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Science and the Bible: Theistic Evolution, Part 5

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October 8, 2012 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now

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

Science and the Bible: Theistic Evolution, Part 5
Source: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/walter.sargent/public.www/web%20104/20s%20scopes.jpg

Historical Comments

No episode in the history of Christianity and science is better known than the Scopes trial. In the swelteringly hot summer of 1925, a rookie teacher named John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching evolution in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee. Scopes was technically a criminal defendant, but everyone knew that the law itself was ultimately on trial—not the man, who wasn’t even sure that he had taught evolution when he had filled in for his principal (the regular biology teacher) during an illness. The real issue was the constitutionality of the Butler Act, a new law that forbade public school teachers “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man had descended from a lower order of animal.” Even Scopes and his lawyers wanted to ensure a conviction, because they needed one in order to put the law on trial in higher courts. Fittingly, by far the most famous moment of the trial did not involve Scopes at all; nor did it take place in the courtroom. On a makeshift stage, constructed outside the courthouse under the trees to accommodate the crowd, Scope’s lawyer Clarence Darrow, a noted agnostic, cross-examined three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who had joined with the fundamentalists to lead a national campaign against teaching evolution and inserted himself onto the prosecution team at Dayton.

No scientific idea has been more controversial among Christians than evolution, and no one hated it more than Bryan. He blamed evolution for many of the great evils of modernity in his eyes—cutthroat, laissez-faire capitalism; class pride and the power of wealth, which could undermine democracy; German militarism and World War One (Bryan even wrote a pacifist pamphlet, part of a collection that included a similar tract by Darrow, his political ally on several matters); and religious skepticism, such as that displayed by Darrow. Above all, Bryan blamed evolution for the kind of liberal Protestant religion called “modernism,” the arch-foe of the “fundamentalism” that had recently arisen specifically in order to “do battle royal for the fundamentals” against liberal forces, in the words of Curtis Laws, the Baptist editor who first used the word “fundamentalist” in print, in July 1920. As far as Bryan was concerned, “theistic evolution” (a term he used himself often) was even worse, functioning as “an anesthetic which deadens the pain while the patient’s religion is being gradually removed,” or “a way-station on the highway that leads from Christian faith to No-God-Land.”

About eighteen months before the Scopes trial, Bryan had invoked a different image to summarize his views on evolution and Christianity, in a letter he sent from Galveston, Texas, to Philadelphia. The recipient was Charles G. Trumbull, editor of the Sunday School Times, a tabloid-style weekly magazine for which Bryan had written a series of articles about the dangers of modernism. Bryan’s articles defended (among other doctrines) the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, and the Bodily Resurrection—all of which were denied by leading modernist clergy. Trumbull was publishing them in a book, Seven Questions in Dispute, accompanied by several cartoons by his in-house artist, Ernest James Pace, which had already appeared in various issues of the magazine. The point of Bryan’s letter was to suggest the theme for a new cartoon, specially drawn for the book. The cartoon would “represent evolution as I believe it to be, [namely,] the cause of modernism and the progressive elimination of the vital truths of the bible.” It would have “three well-dressed modernists,” a student, a minister, and a scientist, all descending a staircase on which “there is no stopping place”—that is, a slippery slope, ending at the bottom with “a scientist stepping from Agnosticism to Atheism.” “Such a cartoon,” Bryan emphasized, “would visualize the thought we are trying to emphasize: the three persons who are most effected by modernism are the student, the preacher who substitutes evolution for religion, and the scientist who prefers guesses to the Word of God.” (Bryan to Trumbull, 31 January 1924, Bryan Papers, General Correspondence, container 40, Library of Congress Manuscript Division)


E. J. Pace, “Descent of the Modernists.” Frontispiece to the book Seven Questions in Dispute by William Jennings Bryan (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1924). Courtesy of Edward B. Davis.

Incarnational Faith

At that time, with tens of millions of American Protestants caught up in bitterly divisive denominational battles over the Bible and modern knowledge, middle ground on evolution was mighty hard to find. As Pace’s cartoon implies, many modernists accepted evolution while denying the very “vital truths of the Bible” that Bryan had identified, while the fundamentalists all rejected evolution in the name of Christian orthodoxy. One searches in vain for someone like Asa Gray, a leading scientist who had promoted what he called “theistic evolution” simultaneously with affirmations of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in lectures delivered at the Theological School of Yale College in 1880. No one could ever say that evolution led Gray to slide helplessly down Bryan’s staircase. Gray not only held that evolution is “compatible” with Christian faith, he upheld a genuinely Incarnational theology of creation in which Christ was fully divine. “I accept Christianity on its own evidence,” he told the students at Yale, “and I am yet to learn how physical or any other science conflicts with it any more than it conflicts with simple theism. I take it that religion is based on the idea of a Divine Mind revealing himself to intelligent creatures for moral ends.” For Gray, “Revelation culminated … in the advent of a Divine Person, who, being made man, manifested the Divine Nature in union with the human,” and “this manifestation constitutes Christianity.” (Natural Science and Religion, pp. 106 and 108)


Sandro Botticelli, The Cestello Annunciation (1489-90),
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

The Incarnation was for Gray “the crowning miracle,” attended by other miracles that “are not obstacles to belief,” adding that the “essential contents” of Christian faith were “briefly summed up” in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. (p. 108) So much for Bryan’s staircase; Gray never even reached the third step, despite his support for human evolution.

Although Gray apparently had no prominent theological descendants in the Scopes era, they are more numerous today. The most visible example would be John Polkinghorne, whose book The Faith of a Physicist (1996), takes the form of a commentary on the Nicene Creed, which he (like Gray) affirms alongside his acceptance of evolution. Thus, he devotes most of a chapter to exploring “whether the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead is one that is credible for us today.” Along the way he rejects the view associated with Joseph Renan and Rudolf Bultmann “that what happened was [only] a faith event in the minds of the disciples,” placing the source of doubt where it actually belongs—not in science itself, but in the unbridled skepticism of David Hume, to which Polkinghorne shows an appropriate skepticism of his own. Polkinghorne argues that Hume’s “confidence that the laws of nature were known with a certainty that extends even into realms of unprecedented and hitherto unexplored phenomena is one that was certainly falsified by the history of science subsequent to the eighteenth century, and it could never be pressed to dispose of an event like the resurrection of Jesus, which claims to be a particular act of God in a unique circumstance.” (The Faith of a Physicist, pp. 108-109)

This is not a trivial example. As he says in a more recent book, “The resurrection is the pivot on which Christian belief turns. Without it, it seems to me that the story of Jesus’ life and its continuing aftermath is not fully intelligible.” (Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion, p. 83) Indeed, one of the most reliable ways to understand a writer’s basic attitude about science and religion is to study what is said about the Resurrection.

Given his view of the Resurrection, Polkinghorne’s assessment of the larger picture will come as no surprise: “The scientific avenue into theological thinking will seek to give due weight to science, but it would be fatal to allow it to become a scientific take-over bid, affording no more than a religious gloss on a basically naturalistic account.” The crucial question, of course, involves “the degree of accommodation required of the historic faith in its expression in an age of science,” on which “there is a spectrum of response running from assimilation to consonance.” Basically, the assimilationist “seeks the most immediate and accessible correlation between scientific and religious thinking,” and the deity of Christ is set aside. But speaking exactly to the points I outlined for you in my previous two columns, Polkinghorne holds that

The consonantist, on the other hand, while wishing to ensure that theological understanding is consistent with what science tells us about the structure and history of the physical world, will insist that theology is as entitled as science to retain those categories which its experience has demanded that it shall use, however counterintuitive they might be. Jesus Christ will continue to be understood in the incarnational terms. (Belief in God in an Age of Science, p. 86)

Modernist Heterodoxy

If theologically “orthodox” approaches to evolution were almost invisible in Bryan’s day, “heterodox” approaches were almost ubiquitous, and it was the modernists who were offering them. For a historically significant example, let’s hear from theologian Shailer Mathews, the leading theological educator of his generation. Mathews was Dean of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago for a quarter century, including the whole period of the “fundamentalist-modernist” controversy. Chicago was the hotbed of modernism, and it graduated a large number of doctoral students, who then went and taught at other seminaries or occupied prominent pulpits. Mathews’ colleagues included at least two theologians whose views were at least as radical as his own: Darrow’s close friend, George Burman Foster (Darrow gave the eulogy at Foster’s funeral in 1919), and Gerald Birney Smith, who taught his students that evolution means that Jesus did not rise from the dead.

In his aptly titled autobiography, New Faith for Old (1937), Mathews placed very revealing comments about his overall attitude. An “orthodox” position just would not work for him. Yes, there had been “some scientists like Asa Gray who championed Darwinian evolution while holding to the Nicene Creed,” but Mathews thought they “were not representative churchmen.” For Mathews, modern science had completely changed the intellectual landscape for theology: “Laboratory science did something more than lead to research. It undermined habits of thought and substituted the tentativeness of experiment for authoritative formulas [i.e., the orthodox creeds].” The fundamental problem was educational, that “Scientific method had not touched religious thought. It was only when educational processes had ceased to be controlled by the study of classical literature and grew more contemporary, that orthodox theology was felt to be incompatible with intellectual integrity.” (New Faith for Old, pp. 220-21)

I could easily multiply the examples, but I don’t need to. We can readily connect Mathews’ conclusion about orthodox theology with Ian Barbour’s historical generalization that the modernists “emphasized God’s immanence, often to the virtual exclusion of transcendence, and in some cases God was viewed as a force within a cosmic process that was itself divine.” (Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, p. 74) The attitude displayed by Mathews and his friends—that which is not “scientific” ought not be affirmed by the Christian theologian—would fit perfectly into the intellectual world of today. As process theologian David Ray Griffin has noted, “modern liberal theologies have achieved a reconciliation of science with theology at the expense of its religious content…” (Religion and Scientific Naturalism: Overcoming the Conflicts, p. 183, his italics) Thus, when the late Arthur Peacocke spoke of God as “the transcendent, yet immanent, Creator,” he did not mean the maker of heaven and earth who literally became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin and raised bodily from the grave. (Theology for a Scientific Age, pp, 22 and 268-89) Or, when John Haught testified at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, he declined to affirm the historicity of the resurrection: If the disciples had brought a video camera into the upper room, it would not have captured an image of the risen Christ—the camera lacked faith, apparently, and therefore it could not see.

Many of the leading religious voices in the modern “dialogue” of science and religion that has sprung up since the 1960s—including Haught, Barbour, Peacocke, and Griffin—have been intellectual descendants of Mathews and other modernists from the Scopes era, rather than descendants of Gray. This is one of several reasons why Theistic Evolution is so unpopular among traditional Christians: they judge the tree by its fruit, and they taste no transcendence.

However, they need to try more trees before carrying out the induction. Unlike the situation in Bryan’s day, it is no longer hard to find world-class scientists and theologians whose views are much closer to Gray’s than to those of the modernists. Anyone who still thinks that Theistic Evolution is just “a way-station on the highway that leads from Christian faith to No-God-Land” had better think again.

Looking Ahead

I’ll be back in about two weeks, to begin presenting the last of the five views in our series on Science and the Bible: Intelligent Design. My approach will be identical to that taken in every other part of the series. I’ll identify main assumptions, examine implications and conclusions, and sketch the history of the view. Please join us, and in the meantime join in our final conversation about Theistic Evolution.

REFERENCES

Edward B. Davis, “Fundamentalist Cartoons, Modernist Pamphlets, and the Religious Image of Science in the Scopes Era,” in Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America, ed. Charles L. Cohen and Paul S. Boyer (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), pp. 175-198.
James R. Moore, The Future of Science and Belief: Theological Views in the Twentieth Century (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1981).


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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Roger A. Sawtelle - #73408

October 8th 2012

I think that Ted makes a great case that bad theology of both liberals and conservatives are largely responsible for this problem.  That is why we need a new and much better theology to span this horrendous gap.

I think that we also need to accept that materialist philosophy is faulty and needs to be replaced.  Darwinian natural selection is also erroneous imho. 

Therefore we need a wholesale reconstruction of the Western world view, not some band aids as most people suppose. 

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beaglelady - #73411

October 8th 2012

And that whole reconstruction will be available in my book!

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Gregory - #73414

October 8th 2012

Linguistic analysis - word count for this thread: ‘modern-’ = 20 times / ‘-odox-’ = 9 times (‘heterodox’ = 1 time) / ‘theistic evolution’ = 5 times.

 

This is FAR from what Ted suggested he would say about ‘unorthodox’ or ‘non-orthodox’ approaches to ‘theistic evolution!’ No further effort to define what ‘theistic evolution’ actually means that has substance. It is philosophically inert history.

 

It appears that to Ted, ‘heterodox’ is synonymous with ‘modernist.’ But then he confuses readers by speaking of ‘modern knowledge’ and “modern ‘dialogue’ of science and religion” with the ideology of ‘modernism’ and ‘modernists.’ Is ‘modern’ equivalent to ‘contemporary’ or with a historical stage, a paradigm, a fashion? Is ‘modern’ simply what is ‘now’?

 

Most people are not historians (like Ted is) and are much more interested in what is happening today than what happened many decades or more than a century ago (especially if TE doesn’t mean today what it meant 50, 80 or150 yrs ago). Isn’t Ted committing ‘historicism’ with his acceptance of (pop) genomics contra- orthodox views of Adam and Eve today?

 

Is he suggesting it is a ‘responsible’ (or ‘progressive’) feature of ‘modern’ U.S. evangelical Christianity to actually (confidently, like Lamoureux!) reject real, historical Adam and Eve, as with a polygenist view of humanity? If so, doesn’t that make Ted Davis’ ‘theistic evolution’ appropriately called ‘unorthodox’ rather than ‘orthodox’?

 

“Theistic Evolution is so unpopular among traditional Christians: they judge the tree by its fruit, and they taste no transcendence.” - Ted

 

Here’s where you read the sobering savour, folks. Has ‘post-modernist’ (Davisian) TE improved on ‘modernist’ TE? Is he throwing ‘traditional Christians’ under the bus with post-traditional TEism? How else can ‘unorthodox’ TE be perceived, even without its obvious reactionism to YEC and ‘intelligent design’ (ID)?

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Ted Davis - #73424

October 8th 2012

I would have been surprised, Gregory, if you would be happy with my position, now that my columns on TE are finished. Fair enough—you shouldn’t agree if you aren’t persuaded.

Given how critical you’ve been all along, however, I think it’s fair now for me to turn to you with a challenge: I’ve shown my hand, now you show yours. If you take this up, I’ll expect you to be as clear about your terms as I’ve been with mine. I’ve given a very clear definition of what I mean by “orthodox” in relation to this issue, whether or not you find it adequate. 

My historical conclusions, of course, stand or fall on the historical evidence—not on any theological arguments one might make for or against the type of TE I’ve described. The historical analysis here is (to the best of my knowledge) original. Very few historians—or anyone else—has studied “modernist” views of science from the 1920s. And, no one has made the type of argument I’m making here about the virtual invisibility of “orthodox” TE in Bryan’s era. I’ve made that claim in a few other places, verbally and on the internet, but not yet extensively in print, though I hope to do so in the future.

Speaking of history, Gregory, I’m puzzled by your statement about most people being more intersted in what happens now than what happened in the past. What exactly gave you the impression that I’ve neglected the present tense? I’ve talked about contemporary views on TE all the way through, and even in this final, explicitly historical column I said quite a bit about contemporary figures. Apparently I was just too subtle for you, Gregory?

