Mediated Design or Micro Evolution?
Many Christians believe in a false dichotomy that exalts the supernatural over the natural. Most organs and/or organisms, for example, are seen as the products of an historical, supernatural design conceptualized during Creation Week. Adaptations resulting from secondary “micro-evolutionary” processes, on the other hand, although still the product of God’s intervention, are viewed as an inferior version of the original plan. “True” design occurred at creation. “Devolved” post-Fall organisms are the result of the curse and, like an over-copied book, lack their original genetic glory. As such, they don’t constitute “true” design.
Yet such a dichotomy is counterintuitive. Many creationists believe that defensive mechanisms came into existence “after” the Fall, “thorns and thistles it [the ground] shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:18 ESV). Some defensive systems, like that of the Bombardier Beetle, are truly remarkable, defying any simplistic notion of degenerative genetic mutations.
Then there is horse evolution. Many young-earth creationists accept that our modern horse, Equus, evolved from a smaller, multi-toed ancestor (Mitchell 2015). To argue that Equus is more “deficient” than say, Miohippus, is to underappreciate the wonder of the modern horse’s hoof, teeth, body size, build, speed, endurance, etc., over that of Miohippus which had three toes, was smaller, with a lighter build. That’s not to say that Miohippus didn’t have its niche, purpose and design, but it’s perfectly fine for God to have used secondary means to bring us the single-toed Equus.
Wood and Murray (2003) propose that God’s design should not be limited to the Creation Week but should be extended to “post-Fall” biological complexity. Their model, called “mediated design,” is important and accounts for the complexity of the Bombardier Beetle’s defense mechanism, as well as the modern horse’s hoof (although not as “complex,” it certainly falls outside of the “micro-evolutionary” model proposed by most creationists). Only God’s “mediated design” can account for the existence of these complex organs and systems of organs. Consider this comment from a materialist evolutionary website that, on the one hand does a good job debunking a “traditionalist” creationist argument for the Bombardier Beetle’s defense system, but then has to admit that, “at this time a specific evolutionary path is still unknown” (Kloppers).
Mediated design seeks to embrace these as yet unknown mechanisms. Natural selection does work to confer minor variations, but as science progresses, especially in areas related to genetics, this simple Darwinian mechanism no longer seems tenable given complex biological change. Even many mainstream, non-religious scientists are concluding that natural selection working on random mutations does not have the power to create complex biological organs, organ-systems, and complex biological form (Moreland 2017). Many creationists think that the information must have even been in the DNA of “primitive” forms before the changes took place (Guliuzza and Gaskill 2018). This means that God’s design for post-Fall change was built into the genetics from the beginning.
Unfortunately, some creationists think that conceding to mediated design will necessarily lead to full-blown Darwinian evolution. Afterall, where does one draw the line? This kind of reasoning, however, is unwarranted. Christians often live with doctrinal tension that challenges their thinking without crossing biblically clear boundaries. Scriptural inspiration versus human authorship, Christ’s deity versus his humanity, God’s sovereignty versus man’s responsibility, are all examples of doctrines that exist on a fluctuating spectrum of thought. Discerning Christians know that each extreme tends towards heterodoxy and so live with the tension without becoming heretics.
Evolutionary thinking is no different. Man was created from the dust of the ground and did not evolve from apes (Genesis 2:7). The Bible also teaches that certain groups of animals were specially created by God during Creation Week, plants, marine animals, flying animals, insects, and land animals (Wood and Murray 2003) (Genesis 1). Evolutionary extremes are, therefore, kept in check by the text of Scripture.
Creationists need to rethink anti-evolutionary rhetoric, along with dated and seemingly unhelpful terminology such as “micro” and/or “macro” evolution, and begin embracing a whole new way of giving glory to the Creator through “mediated design. ”
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Kloppers, accessed 7/25/20, https://bombardierbeetlewarfare.weebly.com/evolution–origin.html
Guliuzza, R.J., and P.B. Gaskill. 2018. “Continuous Environmental Tracking: An Engineering Framework to Understand Adaptation and Diversification.” In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, edited by J.H. Whitmore, 158 – 184. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship.
Mitchell, E. 2015. Horse Ancestor Said to Have Evolved in India. Answers in Genesis. Accessed 5/12/20. https://answersingenesis.org/theory-of-evolution/horse-ancestor-said-to-have-evolved-in-india/
Moreland, J.P., Meyer, S.C., Shaw, C., Gauger, A.K., and Grudem, W. eds. 2017. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Wheaton, Illinois. Crossway.