Friday, September 02, 2011

David Sloan Wilson's Curious Theological Claims

David Sloan Wilson is a successful popularizer of Darwinism in such books as Evolution for Everyone and Darwin's Cathedral. In his new book, The Neighborhood Project, he offers some surprisingly uncompromising theological claims for an avowed atheist. He writes:

An omniscient God would have created the different kinds of hymenopterans in a single stroke, but evolution exhibits a property that in technical jargon is called path dependence and in more familiar terms could be called you can’t always get there from here.

The second part of this claim is entailed by the Darwinian position. They believe that evolution shows no progress, and is not developing toward any teleological end, but is simply a series of adaptations to local conditions.

The first claim, though, is the one that caught my eye. Wilson simply asserts that a creator would have created all the varieties of creatures at once. This lets him show that some variants (in this case, of insects) seem to have developed later than others, thus disproving creation and proving evolution.

Wilson's victory, though, is over a straw man. The vast majority of Americans believe that God created the universe. Yet very few would claim that all of the kinds of creatures were created at the same time. The Bible tells the story as successive days of creating one kind of thing after another, whether you read those days at ages or as twenty-four-hour periods. The most hard-core Young Earth creationists allow for all extensive micro-evolution within the various "kinds" that the Bible notes. Mainline Christians believe in a longer and more intertwined form of evolution, most accepting at least the main points of the Darwinian theory.

The creationist majority differs from the secular minority over whether evolution is guided by God, and whether it is going someplace.

That is the argument that Wilson needs to address.


Beloved Spear said...

I just don't see how you get there. Evolution seems to favor more and more complex forms, more elegant, more aware, and more robust. Purpose seems so smack-you-in-the-face obvious. Ah well.

gruntled said...

Darwin promises no more than that organisms (at the micro) and species (at the macro) which are better adapted to their current environment will, overall, be selected for. But environments change. Secular evolution makes no claim that environments change in any way that would produce progressive adaptations.