 

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Bilbo - #73416

October 8th 2012

Davis:  “He blamed evolution for many of the great evils of modernity in his eyes—cutthroat, laissez-faire capitalism; class pride and the power of wealth, which could undermine democracy;...”

The great irony is that those are the very values held dear by the Discovery Institute.  But Ted, didn’t Bryan also oppose Evolution because of the Eugenics movement? 

As to whether Theistic Evolution and Christianity are compatible, since you yourself have doubts about the compatibility of the traditional understanding of the Fall and Evolution, I can see why Creationists would maintain a great deal of skepticism about that thesis.

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Ted Davis - #73426

October 8th 2012

For Bryan, eugenics was part of the picture, insofar as he opposed efforts to “kill off the weak,” as he said somewhere. Other forms of social Darwinism, however, were at least as important to him. His progressive, populist political stance sympathized with the “commoner” against the powerful, moneyed interests, at a time when “Survival of the fittest” was used to justify monopolistic business practices.

Creationists will never accept any form of TE, for a host of reasons including some we have discussed in this series. The Fall is a very big reason for their opposition, but hardly the only one. Even if Creationist objections related to the Fall could be met—and I am sure they can’t—other very big reasons would still be there, including the very idea of common ancestry and the very idea of an ancient universe, which evolution requires. 

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HornSpiel - #73419

October 8th 2012

Thanks Ted for the historical perspective on the Modernist movement. I understand that many will say that any consideration of a non-historical A&E is equivalent to Modernism. However I think that for Modernists the Fall is not only non historical, but irrelevant, along with the Resurrection, Salvation, Sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and many other Christian doctrines. As you imply, Modernist simply do not believe the Nicene creed, though they may say it every week in church.

In partial response to Gregory - #73414: I think this historical perspective is important because so many of us form our opinions by listening to trusted authorities. “If my pastor (or John MacAurthur) believes such and such, then I am going to accept that as correct. After all he knows the subject matter much better than I do, and God has obviously blessed his life.” This has a very powerful cognitive and emotional effect. But where did they get their opinions? So often it is based on beliefs passed down. So understanding the historical origin of those beliefs is critical in deciding whether or not to accept them.

It is difficult to be a TE in the evangelical world. Too bad the thoughtful defenders of both orthodox (Protestant) Christianity and Science were silenced or absent during the upheavals of the early 20th century

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Merv - #73422

October 8th 2012

It is difficult to be a TE in the evangelical world. Too bad the thoughtful defenders of both orthodox (Protestant) Christianity and Science were silenced or absent during the upheavals of the early 20th century…

“Not to be found” other than Asa Gray, Ted comments.  In which case early twentieth century fundamentalists can surely be forgiven for their impression of the dangerous “slippery slope”.  Apparently people were descending the stair case in droves (at least in the U.S.).  So the fact that so much of Christendom today remains orthodox and yet also accepts evolutionary history (albeit without making any big deal about it) becomes an important change to the slippery slope model now.  But it seems that slope must have been thick with theological carnage at that time.  What about C.S. Lewis?  He didn’t make much noise over this but he apparently gave a nod towards evolutionary history while remaining orthodox.  That he didn’t soldier on about that—does that preclude his being a kind of heir to Asa Gray?

-Merv

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Ted Davis - #73423

October 8th 2012

Merv (and others):

Asa Gray died in 1888, long before the early 20th century. Your comment seems to imply that he was still living in Bryan’s day.

Concerning Lewis’s views on evolution, it’s not a simple story. I recommend this: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1996/PSCF3-96Ferngren.html.

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Eddie - #73428

October 8th 2012

Merv:

In addition to the source Ted Davis recommends, there are two essays by John West on Lewis’s views on evolution in a new book on Lewis called The Magician’s Twin.  I’m no Lewis scholar, but I’ve read a fair bit of Lewis, and West’s study seems reasonably thorough to me.

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Merv - #73496

October 9th 2012

Thanks, Ted and Eddie.  I had seen the “Perspectives…” article some years ago but it was good to reread that.  I’ll have to look for that John West study sometime.

...and thanks for correcting my misconception of Gray being around in the early twentieth century.  I guess I didn’t carefully attend to dates if or when I saw them.  That leaves quite a span of time without any “Gray-like” successor.

-Merv

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Ted Davis - #73524

October 10th 2012

Picking up on your point about successors to Gray, Merv, let me convey a point made by James Moore in The Post-Darwinian Controversies (1979), on pp. 73-74:

“Fifty years it had taken for the teaching of evolution to filter into the high schools, for the high schools to begin to reach the people, and for the people—those, at any rate, who became militant Fundamentalists—to belong to a generation who could not remember the evangelical evolutionists among their ancestors. [this is said of the 1920s, and followed by the start of a new paragraph, which I now quote] And here, in a reaction delayed for half a century, is an additional explanation of the Fundamentalist crusade against evolution. By 1922 [A. H.] Strong, Warfield, [James] Orr, and [G. F.] Wright had died. The last great links with the past were gone.”

Instead (my analysis now, not Moore’s), we had Mathews and the Modernists vs Bryan and the Fundamentalists. It was, frankly, a prettygrim choice for thoughtful Christians: throw the Incarnation and Resurrection on the altar of science, or toss the science out the window in the name of “orthodox” faith. Those of us today who want a third option don’t have an easy road; that’s obvious from comments here alone, let alone elsewhere. But, I want to be as clear as possible about what I think is needed.

As an historian, I’m often asked what I think about the future, and my honest answer is simply this: I’m an historian, not a prophet; I don’t know how this will play out. Let me also be clear about this: my analysis of the situation goes beyond history itself, although I think the actual historical part of it is well supported. Historians are often asked to help us make sense of “now” in light of “then.” Obviously that goes beyond history, but it’s not entirely inappropriate to do that, especially in an inter-disciplinary conversation such as this.

Such things matter to many people, rather more than Gregory seems to think they do. If that were not so, Americans (e.g.) would not often talk about the “original intent” of the framers of the American Constitution, or about the fact (e.g.) that evangelicals have often been in the forefront of social changes—despite the fact that this is not as obvious today as it once was.

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Merv - #73539

October 10th 2012

I wonder how much of history could be described in terms of reactionary vascillations between extremes.  ‘Higher biblical criticism’ seems to have fueled the opposing fundamentalist movement of that time.  And that, in turn, fueled modernist reactions straining against (or erupting away from) accepted religious orthodoxy.  Those voices you mention, Orr, Warfield and such seem to have been lost in the roar of artillery coming from either side of them at that time.  

Those of us who hang out on web sites such as this may like to think that “third-way” Christian voices have increased their presence of late?  Or perhaps their presence has increased but without loud voices to match?

p.s.  I read an excerpt from Mathews’ book “Faith of Modernism” found here: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/dfg/amrl/matt.htm

And while the introductory paragraphs do indeed bristle with all the red flags of scientism, it is then interesting to see what Matthews goes on to say that the Christian “can make affirmations which will not be unlike the following:”  Which he then follows with a long list that would satisfy some of the most orthodox thinkers today in its extent.  That Mathews refuses to be dogmatic about such truth would seem to be his primary failing.

Gotta go for now.

-Merv

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Eddie - #73554

October 11th 2012

Merv:

If you can make a bit of time, I’d appreciate your responses to the two extensive replies I wrote to you below (73503, 73504).

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Merv - #73582

October 12th 2012

Sorry to keep you waiting ... I should have some time later today (Friday afternoon) to give it proper attention—I did see those replies before; just haven’t gotten around to writing yet.

-Merv

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Eddie - #73429

October 8th 2012

A good historical account, Ted.

On a small point, Renan is usually called only by his middle name, Ernest.  That’s the name on his book The Life of Jesus, for example.

You (quoting Polkinghorne) raise a significant point here:

“The scientific avenue into theological thinking will seek to give due weight to science, but it would be fatal to allow it to become a scientific take-over bid, affording no more than a religious gloss on a basically naturalistic account.”

I agree with Polkinghorne here, and, while I don’t think Polkinghorne is guilty of what he is describing, I think a case could be made that some biologist-TEs are guilty of it, or at least, give a powerful impression of being guilty of it.  It often seems to people who aren’t TEs (whether they are creationists, or ID folks, or hardcore atheists like Coyne) that TE amounts to nothing more than “a religious gloss on a basically naturalistic account.”

There appears to be no difference in the description of the evolutionary process between that of many biologist-TEs and that of Coyne or Dawkins, not even at the level of invisible mechanisms such as random mutations.  Statements by biologist-TEs that God is somehow behind evolution appear to be gratuitous statements, private preferences that have no explanatory power.  Thus, a biologist-TE can affirm that truly random mutations, with no intention of producing any useful outcome at all, let alone any particular outcome, can change a reptile into a mammal in X million years, etc., but then add that, through the eyes of faith, we can see that this randomness is God’s way of producing mammals.  But if you ask Coyne, the latter statement is redundant from an explanatory point of view, and utterly untestable.  It has no more epistemological value to say, “evolution proceeds via random mutations followed by selection, and this is God’s means of creating species,” than it does to say, “evolution proceeds via random mutations followed by selection, and vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate.”  Coyne can, while agreeing with Collins about mutations, selection, and evolution, reject Collins’s God-interpretation just as easily as he rejects Collins’s taste in ice creams, and Collins really can’t say anything in return, except that he disagrees.

It looks as if the biologist TEs are saying:  “Even if there were no God, even if the universe that we know just happened to exist and just happened to have the properties that it did, life would form out of non-life, by sheer weight of the number of chemical opportunities, and all the species we see on earth would have evolved, and man would have evolved out of lower primates.  The laws of nature plus the right bounces would have seen to that.  However, though it would have happened in a universe like ours even without God, as Christians, we happen to believe that God had something —a something which we refuse to specify—to do with the origin of life, species, and man.”

Now the biologist-TEs may not intend to say what I’ve said above, but that is what they seem to be saying, and I think it is their repeated failure to perceive “how they come across” that make them unable to grasp why so many thoughtful Christians (and some atheists as well) have concluded that TE is just “a religious gloss on a basically naturalistic account.” 

Of course, I’m speaking here of God’s involvement in creation, not in the life of Israel, in the Incarnation, etc.  Regarding such matters, TE biologists may well affirm things about God that are not mere theological glosses.  But as far as the creation of life and species go, I’ve seen nothing in the writings of biologist-TEs that doesn’t render their view liable to the criticism implied in Polkinghorne’s statement above.

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Ted Davis - #73478

October 9th 2012

Eddie,

If I were worried about satisfying Jerry Coyne, I wouldn’t be writing about science and religion at all—whether the topic is evolution or anything else. In Coyne’s opinion, as far as I can tell from reading him, there are just two honest options for the religious believer. (1) Maintain a strict YEC view, in which the Bible is regarded as an absolutely reliable source of information on all matters it addresses, and simply live with that, accepting the enormous conflict it creates with so much modern knowledge. In other words, honestly commit intellectual suicide. OR, (2) Give up the ship and come over to the atheist side.

Of course, Coyne thinks that Russell, Polkinghorne, and others are just putting a false, self-deceiving religious gloss on a basically naturalistic account. Of course he says that. What else could he say, given his dichotomous position? When Russell, Polkinghorne and others give rational reasons for believing in a transcendent source of order in the universe—when they go (by their own admission) “beyond science” (the title of one of Polkinghorne’s books), placing nature and the science of nature in a larger metaphysical framework in which they make more sense than they do in a non-theistic framework, Coyne simply—and quite erroneously—calls this a “god of the gaps” and says that it adds nothing to our knowledge. What else can he say, given his dichotomous position? To say something else, he’d have to come to terms with the fact that there are indeed meaningful questions that science itself cannot answer. And that he will never admit, for it would be to let the rest of the theological camel into his tent.

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Eddie - #73479

October 9th 2012

Ted:

If you want to say that Jerry Coyne has a shallow and grossly oversimplified view of religion, of truth, of science, etc., you will get no argument from me.  My point was not to defend Coyne, but to compare Coyne’s view of how evolution works with that of other TE-biologists.  And note that I kept stressing TE-biologists, biologist-TEs, etc.  In your answer you refer to Russell and Polkinghorne—physicist-TEs.  And I had already declared that I didn’t think Polkinghorne was guilty of the activity that Polkinghorne had flagged, and just to be clear, I don’t think Russell is, either, since he gives divine activity a genuine explanatory role in relation to the evolutionary process.

The relevance of comparing Coyne and Dawkins with Francis Collins and other biologist-TEs is that, as biologists who accept “consensus science” or “good science” or whatever one chooses to call it, they share a common explanation of how species originate.  Another TE/EC person, Lamoureux, has said explicitly that he can walk into the lab with an atheist evolutionary biologist and get along perfectly well, and that it’s only when they leave the lab and talk about God afterward, over a beer perhaps, that they disagree.  So what we have among TE biologists and atheist biologists like Coyne is a consensus regarding both the externalities and the mechanisms of evolution; and in that consensus, God is apparently redundant as an explanatory force.  The atheists rule out God period, and the TE-biologists (all of them in actual biological practice, and many of them even in theory) rule out God as “intervening” because they say that would be “God of the gaps” and therefore vulnerable and bad theology; and the TE biologists (Conway Morris being the only possible exception I’ve seen) seem (by either silence or evasion, when directly asked) to rule out God as even planning or orchestrating the process by setting up initial conditions which will necessarily produce fixed results.  Given such denials—that God neither intervenes nor sets up fixed results in advance—a TE-biologist’s discussion of God in relation to evolution will necessarily be only an optional theological gloss on a wholly naturalistic explanation of evolution—which is what Polkinghorne was criticizing.  

I constructed at least one paragraph very carefully, the one that begins with:  “It looks as if the biologist TEs are saying:  ‘Even if there were no God ...’”  I think that in that paragraph I captured accurately how the position of biologist-TEs is viewed by most evangelicals, and I would maintain that as long as TEs don’t realize that this is how they are perceived, even 10,000 well-written columns about fossils and synteny and non-literal Genesis exegesis won’t do a bit of good.  The evangelical critics of TE don’t want to read any more about Tiktaalik or mitochondrial Eve or Origen’s allegorical interpretations.  What the critics of TE want to hear from TEs is that God does something that makes a difference in evolution, and they want to hear what it is that God does.  As long as TEs skirt such assertions and clarifications (and the biologist-TEs tend to skirt them more than the physicist-TEs), they will always be accused of merely glossing secular, naturalistic science with a NOMA-compartmentalized piety that simply surrenders the entire field of origins to naturalistic science.  If they want to dispel that accusation, all they have to do is answer the tough, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road theological questions that other evangelicals have asked them.

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Ted Davis - #73483

October 9th 2012

Thank you for the clarifications, Eddie. I did see where that part of your commentary was going, and—like the group of TEs you have brought up—I chose to ignore it, not to have that conversation. I’ve actually had that conversation numerous times, in many other places. It takes quite a while to lay out my views carefully, and I always seem to end up on the other side of the issue from my dialogue partner. I am simply reluctant to have that conversation yet again, with a new dialogue partner who (I sense) is also pretty likely to end up on the other side when all is said and done. I just don’t have several hours to put into it.

Let me say immediately, however, that none of this reflects on you or your question; it reflects only on me, and my limited time—along with my sense of frustration over the number of times I’ve said the same things in different words to different people. I apologize to you, Eddie, for not taking up this relevant thread and to others as well, but I really do have to bypass having one more round.

I will—quite inadequately—indicate my attitude toward the issue you raise; I won’t really offer an answer, for reasons already given.

