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Creation, Providence
And Evolution
Lecture Road-Map
1. A robust view of Christian theism which provides a
matrix within which the natural sciences in general, and
evolutionary biology, can happily flourish.
2. The Christian doctrine of providence.
3. How comfortably can evolution be accommodated within
Christian ideas of creation and providence?
Evolution: ‘chance’, ‘random’,
‘stochastic’, ‘purposeless’…..??
John Ray [1627-1705] - a key
Christian founder of the discipline
of natural history
Francesco Petrarch [1304–74]: “What is the use--I
beseech you--of knowing the nature of quadrupeds,
fowls, fishes and serpents and not knowing or even
neglecting man’s nature, the purpose for which we
are born, and whence and whereto we travel?”
The more objects are magnified with the microscope
“the more we discover the imperfections of our senses,
and the Omnipotency and Infinite perfections of the
great Creatour.”
Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1665)
A magnified flea from Hooke’s
Micrographia
Hooke’s compound microscope - an
illustration from his Micrographia
John Ray published his Ornithology
[1676] for “the illustration of Gods glory,
by exciting men to take notice of, and
admire his infinite power and wisdom.”
John Ray (1627-1705)
John Ray
Trinity College Chapel
The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation
“one insect is more in touch
with Divine wisdom than the
whole of Greek and Roman
history.”
Nicolas Malebranche
[1638-1715]
In his History of the Royal Society, Bishop
Thomas Sprat claimed that the formal study
of nature had been part of the original
religion of Adam in Paradise!
Bishop Thomas Sprat
[1635-1713]
A theology of nature
A TRINITARIAN MATRIX
EVOLUTION
The Christian understanding of
creation
GOD
EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS
Human Creation
God’s Creation
“God's causality is so different from the
causality of creatures that there is no
competition between the two, that is, we
do not need to limit, as it were, God's
causality to make room for the causality
of creatures. God causes creatures to be
causes”.
“Creation is not essentially some distant
event; rather, it is the on-going complete
causing of the existence of all that is. At
this very moment, were God not causing
all that is to exist, there would be
nothing at all. Creation concerns first
of all the origin of the universe, not its
temporal beginning”.
Bill Carroll [Oxford University]
"Over and above the
mode of becoming by
which something comes
to be through change or
motion, there must be a
mode of becoming or
origin of things without
any mutation or motion,
through the influx of
being”.
Thomas Aquinas
[1225-1274]
God’s transcendence in creation
‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are
my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’
Isaiah 55:8–9
“Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases
him” [Psalm 115:3].
The contingency of creation promotes the
emergence of empiricism
'Without all doubt this
world...could arise from
nothing but the perfectly
free will of God....These
(laws of nature) therefore we
must not seek from uncertain
conjectures, but learn them
from observations and
experiments.
Cotes in his preface to the second edition of
Newton's Principia Mathematica
Isaac Newton
“Since there are countless different configurations
which God might have instituted here, experience
alone must teach us which configurations he
actually selected in preference to the rest. We are
thus free to make any assumption on these matters
with the sole proviso that all the consequences of
our assumption must agree with experience”
[Rene Descartes, Principles of Philosophy].
1596-1650
The immanence of God in the
created order
“God’s ruach swept over the surface of the
water” [Gen. 1:3]
“…the divine Spirit (ruach) is the creative
power and the presence of God in his creation.
The whole creation is a fabric woven by the
Spirit, and is therefore a reality to which the
Spirit gives form”.
Jürgen Moltmann
“For it is the Spirit who, everywhere diffused,
sustains all things, causes them to grow, and
quickens them in heaven and on earth….In
transfusing into all things his energy, and breathing
into them essence, life and movement, he is indeed
plainly divine’.
[Institutions 1, 13-14]
John Calvin
A Christological Creation
“Through the Logos all things were made; without
him nothing was made that has been made”
[John 1:3]
by the Son of God “all things were created: things in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones
or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created
by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all
things hold together’
[Colossians 1:16-17]
A Christological Creation
‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact
representation of his being, sustaining all things by
his powerful word’
[Hebrews 1:3]
for: God is the one ‘for whom and through whom
everything exists’
[Hebrews 2:10]
‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and
sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’
[Matthew 5:45].
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and
honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will
they were created and have their being’.
[Rev. 4:11]
The Spirit-energised
Christological created order
PSALM 104:
God “makes grass grow for cattle and plants for man to cultivate” [v. 14]
“The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” [v. 21]
“How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures” [v. 24]
“When you hide your face, they [the animals] are terrified; when you take
away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit,
they are created (bara)), and you renew the face of the earth” (verses 29–30)
The Spirit-energised
Christological created order
“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of
all mankind” [Job 12:10].
“…in God we live and move and have our being” [Acts
17:28].
“O LORD, you preserve both man and beast” [Ps. 36:6].
God provides “food for the raven when its young cry out
to God and wander about for lack of food” [Job 38:41].
The eagle soars at God’s command and builds his nest on
high… “His young ones feast on blood, and where the
slain are, there is he” [Job 39:30].
The three tenses of creation
Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning
and the End” (Revelation 22:13).
PAST
PRESENT
FUTURE
“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too,
am working” [John 5:17].
“Behold, I will create (bara’) new heavens and a new
earth” [Isaiah 65:17]
What do scientists do?
GOD THE PRIMARY CAUSE
EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS
THE SECONDARY CAUSES WHEREBY THEY EXIST
SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION
Providence
“Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now
turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded
me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?
Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me
like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit
me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life
and showed me kindness, and in your providence
watched over my spirit” [Job 10:8-12]
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother’s womb” [Ps. 139:13].
