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Science and the Bible: Five Attitudes & Approaches

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April 3, 2012 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now
Science and the Bible: Five Attitudes & Approaches

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

If you’re reading this, then you already have an interest in how science relates to the Bible. Judging from the very large number of books, magazine articles, blog entries, and sermons devoted to that topic in any given year, you aren’t alone. Despite all that’s been said—much of it repetitious or even vacuous—we keep coming back to the same issues; somehow this conversation never seems to end.

I take that as a hallmark of its significance—for many Christians today, science is seen as a threatening force, potentially even fatal to Christian faith: if we can’t believe that God created the Sun and Moon on the fourth day, then how can we believe that the Incarnate God suffered unto death for our sake? Others prefer to bracket the questions that science poses to Christianity, putting them off for some other time, a time that may never actually come. Although the sciences pose many different kinds of questions for people of faith, I’ll pass over most of them for the time being, in order to concentrate on issues related to origins, since for so many Christians the questions really start with Genesis. I’ll also ignore the big questions that faith poses to science—there are some of those, and they are also very important, but they would take us in different directions, so let’s put those, too, on the back burner for now.

So, let’s talk about origins, then, which is what most people implicitly mean when they talk about “science and the Bible.” I’ve been teaching adults and teenagers about this topic for thirty-five years, and have published work that addresses both the historical and contemporary aspects of the ongoing debate. All of that activity generates a lot of feedback—what works, what doesn’t; what’s helpful, what’s not; which issues to present, which ones to leave out. In the next few months, I’ll be offering an online version of lectures and readings that work, at least as far as I can tell from what students, faculty colleagues (several have sat in on my course), pastors, and members of local churches say about them. If you don’t find this course helpful, please tell me—in that way, you might at least be helpful to me, even if I haven’t helped you. However, if you do find it helpful, please tell others—and invite them to join in the conversation here at BioLogos.

What sort of conversation will this be? To a significant degree, it will be what you make it. I probably won’t be able to respond to each comment or question. My day job and other responsibilities will necessarily limit the time I can devote to this, as much as I might wish it were not so. Please don’t think I’m ignoring the author of a contribution, simply because I don’t respond to it. Actually, having too many comments for me to handle would be a great problem to have! Nevertheless, I’ll try to respond to as many separate issues (not necessarily separate comments) as I can. Quite often, I’ll point readers to places where they can learn more; IMO, the best learning experiences involve motivated minds pursuing the truth with diligence, sometimes with clear guidance from a teacher (a role I will try to fill as far as possible) and sometimes on their own.

An important caveat: print still matters, especially for this topic

One very important caveat: print books are not obsolete—at least not yet, and probably not for a long time to come. Keepers of the cloud would like you to believe that print has gone the way of the LP record, but the fact is that a lot of the best literature about Christianity and science is still available only in books, and a lot of those books are still available only in print. Or, perhaps the electronic version of the book is just not available for free from any source, whereas the print version can be borrowed from the library down the street—either from their own stacks or via “inter-library loan,” something else invented a long time ago that isn’t obsolete just yet.

The internet is wonderful in many ways, but the democratization of access to knowledge is not an unambiguously good thing. It’s not good when so many people seem to believe that everything they need to know about something can be found in three paragraphs that are no more than three clicks away. It’s not good when school children don’t use any print sources in their history projects (this is starting to happen). And it’s even worse when their school libraries have gotten rid of the very sources that might have been the best ones for them to use. I may sometimes recommend something that will be available to you only in a borrowed print book. You might have to wait a week or two to follow up with comments, but so what? To some younger folks that might sound like a life sentence, but if you limit yourself to what you can read in ten minutes on an iPad you might be missing something important that you really didn’t want to miss. So, if you have the patience to read something really good the old fashioned way, don’t hesitate to tell us about it, even if the current topic is something different. (Blogs aren’t usually seen this way, but as you’ve probably figured out I’m not your typical blogger.) Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your worldview is a lot more important than the Pantheon. Make the investment.

(Unfortunately, some of the best material is also found only in academic journals that can be accessed for free only at a few carefully selected academic libraries—even though almost all journals are now primarily in electronic form. I won’t hesitate to mention sources like these either. Articles can still be sent to public libraries by inter-library loan, and it’s not hard to do—someone at your local library can help you with it, if you want to follow up on a recommendation.)

Ultimately, that’s what this course will come down to: everyone has limited time, and everyone makes his or her own decisions about how deeply to explore the material I will present. Sometimes I’ll write a “lecture” that can be read in a few minutes, and that will be as far as you will want to go. Sometimes I’ll assign “homework” that may take a few hours, and perhaps you will find it time well spent. In short, you’ll have the opportunity to take an online course of the best kind—no grade to worry about, no tuition to pay, and no one making you do anything you don’t want to do. How’s that for a deal?!

Our goals for the course

Here’s what I hope to accomplish:

  • To help people understand the range of opinion about science & the Bible among Christians
  • To introduce people to the kinds of questions that come up, when origins is the topic
  • To present biblical, philosophical, theological, historical, and cultural aspects of the origins controversy—and to do this accurately & fairly, without distortion or rancor
  • To help people think more clearly for themselves about this topic

At the same time, I am NOT trying to do any of the following things:

  • To persuade anyone that any particular view of origins is the “correct” view
  • To persuade anyone that any particular view is NOT the “correct” view
  • To confuse anyone about any aspect of the origins debate (if and when this happens, please tell me what is confusing and I’ll try to be clearer)

None of this means that I have no opinions myself, or that I won’t offer them from time to time, especially when responding to your comments. However, my overall goal is to educate, not to indoctrinate. As I tell my students: I’m not interested in cloning my opinions; I’m not interested in telling anyone what to think. However, I do want people to adopt a similar attitude: I want people to think for themselves, to be fair to the viewpoints of others (this doesn’t mean that you must agree with someone’s view, but it means that you must not deliberately misrepresent it), and to acknowledge the shortcomings of your own position(s). Hold me to the same standards: none of us has a monopoly on truth. Imagine (as the Beatles might have said) all the people doing this in political discourse—wouldn’t we all be so much better off?

Five basic attitudes & approaches to origins

We will discuss five overall views about origins in coming weeks, in this order:

  • “Scientific Creationism,” or “young-earth” creationism. A common acronym for this view is YEC. When people use the word “creationism” without a preceding adjective, they usually mean this type of creationism.
  • “Concordism,” or “progressive creationism,” or “old-earth creationism” (OEC). Although some prominent YEC people are fond of saying this is really a type of “theistic evolution,” that is neither accurate nor helpful. This is a type of creationism, in which the special creation of humans (and usually the evolution of many other organisms) is clearly held.
  • The “Framework” view (I have not seen a common acronym). This view stands out because it’s not really about science at all, simply about the Bible; however, it is relevant to conversations about origins, as we shall see.
  • “Theistic evolution” (TE), which the folks here at BioLogos like to call “evolutionary creation” (EC), because the noun should be more important than the adjective. I will use the older term (TE), partly because I’m an historian and partly because it’s more widely recognized.
  • “Intelligent Design.” Nearly everyone calls this just ID, and so will I. Theoretically, ID is not supposed to be about the Bible at all (as I will explain when we get there), so it’s inclusion in this general topic could fairly be questioned. Indeed, I only started including ID in my lectures a few years ago, partly for that reason. I believe it belongs here, however, because many people sense (probably for good reasons) that ID can’t easily be separated from the larger conversation about God, origins, and the Bible—especially at the level of “culture wars,” where it seems to come up all the time.