First, your question is of the general type, Should Christians do science differently from non-Christians? My general answer is, No, any more than Christians should do history differently—an issue I have written formally about, at some length. (See my chapter in http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/American/~~/dmlldz11c2EmY2k9OTc4MDE5NTE3MDM4Mg== )

Where Al Plantinga has argued for doing “Augustinian science,” based explicitly on design principles, I am not persuaded.

Second, I cannot ignore the larger philosophical/theological/metaphysical framework within which I (like any other Christian thinker worthy of that name) place both nature and the science of nature. I can’t keep that type of question/issue out of consideration. Thus, when you ask, why doesn’t [plug in the name of a TE you don’t like] have a different evolutionary theory from Coyne? When you ask that, I have to answer by saying that the whole of nature results from the divine will. But, my answer to lower-level questions about how things work is not likely to be different from Coyne’s, any more than my answer would differ if you asked me about embryology or meteorology or gravitation. If you are similar in views to the others I’ve dialogued with about this, you won’t grant my answer; you won’t agree that gravitation and evolution really are fundamentally similar, as explanations. If so, I understand; we simply don’t agree, and I can’t commit to yet another long conversation like that on this occasion. (With, as I say, sincere apologies.)

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Eddie - #73485

October 9th 2012

Ted:

I understand your practical position—lots of people to answer, and only a certain amount of time to give to each.  I respect that and won’t press you.

I’ll add just three comments, for your future consideration, and for others who may be interested in pursuing the discussion:  First, my original point was that Polkinghorne (one of the TEs that you and I both seem to respect a fair bit) was worried that some types of theology/science assertions could end up being just optional theological glosses on naturalistic explanations, and hence were really not theology/science discussions at all, but theological packaging wrapped around a scientific fait accompli.  My point was that to many critics of TE, the writings of TE-biologists fit Polkinghorne’s description.

I’m not asking you to defend the TE-biologists; I would, however, ask you to note my point, as I think it explains why TE is getting very little traction in the evangelical Christian world (as opposed to, say, the liberal Christian world of Haught, Barbour, Peacocke, the US Episcopal Church, etc.), and why another 100 columns on chimpanzee genomes or whale fossils won’t make the slightest bit of difference.  It’s not lack of clever new arguments for common descent that is holding evangelicals back; it’s lack of trust that the biologist-TE leadership believes that God actually does anything in evolution, or even plans the outcomes of evolution.

Second, you divine correctly that I would deny that gravitation and evolution are similar, because a process guided by laws alone is fundamentally different from a process guided by contingency.  This is why ID theorists put so much emphasis on information theory.  Laws don’t generate new information; the results of laws are implicit in the initial conditions.  But re-arranging contingent events does generate new information.  And evolution is conceived by all TE biologists known to me as a series of contingent events, not as the mere outworking of laws from an initial position.  So the question arises where the new complex specified information comes from, since laws are incapable of generating it.  The two choices are luck (randomness sometimes—very rarely—shuffles things to produce something more complex and ecologically viable) or intelligence.  And the difference in results between luck and intelligence is at least in principle scientifically detectable, and certainly it is philosophically detectable as well. 

Finally, I’m not saying that Christians should do science differently from non-Christians; but it is certainly possible that the activity we call “science” is defined in too narrow a way, one that a priori makes design inferences impossible, no matter how great the quantity of evidence.   And a reality that is defined out of existence does not thereby cease to exist.  The task of natural science ought to be to understand nature, not to preserve some sacred methodology (Thou shalt not infer design!) at any cost, including the cost of misunderstanding nature (due to the artificial blinders imposed by the methodology).  If design is a genuine causal factor, necessary to understand why nature is the way it is, then it’s the business of natural scientists to talk about it.  So it’s not as if I think Christians should include “design” in their science and non-Christians shouldn’t; I think both Christians and non-Christians should use “design” in their science wherever it’s a warranted explanation; and if that makes atheists like Coyne uncomfortable, well, then, that’s just too bad for them.  His job is to explain the origin of living systems, not to truncate both the goals and the methods of science so that they sustain his atheism.

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Eddie - #73487

October 9th 2012

Ted:

One more comment, and a question which you might be interested in answering, as it is a new one that I haven’t posed before, and that I haven’t seen posed here by anyone else.

You said that you didn’t think that Christians should do science any differently from anyone else, or history any differently from anyone else, etc.

I wonder.  I don’t actually disagree with you—not entirely, anyway.  But look at the higher education situation in America.  You have a traditional world of universities and colleges—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, all the State universities, etc.—which, even if some of those schools originally had denominational foundations, operates nowadays in a non-religious context.  Then you have this “shadow establishment” of Christian higher education—Bob Jones, Liberty, Wheaton, Calvin, Messiah, etc.  In these Christian educational establishments, there is little doubt that science and history are taught to some extent differently than they are in their secular counterparts.

For example, I was taught Church history in a secular university via The Pelican History of the Church, a very well-written and scholarly series, whereas most “Christian” universities and colleges use Church histories with a strongly evangelical slant, and often written by much less illustrious (but more overtly pious) Church historians.  And at many evangelical Christian colleges, the students’ literary criticism course will use, instead of a recognized, world-class work of theory such as Northrop Frye’s The Anatomy of Criticism, a book written by a much lower-ranking, evangelical literary critic, with a title such as, say, A Christian View of English Literature.  Why should such differences exist, if academic subjects should be taught in the same way to Christians and non-Christians?  

And why is the Christian mirror-world necessary at all, if science, history, etc. can be taught in the same way to Christians and non-Christians alike?  Why can’t Christians and non-Christians all go to the same secular universities, learn the same science and history, and then, in their own private time, put their own private theological gloss on the history or science they have learned?  (As Collins and Coyne do regarding evolution.)

It seems to me that the very existence of a “parallel system” of higher education for evangelicals and/or fundamentalists implies that the founders, parents, donors, students and teachers at these places believe that the various studies shouldn’t be taught in the same way to Christians and to non-Christians.

Are you saying that, in an ideal world, there should be no “Christian universities,” but only “good universities,” but that in the current American situation, the parallel Christian institutions are necessary evils because of—well, because of what? 

Of course, you can decline if this is too far off-topic.  But the question is relevant to the atheist/TE/creationist discussion insofar as Christian schools have to decide whether to teach biology in exactly the same way as Harvard or Michigan State, or whether to give biology a special Christian slant.  Thus, in discussing the origin of life, textbooks used in teaching at secular universities will generally say something like:  ”Science has not yet determined how life arose from non-life”—which, in context, implies that the transition was effected by wholly natural means.  Should Christian colleges make that assumption in their biology textbooks and courses?  If so, then surely Christianity is reduced to a mere subservient gloss on secular science; if not, then the thesis that Christians and non-Christians should learn exactly the same science cannot be maintained.

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Ted Davis - #73490

October 9th 2012

This one is easier for me to answer briefly, Eddie.

It’s one thing to have a Christian biology or history or mathematics; it’s another thing to have a Christian view of any of those disciplines. One ought to shape one’s vocation as a biologist or historian or mathematician—or bricklayer or teacher or mechanic—in a Christian manner. For some, perhaps this might also mean that they actually do biology or history or mathematics differently, at the level of the microscope or the primary source or the equation; but, that is not so for me.

In your final paragraph here, I don’t see why a biologist at any school would object to what you wrote: ”Science has not yet determined how life arose from non-life.” Isn’t that fully accurate? If the biologist then were to say (e.g.) that she doubts that we will ever solve that mystery, that would be to go beyond the science itself, but not inappropriate IMO. (I hold that view myself, in fact.) But, the statement you offered is surely accurate.

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Ted Davis - #73493

October 9th 2012

You also seem to imply, Eddie, that there is something special about biology, relative to other sciences. That is, if Christian colleges don’t say something different about biology—as vs other sciences or other subjects—then they have no legitimacy as Christian institutions. Have I understood you correctly? Or, have I put the wrong words into your mouth?

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Eddie - #73500

October 9th 2012

Ted:

As I said above, the way to cut the Gordian knot is to allow teleological reasoning—where employed carefully and not recklessly—back into natural science, from which is was banished by Bacon and Descartes (not without some resistance from Newton, as, e.g., in his inference from world to designer in the General Scholium).  If that were done, there would be no need for a “Christian biology” versus a “secular biology.”  But since “secular biology” has in practice for over 100 years now been “secular humanist” biology—with a built-in determination that there shall not be a designer of living things (all of which are assumeed to have come into being by a combination of chance and necessity, with no intelligence involved)—Christian biologists, if they are to do justice, not only to Christian theology, but even to the description and explanation of natural objects and phenomena, would be warranted in breaking from secular biology and allowing design inferences (not miracles, but design inferences) into their biological science.

And I would say the same thing about physics and other sciences, wherever design inferences might seem warranted (cosmic fine-tuning and so on).  So it’s not as if biology is unique; but it was quite obvious to Aristotle that biological phenomena are very obviously suited to teleological explanation, and only modern scientists have been so stubborn and non-empirical as to reject this commonsense insight.  In any case, Michael Denton treats physics-chemistry-biology as a continuum, and hence does not single out biology in isolation; for him, the whole history of the universe, from Big Bang to man, emerges from one brilliant act of fine-tuning by God.  Christians could take the same holistic approach, not privileging biology in particular.  

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Eddie - #73497

October 9th 2012

Ted:

In my example of typical textbook language, you are missing the full meaning of the combination of the word “yet” with the word “science.”  All TEs known to me, as well as all atheists like Coyne, insist on “methodological naturalism,” i.e., that scientists should explain things in terms of natural causes only, and not posit supernatural interventions, even when such interventions actually seem like the simplest and most logical explanation.  So when an atheist or TE says:  Science has not yet explained the origin of life from non-life, they mean (that is the significance of the word “yet” in the sentence) that it is only a matter of time until science does explain it; and since science can, by the definition insisted upon by atheists and TEs, only posit natural causes, the meaning of the whole expression can only be:  “We do not yet have a natural-cause explanation of the origin of life from non-life, but one day we will.”  But that would presuppose that life arose from non-life wholly through natural causes—which is a presupposition warranted only by  metaphysical naturalism, not by methodological naturalism.  The word “yet” in this context turns what should be a mere possibility into an axiom.  If the word “science” is to be used in TE/atheist fashion, the word “yet” in all such sentences should be dropped.

In fact, even the words “from non-life” are unwarranted, since life might have arisen, not from non-living matter, but from creation ex nihilo.  So the sentence as framed implies something that science, as we have it, cannot say; it implies that life was not created ex nihilo, but from previously existing matter.  Science cannot say that, without stepping over the line into metaphysical naturalism. 

On the other hand, it is fully accurate to assert the non-loaded statement:  “Science has not determined how life arose”; and that is exactly what the textbooks should say.  It’s simple; it’s honest; it’s non-ideological; it is neutral between YEC, OEC, ID, TE, and atheism; and it’s true.

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Ted Davis - #73494

October 9th 2012

One of the places I talked about this (what does God actually do in natural history), Eddie, was in an earlier column and the comments: http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-theistic-evolution-part-i/P0

I refer to what I said about Gingerich’s book, “God’s universe,” in the review I linked there from First Things (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/04/300-all-things-bright-and-beautiful-36). My own attitude toward divine action in natural history is similar to his, and also to that of Bob Russell. IMO, they have both answered quite clearly ” the tough, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road theological questions that other evangelicals have asked” about divine action. It is not for me to say whether a given evangelical—or you, Eddie—finds their answers satisfactory. I do, and I have nothing further to add to what they’ve said.

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Eddie - #73498

October 9th 2012

But I note again, Ted, that you never use examples of TE biologists.  Always you use physicists, astronomers, or philosophers or historians with physics/astronomy background.  I don’t think that is a partisan prejudice based on your own scientific training; I think that you have rightly perceived that there is a substantial difference between the way the leading TE-biologists think and the way the leading TE-physicists think, and I submit that it has a lot to do with the neo-Darwinian paradigm of how evolution occurs.  Physicists aren’t professionally wedded to NDE in the way that the TE-biologists are.  And it’s the NDE paradigm, not “evolution” as such, that creates difficulties for a good number of conservative and moderate Christian evangelicals.  (As for those evangelicals who are against evolution in any form, on principle, I don’t take their side, as I see nothing in Christian doctrine that is opposed to evolution on principle.) 

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Ted Davis - #73525

October 10th 2012

Eddie,

Does the late David Lack(http://biologos.org/blog/david-lack-evolutionary-biologist-and-devout-christian) qualify as a “leading TE-biologist,” in your view? He does for me. To be frank, I think that he thought about this more than most other Christian biologists, but he is hardly a household word today. 

Your comments about Bacon (whose view on natural theology were not as negative as you imply) and Descartes suggest that perhaps you believe that we need to abandon a key piece of the Scientific Revolution—the mechanical philosophy—in order to return to something more like Aristotelian natural philosophy, in which final and formal causes were integral parts of “scientific” explanations. (I’m hesitant to say “scientific,” since natural philosophy and modern science aren’t entirely similar, and the role of final causes is part of the difference.)

Am I following your train of thought here fairly, Eddie?

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Eddie - #73533

October 10th 2012

Ted:

Remember that, while I agree with you about the viability of “generic” theistic evolution, the term “TE” means for me a specific body of people who have become prominent in writing about theology and evolution over mainly the past 20 years— the columnists here on BioLogos, certain others who publish in the ASA journal, Ken Miller, Denis Alexander, Francis Collins, Denis Lamoureux, Karl Giberson, the contributors to Perspectives on and Evolving Creation, etc.  It doesn’t mean “any Christian scientist or thinker from 1859 on who thinks/thought that evolution and Christian theology can be harmonized.”  Given that definition, I don’t know whether David Lack counts as a “TE” of the type I’m talking about.  I’ve seen none of his discussions of theology and science anywhere in the circles I’m speaking about.  

As for what should be done about science, I don’t think that one can ever turn back the clock completely.  We can’t (and I don’t think we should) go back to Aristotle or to Medieval science.  The gains made by Baconian-Cartesian science are real.  At the same time, they came with a cost:  nature became more intelligible in some ways, but less intelligible in others.  Modern science sacrifices the kind of knowledge that is broad, rich and deep understanding, for the kind of knowledge that is narrow, precise, and oriented to the manipulation and control of nature.  Hence the exclusive focus on efficient causes, and the programmatic refusal to discuss final causes, teleology, design, etc.  

What I am saying is that we may now be in a position to integrate the best of the Cartesian-Baconian science with the best of Aristotelian-Medieval science, leaving out what is no longer viable in the older science, while resurrecting certain insights of that science that Cartesian-Baconian science ran roughshod over.  A judicious return to a limited use of teleological understanding, carefully applied, would make our science richer, less narrow, more comprehensive.  And that is the goal of science after all:  not merely to squeeze power-knowledge out of nature (as Bacon wanted), but to comprehend nature in its fullest aspect.  That requires a richer sense of “cause” than we now allow.  Aristotle, applied judiciously, can help here.

Bear in mind my analogy of the architect, which I gave to another commenter below.  The plan for the house is a real cause of the house, not merely an interpretive gloss on top of the work of the builders, the materials of the house, etc.  Intelligent design is a known existing cause of things.  Unless we are certain that there is no intelligent cause in the origin of life, species, etc., it would be very unwise to rule design arguments out of court in science.    

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Jon Garvey - #73462

October 9th 2012

I’m old enough to remember, from the 50s and 60s, something of the scientistic zeitgeist that permeated society. The New Atheists are a worrying pressure group today, yet somewhat laughable in their scientism because science is, to the public, not hugely authoritative. But imagine the early 20th century, when science was everything, and when evolution represented science, and modern theology was, in essence, an offshoot of evolutionary assumptions. One’s intellectual options were severely limited.

