While as theists we expect science to be very effective in determining how our universe and everything in it works, we also expect that there will be some discrepancies when it comes to the process by which everything came into existence.
And, because modern scientists sympathize with science’s naturalistic bias, we have a responsibility as theists both to carefully evaluate scientific conclusions and to look for ways to study alternative options scientifically. In Part 3 I will look at how theists can develop alternative theories that take supernatural causes into account yet stand a chance of being accepted by the scientific community.
Besides the naturalistic bias of science, the lack of alternative models is an additional factor that we need to consider when it comes to evolution. But first let’s clarify exactly what we mean by evolution.
Biological evolution is often defined as “a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time.” The term, however, can also refer to universal common descent (the development of all living species from an original common ancestor), and it is in this sense that we’re using it here.
The evolutionary process, according to most scientists, begins after abiogenesis (the rise of living organisms from nonliving material). Assuming abiogenesis happens and the first self-reproducing cells develop, evolution takes over from there and is responsible for producing all living organisms that have ever existed, with no intelligent guidance or interference. This is the assumption we are evaluating here. Theists who believe evolution did happen but that it was directed by God are making a claim that is distinct from evolution and would require its own scientific backing.
It is important to also note that while we tend to think of evolution in terms of the development of complete organisms, the real challenge is in the development of the “biological machines” of which these organisms are made. (Although some biologists dislike this term, I am not aware of a better one.) I am referring here to biological structures with multiple components that form complex mechanisms performing specific functions: structures like the human eye. Whenever organisms develop new ways to move about, to sense the environment, to digest new substances, etc., new mechanisms must be developed to accomplish these tasks.