Science and the Bible: Theistic Evolution, Part 2

Bookmark and Share

August 29, 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 2
Michelangelo Buonarroti, “The Creation of Adam,” Cappella Sistina, Vatican (ca. 1511)

In the first part of this column, I presented five core tenets or assumptions of Theistic Evolution. The discussion resumes today with some implications and conclusions that follow from those assumptions, with further implications and conclusions coming in about two weeks.

Some implications and conclusions of Theistic Evolution

(1) For TEs, both the verbal and the conceptual language of the Bible are “pre-scientific,” not just popular and phenomenological. In other words, God’s revelation is embedded in an ancient worldview that is simply assumed by the text, not challenged there. Thus, the Bible contains ancient science—science that would be factually erroneous if we took it at face value as part of what God intended to teach us.

Bernard Ramm argued for just such a position in The Christian View of Science and Scripture, even though he was an OEC, not a TE. Denis Lamoureux takes it further in his recent book, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution. A glance at the table of contents shows that he emphasizes the presence of “ancient science in the Bible” and teaches us how to interpret the Bible in light of this. Just as we don’t take biblical astronomy “literally,” with its 3-tiered universe, we shouldn’t take biblical biology “literally,” with its fixed species and separate creations a few thousand years ago.

(2) Even though TE advocates sometimes speak about God as the author of two “books” (nature and Scripture), TE is not usually seen as a Concordist position. At least among evangelical TEs, a position known as “Complementarity” is probably the most widely endorsed model for relating science and the Bible, though it is not the only one.

For a concise description of Complementarity, I borrow the words of Stanford physicist (now retired) Richard Bube, who wrote three books about science and Christianity, taught a course about it for decades, and edited the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (now called Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith) for many years. In his book, Putting It All Together, Bube presented seven “patterns” for relating science to faith (here and here), ending with his personal favorite, Complementarity, described as follows:

“Science and theology tell us different kinds of things about the same things. Each, when true to its own authentic capabilities, provides us with valid insights into the nature of reality from different perspectives. It is the task of individuals and communities of individuals to integrate these two types of insights to obtain an adequate and coherent view of reality.” (p. 166)

I’ll offer my own example to illustrate this model. Everyone reading this column originated in the union of two cells, one from each parent. Everyone reading this is also created in the image of God. Each of these two sentences is true, but the truths they proclaim are of a different order. The first neither implies nor negates the second. You can see where this is going: for TEs, the truth (in their view) that we are descended from other primates neither implies nor negates the truth that we are created in the image of God.

The Complementarity view, as I’ve briefly presented it, might seem quite shallow—nothing more than the simple, unsupported claim that science is about HOW and religion is about WHY. Readers who want a subtler account are invited to study Christopher Rios’ article about its development. Rios quite properly stresses the work of two important British scientists from the last century, quantum chemist Charles A. Coulson and his friend, brain theorist Donald M. MacKay, one of the most prolific and thoughtful Christian thinkers of his generation. If you don’t know MacKay, I unreservedly recommend that you get acquainted, but his work is so wide-ranging that I am hesitant to recommend a single starting place. Evolution was not one of his chief interests (I don’t offer him as a prime example of TE per se), but I can’t think of anyone who wrote more about the Complementarity model of science and Christian faith.

Physicist-theologian John Polkinghorne can also be understood as a proponent of Complementarity, though I would not characterize his position solely in those terms. His overall vision captures the essence of Complementarity: theology complements the limited picture of reality given to us by science; it goes beyond science, providing a larger metaphysical framework within which both nature and the science of nature are more intelligible (see below for more). Many of his books are conceptually deep, discouraging casual readers, but they are also eloquent and very creative, making the hard work of reading them time well spent. There simply is no good substitute for diving into them yourself. I’ve reviewed one of his recent books here.

(INVITATION: If you would like to take part in a full discussion of one of his books here at BioLogos, at some point down the road, please let me know, either in a comment below or privately (tdavisATmessiahDOTedu). Don’t make the commitment lightly—you would be expected to purchase and read the book—but please take the invitation seriously and respond accordingly.)

(3) Advocates of TE often emphasize theology of nature more than natural theology. They may still do natural theology, but they approach it more modestly—for them, theism cannot be “proved” from nature, but it still makes more sense of our whole experience of the world than atheism.

A theology of nature starts from the assumption that God exists and then seeks to understand the whole of nature in light of this. Polkinghorne does this in many of his books (see the review linked above for some specific examples). Natural theology, on the other hand, is the effort to demonstrate God’s existence (including some of God’s attributes, such as power, wisdom, and goodness) from reason or nature, without appealing to the Bible. Many Christian authors since the patristic period have done this, often citing the first chapter of Romans, though some of the most important have had doubts about the value of the whole enterprise; two prominent examples would be Blaise Pascal (see the article by George Murphy here) and John Henry Newman.

The golden age for natural theology lasted from the late 17th century (when Boyle and Newton were outspoken advocates of using science to argue for God’s existence) down through the mid-19th century, when Darwinian evolution provided a serious challenge to natural theological arguments based on “contrivances,” aspects of nature that appeared to be exquisitely crafted for a specific purpose by the Creator. Although it’s not true “That Darwin Destroyed Natural Theology,” (see the chapter by Jon Roberts here), it is true that TE authors no longer appeal to intricate biological “contrivances” to make their case. Prior to Darwin, a leading natural theologian, the great scholar William Whewell, had already made the case for a different type of natural theology in his famous contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises, a series of eight books on natural theology from the 1830s: “But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this;—we can perceive that events are brought about, not by insulated interpositions of divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws” (Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology, p. 356 in the fifth London edition of 1836). Ironically, Darwin placed this very passage directly opposite the title page in On the Origin of Species (1859).

Just a few years later, a Unitarian chemist from Harvard, Josiah Parsons Cooke, Jr., replied to Darwin in a book called Religion and Chemistry; or, Proofs of God’s Plan in the Atmosphere and Its Elements (1864). Cooke got around Darwin by inquiring into the basic properties of matter itself—the features of the physical universe that make biology possible at all. “There is abundant evidence of design in the properties of the chemical elements alone,” he argued, especially as they combine to make the unique substance we call water. Natural theology had found a more solid foundation, “which no theories of organic development can shake.”

Contemporary TEs do pretty much the same thing. They look for evidence of “design” or “purpose” in the nature of nature itself, not in biological “contrivances.” Discussions of the “fine tuning” of the universe are common in TE literature, including Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God and Ken Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God. Philosopher Robin Collins (who is writing a superb book about the fine tuning of the laws of nature) provides a helpful introduction to the terms and the issues here. Polkinghorne raises fundamental questions about the very intelligibility of nature in the wonderful title chapter in Belief in God in an Age of Science. Let’s pay careful attention to what he says about his overall approach:

“This new natural theology differs from the old-style natural theology of Anselm and Aquinas by refraining from talking about ‘proofs’ of God’s existence and by being content with the more modest role of offering theistic belief as an insightful account of what is going on. It differs from the old-style natural theology of William Paley and others by basing its arguments not upon particular occurrences (the coming-to-be of the eye or of life itself), but on the character of the physical fabric of the world, which is the necessary ground for the possibility of any occurrence (it appeals to cosmic rationality and the anthropic form of the laws of nature) ... [Consequently] the new-style natural theology in no way seeks to be a rival to scientific explanation but rather it aims to complement that explanation by setting it within a wider and more profound context of understanding. Science rejoices in the rational accessibility of the physical world and uses the laws of nature to explain particular occurrences in cosmic and terrestrial history, but it is unable of itself to offer any reason why these laws take the particular (anthropically fruitful) form that they do, or why we can discover them through mathematical insight.” (pp. 10-11)

Looking Ahead

Sorry to stop mid-stream, but this is enough for now. This discussion resumes in about two weeks with more implications and conclusions of TE. There should be enough here to keep us going until then!


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.

< Previous post in series Next post in series >


View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Loading...
Page 4 of 4   « 1 2 3 4
Gregory - #72524

September 8th 2012


Gregory - #72525

September 8th 2012


Gregory - #72531

September 8th 2012


Gregory - #72526

September 8th 2012

Ted has pointed to some TE literature and to TE proponents who produce it, mainly Americans, but there is much, much more out there. William Carroll, who Ted cites, says “Perhaps the most famous representative of theistic evolution is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.” I wonder why we don’t hear more about Chardin here at BioLogos? Likewise important are T. Dobzhansky and R. Fisher, contributors to the modern (neo-)evolutionary synthesis. Living today, Dr. Stephen Barr comes to mind, so does Rev. Dr. Michael Heller. None of these decorated scholars would have (my speculation) or do now support ‘Intelligent Design.’

Eddie, please know this: there are some people out there who spend all of their disposable income buying ‘ID’ literature or ‘creationist’ literature and who don’t bother to educate themselves about ‘theistic evolution’ or ‘evolutionary creation.’ This poses a significant challenge to speaking about ‘theistic evolution’ (TE) because many people don’t know what it is and if it serves merely as a covering label for “Christians who accept biological evolution (as something that has happened [and continues to happen]).”

Then there are also some well educated folks who disagree with TE, a topic which, if this series was not just about history, but also about ideas, should likely address. For example, philosophy J.P. Moreland wrote:

“Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates. In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture….While there are exceptions, many theistic evolutionists simply fail to provide a convincing response to the question of why one should adopt a theological layer of explanation for the origin and development of life in the first place. Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids toward placing nonscientific claims in a privatized, make-believe realm in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined.” (“Kingdom Triangle,” 2007)

10. “I did not respond to your justification of the TEs’ treatment of Behe because it was pure politics, having nothing to do with truth.” – Eddie

Sometimes, Eddie, there is truth in politics. Behe has willfully chosen the ‘movement’ in which he wants to be a part. He has chosen his allies and must face the music for that. He has profited significantly from the attention both it and they have heaped on him. He is somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ to Big-ID fans and proponents.

