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Arthur Peacocke

Biochemist and theologian Arthur Peacocke, suggests that evolutionary history is itself a full and satisfying account of God’s creativity. Furthermore, he is critical of accounts that include ad hoc additional special acts of creation on theological grounds because their presence implies God’s “ordinary absence.”Peacocke in Durant, ed., Darwinism and Divinity: Essays on Evolution and Religious Belief110-112. He reserves his harshest criticism for so-called scientific creationists and considers evolutionary accounts of natural history to be “infinitely more Christian than the theory of ‘special creation.’”Peacocke in  Peacocke in Durant, ed., Darwinism and Divinity: Essays on Evolution and Religious Belief110.

Peacocke’s proposal will be heavily influenced by developments in the debate over convergence and universal biology. If evolution is found to be only weakly convergent, then seeing God within evolution requires the eyes of faith. The claim will remain a subjective one, and non-religious observers such as David Hull are free to report that they do not see the Christian God in evolution, instead they see a process “rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain and horror.”Qtd. in Haught, God after Darwin: A Theology of Evolution 6.

However, if evolution is strongly convergent, the subjective component is reduced, and the presence of suffering is balanced by the realisation of intended outcomes. One of Peacocke’s most well-known metaphors for God’s creativity can be constructively connected to the idea of fitness landscapes. When describing the role of natural selection he says “it is as if chance is the search radar of God, sweeping through all the possible targets available to its probing.”A. R. Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science: The Re-Shaping of Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 95. In the strong-convergence scenario the radar is revealing the contours of a fixed and God-given landscape. Furthermore, depending on the intensity of the radar beam, more or less detail will be revealed. Drawing on his knowledge of biochemistry Peacocke is optimistic that the puzzle of the origin of life will be solved, suggesting “the emergence of life was inevitable, but the form it was to take remained entirely open and unpredictable.”Peacocke in Durant, ed., Darwinism and Divinity: Essays on Evolution and Religious Belief116.

Peacocke has no doubt that Evolution does ‘do the work of a friend’ for the Christian religion, and often cites Aubrey Moore’s conclusion as the correct one. For him “Christian theology continues to be vastly indebted to the view of the transformations of the living world into which Darwin initiated us.”Peacocke in Peacocke in Durant, ed., Darwinism and Divinity: Essays on Evolution and Religious Belief127.

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Arthur Peacocke

[1] Does Evolution ‘do the work of a friend’ for the Christian Religion?
Setting the scene - why focus on providence?
[2] Supposed challenges from the evolutionary sciences to theology
Intellectually fulfilled atheists?
A challenge to human uniqueness and status?
A challenge to purpose in creation?
A threat to the veracity of scripture?
Evolution ‘explains away’ theology?
A challenge to Christian morality?
The challenges in wider context - Darwin as a scapegoat?
[3] The current state of the evolutionary sciences
Different ways of conceptualising Darwinian evolution
Evolution as chance and necessity
Evolution as an algorithm
Evolution as movement within a ‘fitness landscape’
Ongoing debates: contingency versus convergence
Ongoing debates: what are the key causal factors in biological history?
Ongoing debates: the environment as the principle cause?
Ongoing debates: convergence as the principle cause?
Ongoing debates: ‘Universal biology’ as the principle cause?
The importance of moving from evolution as abstraction to particular history
Ongoing debates: directionality and progress
Ongoing debates: the origin of life
Different levels and kinds of selection?
[4] Responses from theology
Evolution, probabilities and providence
Responses from contemporary theologians
Holmes Rolston III
Keith Ward
John Haught
An increased role for general providence?
Theology of Creation in the light of evolution: three scenarios
[5] Concluding remarks


Adrian Wyard
Adrian M Wyard MSt

See also:

The Relation of Science & Religion
Purpose and Design
The Argument From Design
The Anthropic Principle
Charles Darwin
DNA Double-Helix