PEW Research Says 24% Believe God “Guided” Evolution — But, What Does That Mean?

The public’s views on human evolution — the brand new December 30th, 2013 PEW Research Center results on human evolution are just out.  24% of Americans believe God “guided” evolution.  But, what does that mean?  Are they asking the wrong question about God and human evolution?  I wouldn’t know how to answer the one.  “Guided” means different things to different people and implies supernatural intervention, in my mind.

What I want to know is how many fully accept the science behind evolution but still believe God is behind evolution in a way that is consistent with modern science, i.e., NOT “guided” in an interventionist way somewhere along the way or even all along the way.  But, PEW Research did not ask the question in a way that allows such a determination.  And, while I believe in a Creator behind the process, I might say “no” to “guided” because that term smack of interventionism in my mind.  I expect almost all the other BioLogos.org members would have a similar reaction.

The survey asks if they think evolution was “guided” by a supreme being.  Even though I am convinced that God is still the Creator in an evolutionary paradigm I don’t believe God guided it in an interventionist way that I would have thought is implied by the question.

This is how the question was phrased:

 “And do you think that… Humans and other living things have evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection, [OR] A supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today?”

 “Guided” by Supernatural Intervention?

What do most people think when asked if God “guided” evolution?  Don’t they think of supernatural divine intervention during the process of evolution?  That’s what I would have thought as a scientific creationist for over 34 years until adopting an evolutionary creation (EC) view 4 yrs ago.

Here is how “guided” with respect to evolution is interpreted by atheists in making the case that God did not supernaturally intervene in the evolutionary process to guide it, “Does Science Rule Out Guided Evolution?”.  Similarly, Richard Dawkins says,

 “Mutation is random in the sense that it’s not anticipatory of what’s needed. Natural selection is anything but random.  Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don’t survive. That’s a non-random process.  http://bit.ly/1gotC18.

And, as an evolutionary creationist (EC), I agree completely on the scientific data with Richard Dawkins that God did NOT supernaturally intervene to guide evolution in that manner.  But, we make different metaphysical (beyond the data) commitments.

“Guided” as Inevitable Result of Created Natural Order and Process 

Unlike Richards Dawkins, I hold the metaphysical belief in God – that evolution was God’s invention and God’s creative tool in a God-ordained and sustained process, albeit without supernatural intervention in the process, i.e., God did not “guide” evolution in that way.  Rather, God’s essential Design was simply front-loaded in the beginning and high intelligence and an advanced civilization the INEVITABLE resultTo say that God had to supernaturally intervene in the process would mean that God didn’t get the creation right in the beginning, i.e., it would mean that the front-loading of His essential Design in the exquisite fine-tuning of the initial conditions and physical laws at the time of the Big Bang, for instance, or the conditions that established a multiverse that inevitably resulted in the initial conditions, physicals laws our universe, was insufficient for His purposes.

I understand that most other Christians associated with BioLogos.org and most other evolutionary creation view or theistic evolution proponents would understand God’s action in a similar way.  See  http://biologos.org/blog/the-god-who-acts-part-1, http://bit.ly/169aj6Z,  http://bit.ly/12c4XaS and http://bit.ly/18t02If for more.

However, this view, the one  I subscribe to, seems to me to stretch the meaning of the word “guided” even if the result is inevitable from initial Created conditions.

Conclusions

This later sense of “guided” by God flies-in-the-face of the interventionist sense.  One accepts the scientific view of evolution and is consistent with modern science and the other is not.  The difference is important to know.   How many Americans believe in God in a way that is consistent with modern science?  Furthermore, the results of 24% believing God “guided” evolution might not include those like me who could go either way in answering the question because they take issue with “guided” in the interventionist sense implied by the term even while believing God is otherwise behind the evolutionary process.

Karl Giberson in “Belief, Guidance and Evolution” directly addresses the question of what “guided” might mean to most Christians in these PEW Research surveys and paints a more complex but helpful perspective of the understanding of the term and/or what it should perhaps mean that does not necessarily require supernatural interventions in the process.  But, it would be very helpful to definitively delineate what believers really believe and where that those beliefs are going.

BTW, Evolutionary Creation ≠ Deism

BTW, the astute reader will probably ask if EC view presented above equals Deism.  No, EC is NOT Deism because it holds evolution to be not only God-invented & initiated but also a God-sustained  and ordained process where God sovereignly upholds natural law and because God is still active in our world.  Deism, for example, would not accept revelation from God, miracles, the resurrection, the gospel, etc.   EC embraces all of these.  Compare Evolutionary Creation (theistic evolution) and Deistic Evolution views in the chart contrasting different science-faith views in Slide 4  http://pic.twitter.com/X74EF2DADS of Episode 184 in the Science & Religion online college course of Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD.  Note, for those using iPhone or iPad, there is an App for that that I use to play this online Flash-based course content, the Photon Flash player.

For more on Divine Action, I highly recommend Episodes 10-13 in the same course.

Keith Furman, PhD

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/keith-c-furman-phd/44/b99/684

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