A new President for BioLogos, but no progress on the Adam and Eve question

Alert reader Sigmund keeps a weather eye on the doings of the accommodationist organization BioLogos. Founded by Francis Collins, who resigned when he became director of the National Institutes of Health, BioLogos had the goal of turning evangelical Christians towards accepting evolution. They proposed to do this by showing literalist Christians that the Bible and Darwin were completely compatible.

It didn’t work of course.

Efforts stalled, and BioLogon began engaging in all sorts of crazy apologetics, many of them trying to show how Adam and Eve—a couple that genetics tells us could not have spawned all humanity—could still somehow be human ancestors, ergo that Jesus didn’t have to die for a metaphor.

In the end, BioLogos went for the coward’s solution, refusing to take a firm stand on whether Adam and Eve really existed. This, of course, was profoundly contradictory to their pro-science approach. In their desire to reconcile Darwin and Jesus, they watered down the Darwin and begin osculating the rump of Christians. That is the inevitable result when one tries to turn literalists toward science.

Then two of BioLogos’s important people resigned: Biblical scholar Pete Enns and Vice-President Karl Giberson, I suspect because of differences in how to approach those Darwin-unfriendly Christians. The housecleaning continued: President Darrel Falk resigned at the end of last year.

Two days ago a little mole told me that BioLogos was about to name a new president, so I asked Sigmund to watch the website and report back to us. And, with his usual diligence, he has. Ladies and gentlemen, the Big Announcement:

______________

BioLogos announces a new President

by Sigmund*

The evolution of BioLogos towards becoming a purely religious apologetic organization continues with yesterday’s appointment of its new President.

Deborah Haarsma, a Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, replaces Darrel Falk, who stepped down at the end of 2012.

Haarsma is not a major name in the theistic evolution world, but her views, published in, ‘Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design’, provide some clues as to why the current BioLogos board consider her appropriate.  In that book, Haarsma and her co-author and husband Loren examine the question of whether science supports concordist (physical evidence supports the Biblical account) or non-concordist (physical evidence does not support the Biblical account) viewpoints. Haarsma comes down on the side of the non-concordists, with one notable exception: that of the thorny question of human origins. While content to use science to pull the plug on flood geology and dismiss the young-earth stories out of hand, the question of Adam and Eve remains the line in the sand across which she dares not cross.

A good overview of Haarsma’s position within the theistic evolution spectrum can be found in a series of clips she recorded for the Templeton-funded Test of Faith project in 2010. Those show that her views are very much in line with current BioLogos thinking.

In addition to Haarsma, BioLogos announced the appointment of Jeffrey Schloss—a Distinguished Professor and the T.B. Walker Chair of Biology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California—to the position of ‘Senior Scholar.’ Schloss, a former Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute and one of the original signers of the ‘List of Intellectual Doubters of Darwinism’, has gradually changed his views on ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) over the past two decades and is now firmly within the theistic evolution camp—or at least that part of it that BioLogos occupies.

It is somewhat ironic that Schloss’s move away from Intelligent Design has occurred as BioLogos itself nestles ever closer to the standard ID viewpoint. At the very least, through its failure to take a firm position on the scientific evidence that precludes the notion of modern humans having but a single pair of common ancestors, BioLogos fails to provide a robust challenge to ID’s current stranglehold over evangelical thinking. And that very challenge is why Francis Collins founded the organization in 2007.

Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 7.54.13 PM

________

* “Sigmund” is the online pseudonym of Martin Corcoran, a cancer biologist based in Stockholm. [JAC: "Sigmund" asked me to convey this information so he will no longer be pseudonymous.]

106 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Dominic
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Haarsma sounds then like a standard liberal christian apart from her views on human origins then? I was going to say, having just been reading about Henrietta Leavitt in Neil Shubin’s new book, that she would otherwise have a hard job to remain an astronomer & ignore the evidence for the vast distances in & vast age of the universe.
    PS I think I prefer ‘Sigmund’! I want to stand up & say “I’m Spartacus”! Dom [Stiles]

    • Darth Dog
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      No! I’m Spartacus!

  3. Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    It is somewhat ironic that Schloss’s move away from Intelligent Design has occurred as BioLogos itself nestles ever closer to the standard ID viewpoint.

    Since he was a Discovery Institute’s member, and given the Discovery Institute’s tendency to nasty scheming and strategizing and using sneaky back-doors to get their teachings out there (remember ‘The Wedge Document’?), I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a bit more than just ironic.

    • Mark Erickson
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      You mean not at all ironic. That a TE institution moving closer to ID would hire a former IDer moving toward TE is completely expected, the opposite of ironic.

