While the vast majority of believers accept that evolution occurs, they hold that the evolution is guided by God. They believe that God created us, but He used the process of evolution to do it. In this post, I’ll explore what this implies about the nature of God.
Evolution in a Nutshell – a simplified account
When an individual’s genome is altered, the change in the genome on rare occasion is advantageous: it gives the individual an edge over others of its species. This individual might be stronger than average, or more resistant to some threat in its environment for example. If the individual passes on the genetic alteration to its progeny, and if the progeny are more likely to reproduce than the others in the population who don’t have the genetic alteration, then over a long stretch of time, this new genetic alteration becomes more and more prevalent in the population until the majority of individuals in the population have the alteration.
Any species tends to split into a number of isolated populations. Isolation can occur due to migration of different populations in different directions to seek out new resources, or due to changes in geography to name a few examples. As different genetic alterations take place in different isolated populations, the gene pool of any one of the populations begins to “drift” apart from the gene pool of the other population. That is, the gene pool of any one population continues to accumulate alterations and steadily becomes less like the gene pool of the other populations. At some point, the differences in the the population’s genetics are enough that individuals in the population can no longer reproduce with individuals from the other populations. The population becomes genetically distinct – it becomes a distinct species which will continue to evolve independent of the other populations.
While this is an gross oversimplification of the process of evolution, it is accurate enough for the purpose of this discussion.
Evolution – the “losers”
We tend to focus our attention on the “winners” in the process of evolution, the ones who evolve into new species. However, the vast majority if individuals are “losers”. Some are losers because changes to the their genome are detrimental to the extent that they are disadvantaged in some critical way, perhaps by some sort of deformity at birth or some other inability to thrive. Perhaps they are more susceptible to agonizing diseases, or they slowly starve because the are unable to adequately compete for food. They suffer and die.
The majority are losers because they weren’t fortunate enough to receive the advantageous genetic trait. The population with the advantageous trait is able to spread because its members can out compete the “normal” non-advantaged majority for resources in the environment. The “normal” individuals are less adept to compete for resources and they often slowly starve or are killed by their stronger rivals. Eventually, the advantaged population grows to become the new majority – who will subsequently be losers to a new minority population which acquires some new advantageous trait.
Profile of God – guided suffering
The product of evolution is creatures that die, and few of those deaths are painless. All of “God’s creatures” suffer. If God has a plan, suffering is an integral part of it. The vast majority who are “losers” in God’s game of evolution tend to suffer even more than the winners. If evolution is guided, it is guided by a cruel Hand.
To paraphrase Epicurious’ Riddle: is God willing to prevent his creatures from suffering but unable? Then God is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then why do his creatures suffer? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?