Critical Reflection on ‘When Science Meets Religion’ by Ian G. Barbour
[Part 3 of 5]

Critical Reflections on When Science Meets Religion

Chapter 4: Evolution and Continuing Creation

The assertion by Barbour in relation to evolutionary continuance, whereby “internal drives of organisms” (92) leads them to “purposive action [which] can eventually lead to physiological changes” (93) and these “novel actions may create new evolutionary possibilities” (116) directly conflicts with Biblical creationism as well as creation theory itself. The primary issue with this is in the refusal of religious institutions to recognize evolutionary theory as legitimate, in any way, is that they take “their God” and hold him wholly responsible for creation. He, who made the world “whole” or complete with a divine and predestined plan, which then renders “chance and human freedom […] ultimately illusionary” (103) then subjects humanity and all things created with it, to pain and chance at will, for unknown perverse purpose. In addition, they don’t account for the evolving of creation over time, now or in the future.

The “blind pitiless indifference” (94) of life displayed by the lack of tangible “rhymes reason or justice” in the universe at large, as expressed by Dawkins, and Dennett’s “mindless, purposeless process” (95) of the environment, speaks directly to the conflict of “intelligent design” in evolution and continuing creation. In intelligent design, there is no element of chance. For example, in the basic construction of a building the professional architect does not leave out structural beams in the plan and leave it up to chance to see what might happen. That is not intelligent, or ethically responsible.

Ideas that God intervenes in evolutionary events, so called God-gaps does not hold logically in any form when consistency is considered. Rather, the element of chance embedded in concepts of evolution free of a God echoes the reality in which “an organism of any sort is a highly integrated and dynamic pattern of interdependent events” (116), events determined by chance, by choice and by environment.

To speak again of the independence of theological and scientific theory on creation, as I have previously, and now supported by Gould, though he has been known to muddle them, religion and science are different domains, and as Toulman states, are “illegitimate mixture of languages” (101). While Gould claims that sociobiology adaptive behavior and moral ethics based from scientific perspective are illegitimate practices in the separation of science and religion, I would argue that the base instincts and ethics of humans are based, as animals, in the primitive realm of the animal kingdom. As animal behavioral science can help realize many types of animals - from elephants to lion, turtles and penguins - display characteristics of moral behavior [1] based in evolutionary instincts, such as various forms of social bonding, both long-term and short-term, and formation of communities. In this realization, it becomes apparent that independence is an incompatible relationship, because down to the very foundation religion then becomes a basic form of social control, not a true source of forming moral aptitude.

Dialogue between the two does not seem to be any more promising that does a relationship of independence, and continues to create conflict in interpretation.

In integration, there is no purpose for a God to propagate evolution of species through a design based on “a subtle interplay of chance and law” (112) in the “potentialities of nature” (102) at all, let alone continually. The creation story, the only basis of “where we come from” in religious belief, completely derails the entire concept of an evolving species of any sort. After all God created each thing and declared it “good” (Genesis 1:20-25), so what would the purpose be of “repurposing those good things”. If His design was truly intelligent, that it should not require alterations, instead intelligent design would indicate a linear direction of “sameness”. As Barbour states, when studied even “over short periods” evolutionary processes display “many directions of change, rather than a progress in one direction” (111). These directions of change indicate that there “seems to be too many blind alleys and extinct species and too much suffering and waste to attribute every event to God’s specific action” (112). Even if you attribute only some of events to God’s action, the element of chance remains, along with an impotent God. “Design is what one would expect with an intelligent and purposeful God […] the presence of chance, evil, and human freedom should lead us to modify classical ideas of omnipotence” (114). The alternative is the recognition of the “self-limitation of God” (115) and of “a distant and inactive God” (114. However, recognition should lead the rational person to question why anyone would want to develop a close personal relationship, as is God’s desired relationship with humans vis-à-vis the claims of Biblical text, with a dispassionate and cruel ruler.

To conclude, Peacocke’s idea that “God designed a system of law and chance through which higher forms of life would slowly come into being” (115) again is highly disproved by the teachings of Genesis in which God created all things whole and in “good” form. Any further interpretations outside of what the text of the Bible provides becomes even more illegitimate than the hearsay already existing in man-made text itself.

Sources and Citation:

Ian, Barbour G. When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners. N.p.: HarperCollins, 2000. N. pag. Print.

"Bible Gateway." Bible Gateway. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014 <>.

1. Ghose, Tia. "Animals Are Moral Creatures, Scientist Argues." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. <>