One point about the “terms” of debate: many people who engage in on-line discussion of these topics take apparent glee in twisting these acronyms into dismissive alternatives, especially when they believe those who disagree with them aren’t just wrong, but stupid. Turning “ID-ists” into “IDiots” is one common example of what’s obviously just nasty name calling, and I won’t tolerate it. If you use any such terms, except to call attention to their pejorative usage, your post will disappear and you might not be back. You can find other ways to express strong disagreement with the positions of others without being childish.

I’ll present each of these positions in a separate column, or perhaps two columns if necessary. I’ll state the basic assumptions (for example, each view will include a proposition about the Bible), making every effort to do this in a manner that reflects what an adherent of that view would actually say. Then, I’ll draw some analytical conclusions about the view—again, trying to be fair to the position itself, even if I might be a bit critical of it. Finally, I’ll make some historical comments. This isn’t the place to write full histories of each view, and of course I will have to be very selective. I’ll let you in on a trade secret: every historian has to be selective, regardless of the topic and the word limit. The key is to do that without distorting the topic too badly. If you think I’m doing that, call me on it—but don’t be surprised if I answer simply by referring you to a book.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be back with one more introductory column before we start getting into the topic. I’ll introduce you to a few books where you can read broadly and fairly deeply about science and the Bible, and let you have a peek at the most important book that has ever been written about science and the Bible. That one is available on the internet, so we can all read it together. Can you guess what book it is? Hint: the author is no longer living. Not by a long shot.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Ryan Terry - #68823

April 3rd 2012

I’m definitely interested.  Thank you for doing this.  It’d be great if there was a sign-up page where I could get notified via email with each new post for this online course.  I’ve signed up for the newsletter so far.

Donald Byron Johnson - #68824

April 3rd 2012

Sounds good.

I think you have a typo.  I think you mean “Beatles” as John Lennon wrote the song “Imagine”.

Stephen Mapes - #68825

April 3rd 2012

Right you are, Donald! Post updated to include the band, rather than the insect.

HornSpiel - #68826

April 3rd 2012

I’ll… let you have a peek at the most important book that has ever been written about science and the Bible…. Can you guess what book it is? Hint: the author is no longer living. Not by a long shot.

I hope this is not a trick question. It’s not the Bible, right? My first inclination of an important work on the subject is Augustine’s commentary on Genesis where he says:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth,.... Now, it is a
disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the
meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all
means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance
in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. 

http://college.holycross.edu/faculty/alaffey/other_files/Augustine-Genesis1.pdf 19:39

However, that is not really a commentary on Science is it? So perhaps you are referring to one of the early modern “founders” of science, Newton, Boyal, perhaps Decartes? In short, I really have no idea and am looking forward to you urevealing your answer.

However in reasearching this question I came accross this article disputing the “volunteristic” thesis in the rise of early modern science: “Voluntarism and Early Modern Science.” History of Science, vol. 40, p.63-89 by Peter Harrison: http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?bibcode=2002HisSc..40…63H

Seems there is no lack of fodder for debate on this topic. I look forward to it.

HornSpiel - #68827

April 3rd 2012

A better link, I hope, to the above article “Voluntarism and Early Modern Science.” :


HornSpiel - #68828

April 3rd 2012

The above links do not work because the editor converts three periods (full stops) to an elipsis. Which is normally a good thing, but not when it does it to html links. 

Stephen Mapes - #68829

April 3rd 2012

Hi HornSpiel,

It might help to take advantage of a link shortener like TinyURL in this case to help clean up the links and avoid the editor reading periods as elipses.

HornSpiel - #68842

April 3rd 2012

Alright here it is: “Voluntarism and Early Modern Science.” History of Science, vol. 40, p.63-89 by Peter Harrison. Online at: http://tiny.cc/7b37bw.

Ted Davis - #68831

April 3rd 2012

It’s a reasonable guess, HornSpiel, but I won’t show my hand until my next post. No comment—neither confirmation nor denial.

The conversation on voluntarism indeed continues. I haven’t contributed anything to it myself in this century, but John Henry (a leading historian at the U of Edinburgh) has written a nice rejoinder to Harrison’s position that you should be able to access here: http://edinburgh.academia.edu/JohnHenry/Papers/169874/Voluntarism_at_the_Origins_of_Modern_Science. I agree with Prof Henry’s conclusions; indeed, I was one of the people he bounced his ideas off while he was writing it—a common practice among scholars. We all need feedback before we actually publish something in a fully vetted, academic venue.

For my own comments on Harrison’s work, see the review I wrote of his most recent book, available at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Book Reviews2005-/12-10.html. Peter Harrison and John Henry are both top notch scholars, and usually I agree with both of them. On this particular topic, however, Henry and I disagree with Harrison. As you said, there is no lack of fodder about this.

Donald Byron Johnson - #68830

April 3rd 2012

FWIIW, as an EC I see the OEC as “partial concordists” while the YEC are “full concordists” so I hope you explain how your classification scheme.

Ted Davis - #68832

April 3rd 2012

In due time I will, Donald, in due time. Hang in there and you’ll see. One of the things I’d like to do for BioLogos, after we finish this course on “Science and the Bible,” is to do a separate course on “Religion and Science in America,” in which I will talk fairly extensively about the history of “Concordism,” including details about the YEC rejection of that term.

Donald Byron Johnson - #68833

April 3rd 2012

Obviously I have not been following the YECs enough to know they reject that term!

Ted Davis - #68835

April 3rd 2012

I should have said that the YECs reject the concordist *model*, not necessarily the term. Perhaps a distinction without a difference. You can decide for yourself when we get there.

Y Y - #68836

April 3rd 2012

I think BioLogos should be more open minded towards ID. I don’t see the general concept of ID runs any fundamental clash with BioLogos. God created life through evolution which science plays a major part to elucidate - that’s very true. But why God has to be that monotonous in creation? We should not forget sitting tightly beside science is a thing called engineering that is a mastery of science or nature’s laws to create changes in a far more effective and purposeful way. God does make miracles, right? To me, miracles are the stark revelation of God’s using engineering to make a statement. God created the universe and all its rules so God is the Chief Engineer to create things in this universe using these rules - I can’t imagine why HE needs anything else beyond the rules which are discovered and to be discover further by science. I’d imagine God does let things evolve but AT LEAST occasionaly HE made some masterpieces using engineering means to steer the evolution and other processes at some critical points. A very important component of engineering is design.       

Darrel Falk - #68838

April 3rd 2012

Dear YY,

All of us at BioLogos believe in intelligent design.  Our reasons for distancing ourselves from the Intelligent Design movement is that we think various books and articles written by the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement do not represent good quality science.   To read more about why, see articles by Kathryn Applegate, Dennis Venema, Kelsey Luoma and others.  Although we see “signposts” for the work of God all over the place, we do not view the activity of God as something that can be set up as a  scientific hypothesis and then tested like any other hypothesis.  For more about this and about our view of divine activity, I encourage you to read any of the blog series (or videos) by Ard Louis.

