Forbes extols the success of BioLogos; I don’t buy it

Forbes has published a piece on BioLogos—the organization founded by Francis Collins whose aim is to bring evangelical Christians to evolution—that is so one-sided that it could easily have been a press release written by BioLogos itself. The piece is by science writer John Farrell (I can’t find much information about him), and is called “Evolution basics for people who hate it.”  Farrell’s aim is to extol Evolution Basics, a series of essays by Dennis Venema at the BioLogos site. Venema is described as:

“Fellow of Biology for The BioLogos Foundation and associate professor of biology at Trinity Western University [TWU] in Langley, British Columbia. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signalling.”

TWU describes its own mission as

“As an arm of the Church, to develop godly Christian leaders: positive, goal-oriented university graduates with thoroughly Christian minds; growing disciples of Christ who glorify God through fulfilling the Great Commission, serving God and people in the various marketplaces of life.”

Venema’s “research,” as described on his website, is thin: all of his papers after 2004, at least those given on his website c.v., are not research papers but discussions about education and reconciling science and Christianity.

But, to his credit, Venema has taken it upon himself to educate Christians about evolution and appears to have criticized intelligent design several times, including a critique of Stephen Meyer’s ID book Signature in the Cell. I’m sure the Discovery Institute didn’t like that one!

Forbes goes on to praise Venema’s series of lessons about evolution:

BioLogos, the brainchild of National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, often gets a bad rap. Creationists hate it because it not only accepts evolution, it does a great job of expounding on it and promoting it.

Some outspoken anti-religious scientists, on the other hand, can’t stand it because the organization openly attempts to reconcile an evangelical understanding of the Bible with modern science. And it tends to lean rightward on the political spectrum.

But that still leaves a lot of room for people in the middle. And they make up an ever growing audience.

Reaching that audience is Venema’s job. And he’s been at it since 2010, writing essays and tutorials for the foundation.

But he’s really hit his stride with Evolution Basics, written throughout the course of this year.

Evolution Basics is a multipart series whose posts have been going up for about a year, and it’s not bad. I could carp about a few things (for example, the salamander Ensatina is no longer considered a good example of a ring species), but on the whole it’s a good effort and well intended. I suppose BioLogos wouldn’t refer readers to either my book or Richard Dawkins’s on the same topic because, to evangelical Christians, we may as well have “666″ branded on our foreheads.

So I have no problem with Venema’s attempt to education Christians about evolution. My problem lies elsewhere. First, there’s the cognitive dissonance of BioLogos itself, which presents Venema’s science-oriented essays on the same site as a statement of “What We Believe” that includes the following:

  1. We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means through which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.
  2. We believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature. Properly interpreted, Scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.
  3. We believe that all people have sinned against God and are in need of salvation.
  4. We believe in the historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. We believe in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved and reconciled to God.
  5. We believe that God is directly involved in the lives of people today through acts of redemption, personal transformation, and answers to prayer.
  6. We believe that God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as “natural laws.” Yet we also affirm that God works outside of natural law in supernatural events, including the miracles described in Scripture. In both natural and supernatural ways, God continues to be directly involved in creation and in human history.

and

9. We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes. Therefore, we reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.

How can you rely on evidence on one part of your site, and then completely reject that reliance on another, avowing belief in completely unsubstantiated claims? Further, BioLogos’s avowed respect for science is completely abandoned in point 9, which not only accepts theistic evolution, guided by God to a certain end, but completely rejects the notion that evolution is “purposeless.” For it is indeed purposeless in any meaningful sense, since evolution is, if anything, a materialistic process, not pushed in any particular direction (i.e. toward humans). If you abandon materialism in favor of “purpose,” then you’ve left science behind.

Much as I admire Venema’s desire to educate Christians about evolution, he’s on a fool’s errand (nb: I am not calling Venema a fool!), given that other parts of the BioLogos site (and presumably Venema himself) show unwavering belief in the divinity of Jesus, his Resurrection, and the sinfulness of humans, who can be saved only by belief in said Jesus.  What I’d like to ask Venema (besides “how do you know that?) is this: “What about the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists? Are we, the unsaved ones, going to hell?”

Second, both Venema and Forbes claim that the BioLogos mission is having great success, despite petulant people like me who argue that their strategy is misguided:

Is the message reaching a receptive audience? Venema believes it is, in spite of the skepticism of scientist bloggers [sic] like University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne, who has made BioLogos a regular target.

“Even in the time since I’ve joined BioLogos,” said Venema, “I’ve seen a shift in my circles with more and more people being open to the idea that God used evolution as a creative mechanism, and that mainstream science is the proper place to find out more about that mechanism. The trend is positive.

“Coyne on the other hand is sure that BioLogos is a flop – he seems to write about it every few months or so – because he hasn’t seen a massive swing in opinion in the short term. You’d think an evolutionary biologist would be better placed to understand gradual change over time in a population. To put it in biological terms, ‘Evolutionary Creationism’ is a relatively new allele in the evangelical population, but it is rapidly increasing in frequency from my perspective. It’s also relatively common for BioLogos to be invited to panel-type presentations where our view is now accepted as one of the live options for an evangelical. That’s light years ahead of the situation when I was a child, when even hearing ‘evolution’ or ‘Darwin’ was like hearing someone swear.

