What’s up at BioLogos?

As we approach the inevitable end of the ill-conceived BioLogos organization (I predict that the money will dry up when its Templeton funding expires in February), it behooves us to review how it has morphed into an organization that has become more and more accepting of the nonsense claims of evangelical Christianity. (Recall that its mission was to convince evangelical Christians that their fairy stories were wrong and that science was right.)

A few tidbits:

  • The Atlantic has published a profile of BioLogos president Darrel Falk, “Man of science, man of faith.” It’s pretty even-handed, including a quote by Kathryn Applegate, BioLogos program director:

We have to take away the plain reading. The idea of God literally creating is told in a way to be relevant, like a myth or legend. And if you look at it that way, you’re on a slippery slope,” Falk adds. “All it takes is being able to recognize the genre of the Scripture. The Old Testament is purely poetic: The stories are beautiful, and there’s a very specific message — Adam and Eve were alienated from God, from being naked and unashamed — but they’re still just beautiful stories.”

but also some criticism that shows why this strategy isn’t working:

BioLogos has drawn criticism from secular and religious organizations, from creationists and atheists alike. Ken Ham, a young-Earth creationist and advocate for the literal interpretation of Genesis, declared that “it is compromisers like [Francis] Collins who cause people to doubt and disbelieve the Bible — causing them to walk away from the church.” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological seminary, says that BioLogos “wants to discredit evangelical objections to evolution and to convince the evangelical public that an acceptance of evolution is a means of furthering the gospel.” University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne called the endeavor “the latest forcible endeavor to marry science and faith.”

  • For further evidence that BioLogos will fail to convert evangelical Christians to evolution, see the piece at Creation Ministries International,  “The non-mythical Adam and Eve! Refuting errors by Francis Collins and BioLogos.” This piece purports to use science to support the idea that Adam and Eve were real people.  It all looks very impressive, but to get the presently observed distribution of genetic variation it has to assume not only Noah’s Flood, reducing the human population size to eight, but multiple Flood-like events, about which the Bible says nothing.  (They’re making stuff up again!)  It also ignores the coalescent approach used in the recent paper by Li and Durban showing that our lineage could never been smaller than about 1200 people.  The point is that when fundamentalists start supporting the Bible stories using psedudoscience—a technique that will sound convincing to Christians who aren’t trained as population geneticists—then BioLogos has no hope.
  • BioLogos has posted <a href=”http://biologos.org/blog/where-we-come-from-and-who-we-are”>a new video featuring Ard Louis, a young physicist, who pushes the idea of God-directed evolution—or at least decries the idea of purposeless evolution, which is of course the view of evolution that scientists have.  Here’s a transcript of part of the video, kindly provided by alert reader Sigmund:

“I think that what’s really happening is that Christians are hearing what non-Christians are telling them about what evolution means and they are believing it.

I think that a lot of the ‘Young-Earth’ arguments are hugely beneficial to Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists because it’s exactly what they’ve been saying all along. They say: “See, evolution tells you that you are X,Y,Z. Evolution tells you that you don’t have any deep purpose.”

Evolution tells you that there are no Gods, and the young earth creationists agree. They say: “yes, evolution does tell you that. But evolution is wrong.”

And I think the problem with both of those viewpoints is that they basically look at something in nature and try to extract theology from it.

And both of them are doing it in a very, very poor way.

Both of them are agreeing on the fundamental premise that where we come from determines who we are.

We think that where we come from determines who we are and how we should live.

But that’s not what the Bible says: the Bible tells us that our value comes from what God thinks about us.

God determines how we should live.

God determines who we are, not by the details of how we are made.

This has a very different impact in how you understand evolution because the way it’s often taught in schools, underlying it are, are in fact, a world view or philosophical assumption that say “oh, it’s all purposeless”.  And instead of believing it they should say “No, stop!”

Well, I teach evolution in college, and though I don’t recall saying it’s “purposeless,” I do say that it’s completely caused by the disposition of randomly created genetic variation by either a deterministic process (natural selection) or a random process (genetic drift).  And I may have said that evolution is unguided, though I don’t recall. But I wouldn’t have any problem saying that, because evolution is unguided as far as we can see. That’s the whole beauty if it: the appearance of purpose and design is produced without any external purpose and design.

