Shoot me now: Francis Collins’s new supernaturalist website

I guess I can’t stay away from this issue.  P. Z. has called my attention to Francis Collins’s latest endeavor to forcibly marry science and faith:  The BioLogos Foundation.   The Templeton Foundation, of course, has its sticky fingers in this pie:

The BioLogos Mission

The BioLogos Foundation promotes the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms, and seeks to harmonize these different perspectives.

Dr. Francis Collins established The BioLogos Foundation to engage America’s escalating culture war between science and faith. On one side of the conversation, the “new atheists” argue that science removes the need for God. On the other side, religious fundamentalists argue that the Bible requires us to reject much of modern science. Many scientists, believers, and members of the general public do not find these options attractive.

There is therefore a great need to contribute to the public voice that represents the harmony of science and faith. BioLogos addresses the core themes of science and religion, and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with what science has discovered about the origins of the universe and life.  In order to communicate this message to the general public, The BioLogos Foundation has created BioLogos.org.

Funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the website articulates the compatibility of modern science with traditional Christian belief. Among other resources, this website posts responses to many of the questions received by Collins, Giberson, and Falk since the publication of their books, including: The Language of God; Saving Darwin; and Coming to Peace With Science. By providing trustworthy insight, BioLogos.org stands as a reliable source of scholarly thought on contemporary issues in science and faith.

If you have a strong stomach, browse the site. You’ll find lots of interesting ideas, like this one:

4. What is the proper relationship between science and religion?

Science and religion are sometimes thought to offer entirely separate bodies of knowledge. However, science is not the only source of factual statements, and religion does reach beyond the realm of values and morals.

I guess he’s proposing that religion can provide factual statements. We all know what that means, I think.   And, of course,  the “inevitability-of-human-evolution” argument rears its hydra-like head:

22. Did evolution have to result in human beings?

Because evolution involves seemingly “random” mutations, it seems that the Earth could have been the home of a different assortment of creatures.  But belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended.  An omniscient creator could also have created the Universe’s natural laws so as to inevitably result in human beings.

And the “Books on Science and Faith” site shows only  books that push the reconciliation of the two magisteria.  One of the “team” who runs the site (besides Collins and a few others), is Karl Giberson, whose reconciliationist book I criticized in The New Republic.

Oh, and then there’s this:

New Atheist Denies Harmony Between Science and Faith

April 27, 2009

In a recent blog post, New Atheist Jerry Coyne lashes out against “scientific organizations that sell evolution by insisting that it’s perfectly consistent with religion.”  According to Coyne, by accepting a harmony between science and religion organization like the National Center for Science and Education and the National Academy of Sciences alienate some evolutionary biologists who, like Dawkins, Meyers, and others, believe religion and science are competing world views.  The editorial has already drawn a response from Discover, who call his post “a counterproductive attack” and state that the conflict between evolution and creation will not be resolved without the help of religious groups.

Pity they couldn’t spell P. Z.’s last name right, or cite a number of places where my “editorial” has drawn approbation.  And I am not a “new atheist”: I’m what Anthony Grayling calls a naturalist.  Collins and his ilk are supernaturalists.*

This site is, I’m afraid, the logical extension of the type of accommodationism that plagues the NCSE, AAAS, and NAS.   It is embarrassing in its single-minded fervor to prove that conservative Christianity and evolution are really good buddies.

________

*In his book Against All Gods, Grayling says this:  ‘no atheist should call himself or herself one… A more appropriate term is “naturalist”, denoting one who takes it that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature’s laws. This properly implies that there is nothing supernatural in the universe. . . ‘people with theistic beliefs should be called supernaturalists, and it can be left to them to attempt to refute the findings of physics, chemistry and the biological sciences in an effort to justify their alternative claim that the universe was created, and is run, by supernatural beings.’

46 Comments

  1. Posted April 29, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    #4 gets funnier! You didnt quote the FUNNIEST PART!!

    4. What is the proper relationship between science and religion?

    Science and religion are sometimes thought to offer entirely separate bodies of knowledge. However, science is not the only source of factual statements, and religion does reach beyond the realm of values and morals.