  4. Matt G
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    “Intellectual” dissenters from Darwin, not to be confused with the garden variety idiots. I think that word is used in the same sense as “sophisticated” theologians: same BS, but expressed with bigger words and longer sentences.

    • @eightyc
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      lol.

      Why is “intellectual” and “sophisticated” always associated with the use of big fancy words?

      If the shit they’re saying doesn’t make any sense, then it’s just stupid!

      For example, there’s nothing intellectual nor sophisticated about Deepak Chopra!

  5. Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    So, it seems that Haarsma is just like the rest, can’t let A&E go because that makes JC worthless. I would also venture to guess that her “non-concordist” views stop at JC himself.

  6. eric
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Haarsma comes down on the side of the non-concordists, with one notable exception: that of the thorny question of human origins.

    Yes, because professors of physics and astronomy are well known for having such a strong background knowledge of the genetic evidence pertaining to human evolution, that they easily muster credible arguments against the mainstream scientific positions on it.

    Now look, I’m perfectly happy to let anyone opine on anything. Prof. Haarsma is welcome to proffer her opinion on the reality of Adam and Eve. But if Biologos thinks they have a leader whose opinion on that question will be taken seriously by the mainstream community due to her scientific chops, well, I have my doubts. Of course, I’m willing to be proven wrong if she has a publication record that includes lots of peer reviewed articles on human genetic evolution.

    • Darth Dog
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      So they have a biologist who is presenting herself as the expert on assessing the evidence on evolution and human origins. I guess that means that they can have the biologist dispute the evidence for the Big Bang and the age of the universe.

  7. @eightyc
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    lol.

    Biologos should just go all out and appoint Kirk Cameron El Presidente!

    • Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:54 am | Permalink

      Just spent a bit of time at Cameron’s website, and highly recommend staying away. The comments in particular are filled with the typical racist, Muslim terrorist in the White House, Christian nation xenophobia that makes my blood boil – so in the interests of folks’ health, stay away!

      • @eightyc
        Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        lol.

        Dude. Kirk and his sidekick Ray Ray are funny as hell!

        He took his comedy from TV land into real life!

        lol.

        • Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Hey – two Kirk Cameron’s – check out the evangelical one – scary!!! :-)

  8. Posted January 31, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry. I must have missed something.

    These people take seriously a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard, and they seriously expect us to take them seriously?

    Seriously?

    Um…yeah…sure…whatever….

    b&

    • @eightyc
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      lol.

      The story isn’t even close to being plausible!

      Star Wars is more plausible than the Garden of Eden story! haha

    • jose
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      We should always use that language. Sometimes using terminology they like (sin, Eden, kenosis, etc) makes us lose perspective of what’s really all about.

  9. Larry Gay
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    For those who have any doubts about where these people come from, the Calvin College (Haarsma) website displays the slogan “Loving God with Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength”. Westmont’s (Schloss) motto is “Christus Primatum Tenens”.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Christus primatum tenens. Christ keeps on being an ape? It’s nearly 50 years since I studied Latin; perhaps my translation skills, fragile then, have eroded. :-)

  10. Robert Bray
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I knew Sigmund wasn’t afreud. . . .

    And two consecutive ‘a’s’ in a surname spells Dutch Reformed. Just ask the folks of Surinam.

    • Dominic
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Very good!

      Surinaam?!

      • Cor Haagsma
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Be aware of the Dutch Reformed

  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Haarsma’s position is actually not that of BioLogos. At

    http://biologos.org/questions/what-scientific-evidence-do-we-have-about-the-first-humans

    they write
    “Genetics also tells us that the human population today descended from more than two people.”

    That said, I’m sure Haarsma is a fine astronomer, but her position is obviously to be motivated by theological preconceptions.
    Further, there are other statements on the BioLogos website that are disconcerting, and one of the more unexpected examples is here http://biologos.org/about
    “We believe that God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as “natural laws.”” I didn’t see that coming. The only other time I’ve ever heard the laws of nature being described as “faithful” was visiting a certain geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

    In some liberal theologies the death of Christ is itself a metaphor for one’s personal death of ego. Make that a metaphor- I suppose you can have Adam be a metaphor as well.

    Perhaps one of the most honest accommodationists is computer engineer Larry Wall, inventor of the computer language “Perl”. He said he didn’t have the faintest idea how Christianity and evolution are both true- he was just convinced that they were. He also attributed his invention of the computer language “Perl” to his ability to believe both Darwin and Jesus, as Perl accommodated very divergent programming paradigms and methods by often having more than one way to do even basic operations. This allowed programs is as far wider range of other languages to be translated into the one language Perl than was previously thought possible. So indirectly that’s one practical achievement of accommodationism. But Perl is an engineering achievement, not in any way a scientific discovery.

