Two or three viewpoints about the origin of species
In a few other webpages, I wrote about the evolution versus creation discussion. In this webpage,
I'll review the matter again, somewhat refining or rephrasing what I wrote elsewhere, and adding an argument that
I did not wrote before, but what may be quite essential for some in the discussion.
Creationism versus evolution theory
The origin of species is a heavily debated matter. What is the cause of the many different types of
organisms we see on earth: all the kinds of plants and animals? The discussion is not only of scientific interest:
people draw conclusions from their viewpoint on it that extend to philosophical and theological issues. Indeed,
the conclusions drawn affect what some people see as the meaning of life. As you probably know, there are two
main viewpoints that are opposed to each other. (At the moment, I'm ignoring several other viewpoints; a little
more on that later.) I call them here, using common terminology: creationism, and evolution theory.
Allow me to briefly sketch what these viewpoints are. Apologies for the fact that these descriptions
are rather incomplete.
Creationists belief that the different species were created by God. Each type was created separately.
Creationists base their viewpoint on their religion, but also
on mistakes they see in evolution theory. Many
creationists are Christians, but also many people from other religions are creationist. Most Christian creationists belief
that the first chapter of the Bible is a literal and precise description of the creation of the species; e.g., creation took
place in seven `real' days.
The evolution theory was founded by Darwin, now about 150 years ago, and was
developed further by many scientists. In this theory, life started with an organism with only one cell, and through
mutation and selection, new types of organisms came into existence. Mutation means that from some type of animal
(or plant) children are born with different characteristics than the parent. Selection means that only some `better' of these
types survive, and in this way, `higher' organisms are formed.
Evolutionists state that there is a large amount of scientific evidence for the theory.
There are also other viewpoints: some religious, some not. For instance, there are several scientists with other theories
about the origin of species, not with any religious content (and several of these are atheists), that are commonly ignored
by evolutionists. Also, within the two main viewpoints I sketched above, there are several different
`flavours', e.g., a creationist may think that different subtypes of animals were created individually, or that some type
of `evolutionary like' process formed these subtypes. E.g., were African and Asian elephants created separately, or do they
have a common ancestor? One distinction however I find of particular interest.
Theistic versus atheistic evolution theory
In an older webpage, I wrote about my viewpoint that I had for many years, and I recently found out that there was a name for it: theistic evolution.
Theistic evolution theory states that there indeed was the process of mutation and selection in the coming into being of the
different plants and animals. However, the theistic evolutionists belief that God has had his hand in the process: God guided
the evolution - as written in the Bible, it was His wish
that the humans were created, and he lead the development of species such that humans were a result of
For instance, what kind of mutations show up at certain stages of evolution is the
result of a random process (what kind of mutations show up, but also more or less random matters like
changes in climate, etc.) - a Divine intervention can set the outcome of this process.
In contrast, we have what we could call atheistic evolution theory.
The usual viewpoint by atheists can be stated that there was not such guide of God
in the evolution. Either God does not exist in this viewpoint, or if he exists, the process of evolution was
not influenced by Him. Here, evolution is just the result of the random processes of mutation and selection. Steps
from one type to another are very small from one generation to the next.
What viewpoint is correct?
If we look to the scientific arguments for trying to find out what is the correct viewpoint, we may note a few
things. The evolution theory has its scientific problems; e.g., I have not seen an adequate response to the
'irreducibly complexity' argument of intelligent design (how are complex organs formed), and I personally believe
that a sound statistical foundation lacks.
Evolution theorists also state that creationist views are contradicted by scientific discoveries, and that
there is much scientific evidence for the evolution theory.
Theistic evolution theory takes away a few of the arguments against the evolution theory: gaps and the creation of
first life can easily be explained by Gods creative involvement. Some people may object to this as follows:
we make God the God of the gaps: God as explanation of things we currently do not understand, like people
believing in God because they did not understand thunderstorms in the Middle Ages; in this way,
by the years, the role we think God has becomes smaller and smaller after ages. I'll come later to this again.
For many years, I was a theistic evolutionist.
Currently, I do not know: creationism may be the correct viewpoint.
Actually, perhaps it is best to state that we do not exactly know how God created the species. Some Bible verses
are meant literally, while others are more meant as a metaphor. If God used evolution for the creation, we cannot
expect that in a Bible written so long ago, there was a description of it that could be understood and appreciated by
the people living at that time. But then, who tells me that a not so literal interpretation of the first chapter of the Bible
is correct, and that the description indeed is meant to be taken precise?
The theistic evolution and the creationism have one feature in common: they state that the creation was done by
God, in one way or another. That also means that He wanted to create us humans: we are not just the result of
some random process, or a magnificent accident as someone called it.
God in our lives
The main reason I belief that the atheistic evolution theory viewpoint is incorrect is because I know the atheistic
viewpoint is wrong. God exists. We can experience God in our daily lives. So, we know God exists.
Moreover, He has an active interest in what we do and how we live. If God involves himself in something as
trivial as our daily lives, it is clear that He must have had His hand in the creation of the different species.
We can discuss on how he did it, but it was His wish that the creation (evolution or seven days) ended in the
result as we see it with the different plants and animals.
So, no, neither theistic evolution theory nor creationism is about a God of the gaps. The only
gap that is filled is the emptiness of a life without Him.
Hans Bodlaender, November 2003 (slightly edited December 2007)
Some other webpages