    Oddly enough, some people argue that God’s existence is actually a scientific claim and should be tested like any other. However, God’s existence is not something that can be tested by the scientific method in the same way the existence of postulated new elementary particles are tested in supercolliders.
    Science and religion are the same thing! Just different ways of knowing! But dont use science on our religion. Thats ‘odd’.

  2. Mill
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The God hypothesis is a scientific claim, and a relatively black and white one at that.

    Either the universe operates in such and such a way, or it doesn’t.
    Either that voice in your head really is the voice of the almighty, or you’re crazy.

  3. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Because evolution involves seemingly “random” mutations, it seems that the Earth could have been the home of a different assortment of creatures. But belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended. An omniscient creator could also have created the Universe’s natural laws so as to inevitably result in human beings.

    I say let them keep it. A God indistinguishable from random chance is not worth attacking. Also not worth believing in or worshipping.

  4. Pluvialis
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Actually, despite it having the typical spin that is not unexpected coming from the religious, and despite the fact that this organisation is perfectly cringe-worthy, I found “The Questions” to be unusually fair to our perspective.

    Some of these issues are so often argued about and yet so often the same aspects of them are attacked, or defended. Question 8 (“If God created the universe, what created God?”) provided a valuable rhetoric for me, even if it was interlaced with, and concluded with, un-scientific nonsense about their view being more pleasing.

  5. CharlesInCharge
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Sweet Jesus. They’re actually promoting a Dinesh D’Souza book?

  6. Posted April 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Collins’ “answer” to Question 19 is dishonest schlock and standard creationist drivel.

  7. AK47
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s misleading to imply that Discover magazine has responded negatively to your post, when the truth is that it’s just the authors of one of the several blogs hosted by Discover.

    Next I bet they’ll quote a crank letter to the editor in the New York Times as if it’s an official position of the newspaper.

  8. newenglandbob
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    In a recent blog post, New Atheist Jerry Coyne lashes out against…

    I looked up “About the Author” up to the right on this page under “Book Links” and it says:

    Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a member of both the Committee on Genetics and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology…

    I can’t find where it says “New Atheist”.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted April 29, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      It said “middle-aged atheist” but I took it out :-)

  9. NMcC
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    “Because evolution involves seemingly “random” mutations, it seems that the Earth could have been the home of a different assortment of creatures. But belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended. An omniscient creator could also have created the Universe’s natural laws so as to inevitably result in human beings.”

    Yes, indeed! 13.7 billion year foresight, right there. Though, strangely, this “omniscient creator” failed to see that It’s creation, in the form of old Nick and a full third of It’s angels, would be somewhat underwhelmed by It’s Paradise and It’s perfect prescence, thereby triggering the angelic rebellion; failed to foresee that It’s creation of the Garden of Eden and it’s unlucky and hapless inhabitants would turn out not to be so ‘good’ afterall; failed to foresee that It’s destruction of the entire planet in the flood would be a complete waste of water; and failed to foresee that It sending It’s Son to be tortured and killed in order to ‘appease’ Itself through violence and murder (the very type of thing that we humans are ‘guilty’ of and which, allegedly, created the need for It’s sacrifice in the first place), would be an abject failure for most people.

    In short, for ‘an omniscient creator’ which, according to Collins and Co, can see 13.7 billion years into the future, It seems to be painfully, and, absurdly, myopic – WHEN IT MATTERS.

    Of course, if this new website actually discussed the obvious problems with ‘theistic evolution’ it would at least be interesting. But what’s the betting that it serves up nothing but thinly veiled Christian propaganda as disinterested inquiry?

  10. Sili
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    The editorial has already drawn a response from Discover, who call his post “a counterproductive attack” and state that the conflict between evolution and creation will not be resolved without the help of religious groups.

    No. Coyne’s drawn a response from Chris Mooney who blogs at Discover. I find it hard to believe that The Intersection (as well as Bad Astronomy and Cosmic Variance) would have moved there, had they not been allowed to keep complete editorial freedom.

    Sheeesh. What is it with these people and false appeals to authority?