Asa Gray’s brand of TE, like Warfield’s, had been swamped by the atheist apologetics of Huxley or Haeckel: science and Evangelical faith were held to be incompatible by the dominant voices in society, and the liberal theologians who were taking over the universities and denominations agreed. Under those circumstances I think the publication of the Fundamentals was a rational reaction, and may even have kept traditional Christianity sufficiently alive for people with a faith like Polkinghorne’s even to exist now.

I’m also old enough to see that the tail-end of that zeitgeist still affects us today. Both natural science and theology, especially the latter and particularly in Evangelicalism, still carry over many of those 19th century assumptions, and I suggest that this influences “mainstream” theistic evolution greatly.

Gray, for example, congratulated Darwin on the teleology inherent in his theory. And given its unstated commitment to perfectionism and progress, and the lawlike nature of its variations, evolution then could indeed serve as a good secondary cause just as effective in implementing God’s will as special creation. But now physics is less deterministic, and biology more dependent on chance events and, allegedly, the accumulation of multiple errors, the scientific notion of perfection and progress has gone. This is a litmus test of whether TEs are, like Gray, subsuming science to theological priorities, or tailoring their theology to current science.

If the former, then the goodness and wisdom of God in creation will control their acceptance or critique of current evolutionary theory. The Nicene Creed’s “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen” will have its intended teleological import: by evolutionary means, we see the very good creation of Genesis 1 implemented.

If the latter, then evolution will provide reasons for distancing God from how things actually are, by making creation free or random, by limiting God’s attributes, or by prioritising theodicy over joyful proclamation in the vein of Psalm 19. I think Christians at large hear too much from TEs about what God doesn’t do for it to win hearts and minds. Asa Gray, I suspect, might agree with them. Warfield certainly would.

Strangely enough, evolution per se is not the barrier - since James Shapiro’s Huffington Post blog appeared, stressing the complexities of living systems, and certainly not from a theistic position, a number of Creationists have commented on how much sense this makes to them. One suspects it’s the teleology he sees in living systems that interests them. But TEs, at least at BioLogos, have shown no interest whatever in discussing him or others suggesting teleological mechanisms..

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GJDS - #73463

October 9th 2012

This has been an interesting and informative ‘sweep of history’ on the entanglement between evolution and Protestant religion. I tend to take a broader view of faith and science, and thus have been informed on the specifics of fundamental/evangelican tradition and how it has responded to evolutionary thought. I know the other traditions did not escape the turmoil, but it seems to me the Protestants took a deeper drink of natural theology (or perhaps religion of nature?).

 “modern liberal theologies have achieved a reconciliation of science with theology at the expense of its religious content…”

I have been trying to make sense of what this atement means - the only response that I can envisage is that human beings have developed the capacity to sustain a contradiction. Just how can a theologian be one if he did not believe in God, is simply weird. How can a Christian describe himself as such and not believe in Christ as the redeemer?

I think contradictions and hypocricy characterise such people. Post-modernism denies all truth and deconstructs every narrative into ‘whatever fits’ the person’s context. These chaps perhaps preceded deconstructionists.

 

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #73474

October 9th 2012

I would suggest a different point of view to bring some balance to this discussion. 

The best of my understanding the liberal theology of the 1900’s was the Social Gospel.  The Social Gospel was compatible to evolution because it was based on the concept of Progress.  However the primary difference between evolution and the Social Gospel is the evolution is based on Darwinian conflict while the Social Gospel is based of Christian love and sharing. 

The Social Gospel was an overly historical and optimistic point of view, while fundamentalism is an overly dogmatic and pessimistic point of view. 

The strength of the Social Gospel is that it was historical as our faith is historical and social as our faith is social.  We need to build on the positive aspects of the Social Gospel as well as learn from its mistakes.

Christianity must look to the future because Jesus is coming again.  This is not an excuse to bury our heads in the sand, but a reason to build and extend God’s Kingdom.  We need to be Ready, which means to work for God’s Kingdom, which is a large part of the meaning of the Social Gospel.  

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Gregory - #73481

October 9th 2012

Ted (#73424),

It’s not that I’m unhappy; my happiness or unhappiness is beside the point. I just don’t find your so-called ‘orthodox’ TE position necessary, nor does it achieve a reasonable or responsible balance as a philosophy of science and theology. TE quite obviously too readily capitulates to ‘scientism’ (in this case, pop gen-ism) in the current (post-modern) era and to other ideologies of anti-theists when it really doesn’t have to. Your ‘big TE tent,’ Ted, seems to be as PoS-jaded as ID’s big tent.

The distinction between ‘modernism’ and ‘heterodox’ in the USA is welcome as a purely historical study. And your ‘original’ contribution is also welcome. But yet again you leave the philosophy of ideology (e.g. modernism) much too much to be desired. Historians are not the best interpreters of ideology.

That you are promoting Rev. John Polkinghorne, a self-professed ‘open theist’ as your main representative speaks volumes to the ‘non-traditional’ views of ‘theistic evolution’ you appear to view as being ‘orthodox.’ Are you claiming ‘open theism’ is ‘orthodox,’ Ted?

Yes, you very loosely ‘defined’ what you consider as ‘orthodox’ wrt ‘theistic evolution.’ And in the meantime you committed “the error of embracing evolutionistic ideology as part and whole along with naturalistic science.”

“I’ve shown my hand, now you show yours.” - Ted

My views about this were expressed before Ted knew that ‘Neo-’ had come: http://humanextension.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/human-extension-and-theistic-evolutionevolutionary-creation-what-happens-when-neo-comes/

Nowhere has Ted commented on what difference Human Extension makes to this conversation he is engaging as a(n) historian of natural sciences. Again, probably he doesn’t care. Yet, it is on a new wave that can’t be studied merely historically. Instead, it can be evaluated and tried currently based on what we know and what language(s) people use today. That is why I fail to see how what Ted is presenting has much relevance except backwards-looking (Hornspiel’s good nod acknowledged).

Kemp, Bonnette and Feser are ‘contemporaries’ who directly disagree with Ted Davis’ TEism and his tendency to reject history based on population geneticism. Ted seems to think we don’t have a choice otherwise. We simply *must* capitulate and reject real, historical A&E, even if it leads us into ‘heterodoxy.’ But clearly others aren’t as impelled as Ted, even if he hasn’t read them.

Ted opined in the first post in his TE series that perhaps ‘naturalism’ is the (real) problem with theistic evolution. But he did not go very far to support his opinion by distinguishing, e.g. J. Polkinghorne’s ‘naturalism’ from his ‘theism.’ That would have helped, but wasn’t included.

“The arrival of Human Extension is meant to curb the excesses of evolutionism and naturalism by offering an alternative language of expression and a new method for social sciences, centred on human choices and their consequences in nature and society.” – Gregory Sandstrom

‘Theistic evolution’ simply means being a theist (e.g. Christian, Muslim, Jew – believing God creates) and accepting a *limited* meaning of biological evolution. However, nowhere in this series has Ted Davis actually attempted to *limit* evolutionary theory. It appears that he has instead elevated evolution into ‘evolutionism,’ i.e. evolutionistic ideology because he simply (we don’t know why, except for ‘historical’ reasons) refuses to make use of a term like ‘anti-evolutionism’ that could/should suitably oppose it.

(cont’d)

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Ted Davis - #73492

October 9th 2012

Gregory,

You are correct that I offered Polkinghorne as my primary example in my columns on TE; you are also correct that he is an open theist. However, as I’ve pointed out in various places on BL (whether in my own threads or others, I don’t entirely recall), Polkinghorne’s open theism comes from his theological commitments, not from his acceptance of evolution. I’ve also offered Russell as an important example, and Russell is not an open theist. I am not intending to imply here that open theism is “orthodox”—or the opposite, for that matter. That is a separate question. So, please do not draw the inference you have drawn here.

As for the historicity of Adam & Eve, I’ve clearly stated that it’s human antiquity, not genetics, that I see as posing the greatest challenges. I don’t dismiss genetics at all, but the matter of antiquity is surely a challenge regardless of anything we know about genetics.

Since you are familiar with the ideas of Kemp, Bonnette, and Feser, why don’t you offer a summary of one or all of them here, Gregory? It would be very helpful in the context of my “course” to have someone do this, don’t you think?

At the same time, it would also be good for someone to offer summaries of the essays I cited in TE part 4 (http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-theistic-evolution-part-4) by Arnold, Hurd, and Wilcox. 

Given that I have emphasized this point about human antiquity—which is an historical point, not a genetic one—I am flat puzzled by what you call my “tendency to reject history based on population genetics.” Time and again, Gregory, you seem to read my columns in a highly selective manner. It is history itself that I have difficulty reconciling with an historical Adam & Eve. Do you actually understand what I am saying? If so, then please respond to what I said about this in part 4, where I did not mention population genetics. A good start, Gregory, would be to tell me how you view the situation, given that a Neolithic couple could not have been the ancestors of pre-Neolithic humans.

You certainly do not need to agree with me about this, Gregory, but you are obliged at least to understand my claim and tell me why you do not see its force.

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Ted Davis - #73523

October 10th 2012

I also disagree with this assessment of my position, Gregory: Yes, you very loosely ‘defined’ what you consider as ‘orthodox’ wrt ‘theistic evolution.’

I did no such thing, Gregory. There is nothing “loose” about the definition of “orthodox” in my column. I’ve very clearly laid it out: I am defining the “orthodox” faith in a classical way, by appealing to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. If you want to say that this is a “loose” defintion, an assessment that I find incredible, then you need to draw out the inference you are in fact making: that these creeds are “loose” definitions of “orthodox.”

I suggest, Gregory, that you make a different point. This one is surely wrong.

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Gregory - #73482

October 9th 2012

(cont’d)

The ‘theistic evolution’ (TE) that Ted and a few ‘liberal’ Christians like Denis Lamoureux and Pete Enns are nowadays proposing (mainly to evangelical [young earth] creationists) is in fact ‘heterodox’ to the ‘traditional’ and ‘orthodox’ teachings of the Christian Church, yesterday, today and tomorrow on the topic of real, historical Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man. Making it seem as if kenoticism could be a substitute ideology is just a distraction.

It would be surprising if Ted didn’t care about this, stating population genetics or ‘modern knowledge’ as his personal explanation for taking such a theological-anthropological position against ‘orthodoxy’. But this is exactly the challenge: Ted doesn’t think his position is ‘heterodox’ - he thinks it is the ‘new orthodoxy’ according to evangelical Protestant scientism. What else other than capitulation of religion to science or ‘tasting no transcendence’ could it appear to be for American ‘evangelicals’? Or, iow, what would it take for Ted, Denis and Pete to think their TE has gone too far from ‘orthodox’ orthodoxy?

“There is no reason to call Human Extension an example of neo-Theistic Evolution or neo-Evolutionary Creation because once evolutionary theory is seen as a limited natural-physical scientific approach, the reasons for tightly coupling it into a label for one’s self-identity fall away.” – Gregory Sandstrom

Once Ted and his colleagues realise that ‘scientism’ and ‘methodological naturalism’ are obstructing their views of reality (including theology), then ‘theistic evolution’ will be seen as an unnecessary term, as nonsensical as ‘theistic gravitation’ or ‘theistic embryology’ or ‘theistic genetics’ (cf. Ted in message #1). Once ‘evolutionism’ and the question “what are examples of things that don’t evolve?” are directly confronted, the shotgun scientistic marriage between ‘theism’ and ‘evolution(ism)’ in the phrase ‘theistic evolution’ can be annulled. Open the dustbin for ‘theistic evolution’. That is both TE’s and TEism’s rightful place.

Nevertheless, in Ted’s support, none of what is said above in any way validates Big-ID ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, yet another impoverished brand of American philosophy of science. Are you open to something newer than ID that actually improves the science, philosophy, religion/theology/worldview conversation rather than turning it into a ‘culture war’? Follow the links to find out more.

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Ted Davis - #73484

October 9th 2012

Thank you for answering my challenge with a full account of your views (including the link), Gregory.

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Skl - #73486

October 9th 2012

I think Eddie’s #73429 is very much on-target and worth re-reading. However, I think I would disagree with the “seems”, “looks”, “appears” (e.g. “There appears to be no difference in the description of the evolutionary process between that of many biologist-TEs and that of Coyne or Dawkins …”)

I think it is exactly as it seems, looks and appears.

Then, in #73479, Eddie says “What the critics of TE want to hear from TEs is that God does something that makes a difference in evolution, and they want to hear what it is that God does…  all they have to do is answer the tough, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road theological questions that other evangelicals have asked them.”

I think that focus only on the theological greatly understates the problem. Critics of TE, at least critics like me, want answers to “tough”, “rubber-meets-the-road” biological questions too. In short, we wonder why evolution is assumed to be true. I think the sciences actually argue against the case for evolution. This entire theistic evolution discussion basically leads to a meaningless conclusion, a tautology: ‘God is involved in everything so God was involved in evolution, in some way’. But what is worse, it appears to be an example of the logical fallacy of begging the question. It presumes that evolution is true.

I do not so presume.

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PNG - #73510

October 10th 2012

I pointed out some resources on the evidence in response to an earlier comment of yours on another post, but I may have done it too late for you to see it. If you want treatments of the evidence (by way of saying that evolution is not simply assumed - there is plenty of evidence) look at the Resources section of this site under Articles and Essays. One particular article is Genesis and the Genome by Dennis Venema, and there are other relevant ones there. If you search Dennis’s name under the blog, you will find several series of posts concerning different aspects of the evidence as well.

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beaglelady - #73517

October 10th 2012

Coursera.org is offering a FREE course on Evolution and Genetics, which starts Oct 10 (today!).

 

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution

taught by Mohamed Noor, Professor and Associate Chair of Biology at Duke University.  

“A whirlwind introduction to evolution and genetics, from basic principles to current applications, including how disease genes are mapped and how we leverage evolutionary concepts to aid humanity.”

Sign up here: 

https://www.coursera.org/#course/geneticsevolution


It will be very interesting to see how they handle creationist objections—I’m sure the trolls will be out in full force. Still,  the course notes clearly state that you are not required to change your religious views.

 

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Merv - #73488

October 9th 2012

So, SKL, you are the present living example here (perhaps among a few others) of exactly what Eddie was referring to:  that TE accounts have no difference from atheistic accounts and that this is the deal-breaker for any wider acceptance of evolutionary scenarios among a lot of Christians.  

While Ted may not have the time to sink deeply into this exchange with Eddie, I don’t mind a reply or two in my own reaction to both of you, Eddie and Skl (and by no means to I imply that I represent Ted’s views here—only my own.)

...So TEs have nothing different to offer in their science than the most militant atheists—imagine the following conversation between a math teacher and her students:

Teacher:   and so we see that the quadratic formula explicitly gives us two real solutions if the discriminant found under the radical is positive.     ...Yes, Tim?

Tim:  Ms. Math, this is exactly how my atheistic uncle taught me to solve these equations; but you are teaching here at a Christian school, so I would like to know how God is involved in your method.  If you can’t offer up anything besides this quadratic formula, then I’m afraid you’re only just putting a Christian gloss on an inherently atheistic activity!

Ms. Math:  Tim, I’m not rejecting God at all by solving these equations without mentioning him.  That God gave us brains to begin to comprehend these things and see how beautifully so many things in creation amazingly conform to these mathematical truths is itself a testimony to be prized by all Christians.  If I just claimed that God made all these answers be what they are, then you wouldn’t learn how they make sense and can be discerned in mathematical language.

