Creationism vs. Evolution:
Creationism does not have to be incompatible with evolution; there are many who believe in a creator god(s) and who also accept evolution. They may have deistic beliefs and believe a god started everything then let it run without interference. Theistic Evolution encompasses theism, some system of traditional religious beliefs, and the idea that a god or gods used evolution to develop life on earth.
What is Theistic Evolution?:
Theistic evolutionists vary in how they believe their god intervened in the evolutionary process because those beliefs are connected to subtle details of other theological positions. They accept modern science on the fact that evolution occurs and how it occurs, but they rely on their god to explain things currently unexplained by science (like the origin of life) or outside the purview of science (like the origin of the soul).
What is Evolutionary Creationism?:
There is little difference between Evolutionary Creationism and Theistic Evolution the only reason the term seems to exist is the theological importance of emphasizing the term Creationism rather than Evolution.
Theistic Evolution and Religion:
Theistic evolution is currently the position which is promoted by the Catholic Church, mainline Protestant denominations, Reform and Conservative Judaism, and other religious organizations which do not adopt a literalist position with regards to their scriptures and/or religious traditions. If God is somehow involved in the evolution process, what role does he play? Theistic Evolutionists generally take one of three positions:
God controls apparently random events:
Modern science has revealed that what was once thought to be a deterministic universe has a random or probabilistic aspect at the quantum level. Quantum systems are, in one way or another, intrinsically unpredictable. This has provided an opening for some theologians and philosophers to argue that God operates in our world without also violating any natural laws. God directs the motion of matter an energy towards an end which he desires, but in a manner which seems unpredictable and random.
God designed the system:
The idea that God continues to be active in the natural world, but on the quantum level, suggests to many that God needs to keep tinkering with nature in order to get things to turn out as he wants. This, however, can be theologically unacceptable and has led some to adopt the position that God designed the universe right at the beginning to generate certain predetermined results (like human life). Constant interference outside of some important miracles isnt necessary.
God influences events:
This final possibility argues that God is always present and active in the universe, but doesnt control events or force them towards any particular outcome. Instead, God exerts influence on events in order to lead them to a desired outcome but the possibility exists that a different and undesired outcome may result. This position is often associated with Process Theology, a school of thought which portrays God not as omnipotent, but as learning and growing as the universe develops.
Problems With Theistic Evolution:
One of the problems for Theistic Evolution has been something known as the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. Begun in the 1940s, this was a synthesis of the work being done by field biologists on the one hand and experimental work performed by geneticists on the other. This process managed to eliminate many of the mysteries in how evolution and natural selection work.
Why is this a problem? Traditionally, Theistic Evolution has relied on the idea that evolutionary theory hasnt been able to explain how evolution works. These mysteries were gaps in our understanding of nature and, as has happened so often in the relationship between religion and science, religious belief relied upon gaps in scientific knowledge which have become all but filled. Once those gaps are indeed filled, what is the basis for continuing religious belief and continuing Theistic Evolution?