This is the 2nd Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church: Are the Facts In? In this blog we are looking at some of the comments of Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011. Woloschak is upfront that she is in the science camp which accepts the basic assertions of evolution as enjoying firm support from scientific evidence.
“Despite recent challenges, there is an overwhelming body of support for biological evolution in the scientific literature that comes from protein and DNA data, from the fossil and geological records, physiologic and functional studies, and much more… Theodosius Dobzhansky, the son of an Orthodox priest, a practicing Orthodox Christian, and a noted evolutionary scholar wrote the following:
‘Let me try to make crystal clear what is established beyond reasonable doubt, and what needs further study, about evolution. Evolution as a process that has always gone on in the history of the earth can be doubted only by those who are ignorant of the evidence or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotion blocks or to plain bigotry. By contrast, the mechanisms that bring evolution about certainly need study and clarification. There are no alternatives to evolution as history that can withstand critical examination. Yet we are constantly learning new and important facts about evolutionary mechanisms.’” (Woloschak, p 212)
Dobzhansky when he was alive was an Orthodox Christian and a noted evolutionary biologist whose work is still highly respected in the scientific community. He had no doubt about evolution and maintained his faith in God. Admittedly his acceptance of faith and reason is unusual in the world of evolution. Woloschak however defends this scientific avoidance of God:
“While many feel confused and even angered by the fact that scientists can discuss creation without putting God into the story, these same people do not appreciate that there is humility in not discussing God. There is a limit to what science can define, and that limit is based on the objective scientific approach of performing hypothesis-driven experimentation. God is not subject to such testing…” (Woloschak, p 225)
Woloschack rejects a notion embraced by some theists that God is simply the ultimate cause of the endless series of cause and effect that we know of as the universe. Those who hold to God as simply the original cause of all that exists in fact according to her play into the hands of those who believe in complete scientific determinism (such as Einstein did).
“For example, if all around us are ‘effects’ and God is the only ‘cause,’ then deterministic responsibility for everything lies with God—he is ultimately responsible (and perhaps blameworthy) for all that occurs in the universe, while our ability to cause any changes in or around us fades into insignificance. . . . Bulgakov argues that the proper description of God’s relationship to the world is that of Creator and creation, and that this is not the same as ‘The One Who Causes.’ ” (Woloschak, p 226-227)
God is not merely the original cause of all the effects that now exist. Woloschak quotes Theologian Sergius Bulgakov:
“’In general, the idea of the Creator and creation does not need to be translated into the language of mechanical causality, for it has another category, its proper one, that of co-imagedness, since the creature contains the living image of The Creator and is correlated with Him. … The world does not have a cause, since it is created; and God is not the cause of the world and not a cause in the world, but its Creator and Provider. God’s creative act is not the mechanical causation through Himself of the world’s being, but His going out of Himself in creation…’ This co-imagedness fits well with the Genesis context of humans being made in the image and according to the likeness of God. Humans bear the imprint of their Creator, the icon of God. We acknowledge this liturgically by censing the people during all liturgical services, censing the image of God in each person.” (Woloschak, p 228)
The world is not all pre-determined by an original act of God. There is both free will in humans and the uncertainties presented to us by quantum mechanincs that free the universe from pure determinism.
A few final points from Woloschak on evolution:
“…denying evolution is impoverishing the understanding of creation, which is one of the few expressions of God that humans are all able to perceive while still on this earth.” (Woloschak, p 231)
“’…individual organism do not evolve. … Biological evolution, then, does not act upon individuals but rather on populations.” (Woloschak, p 211)
“…there is no theological justification for a view of God as the direct cause of small individual events.” (Woloschak, p 224)
We don’t need to look to God as the cause of every little event on the planet for God empowered creation itself with creativeness to bring forth life. What is being worked out on our planet is we humans cooperating with God to fulfill His will.
Next: The Mystery of Ourselves