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What is Theistic Evolution?

Theistic Evolution

Theistic Evolution describes the approach that most religious scientists take when they consider the question, “How do we come to be here?”

A favourite phrase for Theistic Evolutionists is that science and religion can be compatible because they are “answering different types of question”… but what does that mean? Science seems to tell us why we exist. It says we are here because we evolved. What more explanation do you need?

Can a question have more than one answer?

This idea that there can be more than one answer to a question is something many people struggle with. When we ask a question, we expect to get one answer.

But it makes more sense if we shift to a different example.

Take the question,

quote open“Why did Phar Lap, the famous race hquote closeorse, die?”

One answer is, “because gangsters poisoned him.”
Another answer is, “because the arsenic in his stomach spread around his body and led to organ failure.”
These two answers can work together because one answer tells you “why – in what manner?” and the other tells you, “Why, for what reason”.


Applying this idea to science and religion

How can this idea can be applied when thinking about the question, ‘Why do humans exist?’. According to supporters of Theistic Evolution (the name given to this approach) the answer is that God created life, but He did so using natural processes which are open to scientific investigation.

So in other words, according to this way of understanding how science and religion work together, God is the author of Creation, and evolution describes the mechanisms that He designed to produce life.

In the video below, astronomer, Dr Jennifer Wiseman and Physicist, Prof Jim Al-Khalili explain further.

The key ideas underlying Theistic Evolution

The scientists who support Theistic Evolution are comfortable with two key ideas. Before you decide if this is the view for you, you might want to consider whether you are also comfortable with these ideas.

  • A question such as “How do we come to be here?” can have both a scientific and a religious answer. Both may be right.
  • The Creation story in the Bible is not intended to be a historical or scientific account of the processes that brought us here.

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© 2011 LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion)