Natural selection is a choice – 1

Despite the frequency with which the variable definitions of “evolution” are pointed out (eg Joshua Swamidass’s firm insistance that the correct scientific definition is only “change over time”) yet in common discourse about origins the mental concept nearly always reverts to “evolution by random variation and natural selection, as has stood the test of time for 160 years since Darwin.”

And so on the one hand, attempts from within the scientific community to extend or replace the modern synthesis tend to be regarded as “boiling down” to variation and natural selection anyway, selection being the key ingredient. At the other extreme, the critiques of evolutionary theory from inside or outside the Intelligent Design movement tend to focus their attacks on Neo-Darwinism, and to be regarded by their opponents, and maybe sometimes by themselves, as thereby being an attack on the whole concept of evolution (or according to some, an attack on the whole concept of science, or of knowledge, or of civilization itself – but let’s ignore the paranoics in this discussion).

Let me, at the risk of teaching grandmothers to suck eggs (my own grandmother never got the hang of that, for some reason…), propose my own hierarchy of definitions of evolution, to show … well, you’ll see as I go along. I’ll number them to enable shorthand reference later on.

      • Evolution #1 – Change over time.
        This definition is universally agreed, and entirely trivial. Virtually all Young Earth Creationists believe that the species have changed over time, either after the Fall or since the Flood.
      • Evolution #2 – Descent with modification.
        This too is nearly universally held, even by Creationists, albeit within the limits of “created kinds” in the latter case. It explains little on its own except life’s variety, but of course is axiomatic to genetic studies, which measure it directly. However, at the phylogenetic scale, it is not the only possible explanation of change over time – Richard Owen, for example – the very discoverer of homology – opposed descent with modification in favour of a theory of platonic-style forms and individual creation. Likewise Louis Agassiz. Their views can only be falsified by evidential demonstration of macro-evolutionary mechanisms, and then only by inference to best explanation. Owen and Agassiz’s outlook is, if one considers, a much more plausible explanation of the ubiquitous instances of convergence than are Darwinian mechanisms. Significantly, today’s expert on convergence, Simon Conway Morris, also invokes non-Darwinian process or processes unknown to explain it.
      • Evolution #3 – Universal common descent.
        Why so many are prepared to shed blood – usually that of others – over this principle is an interesting, but mainly sociological, question. Granted that there is sufficient similarity between living things to make it possible, there is still a good body of evidence against all life arising from just one organism, such as major differences in the chemistry of DNA replication and variation in the genetic code itself. And so the late Carl Woese, who discovered an entirely new kingdom of the Archaea, denied UCD and very reasonably proposed multiple origins of life, with a very long period of “horizontal” mixing before the arrival of LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor), the very existence of which Woese also seriously questioned (“it is not an entity, not a thing” – so not only no biological Adam, but no biological Noah, either!). Sociologically speaking, the insistence on UCD served to demonize special creationist fixism – and since that is no longer commonly believed, it is an obsolete tool in a tired trench-war left over mainly from Thomas Huxley’s naturalistic weaponisation of Darwin. Scientifically UCD is both an unnecessary, and a deeply anti-scientific, dogma. For life to have arisen only once in four billion years would demolish the foundational scientific principle of the uniformity of nature. That Louis Pasteur proved once and for all, in 1859, the non-existence of spontaneous generation means UCD runs against all evidence and all experience. Darwin himself, and the theistic scientists of the nineteenth century, concluded from this that life was, at first, specially created. Naturalists like Haeckel were forced by that very naturalism to say that spontaneous generation must have occurred, but only once. This puts the origin of life in precisely the same scientific category as the resurrection of Jesus: that is, a unique miracle. So Evolution #3, though so dogmatically held by naturalists, gives no support to naturalism: it only really supports special creation.
      • Evolution #4 – Theories to account for Evolution #2.
        It is only really here that any useful explanatory work can be done, by accounting for (a) the small-scale descent with modification that has been actually observed to occur, (b) unobserved instances of the same and (c) the grand history of life given the assumption that Evolution #2 is universal and, just as importantly, the sole significant process in play – there being, as the work of Agassiz showed within science and as all special creationists assert, alternative possibilities.