Tim:  All the same, I don’t like this one bit.  I looked through our entire algebra book ... even checked the index.  Did you know that God is not even mentioned once!!!   I think we should chuck the whole thing in the trash.  It’s nothing more than atheist propoganda.

<End of my little scenario>

So my question to Eddie or Skl is this:  Just what is it that TEs would have to deliver to you to satisfy your demand that their science look different than Coyne’s?  If they accepted (or at least didn’t rule out) some design principle as Jon describes?  Would that, then, become the scientific snapshot of God’s fingerprint?  

Eddie wrote to Ted:  

...you divine correctly that I would deny that gravitation and evolution are similar, because a process guided by laws alone is fundamentally different from a process guided by contingency.

 

If we’ve already ruled out mathematics or gravitational physics, etc… as not being the needed examples of distinction between a TE and an atheist, then what would such a scientific endeavor or finding look like, Eddie, that was guided by continengcy, and would, on that account, be opaque to any more scientific scrutiny?  Perhaps I still struggle to fully appreciate the challenge, but right now it appears to me that the bar is set where no one will ever reach it.  TEs will always appear to have a religious ‘gloss’ on their science; but that appraisal is [or should] only given by those who have already rejected the theology and deified the science, not by fellow Christians.  Collins will never be able to say to Coyne, ‘I disagree with you and here is the scientific evidence that weighs against your atheology.’  If Collins could and did (essentially being able to present God’s action as a regularity that is amenable to repeatable investigation) then you would all reject that new ‘evidence’ as being no more compelling than the gravitation or mathematics that we already dismissed from our apologetics.  What is a ‘gloss’ to one person is a complete way of life and truth to another.  It encompasses math, science, history, what we know, what we don’t know… everything.   And just because one of these subdisciplines doesn’t have the language or means to capture that larger thing and squeeze it into one of its testtubes for show-and-tell doesn’t then make it insubstantial or non-existent.

Well, I’m afraid I’ve rambled and oversimplified your challenge.  But any deficient caricature that spilled out above just reflects my need to understand your challenge better at those points.  Hopefully you’ll find a few good points above to hammer on and maybe dispel frustrations or common misconceptions from the TE side of things.

-Merv

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Eddie - #73495

October 9th 2012

Merv:

Let’s be clear about the differences between Skl and myself.  I spoke of what the biologist-TEs (Miller, Lamoureux, Collins, etc.) appear to be arguing, and begged for clarification; Skl wants to drop the cautious language, and simply write off the whole TE project.  I’m trying give TE a chance to prove that it is theologically orthodox, by asking the biologist-TEs the two questions I posed to Ted Davis, i.e., does God do anything in evolution, and if so what exactly does he do?

I know of only one TE—Russell, a physicist, not a biologist—who says, yes, God does something that makes a real difference to evolutionary outcomes, and what he does is  perform unobservable but real divine special actions (not mere divine concurrence with natural laws) at the quantum level.  I know of no other TE who will give a straight, non-awkward, non-ambiguous answer.

I don’t know why you use a mathematical example in your drama, as we are discussing natural science (which concerns external reality), not mathematics (which is a purely formal system of reasoning).  There are no “causes” in mathematics, only reasons.  But in theology/science discussions, we cannot avoid the subject of “cause”—what caused the first cell to come into being, for example.  

Note also that I actually agreed with Ted Davis (for the most part) that Christian and secular (and notice that I said secular, not “secularist” or “secular humanist”) science and history ought to be the same; but the American fundamentalist world, and much of the American evangelical world, does not agree with me, since it insists on having Christian schools, colleges and universities where subjects are taught in a different way than in their secular counterparts.  I was asking Ted to what extent he supported this division of American higher education into two worlds, a secular one and a dissident Christian one.

As for your last long paragraph, I don’t understand all of it, and of what I do understand, some of it is based on a misunderstanding of what I was arguing.  I haven’t argued that God never uses natural laws to bring about events.  I’ve argued that the specific results of neo-Darwinian evolution cannot be accounted for by natural laws alone, because NDE posits a radically contingent element.  That’s why the parallel of “God creates species through random mutations and natural selection” to “God creates stars through gravity and nuclear fusion” is faulty.  The latter process could guarantee planned results; the first couldn’t.  I’ve already said this a few times, in different ways, to different people here, but no one seems to understand the ontological difference between necessity and chance, or between natural laws and sequences of contingent events, so I guess I should give up.  Oh, the curse of being trained in philosophy when one is in a roomful of quarrelling scientists and theologians!    What are the chances that American universities will make some philosophy courses compulsory for all undergraduate natural science programs, and all M.Div. programs?  I can dream, can’t I?

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Merv - #73501

October 9th 2012

Thanks for your reply.  Perhaps because of some of your own patient persistence here, the rest of us can become more literate on the “difference between necessity and chance.”  I think I have a vague grasp, but probably still insufficient.  In fact my grasp of the concept of “contingency” alone is shaky at best.  Feel free to add clarification as your own time or patience allows. 

My math example could just have easily been a physics teacher discussing a gravitational equation.  You refer to such [gravity] as a law (necessity) which you distinguish from, say, a ‘molecules to man’ scenario which you see heavily laden with chance (contingency seems prolifically necessary)—right?

And I don’t disagree with you on the appearance of those things; I am open minded (or try to be) even towards design conjectures or inferences.  But I hold at arms length any dogmatic conclusion that there cannot exist a set of laws sufficient (even within a naturalistic context) to explain (again—only within scientific terms) such a scenario.  I tend to agree that NDE with its random mutations and natural selection do not by themselves make a  compelling case that they and they alone are the whole story.  But nor do I dismiss them as then insignificant or false pieces of said story.  I just think there could be other undiscovered mechanisms that, were they all brought to light, would still satisfy the desire of the militant atheist to think that the explanation was now complete and without God.  But even then (as now), the Christian correctly disagrees with the atheist pronouncement that now *all meaningful* questions have been answered or relegated to irrelevance.

Historical inertia on this doesn’t foster hope for me that there will be some “God phenomenon” discovery at the far end of a scientific tunnel if we could but be open-minded (or scientifically non-restrictive) enough to reach it and, still on scientific turf, compel determined skeptics to faith.  It goes without saying that this could be wrong.  But it just doesn’t seem to fit God’s modus operandi thus far either theologically,  historically, or experientially. 

-Merv

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Merv - #73502

October 9th 2012

I should add that I only freely invoke the word ‘law’ because that is common parlance here, and when in Rome ...

But even that concept [scientific law] I hold at arm’s length and would put scare quotes around it all the time if that didn’t become so tiresome.  We stand in good theological tradition to speak so easily of laws, but scientific laws are simply our perception of the astounding regularity of some phenomenon.   Which is not a bad way to impress on young students the inexorability of something like gravity, but on the other hand, maybe it does sow and reap a harvest of confusion later when those same students try to extend this concept to philosophy and religion.

-Merv

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Eddie - #73503

October 9th 2012

Merv:

Thanks for your reply.  

One can think of many examples to distinguish necessity from chance (to use philosophical language) or natural laws (to use the language of classical physics) from strings of contingent events.

If I drop a bowling ball, in classical physics it is said to be a “law” that the ball (all other circumstances being normal) will fall to the ground (in accord with the mathematical relationship worked out by Newton).  But if I am dealt, in a poker hand, two aces and a king, there is no “law” guaranteeing that, after three two-card draws, I will get a full house.  The attainment of the full house depends on later contingent events which are (largely) physically independent of the original hand I was dealt.

Similarly, according to the laws of physics presupposed by those who study stars, if I have a cloud of hydrogen gas X miles in diameter, of density Y, and there is no significant interference from other celestial bodies, it is  (supposedly; I’m not dogmatizing, just repeating what Carl Sagan etc. all claim on the authority of “good science”) a necessity that a star of a certain mass will form, if the numbers are right.  There is no contingency about it; the laws are inexorable, and the atoms can’t refuse to be attracted to each other and to undergo nuclear fusion.  (Nature has no “freedom” in that respect.)  

But if I plop a living cell into a primordial Earth ocean, there is no necessity that the cell will one day generate man, or even simpler creatures such as anteaters, or worms, or even multicellular life at all.  There is a certain probability of each of these subsequent events, but whether those events will be actualized depends on many contingent factors, both outside the earth’s biosphere and inside it.  A change in solar radiation, a meteoroid crashing into the earth (perhaps killing all the large reptiles, and suddenly giving tiny insectivorous mammals a huge advantage), a change in internal radiation seeping up from the earth’s interior, the choice of a particular hawk to eat insectivore A rather than insectivore B which is equally near, when insectivore B contains the first crucial mutation that will lead to the emergence of man; etc.  If any of these contingent events is altered—and the effect is greater the earlier in time the alteration takes place—the whole subsequent evolution and ecology of life on the planet is altered to some extent.

So you should be able to see how God could guarantee the existence of a blue-white giant star through the establishment of an initial mass of hydrogen, but how God could not guarantee the existence of man merely by plopping down a cell in the primeval ocean.  That’s why TEs cannot remain silent, ambiguous, or evasive in declaring what, in their opinion, God actually does in the evolutionary process, whereas they don’t have to say anything about what God does in stellar formation, beyond establishing general laws of nature.

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beaglelady - #73526

October 10th 2012

a meteoroid crashing into the earth (perhaps killing all the large reptiles, and suddenly giving tiny insectivorous mammals a huge advantage),

 

A meteoroid isn’t likely to do that,  unless perhaps God adds a nuclear warhead.

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Eddie - #73534

October 10th 2012

The boundary between “meteoroid” and “asteroid” is a conventional one; I had forgotten that “meteoroid” is generally restricted to smaller particles, up to boulder-size.  (But of course, “boulder” is ill-defined, and there can be very big boulders!)  But I’ll gladly substitute “asteroid.”

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Merv - #73590

October 12th 2012

Eddie wrote:  

But if I am dealt, in a poker hand, two aces and a king, there is no “law” guaranteeing that, after three two-card draws, I will get a full house.

No simple *single* law, anyway.  But there could be a conglomeration of laws that deterministically gave you your full house even if they exceed the precision of any observations we can make—especially if determinists are right (and QM somehow is exactly governed by inaccessiable [to us] laws after all).  But let’s not push this point because I won’t defend determinism and rather think (on theological grounds) that somehow God endowed some freedom somewhere into nature.  I find that option compelling, but of course we will never prove one way or the other.    So perhaps I shouldn’t even have brought it up ... except ...

...that you can now see how I can’t follow you in your confidence that, with the cell plopped into the ocean, God is not able to guarantee humankind as a result.  I would agree that *we* can’t see how God could.  Maybe someday we’ll discover enough to see the guarantee (convergent evolution) or maybe we won’t and it forever remains a mystery for science.

I have a class coming my way and had better attend to them ... will start on your second reply later.

-Merv


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Eddie - #73593

October 12th 2012

Merv:

Thanks for this reply.  I look forward to your second one when it comes.

Regarding what you wrote here, I think it is important for you to contextualize my reply.  I am not here criticizing all forms of “theistic evolution”—as I’ve repeatedly said to Ted, if all “theistic evolution” means is “God created through an evolutionary process,” I see no internal logical contradictions there, and no theological objections.

However, most of today’s TEs—especially those in the life sciences (biology, biochemistry, etc.)—are committed, not just to “evolution” (which is a term of very broad meaning and can encompass a whole range of mechanisms, including teleological mechanisms), but to neo-Darwinian evolution in particular.  Neo-Darwinism is inherently anti-teleological.  If neo-Darwinism is the whole truth about evolution, then no outcome can be guaranteed from any initial position.  The clearest statement of this is found in Gould’s famous remark about “rewinding the evolutionary type”; if we went back to the beginning, evolution would turn out differently the second time, because it isn’t driven by either teleology or even purely mechanical necessity, but by a series of contingent events.

So if I were God, and wanted to guarantee a certain outcome of evolution—say, roses, or say, man, I would not choose neo-Darwinian mechanisms as the driving force of evolution.

You mentioned convergence.  But convergence, as understood by Conway Morris, Denton, etc., suggests that something else is going on in evolution beyond the filtering of random mutations by natural selection.  Well, that’s fine with me.  It’s only a short step from saying something like that to saying that evolution is designed to produce certain general types of outcome (e.g., camera eyes in molluscs and mammals):  the process therefore has a bias.  And if the process has a bias, then maybe God can determine outcomes.  But if you look at the columns that have appeared on this site over the past several years, the ones written by life-scientists I mean, you don’t find any by evolutionary theorists who think the process has any kind of bias.  You find straight neo-Darwinism—population genetics and natural selection as the centerpiece of evolutionary theory.  

If TE would broaden its conception of “evolutionary  theory” to include the new insights (which go well beyond genetics, mutations, etc.) from developmental biology, from physics and self-organization theory (the Altenberg group), from the work of McClintock (Shapiro), etc., then I think it is possible to imagine that God can guarantee an outcome from an initial position.  But not if one sticks doggedly to neo-Darwinism plus insists that God never intervenes.  If God binds himself never to intervene in natural processes after creating the first cell, then, to put it bluntly, he’ll just have to take whatever he gets from the evolutionary process.  Which is why it’s not surprising that so many commenters here (and elsewhere) have suggested that maybe God would have given a slightly brighter octopus or dolphin the image of God, had man not appeared on the scene.  If the outcome isn’t fixed, God will have to improvise based on whatever comes along.  And that might be what in fact happened; but that certainly is not compatible with any genuine form of Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox Christianity.  It’s compatible with heresies like Open Theism.

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Eddie - #73504

October 9th 2012

Merv:

Regarding one of your other comments, I want to make clear that I don’t want to “compel determined skeptics to faith”—not even in a remote designer-God, let alone the Christian God.  What I want to do is force reductionist-materialist biologists into a corner, whereby they finally admit that their “science” is in fact metaphysically driven by their atheism.  If, having admitted that, they still hold firm to their atheism, I am content to leave them alone.  My goal is not Christian evangelism.  My goal is to show that design (albeit accompanied by elements of chance and necessity) is the more rational explanation of biological (and other) origins than chance plus necessity alone.

So, for example, a good number of evolutionary biologists already admit that probablistic analysis makes “random mutation plus natural selection” alone a very unlikely cause of the diversity of life on earth; so they have thrown in other non-intelligent mechanisms, such as “horizontal gene transfer.”  But suppose that, after long investigation, it turns out that horizontal gene transfer is relatively rare, and largely confined to one-celled creatures, etc., so that it does not significantly increase the probabilities of the evolution of higher animals.  Well, then, the evolutionary biologists will suggest another additional non-intelligent mechanism.  And if, after analysis, that still leaves naturalistic evolution a process with a very small probability of producing any higher animals, let alone man, the evolutionary biologists will suggest still another non-intelligent mechanism.  They will never stop doing so.  This is because they are committed to the view that evolution must have happened due to non-intelligent mechanisms.  And my goal is to show this assumption to the world, by showing how consistently and irrationally the evolutionary biologists accept extremely low-probability processes in preference to design, even when design looks, to anyone with common sense, like the solution to the problem.

Do I want to compel anyone to infer a designer?  No.  I want to embarrass those who reject the possibility of design in the teeth of evidence which suggests that design is (at the moment at least) the best (i.e., most rational and in accord with the facts) explanation for the origins of certain things.  I want them to blushingly admit that the reason they reject design outright springs from the will, not from the reason.  If I can show that, I’m quite happy to let Coyne, etc. be as atheist as they want.