  11. SeanK
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I just finished reading the “If God Created the Universe, What Created God?” page. It was good for a laugh.

    http://biologos.org/questions/what-created-god/

  12. dave souza
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Of course science and religion are compatible, as long sa said religion does whatever is necessary to its doctrine to avoid any conflict. Saint Augustine of Hippo advised that, wisely.

    [note: I am no relation to this Dinesh character, leastways not post paleolithic afaik]

  13. Andrew n
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, how are you defining naturalist?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      As opposed to supernaturalist. For the source, scroll up to the penultimate para of the original post.

  14. Thanny
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I can’t seem to find an RSS link for this blog. Anyone know if I can get it into Google Reader?

  15. jay
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    “…belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended.”

    This is such confused thinking. Belief has nothing to do with it. Humans were either supernaturally created or they were not, and neither Francis Collins’s beliefs about the matter, nor anyone else’s, has the slightest bearing on what the truth is.

    Jay

  16. Loc
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    This is absolutely insane. I don’t understand how Collin’s logic and critical thought in the study of genetics does not carry over when aimed towards a different field (cosmology, theology). His batshit explanations rival one from a creationist.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Same motivation as Aldrich Ames. It’s all an attempt to win the pot of gold from Templeton.

  18. Posted April 29, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Question 8 was ridiculous.

  19. eNeMeE
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Quote mining Stephen Hawking? Bloody hell.

  20. MelM
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    A god that can do anything is sooo handy when it comes to explaining everything. The believers trot out god–without support–as a placebo for ignorance; it makes them feel better but it does nothing to cure the ignorance. They do it in multiple places in cosmology, they do it in the area of human consciousness (beyond humans being “meat”, beauty etc comes from god), they do it in ethics (morality comes from god), they do it in politics (rights come from god), and they do it in natural science. They’ll even use god to explain what is clearly a human achievement: god is praised for saving Captain Phillips and god is praised for keeping the Hudson river plane passengers safe–highly unjust claims which I reject when I find them.

    On the compatibility of science and religion, my view is that if any god(s) have had–or still have–any causal efficacy in the universe by way of creation, conditions, or events, then “god did it” would be
    the true and valid explanation of such creation, conditions, or events. Any naturalistic theory would necessarily be false and would fail because there would be no natural explanation to find. Individual scientists can come up with ways of doing some science anyway but this doesn’t change the fundamental conflict. God may be an option for such scientists and they may reach for the placebo instead of following reason–a very sad event.

    Having seen plenty of religious attacks on reason, it’s clear that all religion–not just the extreme nutters–needs and perpetuates a culture of unreason. Faith is a vice and religion is a menace to rational inquiry and a rational world.

    BTW, if you need more insight into the outrageous hacked up mess that constitutes “Christianity”, I found the new book “Jesus Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman to be a gold mine. The book goes way beyond pointing out bits of nonsense. It’s been on the NYT bestseller list and it may do more to quench the fires of religion–I hope–than the New Atheists books can do.

    • Posted April 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      By coincidence, or perhaps as the result of an act of will by a supernatural creator, my copy of Bart Ehrman’s new book turned up a couple of days ago. I’m looking forward to finding some time to read it.

      • MelM
        Posted April 29, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        I believe you’ve mentioned that you’re familiar with Ehrman’s work. I wasn’t and was quite surprised with what I read.

        BTW, I’ve posted a belated comment on Dawkins involving the “To defame religion is a human right by Peter Singer” thread. I’ve retracted my harsh statement concerning Singer but replied to your comment by presenting my view that banning “stiring up hatred” is the wrong red line.

        http://www.richarddawkins.net/articleComments,3739,To-defame-religion-is-a-human-right,Peter-Singer,page6#371391

      • Loc
        Posted April 30, 2009 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        Erhman’s “Misquoating Jesus” is also a good read.

      • Loc
        Posted April 30, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        “Misquoting Jesus” – that was not satire, but a mistake.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        I read “Misquoting Jesus” by Ehrman and I was not impressed at all. The book is about which bible text is authentic.