  • Also at BioLogos, Pastor David Swaim has published a two-part sermon, “Maker of Heaven and Earth” (part 2 here) urging reconciliation of science and faith.  But to do so, he has to say nice things about young-earth creationism:
“Science has been right about so many things, so some Christians have embraced evolution and felt forced to abandon their trust, not only in the truth of Scripture, but also in the God it describes. Other Christians, including many renowned scientists, have fought back by pointing out the many flaws in evolutionary theory and proposing alternative theories of their own. These include Young Earth Creation, which asserts that the earth was created in six days six thousand years ago, and offers thoughtful explanations to reconcile the findings of science with the words of Genesis 1.
The “many flaws in evolutionary theory”?  Which ones is he talking about? “Thoughtful explanations offered by Young Earth Creationists”??? And so we see that  to push its agenda, BioLogos must tacitly praise the nonsense of antievolutionists.
  • In part two of Swaim’s sermon, he continues his laudable assertion that Genesis isn’t a book of science (although the New Testament might be!), but what’s interesting here is a comment added by BioLogos president Darrel Falk himself.  After one commenter suggested that people should treat the Adam and Eve story as symbolic rather than literal, Falk added:

“It is important to point out that nothing that has been said (either here in this sermon, nor by being attentive to that which emerges from the scientific data) necessitates  “making Adam and Eve symbolic.”

Nothing that has emerged from the scientific data necessitates making Adam and Eve symbolic?  Here we see the real problem of BioLogos and why its stated mission is doomed.  The scientific data absolutely mandates that Adam and Eve did not exist as the sole ancestors of all humanity.  Yet when push comes to shove, Falk simply can’t bring himself to admit that all the data refuting the Adam and Eve myth—the data from archaeology, anthropology and, most important, population genetics—show that Adam and Eve did not exist.  If they are to have any meaning at all, then they must either be pure fiction, to be dismissed as a fairy tale, or transformed into a metaphor, i.e., become “symbolic”.

Recall as well that the two biggest proponents of the Adam-and-Eve-is-fiction stand, Uncle Karl Giberson and Pete Enns, have now left BioLogos.

Having failed to convert evangelicals to evolution, BioLogos must now move toward the evangelical philosophy, praising their silly Biblical myths, patting young-earth creationists on the back, and arguing that perhaps the fictions of the Bible may have some basis in fact.  In other words, to get evangelicals to embrace science, BioLogos is starting, tentatively and quietly, to embrace pseudoscience.

Dear Dr. Falk,

Could you just give up the Adam and Eve story as fiction. Please?  And while you’re at it, would it be possible to refrain from insisting that God is guiding the evolutionary process? That’s not the way we teach evolution.

Thanks,

The community of scientists

h/t: Steven, whirladervish, Sigmund

44 Comments

  1. Stan Pak
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    I would say there is a purpose (not ultimate) of all our bodily devices (organs and adaptations) or bodies: survival of genes.

    Whether survival of genes has purpose – I cannot even tell if such question is appropriate or makes sense.

    • Sigmund
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      It’s like asking what is the purpose of a stone, dislodged by the rain, rolling down a mountain side.

    • Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      More correctly: the preferential reproduction of intrinsic atomic replicators in a temporally stable environment.

    • jose
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      If the purpose of the body is the survival of genes, then the purpose of eating is taking a dump.

      • Kevin
        Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Actually, it’s to perpetuate the milieu for e. coli. So you were pretty close.

        No kidding, it’s all about the perpetuation of the species. Which means the genetic code that goes into making humans and not iguanas.

        Any other species-wide “purpose” is mere nonsense. And especially any “purpose” which supposes the existence of a post-death state where one is either rewarded or punished on the basis of the sincerity of their beliefs in a specific deity and his pseudo-human avatar.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted October 22, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

          The purpose of the pen in my pocket is to write something down if I’m outside.

          The purpose of humans is slave labour for my pyramid.

          The purpose of the sharks is breeding a race of dire landshark warriors to march at my behest.

