or Evolution: Defining the Concepts
major problem in the creation-evolution controversy is that many terms
required to properly discuss the issue are often not defined.
By Jerry Bergman,
Ph.D. and Richard Bube Ph.D.1
165, 2015 November)
step to intelligently discuss an issue is to define one’s basic terms.
Both the terms “creation” and “evolution” are highly value-laden
concepts, and often what the reader means by one or both of these terms
is not what the writer meant. Problematically, many positions exist on
creationism and origins in general and defining one’s terms is
therefore critical. The general subject of origins is taught in many
high schools and most colleges, and almost all college science classes,
and for this reason teaching this subject requires defining the terms
in the classroom.
when terms are defined can one determine the position the instructor is
using. Teachers teach one or more positions for various reasons, either
due to their own personal bias, or the assumption that the empirical
research has verified one position and falsified the others. Studies
have found that, in general, one position is taught to the exclusion to
all others, namely, the first two listed below. This list, although not
exhaustive, does delineate some of the more common basic positions on
origins. The definitions also help to illustrate the variety of
positions that exist on this issue.
main concern of educators should be to objectively cover the topic,
something that is often not being done now. Our concern also is that,
of all the positions, only two are usually presented—and most critics
of Darwin would be satisfied if both the deistic and evolutionary
positions were taught.
following represent some of the more common positions relative to
Western theories of origins.
Atheistic Evolution is the
position that energy and matter alone can
account for the existence of the universe, including the earth and all
living things. All that is required is the result of only intrinsic
properties of matter and, ultimately, by fortuitous accident. An
outside agency or intelligence is ruled out as, not only unnecessary,
Materialistic Evolution is
where the changes necessary to evolve the
universe, the world, and all living things are a result of the
operation of time, natural law and chance that do not require any
control or intervention by an outside power, but an outside agency is
not ruled out.
Deism is the view that an
outside intelligent agency created the
natural laws and the original substance of the universe. This original
reality had the potential for the evolution of our universe and all
that is in it, including all living forms. The primordial substance was
then left on its own to evolve purely according to time and natural law.
Classical Deism is where an
external power created the original
substance of the universe together with its characteristic properties
that endowed it with the potential for development of its major
structural components, such as galaxies. This original creation, once
in existence, was subsequently not acted on by any external force,
either for its existence or its development.
Modified Deism is like
Classical Deism, except that an external God or
power may from time to time intervene in the development or maintenance
of the material world to effect particular results, or maintain orderly
development towards a specific end.
Limited Theistic Evolution is
where an outside force began the world by
originally creating matter and the laws needed to begin the process
with the direct goal of creating the world. Once the initial set of
creative acts began, the universe was left to develop like a plant
developing out of a seed that was designed to produce an adult plant by
using water and minerals. Outside intervention is not ruled out at any
point in the process to fine tune the system.
Theistic Evolution is the
position that an outside intelligence created
all original matter and has directly and deliberately guided evolution
to the present day. Much of the living world, though, is a product of
Theism is the position that all
which exists, and all of the changes
that occur with time, regardless of the mechanism of that change
whether instantaneous, a slow process, or some combination of both,
depends for its ultimate existence and continuing moment by moment
existence on the constant free activity of God. The universe is
separate from God.
Pantheism is the view that all
of reality is essentially a form of the
Divine One, so that not only is God active in all processes of reality,
but since the universe is God, it is pointless to speak of the universe
as separate from God.
Panentheism is like Pantheism,
except that God is not exhausted by His
identity with the universe, but is more than the universe.
Creation by Evolution is a form
of Theism in which it is believed that
God’s activity is best described as forming and sustaining the world in
terms of a directed, purposeful development (evolutionary) process
rather than creation by instantaneous creation from nothing, although
the initial step or steps may be described as creation from nothing (ex
nihilo). An aged universe is accepted.
