Now for Theistic evolution and the Orthodox faith:A)
The "lack of empirical evidence" seems to be a matter of interpretation. If we go by the scientific method, which is based on materialism and consistency, as I demonstrated in my previous post, then there is no other "option". In fact, I think to say Creationism is a valid scientific thought has profound problems, because it either means one's definition of science is flawed, or one's definition of Creator is flawed. The former will show forth that it has no realistic place in the scientific world, because this lacks the consistency and materialism bases of that God created the world to have. The latter (assuming correct scientific definition) will actually define God as a falsifiable entity that can be tested within the realm of all things material, thus turning the Creator into a creature in His own divine essence! So, in fact Creationism/Intelligent Design is the worst blunder of both logic and blasphemy ever to appear out of Western culture. As I explained earlier, theistic evolution is just as tenable as saying grace before a meal and understanding the implications of this prayer in all of nature.B)
This is a forgivable thought, as it's plain to see that this does indeed become a contention in the Church based on Patristic understanding of creation. Nevertheless, I hinged my thoughts on St. Athanasius' quote before, that we are the only creatures, who by nature impermanent, receives the grace of the Image of God, that is immortality and incorruption. Thus, no other creature created in God's green earth seems to have immortality and incorruption, since this is engrained in the Image of God itself. I've also made the argument that the idea that biological death for all other creatures besides humanity as a result of Adam's fall can be considered a theologomenoun. Just as the first 300 years of Church fathers unanimously believed that angels can copulate with humans to give birth to the Nephilim, only to find that Sts. Augustine and John Cassian to be the first ones to refute such a thought proves that despite Patristic consensus of the time, it was unnecessary for dogma, and therefore theologomenoun. In fact, the blessed and honored Fr. Seraphim Rose claims that St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom were also against such a thought, but I have yet to find proof of that.
As time moves on, we will see a shift in an issue where I feel is not dogma. In fact, there is a sense that biological death is a necessary act of mercy of God for the sins of Adam, despite the fact that it's a tragedy and unnatural for any human being in the spiritual sense, as St. Irenaeus teaches (Against Heresies 3.23.6):
Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some venture to assert, but because He pitied him, [and did not desire] that he should continue a sinner for ever, nor that the sin which surrounded him should be immortal, and evil interminable and irremediable. But He set a bound to his [state of] sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, (Romans 6:7) putting an end to it by the dissolution of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God.
I find it rather interesting that God is even involved having to block the source of immortality to Adam so that he may not live in sin forever. This is not to contradict the idea that Adam brought death to himself. But it also raises the question even in biological death, it is not only a punishment Adam brought upon himself, but a necessity prepared to help Adam and all humanity in their sinful state. And what great prophetic wonder it is, that God may use death to destroy both sin and death in His incarnation!
Therefore the death and struggle of individual species of animals resulting only to give birth to higher species and forms of life shows us God teaching us that through a massive cycling of progressive processes, a plan for man was to appear, so that all of natures pangs and pains may be fulfilled in man's immortality and bringing all nature into unison with God. However, because of man's failure, all of nature's species continued in pain, and in fact, the world began to fail. Man continues to lead the Earth into bad shape, even while it progressed in knowledge and technology. The way they treat the Earth and they way they sinned is a reminder of the dire sinful state of man and the sinful results it brings to the world.
In addition, the world is one giant organism, by which we are to be stewards of its whole. We understand that there's a necessary balance of biological life from the microscopic to the predator/prey relationships, both plants and animals. The diversity of the world is but organs and tissues and cells of the Earth. The Earth never experienced death. Rather, it experienced growth and change. The Earth in its vast globe is created by the right "Side" of the Father, just as Eve was said to have been made out of the side of Eve, and the Church born out of the pierced side of Christ. The Earth's waters and ground became but a vast womb, by which the God seeded with the Holy Spirit (wind hovering the waters) and the Logos (the Light), by which the clouds, the oceans, the vegetations, the soil, the sun, the moon, the stars, the sea creatures, the creatures of the air, and the creatures of the ground all were processes of development in the womb, all of which had their roles whether it be as yolk sac, or placenta, or the growth of the fetus itself, by which many both grow and others necessarily "apoptose" (not necrose), to give birth to mankind. Therefore, the Earth never died in its vastness. The Earth simply went through life-changing processes for the sake of mankind. Rather than see it from the point of view of individual animals dying, what we learn is the animals are a continuum of individual parts of a whole system of the Earth, where they cannot exist without other parts.
But when man is born, God truly intervenes and grants man His divine image, as St. Athanasius teaches. For man in the Scriptures is both dust from the Earth and "breathe" from above. Therefore, the divine image is not something that was evolved, as you seem to think evolution entails. Whatever was the perfect "ape" that God saw, God took from its very beginning of conception to bless it with the Image, and placed it in Paradise. Man has the power to not depend on Earth in and of itself if we achieve greatness. There is no doubt even atheists want to work in such a manner so as to break free from the earthliness we latch on, that they work to advance humanity that we may not depend on the Earth, leaving her to float away in the proverbial iceberg of the universe, whereas we as Christians work to advance humanity that we may bring the ailing Earth to God, by faith (in God and in the Church) and by works (almsgiving, fasting, doing our jobs in the world, whether in science or any other field) through His grace.C)
As Christ teaches us, "peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you." He also says, "I have chosen you out of the world. The world hates you." Furthermore, "In this world, you will have trouble. Rejoice! I have overcome the world!" As St. James teaches us, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" As St. John teaches us, "Do not love the world, nor the things which are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." So when one says evolution causes a moral dilemma, I say, even if that is true, this proves nothing. Evolution is not Christian dogma. It is simply a way of the world, and if evolution was never discovered, Hitler would have still killed the Jews. After all, can we say the knowledge of evolution caused Nero to kill Christians? The world thrives by competition and growth. It may be violent at times. The competition of traits is how the world seems to run. When man fell, the competition actually became much more gruesome, because rather than judicious use of the world, the world became abused. In addition, the world includes those men who live by the world's standards, rather than transcending them like Christ. Thus, most of the troubles facing the followers of Christ in the world comes from the competition by the fallen men who wish to see the destruction of those who want to transcend the world. But of course, the trait of creation cannot overcome the trait of the Creator. And so in competition, the world will lose. So the moral dilemma does not exist. I'd even go further and say the misuse of evolution in nature leads to such moral problems in the world, as true supernatural harmony is consonant also with virtues.
In fact, as a result of being able to control the world, we as humanity simply created a "brake" in the evolutionary ride. Before mankind, there was only the option of acceleration and no acceleration. But to slow down evolution only came about when man came. This says a lot about who man really is, that in him, there is a nature that does not exist in the rest of the world. So even in materialistic sense, human is no longer arbitrary, but rather the new element of the Hardy-Weinberg principle, as described in my last post. To speed up evolution, humanity can make a choice to hit the accelerator, even at a speed it can control. Now that we unlocked the genes by which all this is driven, you can sure bet, mankind is no mere arbitrary creature, but truly, in His likeness, gods on Earth.
In a spiritual aspect as well, we can also rest assured that the incarnation of the Logos shows that the principle behind all of creation rests on our control and manipulation, and that we are also the final product of salvation for the whole universe, or for its destruction.