  12. Darth Dog
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    You know that someone from Calvin College is not going to take the scientific view of Adam and Eve and evolution when even Michael Ruse gives them a black mark on the subject.

  13. Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I’m not a geneticist, biologist or bible expert, but don’t all those pondering the Eve & Adam (I refuse to give the guy top billing) question forget one thing?

    That would be the race of “giants” which I believe genesis refers to. If they (Eve, Adam & Cain) interbred with these folks, there would have been an intermingling of genes & there may have been enough of them to spawn the human race.

    They may have been the Neanderthals and/or Cro-Magnuns (is that term still used?) who we know did exist.

    • Dominic
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Plenty of people have not forgotten the fictional giants & have tried to make them out to be astronauts or some such nonsense. Cro-Magnons were ancient humans who lived in Europe – most Europeans will be descended from them. Neanderthals were not giants. You are confusing the Bible, which is a series of stories that one particular tribe made up to explain their origins, with the truth.

      Why does your name link back to this page?

      Perhaps internet trolls are the descendants of those ‘giants’!

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

        When you begin to comment on WP and encounter the 3 blank windows, some of us assume you should fill them all in, and that the “Website” window means that of the site you’re commenting at. With no explanation, why would anyone assume it would hotlink your name to a website of your choice?

        IIRC, I was on WP for some time before I even realized some usernames were hotlinks.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      The fossils say “no”.

      Neanderthal males averaged 5-foot-5 in height. Not giants. The debate still rages as to whether Neanderthal and humans interbred — the answer appears to be “maybe, but not a whole lot.”

      Cro-magnon man is not different from us. It’s an early homo sapiens sapiens. So, that’s saying that early humans interbred with early humans.

      Homo erectus were 4-foot-9 to 6-foot-1. Died out about 149,000 years ago. Had a brain about 2/3rds the size of us — early humans would not have interbred with them anymore than modern humans would breed with a modern chimp.

      The fossil record does not show any race of giant humans anywhere.

      The bible is not a paleontology or an anthropology textbook. It’s a book of myths, fairy stories, revisionist Jewish history, and dietary guidelines for people without ice.

      • Dominic
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        “dietary guidelines for people without ice” – yes, it was Jesus who invented the fridge!

    • Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      ah yes, those giants that came from angels who were madly copulating with humans? It just gets sillier and sillier.

      • Kevin
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Don’t you just love the fact-free assertion, hypothesizing against all of the already-known facts?

        It’s like these people don’t have access to the Museum of Natural History, or a decent textbook, or the freaking INTERNET.

        It took me about 2 minutes of searching to come up with the average height of the Neanderthals and Cro-magnons. 2 minutes on the internet and her wild guess was completely and utterly obliterated.

        It’s almost as if they think their guesses are as good as the scientific evidence.

        Drives me nuts.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

          Did you assume that a word being translated ‘giants’ had to refer (if to anything) to people of greater than modern human average stature? I’m not sure that language evolution works like that.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            Perhaps they were intellectual giants!

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

              I love your humor. ;)

          • Kevin
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

            Right…so I have to go back to the original text and find the original word and translate it myself (after taking a PhD-level course in ancient languages, of course), otherwise it could simply be a “translation error”.

            Fucking dictionaries: how do they work?

          • Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

            It is a gross category error to assume that the Bible is basically an hoest historical work and that any absurditities in it are due to translation errors or a misunderstanding of historical context.

            Rather, it is clear that it is, in fact, a work of purest fantasy, and it is the historical fact that is almost never present, and then only incidentally for literary color and a facade of versimilitude.

            That is, the giants in the Bible are exactly of the beanstalk / Titan / Tolkein variety, clearly and unapologetically so.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Kevin
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

              And the talking animals…and the human-swallowing-but-not-digesting-for-3-days-fish…and on and on.

            • Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              Your rule holds, except for the unicorns, of course. Evidently, the unicorn was a “mistranslation” of the Hebrew word for auroch.

              When I asked if there was a similarity in the Greek, Hebrew, etc letters that make up these two words, that might lead one to accept this substitution as a translation or transcription error, I was told in no uncertain terms by John Kwok that an erudite acquaintance of his , who, coincidentally, was a scholar at a very prestigious school of higher learning, said it was a mistranslation, so it must be so.

              This is understandable, of course, as the auroch was an actual living animal indigenous to the area (the last known specimen dying in the seventeenth century), and the unicorn could have been mistaken for a rhinoceros by the Greek scholars who wrote the Septuagint; the singly-horned unicorn and rhinoceros being commonly known (well, not the unicorn, of course, as it never actually existed as a real animal) and easily mistaken for the two-horned bovine. Easy to understand what happened there – no twisted exegesis needed.

