The Depth of Darwin

Job and his buddies have been trying to figure out how God works in the world. Job is being tried, well, like Job. His friends insist he must of have done something wrong. Job says no, but adds,

    6 Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.
    7 Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. Job 19:6-7

Something is wrong, Job should be being blessed, but he is not. God is acting in strange ways. Job’s friends insist that God does not act so arbitrarily and that Job must have done something wrong.

    7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
    8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. Job 4: 7-8.

Then the Lord shows up. He doesn’t answer the questions about how he works in the world. He just asks Job questions about his knowledge and shows him he doesn’t know Jack.

    4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
    5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
    6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; Job 38: 4-6

And how about those big elephants and whales? What do you know about those? Heh?

    15: Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
    16: Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. Job 40:15-16


    1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
    2 Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
    3 Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
    4 Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? Job 41:1-4

(The Revised Standard Version translates Job 41:9, about this leviathan, a rather interesting translation from a Mormon perspective: “Any hope of capturing it will be disappointed; were not even the gods overwhelmed at the sight of it.” )

‘You don’t understand the basics of my creation. You cannot understand me or my ways.’ is the Lord’s Message.

The Lord continues pointing out Job’s ignorance and finally Job humbled says:

    1 Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
    2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
    3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Job 42: 1-3.

Job shows that some humility in our capacity to understand how the Lord works in the world. I think that is warranted. In the last century we have gain deep insights into how the ‘world’ works though our best science. This has led to amazing advances in biology. Evolution is at the heart of these. But how the Lord works in the world we take on Faith.

Not the Intelligent Design (ID) folks though. They insist they know ‘how the Lord works’ and it’s through tinkering with the biology when things get complicated. Of course there is no evidence for this and flies in the face of what we do know about biology, but they insist this is how it must work. The Lord is like us—a craftsman. A fix-it man. When things get stuck he has to intervene. They remind me of Job’s friends. God works like us and there is no way he would or could do it differently.

The Intelligent Design movement comes out a very specific evangelical approach that assumes a ex nihilo creation and a literal reading of scripture. It is a move to soften the literal six-days-of-creation stance found in Young Earth Creationism, as it is overwhelmingly apparent that the Earth is old and things have evolved. So the IDers are trying to get the Creator involved though a single act of creation out of nothing and then little acts of helping things along when they get stuck while evolving, which evolution is clear from the fossil record.

I think there is a better way. One in which God’s influence is present in creation continually, and from our perspective, is found so deep in creation that we cannot even capture it from our human perspective. Catholic theologian John Haught calls this presence Deeper than Darwin (his book is of the same name) because God is found underlying the deep design of the universe. Indeed, he holds that we should be talking bout the ‘promise’ of creation rather than its ‘design,’

    My thesis, however, is that cosmic purpose lies deeper than either Darwin or design. Cosmic purpose is more appropriately thought of in terms of nature’s ‘promise’ than of the ‘design’ that appears on the surface of this great text [[the material world]]. The idea of ‘design,’ in any case, is too brittle to represent the richness, subtlety and depth of the life-process and its raw openness to the future Life is more than ‘order.’ Life requires also the continual admittance of disruptive ‘novelty,’ and so the idea of ‘promise’ serves more suitably than ‘design’ to indicate life’s and the universe’s inherent meaning. In conversation not only with contemporary biologists, but also with philosophers and theologians who have probed beneath the surface of classic religious texts, I shall set forth a way of ‘reading’ evolution that I believer to be consistent with science but also with religious hope. I shall propose that the processive character of the universe—both biologically and cosmologically speaking—is quite consistent with its being read once again as the embodiment of promise.” p.25

I find this more consistent with things like D&C 88:6-13 and in particlualr v. 7

    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

And 13,

    13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

In fact I find the idea of God and Christ’s influence being embedded deeply in creation much more satisfying then the attempts to bring evangelical creationism, in which God has to work as machinist, into our deep and satisfying doctrines. Reread section 93 in light of Haught and it will send tingles down your spine.

Another Catholic theologian, Hans Küng writes in The Begining of All Things:

    God’s spirit does not work on the world from above or outside as unmoved mover. Rather, it works as the dynamic, most real, reality from within, in the ambivalent process of the development of the world, which makes possible, permeates, and completes. It does not work high above the process of the world but in the passionate process of the world: in, with, and among human beings and things. It itself is the origin, center and goal of the world process. P. 156.