To find work by specific BioLogos authors, scroll to the top of this page.  Find “By Author” in the upper right hand corner.  Click,then scroll down to the specific authors whose work you wish to study. For video, go to “Resources,” then click on “multimedia.”

Jon Garvey - #68844

April 4th 2012


What BioLogos seems to lack is a clear definition of “design”, which could be compared, contrasted and evaluated with respect to the ID community’s definitions.

For example, Prof Ayala’s suggestion that attributing certain aspects of life to God’s design is “blasphemous” suggests either that God is a partial designer, or a poor designer or something else. How does that fit into the BioLogos concept of (uncapitalised) “intelligent design”?

Similarly, on several occasions writers have scorned the idea that God is a “mere designer”, which raises the question of whether he is therefore a designer-plus-something-else, a different-kind-of-designer, a designer-in-a-way-the-word-design-doesn’t-do-justice-to etc.

Would the usual dictionary definitions of “design” be an acceptable start, such as (from OED): “mental plan, purpose, end in view, adaptation of means to end”? If so I can’t see that most ID people would find much to object to, even if they rankled at having their authors’ science criticised.

Darrel Falk - #68845

April 4th 2012


In saying that “we at BioLogos believe in intelligent design,”  we would be using the term “design” in the Oxford English Dictionary sense of the term:  “mental plan, purpose, end in view, adaptation of means to an end.”

Does this mean, however, that God, like an engineer, planned out—step-by-step—each of the many varieties of bacterial flagella that exist in the bacterial world?   Did God orchestrate the amazingly intricate details of how a virus successfully invades a cell, captivates its machinery, and then utilizes that equipment to make hundreds of more viruses just like it?

We consider such an “engineer’s-eye view” of God to be wrong.  The process is God’s process, but God is not manipulating the details just as I as a father have not manipulated each event of my own daughters’ lives.  Joyce (my wife) and I  tried to provide a home environment with a “mental plan, purpose, end in view, and adaptation of means to an end,” but we did not engineer the details of our daughters’ lives.  (Whether we did this intelligently or not, is another story.)  God’s design, however, is intelligent and God, through that intelligence wills freedom for his creation, including the constrained freedom of allowing creation to “make itself.”  Psalm 104 is a wonderful illustration of how the Psalmist viewed the activity of God and Psalm 8, 19, and 139 are marvelous illustrations of the Psalmist’s celebration of that which emerges.  God is never out of the picture.  It is all God’s design—including the freedom he builds into it.

Jon Garvey - #68846

April 4th 2012

Thanks for the clarification, Darrel.

The reason that you, as parents, like my wife and I, did not, and (sometimes frustratingly) could not micro-manage the outcomes is that our children are autonomous, conscious and morally accountable individuals like us - just as we were when we ourselves we raised by our parents. In fact, we often hope that our children will turn out better than we did, despite the cynical but all too true observation that we tend to repeat all the mistakes our parents made plus a few of our own.

The direct comparison of the parental situation with God would be how the Father and the Son relate - in that particular case, it remains true that “I and the Father are One”.

I would therefore ask if it is a valid to say that the material/biological creation, apart from humankind, is analogously autonomous, conscious and morally accountable?

Ted Davis - #68854

April 4th 2012

Y Y says, “I think BioLogos should be more open minded towards ID. I don’t see the general concept of ID runs any fundamental clash with BioLogos.”

Darrel Falk offered his answer already. I’ve talked about this often on the old ASA list and on Uncommon Descent, such that my views in detail can be found. It’s impossible for me to reproduce them fully here (neither time or space would allow it), and a short version might very easily be misunderstood—sound bites are always very problematic, even if they are written by the person herself or himself.

Nevertheless I’ll attempt a very short response: it all depends on how you define ID and how you define “BioLogos” (TE). I am convinced, e.g., that there isn’t more than a razor blade between the views of Asa Gray, who is usually seen as a classic example of TE (that is how I will present him in later columns) and those of Mike Behe, who always seen as an example of ID. I believe it can be “both/and”, not either/or. To that extent, I offer a different view than Darrel.

On the other hand, most expressions of ID are quite different from Behe’s. Unlike his version, they reject common descent and therefore do not meet my definition of TE. Most specific forms of ID are IMO sophisticated forms of the OEC view. If I am able to contribute here long enough that we can get to a second “course” on religion and science in America, this might become clearer. I’ve mentioned this briefly in a couple of publications, but it’s been more of an afterthougth than a central point. For an example, you should visit an academic library and look at this: “The Word and the Works: Concordism in American Evangelical Thought.” In The Book of Nature in Early Modern and Modern History, ed. Klaas van Berkel and Arjo Vanderjagt (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), pp. 195-207. Feel free to correspond with me privately if you are unable to borrow this volume.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68874

April 5th 2012


The question concerning ID and TE as I view it is teleology.  This has been discussed on these pages before.  I understand that teleology is very controversial in terms of evolutionary science.  Most seem to reject teleology as unscientific.  Some scientists have coined a word, teleonomy, which means to have an apparent purpose, but not a real one.   

I for one think that evolution has a purpose and that is an important reason why I support an ecological understanding of evolution, in addition to all of the scientific evidentiary ones. 

If TE is not teleological, which it does not seem to be by BioLogos’ standards, and ID is not truly evolutionary as you say, then I do not think that my theological and scientific understanding of evolution fit into any of your 4 approaches.  The Framework is strictly theological/Biblical and since the Bible is theological in content, this appears to be correct.       

Y Y - #68879

April 5th 2012

Hi Ted and Darrel, thanks for the responses and recommendation for further readings. I will read more for sure but not the moment. Having read quite a number of books / articles debating ID I felt an urge to pull myself out. Design to me is such a naturally acceptable concept, and I don’t really need to be convinced whether God attended such detail as bacterial flagella (I tend to believe not). Aren’t we thinking Creation itself, as the biggest single event, was out of design? Then why it’s so hard to believe the divine action of design did not suddenly disappear at the first moments of Creation? A caring God won’t just let evolution take its couse – we learnt this from our very own humanly father-son relationship: we do endeavour to design a benign enviroment for our sons growth and we do design in many ways for their future.   

To me, taking pain to distance TE from ID is just like taking pain to distance a scientist from an engineer – academically doable but practically unnecessary (forgive my bluntness). Teleology may not be regarded as scientific but it’s in the core of engineering which uses rules and laws discovered by science to design and create on purpose.

I was attracted to BioLogos for I believe it has a capacity to unite rather than divide, and to disseminate rather than retreat to the ivory tower. Design is such a common-meaning word in our daily life (we don’t really need a dictionary for it, do we?). So let’s just embrace it.    

Ted Davis - #68881

April 5th 2012

I basically agree with you, YY.

“Design” or “purpose” and “intelligent design” are not always used by people to mean the same things. At least that is what seems to be happening. It’s been explained to me by several people who advocated the ID view that ID involves a very specific understanding of “design.” One needs to hold that design is a *scientific* inference from scientific information, such that design is a necessary component of the *scientific* toolbox. (If I have not stated this precisely enough, I hope someone will do so.) It is not enough to hold that design is a *metaphysical* or *theological* inference from scientific information. My own view is the latter (i.e., I regard a design inference as going beyond sciencde, but in a rationally supportable way); I gather that is also your view?