What cannot be forgotten is this: Behe chooses to ‘hang around with’ Big-ID proponents, to write for Big-IDist (or creationist) books like Of Pandas and People, to take Discovery Institute’s Fellowship money, to act as a pro-Big-ID trial witness, to promote his own works on Big-ID advocacy sites, to give interviews to Big-ID-friendly sources, to speak at pro-Big-ID functions which often involve speaker’s fees, etc. This is *his* free political choice of association. It shows the truth of the Movement surrounding Big-ID, which wants to ‘renew’ (American) culture and society by opposing naturalism, materialism, reductionism, etc.

As I said already, “Behe could renounce Big-ID just as easily as he could embrace TE/EC to set the record straight.” I’m sure Ted Davis, George Murphy, ASA, Faraday Institute, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and other TEs/ECs would welcome Behe to their fold if he decided to give up his political and intellectual ties with the IDM. Francis Beckwith, Mark Ryland, Robin Collins and several others who were formerly associated with the DI, have done this and they now can no longer be called ‘IDists’ in the way that Behe still actively chooses to be. The choice is Behe’s to make; not yours, mine or BioLogos’.

11. “whether God steers the evolutionary process so as to guarantee all, most, or at least some of its outcomes.” – Eddie

What specifically would that look like? How would it be observed? Is that a scientific, a theological or a philosophical term, i.e. ‘steering’ and ‘guarantee’? I believe God created the universe and continues to sustain it. God was and is active in the world yesterday and today. Does that count as ‘steering’?


Eddie - #72538

September 8th 2012

Gregory (72526):

I’ll respond to only some points:

Regarding your preamble, I don’t know who “some people” are, and can speak only for myself.  I have loads of books supporting atheistic evolution, theistic evolution, and intelligent design.  I think I understand the main points of each of those three positions, though I don’t claim to be able to understand all the scientific details discussed by the proponents of those positions.
 
In any case, I think the best definition of “theistic evolution” is the simple one offered by Ted Davis, which is, roughly, “God created through a process of evolution.”  This definition has the advantage of including a very wide range of biological and theological positions, and is exclusive only insofar as it logically excludes those who say that evolution never happened.  But most “TE” writers today exclude certain biological positions, e.g., those which criticize neo-Darwinism, and certain theological positions, e.g. orthodox Thomist and Calvinist understandings of creation and divine sovereignty.  The sad thing is that “theistic evolution” doesn’t need to do this; and when TE does this, TE becomes a mere sect or faction rather than a broad theology/science position which can be attractive to many.  In other words, all the stipulations and exclusions that many modern TEs demand are shooting theistic evolution in its own foot, making it less popular than it would otherwise be.

Your quotation from Moreland is very good, and I wish more TEs would take his criticism to heart.

10.  I’ve never seen Behe acknowledge the existence of such a thing as “Big-ID” (as if he thinks that there is more than one kind of ID), so I don’t know how he could renounce it.  He supports intelligent design (with or without the capital letters; he uses upper and lower cases indifferently) as the best explanation of at least some features of living systems.  And it wouldn’t matter if he cut himself off entirely from Discovery; he might be considered as a TE by physicists like George Murphy and Ted Davis, but would never be accepted as one by the biologist-TEs, who are professionally offended by his critique of neo-Darwinism and will not accept him until he surrenders that critique.  And he is never going to do that.
 
 11.  You continue to stumble on the question about evolutionary outcomes.  Your motherhood statement about God and evolution is so general as to be nearly intellectually vacuous, and I do not accept it as an answer.
 
I do not know how to interpret your continued failure to address the issue of substance.  Any interpretation I put on it would likely be considered uncharitable by you.  If I accuse you of not understanding the issues (e.g., the distinction between secondary and primary causation, between God’s general and special action, between God’s sustaining and God’s initiating activity, between the normal course of nature and interventions), you will say I am condescending; if I accuse you of knowing perfectly well what I mean, but of deliberately offering vague and frustrating answers, you will say that I am unjustly accusing you of being disingenuous.  What would you have me say?  You are either misunderstanding or dodging the question.  Did God take action to ensure that *certain specific creatures* would be produced, or did he merely establish an evolutionary process which might or might not produce any particular envisaged creature, depending on which way the random ball bounced?  If the former, what general sorts of specific action (front-loading, intervention, etc.) do you personally believe that God took?  If the latter, how can you support anything but Open Theism?
 
You are not being asked for a scientific justification.  You are being asked for a theological opinion.  It is extremely unlikely that you do not have at least a provisional inclination toward one or the other of the alternatives given in the paragraph above.  You can share that current position with us, or you can willfully duck the question.

Gregory - #72527

September 8th 2012

12. In TE thread #1, I responded to Ted’s call for help, suggesting that we not discuss ID until the next series on ID. He didn’t respond, so I take it that ‘design’ and ID are fair game here too. Since you continually bring up ‘design,’ Eddie, and since I disagree with how you are doing it (not to mention why, since that would raise ‘motivations,’ which seems really to bother you), it means I must speak of ID and just about ‘design’ too. As it turns out, I wrote my master’s thesis in philosophy partly on ID and the IDM, so it doesn’t bother me to discuss ID. If I’m not doing so clearly, then I ask for patience from readers and will happily try to clarify any questions that are asked of me. Again, I’m on Ted Davis’ side and BioLogos which contend that ID is not a ‘scientific’ theory, while your position on this (IDTE), Eddie, is not yet clear.

13. Please don’t verbally slap me with ‘never.’ Eddie, shall we speak frankly? Dialogue – yes, I’m all for it in a big way (I work at a Communications Institute after all!). Deception, I’m not a big fan of it and hardly tolerate it. Internet pseudonyms; its part of the territory, but, as Ted Davis wrote here some months ago, I also find them less than ideal.

I don’t know who you are, Eddie. You can look in the Member room and follow the links. You can see who I am. My birth name is Gregory. I am an early-career Professor in a department of Social and Political Sciences (and at a Communications Institute). I’ve been involved in Science, Philosophy and Religion dialogue for over a decade. God willing, I’ll be able to continue this in whatever capacity is best suited, while my professional work develops in other fields.

Who are you, Eddie? I wrote earlier that I think you are JamesR (who is banned) and I still believe that. BioLogos Moderator could easily check IP addresses to confirm if this is true or not. If it is not true, then my apology will be forthcoming. My aim is not to ‘out’ you, Eddie, but please understand that it is very hard to dialogue with someone under such circumstances.

People matter and should not be dehumanized by lacking identity (and thus responsibility) with others. It seems to me that you and I have covered a lot of the same ground that we’ve already done in other places. This IDTE combination, however, is new. There are ‘patterns’ that people display in the way they communicate and what they communicate about. That doesn’t make me an ‘Intelligent Design’ or even a ‘design’ theorist; it just means I have intuitions like everybody else does and that I too can do ‘detective’ work on the Internet.

This provides an answer to you for why I ‘turned’ – I realized the person behind the ‘newbie’ mask by his jargon and focus. If you are that person, then I reject his sometimes fanatical pro-ID advocacy (which goes beyond his desire simply to see that IDers are fairly represented) and remember how he has personally attacked me and sought to undermine my calling to this dialogue in the past. It is to protect myself and improve the atmosphere for conversation that I point this out. A shiny new pseudonym doesn’t (usually) change the man (or woman) under it.

(cont’d)


Eddie - #72539

September 8th 2012

Gregory (72527):

I could not care less that I care about who you really are, or how many internet identities you have previously used, or even whether the positions you took in those various identities were consistent with each other.  I am concerned only with the internal consistency of the positions taken by the “Gregory” currently posting on BioLogos.   And that is all you should be concerned about with my posts here on BioLogos:  what I mean, here and now, and whether or not I am here and now being consistent.  

Even if, hypothetically speaking, I had ever posted here or any other place on the internet, the readers here are looking at the position I am taking now, under the name I am using now, and would not even have thought about any positions I might have taken under other names, had you not (quite deliberately) put that notion into their minds.  There is thus no doubt that, even though you have misidentified me, you are trying to “out” the person that you think I am—or at least, to provide information that would enable a sharp reader to follow up leads and discover that person’s identity.  And this shows a complete lack of class, and is a violation of “netiquette”—one of the unwritten rules of which is that one never “outs” anyone or provides information that could lead to the outing of someone.  So, even though you are wrong on the specifics, you should be ashamed of yourself for what you are doing.  If you were correct, you would be doing an unethical thing.

And note that, if you were correct, you could easily have written to the person you supposed “Eddie” to be, and addressed whatever issues were “eating” you without saying anything in public.  Did you do that?  Did you write to anyone you thought Eddie might be, and raise your objections privately?  If not, if you went straight to raising questions of identity publically, then your intention clearly was to “out” that person, and, since you have mentioned that the person in question was banned previously, and since you have even given the moderators technical advice on how to compare and ascertain internet identities, one can only infer that your intention was to draw the previous banning to the attention of the moderators and get the person banned again—in other words, that your intention was to do harm to that person.  That is not a Christian intention, but a spiteful one.

