Recently BioLogos' Karl Giberson was interviewed by Marcio Campos for the Brazilian newspaper Gazeta do Povo's Tubo De Ensaio (i.e. "Test tube") section. What follows is a translated transcript of that interview, which we will be posting in three installments. Here is an expanded version of the final installment.
Campos: The current Pope, when he was still a cardinal, wrote that he wished for an open debate on how legitimate the metaphysical claims made in name of Darwin's theory are. Do you see this debate happening today? Have the likes of Dawkins "kidnapped" Darwin in the same sense the "dark companions" from Chapter 3 of Saving Darwin did in the past?
Giberson: Yes. I think that Dawkins and the New Atheists have kidnapped Darwin. We have allowed them to frame the debate in terms of scientific explanation, rather than metaphysics. Science gets credit for whatever it can explain and God gets credit for the rest. If God is not needed to explain the scientific story, then God is not needed for anything. We have allowed an “anti-theologian,” Dawkins, to tell us what theology is permitted to do!
This is a particularly naïve approach. In his interviews Dawkins often appears mystified for why people would believe in God unless there was something unexplained by science that only God could explain. This is why we need to avoid invoking God to “explain” things—like the flagella of the bacteria, or the origin of information—because then we play right into Dawkins’s argument that belief in God must be based on how this belief accounts for certain scientific phenomena.
Campos: In many parts of the book you describe creationism as an American phenomenon, but warn in Chapter 5 that it's going global. Right now one of the most famous creationists in the world is a Muslim Turk, Harun Yahya (although he's an Old-Earth creationist) of "Atlas of Creation" fame. How is it possible to stop the spreading of creationism?
Giberson: If young earth creationism, which rejects much of mainstream science, was able to take root in America during the very decade when we were putting a man on the moon, there is no chance to prevent it taking root in a country like Turkey. Creationism has an unfair advantage over science—for some reason, ever since it began, creationists have found it acceptable to just recycle whatever arguments were effective even after they were refuted. This process is so prevalent that even Answers in Genesis, to its credit, has a page on its web site devoted to anti-evolution arguments that have been refuted. But many creationists simply don’t care—they just keep recycling the old arguments.
In the case of Harun Yahya, we could get some help from another direction. He has been accused of being connected to organized crime. If he ends up in jail that would help the cause of science in Turkey!
Campos: 2009 has been "Darwin's year" because of both his 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of Origins. Now that the year is almost over, how do you evaluate the efforts made along 2009 in both counterattacking creationist claims and promoting "peace" between evolution and religion?
Giberson: There were several interesting developments in 2009. For starters, the New Atheists set much of the agenda, aligning themselves against both creationism and religion in general. A considerable reaction from religious thinkers cemented this polarization, which will probably be the loudest part of this conversation for years to come.
In between these two extremes, however, two moderate voices emerged. On the one hand, several non-religious/agnostic intellectuals challenged the “religion is bad and must die” position of the New Atheists. Michael Ruse, Chris Mooney, Eugenie Scott and others continue to argue that alienating religious people in the name of science would only create further problems for science and nurture the grass roots of anti-evolution. The other development was the emergence of the BioLogos Foundation, started by Francis Collins to advance the argument that evolution and Christianity are compatible. Despite being a bridge between science and faith, BioLogos has been criticized from both sides of the spectrum, upsetting everyone from the people at Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute, to Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, two of the leading New Atheists.
Our experience at BioLogos has been encouraging. We are the only voice within evangelicalism arguing for the harmony of science and faith, a position that entails, of course, the acceptance of evolution. Our expectation was that we would be a small lonely group, hoping to grow. What we have found is exactly the opposite—there seem to be a great number of Christians—generally the better-educated—who have been in the background because there was no public voice for their position. BioLogos is emerging as the Pied Piper of Science for Christians and we are getting tremendous support. Almost daily someone emails us wanting to get involved.
We are hoping to build some bridges to fellow Christians currently in the Intelligent Design camp. Some of them are actually very close to where we are and we are hopeful that we might be able to find some common ground.
Overall, the reaction to BioLogos has been encouraging and makes me wonder if there might be some light at the end of this long tunnel of anti-science.
Karl Giberson directs the new science & religion writing program at Gordon College in Boston. He has published more than 100 articles, reviews and essays for Web sites and journals including Salon.com, Books & Culture, and the Huffington Post. He has written seven books, including Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, and The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.