Ted Davis - #68880

April 5th 2012

I should probably say a little but more about my brief comparison of Behe and Gray, simply to spell out the basis for it. I’ve drawn that comparison in other places, and so I knew what I meant when I said it again here, but in re-reading this I’m guessing that it might not be as clear to you, my readers, since the contextual background is missing here.

Here is why I like to make that comparison: Behe and Gray both (1) accept(ed) a fully evolutionary picture—the common descent of humans and other organisms, as vs special creation; (2) believe(d) that natural selection is not the full story, but that evolution is guided into certain pathways (Conway Morris comes to mind, but I don’t want to go further with that now); and (3) are/were orthodox Christians who accept(ed) the Incarnation and Resurrection and other miracles.

Unless my understandings of ID and TE are completely off base, then all 3 of these similarities constitute views that are consistent with both ID and TE. Most ID proponents reject (1), so Behe is an outlier there, but everyone considers him a proponent of ID. TEs are divided on (3), but those at BioLogos and many others accept (3), and most ID proponents probably accept (3). It’s (2) where the politics of this issue seem to come in the most. Gray believed that natural selection was the main mechanism of evolution, but that variations (the raw material for evolution) were led along certain beneficial lines, as he put it. I don’t know if Behe’s view is absolutely identical, but it seems pretty close to me (if it’s not, I hope someone will help me get it right). Gray explicitly called his position “theistic evolution,” and so do I. Thus I think Behe’s position is also.

At the same time, Gray believed that blind chance, all the way down, could not explain the universe in all of its complexity—a view that Darwin himself could not completely deny. That sounds to me very much like ID. Or, perhaps id smaller i smaller d, as Owen Gingerich puts it (see my review of his book elsewhere on this thread).

Ryan Terry - #68837

April 3rd 2012


Bernie Dehler - #68843

April 3rd 2012

Hi Ted- as a former Christian now, I’ve been making a few presentations in the Portland Ore. and Vancouver Wash. areas about my thesis that ‘science destoys Christian theology.’  The videos of these events are posted online at YouTube:

All these presentations include a Christian counterpoint.  The next one is in Vancouver on Sun. 4-19-12:

Biologos members in the Portland and Vancouver may like to attend and put their knowledge to the test (or at least practice).  Adam and Eve has a lot to do with it.

You wrote:
“At the same time, I am NOT trying to do any of the following things ... to persuade anyone that any particular view is NOT the “correct” view…”

On the surface, that may seem noble.  But after a little thinking, it should be a shame on the Christian religion to NOT challenge such scientific nonsense as “creation science” ala Ken Ham (“Answers in Genesis”).  Why not also honor those with a flat earth opinion?  RE: http://theflatearthsociety.org/cms/ .  Why would you not tolerate the flat earthers yet tolerate young earth creationists?


liberale - #68847

April 4th 2012

Great talks and valuable dialogues.  Thank you.  Thank you.

beaglelady - #68849

April 4th 2012

It would be more accurate to say that science is incompatible with certain interpretations of scripture.   In general, you can’t make such a sweeping statement that “science destroys Christian theology.”

HornSpiel - #68850

April 4th 2012


A quick survey of some of the videos you have posted indicates to me many of the reasons you left Chrisitainty are exactly those that Biologos is also concerned with.  The question of Adam and Eve is a good example of why Evangelicals need to rethink our interpretation of Genesis.

I think that Evangelicalism in now strggling to find itself. There are fundamentalist views represented by the SBC for example, progressive views, represented by say Sojourners. Biologos is, I think,  trying to steer a middle course by trying to be intellectually open to scientific realities without alienating people in different theological camps.

It is too bad you apparently left your faith mainly because of scientific issues. It is easy to fall into a mindset that says because they got one thing wrong, they must be wrong about everything else. 

Ted Davis - #68857

April 4th 2012

Welcome aboard, Bernie.

As I’m sure you know from extensive exchanges on the old ASA list and perhaps elsewhere, I’m not reluctant to speak my mind about any of these issues. And, within the limits of time and space, I will often do so here (as I just did above in responding to YY).

At the same time, I do not believe that education consists of sheer advocacy, such that one’s goal is clone oneself. My role at BioLogos is primarily educational—I defined it that way myself when I was invited to take part, and BioLogos is very happy to have me in that role. 

To a significant extent, Bernie, I share your current view (it was’t always your view, unless I miss the mark) that “creation science” is a pretty poor picture of the universe; however, I don’t plan to mount a soap box and preach it. I’d much rather present my analysis of such views in as fair a manner as I can. I will actually be a bit critical of that view, but I won’t be trying to make converts.

Your own enterprise is decidedly different, Bernie, judging from what you’ve told me about it here and elsewhere. The evangelical enthusiasm for fundamentalist Christian faith has simply taken a different form—an evangelical ethusiasm for atheism. Is this not fair and accurate? I certainly do not mean this as an ad hominem; I hope that is clear to all.

Incidentally, Bernie, if in your new role you’d like to have me put down my educational neutrality and enter into a debate of some sort, I’d certainly be willing to consider being part of a face-to-face conversation before a live audience, if we could agree on a format and topic. You know how to contact me if you want to pursue that.

My best to you,




Chip - #68853

April 4th 2012

we do not view the activity of God as something that can be set up as a scientific hypothesis and then tested like any other hypothesis. 


God is not manipulating the details

Hi Darrel,

For the record, I don’t agree with everything that comes out of the ID camp either. 

But regardless of what one’s specific views of ID are, you can’t have it both ways.  Namely, if your first statement is correct, you have no basis (at least no scientific basis) to make the second. 

And yet critics of ID do this sort of double-dipping all the time:  “Design is unscientific and therefore not falsifiable”—until I need it to support my thesis, in which case, “Design is falsified.” 

Darrel Falk - #68865

April 4th 2012

Regarding my statement: “God is not manipulating the details”



The above statement is a theological statement, not a scientific one.   Science, we need to remember, is not the only way we come to know things.


Ted Davis - #68858

April 4th 2012

Relative to the question of God manipulating details, I’d love to write books about that here. We all know that just can’t be done; no one can do so in a few minutes.

I will say just this. Conversations involving TE and ID very often have a component about what is often called “divine action,” namely, how does God act in the world? In the context of ID vis-a-vis TE, this is nearly always an unbalanced and unhelpful conversation. Why? A large factor, IMO, is the nature of each of those approaches. Where TE is openly and sometimes deeply theological in its approach to evolution, ID is usually openly anti-evolutionary (i.e., a type of OEC position) but not openly theological. The assumptions about “God” are left out, for readers to infer (whether or not they draw correct inferences), by the explicitly “scientific” and non-theological nature of ID. This also influences conversations about “science and the Bible.” Very often, in my experience, critics of TE assume or conclude that TEs have unacceptable views on biblical miracles (for example), while ID advocates hold very acceptable views. Well, I tend to think that, if all were really being said and done, a lot of ID advocates would hold views similar to those of a lot of TE advocates, when it comes to interpreting the Resurrection (here they would probably both uphold the bodily Resurrection) and the long day of Joshua (here they would probably both think that the earth didn’t actually stop rotating for about a day, that something else was really going on there). I don’t know that, but I do suspect it. Without putting biblical issues directly into ID, however—which is not going to happen—I don’t think we will really know for sure. In the absence of such openness, however, I people can criticize TE without criticizing ID, even though views might be very similar.