These ideas seem much more consistent with our best doctrines and they tie coherently in with the best that science has to offer about the story it is telling us about the Hows of creation. I’m not advocating we embrace Catholic theology hook, line, and sinker, but they do offer deeper insights than the ID response to harmonizing evolutionary biology and creation.

The insistence of a literal reading of Bible or embracing ID is to tie our depth to the most shallow of theologies and ignore the unfolding story of science. As Job learned, the Creator’s deeper purposes, processes, and designs will ever remain hidden from us—perhaps because we cannot comprehend it, as suggested by the final chapters of the Book of Job. The Intelligent Design movement ignores this with its instance that it understands how God tinkers with the world (again keep in mind it provides no insight or evidence of the process (and does not explain those elements that are badly desingned). Our doctrines are too beautiful to tie our wagon to an idea going both theologically and scientifically over a cliff.

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18 Responses to The Depth of Darwin

  1. Mrs. Olsen says:

    Thank you! Very insightful and I look forward to reading section 93 with new insight.

  2. Jack says:

    I like that general drift of your post. But I think you misrepresent the ID movement badly. Even Behe(!) and the like don’t even come close to espousing the kind of Creationism you seem to link all IDers too.

    And I’d also tread a little more carefully with your implications that all must bow humbly–acknowledging our ignorance before God in order to make “theological” way for evolution. Hell will freeze over before scientists (generally) ever concede that truth is grounded in something deeper than science.

  3. SteveP says:

    Jack, “don’t even come close to espousing the kind of Creationism” That’s funny. That’s all they are. (Read here, noting history, people, and where they are headquartered.

  4. Jack says:


    That’s a recipe for building conspiracy theory. You need to read what the most visible proponents of ID are actually saying. I think you’ll find that they believe in an old Earth, in common ancestry, and in the fact that (in their view) evolution is not without merit.

    Now, while I tend to side with the critics of ID, I must say that I am sometimes a little taken back by the down-right scornful attitude that so many Darwinists have toward IDers. Maybe some of it is deserved–I don’t know. But what I do know is that science doesn’t have a smooth track-record. It has basically blundered it’s way forward. And the irony is: While some scientists feel no compunction at laughing at those who have differing views, the very same we’re probably the last to laugh AND the last to apologize when they discovered that there were better ways of dealing with the clinically depressed than giving them lobotomies.

  5. Jack says:


    Sorry. That’s too harsh. I really do like the post. It’s just that I tire of the ID bashing. I really do believe there are some sincere folks in that camp–they should be given their due for that, at least.

  6. SteveP says:

    I guess some of our attack-dog mode comes from the inroads they are making in state legislatures and in education. It is a threat in those places because it pretends to a science it just doesn’t share with the real thing and it’s hard for the layman to tell the difference. That’s why scientists jump at this like mother bears defending their cubs. No one knows the weakness of science like we do. It’s part of what makes science science: it’s self correcting and constantly attacking itself. But this is a different animal.

  7. Heli says:

    I’ll confess to being an ID sympathizer, though I agree many IDers do not express a cohesive theory, just as arguably evolutionary theories disprove portions of other theories.

    I am interested in where you come down on statistical arguments regarding evolution. Or do you dismiss it like some evolutionists argue that the fact we are here proves that evolution overcame statistically? (The conclusion proves the argument fallacy)

    I’ve never seen a “scientist” address the numerous statistical arguments other than to dismiss them. If you know of a good place to research those concepts I’d be grateful.

    FYI – I’m not suggesting that I don’t believe in evolution, only that statistically it appears to be highly unlikely without any outside intervention — some kind of intelligent design.

  8. SteveP says:


    There are numerous responses to this, indeed all of population genetics is a response to the statistical arguments. A very rigorous and philosophical recent book that deals explicitly with ID, logic and statistical arguments is Eliot Sober’s book Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science. I also take a stab at the statistical arguments here and here and David Bailey tackles it on this blog here.

    “unlikely without any outside intervention” what about inside intervention as I argue in this post?

  9. SteveP says:

    Check out The Daily Universe today for more on Darwin Days at BYU.

  10. Uncertain says:

    An interesting post, I think LDS believers have a little more difficulty reconciling evolution and religion than some other Christian sects. Due to the LDS teaching that we are literally made in the image of God.

    For example this quote:

    “My thesis, however, is that cosmic purpose lies deeper than either Darwin or design. Cosmic purpose is more appropriately thought of in terms of nature’s ‘promise’ than of the ‘design’ that appears on the surface of this great text”

    Seems to be stating that God does not specify what life necessarily would look like. Only that God provides the stage and evolution is then ruled by undirected natural processes.In this sense it seems similar to my understanding of the view held by Ken Miller.

    But is this idea compatible with a the idea we are literally created in Gods image? LDS believe it is not just intelligent life that is important but the right kind of life. In other words intelligent hairless upright primates.

    This teaching strongly implies God must “fix” the system somehow. That is arrange the universe such that life like ours is strongly likely if not inevitable. But if God meddles with evolution either directly or second hand by arranging the universe such that upright hairless apes are inevitable :). How does this differ in a substantial fashion from intelligent design?

    And if God does control the process enough to produce primates like us this raises a number of thorny theological issues. For example God has no problem rigging the universe such that our bodies walk upright and have five fingers and toes. But he can’t or won’t rig the universe such that our bodies are immune to smallpox or have a strong aversion to violence? What level of Gods rigging the system is “good enough”? I think building a convincing theodicy in which God is ultimately responsible for our physical bodies may be very difficult. But then again I am not a philosopher :).

    Additionally what is the big deal about hairless upright primates anyways? Is this body plan somehow eternally “better” than that of other possibilities and if so why?

    All the Best,

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  12. Elliott says:

    Its been great to reflect on Darwin and his accomplishments this week of his birthday (and I think of pride that, thanks to your class, I have read the entire Origin of Species).

    I just read this NY Times piece entitled provocatively “Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live” ( Since I see evolution as the framework and overarching paradigm of biology, I have always respectfully viewed Darwin’s role as only a part–albeit an important one–in bringing us to our present understanding of nature. However, reading the piece made me realize that the public perception of evolution IS perhaps a little to Darwin-centric, and maybe we would be better served to emphasize that Darwin was a contributor, and that evolution is not about Darwin.

  13. Elliott says:

    er…sorry that comment was a little out of context under this particular post. Meant it for your previous one. Apologies…

  14. jhayes says:

    I have no issue with people believing in ID. I have an issue with it being taught in schools as if it were scientifically based. It is not. It throws out all of the proper scientific methodology in favor of cherry picking data and skipping peer review. Why do they get represented as Creationists? Because that is pretty much what they are advocating. By cherry picking the data the way that they do, they are able to find gaps in our current knowledge (irreducible complexity anyone?) and then state that “oooh! see! this proves an intelligent creator!” when in actuality it does nothing of the sort. It just shows we have a gap. They said this about flagella on single celled organisms, scientists then showed the processes how it could happen. Same thing happened in regards to the eye. It was a tired argument years ago but so long as the Discovery Institute focuses on “Teaching the Controversy” by poisoning the well against the scientific method its not going to end.

  15. b says:

    I like this general idea too, but do you have more to say about how this actually works, or how such a deep-seated, “processive” view aids us in understanding any new specifics about evolution or God? I know you lightly brushed on a few things, but I think a further explanation on what such a view actually buys us, or what the implications of such a view are, would make a great post.

  16. Cap says:

    Great post! Thanks for that. I enjoyed it.

    In regards to the comment by Jack; Where I believe that you are sincere in your belief’s and views of ID, I am sorry but most everything I have read, or people that I have talked to view things in the likeness that Steve has pointed out. It is cut and dry, and very closed minded. While I am glad that you extend your views of creation a bit, I feel that the general ID population take scripture very literally, ruining any view’s of evolution that could be there.

    Again, great post Steve!

  17. Pingback: points of interest, vol 2, #3 | Mormon Bloggers

  18. You have got excellent stuff there, Thank you because I find this highly intriguing. I have rather liked reading through your posts. Purely excellent what you have here.

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