Aside from any ethical or spiritual problems with your conduct, it is intellectually irrelevant.  One raises the questions of others’ motives only when one is unable to answer their arguments.  If the arguments are sound, they are sound; and if unsound, unsound; and one should be able to address the arguments without regard for their authors.  You have said a number of things that I believe to be false, e.g., about determinism.  I have not tried to discredit what I believe to be your false conclusions by raising any motives you may have for arriving at those conclusions.  I’ve simply said that “determinism” is not the right term, theologically, for the assertion of God’s absolute sovereignty over non-human things.  And I can demonstrate that historically, without being in the slightest concerned with the deep roots in your psyche that cause you to fear and loathe determinism.  But where the case is reversed, you go first to my alleged motives, and try to sidestep my arguments.  This is the sign, in my humble opinion, of faulty intellectual training.  The true philosopher eschews discussion of motives.  Motives are relevant to explaining behavior; they are completely irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of propositions.  Here I’m interested only in the truth or falsehood of science/theology propositions.  If you wish to discuss anything else, I’m not the right conversation partner for you. 


Gregory - #72528

September 8th 2012

Conclusion:

Please realise, Eddie, that I appreciate your effort (if that’s what you are doing) in trying to bridge ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘Theistic Evolution/Evolutionary Creation.’ This would seem to be part of BioLogos’ mission also, although from the past and from its Questions section it obviously differs fundamentally from and disagrees with ID. In my own work, I’ve come up with an alternative 3rd way, which is neither ‘evolutionistic’ nor ‘Intelligent Designistic’ (added ideological tag because many IDers are heavily-invested ideologically in ID), nor Gaia ecologistic, as one poster here promotes. Maybe you will consider giving it a chance?

I agree with both you and Ted and others here that “God created/creates through a process of evolution.” My main questions are then to ask: what are the limits of this evolutionary process, i.e. what are examples of ‘non-evolutionary’ processes and indeed, how can we responsibly and properly be ‘anti-evolutionistic’ in the sense that BioLogos now promotes, meaning, ‘against the ideology of evolutionism’ (Louis, Burnett, et. al.)? If you can find a way to meet me on this common ground, I’m sure we’ll get on just handsomely and cordially, without the tension that exists now related to your IDTE and ‘design vs. chance’ dichotomy. I am an opponent of naturalism, materialism, reductionism and scientism just like both TE and Big-ID, if that helps to indicate for you a path towards the common ground.

One last thing: If you want to engage in friendly dialogue, Eddie, then please stop using the term ‘self-contradiction.’ It is belittling and condescending. Can we agree – I won’t call you ‘disingenuous,’ since you seem to think it implies dishonesty, and you won’t say I am “riddled with self-contradiction,” even if I think you are and you think I am? Is that a fair offer? It should be obvious that I could say I think you are full of self-contradiction too, but I haven’t because I consider that would be rude. What you think is ‘self-contradiction’ in my (admittedly imperfect) approach I view as a reflexively coherent perspective, just as much as GJSD, Jon Garvey, bren, Roger, Francis and others view themselves the same way. What you said was perceived as insulting; please stop.

Thanks,

Gregory

p.s. if the BioLogos Moderator would find my response 13. to Eddie unsuitable or inappropriate, then please feel free to remove those five paragraphs; I added it because I felt that was the only way I could give Eddie a straight answer to his ‘turned’ question. I trust none of the other sections will be considered impolite or against the Ground Rules for Commenting.


Eddie - #72543

September 8th 2012

Gregory (72528):

You wrote:

“Please realise, Eddie, that I appreciate your effort (if that’s what you are doing) in trying to bridge ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘Theistic Evolution/Evolutionary Creation.’ “

Given the all-out attack you have launched on my gentle and tentative suggestion of “intelligently designed theistic evolution,” even though I have clarified what I meant by the term several times, it is hard to see your “appreciation.”  Perhaps you are not aware of how aggressively your writing comes across to others.  Odd that a social scientist should be so blind about a matter of social perception.

I’m not at all concerned with any “ideology of evolutionism.”  That’s your battle.  I’m concerned with the question whether God controls the outcomes of evolution, or leaves   them (some, most, or all) to chance.  You’ve indicated, by your repeated duckings of the subject, that you aren’t interested in that question, or at least, that you aren’t willing to share your views on that question with the public.  So we have nothing in common to talk about, do we?

I will not give up the design versus chance dichotomy, as I think it is epistemologically and ontologically fundamental to the evolution/creation/ID discussions.  I have been studying the question of design and chance academically for over 30 years now, and have made sure that I know what I am talking about, translating parts of Plato and Aristotle from Greek, translating the relevant parts of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew, and studying the views of the Pre-Socratics, Bacon, Hobbes, Kant, Bertrand Russell, Bergson, and many, many others.  If you are demanding that I abandon the design/chance dichotomy, then you have made it impossible for us to find common ground at the outset, and so your offer of peace terms is simply a disguised demand for surrender. “I’m sure we’ll get on just handsomely and cordially—if you abandon your fundamental position and come over to my side.”   (Much like:  “You’re welcome on the TE side, Michael Behe.  Just give up this silly criticism of Darwinian mechanisms, and you’re in!”)

Sure, I’ll stop using “self-contradiction”—if you stop using words like “disingenuous” and “pretending”—and also cease all discussion, references, queries, hints, oblique pointers, etc.—to any present or past internet identities you suspect (rightly or wrongly) me to have, or to have had—and that you cease now and for all time, on this website and on all others.  Do you resolve this now, publically, in front of readers here?  Do you give your word, as a man and a Christian, that you will never again discuss, directly or indirectly, the aforementioned subject in public?  If you do this, I will go out of my way to seek peaceful dialogue with you.  If you wll not give me your word of honor on this, then you do not respect me or any of the other persons whom you may misidentify, and I cannot maintain cordial relations with someone who does not respect the privacy choices of others, and therefore I will have to break off all contact.


Francis - #72533

September 8th 2012

I thought Gregory’s quote of J.P. Moreland was worth an encore:

“Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates. In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture….While there are exceptions, many theistic evolutionists simply fail to provide a convincing response to the question of why one should adopt a theological layer of explanation for the origin and development of life in the first place. Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids toward placing nonscientific claims in a privatized, make-believe realm in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined.”

Amen.


Ted Davis - #72540

September 8th 2012

It seems to me, folks, that a lot of these recent posts are pretty far off-topic. That is, they are either irrelevant to the topics raised in this column, or they are electronic shoving matches. I’m about to reach for my yellow and red cards, but I’d much come back and find either better banter or silence.


Eddie - #72544

September 8th 2012

Ted:

I just posted another reply, and then I saw your message.  I am doubtless one of at least two people, maybe more, who has strayed off-topic.  My apologies for any difficulties I have caused you or the reader.  My only excuse is that I felt myself under personal attack.  But I acknowledge that it’s time to stop responding to such attacks.  I’ll post no more responses on this thread, even if I am criticized again.


Gregory - #72572

September 9th 2012

Let me try again to send this section (as the previous 3 times it didn’t work, perhaps b/c of link), since it contains more constructive and on-topic ‘better banter’:

8. “the ‘TE’ of most theistic evolutionists is much narrower than what Ted presents, which is why I could be called a “theistic evolutionist,” but won’t call myself a TE.” – Eddie

Indeed, hopefully Ted will comment on this because such hesitancy to embrace (call oneself) TE as you are demonstrating, Eddie, seems to be important in defining ‘theistic evolution’ (TE) and ‘theistic evolutionists’ (which embraces [theistic] ‘evolutionism’). I’ve asked Ted for clarification about this (above and in the first thread) and hope he will provide some clarity in the 3rd and final thread on TE in this series. What is it that makes some ‘TE’ unsuitable, unattractive or even heterodox?

It makes little sense to me, Eddie, that you say you “could be called a ‘theistic evolutionist,’ but that you won’t call [yourself] a TE.” Doesn’t TE denote ‘theistic evolution’? What distinction do you wish to make between ‘theistic evolution’ and TE, just about ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’? This speaks to the meaningful purpose of this TE series.

Jon Garvey helpfully clarified himself as a ‘Warfieldian TE’ (WTE) proponent when probed over on his blog – a discussion related to this one where Ted Davis participated and which referenced his series at BioLogos. What kind of ‘theistic evolution’ proponent would you call yourself, if not simply the ‘generic’ kind? Is it ‘generic’ or ‘minimal’ TE vs. ‘(post-)modern’ TE you are comparing or something else?

Here’s the link: http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2012/07/16/some-other-cambridge-observations/#comment-1531

9. “Ted’s broad definition of TE, which I accept, says nothing one way or the other about whether design is detectable. It doesn’t mention design at all.” – Eddie

Exactly – “It doesn’t mention design at all.” TE is not about ‘design.’ (Or is it really, Ted?) That’s also why adding ‘intelligently designed’ before ‘theistic evolution’ is redundant and unnecessary. Do you register that criticism, Eddie?

Perhaps it would help if you would explain exactly which ‘narrowing’ parts of TE you start to object to, Eddie, from whatever disciplinary perspective(s) you seek to represent. We all come from somewhere afterall. Is it just how/that TE rejects ‘design in nature’ as ‘scientifically’ provable that you object to or is there (much) more to it than that?

“most of the leading TEs have chosen to narrow the definition of ‘theistic evolution’ to deliberately exclude the possibility that design in nature is detectable.” – Eddie

Now, that’s getting interesting (even if it goes right back to ‘design in nature’ - DiN). I gather when you mean ‘detectable,’ you really mean ‘scientifically detectable,’ which is one of the main disagreements between ID and TE. TE says ‘science can’t prove it,’ while ID disagrees. This will surely come up in Ted’s ID threads, but it is relevant here because TE means science can’t prove OoL or ‘design in nature’ alone – the topic is inevitably a mixture of science, philosophy and theology (contra Adrian Bejan’s DiN).

Second, when you say “most of the leading TEs,” you are engaging in social science, or at least wading into social thought; you are gathering your reflexive, personal experiences based on your ‘situated knowledge’ (D. Haraway) and limited history of dealing with or reading TEs and expressing your ‘educated opinion’ to us here reading BioLogos Forum. It is of course possible, that your ‘sample size’ is insufficient or that you’ve been reading or dealing with the wrong TEs, who are not actually representative of what you call ‘leading TEs.’ We have only to trust or not trust you based on our intuition, on our personal knowledge (M. Polanyi) and whether or not we know some things that you do not. It doesn’t seem like you allow for this doubt towards your position, but rest assured, Eddie, it’s part of the communication process.

