I am Ralph H. Armstrong, M.D. I am a board certified psychiatrist, geriatric psychiatrist, and addictionist, and a board eligible neurologist. I am a practicing orthodox Christian. So, what can a psychiatrist bring to the debate of evolution, science, and Christianity? Though I have been steeped in bio- and neuro-science, I am not a biologist: think of me as a science writer. Though I have studied the Scriptures and our Faith in-depth for many years, I am not a theologian. Yet I am a theologian, in the sense that any thinking and discerning Christian is a theologian. I’ve served as a Professor of Pastoral Counseling at a Catholic Seminary, and I’ve written a book on pastoral counseling. It is here, in the juncture of mind, healing, and faith that I hold sway. It is no accident that I see the role of mind and intelligence as a central force in all of Life’s adaptations.
As a physician, I have taken care of suffering people, and as a Christian I have prayed for them, but the question of suffering, disease, and death has led me to wonder how our benevolent and omnipotent God fits into the picture. Closer to home, our first grandson was born with a severe cleft palate, and the second turned up drastically autistic. If God is the creator, he was falling down on the job. Could he be punishing us, his parents and grandparents? All I really know of God is Jesus, and he never inflicted pain on anyone; to the contrary, he healed the sick, even when it got him in trouble, as on the Sabbath. So the punishment angle is lacking. It was out of these questions of theodicy that I turned to the sciences of evolution and biology. That life evolved is plainly written. How then does life, with all its beauty, diversity, savagery, its disabilities, fragility, its pain, how does it come to be?
Early on, I focused on camouflage. Look at these two creatures below; they are incredibly beautiful. There are two stony flounders in these pictures.
I am hard pressed to see them, as they can change colors to match their environments. I find this a truly remarkable adaptation, an exquisite match of animal and habitat, but as I wondered if God had created these flounders, I ran into the same dilemma. If he made these creatures, he must have created my two grandsons; his performance was then terribly uneven.
I am also quite aware of the NeoDarwinian explanation, that through random mutations and natural selection (NS) this optimal adaptation had been selected for. There is a lot to be said for random design, but I find it a stretch to believe that randomness and NS can consistently produce such exquisite order. But there is yet another possibility, that God has given this creature the capacity to modify itself! There actually is an evolutionary school that does indeed hold that creatures are agents in their own variation; it is called MetaDarwinism. Building on the idea of life as agent, I will show the evidence that God, in the ultimate act of extending freedom to his creation, has indeed lent to all of life the capacity to modify itself. But though life is free to go in directions necessary for its survival, he has not left it alone. I am no deist. I will show theologically that God is intimately involved in his creation, sustaining it every second by his breath and word. I shall call my overall argument “Christianity in Evolution.”