When it comes to divine action, conceptions of this are central to the many forms of TE—and there are many forms, of which BioLogos is just one of them. ID holds implicit conceptions of this, but let’s be frank—if you can’t talk about “God,” only an abstract “designer,” then how can there be a mutually open conversation about this involving a given variety of TE and ID per se? I don’t see how this is possible. One is left with a situation such as I just described: one can be critical of a given TE view, without an obligation to put an alternative picture on the table. That’s more of a one-sided conversation than a mutual exchange.

The question of divine action is central to various forms of TE, but of course if no one had ever heard of evolution it would still be central to Christian theism. Since Christians do not hold any one conception of divine action, entirely apart from evolution, there won’t be one conception of divine action when it comes to TE, either. We need to keep that in mind. In my experience, with the best TE thinkers, the larger question of divine action drives one’s intepretation of divine action in evolution, and not the other way around. For a lovely example of this, see Robert Russell’s essay, “Special Providence and Genetic Mutation: A New Defense of Theistic Evolution,” in this work: http://biologos.org/resources/books/perspectives-on-an-evolving-creation

If anyone wants to read that, summarize it, and comment on what he says, that would be great. It might move this conversation forward. Unfortunately I have to step away from this thread now, and I won’t have time to do it myself at any point. It’s part of my approach here to make “assignments,” which I will do a lot. Who wants to do this one?

Ted Davis - #68861

April 4th 2012

It just occurred to me, that I should reference a somewhat longer statement of mine about ID vis-a-vis TE, including something on divine action, in the form of a book review I did a few years ago: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/04/300-all-things-bright-and-beautiful-36

Toward the middle, I discuss ID vs id (see the article for the difference). My own form of TE could be called id, not ID, but I leave it others to make their own determination of where I stand on this. As for divine action, see the latter part of the review for hints of the subtleties that are involved in talking about this. Owen Gingerich would surely be considered a TE.

Jon Garvey - #68866

April 4th 2012

Good review, Ted.

Regarding Gingerich’s views on divine action, at one level they’re not so subtle. He’s actually quite specific in drawing attention to quantum events as a locus for God’s action, which is maybe more precise than he needs to be for the theological point he makes, which is to contrast them to random chance being “extremely lucky”.

In other words he seems to suggest that we see indubitably low-probability events, and have a choice of attributing them to luck, or to God’s “leading along certain beneficial lines.” It’s fairly obvious which he prefers.

The question that remains is what is included, and what excluded, from those beneficial leadings. How, whether scientifically or theologically, would one decide which phenomena are led (or beneficial), and which remain undirected (by God at least. Presumably something else would direct them)?

Ted Davis - #68883

April 5th 2012

If I have understood Gingerich correctly, he would say that we cannot detect God’s action *scientifically*, but that it is nevertheless reasonable to infer divine activity in the history of the universe, including the history of life on earth. This is what he means by “i.d., small i, small d,” as vs ID with capital letters. Gingerich is loud and clear with his affirmation of design in the universe; the chapter entitled, “Dare A Scientist Believe in Design?” is answered in the affirmative. At the same time, he thinks that this is an inference that goes beyond science—which must confine itself to natural causes alone—even though it is based on scientific information and constitutes a reasonable inference.

I add this comment to help explain (again) what was saying above about Gray, Behe, ID, and TE. Like Gingerich, Gray saw the ultimate decision as either divine purpose/design or pure chance; like Gingerich, Gray believed that design made more sense. Also like Gingerich, he understood that Darwinian evolution would see it as a “random” event that did not have a purpose, and he saw that as an incomplete explanation when all was said and done. The science was fine, as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough.

Jon Garvey - #68894

April 6th 2012

Thanks Ted

My point was really to suggest that once you let “God’s foot in the door” of chance, there’s no scientific reason to exclude teleology from any and every event. So one would need theologically sound criteria for drawing any distinctions between “directed” and “undirected” chance. I’ve not seen such demonstrated.

But in your reply you move on to the question of detection, as opposed to inference. It seems to me that “chance” is the area where this comes into stark relief. Were God to tweak his quantum events only within 2 standard deviations, the outcomes would be attributed to him purely inferentially. Scientifically, there’s nothing to see here.

But Behe, for example, by saying irreducible complexity is “impossible” for Darwinian evolution, is really suggesting it is such an outlier in terms of probability that it is unscientific to attribute it to chance. Similarly for Demsbski’s “chance” assembly of self-replicating molecules in the pre-biotic era.

There are, of course, disputes about the reality of these low probabilities - perhaps under the right conditions we’re back in the comfortable SD range. Yet scientists from Richard Dawkins to Keith Fox have said that, even if, say, the origin of life turned out to be an extremely lucky fluke (aka outside the SD bar lines by a huge margin) it would still be a natural event.

Under those circumstances does not the lack of “scientific detection” say something about the insensitivity of the “scientific detectors” employed?

Ted Davis - #68895

April 6th 2012

This is a very interesting comment, Jon. My understanding of Dembski’s argument is the same as yours. I am thinking here of his chapter in the book he edited with Michael Ruse, http://www.amazon.com/Debating-Design-From-Darwin-DNA/dp/0521829496. Is this the type of argument you also have in mind?

If you could cite something to expand on your point about Dawkins and Fox, that would be good—perhaps a summary of their own statements, quoting them, or perhaps an article analyzing them. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find Dawkins stating his point as an a priori, just as Richard Lewontin did in the often quoted review he wrote several years ago. As I say, this wouldn’t surprise me, but it would be great to have more on this.

My own view of the nature of a design inference reflects a variety of influences—theological, philosophical, and more purely scientiific. One influence (among others) is the chapter by Elliot Sober in the same book I cited above. He concludes that one cannot simply infer “design” without some prior knowledge or assumption about the “designer” coming into it. (I hope my memory on this is correct, for I don’t have that book here as I write this. If I have garbled this, please let us know.) In other words, such an inference is not *purely* scientific.

Jon Garvey - #68897

April 6th 2012


I’ve not read Debating Design but assume Dembski’s argument there is similar to that in Nature of Nature, which I have read. Basically, it’s the suggestion that, assuming an original self-replicating peptide, or other specifically sequenced molecule such as RNA, to kick-start natural selection, you’d need, say 100 bases. To assemble that by chance would require greater probabalistic resources than the Universe has ever possessed. Eugene Koonin, making a similar calculation for DNA replication, seems to agree the mathematical principles since he invokes the many-world multiverse to reduce the odds. I guess you’re familiar with the line of reasoning there.

I’d have to trawl around for what I think Dawkins said, so since it wouldn’t surprise you I’ll decline unless you’re very keen!

Keith Fox’s quote is from his interview with Stephen Meyer here, towards the end. Needless to say, it’s detectability rather than anything else they’re disagreeing about.

Fox says, of the origin of life, “We’re inferring events billions of years ago that may be a fluke event.” [In other words, a low-probability event as per Dembski or Koonin]. He then replies to Meyer’s question about the role of God in such a fluke by affirming that God would be behind it, but concludes: “But there’s nothing irrational or unscientific about it.”

Meyer then, to complete the picture, suggests that Fox should join him in the ID movement, implying that he holds the same position on this. Fox, I believe, declines the invitation!