Btw, Ted, how would you answer to J.P. Moreland’s perspective about TE (given that both Eddie and Francis support it)?


Gregory - #72574

September 9th 2012

Correction on quotation (already edited in the previously posted version: “It makes little sense to me, Eddie, that you say you “could be called a ‘theistic evolutionist,’ but won’t call [yourself] a TE.” Doesn’t TE denote ‘theistic evolution’?”


Ted Davis - #72612

September 10th 2012

Let me gloss this “leading TEs” language, b/c I’ve probably used it (or an equivalent term) myself many times. I am talking only about my own use of such language, not anyone else’s, just to make sure that we’re on the same page in my columns.

When I speak in this way, I’m thinking of people who publish in the growing field of “science and religion,” without regard to their core academic discipline (mine is HPS, e.g., but I’m not a “leading TE”). Most of the people I regard as “leading TEs” are either trained formally as theologians, or else they are functioning as theologians in the their scholarship—for which they have strong backgrounds, whether or not they were trained in theology. Polkinghorne, e.g., was trained in mathematical physics, not theology, but he also prepared for the Anglican ministry, was a parish priest for many years, served as Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral from 1994 to 2005, and has written dozens of theological works reflecting on science.

Several of the people I’m writing about in parts 2-4 of this column on TE have similar professional backgrounds to Polkinghorne: Bob Russell, Denis Lamoureux, Christopher Southgate, George Murphy. Several other people influential in the past were in this category, including Ian Barbour—who effectively created the whole academic field of science and religion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Barbour) and the late Arthur Peacocke (http://www.zygonjournal.org/peacocke.html). All of these people have thought about TE in a serious academic sense, as well as personally as religious believers, and I would say all of them fit my “leading TE” category.

Most popularizers of TE, however, are not in this category. They are probably seen that way by their many readers, since they sell a lot of books that are often well written, and the ideas they present may be new to their readers. But, they don’t typically contribute original ideas about TE themselves; rather, they pick up ideas elsewhere, perhaps put a personal twist on them or perhaps not, and convey them (often very well) to a popular reading audience. They do important work, especially b/c of their visibility (which is usually much greater than that of the “leading TEs”), but they aren’t usually in my “leading TE” category.


Eddie - #72634

September 11th 2012

Gregory:
 
I won’t respond defensively or combatively, as I promised Ted, but I can clarify my meaning:
 
By “leading TEs” I meant those TEs who are the most publically influential, the most successful at spreading their particular brand of TE among large numbers of people in these two groups:
 
(1) American (and secondarily Canadian, British, etc.) Christian scientific circles, i.e., the body of working scientists who are Christians and keep in touch with each other for mutual encouragement—and who are not necessarily (and not usually) philosophers of science, full-time religion/science scholars with academic positions, etc.;
 
(2) The general reading public, insofar as it takes an interest in creation / evolution / origins issues, when they are written up attractively for the scientific layman.
 
Now, who are the leading TEs in each of these settings?
 
(1) Ted Davis, Randy Isaac, Terry Gray, the Haarsmas, George Murphy, Keith Miller, Dennis Venema, Karl Giberson, Darrel Falk, Denis Lamoureux, Denis Alexander, etc.
 
(2) Ken Miller, Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, Karl Giberson, etc. 
 
So when I speak of “most of the leading TEs” or “many of the leading TEs,” these are the people I have in mind.
 
(continued)
 

Eddie - #72635

September 11th 2012

Ted, however, uses the term “leading TE” differently.  He means “leading in theoretical depth and foundational thought.”  So he includes those TEs, whether they are influential or not, who are advanced theoretically in religion/science discourse.  He’s named a number of those people here:  Polkinghorne, Russell, etc.  There is some overlap between groups, naturally, because some theoretically advanced TEs are also good writers, or members of the ASA, or publish in its journal, etc. 
 
I don’t say that Ted’s definition is wrong and that mine is right.  Terms mean whatever they are established as meaning, by official or tacit convention.  I think that Ted’s usage is perfectly proper and, knowing it, I can adjust when I’m talking to him.  I think that he and others should be able to adjust to my usage as well.
 
I think that the theological criticisms levelled by Jon Garvey, myself, and others, are based on reasonably fair descriptions of the positions of a number of people that I am calling “leading TEs.”  Those descriptions would not be accurate for all of the people that Ted is calling “leading TEs.”  Thus, Jon and I will occasionally mention exceptions by name, e.g., Russell, so as not to accuse Russell of holding certain views of, say, Ken Miller. 
 
(continued)

Eddie - #72636

September 11th 2012

The problem with the people I am calling “leading TEs” is that they tend to add unofficial “membership requirements” above and beyond the affirmation that “God created through a process of evolution.”  The additional requirements include one or more (typically more) of the following (characterized here with some crudity, for the sake of brevity):
 
(1) Design in nature is not detectable through scientific means, because science and design are in two different NOMA compartments; (2) Design is not detectable scientifically, because then people would not need faith; (3) Design is not even detectable philosophically, because that would permit natural theology, and natural theology is not good Christianity, as Barth, Pascal, etc. teach us; (4) God would not directly create evil, so he would have used a chance-driven, error-prone process such as Darwinian evolution, to keep his hands clean; (5) God would not create inefficiently, e.g., wiring the retina backwards, so he must have used a sloppy, ad hoc process like Darwinian evolution to get the job done; (6) Intelligent Design is bad theology because it makes God a mere engineer; (7) God prefers natural processes over direct interventions, and probably only used natural processes, so, though we won’t swear to that, we will act as if it is true, and our science will be exactly the same as the science of the atheist Darwinists, the difference being only in the optional theological interpretation we put on the science; (8) God is not a “tyrant” and therefore gives nature “freedom” to “co-create” with him, or at least to “express itself”; or (variant used by some TEs) God is not a Calvinist God who compels things to happen exactly according to a decree; (9) God grants freedom to nature by not compelling it in a planned direction, but by letting it proceed through “randomness.”
 
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but only to give an idea of what I mean.  Note that none of these add-ons are implied in the definition “God used an evolutionary process in creation.”  Note that most of them either incidentally or deliberately target Intelligent Design.  I.e., their effect, and usually also their purpose, is exclusionary; they ensure that ID-evolution people like Behe and Sternberg don’t get into the club.  Note also that many of them are theologically non-traditional or at least provide the basis for non-traditional theological formulations; they contain the seeds of open theism, process theology, etc.; they show distaste for natural theology; they in some respects lean away from Calvinist, Catholic, and other long-received doctrines of God’s sovereignty and providence.
 
(continued)
 
 

Ted Davis - #72643

September 11th 2012

There are certainly a lot of “civilized discontents,” if I may call them that, in this post, Eddie—as you must realize, far too many to reply to fairly, especially since (as you say) you are speaking “with some crudity, for the sake of brevity.”

Your long list of discontents, when coupled with the fact that I won’t be replying to any of them at length or to most of them at all, might leave readers with the impression that these are unrefuted conjectures, and that TE is therefore at best a bad option for the Christian believer. Obviously I would not agree with such a conclusion, even though I agree that (at least) some TEs might say many of these things, and that at least some I am presenting here might agree with at least one of two of these things.

I’ve responded to claims very similar to some of these in other places, and on other threads here at BioLogos. Eddie has worded them in such a way as to make them very objectionable to many Christians, and in some cases he might have fairly captured someone’s actual belief(s). I will point out simply that a lot of the theological issues he raises have been raised, are being raised, and will continue to be raised, by writers who are not thinking about evolution. In other words, even if no one had ever proposed “evolution” in any form, Darwinian or otherwise, many of Eddie’s discontents would still represent extant views of some authors, in some cases without even rewording them to remove all references to evolution.

In short, Eddie, you’ve poured a lot of worms on the floor, but many of them came out of cans that don’t have “evolution” anywhere on the label, and (given the realities of life) I won’t be able to pick any of them up for close examination. Unlike some other sites, where there always seems to be a large gallery of eager supporters who jump in at the first opportunity, I’m often the only commentator here replying to critics—for whom I can blame only myself, since I set it up as a “course” and I’m the “teacher.”

It’s possible that I’ll pick up one or two of your points, but I make no promises. The third part of this column just went live, and I imagine most of us will want to move there at this point.


Ted Davis - #72645

September 11th 2012

There is one larger issues I will tackle now, Eddie: your point that individual TEs “unofficial ‘membership requirements’ above and beyond the affirmation that ‘God created through a process of evolution’.”

We agree about this. From the start, I’ve stressed that TE is a higher taxonomic category with many specific types in actual practice. No two TE authors are identical, but I do think we can identify some intermediate categories. I’ll return to this in my final TE column, as part of my historical analysis. I won’t attempt it now.

Of course, no two ID authors are identical, either. Proponents of ID might perhaps assemble a similar list of “civilized complaints” that we could not adequately put forth—or reply to—with a small investment of time. Indeed, one might conclude that ID authors, too, add “membership requirements” that go beyond a simple belief in a designing intelligence for nature, requiring one to hold (for example) that design inferences must be fully “scientific,” and that science done without them is not legitimate science. (When I expained my own view that design inferences go beyond science to regulars at Uncommon Descent, I was told that this does not qualify as ID; it doesn’t go far enough, apparently.) Or, for many ID writers, opposition to common ancestry would be high on the list of “membership requirements”; for others, commitment to some type of substance dualism would be high on the list. I could go on.

