I sometimes see someone write something like the following on the internet:
I believe God used evolution to make all the animals and humans.
I wonder what someone could possibly mean by a statement like that.
In one sense, maybe they mean God put certain rules in place in the universe that made evolution inevitable. If this is what they believe, then we can do scientific investigation and we can figure out if that is true or false, starting with the question, “Do the laws of the universe imply evolution?” (Spoiler alert: I say they do not. But we can discuss that later.)
On another sense, maybe they mean God took the laws of the universe, sprinkled some supernatural intervention, and then made all the animals and humans. So, they think evolution works, but God had to give it a kick in the butt to get it going in the right direction, and occasionally tune it.
It’s this second theory that I have a problem with. Not because it’s not a good idea, but because it is impossible to test. It is no longer science. It is simply religion. And like all religious discussions, they end when someone says, “That’s what I believe.” With science, we can say, “I’ll prove you wrong!” but if someone believes something, we can only smile and accept them, or nail them to a cross.
The thing that really bothers me about this second idea is it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of science. It reveals they do not understand what science really is and how it really works.
Renee Descartes is considered as the philosophical grandfather of modern science. The idea that really gave rise to modern science, that he can take responsibility for, is simply this: There is a material universe, the universe in which we live, where there are certain laws that govern all behavior in that universe. God exists outside of this universe.”
By taking God out of the material universe, we introduce something new that wasn’t there before: predictability. Now we can make predictions and test them. We can theorize about the laws, and we can see which ones are right and which ones are wrong.
If God is in the material universe, then we have a problem. An omnipotent being could literally do anything. Any omniscient being will know everything. And an intelligent being defies logic and reason. With someone like that running around, who knows what will happen next?
Now, I believe that sometimes God interacts with the material universe. We call those miracles. However, if you’re running an experiment, and God performs a miracle in the middle of it, you know what you have to do? You have to throw the experiment away and start again. I mean, if your chemical reaction requires water and God changes it to wine, what can you possibly do but start again?
So, to say that God manipulated evolution is to say evolution is not science. You accomplish exactly the opposite of what you wanted to do. And you show a fundamental lack of understanding of the most key concepts in science.
This is why we have to talk about God in our schools. You can’t ignore an important topic like this and hope that the students will treat it responsibly. If you accept God and begin the process of classifying him, you get a clearer picture of all the things that are not God in our lives, and you understand how you can be religious and still be a good scientist.