in rows 1-5.
In response to the continuum, Steve has devised a new model that sees three positions
- theistic evolution
- non-evolutionary creation
- naturalistic, or materialistic evolution
Being a biologist by training, I would suggest that a taxonomic tree is, perhaps, more appropriate for this question. It might look something like this:
Here, those who espouse the YEC viewpoint and those that are TEs can be traced back to a "common ancestor," belief in God. The disadvantage of this model is that it is subject to pigeon-holing people and has, currently, no place for agnostics, although in practice, agnostics split out to the right at the very top. I do not know of a single agnostic that accepts a young earth or progressive creationism. Its strength is that it does show elements of commonality and distinction (plesiomorphic and apomorphic traits, if you will). In this case, acceptance of evolution is convergent in both the "Yes" and "No" camp from the "belief in God" node. Help! I'm starting to sound like a cladist!!
No model will be completely satisfactory and this one has its problems, I am sure. I completely agree with Steve that Eugenie Scott's diagram makes unwarranted assumptions. I also think, though, that his model does not make enough distinctions between different lines of thought. This is by no means a finished product and I invite any and all discussion of this.