A proponent of TE could formulate a list of “civilized complaints” that one might make against ID—at least ID as commonly presented by many ID authors who have large audiences, in addition to the general point I just made. I’ve done that in other places at other times, and I don’t have a couple of hours to do it again here. However, I will touch on some controversial aspects of ID when I discuss that view in October and November—just as I have mentioned controversial aspects of TE and the other positions in this series.

 


Eddie - #72651

September 11th 2012

Ted (72645):

I see the parallel, and the point you are making is fair.  Just for the record, I hold to a stripped-down, basic notion of ID as well as of theistic evolution.  So if lots of ID proponents happen to be Biblical literalists, or are against common descent, etc., in my view they have no right make those convictions part of the definition of ID.  The essence of ID is that certain things are intelligently designed, not that evolution is false, or that Genesis is historical, etc.

To me, a stripped-down ID and a stripped-down theistic evolution can have points of overlap, and I’ve often thought that “left-wing” ID people and “right-wing” TE people should get together and try to hammer out some middle ground that meets the needs of both groups.  But for that to happen, someone has to tell the anti-evolutionists among the ID people and the “God wouldn’t create like that” theologians among the TE people that their personal positions do not constitute definitions of their movements.

I don’t know much about Warfield, but I suspect it was easier to find the overlap for him than in our day.  To him, I would guess, it was just obvious that a Christian would support the inference that features of organic life were intelligently designed and did not arise through randomness.  So, if he was sure that all Christians were onside with him about the intelligent design of major animal body plans, he could entertain evolutionary explanations without fearing that God’s providence, sovereignty, creation decrees, etc., were being compromised.  However, I suspect that, were he alive today, he would challenge the theological orthodoxy of at least a few of the TE “add-ons” that I mentioned above. 


Eddie - #72648

September 11th 2012

Ted:

I understand.  My point was not to complain about various extraneous theological beliefs held by TEs that I happen to object to, but to list theological beliefs that I have read or heard individual TEs champion in the context of explaining what they mean by TE and in the context of explaining why TE is a superior account of origins to ID.  In other words, it is the wedding of the basic definition of TE—God created through a process of evolution—with a set of commonly-held other theological propositions that I’m criticizing here, not those other theological propositions in themselves.  (I do have criticisms of the latter, but those criticisms are not relevant here).

Have you ever been in a restaurant with, say, only $5.95 in your pocket, and tried to order say, just a hamburger, and found the cheapest item on the menu is a bacon cheesburger with onions, lettuce, tomato, fries and pop, for $12.95?  In such circumstances, have you ever wanted to tell the waitress that you’d like to cut out the beverage, fries, cheese, bacon, onions, etc., and just take the hamburger for $5.95?  And in doing so, you wouldn’t be condemning those who like fries, pop, onions, bacon, etc.  It’s just that for yourself, a hamburger and a glass of water would be fine.

I’m in that position with the popular modern forms of TE.  They keep pushing the bacon, onions, fries and pop on me, when all I want is the hamburger on the bun with a glass of water.  I’m simply insisting that saying “I like hamburgers” shouldn’t be construed as implying “I like cheeseburgers topped with onions and bacon, and I always want them with fries and pop.”

That’s why I like your stripped-down definition of theistic evolution.  It doesn’t force people to ingest any of the theological condiments or side-dishes that they don’t enjoy consuming.

If we regard Behe as a TE, as you do, then TE becomes a much more diverse and attractive position, because it admits those Christians who don’t think much of certain theological arguments (of the “God wouldn’t do that way” form), but think that design in the evolutionary process may be detectable.  It doesn’t force any other TE to grant that design is detectable; it just allows into the club those who think it is.  And it doesn’t force TEs (e.g., Miller) who think that God wouldn’t directly cause pain and suffering to abandon their view; it just prevents such TEs from pushing that view on other TEs who disagree with that premise.  Essentially it allows every TE to custom-build his or her own hamburger meal, with only common elements being the patty and the bun.  If Behe wants lettuce and hates mustard, and Miller likes mustard but hates lettuce, that’s fine; but neither should deny that what the other is eating is a genuine hamburger.   That seems to me to be an eminently reasonable and peace-seeking accommodation. 


Ted Davis - #72647

September 11th 2012

Eddie,

Casual readers might infer from your list and final paragraph that proponents of ID are—or even must be—Calvinists in theology, who never employ any form of the “free-will defense” in theodicy, who believe that God directly designed and engineered even the most malicious organisms, who believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to invoke miracles as part of scientific explanations of certain phenomena, and who do not accept the standard (Copenhagen) interpretation of QM.

So, Eddie, I have to ask—are these propositions part and parcel of ID, or are they simply “membership requirements” you have added on your own?


Eddie - #72654

September 11th 2012

Ted (72647):

No, I wasn’t equating the ID position with Calvinism or any other particular theology, or saying that all ID proponents would be bound to hold to those other positions you listed.  I was pointing out that the “add-ons” commonly found in popular TE writers aren’t simply a random sampling of all possible theological opinions, going in any and every direction, but have a definite tendency; i.e., a large number of them seem to target ID, as if it is almost inherent in TE that is must oppose ID; and a large number of them seem to adopt an understanding of God that has been—shall I say—“softened” by the Enlightement critique of traditional Christianity, and therefore would not readily be assented to by Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, etc.

And again, my point here is not to argue that a “softened” view of God is necessarily a bad thing; my question is why this “softened” view of God should be so often attached to the proposition “God created through a process of evolution.”  I can see “God created through a process of evolution” being compatible with the sternest pre-modern views of divine action.  For example, Denton’s view of evolution, which is nearly deterministic, could easily be harmonized with a hardline Calvinistic understanding of the submission of nature to God’s decrees.  And, though Denton’s view of evolution fulfills a central criterion of popular TE—all natural causes, no miracles to cover the gaps—it is not much liked by the popular TEs.  My guess is that it is the sense of inevitable outcomes in Denton that is found unappealing.  So it appears that what I am calling “popular TE” is animated by something more than merely the desire into integrate biological evolution into Christian theology.  It seems to be a certain kind of Christian theology that is desired; or at least, that there is a certain kind of Christian theology that is not desired.

The question arises whether TE, since Warfield’s day, has absorbed into itself a new theological spirit, one that dislikes determinism, authority, decree, command, etc. and likes freedom, creativity, self-expression, etc.  If that is the case, then it would be quite legitimate for a more conservative Christian to look back in time for earlier versions of theistic evolution that were not in the modern spirit.  I gather that this is what Jon Garvey is doing in his discussion of Warfield.  I would argue that “theistic evolution” as a generic term should be neutral regarding the liberal/conservative split, the Arminian/Calvinist split, etc.; but it seems that popular TE is often not neutral, but has a definite inclination toward one side in such splits.  I’m not saying that is true of the less popular, more theoretically advanced formulations of TE that you have mentioned.


Eddie - #72637

September 11th 2012

Using my vocabulary, it is these “add-ons” that have turned the older, generic “theistic evolution” into current “TE” as promoted by the “TE leaders” that I spoke of.  And because these add-ons, in various combinations, are so commonly upheld by a large number of the TE leaders, and accepted by so many of the TE followers, in churches and in web discussions, etc., they have become, de facto, part of what popular TE now is.  So I do not wish to label myself as a “TE,” but only as a “theistic evolutionist” in the broadest possible sense, because I want to distance myself from every single one of these add-ons.
 
And that is why it is not redundant for me to speak of “intelligently designed theistic evolution”—the addition of “intelligently designed” nails down something that is not explicitly part of the bare definition of theistic evolution, and is in fact denied by those current formulations of TE which emphasize randomness and the blunders and cruelties of evolution and nature’s “freedom” under God’s “non-tyranny.”  Perhaps back in the time of Warfield, “intelligently designed” was already implied in “theistic evolution,” and therefore would have been redundant—but it isn’t now.  
 
I don’t think I can make my definitions or my position any clearer, Gregory, so you’ll have to make do with that.  I may pick up some of these themes later, but I won’t say any more on this thread.  I hope, however, that I have now established that my position is well-researched, and well thought out, and hence that my tentative but appropriate self-label did not deserve the rough and somewhat mocking dismissal with which it was originally greeted.  But be that as it may, let’s move on to Ted’s next column.
 

Ted Davis - #72591

September 9th 2012

Some things I should reply to since my last review of comments.

First, this, from Gregory:

“Ted has pointed to some TE literature and to TE proponents who produce it, mainly Americans, but there is much, much more out there. William Carroll, who Ted cites, says ‘Perhaps the most famous representative of theistic evolution is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.’ I wonder why we don’t hear more about Chardin here at BioLogos?”

Teilhard is an interesting case, Gregory. As you probably know, something of a  cottage industry has emerged around him, including a scholarly society. I imagine you don’t hear too much about him at BL mainly b/c his theology wasn’t very close to the type of TE we’re presenting in my columns, and elsewhere on BL. You don’t hear much about Ian Barbour or Arthur Peacocke at BL, either, for the same reason. TE in general is not very well understood by most Christian readers, and there are so many types of it that I don’t think it would be productive here (perhaps I would not say this in another context) to go into too many of them. In my historical survey of TE (upcoming in about four weeks), I will delineate between “orthodox” and “non-orthodox” varieties of TE, on clear criteria. Having just two larger categories at that point will be enough, IMO, for the bulk of my readers.

I won’t bring in T. Dobzhansky and R. Fisher, either, unfortnately. Anyone who wants information about their religious views should start here: here.

Stephen Barr has contributed to BL: http://biologos.org/blog/author/barr-stephen, but (you are right, Gregory) Michael Heller has not. We also have not yet featured anything by Ted Peters, someone I am especially fond of.