              So now, it should be perfectly clear that although the Bible is not a flawlessly accurate historical record, at least the authors of the Septuagint can NOT be accused of literary license in regard to the unicorn. Nor the numerous Church fathers who, upon multiple Biblical reviews, retained the term “unicorn” for over a millennium.

              Well, I’ve lost the train of the argument again, I’m afraid to say. Giants, unicorns…quite distracting. ;D

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

                In ancient Greece, they believed unicorns really existed…in India (but they were wrong).

                The mistranslation of auroch to unicorn is in early Greek Bibles. The Greek word for “unicorn” is “monoceros” (one horn). (“Rhinoceros” means horn on the nose.)

          • Kevin
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

            Other possible “translation errors”…

            Changing water into wine: Buying wine from the wine merchant.

            Walking on water: Swimming to shore.

            Crucifixion: A three-day vacation at the beach.

            Resurrection: Coming back from a three-day vacation at the beach.

            Seriously, this line of “argument” is quite possibly the worst line of “argument” one can make when one is speaking of the inerrant word of an all-powerful deity.

  14. Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I listened to a few of her clips. She talks about the god that Christians see behind the scientific descriptions of the world. Her approach didn’t aggravate me as much as it probably would other commenters here. It’s natural–part of our inherited equipment–to attribute design and intention to events; it’s protective. We can’t expect such projections to disappear totally when they are brought about by the same, very evolutionary cognitive inclinations that science has confirmed.

    • eric
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Finding a hidden purpose in historical or scientific observations is one thing; asserting that those observations are wrong or that history is radically different from what we understand is quite another. Believing in an historical Adam and Eve requires the latter.

  15. Gary W
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Theistic evolution is just as irrational as young-earth creationism. If a theistic evolutionist is justified in believing through faith that God intervenes to direct the course of evolution, then a young-earth creationist is justified in believing through faith that God planted fake evidence to make the earth appear much older than it really is.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Theistic evolution is proved wrong with just one example.

      The vitamin C pseudogene.

      A god who “directed” evolution to arrive at Adam and Eve and the entire human race can’t be arsed to fix a single-point mutation that makes apes unique out of all the mammals (except Guinea pigs) in our inability to manufacture vitamin C?

      Does god hate sailors? Love oranges?

      When theistic evolution comes up with the answer to the vitamin C pseudogene problem, they’ll have my attention. Til then…nope.

      • John Harshman
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Accommodating theistic evolution to the facts requires a god who is extremely parsimonious with his tweaks, to the point of invisibility. But we can’t rule out such a god, just as we can’t rule out the idea that gravity is really just a host of otherwise undetectable angels pulling everything toward everything else.

        If you want to believe in invisible angels, that’s not problem as long as their detectable effects are no different from gravity; and if you want to believe in theistic evolution, that’s fine as long as god acts in a way that’s undetectably different from what plain vanilla evolution would act.

        I believe that’s Ken Miller’s solution. Unless a theist starts talking about evidence in favor of the theory (which by definition can’t exist), what’s the problem?

        • Gary W
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          The problem is that believing something is true because you want it to be true is likely to lead to false beliefs, and false beliefs are likely to be harmful.

        • gbjames
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          If believe in the angel theory of gravity is kept to oneself, then I guess there isn’t any harm. But if one advocates “teaching the controversy” about the angel theory, then the problem gets big, fast.

        • Gary W
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          If you want to believe in invisible angels, that’s not problem as long as their detectable effects are no different from gravity; and if you want to believe in theistic evolution, that’s fine as long as god acts in a way that’s undetectably different from what plain vanilla evolution would act.

          But false evidence of an old earth invisibly planted by God is also “undetectably different” from true evidence of an old earth. Do you therefore think that belief in young-earth creationism is “fine?” If it’s “fine” to believe in invisible meddling by God, then it’s fine to believe in either theistic evolution or young-earth creationism.

          • John Harshman
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            YEC is fine as long as you trouble to make it undetectable, as is the version you have set out here. It’s theologically problematic — God is a deceiver — but that isn’t my problem. Such a version of YEC leads to treating the data exactly as real science would; it’s just that the conclusions are claimed to be illusory.

            There’s nothing wrong with Last Thursdayism, either.

            • Gary W
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

              YEC is fine as long as you trouble to make it undetectable

              Then you’re saying you think it’s “fine” to reject scientific explanations in favor of religious ones. That’s a recipe for disaster.

              Such a version of YEC leads to treating the data exactly as real science would

              Nonsense. Science treats the data as reliable. YEC treats the data as faked by God.