        The author spends his life picking which fiction to believe – akin to deciding which toxin that can kill you is the least lethal. I find that Clueless.

      • Loc
        Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        Maybe “authentic” in the sense of accurately reproducing the early texts. And I think this is his point – that the current ones are NOT inerrant, and therefore not divine.

        As a religious textual critic, I think that is part of his job.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        The real point, Loc, is that the bibles are certainly not inerrant or divine, they are not even reality. They are fiction. Why would we care which paragraph is the original in a work of fiction? That is what I mean by clueless.

  21. Scarlet Letter
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    In the “Who We Are” section the team members describe themselves as “a team of believing scientists who are committed to promoting a perspective of both theological and scientific soundness. . . .” I assume “believing” means believing in a god. However, I will have to read through the whole site to see how they approach “theological soundness.”

    It is so annoying that they are asking for contributions and support for projects. The religious pictures make Biologos look like another church begging for dollars.

  22. Posted April 29, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I wrote a little diddy on Giberson awhile back before I was familiar with him. It isn’t surprising that he’d make a site so dumb.

    Marrying science and religion is like trying to make a stallion mate with a rat. It just won’t work.

    I’m fully disgusted with these accommodationists. They are really no different than the average YEC. They take scientific evidence and try and twist it to fit their worldview. They disregard what the evidence actually says because they’ve already determined what the outcome ought to be. It’s malarkey.

  23. Posted April 29, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve expanded my thoughts on this website. I think we should call these people what they are: the New Creationists.

  24. Posted April 29, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s all about me, me, me, me. God created the world for me, me, me, me. All the plants and seafood dishes are for me, me, me, me. All the continents are for me, me, me, me.

    In the beginning was the word (logos) and then I was created. Me, me, me, me. It’s all about ME!

  25. Posted April 29, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    “But belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended.”

    But belief in a Drunken, clumsy and inept supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were an inevitable accident waiting to be cleaned up.

  26. Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Wow

    According to PZ Myers and the Evaluating Christianity blog, people who argue that the universe began with a very low entropy are ‘creationists’.

    I had no idea that people like Sean Carroll and Roger Penrose were ‘creationists’. That must mean that Vic Stenger is the only astrophysicist who is not a creationist.

    When can we start burning these heretics.

    • Loc
      Posted April 30, 2009 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      I think you need to reread their arguments.

  27. NMcC
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Having had a good perusal of Collins & Co’s new website, I must say it’s given me a new perspective on what ‘theistic evolution’ really entails and has enabled me to state its claims more succinctly than I could previously: ‘Although the Christian religion is true, it’s omnisicent creator-given details are all false’.

  28. ekcol
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    An omniscient creator could also have created the Universe’s natural laws so as to inevitably result in human beings.

    IANA physicist, but isn’t this flatly contradicted by the probabilistic nature of modern physics? So much for compatibilism.

  29. aquellashistorias
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Hello. If you want to read stories of wonderful ordinary people, this blog is yours. Enjoy it! you´ll like it!
    Is http://aquellashistorias.wordpress.com

    PD: You can also send your stories! Thank you!

  30. hugahoodie
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Even if human beings were improbable, the error is assuming that the scenario in which homo sapiens did not evolve consitutes some kind of failure. Evolution didn’t accidentaly get it right with humans. It didn’t get anything right at all, it just got!

  31. NMcC
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Omniscient.

    There, I can spell it.

  32. amphiox
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    If humans were the purpose of the universe, then that 13.7 billion years is a monumental waste of time, and those 45 or so billion light years (at last estimate) are a phenomenonal waste of space. For surely an omnipotent creator had more efficient means at his disposal of generating a 5-6ft biped with a 1400cc self-aware brain consisting of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and a few disparate heavy metals, if that was his intent.

    But then, if you take the Genesis account at face value, that the creator’s intent was for two humans to live in his presence in eternal innocence in the Garden of Eden, then the whole earth (which was made before the garden) seems a somewhat less monumental, but still substantial waste of space.