You will probably find this disappointing, Gregory, but please understand the limitations of the present series. I’m not trying to write a whole book just on varieties of TE, as worthwhile as that might be. Anyone who wants to dig into TE more fully should respond to my invitation (above) to read one of Polkinghorne’s books together; thus far I don’t think anyone has done so in the comments—did I miss anyone?


Ted Davis - #72592

September 9th 2012

Now, to reply to another point of Gregory’s, in which he quotes something from J. P. Moreland that Francis and Eddie also like:

Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates.  In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture….While there are exceptions, many theistic evolutionists simply fail to provide a convincing response to the question of why one should adopt a theological layer of explanation for the origin and development of life in the first place.  Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids toward placing nonscientific claims in a privatized, make-believe realm in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined.  (p. 46)

This is apparently lifted from here: http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2011/07/j-p-moreland-on-theistic-evolution.htmlj.

Moreland is a very accomplished philosopher, and I take his comments seriously. However, I note the strong similarity of the opening sentence to a famous one by William Jennings Bryan in the 1920s: “Theistic evolution may be described as an anesthetic which deadens the pain while the patient’s religion is being gradually removed.” (The Menace of Darwinism, 1992, p. 5). This isn’t the only time an ID proponent sounds a great deal like Bryan did, on one point or another, especially in tone. It happens a lot. This is one reason why I like to compare Bryan and Phillip Johnson in one of the lectures I do on various campuses. Johnson can be so much like Bryan, it’s almost scary.

Basically, as he presents the issue here, Moreland wants to wage war against evolution, and a big problem he sees with TE is that its proponents are non-combatants. Well, I’ve sometimes said that I’m a non-combatant in the “culture wars,” so I suppose Moreland sees me as part of the problem, not part of the solution. The main reason I don’t want to take up arms in that war is this: in culture wars, American style, truth is often one of the first casualties. I’m not accusing Moreland of killing the truth, neither implicitly not explicitly (I’ve already indicated my respect for him), but too often culture warriors do this. The truth is too important to me to let zeal snuff it out.

Moreland does see that some TEs are “exceptions,” that some do offer “a convincing response to the question of why one should adopt a theological layer of explanation for the origin and development of life in the first place.” It would be interesting to have some examples of those exceptions, but the first one I would name is Polkinghorne. Even Moreland’s language here sounds like his—“a theological layer of explanation” is lot like P’s idea of theology complementing science, by placing it into a larger metaphysical framework within which both nature and the science of nature are more intelligible. And, no one who has carefully  read P’s chapter on “Motivated Belief,” from his book, “Theology in the Context of Science” could accuse him of putting his Christian beliefs into a “privatized, make-believe realm in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined.”

A conversation between Moreland and Polkinghorne would be interesting, since P does not conform to Moreland’s stereotype of TE. I don’t, either. It’s Polkinghorne’s type of TE that I’m presenting here. But, you already knew that.


Ted Davis - #72593

September 9th 2012

CORRECTION: Bryan’s book was published in 1922, not 1992. Mea culpa.


Ted Davis - #72608

September 10th 2012

ANOTHER CORRECTION: the URL for the Moreland excerpt should be http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2011/07/j-p-moreland-on-theistic-evolution.html.

As they say in elementary school, spelling counts.


Francis - #72629

September 10th 2012

Ted Davis,

“I note the strong similarity of the opening sentence to a famous one by William Jennings Bryan in the 1920s: “Theistic evolution may be described as an anesthetic which deadens the pain while the patient’s religion is being gradually removed.”

I was surprised by this quote. Was the term “theistic evolution” commonly used or readily recognized in creation/evolution/religion circles in the 1920s?


Ted Davis - #72641

September 11th 2012

Francis,

I said some time ago that I wouldn’t respond to your questions any longer, not until you showed some evidence that you are actually reading the columns, paying attention, and interacting with the information provided. I “shrouded” you. If you want me to answer this, you will need to start reading the columns. Did I not say at the start of my presentation of TE, that the term has been used since at least 1877? Have you been paying attention?

If you want me to answer further, you will need first to answer this: given that the term has been in use by proponents and opponents since the 1870s, why do you seem to think that it wasn’t used in the 1920s?


Gregory - #72638

September 11th 2012

@#72591 & #72612

Thanks for clarifying your sense of ‘TE leaders,’ Ted.

You wrote: “Most popularizers of TE, however, are not in this category. They are probably seen that way by their many readers, since they sell a lot of books that are often well written, and the ideas they present may be new to their readers. But, they don’t typically contribute original ideas about TE themselves…

Could you say more about these so-called “popularizers of TE.” Who are some of these folks? You mention “they sell a lot of books.” Which books? I’d really like to see a list of 5-7 names, just as you gave for ‘TE leaders.’

Since William Carroll speaks of Teilhard de Chardin that way, Ted, and since you endorse Carroll in this series, I’m not sure it would be problematic for you to agree with Carroll about Teilhard’s importance. Your other less savoury option is to call him ‘non-orthodox.’ For that matter, I also think that A.N. Whitehead belongs in this conversation as does Henri Bergson, far ahead of Denis Lamoureux and George Murphy, if Philosophy is (allowed to be) added to Science and Religion. If it is just a Protestant vs. Catholic difference, or just naming those among the living, then perhaps that explains much.

In the earlier BioLogos ‘Resources’ section, if memory serves correctly, both Ian Barbour and Arthur Peacocke were labelled ‘Liberal Christians.’ I think it shows BioLogos’ development that it removed that category from its ‘Perspectives’ section. But what is missing now is reference to unorthodox or even heterodox TEs, who should be every bit as much warned against as YECs, IDers, and Scientism proponents. It would be a great move forward imo for BioLogos to formally distinguish itself from Howard van Till and Francisco Ayala, neither of whom are now preferred on its website.

Then again, Ted, perhaps your series will reveal the need for a new category, not necesarily along Conservative/Liberal line in Christian politics, but, as you say, you “will delineate between ‘orthodox’ and ‘non-orthodox’ varieties of TE, on clear criteria.” I’m skeptical, but curious to see what you come up with, especially since ‘orthodox Protestant’ is such a challenging combination of terms and ‘evangelical theistic evolution’ (in contrast with ‘non-evangelical theistic evolution’) might be a very difficult position to defend.


Ted Davis - #72640

September 11th 2012

I am focusing here on contemporary authors, Gregory, and also on Protestant authors. I don’t believe, and I don’t mean to imply, that Catholic or Orthodox writers are in any way outside the type of TE I’m presenting. As with Protestant writers, it all depends on the individual writer, since Christian theological resources are available across Christendom, and individual writers make individual use(s) of them.

You will see how I define “orthodox” Christian perspectives, for my purposes, when I reach that point in about four weeks. All I will say now is, my terms will not resemble those in your final sentence here. And, at that time, you (and others) will be free to contest my conclusions and/or present your own analyses of the landscape of religious views of evolution and other aspects of modern science.


Francis - #72646

September 11th 2012

Ted Davis,

Thank you for parting the shroud to answer my question.


Gregory - #72861

September 17th 2012

Response to Eddie’s 9 points regarding TE ‘Membership Requirements’, about which he says, “their effect, and usually also their purpose, is exclusionary; they ensure that ID-evolution people like Behe and Sternberg don’t get into the club.”

Like I said, if Behe would renounce the so-called ‘ID revolution,’ if Sternberg would renounce it unequivocally, their ‘admission to the TE club’ would be much easier and comfortable. But they both seem to *want* to remain revolutionaries.

Some people want to be revolutionaries or martyrs, Eddie. Those are just the facts of some peoples’ characters. This is the social aspect of the conversation, which you don’t seem to understand very well or wish to acknowledge. It is part of my professional studies.

Questioning and even challenging ‘(neo-)Darwinian evolution’ doesn’t necessarily equate with being an ID revolutionary and thus belonging to the IDM. The best example of this is D. Berlinski. He isn’t an ID proponent; he has no personal-positive notion of ID to share. He just (often cynically) attacks (neo-)Darwinian evolution and evolutionary biology, which makes him someone that ID people wish to politically embrace and promote, based on their Johnson-inspired 2nd ‘edge of the wedge.’ This is the ‘if you’re not against us, you’re with us’ ideology of the IDM.

“I want to distance myself from every single one of these add-ons.” – Eddie

That may be fine for you personally as a ‘can of worms’ that you’re interested in, but for most people it’s a non-starter. Your supposed ‘requirements’ for TE are not realistic for most people, Eddie, because you presume a highly critical view of the most common Christian, Muslim and Jewish position, which is TE or EC. Here is where the ‘revolutionist’ in you is on display because you simply harp again and again on the concept of ‘design’ as Dembski does in “The Design Revolution.”

“(1) Design in nature is not detectable through scientific means, because science and design are in two different NOMA compartments”

That sentence needs to be parsed. With the first part, I fully agree. Let me add that A. Bejan’s 2012 book called “Design in Nature” is or will be highly disruptive to ID’s implicationist claims based on ‘scientific means.’ Mike Gene doesn’t think ‘design in nature’ is scientifically detectable either and he is promoted by some ID advocates, including Bilbo here.

The second part of the sentence is not necessary. There are many scientists who speak of ‘design’. Most of them are unknown to the IDM and I doubt you know many of them either. The difference being that they don’t focus on OoL, OoBI and Human Origins. I don’t accept that “science and design are in two different NOMA compartments,” Eddie, but you don’t seem to want to recognise why people don’t accept that and that it may indeed be a legitimate position to hold.

“(2) Design is not detectable scientifically, because then people would not need faith”

Now you’ve switched from ‘design in nature’ to simply ‘design.’ These are different topics of course, but it is common for IDists to speak of two topics at the same time. Design-in-nature does not = design. Please do not rhetorically try to dance out of that reality.

“(3) Design is not even detectable philosophically, because that would permit natural theology, and natural theology is not good Christianity, as Barth, Pascal, etc. teach us”

What does ‘detectable philosophically’ mean? Wrt ‘natural theology’ and/or ‘theology of nature’ – this is what Ted is attempting to bolster in this series on TE.

(4) God would not directly create evil, so he would have used a chance-driven, error-prone process such as Darwinian evolution, to keep his hands clean”

Theodicy. Don’t forget, Eddie, that S. Meyer told S. Fuller in Cambridge he thinks ID theodicy should become a serious topic. That would destroy the ‘science-only’ view of ID that many IDers today hold. It would also raise such questions as: Was the Holocaust ‘Intelligently Designed,’ was 9/11 ‘Intelligently Designed’ and is sin itself ‘Intelligently Designed’? This is part of the reason IDists prefer to stick with their ‘science-only’ claims.


Gregory - #72862

September 17th 2012

(Cont’d)

“(5) God would not create inefficiently, e.g., wiring the retina backwards, so he must have used a sloppy, ad hoc process like Darwinian evolution to get the job done”

If it didn’t happen by (neo-)Darwinian evolution, then it still happened by another natural process, as far as biological science now says. Positing ‘intelligent guidance’ doesn’t move the ball forward.

Show us the work please, Eddie, where ID has proved guidance, governance, steering, etc. in the biological sciences. What evidence has ID found, instead of just presuming that the evidence is there (eventually) to be found?

God created/creates and the world evolves; this is what TE says, not just ‘generic/minimal TE,’ but what most TE leaders and followers believe. No ‘membership requirements’ needed.

Trying to package TE into a little box based on a few TE proponents you’ve personally read, Eddie, does not do justice to the larger reality of millions of people globally who accept biological evolution and believe in God.

“(6) Intelligent Design is bad theology because it makes God a mere engineer”

TE isn’t supposed to have anything to say about ID as ‘theology,’ good or bad because ID insists (wink, nudge) that it isn’t about theology. So, Dembski’s so-called ID-BRIDGE between science and theology crashes fatally on one side. Even so, IDists are accusing TE of the same thing.

“(7) God prefers natural processes over direct interventions, and probably only used natural processes, so, though we won’t swear to that, we will act as if it is true, and our science will be exactly the same as the science of the atheist Darwinists, the difference being only in the optional theological interpretation we put on the science”

There’s nothing wrong with both natural processes and direct interventions. Only a person who divorces the character of a religious scientist like F. Collins from their ‘science,’ could possibly say “exactly the same” and keep a straight face. ID is doing much more to keep theology and science separate (just like Gould and Dawkins) than TE is doing. TE is much more open to unifying dialogue between science and religion than ID, hence this BioLogos site.

“(8) God is not a “tyrant” and therefore gives nature “freedom” to “co-create” with him, or at least to “express itself”; or (variant used by some TEs) God is not a Calvinist God who compels things to happen exactly according to a decree;”

Are you suggesting God *is* a tyrant?! God help us if people are making a leap from ‘universal Darwinism’ into ‘universal designism’. Both positions are extremist.

“(9) God grants freedom to nature by not compelling it in a planned direction, but by letting it proceed through “randomness”.”

That doesn’t actually sound so bad, since randomness can be non-random to God.          


Gregory - #72863

September 17th 2012

Additionally, Eddie opined about TEs: “many of them are theologically non-traditional or at least provide the basis for non-traditional theological formulations; they contain the seeds of open theism, process theology, etc.; they show distaste for natural theology; they in some respects lean away from Calvinist, Catholic, and other long-received doctrines of God’s sovereignty and providence.”

Many TEs are ‘traditional,’ too. If this conversation is meant to be mainly about what is ‘theologically orthodox,’ then both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches should be involved, not just evangelical Protestants. TE has managed far more ecumenism than ID, which is still predominantly a Protestant evangelical movement (there is evidence for this galore), even as BioLogos caters also to evangelicals.

A major problem here, it seems to me, is folks like Michael Dowd and the Darwin Day clergy, who have been taken in by ideologues masquerading as neutral scientists without ideology. That is also why I keep harking back to ‘evolutionism’ as very important in the conversation about TE.

What Eddie calls “the blunders and cruelty of evolution [read: evolutionary creation] and nature’s freedom,” I view as a blessing from God.

“Perhaps back in the time of Warfield, “intelligently designed” was already implied in “theistic evolution,” and therefore would have been redundant—but it isn’t now.”

Sorry, but you’re simply wrong, Eddie. Owen Gingerich made this crystal clear. Randy Isaac said this unequivocally. All Christians believe *intelligence* is involved in evolutionary creation, just not some narrow definition of ‘intelligence’ defined by a politically-oriented think tank in Seattle, Washington. You appear to be trying to get us all to join a political movement, Eddie, which means, you want people to speak, walk and talk as you do, to use ‘design’ and ‘intelligence’ as you do, not as they commonly understand them. Most TEs are content that their way is a better way than the ‘ID revolutionary’ talk of the IDM.

p.s. One small disagreement; I don’t count Dennis Venema as a TE leader. 1) He is of a younger generation than the others listed, 2) he is not a theologian (which distinguishes him from Ted’s TE leaders definition), and, 3) his philosophy of science is dreadfully underdeveloped (although that is also true of several other TEs listed by both Ted and Eddie). I’ve listened to some of Venema’s talks (and read his papers here) and imo they don’t display competence in PoS regarding ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’ or ‘Intelligent Design’.


Eddie - #72873

September 17th 2012

Sigh.  I don’t know what to say.  The three posts above constitute about a 2,500-word essay, attempting to refute an argument I wasn’t making.

I wasn’t trying to prove that ID has been vindicated.  I wasn’t trying to prove that TE is a false doctrine.  I was answering the question put to me, i.e., why I accept generic “theistic evolution” but don’t call myself a “TE.”  I was explaining (72634-72637) the features of the popular version of TE—which I’ve tried to distinguish carefully from the serious academic versions of theistic evolution that Ted Davis is talking about—which prevent me from wishing to associate with the label.  No one has to agree with me in my evaluation of those features.  But I have every right to enumerate those features and declare my opposition to them.  

I have characterized “popular TE” adequately—within my original stipulation that I was writing crudely to provide a rough picture.  Of course, each of my 9 points could use a small essay to flesh out and qualify in an academic manner.  But I have seen every one of those points argued by more than one popular TE—in major books, in ASA journal essays, in popular talks available on the internet, and in blog discussions on various sites frequented by TEs, including this one.  In terms of literary theory, these 9 points are “tropes” found in popular TE authors, and anyone who knows the popular TE literature and discussions knows they are there.  

On the last point, I count any senior fellow in biology at BioLogos, who has written thousands of words in scores of columns here, and has published articles promoting TE in the ASA journal, and has directly and in detail criticized ID leaders Behe and Meyer, as a TE leader.  On the penultimate point, the fact that Randy Isaac believes there has been some intelligent design doesn’t establish that he believes that all species were intelligently designed, and there are plenty of statements by TE biologists (Isaac isn’t a biologist) implying that many if not most species were not designed in detail, but whose characteristics were left to the “freedom” of nature, aka “randomness,” and that some species may not have been planned or intended by God but were afterthoughts produced by the evolutionary process.  So current, popular TE does not imply intelligent design in the fullest sense.  I suspect that Warfield, if alive, would be very critical of much popular TE today.  I can’t defend that at the moment, not knowing Warfield’s writings, but everything I’ve heard about the man suggests that in theology he was both vastly more competent and considerably more orthodox than the people I’m calling popular TEs.  In any case, if the critic above knows Warfield’s writings, he can quote them to show where I am wrong. 


Gregory - #72876

September 18th 2012

Eddie,

The point is simply that I won’t allow you to make false or misleading statements in public and think you have gotten away with them simply because no one answered you, if I have time and energy to reveal them. We are after truth in this conversation, as Ted reminded us at the beginning of this series. I find your approach is focussed on spinning the truth with rhetoric on the topic you call ‘generic theistic evolution’ vs. ‘popular TE.’

The major problem here is the phrase ‘intelligently designed theistic evolution,’ which I claim is redundant and unhelpful and Eddie seems to think is profound, proper and insightful. I can only suggest that we wait to solve our differences for the ID section of the series. There Eddie will see how Ted distinguishes ID from TE, which will confirm how confusing the phrase ‘intelligently designed theistic evolution’ is in the words of someone Eddie respects as a proponent of ‘theistic evolution.’

His words were supposed to be about why he rejects ‘popular TE,’ yet Eddie’s points 1-3 were all about ‘design.’ I think he ought to realize that most TEs, not just ‘leading TEs’, which is a much less definitive term than ‘leading IDists’ because TE is not a ‘movement,’ aren’t thinking about ‘design’ much if at all when they agree to accept both biological evolutionary theory and live as theists/Christians. Ted remarked in the first thread on TE that ‘design’ goes “beyond science into metaphysics and theology,” whereas ID people want ‘design’ to belong at the centre of biological sciences and other natural sciences. In that sense, *both* generic theistic evolution *and* popular TE reject ‘ID science’ qua science. This is one of the things that stop Behe from being included as a TE, while Ted generally calls him a TE for every other reason. If Behe drops the ‘natural science can prove design in nature’ approach, he’ll fit nicely among TEs.