Imagine, if you will, a man arguing that a woman cannot be a good bank manager, based on her alleged inability at mathematics.  Now suppose that one shows that women on the whole get higher math grades than men.  Then imagine that he switches the argument to saying that women are not tall enough, and people respect only tall executives.  Now suppose that one shows that many short males have been very successful executives.  Then imagine that he claims that management requires multi-tasking, and that women aren’t good at that.  Now suppose that someone demonstrates that women are actually better at multi-tasking than men.  Imagine the process going on.  Eventually, the guy breaks down and says, “I don’t care what you say, I just know that women don’t make good bank managers.”  He is entitled to continue believing in his prejudice, but he has discredited himself publically by his obvious a priori commitment which blocks out all empirical evidence and rational argument.  The Coynes and Dawkinses and Dennetts and Myerses of the world are in the position of the guy who denies the evidence that women can be good bank managers.  They have an a priori commitment that non-intelligent causes can do the job, and no amount of evidence will ever shake them.

What is sadder to me, however, is that so many Christians (TEs) appear to have adopted the same a priori commitment.

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Merv - #73594

October 12th 2012

You’ve laid out your pursuit very clearly and unequivocally—thanks.  I guess I must not be a typical “TE”, or at least typical as you and so many others percieve TE, in that I don’t, a priori, rule out design.  But *if* I keep waiting or looking for solutions that rest on necessity and chance without acknowledging that a simpler solution (design) is already staring me in the face—is that where you conclude about me that I have ruled out design?  (I’m not a biologist or even a scientist—but merely a physcial science educator, so I’m not actually involved in this search for biological knowledge, but speak as if I was for the sake of conversation here).  

Assuming that you do so identify me, then,  as one who has ruled out design solutions because I still insist on keeping the door open for other explanations as well, would I need to stop looking and declare the mystery solved (by design) before you would conclude that I am not abiding by some atheistic methodology?  This lays the design community open to the charges   oft-spoken charges also leveled against religious assertions as being science-stoppers.  But I can see your point and anticipate your reply that this is merely assuming the restrictive definition of science that precludes design.  I do agree with you that science ought to proceed on all these levels.

Since I am open to the concept of design, but simply think it hard [won’t say impossible] to wrap science around that and insist on staying open to the further discovery of mechanisms of necessity and chance—would this let me off your hook?  Or would I still be one of your mission targets?

-Merv

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Eddie - #73597

October 12th 2012

Hmmm, Merv, I’m not sure that this reply deals much with the substance of my previous reply, but I’ll respond to what you’ve given.

To me, natural science ought to propose the best explanations available at the moment, based on information we currently have, not information we may or may not have at some indefinite point in the future.  So when you say:

“But *if* I keep waiting or looking for solutions that rest on necessity and chance without acknowledging that a simpler solution (design) is already staring me in the face—is that where you conclude about me that I have ruled out design?”
 
I’m puzzled.  Are you saying that, no matter strong the evidence for design looks, you will continue to believe that a non-design answer is waiting around the corner, and place your bets on that answer?  So, for example, using made-up numbers, suppose that we calculated that the probability of the DNA-protein system’s having evolved via chemical accidents was one in a billion.  Are you going to argue that, since researchers 50 years from now might discover that the odds are better than that (maybe as high as 1/2), we should not consider that design is currently the best explanation?  And if we discover another layer of complexity in the DNA-protein system, that lowers the odds of a chance origin to one in a quadrillion, are you going to say, “We mustn’t be premature; maybe in 100 years science will show a mechanism by which this might have happened without design”?  Are you willing to go to your grave, not having made an intellectual decision about whether or not living systems are designed, simply because you are afraid that, having declared for design, some scientific breakthrough will come along which eliminates the need for design and embarrasses you for having backed the wrong horse?
 
I think quite differently.  I say:  if design looks like the best explanation now, that is the explanation I will go with.  If the situation changes down the road, I’ll look at the new data and possibly revise my conclusions.  But I’m not about to abandon what strikes me as the most rational conclusion on the grounds that science might some day prove my conclusion to be premature. 
 
Please understand that I’m not calling for banning “chance and necessity” explanations from science; I’m calling for the inclusion of “design, chance and necessity” as the legs of a three-legged stool in scientific explanation.  And I think that in most cases the “design” part is woven subtly into the other parts, and doesn’t need to be treated separately.  For example, I don’t invoke design to explain why it rains; natural laws (which I believe were put in place by design) are enough.  But sometimes design needs to be considered as a separate factor, e.g., in the origin of life.   I think the best available science (of today, not 20 or 50 years from now) indicates that chance and necessity alone cannot account for the origin of life, and that the best hypothesis is that a designing intelligence somehow guided the formation of the first life.  Yet when Stephen Meyer argued that, he was savaged more by biologist-TEs than by atheists!  The preference of biologist-TEs for “chance and necessity explanations” for origins is uncanny, when one considers the religion that TEs profess.
 
 
 
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PNG - #73511

October 10th 2012

I don’t know if I meet your criteria for an education. I was an undergraduate philosophy major (after tensor calculus drove me out of physics as surely as it drove the theologians out of cosmology.) I then did a major in biology, 2 years of med school and a Ph.D. in Biochem, followed by several decades of research. I guess I am one of those theistic evolutionists - I certainly think the evidence that common descent occurred is overwhelming. I would suggest that teleology can be brought into philosophy and theology; I would say within those realms that God got what he wanted as far as current and past species including humans. And it is possible to speculate about how He did that, but if anyone tells you he KNOWs how God did it, he is talking through his hat. You can’t make it part of science, because God is not going to submit to being a variable in an experiment or a scientific hypothesis. We aren’t going to know how God guided evolution any more than we know how He achieves his purposes in history. Teleological science is as big a mistake as teleological history, and for the same reasons. God isn’t going to answer our questions about his methods or his detailed purposes in this life. Speculate away, but that is all it can be. You can’t make science out of it.

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Eddie - #73513

October 10th 2012

PNG:

I want to separate two questions:

First, the question whether design inferences (not inferences to miracles or to God, just design inferences) should be considered a legitimate part of natural science;

Second, the question of whether, and how, God ensures the outcomes of the evolutionary process.

I do not intend the second question as one which has a scientific answer.  I expect only a philosophical/theological answer.  

Further, I am not asking how God’s divine power works—that is beyond human understanding.  I am asking only for the general sort of way in which God ensures evolutionary outcomes.  For example, two broad ways would be:

(1) God “tinkers”—adjusts, steers, guides, pushes, nudges, manipulates—use what word you will—maybe generating a mutation here or there; maybe pushing an asteroid just a weeny bit off-course, so that, 10,000 years later, it will crash into the earth and wipe out the dinosaurs, etc.  Whether the tinkering is detectable by scientific means or not is a secondary matter. 

(2) God “programs”—God sets out initial conditions with very strong tendencies, so that evolution must produce an exact set of prescribed outcomes, or must at least produce a rough set of outcomes, e.g., ruminants of some sort, lizards of some sort, primates of some sort, and man or something very close to man.

My criticism of the biologist-TEs is that most of them—I’m speaking of the publically best-known ones, anyway—will not give, even under the understanding that they are being asked to speak only theologically and not scientifically, a tentative endorsement of one of these means, or of some other means, of divine action in evolution.  I simply don’t believe that people who have written books on science and theology, who have spoken at scores of churches and conferences, who have been studying the question of God and evolution for 20 years or more, don’t have at least a tentative working position on the subject.  It seems to follow that they are holding back what they think from the public.

(continued)

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beaglelady - #73634

October 13th 2012

...maybe pushing an asteroid just a weeny bit off-course, so that, 10,000 years later, it will crash into the earth and wipe out the dinosaurs, etc.


A good way to ensure evolutionary outcomes?

 



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Eddie - #73644

October 13th 2012

beaglelady:

Not likely all by itself.  However, it could have been a crucial first step.

If we assume that God has infinite calculating capacity, and can predict the exact effects of the impact of the asteroid, i.e., that it will wipe out all large reptiles, while leaving a few tiny mammals surviving in the nooks and crannies, then he knows that the impact will leave the planet open for occupation by mammals.

But, as I indicated, the asteroid impact was merely one example of the ways in which God might nudge or steer things, so, if merely wiping out the dinosaurs wasn’t enough, God could make further subtle adjustments at later points (e.g., mutations to the surviving small mammals), as needed.

I assume you understand that I am not dogmatically claiming that God did steer any asteroids; my point was that nudges of one kind or another would be necessary if God wanted very precise and determinate results from the evolutionary process—if all that drives it is random mutations and natural selection.  Of course, if he wasn’t too fussy, he could just let random mutations and natural selection spit out whatever they happened to spit out.  And indeed, sometimes I think that this is what most of the biologist-TEs think happened, that God just let mutations and selection roll along on their merry naturalistic way.  The problem lies in squaring “Let’s let nature have its creative freedom, and see what it produces” with “Let us make man in our image.”  But Jon Garvey has already dealt with such contradictions as well as, or better than, I can.  So I refer everyone to his comments here and his great website, Hump of the Camel.

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beaglelady - #73652

October 14th 2012

But, as I indicated, the asteroid impact was merely one example of the ways in which God might nudge or steer things, so, if merely wiping out the dinosaurs wasn’t enough, God could make further subtle adjustments at later points (e.g., mutations to the surviving small mammals), as needed.

Devastating a planet isn’t what I’d call a nudge, but maybe that’s just me.   Could God have more asteroid strikes scheduled?

btw, non-avian dinos survived.


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Eddie - #73659

October 14th 2012

beaglelady, you are being quarrelsome about tiny details.  You know, I wager, that the general consensus of paleontologists is that the inferred asteroid strike wiped out most of the planet’s large fauna, and that this would greatly alter the ecological situation, including the opportunities for the mammals.  And in any case, the example of the asteroid strike was just that: an example of the sort of thing God could have done if he wanted to steer results.  

As for your comment about a “nudge,” you are forgetting, or don’t realize, that a very tiny change of course at the beginning of a journey can make a huge difference to where the traveller ends up.  It might be that by altering the speed and direction of an asteroid by less than .1% each, one could cause the asteroid to eventually strike the earth, with devastating consequences.  If you realize this, then surely your objection to “nudge” is an unnecessary quarrel over a word.  Please don’t pick quarrels of that sort.

And yes, God could have some future asteroid strikes scheduled.  I don’t have access to the mind of God, so I can’t say what he might  have planned and engineered.  But perhaps you are sarcastically hinting that God has never intervened in the course of cosmic or biological evolution?  If so, please let us know how you determined that fact.  Certainly not from the Bible, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, etc.  Maybe from Harvey Cox, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Michael Dowd, John Haught, or John Shelby Spong?

It’s easy to make little digs at the positions of others, beaglelady.  It takes courage to state one’s own.  Have you a position on divine action in evolution to share with us?  PNG has given his answer, but I don’t know yours.  Do you think God just established the natural laws, and let things run?  If not, where do you think God intervened?  And if so, how did God guarantee any results?  Do tell us what you think, in answers longer than one or two sentences.

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beaglelady - #73662

October 14th 2012

OOPS I meant the avian dinos survived.   My bad.

 

Anyway, I guess it does take courage to state your own position. Therefore,  if you are a writer,  what is your name and where are your works published?  

 

I do think God’s interactions with us are constant and that he hears and answers our prayers.  As for interventions in life, it’s possible,  but  I’m not prepared to say what, when, why, where, and how.   Are you?    If God wanted to  guarantee that we humans would be EXACTLY the way we are, 5 fingers, and all, even down to a touch of Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA,  then some time in the perhistoric past he must have arranged  some romantic encounters between two different species, right?  

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Eddie - #73666

October 14th 2012

I’m not talking at present about guaranteeing any particular mix of hominid genes.  I’m talking about broader but still fairly precise outcomes, e.g., making sure that the highest branch of the evolutionary tree, the one worthy of being invested with the image of God, was a talking, tool-making hominid, not a more intelligent porpoise or octopus.

I’m asking you (speaking only for yourself, and not as a scientist, but as a well-rounded human being who has reflected on the results of science and has made some tentative but intelligent judgments) whether (a) God did anything special (i.e., beyond merely sustaining natural laws) to make sure that primates evolved beyond the tarsier, the capuchin monkey, etc.; to make sure that mammals came into existence; to make sure that vertebrates came into existence; to make sure that multi-celled creatures came into existence; etc.; or (b) God just tossed out some organic material and let random mutations and natural selection do whatever they felt like doing.

If you don’t want to answer the question, fine; just let this thread drop.  But if you do answer, please answer directly and clearly, without rhetorical counter-questions, sarcasm, etc.  I just want to know your position, i.e., what you personally think happened in evolution, whether it was an autonomous process of nature (albeit all natural laws are sustained by God) which required no personal direction by God, or whether you think it was at least at some points a dance-step between nature, operating with its delegated powers, and the personal direction of God.  I demand no proof; I’m asking for what you think actually happened, whether you believe that it can be proved or not.

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beaglelady - #73668

October 14th 2012

That I’m not sure of, and I’m certainly not worried about it.  And who knows what the future holds for our own evolution as a species?   It is God’s calling to us that makes us special. Furthermore,  I don’t know what God might be doing on other planets (it is a vast universe and we might not be the only intelligent beings in it.) 

What exactly do you think God did?

(btw, stop dictating to me how I must answer you.)

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Eddie - #73670

October 14th 2012

I didn’t ask for what you were sure of; I asked for your “tentative and intelligent judgment”—the position you currently hold, or are inclined toward.  Are you saying you are completely suspended in indecision, like a donkey staring at two equidistant piles of hay, with literally no inclination, even slightly, toward “God tinkered” or “God did no tinkering”?

If so, you would appear to have company, as virtually every public statement by virtually every leading biologist-TE indicates a similar inability to make an intellectual choice.  (A choice which 95% of the Christians on the planet have no trouble making, indicating perhaps that biologist-TEs, unlike normal churchgoing folks, have some very rare cognitive disability, which never kicks in when they are asked to make an intellectual decision in any other realm of life, but suddenly seizes them when the question of evolution comes up.  A very selective malady, to be sure.)

By the way, how can you not be “worried about it,” unless you are indifferent to the intellectual coherence of your position?  Are you not concerned that certain accounts of evolution might be incompatible with traditional understandings of God’s providence, governance, and so on?  Don’t you think you should be investigating such possible incompatibilities?

My position is simple:  if God used macroevolution as a tool to generate the species, then he would have used a mode of macroevolution which could guarantee all his key goals in creation, including man.  I described two such general modes, above.  So if he didn’t use some such mode, then whatever kind of God he is, he isn’t the Christian one.  I think my position is pretty clear.  I don’t know a leading biologist-TE in the world who has said anything nearly so clear.  And you haven’t, either.  But that’s OK.  I sense nothing more is forthcoming from you on this subject, so I’ll let you off the hook.  Enjoy your autumn with the dogs.  (I presume you keep dogs, from your handle.)  

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beaglelady - #73690

October 15th 2012

Eddie seems to think that I am:

  • completely suspended in indecision, like a donkey staring at two equidistant piles of hay, with literally no inclination, even slightly, toward “God tinkered” or “God did no tinkering” 
  • Indifferent to the intellectual coherence of my position
  • Unable to make an intellectual choice 
He also says that my God is not the Christian God, and that
 
“biologist-TEs, unlike normal churchgoing folks, have some very rare cognitive disability, which never kicks in when they are asked to make an intellectual decision in any other realm of life, but suddenly seizes them when the question of evolution comes up.  A very selective malady, to be sure”
 
 
So what I say is that Eddie must be Rich/JamesR.    Either that, or he is channeling him.   So BioLogos has its own synoptic problem!
 