    Theories of evolution, then, need to be able to controvert these other possibilities at every level of life in order to claim to be fully persuasive.

    You’ll notice that, unlike some writers, I haven’t made my Evolution #4 the Neo-Darwinian theory, nor have I even mentioned natural selection in my list. And that is because, if we’re talking about evolution in the current origins debate, ie that which has “stood the test of time over 160 years,” although this claim is true for my Evolutions #1 – #3 (with relatively trivial consequences), it is true of no particular theory of evolution, and specifically it is not true of natural selection, which has suffered serious setbacks every time it has been tabled as an option, and which is currently in just such a beleagured state, as a sufficient explanation for the nature of living things.

    But my space having been filled, I’ll leave that historical discussion to another post.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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33 Responses to Natural selection is a choice – 1

  1. swamidass says:

    I say that evolution is common descent, not change over time, and not necessarily universal common descent. And the most important case of evolution for theology is the common descent of humans with the great apes. I’m very quick to say that evolution is not merely change over time; if that is what it is, no one would have a problem with it.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Just a point of clarification, if I may, Joshua. In a past conversation with you I offered “descent with modification” (Darwin’s term) as a basic definition of evolution, and at the time you thought that phrase was a good one. Is “descent with modification” still all right with you?

      I have no objection to “common descent”, but “descent with modification” gives more the sense of an active, ongoing process, as opposed to the bare fact that two or more organisms have a common ancestor.

      Of course, “common descent” implies “modification”, so I’m not objecting to your term, but “descent with modification” puts the term “modification” in larger letters, so to speak, and I think it is a clearer term in that respect.

      I agree that “descent with modification” does not necessarily imply “universal common descent”. Indeed, some very firm evolutionists such as Craig Venter have challenged the idea of universal common descent. I don’t have a dog in that fight, but I do think it is important to point out that the broader term “common descent” (or “descent with modification”) does not require a unique ancestor for all of life. Evolution is compatible with several distinct beginnings. Even Darwin granted this.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:


      Apologies for mis-classifying your position – I had the impression that I had only become aware of the minimalist definition “change over time” through you, but it must have been some other conversation that drew my attention to it. Memory failing. Checking some old BioLogos posts, I couldn’t find the lengthy conversation we had a long time back on definitions of evolution, but did find you saying this:

      The definition I use for “evolution” is “common descent,” or the theory that life on earth descends with modification from common ancestors.

      So I stand corrected on that, but your quote seems to answer your second post by making “common descent” the direct equivalent of my “descent with modification.” I agree with Eddie that the latter seems clearer, describing an actual process, rather than the undelineated genealogical relationship, or relationships, that “common descent” conjures up. If common descent isn’t universal, as in my Evolution #3, then it seems only to mean “some forms are descended from some other forms”, which isn’t very informative.

      I nevertheless defend my inclusion of “change over time” on my list, once your name is detached, because it is still not infrequently used in a way that elides the difference between mere change and evolution by natural selection, seeming to suggest that the first entails the second. For example, this definition from a school biology site:

      Evolution is a key component of much of our understanding of biology and of life. You may remember that evolution is basically change over time.

      It’s worth taking this into account because, of course, change might be caused by any number of natural or non-natural causes. Keith Miller, for example, said of the sketchy nature of the fossil record, that it cannot give a complete picture, but is sufficient to show “a pattern of change over time.” Such a pattern, though, proves only change over time, which nobody disputes, but only suggests common descent (without excluding, say, progressive creation) … and for the most part only in the broad sweep, given the overall pattern of stasis, extinction and replacement.

      Incidentally, I did, on purpose, exclude “change in allele frequency” as a definition of evolution, because that now seems to be a historical curiosity in a mutation-led modern field.

      • swamidass says:

        Yes, common descent does also imply “with modification”. However this alone, in the animal kingdom has not been terribly controversial. Many people, including YECs, have no problem with this. Even in the Scopes trial the “anti-evolutionists” had no problem with the evolution of plans and animals.

