Deistic evolution

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Deistic evolution is a position in the origins debate which involves accepting the scientific evidence for evolution and age of the universe whilst advocating the view that a deistic God created the universe but has not interfered since.

The position is endorsed by those who believe in both deism and the veracity of science.

Various views on deistic evolution[edit]

The psychologist Steve Stewart-Williams[1] in his book Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life (2010) states:

Deistic evolutionists hold that God created the universe and the laws of nature... but that once the ball was rolling, he ceased to intervene in the day-today running of the world or in the course of natural law. God was like the ether after Einstein: he no longer had any role to play in the universe.[2]

Stewart-Williams further writes that deistic evolution strips God of what most religious believers consider central. Any deistic God is not around for prayers, miracles or to intervene in people's lives and so because of this it is unpopular with monotheistic religions.[3]

Deistic Evolution adheres to the concept of some form of God, but denies any personal God. A recent defender of deistic evolution was Michael Anthony Corey, author of the book Back to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution (1994).

Some scholars have written that Charles Darwin was an advocate of deistic evolution.[4]

Theistic predeterminism[edit]

Deistic evolution is not the same as theistic evolution, yet they are sometimes confused. The difference rests on the difference between a theistic god that is interested in, if not actively involved in, the outcome of his creation and humanity specifically and a deistic god that is either uninterested in the outcome, and holds no special place for humanity, or will not intervene. Often, there is no discernible difference between the two positions -- the choice of terminology has more to do with the believer and her or his need for a god, than fitting into a mostly arbitrary dictionary or academic definition.

Criticism from Christian Creationists[edit]

Deistic evolution has been criticised by Christian creationists as being incompatible with Christianity since it contradicts its dogma, a literal reading of the Bible and more importantly, leaves no role for the "Christian personal God".[5][6]

M. J. Erickson wrote that deistic evolution is in conflict with the scriptural doctrine of providence according to which "God is personally and intimately concerned with and involved in what is going on in the specific events within his entire creation."[7]


Deistic evolution may not oppose or contradict evolution, though it certainly does come into conflict with science when it says that a God started the process and then left it to natural processes. In addition, deistic evolution is less preferable to atheistic evolution by requiring an extra undemonstrated assumption, per Occam's razor.

Additionally, some regard Deism as still a religious philosophy.

Stewart-Williams claimed regarding deistic evolution and science:

Deistic evolution eliminates any immediate conflict between science and belief in God. Anyone who believes that God's role was merely to create the laws of nature can accept the scientific worldview in its totality; they simply add the proviso that 'God did it' - i.e., that God is responsible for the world that science describes.[8]

There is considerable room for this "god of the gaps" view, since scientific observation is entirely unable to shed any light on what happened during the Planck epoch,Wikipedia the earliest 10-43 seconds in the history of the universe. And clearly, where something is unknown, it is easy to insert a magical explanation until such time as real knowledge makes it unnecessary.

As far as science is concerned, if the deistic god does not actually do anything to affect the process of evolution, then there is no distinction between atheistic and deistic evolution, but philosophically there is quite a gap.

See also[edit]


  1. Homepage for Dr Steve Stewart-Williams
  2. Steve Stewart-Williams Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life 2010 p. 70
  3. Steve Stewart-Williams, p. 71
  4. Christian C. Young, Mark A. Largent Evolution and Creationism: A Documentary and Reference Guide 2007, p. xiii
  5. James K. A. Smith, Amos Yong Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement With the Sciences p. 93
  6. Liberty: a magazine of religious freedom: Volumes 86-88, p. 85
  7. Erickson M.J., "Christian Theology", 1985, Baker, Grand Rapids, MI, pp. 480-481
  8. Williams, p. 70