|Naturalistic evolution (a.k.a. "atheistic evolution"
"naturalistic evolution," "the theory of evolution," or
simply "evolution"): This is a belief that attempts to explain development of
all living species from the first living cell to the present diversity of
plant and animal species. Evolution proceeded in response to natural processes,
without intervention from God or other deities. Evolution happened blindly
without a goal.|
Belief in evolution directly interfaces with other branches of science:
|Cosmology, the study of the development of the universe. This
includes the "big bang" concept of the first few seconds of the
|Abiogenesis, the study of the development of the first living
cell from non-living matter. This field of study is still in its
The theory of evolution is coupled with cosmology and abiogenesis and
other "ologys" leads to a comprehensive model the origin of the
species, the earth itself, the solar system, and the rest of the universe.
The universe started in a "big bang," -- a natural phenomenon,
not involving God in any way. The coalescence of the earth, the
development of its crust, the appearance of life in the form of a single-celled
life form and the development of
new species through evolution are
all viewed as
having proceeded strictly by blind natural processes. A minority of scientists believe that species
evolved more or less at a regular rate over the past few billions of years. Most believe, on the basis of the fossil
record, that species evolved through a process of "punctuated equilibrium".
A given species continued to live for long periods of time with few
changes. A small group became isolated from the main group and was subjected to
different environmental pressures. A new species evolved from the old very quickly in evolutionary
time. Scientists assume that there was no
intervention by a God in any of these processes.
If one were to go back to the
age of the dinosaurs, many tens of millions of years ago, there were no
humans. There were small mammals which were our distant ancestors. Most
scientists believe that the dinosaurs were wiped out by the environmental
changes brought about by an asteroid impact. If that collision did not happen,
then the evolution of the species may well have taken an entirely different
path. Intelligent species might have evolved by now -- tens of millions of
years later -- looking very different from human beings. Perhaps they would
have green scales in place of skin. Alternately, intelligent species might not
have evolved by now at all.
The term "atheistic
evolution" is really a misnomer, because belief in evolution is not
limited to Atheists. Agnostics,
Buddhists, and others can
and do believe in the existence of both a supreme being (or beings) and
naturalistic evolution. That is, an individual may believe in God, and
simultaneously hold the belief that one or more supreme beings had no involvement
in either driving or guiding evolution.
The philosophical foundation of naturalistic evolution is not Atheism,
as many conservative Christians assert. Rather, it is the belief that
the most productive scientific research results when scientists assume
that all events in the universe happen as a result of perfectly natural
forces. Another way of expressing this is that scientists assume that
the events that they are studying did not occur as a result of miracles
created by God. This is a sensible approach, because if God regularly
interfered with natural processes and performed many miracles, then there
would be no processes that could be studied scientifically.
Philosophers and theologians have been attempting to prove the existence of
God for thousands of years and have come up with many "proofs." None have been
totally convincing. If at any time in the future, it becomes possible to prove
the existence of one or more creator Gods, then scientists would have to
acknowledge the presence of an supreme deity and be on the lookout for
her/his/their/its direct involvement in nature.
||Deistic evolution: This is a hybrid belief system combining belief in a deity who created the universe, and in the evolution of the species as a result of natural forces. In the belief, God created the universe, perhaps
"big bang" about 14 billion years ago as his method. He set up
basic laws to govern the running of the universe, and then left the scene entirely.
has not been seen or heard from since. The earth coalesced about 4 or 5 thousand million years ago
without any input from God. Later, elementary life forms formed, which evolved into the
animals and plant life that we see today through purely natural forces. It is essentially
identical to naturalistic evolution, excepts that it reserves one action for God: that of
initially creating the universe and its laws. This belief is common among Deists. A sizeable minority of North Americans believe in Deism, although most have never heard of the religion.|