When English speakers use the word “evolution” they usually mean neo-Darwinian evolution which means that all the adaptive complexity you see is the result of random genetic mutation acted on by natural selection and they mean that as an impersonal and purposeless process. But when they say “random,” that’s not just some mathematical term that’s perfectly compatible with a view of God’s providence. They mean “purposeless” and that’s the problem. Not even God can direct an “undirected” process.This is classic Discovery Institute sleight-of-hand. Mr. Richards focuses on the idea that mutations are random and then extrapolates this idea to the entire evolutionary process, which he argues cannot logically be incorporated into a view of a providential God.
But by equating mutation with selection, he glosses completely over the fact that selection is not random. It is directional and depends on the kind of environment in which the organism lives. Environments change over time and are different depending on where they are on the planet. Selection acts in populations based on these different biomes. If evolution is random, then the appearance of these biomes in different areas and at different times is random as well.
Oddly, he also fails to address the validity of incorporating the randomness of mutations into the view of a providential God. If mutations drive evolution, as Richards states, and evolution is random, then mutations must be random as well.
I plan to rent this as soon as it is available and it is possible I will arrive at a different conclusion once I have seen it. Given the DI's track record, however, I suspect that the four minute video is representative of the whole.
Richards argues that “neo-Darwinian” evolution is incompatible with belief in a providential God and that this is something that theistic evolutionists don’t want to face. This is only true if evolution works the way that Richards thinks it does. It does not. Evolution, properly understood, does not address the existence of God, no matter how much the Discovery Institute would wish otherwise.
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