Sometimes I think that Eddie would be happier with me if I said, “God uses asteroids as guided missiles to cause mass extinction events”
 
btw, aren’t you going to point us to all the articles you have written, since you claim to be a writer?  

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Eddie - #73694

October 15th 2012

beaglelady:

I didn’t accuse you of any of the things you’ve mentioned.  The first two things on your list, I put to you in the interrogative; the third thing, I imputed to certain TEs, and would only apply to you if you were like them, which you wouldn’t confirm; and the fourth thing, I couldn’t possibly be saying about you, as I don’t know your view of God well enough to say anything about it—since you won’t tell me.

Actually, I would be equally happy if you said that God did not use asteroids to cause mass extinction events.  I would be happy if you had the theological courage to commit yourself to any position at all, instead of trying to stay outside and above the fray, protected from criticism behind your ambiguous one-liners, while some of the rest of us put our theological views out for public assessment.

It’s too bad that you are unwilling to forthrightly state whether or not you think God actually does anything specific in evolution, beaglelady, but then, that is nothing new for most of the leading TE writers, is it?  Keeping all the exit doors open at all times, so that, when performing for hardcore naturalist scientists, one can leave the impression of acknowledging only natural causes of origins (and score big debating points against those YECs and IDers with their unscientific “God of the gaps” and their “interventionism”), but can also, when performing for the more conservative folks at the evangelical churches back home, declare oneself to be “open to the possibility” of special divine actions in evolutionary history (even though the “openness” is expressed in terms with as little vigor as “maybe” and “perhaps,” and the “openness” never makes an iota of difference to the way the biology or geology is done).  It’s wonderful never to have to go on record as stating what one personally believes God did in evolution, or even whether one personally believes that God did anything specific at all.

One tiny drawback to this strategy is the Biblical verse that goes:  “I would thou wert cold or hot.”  I would apply that verse homiletically, in this manner:  I suspect that God wants his followers to be a little less cautious and a little more vigorous about asserting that he is lord not only of history but of nature, and that his lordship over nature is often an active and personal one, not some passive Enlightenment delegation to impersonal intermediaries.  On this point, I’d say that ID, OEC, and YEC Christians are “hot”; and Dawkins & Co. are “cold.”  On such a scale, what are the leading biologist and geologist TEs, I wonder?  Maybe TEpid?  And what does your thermometer read, beaglelady?

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beaglelady - #74082

November 2nd 2012

I stand with John Polkinghorne in believing that 5-fingered homo sapiens sapiens is not inevitable.  I also believe, along with Polkinghorne, that the evolution of one or more intelligent species with whom God could establish a relationship, certainly was inevitable. God knew what his creation could produce and would produce.

There—now since you claim to be a writer are you going to show us what you have written, and not anonymous blog posts?

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GJDS - #73648

October 13th 2012

We leave the ‘god of the gaps’ (gasp) to enter the god who conveniently pushes things around for us. It is worht noting that evolutionists have specualted (I think) six reaons for the extinction event, including ‘too many flowers’. Talk of flower power.

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Eddie - #73515

October 10th 2012

PNG (part 2 of 2):

The physicist-TE Russell does explicitly endorse the first way, with the qualification that the action of God is indetectable, since quantum events will look like random events even if God is playing around with the states of the particles involved.  I don’t know any other TE who has clearly endorsed this option, though I’ve seen Ken Miller vaguely toss out something like it as a possibility (even though it doesn’t fit in with his general condemnation of a God who would push matter around without respect for its co-creative freedom).  But most TE/EC people seem to react strongly against anything like tinkering or steering—to them it implies that God was a clumsy creator, that he had to adjust things later, or it smells of God of the gaps, or they just plain don’t like it for aesthetic reasons—they think God is more dignified if he uses only natural causes.    

The programming option seems at least as unpopular among TEs as the tinkering option.  The only one who comes close to it is Conway Morris, except for maybe Lamoureux.  I think the programming option is seen as even more “tyrannical” than the “tinkering” option, because in it God “Calvinistically” predetermines (oh, the horror!) nature to certain outcomes, when he should be giving nature its “freedom” to realize itself.      

So the question arises:  if God doesn’t tinker, and if God doesn’t program, how can he, starting from any initial position, guarantee any outcome?  The neo-Darwinian model of evolution is not deterministic and can’t guarantee anything, so how does God keep it on track?

It certainly looks as if most of the leading biologist-TEs believe that God in fact doesn’t do anything special, but simply lets the random mutations and natural selection “do their thing,” and watches what emerges.  And when asked how this laissez-faire stance squares with divine providence and governance, they retreat from rational exposition and say it’s all a mystery—meaning they don’t have a clue how God can control a process if he refuses to either guide or program it.  But mystery in theology doesn’t mean self-contradiction or muddle, and what they are offering is self-contradiction or muddle.

As for you, PNG, you have stated “God got what he wanted as far as current and past species including humans.”  That is much clearer than anything I’ve heard from a biologist-TE, so I thank you.  It is also compatible with traditional forms of Christian thought—Calvinism, Thomism, etc., in which there is no equivocation on the question whether God has a plan, executes it, and gets the desired result.   However, I don’t see how you can hold that view without endorsing one or both of the options above.  And if you see neo-Darwinian mechanisms as the main driver of evolution, I don’t see how you can endorse the second option, so, if you are a neo-Darwinian, I would guess that you endorse some version of tinkering or steering, to compensate for the inevitable vagaries of the mutation/selection dance.  But maybe you’re not a neo-Darwinian, but have some other view of evolution.  You can clarify if you wish.  And again, I’m not asking for a scientific answer, only a tentative theological opinion.

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PNG - #73547

October 11th 2012

On the first question, what I have seen offered is arguments to very low probability, which generally depend on assumptions that can’t be justified, followed by a leap to the conclusion that very low probability must mean design. I don’t find the arguments I have seen very convincing. I believe in design, like Cardinal Newman, because I believe in God, not the other way around. So, no I haven’t seen anyone successfully make design detection part of science. I haven’t read everything the ID people have written, but after I’ve spent a certain amount of money and time and not found anything, I tend not to expect the same sources who were inadequate before to come up with something adequate.

On the second question, if I had to guess I would think it was some combination of the two general approaches, but I don’t expect to be able to sort it out. I am probably more agnostic than many biologists about mechanisms of evolution, partly because I’m not an evolutionary biologist by trade or training, but also because it seems to me that the kind of sequence-based evidence for positive selection and neutral drift that have been defined don’t survive over long periods of evolutionary time. You can study evolution of species over recent time periods (and it’s convenient that the favorite subject of many of us, the evolution of our own species, was recent), but how major phyletic groups developed hundreds of millions of years ago (or more) will always have a lot of uncertainty about it. It seems that many Christians are disturbed that differential reproduction (a much better summation than “survival of the fittest,”) should drive creation/evolution but in fact common descent alone, with no commitment on mechanism, creates a lot of the theological problems that bother people, and it seems to me that there is quite enough evidence for common descent that theologians should be thinking about how to respond.

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Eddie - #73552

October 11th 2012

Dear PNG:

I’ll stick to the second question in this reply.

I agree with you about the level of uncertainty in discussing very ancient phases of evolution; it always amazes me how certain some evolutionary theorists sound when they “back-reason” to the genetic makeup of some hypothetical common ancestor of reptiles and mammals a couple of hundred million years ago.  But even more recent phases of evolution are often discussed on the basis of very incomplete information—half a jawbone, or even just one tooth, and no DNA at all, in many cases.  The reconstructions of the ancestral genomes thus tend be heavily theory-based, rather than empirically-based, and since there are different versions of how evolution works (Dawkins is quite different from Margulis who is quite different from Shapiro), theory-based reconstructions will of course differ.

On the theological point, you seem to be saying that you are not averse to the idea that God did a little programming and a little tinkering to coax evolution in the right direction.  When some of your fellow life-scientist TEs are posed these alternatives, they show a marked aversion to both, and contrive, if possible, not to answer the question at all.  But anyone with a truly Biblical understanding of God will have no problem at all in imputing to God hands-on action; it’s a truism of modern Biblical theology that YHWH is lord of history and nature, so the idea that there is something wrong or improper about God “intervening” in the evolutionary process is not Biblical at all.  (The word “intervention” itself already carries the sense of a disruption of proper decorum or behavior, but how can it be improper for God to act personally in his own universe?) 

I’m not here arguing that God did involve himself in evolution in a hands-on way; I’m saying there is no Biblical warrant (or traditional theological warrant) for finding that possibility distasteful, as many TE leaders evidently do.  My view is that God might have set up an automatic process, or might have “intervened” with some frequency, but that either way, there is no theological offense, and either way, he made sure the process produced the results he wanted.  But I’ve heard some TEs (admittedly, more often commenters than columnists, though I’ve never read any columnist offering any objection) brazenly affirm that if evolution had spit out, say, a more intelligent octopus or bear or lizard, God might have chosen to endow the octopus or bear or lizard with his image—the implication being that God had to “make do” with whatever nature in its “freedom” spit out.  But of course that’s nowhere near the plain sense of Genesis, Job, etc., and nowhere near the teachings of Augustine, Luther, Aquinas, etc.  

As for common descent itself, my own view is that it is theologically a matter of indifference.  But it’s not a matter of indifference how the process took place—if there was neither special guidance nor any advance planning, to guarantee at least certain major outcomes, then the view of evolution that results is, in my view, sub-Christian.  

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Darwin Guy Dan - #73557

October 11th 2012

PNG#73511, Merv #73488, GJDS#73544, etc.

PNG wrote:  “ I certainly think the evidence that common descent occurred is overwhelming.”

But evidence is just evidence.  Evidence isn’t  confirmation.  There are no common ancestors. This is the more parsimonious hypothesis.

In the protestant church I grew up in, I don’t think we were even aware of the Catholic Saint, Nicholas.  However, there has always been and there continues to be an enormous amount of evidence for the existence of Santa Clause. Indeed, I am surprised that Santa hasn’t been given another sainthood by now. Evidence might pile up endlessly.  But in science, what ultimately is of interest  is real world confirmation.  Other than the fictionally posited DNA reconstruction, Urbilateria, I am not aware of any non-trivial common ancestors that have been posited much less identified,  named, confirmed, and agreed to as having existed.  Common ancestors are mythological entities and far less real than even Santa.  Naturalistic Parallelism (NPT), which I can’t get into much here,  recognizes this reality.

A great deal of your confidence regards common descent that Darwin accepted as an hypothesis, and thus the continued acceptance of Evolution over the decades, stems primarily from received wisdom of your elders, the continued reteaching thereof, and the assumption that Darwin’s hypothesis that homologies (as defined by Darwin in his ORIGINS OF SPECIES , 1859) is equivalent to homologies (as defined by the O.E.D. of Darwin’s home country, England).  Those who took up Darwin’s cause declared “evolution” a truth certainty almost immediately after Darwin published.  The ubiquitous nature of the molecules common to all life has led many Evolutionists to go even beyond pre-genetic researchers to now place even more confidence in Evolution than did Darwin’s promoters.    Much of the modern confidence in Evolution has thus been due to Evolutionists’ fundamental false assumption that samenesses (Darwin’s homologies) imply relationships and the definitional duplicity of “homology.”  (“Global warming” is another example of such duplicity or apparent duplicity, that reduces the credibility of science.  These are some of the reasons that ‘we the people’ need our own dictionary with our own rules.)

Meanwhile, the confidence I hold in regards to the more parsimonious hypotheses of Naturalistic Parallelism is based not on an assumption but rather on evidence of the global reality (i.e., observations) regards the fossil record.  Origins-of-life researchers such as Carl Woese, Stuart Newman, many of those writing for Cracraft and Donoghues’s ASSEMBLING THE TREE OF LIFE (2004), and others (all still holding, as far as I am aware, to the hypothesis of common descent) have long known that life prior to the Cambrian is better understood as a web-of-life as opposed to a tree.  But rather than having understood the reality of their observations as indicating global biogenesis, these Evolutionists have posited what amounts to dual last common ancestors over time.  That is, they have posited a singularity of life origins that emanates into a global web and then another singularity of origins, LUCA (last universal common ancestor), that maintains t the traditional tree-of-life.  (Of course all this is inconsistent with their own acceptance of ideas regards population genetics.)   In my view, once one accepts that the origins of life was global rather than singular, then the hypothesis / theory of Evolution becomes untenable as a posit for the origins of species.  (I understand that Craig Venter, whose company was also one of the first to sequence the human genome, is a dissenter regards the singularity of life origins.)

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beaglelady - #73561

October 11th 2012

But evidence is just evidence.  Evidence isn’t  confirmation. 


This I love.

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PNG - #73569

October 11th 2012

DGD,

I don’t accept common descent because Darwin or anyone else told me to. I really haven’t read a whole lot on the history of biology in that era. I don’t know what you mean by a trivial or non-trivial common ancestor. There are about 500,000 Line-1 elements and 1.1 million Alu elements in the human and chimp genomes. All but <1% of them (which are species specific) are occur in orthologous pairs in the two genomes. Not only are they inserted in exactly the same sites, the subtype of the elements, degree of 5’ truncation, degree of deletion in the target site and other details are the same in each orthologous pair. We know a fair amount about the mechanisms of transposition of these elements, and there is no way they got in the same locations in the two genomes in parallel, independently, unless one wants to resort to that old standby, “God just did it that way,” which of course can account for any kind of data one finds. A large portion of those insertions is also present in the other primate genomes that have sequenced and the pattern of presence/absence in the species is compatible with the pattern of speciation in time deduced from other evidence. I think your distinction between evidence and confirmation is bogus. When you have enough evidence that fits and the evidence rules out competing hypotheses, you have confirmation, with the caveat that someone might think of a better hypothesis in the future, but in this case, I doubt it. The different kinds of genomic evidence alone are more than sufficient to conclude that there were common ancestors, whether anyone has found a fossil of the common ancestor or not.

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PNG - #73580

October 12th 2012

I meant to add, that as far as parsimony is concerned, the hypothesis that somehow millions of transpositions of TEs, nuclear insertions of mitochondrial DNA, inactivating mutations in pseudogenes, insertions of processed pseudogenes, arrangements of unrelated genes in syntenic arrays, etc. were exactly repeated in parallel in multiple species (and I have seen people try to defend that) may be the least parsimonious hypothesis in the history of science.

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Darwin Guy Dan - #73631

October 13th 2012

PNG #73569

PNG,

A difficulty with your position is that you have no idea when supposed insertions and deletions may have occurred. Correct?

For the sake of those of us who aren’t God, and in expectation of possible appeals of the Scopes and Dover trials, let’s simplify the argument the best we can. (Apologies to those who may be shy about the ‘G’ word. I am not sure but I suspect that shyness has long had something to do with the Ten Commandments.)

You could say that there are two extant populations (i.e., two modern-day species) that currently have genomes that are 99% identical. The 1% difference is indicative of their species differences. All would agree that both these species have ancestries but disagree regards what those ancestries are. In any case, we could all also agree to label these populations as lineage A (LinA) and lineage B (LinB). Your additional position, but not mine, would be that these lineages shared a common ancestor population (CA) some 50,000 years ago, for example. At that time LinA and LinB would be 100% identical (on average). Fair enough?

My position is that CA provides no parsimony. There would be no reason for 99% samenesses not to extend back 60,000 or 100,000 or 500,000 or even 500 million years. Why would this not be a reasonable scenario?

Note that neither of us are positing that at the time of your hypothetical CA that “species” / kinds were identical to modern species. (As far as I can determine even Bruce Little would accept this.) Rather you are saying that the two populations were then one while I am saying they maintained their separateness.