    To which I must conclude that all that “eat not of this tree lest ye die” hullaballoo was not a command, but just a value-neutral statement of options and consequences, a choice between eternal existence in innocence, knowing nothing, growing up and inheriting the earth, knowing and experiencing good and evil, which requires growing old and dying. And the serpent was just a bit psychological manipulation to make sure Eve chose to eat the apple, and think she was doing it of her own free will, when in fact that was what He wanted her to do all along.

    Which means of course that there really was no original sin, and when God showed up to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac it was actually because Abraham failed the test of blind faith (and was blinded as punishment), and that whole thing about Jesus and the cross was not about redemption at all, but something else that our puny human intellects have yet to comprehend.

  33. Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    According to PZ Myers and the Evaluating Christianity blog, people who argue that the universe began with a very low entropy are ‘creationists’.

    Really? I missed that claim, even though you say I made it.

    A better approximation would be that people who argue that the fact that the universe began with low entropy means that a god must have created it are creationists.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I’m what Anthony Grayling calls a naturalist. Collins and his ilk are supernaturalists.

    I’m much more receptive to the former term due to your exposing the antics of AAAS, NCSE and NAS. (The later I had never any trouble with.)

    Actually, it is a testable proposition that the universe is entirely natural. Say, by way of defining natural systems as those consisting of matter.

    [I.e. technically: matter systems are action-reaction, or in other words quantum observable, systems.]

    … hundreds of years worth of detailed testing, and it haven’t been tested false yet.

    [To actually test beyond reasonable doubt, say 3 sigma as it is a hypothesis and not an observation, I would have to look for a 3 sigma binomial test (natural explanation/no explanation). That is a massive amount of tests, on the order of 10^7 I believe. But at a current rate of, say, 10^5 scientific tests every year we are presumably done, or nearly so.]

    So, I’ll go with naturalist as it naturally [sic] implies atheism, if the nowadays really dull question “what about supernatural claims” is raised.

  35. phil
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I wonder how many responses to issues like this are rooted in the human emotion known as fear…fear of being wrong, fear of uncertainty, fear of being misguided. Truthfully, this may be true for some on both sides of this issue. I guess the real scientific test for Christians comes down to what happened 2009 years ago… was it a fake or was it real? If that test fails, then the whole system fails. If it passes the test, then the concept of a Creator is worth looking into.

  36. Savage
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Any bets against Francis Collins winning the Templeton Prize very soon?


10 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] by the way, Jerry Coyne has his own favorite parts of the site. Maybe you do [...]

  2. [...] people, not disparate ideas Posted on April 29, 2009 by Michael Hawkins There are a couple articles floating around about a new site run by Francis Collins and Karl Giberson Our Mission: Faith and [...]

  3. [...] Francis Collins’s campaign to reconcile religion with science; here is PZ Myers’s and Jerry Coyne’s take on [...]

  4. [...] Atheists” (is it me, or do the New Atheists seem kinda old and fuddy-duddy?).  PZ and Jerry Coyne have more to [...]

  5. [...] bekannte Argumente übernimmt. „Das ist Mist“, kommentiert P.Z. Myers und Jerry Coyne schreibt sogar: „Bitte erschießt mich!“ Wie zu erwarten hat die Templeton Foundation mal wieder die Finger im [...]

  6. [...] wrote yesterday about Collins’s unscientific assertion that humans were an inevitable outcome of evolution.  [...]

  7. [...] Shoot me now: Francis Collins’s new supernaturalist website I guess I can’t stay away from this issue.  P. Z. has called my attention to Francis Collins’s latest [...] [...]

  8. [...] of the BioLogos website, in stronger terms than I, in his excellent Why Evolution is True blog (Shoot me now: Francis Collins’s new supernaturalist website). function fbs_click() [...]

  9. [...] qui arrive à Simon-Conway et Françis Collins tant qu’on y est, c’est qu’ils finissent par admettre publiquement leurs visions [...]

  10. [...] Well, you may know that Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian and an outspoken defender of the compatibility of science and Christian faith. You may know that he wrote a fine book (The Language of God) on the subject, that he co-founded the Biologos Foundation to advance the ideas in the book, and that he is regularly attacked by various prominent atheists. [...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,320 other followers

%d bloggers like this: