Sunday, December 31, 2017

The blind watchmaker

Around the 15 min. mark:

Deborah Haarsma (president of BioLogos, former physics/astronomy prof. at Calvin college) argues that randomness is consistent with divine intent. She uses examples like a coin flip before a game–where we want the outcome to be indeterminate for fairness–or a video game designer putting in random elements to make the game more interesting.

Those are revealing comparisons to illustrate theistic evolution:

i) Unlike sentient lifeforms, video characters can't experience harm. They can't suffer physical harm because they aren't biological organisms, and they can't suffer psychological harm because they lack consciousness.

But for God to introduce randomness into nature, as a decisive factor in the evolutionary process, exposes hominids to real, catastrophic suffering. And that's not the result of a historic fall, but built into the nature of the program. That's just how theistic evolution, as she and BioLogos define it, works. 

ii) That model of theistic evolution logically dovetails with open theism. If natural processes like macroevolution have random elements, as she defines it, then is God in the dark regarding the outcome? Logically, he creates the initial conditions, then waits to find out what will happen. But once again, that exposes sentient creatures to potentially horrendous harm and gratuitous evil. 

iii) If, by her own admission, the outcome of the evolutionary process was indeterminate, then man is an incidental byproduct of a blind process. God didn't guide or direct the process to select for the human species, or any human individuals in particular. Rather, our existence is an adventitious side-effect of the process. If, to use Gould's metaphor, God rewound the tape of evolution, there'd a different end-result each time.

But that means God didn't have mankind in mind when he initiated the process. He wasn't thinking about you and me. 

Compare that to Calvinism and/or special creation where humans were an integral part of the plan all along. Where God was aiming for the existence of the human race generally, as well as each and every specific individual. Theistic evolution is much more anonymous and detached. There's no intrinsic bond because God and humans. It's sheer luck that we exist. By design, a process that will take on a life of its own. Our existence is an unintended consequence of the blind watchmaker. The God of theistic evolution is essentially indifferent to our existence, nonexistence, or well-being, both as a species as well as individuals. 


  1. A coin toss isn't random. It just has too many variables for us to calculate ahead of time. And the distribution is pretty much 50/50.

  2. Having spent a bit of time over at Biologos, it seems to me that open theism is their standard view of God. I'm not sure how else one would get to a compatibility of randomness and absolute sovereignty. One has to go, and they are not willing to get rid of the former.

  3. Theistic evolution views are not new. The problem is that this new crop are, in fact, deistic evolutionists.

    It is one thing to say that God is the intelligent agent behind the apparent randomness of genetic mutation. That He gamed the system in some manner to produce the results He wanted. It is another thing to credit randomness as the decisive agency.