Points 4, 5 & 7 were about ‘Darwinian evolution’ and ‘Darwinists.’ Again, most TEs are not thinking that much about ‘Darwinian,’ except perhaps in defence of good biology against IDists who are harping on and on and on about Darwin. ‘Darwinism’ is code for ‘there be dragons’ in this science and faith discourse – it is usually used as a smear tactic, which is likely part of the reason BioLogos removed all references to ‘Darwinism’ from its website. Ted commented in the first thread that he “doesn’t include the adjective “Darwinian” before ‘evolution’” for historical purposes. It is also the case that theistic evolution doesn’t sing its tune primarily based on reactionism to new atheists like Richard Dawkins as ID does. I’m quite certain that as Darwin’s evolutionary paradigm is eventually eclipsed, people who endorse theistic evolution will adopt the new (evolutionary) paradigm quite easily. Perhaps we need Ted and Darrel Falk to say more about whether or not they agree with this post-Darwinian possibility here at BioLogos.

Notice the pejorative label used over at Uncommon Descent towards BioLogos biologists – they are called “Christian Darwinists”. Does Eddie support the use of that label? My guess is, Yes, he does support it. I reject it and find it unhelpfully polemical.

(cont’d)


Eddie - #72890

September 18th 2012

Immediately above, my relentless critic Gregory writes:

“I can only suggest that we wait to solve our differences for the ID section of the series.”

I’ve been willing to “wait” all along.  But when I offered a very tentative label, “intelligentlly designed theistic evolution,” I was assailed with a barrage of criticism and demands that I defend or abandon the term.  The criticism continues even in the post above.

I was also asked by Gregory why I found the term “theistic evolution” inoffensive and “neutral” but found the current label “TE” problematic.  He did not tell me to hold back my answer to that question until the series arrived at the discussion of ID.  I therefore presumed that he wanted my answer right away.  I gave an answer that took some care and effort to compose.  And I could not answer properly or clearly without making reference to ID, since my objection to many current versions of “TE” is that they make the acceptance of “theistic evolution” conditional upon the rejection of ID.  The point was that I could accept a version of theistic evolution that did not rule out, a priori, the claims of ID.  There was no way of answering Gregory’s question, therefore, without talking about ID.

Gregory says that popular TE writers “aren’t thinking about ‘design’ much if at all when they agree to accept both biological evolutionary theory and live as theists/Christians.” Well, precisely if that is true, then one would expect that they would be neutral regarding the claim of ID that design in nature can be demonstrated.  One would expect that their response to ID would be “Maybe and maybe not; all we care about is that you accept Christianity and evolution.”  Therefore there is no reason why Behe should have to ‘drop’ the “natural science can prove design in nature” approach in order to be warmly welcomed by popular TEs as a fellow-Christian and believer in evolution.  And that was my whole point—that popular TE demands more than what Gregory says it does.  It demands a renunciation of the possibility of design detection regarding origins.  That is why it is narrower (in Gregory’s terms, more ideological) than the theistic evolution of 100 years ago, and why I cannot accept it. 


Eddie - #72891

September 18th 2012

In response to Gregory’s final question:

If “Darwinist” means “one who holds, in broad terms, to the views of Charles Darwin and/or his later disciples regarding the mechanism of evolution” then any Christian who fits that description would of course be a “Christian Darwinist.”  The term itself would therefore be descriptive, not pejorative.

Could the term be used with negative intonation?  Of course.  Any term can.  “Communism” is the doctrine that all income-earning property should be owned by the people, not by individuals.  But when McCarthy used “communism” he used the word with negative intonation.  Does it follow that McCarthy did not correctly understand that communism requires popular ownership of income-earning property?  No, it does not.  It follows only that he did not like communism.  So if certain people use “Christian Darwinism” with a sneer in their voice, it does not follow that they have mischaracterized the view of their opponents.  It follows only that they angrily reject that view.

So the question is:  Are there Christians who believe that Charles Darwin and/or his later disciples (who touched up his theory to produce neo-Darwinism)—more or less correctly described the mechanism of evolution?  I would say, yes, there are, and that some of them have posted columns on this site, while others, like Ken Miller, have written very influential TE books.  So the term is descriptive, and therefore unobjectionable.

Still, if Gregory doesn’t like the term “Christian Darwinist” he is free to suggest another one, equally economical and hence handy for usage, that captures the two elements:  Christianity, and adherence to Darwinian mechanisms as the main motor of evolution.  Neither “theistic evolution” nor “evolutionary creation” (nor “BioLogos”) is adequate for this purpose, since these terms imply no adherence to Darwinian mechanisms, which for many popular TE leaders appear to be central to the TE/EC view.

Of course, the elephant in the room here is that a form of theistic evolution that does not require adherence to Darwinian mechanisms might well be compatible with ID.  So let’s resume the discussion when Ted gets to ID, and explore that possibility after we hear what he has to say.


Gregory - #72878

September 18th 2012

(cont’d)

Eddie’s points 6, 8 & 9 were about theology, God’s divine action and freedom.

The charge of ‘bad theology’ is easily corrected if ID drops its implicationism. Barr says it is obvious to almost everyone that since ID is against ‘naturalism,’ that there must be something ‘extra-natural’ or ‘supernatural’ implied in the Design(er). IDists don’t want to accept that is how people interpret their ‘paradigm’; they want just the study of design (without who, when, where and how) and let the implications fall where they may.

Generic theistic evolution and popular TE *both* find this unsatisfactory posturing in the name of ‘science.’ I agree with popular TE that seeing “God as a mere engineer” is troublesome and with generic TE that ‘evolution’ implies some ‘freedom,’ at least we can speak of ‘freedom’ in ‘human nature’ such that we don’t live in a closed, deterministic universe. It seems to me that theistic evolution or evolutionary creation (the latter which I find more helpful in this case) indeed seeks to find a proper balance between divine action and creaturely freedom, in a way that moves past the mechanistic, reductionistic, materialistic and even naturalistic models of the 19th and 20th centuries, and attempts to create a fruitful dialogue between science, philosophy and theology/religion for the 21st century.

If Eddie would highlight positive aspects such as these, which are also part of ‘popular TE,’ instead of just opening a ‘can of worms,’ as Ted said, many of which “came out of cans that don’t have ‘evolution’ anywhere on the label,” we’d be in much better communicative shape.

I continue to believe that small-id *is* part of *every* version of theistic evolution (TE), generic, popular or academic, because one of the attributes of the Godhead is ‘intelligence.’ Eddie has made no sound or convincing argument otherwise given that he seems to want to drag everyone into Big-ID language, which I, along with Ted and many others who are TEs, refuse to accept. So Eddie and the IDM keep talking Big-ID, while TEs, ECs and BioLogos affirm small-id, and people continue to speak past each other.

“some species may not have been planned or intended by God but were afterthoughts produced by the [read: atheistic] evolutionary process.” – Eddie

Not as far as ‘evolutionary creation’ is concerned.

Following Ted, Eddie distinguishes “popular TE” from “serious academic versions of TE,” the latter which he seems to have more respect for than the former. I’m still interested to hear Ted’s short-list of ‘popularizers of TE,’ which he differentiates from “TE leaders” who study “TE in a serious academic sense” in #72612. Hopefully that will come in the final post of the series. Ted spoke about “Moreland’s stereotype of TEs,” and what I aimed to show in #72861-3 was that Eddie’s “stereotype of TEs” is also questionable and leaves much to be desired.

Ted’s response to “Moreland’s stereotype of TEs” was to connect it with ‘waging a war against evolution’ and W.J. Bryan. Moreland spoke of TE’s “intellectual pacifism,” which Ted concluded was the language of ‘culture war,’ and that “in culture wars, American style, truth is often one of the first casualties.”

Although I agree with much of that, my position is that this can be overcome by seeing Moreland not as ‘waging a war against evolution,’ but rather as seeking to find a responsible way to overcome ‘evolutionism.’ This of course relates to points made already in this series about having a viable alternative to ‘ideological evolutionism,’ which so far in Ted’s version of ‘serious academic versions of TE,’ it is decidedly or simply still unfortunately absent. My view is that challenging ideological evolutionism by TEs will help free the science and theology for more constructive conversations.


Eddie - #72892

September 18th 2012

Gregory wrote:

“If Eddie would highlight positive aspects such as these, which are also part of ‘popular TE,’ instead of just opening a ‘can of worms,’ as Ted said, many of which “came out of cans that don’t have ‘evolution’ anywhere on the label,” we’d be in much better communicative shape.”

I would remind Gregory that the question he asked me was not:  “What do you think are the good points, as well as the bad points, of TE?”  His question was why I accepted “theistic evolution” but not “TE.”  Obviously in answering that question I need discuss only the points I find objectionable in TE, not the points that I agree with.

If Gregory had asked me, “Why are you not a Roman Catholic?” and I answered, “Because I do not accept the authority of the Pope,” would that answer imply that I thought that all of Catholic theology and practice were wrong and abominable?  No, it would not.  It would simply be an answer to his question, which, given the form of the question, is likely to stress the negative rather than the positive.

There are of course points on which I agree with not only generic theistic evolution but even with current popular TE.  For example, I agree that Genesis 1-3 should not be interpreted as a photographic reproduction of past events, and was not meant to teach what we now call natural science.  But that is not a position that deliberately or necessarily excludes ID a priori (since many ID people also would say that about Genesis), whereas several of the other positions frequently asserted by popular TE leaders do exclude ID a priori.  I gave the answer I gave in order to bring out this systematic exclusionary tendency, not to give a full pro and con analysis and critique of TE.  It would be helpful if, instead of reading a hostile agenda into every post that I write, Gregory would read my answers in light of the purpose for which they are written, which is always much more limited than he imagines.


Francis - #72901

September 18th 2012

Eddie,

“If Gregory had asked me, “Why are you not a Roman Catholic?” and I answered, “Because I do not accept the authority of the Pope””

If that’s what you really believe, then you’re wrong, Eddie.

You do believe in the authority of the pope. It’s just that you believe you’re him. Or that you don’t believe in real religious authority at all. Either way, you’re wrong.

3 John 1:9.


Page 4 of 4   « 1 2 3 4