              • John Harshman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                And yet the consequences in the world are the same. You can find oil just fine if you think the strata were created in situ exactly as if the source rock and cap rock were important. You can fly a spacecraft to Mars as long as your expectations for what the angels will do match the expectations of those silly gravity-believers. In other words, a belief carefully tailored to have no consequences will indeed have no consequences.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

                And yet the consequences in the world are the same.

                More nonsense. The belief that the earth is only 6,000 years old rather than billions of years old has all sorts of consequences in the world, most obviously the rejection of evolution.

                You can fly a spacecraft to Mars as long as your expectations for what the angels will do match the expectations of those silly gravity-believers.

                But if your expectations for what the angels will do come from faith rather than evidence, because you believe the evidence has been faked by God, then your expectations are not likely to match, and your spacecraft is not likely to make it to Mars.

              • John Harshman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                You’re raising quite another scenario. I agree that differences with consequences do have consequences. Not at all what I’m talking about. No YEC that I know of adopts the “YEC is indetectable” position, so you have no real-world examples to think about. But a thorough faking by god would produce conclusive evidence for evolution, and even a YEC who adopted that view should act as if evolution were true in all respects. Again, there are no such people, but that doesn’t prevent the thought experiment. If you find it easier, think about Last Thursdayism, which also denies evolution (in the same way it denies 2012). What difference would that make to a Last Thursdayist?

              • Gary W
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                No, I’m not raising another scenario. You said you think “it’s fine” to believe, through faith, in YEC, even though YEC is contradicted by science and belief in YEC has clear real-world implications. If you’re now rejecting this position, it doesn’t make any sense to claim that Ken Miller’s belief in theistic evolution is “fine.” Miller’s belief that God invisibly guides evolution is no more justified than the belief that God planted fake evidence of the age of the earth. You can’t have it both ways.

              • John Harshman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

                I despair of ever getting you to see this. You seem to see the term “YEC” and turn off reading skills. YEC is contradicted by science only if, as real YECs do, you propose a variety that contradicts the data. I’m talking about a variety of YEC that no possible observation could be at odds with, since it postulates that god made everything look as if the world is old, common descent happens, etc. You’re arguing against regular YEC, which has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. Note that in this case, rejecting the scientific explanation in favor of the religious one has no consequences for interpreting the data except that instead of “that’s how it is” you think “that’s how it looks and all future data will make it look like that too.” There are no real-world differences. Creationism leads to problems because it’s testable.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

                YEC is contradicted by science only if, as real YECs do, you propose a variety that contradicts the data.

                No, all “varieties” of YEC are contradicted by science, because science tells us that the earth is not young, but very old.

                I’m talking about a variety of YEC that no possible observation could be at odds with, since it postulates that god made everything look as if the world is old, common descent happens, etc.

                And that variety is just as inconsistent with science as any other. Science does not permit the assumption that the world is actually very young and that it appears to be old because “god made everything look as if the world is old.” That’s not science; it’s religious faith that contradicts science. And yet you claim that belief in YEC is “fine” despite the mountains of scientific evidence against it.

            • Notagod
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

              You seem to want the gods that inhabit christian’s minds to do so in a vacuum. I’ve never seen an instance of that happening, the christian’s gods always spill out and muck up the works of society and life in general. Do you have any example of any christian gods that are contained to simply a different name for a natural process or event without carrying any additional baggage? If there aren’t any what is the point in inventing additional gods for the christians to choose from?

              • John Harshman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                So what’s wrong with Kenneth Miller?

        • Kevin
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          So, what you’re basically saying is that it’s OK to make up an entirely fact-free ad hoc explanation for things that already have fact-filled, theory-supported explanations when the “god did it” part is at the beginning of the sentence and not at the end?

          Reminds me of something one of my mentors told me once. She said “whenever anyone gives you what starts out as a compliment and ends with a suggestion, everything before the ‘but’ is bullshit.”

          • John Harshman
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

            No, that isn’t what I’m saying at all, and I have no idea how you came to equate the two. I’m saying that a difference that has no real-world consequences is not a difference we should worry about. Kenneth Miller is a perfectly good evolutionary biologist and will remain one as long as he thinks that divine tweaks are in principle undetectable. Last Thursdayism can’t be addressed by any conceivable argument, and a Last Thursdayist would not behave in any way differently from any other person. And so on. It’s the creationists who claim that they have evidence who are the problem.

            • Gary W
              Posted January 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

              Kenneth Miller is a perfectly good evolutionary biologist and will remain one as long as he thinks that divine tweaks are in principle undetectable.

              Evolutionary biology, like all science, rests on the premise that scientific evidence is reliable and that beliefs about how the world works are justified only to the extent that they are supported by that evidence. If Ken Miller believes that God is making undetectable tweaks to natural processes, he’s rejecting the premise that scientific evidence is reliable and necessary to justify belief. If God is interfering in the world in ways we cannot detect, scientific claims of knowledge simply cannot be trusted. Miller must either reject invisible divine intervention, or reject science. He can’t have it both ways.

              • John Harshman
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

                Take it up with him. He doesn’t seem inconvenienced. He just assumes that everything we see can be treated as naturally caused. He also supposes that some may be caused by god, but there’s no way to tell and no difference in what would be observed, so it doesn’t matter. I don’t see any practical problem with this, as a person who thinks that does science exactly the same as a person who makes no such assumption.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

                I just explained in detail what’s wrong with his position. You haven’t responded to my argument at all.

              • eric
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

                I don’t see how your argument holds weight. Science has the problem of induction regardless of whether there’s a god or not. You say ‘science can’t be trusted’ under Miller’s theology as if we could absolutely trust our findings in the absence of a God. But we can’t, at least not in a deep philosophical sense. Without god, scientific conclusions are tentative and subject to revision if new evidence arises. With a god…scientific conclusios are tentative and subject to revision if new evidence arises.

                Now in a pragmatic sense, we have overwhelming experiential reasons to be highly confident in the scientific method and many of its big results – like evolution. Inside a philosophy (or theology) department there may be some angst about the state of our inductive knowledge concerning evolution, but very few people outside of the tower really care. Nothing in Miller’s theology prevents him from having that same pragmatic confidence in science that atheist scientists have.

                Consider, as an example, the recent Higgs Boson discovery. Researchers kept the experiment up until they reached 5 sigma confidence. How does belief in God raise or lower the statistical confidence in their result? Answer: it doesn’t.

              • Gary W
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

                Nothing in Miller’s theology prevents him from having that same pragmatic confidence in science that atheist scientists have.

                Yes it does. Miller’s theology is that God is guiding evolution in ways we cannot detect. Therefore, under Miller’s theology, our scientific understanding of evolution is incorrect: evolution works differently than it would without the divine guidance, but science cannot detect this difference. A YEC could apply the same theology to our scientific understanding of the age of the earth: the earth is actually very young, but science cannot detect this because God is invisibly interfering to make the earth appear much older.

        • Posted January 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          But we can’t rule out such a god, just as we can’t rule out the idea that gravity is really just a host of otherwise undetectable angels pulling everything toward everything else.

          And yet nobody, and I mean nobody, actually believes in such a god. Indeed, the only time we ever hear from one is either from an atheist accommodationist reassuring everybody that believers aren’t entirely batshit fucking insane, or from an apologist who’s taking the long approach to “…ergo, Jesus.”

          You know what else we can’t rule out? That the moon really is made of green cheese, and it’s a complicated alien technological conspiracy that makes it appear to every human investigation to be mostly silicates with a small iron core.

          Does that mean that it’s rational, sane, excusable to believe that the moon is made of green cheese? I should hope not.

          Reason demands that belief be apportioned in proportion to a rational analysis of empirical observation. The better the observation and the more sound the reasoning, the stronger your belief should be. When you have no evidence whatsoever to support a particular hypothesis, and especially when there is no rational justification or explanation for the hypothesis, it is, frankly, idiotic to accord it any belief. Perhaps it’s worth further investigation — but belief? Please. Don’t be silly.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • John Harshman
            Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say any of this was rational. I think it’s silly. I just think it doesn’t cause any problems.

            • Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

              You don’t think silly irrationalism is a problem with respect to public attitudes and understanding of science?

              Sure would explain a lot, as such a position is itself silly and irrational.

              b&

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                Irrationalism isn’t a problem if it doesn’t predict any observable differences from what rationalism predicts.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

                Postulating a form of YEC that is indistinguishable from evolutionary biology seems rather a waste of time. No such a thing exists or is likely to ever exist. Here in the real world we have real YECs who seek to insert their fictional delusions into public schools and into the lives of all of us. I fail to see the point in wasting brain activity on the fiction of YEC-indistinguishable-from-science.

              • Posted February 1, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

                Irrationalism isn’t a problem if it doesn’t predict any observable differences from what rationalism predicts.

                Reality and fantasy don’t respect the neat little boundaries you’re insisting they must.

                Even at a regional level, not only does the flat earth model align quite well with observations, it’s even how we all actually operate in our day-to-day lives. But it’ll get you dead the first time you try to plot an air route from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

                It’s one thing to know that the flat earth model is profoundly worng despite being quite useful in many circumstances. It’s another thing entirely to insist that, because the Earth appears flat if you don’t look too carefully, it’s not a problem to just assume that it really is.

                You’re falling into the latter trap, and it’s a most pernicious trap indeed.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

                OK, I’m getting tired of people missing the point entirely. I say a silly belief that’s makes exactly the same predictions as a non-silly one does no harm, you say it’s spinach and to hell with it, but you’re just denying the premise. Flat-earthism works locally, not globally (ha), but that isn’t analogous to the sort of nonsense I’m proposing, which really does work globally. If you were a theistic evolutionist who assumed divine intervention was undetectable, you would operate under the same methodological naturalism as everyone else. To the extent that you didn’t, you would be supposing that divine intervention did make a difference, which violates the premise.

                I think this is the last time I’ll try.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

                Where I’m lost, John Harshman, is trying to understand what the point of your self-admitted hyper-silly-and-totally-made-up equivalence is. Let’s assume that you are right and that this hypothetical equivalence is true. So what?

              • Gary W
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

                If you were a theistic evolutionist who assumed divine intervention was undetectable, you would operate under the same methodological naturalism as everyone else. To the extent that you didn’t, you would be supposing that divine intervention did make a difference, which violates the premise.

                If divine intervention does not make a difference to how the world works, it’s not “intervention” at all. If it does make a difference, but the difference is not detectable by science, then science’s description of how the world works is wrong — perhaps spectacularly wrong. Again, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that God is changing the world in ways science cannot detect AND that the scientific account of the world is true. If God is invisibly interfering with natural processes, then science simply can’t be trusted to tell us anything about the world actually is.

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

                gbjames: So what, indeed. That’s my point. Kenneth Miller’s god isn’t something to get worked up about.

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

                I looked up the Miller quote. He wasn’t talking about science. In fact he specifically says in that essay that god can’t be studied by science at all.

                What one believes by faith, in the absence of evidence, doesn’t impinge on anything other than that narrow thing itself, as long as one agrees that it is indeed purely by faith. Miller doesn’t put god into science and in fact specifically excludes him.

                Still don’t see any problem.

            • gbjames
              Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

              No, John Harshman. Because your imaginary situation is not describing Miller’s god.

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

                I could be wrong. What is Miller’s god like, then?

              • gbjames
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

                Miller is a Catholic. We can reasonably conclude his god created Adam and Eve, sent a divine son to be crucified and rise from the dead. That is not your hypothetical situation.

              • Gary W
                Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

                Ken Miller also says that science can detect the existence of God:

                I suggest that if God is real, we should be able to find him somewhere else — in the bright light of human knowledge, spiritual and scientific.

                This is also standard Catholic teaching (Miller is a Catholic), and it contradicts John Harshman’s claims about Miller’s beliefs.

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 2, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

                Pretty sure Miller doesn’t believe in any literal Adam and Eve. Catholics don’t always go along with Catholic dogma, you know. As for god being detectable, tell me more. Where did he say that, and what sort of examples did he give? So far it sounds like the empty phrases theists sometimes say to infuse god into things without any real consequences. Doe Miller propose a god experiment?

              • gbjames
                Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

                Now you are just flailing. Miller only needs to believe one bit of Catholic mythology to violate your hypothetical situation. I don’t need to find anything more than that he calls himself Catholic. There is no need to do an exhaustive search of every bit of Catholic belief and allow that he hasn’t “owned” this bit or that.

              • John Harshman
                Posted February 2, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

                You’re saying that just the word “Catholic” is all that’s needed for an argument? That’s mistaking the label for the thing. Which belief of Miller’s specifically is the problem? You can’t assume that because he calls himself a Catholic that he has any particular opinion. You have to be specific and support your claim with something Miller has said.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 2, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

                No, John Harshman. I’m maintaining that your assertion that he can possibly reject ALL Catholic dogma and still call himself Catholic is preposterous on its face. You are not being serious.

              • Posted February 2, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

                John, since Miller is a prominent Catholic in good standing, it is very reasonable to assume without further evidence that he regularly attends Mass. And all Catholics recite together the Apostles’ Creed as a profession of faith.

                Which means that Miller frequently and publicly proclaims the following:

                I believe in God,
                the Father almighty,
                Creator of heaven and earth,
                and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
                who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
                born of the Virgin Mary,
                suffered under Pontius Pilate,
                was crucified, died and was buried;
                he descended into hell;
                on the third day he rose again from the dead;
                he ascended into heaven,
                and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
                from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
                I believe in the Holy Spirit,
                the holy catholic Church,
                the communion of saints,
                the forgiveness of sins,
                the resurrection of the body,
                and life everlasting. Amen.

                Either Miller actually believes all that, or he’s a liar.

                Are you calling him a liar?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted February 2, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

                As for god being detectable, tell me more.

                I’m not sure what more you need. Contrary to your assertion, Miller claims that God is detectable by science. This isn’t terribly surprising, since Miller is a Catholic and the Catholic Catehechism makes the same claim. You’re simply wrong about Miller’s beliefs, as well as being utterly confused about the compatibility of science and “divine intervention.”