I am leaving the “palace” library and will be returning to my room (i.e., apt.) for the weekend. There my internet connection is via a Kindle eReader so I will have no opportunity for input.

(It would be very helpful if the line length of the comments’ section could be reduced to about 40% of their current length so that when zoomed larger the lines would fit on the screen.)

Dan, a.k.a. NaturalHistoryGuy / LocalTransportationGuy

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PNG - #73632

October 13th 2012

Ha! I outfoxed the software when it threw this comment away.

Actually the times of the various insertions can be estimated by several different methods. Elements of a particular type can be used computationally to determine a consensus sequence. L1 elements contain 2 protein coding genes which code for proteins that drive the transposition process and the consensus sequence must be one that maintains the open reading frame and function of these genes, which can be checked experimentally. You can then determine roughly how old an element is by how diverged its sequence is from the relevant consensus, because a large majority of the mutations are neutral. This kind of analysis has been used to place the elements in a number of subfamilies defined by diagnostic sequence changes, each of which was active (making new insertions) at a given time in the past and then became inactive because of disabling mutations.

Another way is to determine what species the insertion is present in and absent from. You can then determine in what interval in the phylogenetic tree the insertion occurred. What you find is that specific subclasses defined by diagnostic sequence changes as described above, were active in particular phylogenetic intervals and thus are present in the descended species and not others.

Finally, because they make up so much of the genome and they contain within themselves good targets for further insertion, transposons often insert in preexisting insertions. A couple of research groups developed software to analyze what subtypes of elements have inserted in and thus disrupted what other subtypes. They used this to analyze the relative time spans of activity of the various subtypes, and it matched up well with the analyses above.

My position is that you don’t seem to know what parsimony is. If you  account for the current state of affairs by saying that millions of complex events were repeated independently in multiple species, when the independent repetition of even one of those events is very unlikely, that is a whole lot less parsimonious than saying that each orthologous insertion set in different species originated in a common ancestor.

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Darwin Guy Dan - #73635

October 13th 2012

PNG #73632

Oops, I had to rush back.  I forgot to mention that the consensus view apparently is that genomes are generally well conserved. Stasis is inferred. (In science, of course, one must always hold out skepticism regards “consensus”)

Thanks for your additional disclosure.  One might have thought by now that Evolutionists would have a stronger case.

I’m thinking the best way to proceed would be to pit your team against Rev. Franklin Graham.  Some month’s back, January or late December, Graham was on national TV and stated that he ‘believes now more than ever that the Bible is the word for word literal truth.’  I think that is fairly close to being the exact quote if not exact.  You all might check to see if he includes Genesis in that regards. One would certainly assume so.

You might want to evaluate what is received wisdom and assumptions from your elders (phylagenetic  trees, molecular clocks, etc.,), that which has already been refuted, and what is information based on observables, etc.

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Darwin Guy Dan - #73637

October 13th 2012

ERRATUM:  phylagenetic ==> phylogenetic

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Darwin Guy Dan - #73558

October 11th 2012

PNG #73511 (Cont.)

You may have done the smart thing by being driven out of physics by tensor calculus.  In my formal education, I was twice driven out of mathematics by integral calculus.  While the later holds some value in attempting to understand the symbols and procedures of higher levels of mathematics, surely one is much better off and understanding of the basics of tensors.  As I see it, the future lies with Maxwell’s equations, quantum field equations, and the like and especially quantum field interactions with photons and other electro-magnetic radiations interacting with biochemicals (and even inorganic chemicals). The  input of light radiation (and perhaps other radiations) to eventual cellular biochemical  realities, most likely in association with other environmental chemicals, has seemed to me to have been an obviously under considered ingredient in origins of life investigations.

I have been wondering regards the path to enlightenment and the role of matrix algebra as a prerequisite to tensors.  Thus my discontent with Sawtelle regards his apparent preference for Plato over Aristotle and what I perceive as being needlessly ethereal over material.  In my mind, 2 + 3 and the like makes very little sense and I fail to understand why school children are forced to spend so much time on such endeavors.  Would it not be much better to add 2 apples with 3 oranges?  In my mind, without material objects to relate, Sawtelle’s notion of relationship makes little sense.  Beyond apples and oranges, it would seem one could then very easily proceed to chemistry, 2H2 + 2O, for example. (In the world of high finance, transformations would be needed, thus, 2 $ + 3 c equates to 2 dollars plus 3 cents.)

Dan, NaturalHistoryGuy / LocalTransportationGuy

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beaglelady - #73562

October 11th 2012

Poe’s law comes to mind.

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PNG - #73579

October 12th 2012

I hadn’t heard of Poe’s law before, so I resorted to that univeral support for the forgetful/lazy/ignorant, Wikipedia. I like Morgan’s restatement of Poe’s law, “Any sufficiently advanced parody will be indistinguishable from a genuine kook.”

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Darwin Guy Dan - #73585

October 12th 2012

Beaglelady,

Point well taken.  What do you suggest?  Are you on the executive search committee? How large will be my staffing, advisory committee, and budget?  What sort of personal and communal book budget will we have?  How much will we be paid to read? Will we get free health care or would we be better to read some more ancient history and biology and learn how to do our own health care? Etc.?

As far as I can determine, a primary reason that George Bernard Murphy, the Fundamentalists, Michael Behe, Bruce Little, Richard Dawkins and Georgia Purdom, and all others don’t agree with me is that I am apparently the only person on the planet who has the instruction manual for the naturalistic blueprint reading and construction of a bacteria flagella factory.  I am quite convinced that the secrete recipes are buried in THE NATURAL SELECTION OF THE CHEMICAL ELEMENTS (1997) by R.J.P. Williams and J.J.R. Frausto du Silva and ATOM-PHOTON INTERACTIONS: BASIC PROCESSES AND APPLICATIONS (1992) by Cohen-Tannoudji and Grynberg.

I’ve seen you around “town” before.  Just where was that?  Was that you over at the “Lynn Margulis Memorial Jungle”?  Just where in that jungle did I see you?  Or was that over at the “Playground of the 5 Stars” that you also have been at?

Dan, a.k.a. NaturalHistoryGuy / LocalTransportationGuy

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beaglelady - #73588

October 12th 2012

Dan,

What do I suggest?  BioLogos needs a new president. Go for it!  And when you get the job,  guarantee me the opportunity to promote my book every 5 minutes.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #73489

October 9th 2012

Eddie and Skl,

If evolution is true, then is it not obvious that God must have made it that way.  Now it appears that you think that evolution is not true, so that God did things differently, but where is the scientific proof.

Now it seems to me that what should be the basic difference between theistic evolution and materialistic evolution is a different understanding of the philosophy of science, of how nature works, but when I for one try to develop a new non-materialistic understanding of nature I seem to get flak from all sides.

My Christian understanding of nature is that it was created through Logos, Jesus Christ, which indicates that the universe has a spiritual dimension.  To me this means that the universe has a Telos determined by the Trinity.  This would make evolution have a Telos, which of course is contrary to today’s science and makes my understanding of evolution different from Dawkins and Coyle and from BioLogos and ID.  

If there is any Christian understanding of evolution that reconciles science, philosophy, and theology, that must be the direction it must go.

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Eddie - #73491

October 9th 2012

Roger wrote:

“My Christian understanding of nature is that it was created through Logos, Jesus Christ ...   To me this means that the universe has a Telos ...  This would make evolution have a Telos ... which of course is contrary to today’s science and makes my understanding of evolution different from Dawkins and Coyne and from BioLogos ...”

Assuming that “Telos” here means “end” or “aim” or “goal,” I agree with all of the above, except that, to be extra cautious and scrupulously fair to all the various individuals who have written for BioLogos, one might want to replace the naked word “BioLogos” with “the apparent view of most BioLogos columnists so far.”

”... and ID.”

I would disagree with this; at least, I would disagree with regard to those ID proponents, e.g., Behe, who accept macroevolution.  The idea of Telos, in a monotheistic context, is inseparable from the idea of design.  ID thinkers all believe in teleology; it’s just that only a few of them combine teleology with macroevolution.  Behe is one of them, Denton another, and, it seems, Sternberg another.  Therefore, some ID thinkers offer a view that is compatible with the words quoted above.  But the rest of the quotation seems to agree with my view that teleology, provided that it is carefully and not recklessly applied, should be resurrected within natural science. 

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Jon Garvey - #73505

October 10th 2012

Here’s another angle, maybe.

Atheists say evolution is life’s creator, and is outside God’s control (because there is no God). The theory is currently underdetermined, but the metaphysic must assume their general statement will remain true, as there is no alternative.

Creationists say that God ‘s life’s creator, and that it is totally under his control. Sophisticated creationists (let’s take Aquinas, since I’m into him at the moment) say that regularity (natural law), chance, human will and miracle all occur in the world, and are all under the control of God. So if laws were found, like a fully comprehensive evolution, to explain all life, that would agree with the Christian faith. If chance were involved too, that too would be God’s work. If God acted at times miraculously, it’s a mere detail - God is governing every stage anyway. And finally, even if man’s choices affect evolution, God will work through that, since he is the perfect governor of his world.

The problem comes when TEs say that God is not overseeing some part of the creative process. For example, instead of saying that “law” is God’s way of working regularly, one says that he is “bound” by natural law. Instead of saying, like Aquinas, that chance is necessary and good within the world’s economy, but of course is fully planned by God, one starts talking about chance independent of God’s will. And instead of simply accepting miracle as one of God’s modes of action, amd maybe determining when he uses it, one excludes it a priori from the natural realm. And to complete the picture, human action is also said to be totally independent of God’s governance.

So one is left with a halfway house between creation  (small “c” - where the outcomes are God’s sole work, whatever secondary means he uses) and the atheist position, where none of the outcomes are God’s work. Instead, some of the outcomes are God’s work (and which is usualy left unclear), and some due to independent forces: autonomous laws, unpredictable chance, maybe some kind of volitional freedom in nature.

There’s more to say, but let’s try to avoid the editor timing out!

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Jon Garvey - #73506

October 10th 2012

continued…

In Christian faith - and indeed in any true theism - God is not just creator, but sole Creator. That point is often missed. The Nicene Creed reads:

maker of heaven and earth,of all that is, seen and unseen.

So a position that gives evolution some kind of partially independent creative power is not fully theistic. It is not a true theory of creation, as God is actually the only creator. Current evolutionary theory cannot determine specific outcomes - even Conway Morris’s convergence can only repeat general patterns, and in any case is currently only an observation, with no theoretical science behind it (yet to be discovered, is his own assessment). So to endorse it uncritically is to endorse an incomplete explanation of the living creation.

Nevbertheless one legitimate position would be, as it were, a theological mirror-image of the atheist’s promissory note about future science filling in the naturalistic gaps. A theist might legitimately (if not necessarily truly) predict that future evolutionary discoveries will do away with the apparent imprecision of evolution’s outcomes and show that God indeed used it to create “all that is” in terms of life, via natural law.

Another position would be to state unequivocally that what appear to have been chance events within life’s history occurred, by whatever mechanism, or even merely as a matter of metaphysical commitment, entirely according to the creative will of God.

Or one could dispense with methodological naturalism and put the hated “miracle occurs here” into the equation on the blackboard. It’s messy science - but our methodology cannot legitimately trump our metaphysics.

All those are theistic responses to the issue. I contend that responses that leave any part of the creative process independent of God’s determining will are sub-theistic (and I include there those Big C Creationists who attribute whatever seems ill in nature to Satan’s rebellious reworking of it, but that’s another question).

As I said in my previoius post on this thread, evolution per se is really not the biggest sticking point to thinking Christians. It’s the sacrifice of doctrine to current scientific dogma.

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GJDS - #73507

October 10th 2012

From these discussions I have formed the following impressions that I would like to share:

1)      The initial argument has been between theists and atheists. The atheist will not believe there is a God, and he maintains that science has provided all of the provable propositions and belief statements he needs to comprehend the world and him within it. He escapes scrutiny by asserting that even if there are things he may not know or understand, science will eventually provide these to him. Their final statement is, “Science proves everything. Prove God exists scientifically if you want to discuss the matter.” Their honest reply to the question should be they have no beliefs and the matter ends. Their preferred stance is often a militant opposition to belief in God, instead of one of non-belief.

2)      The theists may be divided into three general groups. Group (a) consider their biblical narrative and understanding is sufficient and will resist any attempt to consider the world is older than a few thousand years, and other similar claims. Group (b) consider the matters as addressing faith and science, and they rely on reason to identify the certainties provided from sections of the sciences (mainly the constants of geometry, physics and chemistry, and fine tuned universe). These are sufficient to point to, or are consistent with, the creation having a creator.

Group (b) focus on evolution in whatever form they think is convenient; this group is divided between those who want to claim a design is identified or found in living organisms, and the others who do not. Group (b) then argue that God works through evolutionary processes, but they disagree on how this may be detected. Group (b) has a sanguine view when confronted with the great uncertainty within the broad (and ill defined) area termed evolution (not dissimilar to the attitude of atheists regarding the expectations from the sciences). The rhetoric may be ‘the two books’ of knowledge, but my impression is they will inevitably put the book of nature as primary, and modify the bible under the slogan of compatibility of modernity…. continued

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GJDS - #73508

October 10th 2012

continued…..

The discussions in this series have shown that various theists have undergone extraordinary transformations in their thinking, and it seems most of these have resulted from the debates concerning evolution.

I see the distinction theists as between orthodox and unorthodox theologies, although the latter are often termed liberal theologians. The unorthodox view strikes me as one in which the confidence and belief is, in the final analysis, obtained from the sciences, and the Christian faith is changed into a convenient form as a result. I understand the subject matter is very large and these comments barely scratch the surface regarding theology. However the question may be reduced to, “How do we view scientific teachings?” This is especially relevant when one considers historically, scientific understanding has changed to such a degree that scientists from 1800-1900 would not be able to converse with present day scientists.

History has a great deal to show us. It is becoming clear to me that the understanding of Genesis by Christians may have been better/clearer during the first few centuries AD; the Hellenic teachings regarding the earth and sun etc. became interwoven with established teachings in Europe, and also were made to accord with selected sections in the OT. The Protestant movement, and the enlightenment, gave considerable impetus to changes in broad areas, including theology and philosophy. The Sciences were beginning to develop to their current form, and during these early days became entangled with these movements (especially atheist teachings, which used very crude and poorly thought out ideas of geology and bio-areas known in a very primitive way). The events in the USA appear to have especially polarized ideas and outlooks, involving the conservative and liberal wings of the protestant religions. Orthodoxy (Catholic and Eastern traditions) by and large has felt the turmoil of history, although these have been observed in a different context to that in the USA. 

I think with some effort, reason would assure any theist that faith and science are not in conflict, and reliance on the Orthodox teachings regarding God (the Creed) would show this to be the case. The question revolves about the future direction of theistic outlooks with regard to evolution. On evolution (theistic evolution if you wish), I cannot see a resolution; the complexities of the bio-systems, the need to understand the entire planetary system before we can have confidence in any form of neo-Darwinism, and the lack of any answers on the most basic questions (how life began, optical isomers, mechanistic constraints, punctuated events lacking scientifically provable foundations, random as opposed to regularities, just to name a few). This situation would comfort those who like turmoil and contention, and probably feed anxiety and doubt in some who wonder what is true. I certainly think natural theology is a bad idea; however, as I said previously, people say they are theologians and yet do not believe in God. What a species we are, we humans.

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GJDS - #73509

October 10th 2012

correction… I should have labled the third group ‘Group (c) focus on evolution’....

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