          • Microraptor
            Posted October 22, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

            Memo to self: speed up timetables on Tower of Babylon and velociraptor cloning projects.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

              +1

    • Posted October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      “Purpose” implies intent, implies consciousness. Please substitute “function”.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

        At some point, no doubt very soon after language had developed sufficiently to express abstract concepts, someone thought to ask, ‘what is the purpose of life?’ Amazingly, rather than question the unsupported assumption in that question, pretty much all of humanity has insisted on trying to answer it.

        IOW, + 1.

    • Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Genes build themselves into cells and cells into the gene hive called man in order to develop their potentialities, not man’s. The idea of man’s being able to develop was purely an anthropomorphic concept.

      — Brian W. Aldiss, “Gene Hive” (1958), Galaxies Like Grains of Sand, London: Panther Books (1980), p. 135, ISBN 0586049851

      Aldiss anticipates the central idea of The Selfish Gene (1976) by nearly two decades!

      /@

  2. JG
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    “psedudoscience”

    A great neologism!

    • Posted October 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Dudo!

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:03 am | Permalink

        LOL!

  3. Matt G
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Yes, beautiful stories of genocide, slavery, stonings….

  4. Jacob
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    In my mind, unguided is not the same thing as purposeless. Something can be designed with purpose but left to grow organically on its own. Some computer programs, I believe, are built with such a design in mind. Of course, most Christians – or at least the fundamentalist ones – don’t want to hear that, because the idea of unguided spontaneity is also anathema to their notion of an all-controlling god.

    • Stan Pak
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      …and all-controlling priests.

    • Sajanas
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      One must wonder how the fuzziness of quantum mechanics really settles with Christians? The clockwork orbiting of cosmology seems to be in keeping with their sort of master craftsman God, but at the same time, space broils with weird quasi real particles and the singularity leftovers of former stars that are radiating out energy through loopholes in existence. Its a random, stochastic universe… and I kind of like it that way, but it certainly makes the whole notion of this all being some giant Rube Goldeberg Macgiver Plan seem a little unlikely.

  5. cornbread_r2
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t the environment “guide” evolution in a sense?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      Only in a non-sense – one could equally correctly argue that organisms effect the environment (no need to use the word “guide”). Examples:

      Plants anchor the soil
      Thus soil retains more water
      The moist soil freezes & ice crystals shatter the rock in the topsoil
      Increased surface area of rock for soil bacteria to feed off & so on

      Life has changed the atmosphere

      Tectonic processes have enabled life, but also life (amazingly) effects tectonic activity

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 1:36 am | Permalink

      sure, nobody ever said selection was random.

      but to guide, it doesn’t have to have intent.

      and this is the point; there is no direction, no intent, no “end goal” to the “guiding hand” of selection.

  6. CJ
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    This whole fear that a godless universe is a purposeless universe is ridiculous and frustrating to have to keep justifying it with the faithful.

    2 things to show why this is so:

    Sam Harris on the purpose of life:

    As i paraphrased Henry Markram in an earlier post:
    ‘our brain is part of the universe, so it’s clear that the universe can give birth to a purpose.’

    • CJ
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      damn, meant to just display the URL, not the video itself. Sorry.

  7. dunstar
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    lol. It’s very strange why Christians somehow can’t let go of their fairy tales. I just don’t get it. I wonder what they all think will happen at the moment when they all collectively just walk away from the fairy tale? Wait……maybe we can convince them that this collective act will piss off the Big Kahuna so much that he’ll bring on the Rapture! And isn’t that what they all long for anyway? The Rapture! And isn’t that suppose to happen again today, Oct 21st? lol.

    Yes maybe somehow we can all collectively convince them that walking away from their fairy tale would be the single most heinous act in the eyes of the Almighty and it would for sure bring upon judgement day!

    • Kevin
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      What if they had an Apocalypse and nobody came?

      • dunstar
        Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        lol. Yeah that’d be pretty funny. Christians organize a day of disbelief and they all collectively renounce their faith. Then the Big Kahuna gets really pissed off and immediately sends down the Magic Bearded Man and everyone ignores Him.

  8. Brian
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Jerry, one of your links seems to need fixed:

    “BioLogos has posted a new video featuring Ard Louis”

    I don’t think you meant to show the html code. I *think* the error is you have and meant to have <a href="link" , missing </a towards the end.

    Your blog is awesome! Best regards!