        The more fundamental challenge has been the “common descent of man with the great apes.” That is and has always been the key sticking point. If we see and understand the evidence for the common descent of man, there remains no reason to reject the rest of evolution. That is why I focus there. It is the center of the conflict, and (ironically) it is among the best supported examples of evolution of a totally new species.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Yes, Joshua – quite right that there is more angst about human origins than those in general. I believe the anti-evolution protagonists at the Scopes trial were old-earth gap-theorists, weren’t they?

          On the other hand, human evolution has been a sticking point even for TEs like Warfield, who (as I remember) was unwilling to give up the special creation of Eve, on exegetical grounds. I can’t remember his position on Adam, but similar problems, not due to literalism, apply there: the question of the evolvability of mind, and (for those who follow the Neoplatonist tradition) the immortality of the soul, and so on raise issues even for those thoroughly comfortable with evolution.

          I note the discussion of such problems even amongst “mainstream” BioLogos posters, who discuss God’s intention to created humans (not just intelligent beings), but seem happy for him not to intend any other particular taxa. The question of teleology, of course, raises its head just the same even if only one special species is to arise: how can it happen without design, when intention is just a synonym for design?

          However, I want to stress that theological objections to evolution are not my aim here. I’m thinking of evidential problems, and possible theistic solutions. That certainly won’t help keep it from being “non-naturalistic,” but it’s a different issue from “man from apes would be yucky and undignified,” since I think Genesis is at pains to begin with the humble and earthly origin of man in Gen 1 – which changes in Gen 2 IMHO.

        • Henry Tudor says:

          I have learned something here.

  2. swamidass says:

    I notice my definition is NOT on your list.

    Also, it is absurd to claim that evolution is a sufficient explanation. It is almost self evidently obvious that even if it is true (as I affirm), it is only a partial explanation. “Sufficiency” is gigantic and unsubstantiated claim, which trivially dismissed.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:


      The aim of this series of posts is to point out that natural selection (with variation necessarily included, of course) is indeed not a sufficient theory of evolution, let alone life. You are well aware of it (not least as a neutralist), and I suppose many working biologists are too. As one source says:

      The theory of evolution by natural selection forms a central part of modern evolutionary theory. There is some controversy among biologists as to just how important natural selection is compared to other processes producing evolutionary change, but there is no controversy over the proposition that natural selection is important.

      Yet I think that statement overstates the consensus by a considerable degree, and by a very large degree if one views it historically. That’s for other posts. But in this one, I simply wanted to draw attention to how often – even when other mechanisms including neutral theory have been discussed – the general conversation reverts to thinking of evolution only in terms of “random-mutation-and-natural-selection,” as if nothing has changed sinced 1859.

      The Royal Society Conference in 2016 featured many who felt evolutionary theory should be greatly expanded and, conversely, those who wished to continue to subsume everything under the rubric of the NeoDarwinian model of “RM & NS”. My point is that, in public perception and even in most BioLogos conversations, the default reverts to the latter school. Yet as the former editor of BioEssays, Adam Wilkins, wrote in a review of the book by one of the “young bloods” at the RS conference:

      [Jim Shapiro’s] contention that natural selection’s importance for evolution has been hugely overstated represents a point of view that has a growing set of adherents. (A few months ago, I was amazed to hear it expressed, in the strongest terms, from another highly eminent microbiologist.) My impression is that evolutionary biology is increasingly separating into two camps, divided over just this question. On the one hand are the population geneticists and evolutionary biologists who continue to believe that selection has a “creative” and crucial role in evolution and, on the other, there is a growing body of scientists (largely those who have come into evolution from molecular biology, developmental biology or developmental genetics, and microbiology) who reject it.

      This, in fact, is nothing new, as the next post will show. But it’s good to bring it to readers’ attention.