Providence
“God exhaustively plans and meticulously carries out his
perfect will as he alone knows best, regarding all that is in
heaven and on earth, and he does so without failure or
defeat, accomplishing his purposes in all of creation from
the smallest details to the grand purposes of his plan for
the whole of the created order”.
Bruce Ware
EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS
PAST
PRESENT
FUTURE
How comfortable the fit?
GOD’S INTENTION AND PURPOSES
THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS
CREATION
“We are a momentary
cosmic accident that would
never arise again if the tree
of life could be replanted…”
Stephen Jay Gould
“The universe we observe had precisely the
properties we should expect if there is, at
bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and
no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Richard Dawkins
Dennett asks: “Can [the biosphere] really be the outcome of nothing but
a cascade of algorithmic processes feeding on chance? And if so, who
designed that cascade?” His answer: “Nobody. It i s itself the product of
a blind, algori thmic process.” And agai n, “Evol ution is not a process
that was designed to produce us…”
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
Daniel Dennett
Biological data that render the inference of
randomness and purposelessness less plausible:
1. Natural Selection
Biological data that render the inference of
randomness and purposelessness less plausible:
1. Natural Selection
Biological data that render the inference of
randomness and purposelessness less plausible:
1. Natural Selection – the role of Chance
NATURAL
SELECTION
COPY ERRORS RADIATION CHEMICAL
MEIOTIC
MUTAGENS RECOMBINATION
2. The overall sweep of evolutionary history
Cells
3.5b
Everything really small <1mm
Multicellular
Life-forms
1.2b
Cambrian
explosion
505-525m
Human
Brains
1011 cells
1014 synapses
From: S.B.Carroll Nature ‘Chance and necessity: the evolution of
morphological complexity and diversity’, Nature 409:1102-1109, 2001.
2. The overall sweep of evolutionary history
“Life’s contingent history could be viewed as an argument
against any direction or pattern in the course of evolution
or the shape of life. But it is obvious that larger and more
complex life forms have evolved from simple unicellular
ancestors and that various innovations were necessary for
the evolution of new means of living. This raises the possibility
that there are trends within evolutionary history that might
Sean Carroll reflect the existence of general principles governing the evolution
[Nature Review] of increasingly larger and more complex forms ”.
Multicellularity has evolved many
times in the different domains of life
From: S.B.Carroll Nature ‘Chance and necessity: the evolution of
morphological complexity and diversity’, Nature 409:1102-1109, 2001.
The allometric scaling laws of evolution
Kleiber's Law: metabolism equals mass to the three-quarter
power [Max Kleiber, 1932]
Trees
Kleiber's Law: metabolism
equals mass to the threequarter power.
Banavar, J.R. et al., ‘Form,
function, and evolution of living
organisms’, PNAS 111: 33323337, 2014.
Mammals
4. Evolutionary Convergence
4. Evolutionary Convergence
Energy-hungry animals
INDEPENDENT
Blue-nosed dolphin
LINEAGES
Bat
Primates
IDH2 = Mitochondrial NADP+ - dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase
- a key enzyme in the energy-producing Kreb’s Cycle
IDH2 – a key enzyme in the energy
producing Kreb’s Cycle
VALINE
ALANINE AT POSITION 186
MUTATION
AT POSITION
186
Ai, W-M. et al., ‘Parallel evolution of IDH2 gene in cetaceans, primates and
bats’, FEBS Letters 588:450-454, 2014.
VALINE
ALANINE AT POSITION 186
The red lines indicate the
three vertebrate lineages
in which valine has
been changed to alanine
INDEPENDENTLY
at position 186
ONLY for energy-hungry
dolphins, bats and
primates
Simon Conway Morris
Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology, Cambridge
“[I]t is now widely thought that the history of life is little more than a contingent
muddle punctuated by disastrous mass extinctions that in spelling the doom of one
group so open the doors of opportunit y to som e other mob of lucky-chance rs.
…Rerun the tape of the history of life … and the end re sult will be an utterly
diffe rent biosphere . Most notably the re will be nothing remotely like a human…Yet,
what we know of e volutio n suggests the e xact reve rse: conve rgence is ubiquito us and
the constraints of life make the emergence of the various biological properties [e.g.
intelligence] ve ry probable, if not ine vitable”
Life’s Solution Inevitable Humans in
a Lonely Universe
pp. 283-4
www.mapoflife.org
TIME
Filling up design space
= Genomes that don’t work
= Genomes that work
“My position is very simple. Evolution has
led to a human brain that can gain access
to a Platonic world of forms and ideas”.
Martin Nowak, 2009
Harvard University
[Director, Programme
of Evolutionary
Dynamics]
Plus hundreds of other examples
of ‘constraints’ in evolution!
•
•
•
•
•
evolution of proteins.
RNA structures.
the genetic code.
hot-spot genes.
and many other examples.
‘Atheism-of-the-gaps’?
Premise: Evolution is a purely chance process: had the
tape of life been replayed, everything would have come
out very different.
Ergo, there can be no God with intentions
and purposes for the world.
PROBLEM: The premise turns out to be implausible
A theology of nature: The Trinitarian God’s
created order, including the evolutionary process,
fulfilling his intentions and purposes
GOD’S INTENTION AND PURPOSES
THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS
CREATION
Many questions remain!
• Why would God choose to create living
things through such a lengthy process
involving so much pain and death?
• How should we interpret the early
chapters of Genesis?
• What about Adam and Eve and human
evolution?
• How do we understand the doctrine of
the Fall in the light of human
evolutionary history?
• Etc.
Second revised
expanded edition.
September 2014
£8 from:
www.faraday-institute.org
[on-line Shop]

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