Saturday, June 05, 2010

The True Drama of Creation in Evolution

The New Atheists such as Dawkins and Coyne have much in common with their Creationist and Intelligent Design foes.  Both sides are in agreement that if God is the designer, things should work out with great perfection -- there should be no loop holes or meandering of life.  Evolutionary Materialists suggest that there simply is no sign of design in the world as we know it -- just a series of accidents.  Intelligent Design folks ignore the details and point to the grand scale of design and say see there is God's hand.  Both sides envision a God, if such a God exists, to be more engineer than artist.

John Haught, whose book Making Sense of Evolution:  Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life, seeks to offer a theology of evolution that can serve as an alternative to understandings of creation that are rigidly fixated on design, suggests that if theology wishes to engage evolution it must move beyond debates over design and instead look at the drama that is life.  Indeed, Haught suggests that the world envisioned by design fixated folks, whether atheist or theist, offers little sense of hope or beauty.  Consider for a moment this comment on questions of design, drama, and direction:

Nature's dramatic depth, not its ephemeral organic arrangements, is the proper focus of a theology of evolution.  However, evolutionary atheists, who have a habit of presenting themselves as experts on what an acceptable theology should look like, remain firm in their quest for perfect design as the only acceptable signal of cosmic purpose of God's existence.  Along with their creationist and ID opponents, they are prepared to accept only a theology in which an omnipotent magician flashes improbable arrangements of organic molecules and complex systems.  They will be satisfied only with a deity who leaves spectacular, scientifically accessible "evidence" of engineering competence.  If God exists, they insist, design would be impeccable and life's direction inerrant.  However, they never consider what this perfectionist dream would imply if it were ever actualized.  It scarcely occurs to them that their idealized divine conjurer would produce only artifacts suitable for a display, not a drama featuring the struggle of life and the transformation of the entire universe into more interesting, if dangerous, modes of existence.  (Haught, Making Sense of Evolution, p. 75).
Haught suggests that when it comes to the relationship of evolution and theology, we must let science be science and theology be theology, recognizing that there are layers of explanation available, differing perspectives that see the same evidence from differing vantage points.  What theology is able to do, if it's open to the possibility, is to see meaning in the drama that is life.  But as to the point made in this quote, if we're intent on focusing all of our attention on design, we end up with a world without adventure or hope.  Is this what we're looking for?

5 comments:

Human Ape said...

You idiot pastors don't know anything about science. Fuck off.

John said...

Who decides what constitutes perfection in a dynamic creation? What qualities are most highly valued? What adjustments need to be made to foster certain qualities such as autonomy and dynamism?

The very notion of "working perfectly" is silly until you have a handle on what qualities the Creator values in achieving perfection.

John

Mystical Seeker said...

I like Haught and I like that book in particular.

I like the idea of conveying the universe as a ongoing result of creative processes rather than the product of a detailed plan enacted to the last detail. I wonder, though, if artist is really any better than engineer when describing Haught's theology (or process theology, to which I think he owes a lot). Ultimately it was Leonardo who painted the Mona Lisa by his own hand and through implementing his own ideas--the Mona Lisa didn't paint itself and didn't have any say about its final outcome, although I suppose some artistic processes are sometimes described as a collaboration between the artist and the work of art.

Maybe I'm making Haught out to be more of a process theologian than he is, though.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Mystical Seeker -- artist may have been the wrong word. What Haught does say is that we should see evolution as a drama, in which God is luring/drawing out in a noncoercive way evolution's path. We won't see the fullness of its purpose until it comes to full fruition -- in the future.

As for his process nature -- he does seem to have a process focus and he makes use of Whitehead. So you're not far off the mark!

Jim said...

Has anyone proposed that "God" is more like a computer programmer? He set the rules for the universe and put it in motion, knowing that the final outcome is not the goal; it is the drama that occurs as the world and the universe develops.
Is "God" listening to prayers and affecting outcomes? That seems like the real debate.