      • swamidass says:

        I don’t know about that telling Jon. Kimura would have said the same thing back in 1960. Natural selection is only a small part of the story. Non-darwinian mechanism are very important, but show no hint of being teleological either. The apparent “neo-Darwinist” Larry at Sandwalk has been saying the same thing for years in the present day. Much of the “debate” lacks substance and is merely about “how we tell the story.”

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Yes, Joshua, no doubt Kimura and others have granted that natural selection is not the whole story. Nonetheless, the fact that the Royal Society held a major conference in 2016 on evolutionary mechanisms, and the fact that a few years earlier the Altenberg group met to discuss evolutionary mechanisms, with the keynote of both conferences being whether current evolutionary theory (e.g., the Modern Synthesis plus touchups) was in need of drastic revision or only needed slight revision, is a sign that a number of professional evolutionary biologists think there are fundamental assumptions which need, if not replacing, at least serious re-examination.

          These conferences were not run by ID people, by creationists, etc. They were run by secular scientists, many strongly opposed to ID. Yet to read the columns on BioLogos you wouldn’t think these questions were being raised at all by the evolutionary biology community. Dennis Venema never wrote a column about the Altenberg conference, never discussed any of the published conference papers afterward. And he didn’t go to the Royal Society conference, even though BioLogos surely had a big enough budget to fly one person over there — in fact it sent Jim Stump, who is not a scientist, instead of Venema. Did BioLogos ask Venema to go, and did he turn down the offer? Did it ask Applegate to go, and did she turn down the offer? Or did BioLogos not deem it important to have someone biologically trained at the conference, and make an office decision to send a philosopher instead? (By way of contrast, several ID leaders were there, because they wanted to keep abreast of the latest discussions among world-class evolutionary theorists.) Apparently BioLogos scientists don’t care much about what world-class evolutionary theorists are saying, because they don’t attend the relevant conferences and don’t write columns about their outcomes.

          (Exception: Sy Garte tried to get BioLogos interested in these developments. But Sy is hardly an insider at BioLogos, his relationship to them being somewhat distant for a while now. And while he wrote some excellent summaries of recent developments, there was — as far as I could see — no serious response to those summaries, from any of the scientists there — Venema, Haarsma, Applegate, etc.)

          The impression I get is that when world-class biologists at world-class universities (e.g., Shapiro at Chicago, Gunter Wagner at Yale) write about evolutionary mechanisms, the scientists at BioLogos aren’t the slightest bit interested in what they have to say. And to my mind, it is academically and scientifically irresponsible for BioLogos people to pose as experts on evolution and not take the time to keep up with current theory being discussed by people more competent than they are in the field of evolutionary biology.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          In the context of my aims here, my point is that any sidelining of natural selection is downplaying the only “pseudo-teleological” (or adaptive) mechanism available to explain the main things evolution set out to explain. (Not strictly true, in that for example Austin Hughes proposed another adaptive, non-selective mechanism, but it lacks the instinctively obvious appeal of NS).

          It seems to me that the non-pervaseivness of natural selection (compared to the almost godlike role Darwin gave it) leaves a huge explanatory gap for the forms we see (as opposed to the genes we examine). My impression is that Kimura and Co left an ill-defined element of natural selection in their theory because of that gap – rather as Eldredge and Gould seemed over the years to tweak their “saltational” punc. eek. theory into a “RM & NS on steroids” version, for want of an alternative adaptive mechanism.

  3. Mark Mark says:

    Getting our definitions straight is essential to sorting this out and preventing us from talking past one another. We can’t tell to what extent we agree or disagree without it.

    For example “Descent with modification” is one definition of evolution, I guess a preferred one around here. To me it could also be a form of creationism or at least intelligent design, depending on how the modifications occur. For example, farmers breed animals for certain traits and get them through descent with modification. They select far more powerfully for desired traits than nature does. So that fits this definition of evolution, but surely it is intelligent design as well.