                Where did he say that

                In his Templeton lecture (where the quote comes from), among other places.

        • James Mayfield
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          Must really be a bummer to go through life being all non-sinny and end up as one of the the poor bastards that get to heaven only to be assigned the job of being a gravity angel.

          • gbjames
            Posted February 1, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

            Especially one working in the Rocks and Mud Department. At least the ones working on the wings of airplanes get to see the world from time to time.

        • Kevin
          Posted February 1, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Ken Miller’s god basically acts totally in accordance with the all-natural forces of nature — physics, chemistry, biology.

          Basically, Ken Miller’s god acts in such a way as to always fall just short of actually providing evidence that it actually exists.

          In short, Ken Miller’s god is a dick.

          • John Harshman
            Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

            But his good feature is that believing in him doesn’t affect the way anyone would do science. He’s irrelevant. You never have need of that hypothesis, even if it’s sitting in your head. He might as well not exist. So what’s the problem?

      • John Harshman
        Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        By the way, it isn’t just apes. It’s almost all primates. Clearly, monkeys aren’t intended to be sailors, and we should take the lesson to heart.

        • Kevin
          Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          I think god was just preparing the way for Flintstone vitamin gummies…

  16. tony
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Sub

  17. neil
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    If they want to accommodate, I suppose they can say that the two-ness of Adam and Eve is just a metaphor, standing for an ancestoral population of the human species (which there must have been.) After all the Bible does mention a population somewhere off in the Land of Nod.

    • Paul S
      Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      No can do, that would mean Jesus died for a metaphor and that’s a huge problem for them. No original sin means no reason for Jesus and there goes the whole thing. Poof.

      • Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        …then it should hardly come as a surprise that Jesus is every bit as fictional as Adam and Eve….

        b&

  18. Rain
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Was it really that big of a surprise when science found out there couldn’t be an Adam and Eve? If it was a surprise to anyone, then somebody wasn’t paying attention. Religion always gets the short end of the pogo stick when science and religion lock horns. When religion and science draw straws, religion always gets the shortest straw. Try and keep up here, religion.

  19. Brygida Berse
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    While content to use science to pull the plug on flood geology and dismiss the young-earth stories out of hand, the question of Adam and Eve remains the line in the sand across which she dares not cross.

    In other words, she is willing to accept science on most points except for the parts where she inserts some arbitrarily chosen mythology.

    A good overview of Haarsma’s position within the theistic evolution spectrum can be found in a series of clips she recorded for the Templeton-funded Test of Faith project in 2010.

    In some of those she sounds almost reasonable, but others quickly descend into pure madness:
    youtube.com/watch?v=gyar0X3DSr4

  20. Nathan
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    “Were Adam and Eve Ape-People?” by Ken Ham

  21. Bob Carlson
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Grand Rapids, where Haarsma lives and teaches is a heartland of Christian fundamentalism. There are many organizations that call themselves ministries that have set up shop there. Googling the phrase Grand Rapids ministries reports “about” 1.12 million hits. At the top of the list are Heartside Ministry, Mel Trotter Ministries, Degage Ministries, RBC Ministries, Safe Haven Ministries, The Other Way Ministries, DeColores Ministries of Grand Rapids, and United in Christ Ministries. On a whim, I searched on Adam and Eve Grand Rapids, and the first hit is one titled Calvin College Adam and Eve Controversy: Religion professor’s departure makes national news, which is dated August 9, 2011. John Schneider, a longtime professor at the college, believed that there was no historical Adam and Eve and accepted the findings of evolutionary science. His views got him in hot water with the president of the College, and he opted for an early retirement. The link to the article is here.

    • Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:37 am | Permalink

      Bob – thanks for bringing this up. We know what Calvin does with people who question the literal Adam and Eve [Dan Harlow was also involved with this along with John Schneider, but apparently he remains at Calvin], and we also know what BioLogos does with people who speak of Adam and Eve not being the original two humans – exit stage left a la Giberson and Enns.

      • Larry Gay
        Posted February 1, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

        I view this as progress. At least Calvin
        College didn’t burn Schneider at the stake.

        • Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          Good point – what a difference a few centuries makes! Many of my ancestors were anabaptists, and not a small number of the ‘rebaptisters’ were tortured before they were either burned at the stake or drowned – the third and final baptism.

  22. derekw
    Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I look forward at some point to checking out the Haarsma’s book ‘Origins.’ I’m wondering just how ‘non-concordist’ they are and where they differ with Old Earth Creationism (ala Reasons to Believe) with respect to not only Genesis creation account but something like the Flood.

  23. Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    In this discussion (and most others), I agree with Bertrand Russell: “It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.”


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