What is Natural Evolution?
Evolution is the modification of an existing set of plans by natural processes. Secular evolution is evolution from an empty set of plans (as a mathematician would say it)—or, if you prefer, from a set of plans that consists only of natural laws: no designs, blueprints or established protocol.M.02 Secular evolution is evolution by purely natural means.
Many modern day "evolutionists" are secular evolutionists, and atheists are necessarily secular evolutionists. Darwin was an evolutionist but not a secular evolutionist: he did not claim that life itself arose by purely natural means, calling such speculation "mere rubbish"M.03
All evidence from the natural world points to the fact that science and nature and even the outlines of the development of life itself are exceedingly complex and intricately designed—which implies a Creator.M.04 This still leaves a lot of room for evolution: how much of the variation in the basic plans is the result of natural variation and adaptation; that is, represents evolution from the basic plans?M.05 That question, to me, is a fascinating area of research, and is the proper place for scientific nvestigation. No subject is off-limits—even the possibility of secular evolution is worthy of legitimate investigation. The sad fact, though, is that atheists cannot approach that investigation, or follow the empirical facts, with the same unbiased mind that entertaining the possibility of a Creator can. An open inquiry is ruled out.
Needless to say, I believe that the facts point irresistibly to a "set of plans", leaving only the fascinating question of how extensive those plans are—i.e. to what level the Creator altered the natural (undirected) course of events.M.06 As a Christian, I believe that "by Him all things consist"M.07 means that God has absolute control, but whether this is because of His "engineering skills" in making a perfect design that requires no meddling, or the opposite, I cannot say, and leave that as an exciting query for scientific investigation.