My point, wrt to Sober’s argument, would be that extreme low-probability events could always be attributed to chance, so design could not be demonstrated, as he says. (I exclude the discovery of some law-based explanation, which is another argument). However, since science usually works by showing plausible levels of probability (such as effects greater than placebo in my own  field of medicine), chance becomes decreasingly plausible as an explanation. In fact chance is never an explanation of anything in itself, as B B Warfield pointed out a century ago.

So is Sober right to say that one cannot even infer (rather than demonstrate) design? Chance could, after all, create a lichen pattern on a rock in the form of a Shakespeare sonnet, but the assumption that it did so, at some stage, must be less plausible than that of an inventive fraudster (or a rather pointless miracle).

Jon Garvey - #68898

April 6th 2012

PS the only article analysing Fox’s statement (or similar) that I know of was written by me here.

Ted Davis - #68899

April 6th 2012

You raise appropriate questions here, Jon, but I’m not competent to answer them in a formal way—I’m neither a philosopher of science nor any type of philosopher, though I’ve had some training in it. I can usually follow such arguments, but I can’t create them. I gather you may be in the same boat?

I’ve seen enough philosophy of science, however, to know that most arguments are not slam dunks—they aren’t completely decisive. One can usually mount a decent counter-argument. I haven’t seen anything yet, when it comes to formal arguments for and against design inferences, that looks decisive to me.

Sometimes I sense, whether rightly or not, that some advocates of ID and some advocates of the new atheism each think that they possess such arguments. I’m not convinced. For me, it is enough that faith in purpose and design is capable of rational defense. I understand that Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, and others are convinced that I am mistaken. I can live with that. I’m convinced that they are falsely convinced, but I doubt that I could convince them of this. And vice versa.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, the ID vs TE question comes down to one’s root attitude toward faith and reason. Perhaps. I’m not sure about this at all, but sometimes it looks that way to me. On a some of the relevant scientific aspects of this issue there is no clear and obvious scientific explanation; yet, at the same time, many things that we once thought of in this way are now thoroughly understood. We have no way of knowing here and now which of the current scientific aspects will always lack good explanations. I can live with that.

Maybe Steven Meyer would agree with what I just said; maybe he wouldn’t. I can’t speak for him. Ditto for Keith Fox. Francis Collins said something pretty similar ten years ago at the ASA meeting. It was brief and necessarily simple, but it’s clear as far as it goes: see the paragraph on p. 152 in http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2003/PSCF9-03Collins.pdf. BioLogos has a fuller statement that is consistent with this: http://biologos.org/questions/the-origin-of-life.





Jon Garvey - #68912

April 7th 2012


“Sometimes I sense…convinced” (I can’t seem to cut and paste anymore on here!)

Well, I agree with both your surmise and your lack of certainty on it. But there are specific areas where such ID/TE differences might be critically examined.

So in the example we’ve been discussing, it would be useful to ask what (if anything) is the substantial different between an event that God causes, and an event that God is behind, but which is natural.

Ted Davis - #68901

April 6th 2012

ID proponents don’t usually talk about the Bible, but Dembski did in his recent book, “The End of Christianity.” He alerts readers that this isn’t an ID book, but many ID proponents probably hold views and attitudes about interpreting the Bible that are roughly similar to his; I can’t prove that b/c they are pretty careful not to write about it, but from talking with many leading ID proponents I do have a strong sense of this. (In quite a few cases I have actual knowledge of their views, so I’m not just making this up, but if someone wants to be skeptical I am not about to provide specifics. They can just disregard what I’m saying.)

When Dembski did talk about this, it hit the fan, to put it bluntly. Here is a glimpse at the tip of that iceberg: http://www.gofbw.com/news.asp?ID=12220&fp=Y.The controversy within his denomination (the Southern Baptists) has been heated. YECs (of whom there are many within the SBC, including Al Mohler) have strongly rejected his views: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v7/n1/real-time.

BioLogos has a review of the book at http://biologos.org/blog/the-end-of-christianity/.

As far as I can tell, Dembski is no outlier in the ID movement when it comes to his views of Genesis and science. All of the questions that people raise about TEs, with regard to interpreting Biblical miracles in general, can be raised about ID advocates. In many instances, proponents of TE and ID will hold similar attitudes and might even reach similar conclusions—the age of the earth and understanding the flood are probably in this category.

I added this simply to put some substance onto my generalizations here. I offer just this one example, but it’s a very obvious and relevant one.

Y Y - #68921

April 7th 2012

Ted said that"Without putting biblical issues directly into ID, however—which is not going to happen—I don’t think we will really know for sure. In the absence of such openness, however, I people can criticize TE without criticizing ID, even though views might be very similar.”

When I read into ID, I always have God in mind. It never bothers me whether an ID writer puts “biblical issues directly into ID” or not. ID positions itself as a subject of science and reachs out from a scientific reasoning and falsifiability perspective - it has my full understanding and respect. I’d like to view ID as a new quest of science in Creation while TE is a new extension of Theology toward science. They both approach to the same Truth but do that from different directions and with diffrent focuses. I think there should be more talks between TE and ID including healthy debates rathern than just turning a blind eye to each other.      

(for those don’t feel comfortable about my humble webname YY, it spells “Why? Why?” - one for science and one for theology.)

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68868

April 4th 2012


You stated 5 views, 4 of which are familiar to me, but one is not.  This is the “Framework” view which you do not describe.  Would you please provide some explanation?

Thank you.


Ted Davis - #68869

April 4th 2012

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68888

April 5th 2012


The question concerning ID and TE as I view it is teleology.  This has been discussed on these pages before.  I understand that teleology is very controversial in terms of evolutionary science.  Most seem to reject teleology as unscientific.  Some scientists have coined a word, teleonomy, which means to have an apparent purpose, but not a real one.  

I for one think that evolution has a purpose and that is an important reason why I support an ecological understanding of evolution, in addition to all of the scientific evidentiary ones.

If TE is not teleological, which it does not seem to be by BioLogos’ standards, and ID is not truly evolutionary as you say, then I do not think that my theological and scientific understanding of evolution fit into any of your 4 approaches.  The Framework is strictly theological/Biblical and since the Bible is theological in content, this appears to be correct.      

Y Y - #68890

April 5th 2012

Hi Ted I like your summary and comparison in #68880, succinct and right to the point. Also thanks for your relay #68881. For some strange reason I can use the “Reply to this comment” underneath your commnets (the window not fully expended).   

Ted Davis - #68945

April 11th 2012

I hope you are all still following this thread. One of the things that I will sometimes do, out of the ordinary for blogging, is to come back into threads a few days later, after a short flurry of activity, and to develop certain points more fully. Please get used to this and look for such comments.

In this case, let me return to a recommendation I made about evolution and divine action. I suggested this: Russell, Robert John. “Special Providence and Genetic Mutation: A New Defense of Theistic Evolution.” To read that, you have to get one of the two books in which it’s printed, such as this one: http://biologos.org/resources/books/perspectives-on-an-evolving-creation. I invited readers to bring back a summary of its contents, leaving this as an assignment. I’m pretty sure that some here have that book and could do this.

There is however a short summary already available on the internet: http://www.counterbalance.org/ctns-vo/russe-body.html. This might be enough to raise curiosity. Does anyone have comments or questions about the ideas described in this summary?