    • Brian
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Urg. Right before talking about a new video featuring Ard Louis, you show the html code. I don’t think that was intended. I think you wrote > at the end of the link and meant to write . I hope this is clear, the comments section doesn’t seem to like my comment :-(

      • Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        I think the problem is that Jerry’s used “smart” quotes rather than “straight” quotes.

        /@

  9. Posted October 21, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The October Atlantic reviewed a newly released Ambrose Bierce collection (“Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs,” Library of America).

    Bierce fascinated me when I was a teenager. Natch. Bleak cynicism is the natural emotional territory of adolescence. (I grew out of it, thanks for asking.)

    At that bitter time I read “The Devil’s Dictionary” but did not remember one definition, an eternal truth, that Benjamin Schwarz (the Atlantic editor) quoted in his review.

    “RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.”

    • Kevin
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      …you win the thread.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:08 am | Permalink

      Bleak cynicism works for me…

  10. Gayle Stone
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    BioLogos has taken Templeton for all it could get by publishing in whichever direction satisfied Templeton’s requirements for an award. The people who have just parted company with BioLogos were very good WRITERS, no FABRICATORS, just like the old men of the Bible, Koran, and THE fake Joseph Smith of The Book of Moroni.When will they ever learn? At least the BioLogos operation did it for money and not to hornswaggle humanity into the slavery of a new religion.

  11. Kevin
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Theists just love the word “purpose”, don’t they?

    It’s basically their fall-back position, after all of their other arguments have failed.

    And again, I will point out that it’s theist code. Especially when an adjective like “ultimate” or “deep” is appended to it.

    Meaning: The neighborhood of my post death apartment.

    The only “purpose” theists have in this life is to get it over and done with so they can be rewarded in the after-death. They’re confused when atheists call them on this bullshit.

    Sorry. I will continue to raise my hand each and every time this kind of fuzzy anti-thinking code is used.

    It’s all about the after-death. Without an after-death reward, they wouldn’t have the motivation to get up in the morning and make their English muffin. They’re also desperately afraid that without an after-death reward, they’ll suddenly get the urge to become baby-raping cannibals.

    Theists do not think all that well. I think it’s likely going to become one of those items that one checks off when considering whether to hire someone. Drug user? Convicted felon? Potential baby-raping cannibal?

    • Tulse
      Posted October 21, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      The thing I find weird is that the “purpose” theists claim is mandated by something else. If aliens were breeding humans for food, would they be ok with that “purpose”? If your parents want you to be a doctor, is that your “purpose”? What does is matter what your creator wants for you?

      • Kevin
        Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        True. And it gets worse, because there’s no way to objectively tell what earthly “purpose” has been chosen for you by an invisible fairy.

        However, for the theists, the earthly “purpose” is next-to-meaningless. It’s all about the after-death. Any time they use “purpose”, it’s about the after-death. Not about whether you become a doctor or a beach bum.

        How you spend this life has no bearing whatsoever in the theist’s “purpose”. The only requirement (for a fairly hefty proportion of Christians, in any event) is that you think right thoughts. Right thinking will be rewarded. If you’re insincere in your thoughts, you will be punished.

        The other largest proportion of Christians add “good works” and/or “not sinning” to the thinking right thoughts bit. But the evangelicals think this is a load of hooey. The only requirement is belief, they’ll say. Thinking right thoughts.

  12. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Bio Logos: “Do you expect me to evolve creditability, Atheist?”

    Gnu Atheist: “No, Mr. Logos… I expect you to go extinct.”

    • Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Logos. Bio Logos. Licensed to shill.

      /@

  13. raven
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    What is the xian’s “purpose”?

    Far as I can tell being a former xian, it is to die and go to heaven. The earth is just a few seconds at the start of eternity.

    Nothing else matters.

    • Posted October 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      The christina heaven sounds so bleak, lacking any element – once you’ve got your gown fitted and your harp tuned – of the unexpected, which makes life on earth so rich.

      • Posted October 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        I think this blo^h^h^hwebiste rearranges letters after you’ve posted them. I’m sure Christina’s a lovely girl, but I meant christian.

  14. Microraptor
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    So did anyone try to note the exact point where the inmates were officially put in charge of the asylum?


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