    Let’s have a thought experiment: Now suppose instead of farmers who went around selecting for traits, God Himself did so. If a certain group got a rate mutation that would produce a benefit if paired with another mutation which existed only in a second isolated group He would know it and be able to put those two populations together so that they would have the suite of mutations that, when combined with yet another rare mutation four generations from now, would result in a new function. So He is using Divine knowledge to leverage natural processes to produce something new. I would say that is evolution (descent through modification), intelligent design (intent drives the changes not natural selection) and “soft-touch” creationism (He intervened in the natural world to produce outcomes even if He never touched the genomes directly, He merely guided natural events in a way that nature would not in herself at anything like the same rate).

    Now suppose that instead of taking the role of a selective breeder (with perfect knowledge) only, He also assumed the role of Genetic Engineer. That is, instead of strictly waiting for Nature to come up with mutations which could be combined to create new function, He did just what our engineers do. He made cuts and inserts in genetic code. Maybe nature would never get a particular protein to fold just right waiting for chance or mutation so He inserted a gene which would. So when our scientists make mice which glow because jellyfish genes have been inserted in them, and this population breeds, is this “descent with modification”? Well maybe, but the modification did not come wholly by NATURAL descent. It is doubtless intelligent design and specialcreation, and questionably evolution as well.

    That said, such a situation could still involve natural descent, but that would not be where the modification would come from. Take the gap between a fish and an amphibian. What if over the course of thirty or forty generations He put just enough changes in each generation that they would still be able to be birthed and bred by natural means but each generation would also be further toward the amphibian end of things. This so that even though no amphibian was created out of thin air, or clay, one still had a very different creature through only forty generations removed from the fish, thanks to genetic engineering moving things a bit further along each generation. That is “descent with modification” but the modification is via genetic engineering. So is that evolution, special creation and intelligent design all rolled up into one?

    Like Jon, I don’t think “natural selection” or any of the natural means we have discovered could have on its own produced the vast diversity we see today or in the fossil record. I think nature had help. And I think some of this arguing we are doing over it is because we are talking past one another on terms.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:


      I agree with most of this. I agree that “descent with modification” merely describes a process, and does not commit one to a view of the causes of the process, which means that an active role for God in the process is not (by the mere definition of evolution as descent with modification) ruled out.

      That’s why I like the term. It keeps things open. For example, Bergson’s view of evolution is different from Darwin’s, and the views of both differ from Denton’s, and the views of all three differ from Shapiro’s. All of them would say that “descent with modification” has taken place, but there would be no common account of the causes.

      Could God’s action be a factor in the course of “descent with modification”? Surely it could be. We are far from having an exhaustive account of bacteria to Bach in terms of purely natural causes. We aren’t in a position to rule out divine guidance of the process — whether that guidance proceeds in crude jumps or in subtle, invisible steps.

      Note, however, that when Asa Gray proposed to Darwin that evolution was “led” by God along certain beneficial lines, Darwin did not accept the proposal. “Guided evolution” was anathema to the doctrine of nature that Darwin held. For Darwin, nature was quasi-autonomous in relation to God; God was needed, perhaps, to set up the solar system and sustain basic natural laws, and maybe even to create the very first life, but once life was up and running, it was up and running by itself. And most of the BioLogos TE/EC folks, on this point, take Darwin’s side against Gray’s. (At least, if their published statements are indicative of their true opinions — and their published statements are all we’ve got to go on.)

      Your suggestion that an evolutionary process guided by God would be an evolutionary process with designed outcomes, and hence a form of “intelligent design”, is one I agree with. Intelligent design and evolution need not be at odds with each other. Indeed, if the ID and TE/EC leaders had long ago seen this point, and tried to work together on the basis of that common ground, a lot of ugly culture-war exchanges might never have happened. Unfortunately, there are people in both ID and TE/EC camps who have an interest in driving a wedge between the two positions rather than trying to explore what the two positions might have in common. So the quarreling goes on.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        Mark and Eddie

        We’re on the same page (as coming posts may, I hope, elucidate). And that is, as far as I can see, “theistic evolution” in its original sense, before “natural” acquired the fullness of its modern meaning of “acting apart from God”. That meaning, of course, becomes incoherent when you try to say that it acts apart from God but he is mysteriously behind it and sustains it.

        One more quick comment picking up comments from both of you – there are schemes (like Bergson or Shapiro for example) in which “natural” processes do the kind of creative work discussed here. The most popular at the moment is “emergence”, hints of which seemed to be in the Haarsma paper, as far as hints of anything were.

        The trouble is that none of them have any kind of plausible mechanisms, the hidden laws cannot be seen, etc, which is why the Modern Synthesis was greeted with such joy in the 1930s. Whereas, the idea that God might actually be, you know, creative in the business of creation is consistent with the biblical character of God, and expecially the New Testament revelation of Christ as Logos, and mainstream theology, matches what the first generation of TEs tended to think, is internally consistent and (I believe) fits the evidence better than existing theories.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          One thing I ought perhaps to add is that, in whatever way God might act in bring something new to a biological system, it is an act of creation.

          As Aquinas pointed out, creation is not a change within nature, but an innovation from outside it – and so we need not think of God as “tinkering” against the “laws of nature”, but doing a new thing altogether.

          To take a biblical example: Adam is created from the dust of the ground. This, however, is not a manufacturing process, but the creation of a new form ex nihilo, as it were the “information” that is Adam. It is irrelevant that “dust” is not chemically or physically equivalent to “human”, any more than that water was not “manipulated” to become wine by Jesus. The “raw materials” are incidental to the real work.

          There was indeed a “change” from water to wine (as there would be from dust to Adam if that passage should be literal, or from one genettic makeup to another), but that would be the observable result of creation, not creation itself.

          It follows that, were anyone around to see it in nature, they would see a saltational or rapid change that could be described scientifically, cause unknown. And “cause unknown” is the definition of “chance.” It might, for example, appear as a change in the rate of mutation, with a coincidental preponderance of benefical changes.

          And that’s why what population geneticist David L Wilcox said is true: “Chance is the hand of God.” Chance is not an indeterminate event or events that God “uses”, but the work of God which, having no cause within nature, appears to our ignorance to be random… unless we allow creative acts within our epistemology.

          • Mark Mark says:


            If you are suggesting Genesis chapter two could be describing evolution, I think that is taking the text too far. Does the wording of chapter one allow for some of these more subtle changes we are talking about? Yes. But the language of chapter two tilts strongly toward de novo creation.

            The paradox is resolved in the Christ centered model. Chapter two of Genesis speaks of only a small subset of what was created in chapter one. These were only those land animals which would be helpful to Adam in his calling. They were animals useful to agriculturalists and more domesticatible versions of creatures running wild outside the garden. The LORD wanted Adam to have a fresh start, so He formed anew animals like those on the outside but BETTER because they were closer in disposition to how animals ought to be in a peaceable relationship with man and not made wary by 100K years of being hunted but not cared for.

            A close look at the language of the text reveals this. So Joshua has this model where man and animals evolved but Adam was specially created. I would add to his model that all the animals formed for Adam in the Garden were specially created from scratch. Yet they were only a tiny part of the global breeding population of those animals at the time.

            The video is about whether Noah took every animal on the ark or just those formed in chapter two, but by viewing it one can discern how chapter two is describing a more limited set of creatures than chapter one.


            • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

              No Mark, I’m not suggesting that Gen 2 suggests evolution. I’m not even making a firm claim that Genesis 1 entails evolution.

              But at the same time I don’t think the genre of Gen 2 necessarily implies ex nihilo, or even ex pulve creation of man or animals.

              • Mark Mark says:

                What do you think it does imply?

              • Henry Tudor says:

                That is a very good thought and answer. Also, I have a question or two for you. Do you believe a Dr. Lamereaux that Genesis 1-11 is allegory and not actual history or do you take a literal approach as the Rev. Billy Graham did who accepted theistic evolution but a literal interpretation. I know that you realize that Henry Tudor is a pseudonym. Do you recognize who I really am? God bless you an your ministry. Oh, how are thing in England? My wife is going to purchase me for Christmas. She is going to purchase me a new translation of the Apocrypha as well as the history book, Geschichte Englands. I look forward to them. Hug your Grandchildren for me. Oh, do you believe that Leviticus 17:11-14 reflects some correct scientific understanding of the Hebrews that blood is a very important part of the earthly life as well as everlasting life. My wife is still ill. Please pray for her. I would be like the actor Charles Boyer. I would not live without my personal angel.

  4. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:


    The forming of Adam in Gen 2 could, as per John Walton, simply describe his earthly origin in a way that is used elsewhere in ANE literature, leaving the actual mode of his origin open.

    However, I am more inclined to the idea that Adam is both ontologically continuous with the human race of Gen 1, in order to be its representative federal head and the source of its intended glorification; and discontinuous in the endowments Adam received for that role, represented by the breath of God.

    Man “in Adam” becomes both of nature and of the spirit, which is why I’m not on board with the idea of Adam being created entirely anew: he, like those in ch1, remains a man of the dust, yet more than that – a man of the spirit. And “spirit” is not even conceivably a product of natural evolution. Analogously with the case of the born-again believer, the “changes” in Adam are, in fact, created de novo, and therefore not a result of “process.”

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      I should add, in view of a current thread at BioLogos I haven’t been watching, that my thinking above is (a) provisional and (b) predicated on exegetical considerations, not harmonisation with science, least of all evolutionary science.

      The silly BioLogians exclude the literal truth of the story on the grounds that God has no hands or lungs to form or breathe. And there goes the whole concept of metaphor in relation to God! Yet they have a point in that God’s handiwork signifies some aspect of creation, and his breath signifies some supernatural endowment for man. So on the human side it would be, I suggest, in keeping with the story for “formed from dust” to signify some aspect of man’s nature (which it certainly must even if literal, rather than describing the raw materials for a manufacturing process), and likewise “possessing” the breath of God.

      The question then becomes what these things are seeking to teach us, and how they relate to the previous account of man’s creation, which (on our particular shared understanding – but not that of everyone) is a separate event, described without any detail as “creation” and “making”, but specifically mentioning the image and likeness of God.

      • Henry Tudor says:

        I agree with you, Jon.

      • Henry Tudor says:

        I believe in Intelligent Design Theory and Progressive Creation. I am not sure if I accept the Progressive Creation with Common Ancestry or do I accept Progressive Creation with microevolution only. I believe that I only accept the microevolution view only. I must go now, for it is time for dinner.

        • Mark Mark says:

          “Henry”, regarding your earlier question about Genesis 1-11, I believe it is actual history and also prophecy which was fulfilled in Christ. This is how I see it….

          • Henry Tudor says:

            Your book on Jesus looks very interesting. I looked on it from Amazon. I have always believed that Genesis 1-11 is literal history. Most Theistic Evolutionist do not believe that and correct me if I am somewhere wrong. After my family gets well, I will have to purchase this work of fine scholarship. I hope I can ask you this question. I said that I was some type of Progressive Creationist/ID. If you do not mind, what view do you hold since you consider Genesis 1-11 as literal history as I do. God bless.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:


          To add my two pennyworth to Mark’s, I also think Geneis 1-11 is basically historic, with the proviso that its origin is long before history as we know it began to be written, so it’s “mythic” or “epic” history, as per the discussion on this page.

          I also don’t think the preamble of Genesis 1 is intended as “history”, except inasmuch as it truthfully says that God created the world and all that is in it. As I’ve said here before, I summarise my view of Gen 1:1 – 2:3 as “a temple inauguration account of creation viewed phenomenologically.”

          Interestingly my ten year old grandaughter spontaneously asked this week how dinosaurs lasting millions of years fit in if God made the world and man in six days. It set me thinking about how one explains questions of ancient genre in a way a child can understand, which has to be useful for explaining it to adults.

          I made a start by asking her how she would describe a hockey match differently if she were doing it for a newspaper, explaining how she scored three goals, or telling the doctor how she broke her leg.

  5. Henry Tudor says:


    It is nice to meet you. I agree with you. God bless.

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