Ted Davis - #68946

April 11th 2012

And, for those who might want to see a neo-Thomist approach to divine action and evolution, there is a nice example at http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/43150/carroll3.htm. The author, Bill Carroll, is an historian of science now teaching in the faculty of theology at Oxford: http://www.theology.ox.ac.uk/people/staff-list/dr-william-carroll.html.

Let us know what you think of these ideas.

sy - #68947

April 11th 2012



I am very pleased to see your return to this post, since I thought I had come to it too late to make a comment. I read the Russell essay when I first purchased the book, and quite frankly found it a bit difficult for my overly scientifically trained brain. I am struggling to learn how to learn philosophy and theology, and I look forward to your course with a lot of eagerness.

As for the general idea of chance, and stochastic quantum processes in genetic mutation, I think the Russell proposals are certainly an excellent starting point. They have the advantage of allowing for some degree of testability, but not enough to ever constitute anything approaching proof, or even strong evidence. The problem is the impossibility of distinguishing between a very rare event occurring by chance, and its deliberate causation. Chance is in fact defined by unpredictability, so it does no good to claim that deliberate causation must be at work, since the odds of a particular molecular transformation happening are very low.

My own view is that this is part of God’s design, a mechanism for acting in the world, (in this case in the mechanism for biological evolution) that is virtually undetectable. I do not think that there will ever be  so strong a pointer to God’s existence that would convince an unbeliever to believe, for if there were, it would undermine the prime importance of faith,not a good thing.  The possibility of doubt leads to the power of faith, and that, to me is a beautiful thing in our world.

Jon Garvey - #69281

April 12th 2012

Sy (+ Ted)

From the resumé on Russell it has a lot going for it - I see much of his paper’s on Google books, which might be the quickest way of getting at it.

Two comments in response to yours: I agree that unpredictability does not prove that deliberate causation is at work, but equally it does not prove that chance (proper) is at work. Since they’re opposites, though, one would intuitively expect the possibility of distinguishing them. To allude broadly, rather than too specifically, to the design theorists, some unpredictable events may point more strongly to one than the other.

Generally one expects sequences of rare chance events to tend towards disorder, and deliberate causation to tend towards order. Quantifying that is, of course, an issue. But I suggested an example to Ted above: the spontaneous appearance of a self-reproducing molecule enabling life. “A fluke event?” Yes. Natural or supernatural? Unhelpful categories, I’d say. But “chance” or “deliberate causation”, to the theistic scientist, must be the key question to ponder. In other words, to say “thanks” or “how jammy was that?”. Can it really be impossible to tell the difference, unless God were in the business of covering his tracks like the best criminal?

Secondly I’m not sure the argument that “God can’t show his hand too much or faith won’t be needed” is entirely watertight. It reminds me of the babel-fish line of reasoning a bit. It is probably empirically true that nothing we’ll find in the Universe will prove God’s existence to the unwilling. But not too long ago pretty well the only available intellectual explanation for existence was God or gods, and yet faith did not lose it’s central importance - probably because faith is relational, not intellectual. It’s not what you believe in, but whom you trust for your salvation. Satan, after all, knows the truth and trembles - but lacks faith.

Jon Garvey - #69285

April 12th 2012

Hi Ted - have now had time to read Russell’s article on Google, meaning there are a few random gaps left in my understanding requiring divine intervention… Ideally I’d gather my thoughts and then cut and paste, but the editor won’t let me now - do other people have such problems?

An excellent essay. Summarising, Russell accepts Heisenberg’s approach that quantum events are truly, by physics, indeterminate. For God to determine all or some of these events is therefore no abuse of the laws of physics (I’m glad he does not preclude divine intervention on naturalistic grounds, but gives cogent theological reasons for preferring non-intevention in that sense).

Individual genetic changes are sensitive to quantum events, giving God a coherent “bottom-up” means of directing evolution to his goals. this allows truly teleological science.

Interestingly he suggests scientific problems with “top-down” causation, meaning not so much Creationist miracles as Deistic wind-it-up-and-see methodology, as being insufficient to achieve specific ends. He also points out theological shortcomings, preferring a God who inscrutably oversees the sparrow’s fall to one in which God shrugs helplessly.

He suggests a partial “abdication” of quantum-control on the arrival of volitional beings (which he sees as also exercising purpose at the same quantum locus). This seems to me a lot more theologically and philosophically sound than the general “giving creation freedom to evolve” concept, which if I understand him right he finds as incoherent as I do.

Finally, he explores theodicy in terms of an eternalist view of creation which is only seen as fully “good” at the eschaton (invoking Moltmann’s “crucified God” theology), rather than accepting a view of natural evil as a deviation from God’s perfect will. In other words, he sees no reason, in his scheme, to rewrite historical and Biblical perspectives because of evolution. I like it a lot.

Two caveats from me. Firstly, on theodicy. He sees this as the biggest challenge to Christianity from science. I don’t, because even if he is wrong and we cannot justify natural evil, the Bible also leaves explanation open, and asks us to take the fact of God’s goodness in a directed creation on faith, based of course on our encounter with Christ’s love.

Secondly, he suggests that genetics might be the only level at which quantum “direction” might work. Yet as Roger says (comment below) the outworking of God’s history is equally dependent on environmental events like meteor strikes, ice-ages etc. So his analysis, theologically, appears incomplete - which doesn’t make it untrue.

What did I miss out?

Ted Davis - #69287

April 12th 2012

Jon—I think you do have the main ideas here pretty well. Thank you for this contribution. What I like best about Russell’s approach is that he gets the “big picture” right (which is really just another way of saying that my opinion and his are the same there). I mean this, borrowing the description on counterbalance (which is very accurate to Russell’s ideas): ” 1) Liberals, attempting to avoid interventionism, reduce special providence to our subjective response to what is simply God’s uniform action. 2) Conservatives support objective special providence and accept its interventionist implications. The purpose of Russell’s paper is to move us beyond these options to a new approach: a non-interventionist understanding of objective special providence.”

In addition (as is evident from some of Russell’s other writings), Russell fully understands that some divine acts are entirely “outside” of this category—they are “interventionist” in the traditional sense.

Objections will certainly be raised against his term, “non-interventionist objective divine action,” (NIODA), especially from those who don’t believe that divine action is “objective” unless it’s dramatically miraculous (e.g., the resurrection). My sense is that many ID proponents might make precisely this objection, even though I suspect that they might also be very sympathetic to Russell’s way of understanding God’s ongoing activity in most instances. (Russell’s conception does not easily allow people to claim that “design” has been detected *scientifically*, and that is key for ID.) Russell might in turn offer a challenge to such critics: can you do better? Can you show us a better alternative to the dichotomy of (1) vs (2) above that moves our conceptions forward?

Jon Garvey - #69294

April 13th 2012


No doubt crtics would say that things would move forward if one side or the other gave up their erroneous views!

One thing that seems to follow from Russell’s idea is biology, based on classical physics, gives an incomplete account of life because quantum events affect the outcomes seen (even were God not directing them).

Does this not necessarily imply that claims that current evolutionary theories are sufficient to account for what we see are demonstrably wrong? Careful examination over the course of research would at least show that quantum events were remarkably fine-tuned for life - in other words, that random events were repeatedly flukey.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68952

April 11th 2012


In my opinion Russell is barking at the wrong tree so to speak.  Variation is not the issue as ID has found.  As long as we concentrate on the variation side of Evolution. we allow Darwinism a free ride on the Natural Selection side, where the real issue lies.  It has been pointed out by many others than me that Natural Selection indicates selection based on purpose.  See What Darwin Got Wrong. 

