Letter to the Editor


Wiester's "Real Meaning of Evolution"

Ruth Douglas Miller, Assistant Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Durland Hall, Manhattan, Kansas 66506-5105

From: PSCF 46 (March 1994): 68-69                                            Response: Wiester

John Wiester's writing in his Communication, "The Real Meaning of Evolution" (Perspectives 45:3, p. 182-186) sounds rather similar to that of the young earth creationists I assume he'd criticize. He feels that teaching "evolution" is equivalent, in the public mind, to teaching that humans came about through "purposeless, unguided processes," and he finds this offensive. While I agree that too many non-theistic science popularizers do incorrectly equate "random" with "unguided," I must disagree with Wiester's apparent objection to the appeal to chance and random processes in the teaching of evolutionary theory.

Should teachers explain the hydrologic cycles as being guided by God's hand? If rather they give purely mechanistic explanations for evaporation, condensation and precipitation, do they not in effect teach that no God need be invoked to explain rain? According to Wiester's analysis this would be equivalent to preaching atheism. There is no direction or purpose evident in the track of a hurricane to which a meteorologist need appeal, yet God directs the storm. In the chemist's description of the reaction of two substances in a test tube, should she refer to God's hand on each molecule, or to thermodynamically random molecular collisions, driven to create, by chance, a resulting new chemical? If she chooses the latter, does she promote atheism? Statistically random, or "chance" processes are no less under God's control than ordered ones, though both Christians and atheists err and assume the opposite.

In my explanation of electromagnetic waves, should I speak of God's guidance and driving of each photon? I presently explain how each of Maxwell's equations was derived from empirical observations and describe how electrons behavior make no appeal to God's direction of those particles. I can, and generally do, say that I personally believe electrons behave the same way today as they did in 1870 because God made them and has not seen fit to alter their properties, but is that statement necessary lest I propagate atheistic beliefs?

This same argument can be made for all scientific theories and how they are taught. Why is evolution so different from theories of electromagnetics, chemistry or gravity that we must specifically address the design hypothesis, as Wiester seems to advocate? Is this the last gap, whose filling will disprove God? But how could anyone ever prove God, and humans still have free will? And why is this gap so much deadlier than any other which science has apparently filled? As Christians and scientists, we do both theology and science a disservice if we insist that this gap be treated differently we concentrate Christian efforts on a small point irrelevant to salvation, and we drive scientists further from God by requiring that they deny evolutionary theory in order to be saved.

I believe the same thermodynamically random processes occurring in a chemist's test tube drive the evolution of life. God is no less involved in the chemistry inside a biological cell than he is in the test tube. The chemist does not appeal to God in her explanation of a reaction why must the biologist? That science can be understood and taught "though God be not given" is not something to be fought or feared by the Christian community. Let us rather continue to proclaim the God of all creation, whose presence is clear in all its processes for those who have eyes to see.