God & Evolutionary Randomness.

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Many Christians, and an ever increasing number of them, hold that evolutionary biology is compatible with theism. This view often stands even though evolutionary biologists claim that the genetic mutations driving evolution forward occur randomly. Knowing this, many other theists have argued that the theory of evolution is incompatible with theism. This is because theists believe that events do not occur randomly in a universe designed by God. Usually, on the part of a theist, “random” is taken to denote something without purpose and design, which makes it understandable why he rejects it.

However, evolutionary biologists do not intend random to mean purely by chance or without purpose and design. To say something of the sort is not a statement of science but instead a metaphysical one, as philosopher William Craig explains that “science is just not in a position to say with any justification that there is no divinely intended direction or goal of the evolutionary process” (1). In agreement Professor Alvin Plantinga argues that “The theory of evolution doesn’t say that the whole process is guided by God. Of course it doesn’t say that. But it also doesn’t say that it isn’t. Being a scientific theory, it doesn’t make any statements on that point” (2).

Instead, to the biologist random means that mutations occur without benefit to the host organism. As some apologists have pointed out, this would mean that evolutionary theory is compatible with belief in God, as well as God’s directing the course of evolutionary development toward an intended end. Likewise, if “random” is defined in this way then it is not incompatible with direction or purpose. For example, Craig speculates how a mutation can be both purposeful and random, “suppose that God in His providence causes a mutation to occur in an organism, not for the benefit of the organism, but for some other reason (say, because it will produce easy prey for other organisms that He wants to flourish or even because it will eventually produce a fossil that I will someday find, which stimulates my interest in palaeontology, so that I embark upon the career God had in mind for me). In such a case, the mutation is both purposeful and random.” Therefore, the theistic evolutionist (the Christian who believes in both God and evolutionary theory) may argue that God caused some mutations to occur at certain key junctures in the process towards an end goal. Of course, like the above point noted, this cannot be said to be a statement of science. However, Craig explains that when the atheist scientist use randomness to mean “unguided” or “purposeless,” it is a good case of “the philosophy of naturalism which tries to piggyback on legitimate science” (3). This peggybacking is what Professor of physics Howard Van Till calls an “irritating cultural phenomenon,” (4) since evolutionary theory is so often associated with naturalism.

Thus, in stark contrast what is commonly believed, explains Peter Hess, is that “Theologians, clergy, scientists, and others belonging to many religious traditions have concluded that their religious views are compatible with evolution, and are even enhanced by the knowledge of nature that science provides” (5).


1. Craig, W. 2012. Evolutionary Theory and Theism. Available.

2. Bishop, J. 2016. Alvin Plantinga on Christianity, Science & Naturalism. Available.

3. Craig, W. 2012. Ibid.

4. Van Till, H. When Faith and Reason Cooperate. Available.

5. Hess, P. 2012. Science and Religion. Available.

2 responses to “God & Evolutionary Randomness.

  1. While randomness of mutations doesn’t disprove the existence of god, it likewise offers no support for the existence of a god. Moreover, the robustness of evolutionary theory eliminates yet another of the gaps for which the “God of the Gaps” has been proposed (though it is still vigorously defended by Creationists, in spite of the overwhelming evidence in support of evolution).

    As for the statement in the concluding paragraph that “Theologians, clergy, scientists, and others belonging to many religious traditions have concluded that their religious views are compatible with evolution, and are even enhanced by the knowledge of nature that science provides”… This strikes me as a heads I win -tails you lose sort of conclusion. If evolution were to be disproved, those same theologians would obviously conclude that it proves their beliefs.

    Religious folks have always shown a remarkable ability to draw conclusions that are favorable to their beliefs, no matter what the evidence shows.

  2. One can but laugh at articles like this, full of question-begging nonsense such as ‘Craig speculates how a mutation can be both purposeful and random’!

    As the previous commenter has quite effectively pointed-out, theists cannot but help from trying to ‘eat their cake, and have it too’ – of course, there is the implicit reaffirmation that empirical evidence, whatever it shows, cannot have any bearing on that which the theist already presupposes to be true, so why even bother (with the pretence of looking at the empirical data) in the first place?

    Much more amusingly, however, is the corresponding (but similarly implicit), acknowledgement (in Craig’s idle musings) that there is (for us mere mortals, at least) *precisely zero* difference between God’s having some ‘Master Plan’ that we cannot discern, and God’s having no plan whatsoever (most plausibly, because ‘he’ doesn’t exist, in the first place). To anyone who doesn’t already share the same presuppositions, the entire exercise is palpably, transparently self-serving.

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