Darwin himself noted an history of artificial selection of plants and animals for agricultural purposes.  He indicated that the purpose of Natural Selection was the perfection of the species.  Nonetheless Darwinian NS is not well defined and thuysn cannot be scientifically tested.  Even so a close look at Malthusian population theory indicates that it does not support the weight of NS. 

This in some sense encourages people like Dawkins to claim that Evolution is not teleological, even when it clearly because Darwinian NS is so weak.  It took the emergence of ecology to demonstrate how NS really works and that it is teleological.  Dawkins hase stenuously resisted this, of course.

God is not about genetic mutation.  God is about creating a system with the ability to create intelligent life forms like humans. 

Did God allow an asteroid hit the earth that causede the extinction of the dinosaurs?  Did God create the miraculous substance H20 which makes life possible?  Did God create fire which allows meat to be cooked thus greatly improving the diet of humans while promoting community? 

These and many other questions indicate the role of God in the evolution of the species.       

LEANDER - #69286

April 12th 2012

The only way of satisfactorily  relating the bible with science is to first of all accept that God reveals Himself both in the Bible and in Science.  Both of these however require an interpretation of either the facts of science or the words in the Bible.  I have thought deeply over this problem for over thirty years and my conclusions are as follows

1. There is a scientific theory for the formation of the Solar System which is compatible with what the Bible has to say on the matter

2. Genesis 1:1 covers the above. The planet we live on is truly ancient and grew by accretion  gradually (scientific but with some biblical hints)

3. The supercontinent Pangaea was a late addition to a preformed Earth (this is scientific and biblical)

4. Our planet has experienced at least twelve generations of life, each beginning suddenly and ending abruptly with a global flood that is readily understood if Point 1 above is understood. This is  biblical and the fossil record confirms this.

5 The present generation of life began on a lifeless earth  only 6000 years ago and will end abruptly in possibly just over a thousand years from now. (Biblical with much support from science and history)

6. God’s first creation of a living organism was a bacteria that put oxygen into CO2 rich early atmosphere of the Earth. (Scientific and biblical)

7. The beginning of all the past generations of life was an act of creation by God who appears in some cases to have used the pattern of the previous ‘kinds’ to form a new generation with some modifications to suit the changing environmental conditions on Earth.

I cannot think of anything that is either non biblical or unscientific in the above points and have written a book on this which has recently been published as an ebook. (Paperback out shortly)  


Ted Davis - #69289

April 12th 2012

Leander—I don’t see any scientific support for a “present generation of life” that appeared only 6000 years ago; indeed, there is abundant scientific support for human beings alone (leaving out all other creatures) having existed for a great deal longer than that. Nor is there any evidence at all, that the earth was “lifeless” 6000 years ago; quite the contrary.

LEANDER - #69293

April 13th 2012


Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth was or became ‘formless and void’ and there was no dry land anywhere.  This tells me that the earth was lifeless at that time.  

Now we can differ on when the earth became like this but this generation of life started with man made in the image of God whereas the previous generation had hominids and other plants and animals which were all destroyed in the Pleistocene Ice age some 12000 -20000 years ago. And before that there were several generations of life which is why we have the Geological Column and its fossil record.

I am not a Young Earth creationists and do not believe in Flood Geology  but I do think that Old Earth creationists need to interpret the Geological Column as a record in stone of previous generations of created life and the Geological names given to the Epochs etc of the Column are really the names of the different generations of living organisms and the catastrophes that brought them to an end (otherwise we would have no fossils)  As I said in my first post I do not dispute any scientific evidence but I do interpret this evidence in the light of what the Bible actually tells us.  In short we live on a very old earth which has hosted many generations of created life  and this generation began with Adam who was created only six to ten thousand years ago.

Ted Davis - #69300

April 13th 2012

Leander, you had said there is nothing “unscientific” about your view, and I was simply disagreeing with that claim. You reply by offering *biblical* support, but not scientific support.

Your view sounds to me like a version of the “gap theory,” which was popular among conservative Protestants from ca. 1840-1960. We’ll talk about that view in a few weeks, when I we get to “Concordism” in my series.

LEANDER - #69306

April 13th 2012

Ted, I think you are right in saying I am advocating a version of the ‘gap theory’. My book explains in great detail from a scientific and biblical perspectve what exactly went on during ‘the gap’ . Obviously I cannot cite the scientific evidence here as it would mean discussing textbook geology and astronomy.  I look foward to your writing on ‘Concordism’   

Bozzie61 - #69545

April 25th 2012


I felt like I was reading Denis Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creationism again.  I suspect there is another stream of argument.  I detected it among Christians serving as research Sciencist.  It’s an argument based on the fall.  Our reason fell and our knowledge of God and nature is impefect.  Both our understanding of nature and God’s grace have yet to be completed.  Until then we persue truth in both areas.  You could call it the fallen reason argument.

Michael Boswell

GJDS - #69623

April 30th 2012

I hope my comments will not be seen as adding to controversy. The questions, although very complex and can lead us into endless details, revolve about these points, in my view:

1)      We are concerned with opinions and scientific theories that appear to ‘negate’, or ‘remove’ God from the world view.

2)      We then are told that part of this view uses, or believes, or is convinced, that it is scientifically based because they use testable data and observations, and no-one has provide proofs to them regarding their outlook regarding God.

3)      We then have a situation in which biological evolution is used to show that the Biblical accounts cannot be true (e.g. Adam and Eve, age of the earth, epochs in earths history and fossil records, to name a few).

In this way, a theological/faith dimension is added to this point of view. I ask myself (and these points are not exhaustive) just what is missing from all of this?

We know that Faith in Christ is an act of Grace, and only those who have received this are able to comprehend and understand ‘things of God’ as Paul states it.

We also know that the spirit or mind of man is given the ability to comprehend all things pertaining to man, but spiritual teaching from God would not make much sense to them.

I cannot see how I can arrive at a ‘science’ vs ‘faith’ debate! I have been reading this interesting web site (and when I find time one or two others) more because I wonder if I have missed something to this debate. Perhaps not living in the USA may also be relevant.

It is indisputable that the earth has been around for millions of years. It is also indisputable that God cannot be proven, nor that we can discuss ‘life’ nor ‘good and evil’ within a scientific framework. Nor can we claim to have witnessed how God created the universe and all that is within it. Having faith that God did, I take the view that God has given us this marvel, and our abilities and attributes, to understand the creation in the fullest manner possible.

I cannot see the why in ID, teleological evolution, nor guided evolution; I can see that some branches of science (bio-areas) have their work cut out for them if they believe they can understand the bio-area with the exactness, breadth and depth required by science. Nonetheless, it is their interest, and they have many years of work ahead of them.

I take slight offence at the hubris of some biological evolutionists if it is suggested to them that their vast overarching theory is overstated; in my defence, I note that the exact sciences have not used, or needed to use, any of the ideas of Darwin, or any work that has come from this. This statement is non-trivial; biology would not be possible without the laws and theories of Chemistry, nor come to think of if, of Physics. The strength of any theory is how it impacts on the sciences in general. Evolution, whatever theists and atheists may say in their debate/angst, is not of that status in the sciences. It does, it seems, create a lot more noise.

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