THEISTIC INTERPRETATIONS

The fact that the theory of evolution is incomplete does not mean that the older interpretations are necessarily right. The Old Testament account, for example, contains a number of incongruent and inconsistent statements that renders Creationist interpretations far less plausible than the theory of evolution. For instance, according to Genesis, fruit-bearing trees were created on the third ‘day', while fish and other marine creatures were created two ‘days' later. Whatever ‘day' is supposed to mean, the fossil record shows clearly that fish pre-dated trees by hundreds of millions of years. The existence of redundant organs and other imperfections (e.g. the position of optic nerves in the human eye) is another reason why the creation of species by intelligent design is extremely implausible. An omnipotent designer should do better.

However, there have been many theologians (notably from the Jesuit breed) who have not interpreted the Bible literally and have even attempted to incorporate the theory of evolution within a religious framework. A prominent relatively recent example is Teilhard de Chardin, who took evolution as a central tenet of his theology[1]. His essentially Hegelian vision, but extended beyond historical time, is far removed from conventional religious views with sometimes bizarre consequences. He argued in favour of the racial and cultural superiority of Europe, and even welcomed the atom bomb as a sign of humankind's triumph over nature. The other, more traditional position that can be traced back to St Augustine, emphasises God's transcendence, insisting that God only sets the starting parameters, after which nature follows the evolutionary path without any further interventions. It stems from the doctrine that the creation is perfect, so further interference is not necessary (such a view was taken to an extreme by deists in 18th century). This is also a challenge to the Biblical account that assumes the active involvement of God (from the story of Abraham to Jesus). In order to overcome these difficulties, philosopher Whitehead proposes a bipolar nature of God, one transcendent and one ‘in the world', but the tension between these two poles appears to create more problems than it solves. Without delving into detailed analyses of these perspectives, one conclusion is inevitable. In order to incorporate the accepted facts in a meaningful way, the understanding of the creator and shis involvement has to undergo an evolutionary process too.

  • [1]. In the East, a similar concept was espoused by Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo.