View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

Keith Ward

Philosophical theologian Keith Ward, like Rolston, accepts the general framework of evolution with natural selection as a central mechanism, but argues this is not a sufficient explanation for the current state of biological affairs. Instead, he believes “mutations must be coherent and co-ordinated”Ward, God, Chance & Necessity 118. and a “continuing causal activity of God is the best explanation of progress towards consciousness.”Ward, God, Chance & Necessity 78.Once again using the terminology of chance rather than intervention, he suggests that without this continual causal activity the evolution of humans would be improbable.Ward, God, Chance & Necessity 77. Unlike Rolston he justifies this claim in explicitly theological and metaphysical terms. Ward argues persuasively against naturalism and determinism,Ward argues that a "coherent idea of a personal Creator God entails that the laws of nature are not deterministic." See Ward, God, Chance & Necessity 82. and suggests that the ‘laws of nature’ are not fixed. With this different context established he is free to claim that God steers evolutionary development “towards more complex and sentient life-forms. There is no physical mechanism that produces such a bias. Yet it is not entirely left to chance.”Ward, God, Chance & Necessity 83.

Ward’s view is self-consistent and theologically satisfying, but it comes at a high price. By asserting the natural order is malleable, he can explain much more than evolutionary history. Such an assertion follows from his theological starting point, but is it consistent with observations of the natural world? At some scales of observation it does seem reasonable to say there are fixed laws of nature.He explicitly states that "It is very probably false that objects act only in accordance with certain laws of physics."Keith Ward, In Defence of the Soul (Oxford: Oneworld, 1998) 54.

 Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Adrian Wyard

Go to Evolution Topic Index

Keith Ward

[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
John Haught
Arthur Peacocke
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