Friday, October 05, 2012

Several definitions of evolution

Jay Richards delineates six definitions of evolution. Can a Christian accept all six? Should a Christian do so


William said...

from OP:

1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature.

COMMENT: This is evolution as fact, not theory.

2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population.

COMMENT: This is a non-mathematical statement of a commonly accepted mathematical model serving as a basis for modern evolutionary theory.

3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.

COMMENT: Once again, like #1 above, this is not a statement of evolutionary theory--it is a statement of fact. How broadly one can take that "group" size depends on what one can be assured is factual.

4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.

COMMENT: This is a bit of a potentially coherent modern theory, but is not by itself evolution as fact, nor as coherent theory.

5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.

COMMENT: An unproven assertion of fact, very believable given evolutionary theory but not itself a theory. Either true or not, as a pre-historical fact. Not a theory.

6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

COMMENT: A metaphysical extension of the evolutionary theory. Not a scientific theory, and not a scientifically provable fact.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any reason a Christian can't accept all six, with the exception of the words "unintelligent" and "purposeless" in #6. As far as should a Christian accept all six, aforementioned caveat notwithstanding, that's not my business. It's a normative claim.

Bilbo said...

(6) seems to be the only definition that has metaphysical commitments that would be contrary to Christian views.

Victor Reppert said...

But #6 seems to be the one that hard-core evolutionists have in mind when they say they are defending "evolution." But they borrow on the credibility of 1-5 to suppress questions about 6, which strikes me as somewhat dishonest.

William said...

Surely there can be a comprehensive theory without metaphysical exclusionary pretensions. Such as:

Evolution consists of changes in the heritable traits of a population of reproducing organisms as successive generations replace one another. The theory is broad and should include both biochemical mechanisms and environmental and historical speciation (genetic drift, mutation, natural selection, deliberate breeding, etc) mechanisms.

Anonymous said...


I fully agree.

Anonymous said...


Thinking more, yeah, I think there is good room to sustain claims of dishonest, or, at the very least, willful ignorance. After all, #6 is a metaphysical position deduced from scientific evidence, and, you're correct: #6 is all the hardcore evolutionists really talk about.

I suspect it's because 1-5 are wholly compatible with special creation.