Initial Creationism is a form
of Theism in which it is believed that
God’s activity is best described as forming and sustaining the world by
a series of many instantaneous creation events of materialistic laws
and systems, but not complete organisms, at the beginning of earth
history. All subsequent development occurs via an evolutionary
processes. An aged universe is usually accepted.
Progressive Creationism is
where many creations by an outside agency at
different times throughout history occurred. These ex nihilo creations
were of gross forms and limited. Much of the present natural world is
purely a result of natural laws. The series of instantaneous creation
events were dispersed somewhat evenly in historic time, and what
development occurred, if any, via evolutionary processes. An aged
universe is often accepted.
Special or Direct Creationism
is where all basic life kinds are the
result of a direct and purposeful creation within a rather defined
period by God. Special creation implies a purpose for humankind, and a
fairly high level of guidance in the formation of the natural world as
we know it. Special creationists believe that only limited change has
occurred since the original creation, and they attribute such changes
to variation or reshuffling of existing genetic information within the
gene pool of the species population. Allows for the appearance of age.
Literal Creationism is similar
to special or direct creationism except
that the instantaneous creation events are believed to have taken place
in six 24-hour days around about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. An aged
earth is rejected, however, many adherents of this view accept the
concept that the earth was created with the appearance of having
existed much longer than it actually has, just as Adam, the day he was
created, would appear to be a mature adult.
Divine Fiat Creationism is
where the universe and everything in it is
the result of a direct instantaneous creative act by God. Divine Fiat
Creationists do not allow for either micro or macroevolution. Most
Divine Fiat Creationists hold to a literal 6-day, 24-hour day creation
week six thousand years ago. This position is held by few persons today.
addition, there exist many interpretations of the Biblical book of
Genesis, all called Biblical
Creationism. The following views represent
some of those more commonly held.
A completely literal view plus the gap
theory: God created by
instantaneous fiat, bringing all things from nothing to development in
six 24-hour days on a date not more than 10,000 years ago, probably
6,000 years ago. Evidence for an apparently aged universe is attributed
to a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, the latter referring either to a
re-creation of the earth that was previously destroyed due to judgment
against Satan, or a long time period, where Genesis 1:2 refers only to
making the existing old earth ready for humans. Rejects all
A completely literal view plus
apparent age theory: like (1) above
except that evidence for an aged universe is explained in terms of the
necessity (or choice) for a created universe that shows apparent
evidence of age due to the fact that everything created creation
ex-nihilo will have the appearance of age. Rejects all macroevolution.
A completely literal view plus flood
geology theory: similar to (1)
above except that much of the geological evidence for an apparently
aged earth is attributed to misinterpretation of data, much of which is
actually caused by the worldwide Noachian Flood. Rejects
macro-evolution, of all life forms.
An essentially literal view plus
age/day theories: Genesis conveys
historical information, but with some room for figurative elements in
the account. Harmonization of science data is achieved by interpreting
the Genesis “days” as long ages. Usually rejects macro-evolution, at
least of humankind.
An essentially non-literal view:
holds to the genuineness of the record
as revelation of God concerning real historical events. Concludes that
all attempts at harmonization with modern science are misguided as
beyond the purpose of the text. A variety of terms have been applied to
the type of literature in Genesis, but it is often viewed as myth in
the technical sense, meaning conveying awareness beyond rational
comprehension rather than propositional truth, or saga, prophecy,
parable, and confessional liturgy. Willing to consider limited theism
evolution, even of humans.
A completely non-literal view:
holds that the Genesis account is no
more divinely inspired than any other literature, and its record is
merely the traditions of a particular group of ancient people. Although
the Genesis account may have been influenced by certain historical
happenings, the account is devoid of any close correlation with actual
include Wayne Frair, Clifford Lillo, Theodore Siek, and MaryAnn Stuart.
University Professor Emeritus Richard Bube is the former chair
of the Department of Materials Science. He has a B.S. from Brown
University and a MA and PhD from Princeton University, all in physics.
He has published widely on the topic of science-religious issues.