Evolutionists who are Christian hold to a variety of views of how God used evolution. But there is one view to which they do not hold. They do not believe God used evolution in the way that a sculptor uses a chisel. They do not believe that God precisely and exactly controlled the evolutionary process to achieve a preconceived design. For that would mean that God intended for this gritty world.
As Roman Catholic Nicholas Malebranche hypothesized in the early days of modern science, God limited divine action to secondary causes--creation's natural laws. God preferred the simplicity of such blunt creation instruments to more complex, detailed intervention, even if it meant inefficiencies and evil. Better to believe in divine self limitation than in a God who would create this contemptable world.
Malebranche's seventeenth century system was one of several traditions (mostly Anglican and Lutheran) mandating a strictly naturalistic creation narrative which laid the foundation of modern evolutionary thought.
Creationists view evolutionary thought as atheism is disguise, and atheists such as Coyne view it as creation in disguise. It is neither.
Evolutionists who are Christian hold to a variety of views, but they are not creationists in disguise. Nonetheless, Coyne manages to conclude that evolutionists such as Kenneth Miller, Karl Giberson and Francis Collins are creationists. Of them he writes:
Yes, they do accept that our species changed genetically over time, but they see God as having pulled the strings. That’s not the way evolution works. The graph labels these 48% as believers in intelligent design, and that’s exactly what they are, for they see God as nudging human evolution toward some preconceived goal. We’re designed. These people are creationists: selective creationists.
To count them as allies means we make company with those who accept evolution in a superficial sense but reject it in the deepest sense. After all, the big revolution in thought wrought by Darwin was the recognition that the appearance of design—thought for centuries to be proof of God—could stem from purely natural processes. When we cede human evolution to God, then, we abandon that revolution. That’s why I see selective creationists like Kenneth Miller, Karl Giberson and Francis Collins as parting company with modern biological thought.
One consequence of the naturalistic mandate in evolutionary thought is that divine action cannot be scientifically detectable. As Coyne writes, the appearance of design can stem from purely natural processes. How, and whether or not, God worked via those laws becomes irrelevant. "Let each man hope and believe what he can," as Darwin put it.
But what they may not believe is that design is detectable. They may believe in design, but not that it is detectable. Blinded by his atheistic zeal, Coyne misses this subtlety.
Divine intention is the crux of the argument. If God did not intend for the specifics of this world, but rather merely created natural laws which act on their own, then God is justified and design is not detectable. But if design is detectable, then by definition natural laws are insufficient to explain creation. That means God controlled the process more precisely than we can accept.
Darwin brought forth example after example of designs that made no sense. They must have evolved, and evolution must be true. Today, the story from molecular biology is the same. Junk DNA, regardless of whether some oddball function is found, for evolutionists simply makes no sense on design.
The evolutionary drumbeat that Darwin's idea must be a fact is not a scientific conclusion based on empirical findings in a metaphysical vacuum. Yes there are plenty of empirical findings, but they are viewed through evolutionary spectacles, with all of its rich metaphysical history. It isn't atheism, it isn't creationism, it isn't design, and it isn't empirical science.
Miller, Giberson, Collins and rest are not intelligent design advocates or selective creationists, as Coyne erroneously describes them. Though specifics vary, these Christians are very much in the evolutionary traditions from the Enlightment and before. Today's dominant paradigm did not begin in 1859 and Coyne's new finding that theism is not allowed is absurd. It is also hypocritical since, in typical fashion, Coyne relies on those same theistic arguments (you can see examples here, here, here, here and here).