What we have here is simply wish-thinking, like Christianity itself. Where is the evidence of the rapid increase in frequency of the “evolution allele” among evangelical Christians? There simply isn’t any, save Venema’s assertion that BioLogos is invited to panels of evangelical Christians.  In point of fact, acceptance of evolution in America has remained fairly flat (with a slight uptick in both young-earth creationism and naturalistic evolution, and a downturn in BioLogos’s preferred process—theistic evolution—over the last five years.

As for the sea change among evangelical Protestants, well, it’s so slow as to be undiscernible. In 2007, a Pew survey showed that 24% of that group agreed that evolution was the best explanation of life on earth. In 2013, six years later, 27% agreed that “humans evolved over time.” Granted, those aren’t the same questions, but the percentages are within the margin of error for both polls. In other words, there’s not much evidence for a rapid increase in frequency of the “evolution allele: among evangelicals. I will accept the possibility of gradual change over time, but I require evidence, not the wish-thinking of BioLogos (after all, could they really say that what they were doing wasn’t working?) or the thin anecdotes of Venema.

But don’t take my word for it; see what Karl Giberson, who used to be the executive vice-president of BioLogos, wrote in a piece at The Daily Beast called “2013 was a terrible year for evolution” (see my post on this):

. . . scientifically informed young evangelicals became so alienated from their home churches that they walked away, taking their enlightenment with them.

An alarming study by the Barna group looked at the mass exodus of 20-somethings from evangelicalism and discovered that one of the major sources of discontent was the perception that “Christianity was antagonistic to science.” Anti-evolution, and general suspicion of science, has become such a significant part of the evangelical identity that many people feel compelled to choose one or the other. Many of my most talented former students no longer attend any church, and some have completely abandoned their faith traditions.

You won’t find any of Venema’s optimism in Giberson, whose piece is permeated with disillusionment about the willingness of evangelical Christians to accept evolution. (I suspect, in fact, that Giberson left BioLogos because he was stymied in his own attempts to promote evolution at the expense of antiscientific evangelical beliefs like the historicity of Adam and Eve.)

And against Giberson’s experience (and the data!) showing that young evangelicals perceive Christianity as antagonistic to science, we have the pure assertions of Venema as filtered through author Farrell:

It’s not surprising, for Venema, that any group that claims robust evangelical faith is perfectly compatible with a deep appreciation for science would receive criticism from both sides.

“One of the things I love about working with BioLogos is seeing individuals freed from this false dichotomy of choosing between science and faith.”

The problem with people like Venema and Farrell is that they see the dichotomy of false, but many, many people don’t, including 23% of Catholics, who remain young-earth creationists in opposition to official church dogma.  After all, there is a real dichotomy between believing things based on evidence and believing them because they’re asserted in ancient works of fiction, or because they make you feel good.

91 Comments

  1. Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Anything under forbes.com/sites/ is not an editorially-reviewed piece published by Forbes – but just a random blog by some random blogger.

  2. Griff
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    I find the BioLogos position incomprehensible.

    If you TRULY accept Darwinian evolution for what it is, you must accept that the mutations which create variety are random – in the sense that they do not happen with any purpose in mind.

    Ken Miller must know this. Francis Collins must know this.

    How can this be reconciled with a claim of purposeful evolution?

    Isn’t the BioLogos position essentially ID, with the only contention between the two groups being that BioLogos is saying “God dun the mutations” whereas ID is saying “God dun the structures”?

    I just don’t get it.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      The Biologos position of theistic evolution is a more radical position of the God of the Gaps, where you make God so small it fits into gaps which you think can’t be filled by any alternate theory with better support. Trouble is that any clarity at all will entail that God has some effect on the world or how does it reach out and connect with the faithful?

      Theists like Miller and Collins think they can accept the randomness of the mutations and then hop back a step: the ‘randomness’ is random on the surface (what we can know from the world) yeah — but is actually guided below the surface, in some other dimension of mentality where cause and effect doesn’t mean what it means in science.

      • Griff
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        So it’s guided with the superficial appearance of being random?

        Doesn’t sound like Darwinian evo to me.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        What Jerry and other scientists of his caliber are doing is revealing Gawd’s handiwork. Sure it looks purposeless but in reality it isn’t.

        And having done it, Gawd need not worry his beautiful mind on it anymore – His handiwork will carry on fooling us as it follows His plan.

        This leaves Him free to influence sporting events.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        People who think like that would be well advised to never attempt to engage in any sort of “cooking” of financial books. The same sorts of statistical techniques that’re trivially applied to uncover cases of fraud apply equally well to genomic variations. Any time there’s any sort of a genetic analysis, there’s going to be some sort of a search for patterns. No patterns of any significance of the type needed for theistic evolution have ever even been hinted at. The only reasonable conclusion is that the results we see are as good as any other random results that might have occurred, for there’s, Shirley, no thumbs on any scales.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Sastra
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          The only reasonable conclusion is that the results we see are as good as any other random results that might have occurred, for there’s, Shirley, no thumbs on any scales.

          But how could a result without ME in it be “just as good” as any other random result?

          That’s really where the idea that it’s just too much “luck” to be mere chance comes in. You can’t have luck without someone feeling lucky.

          While they might grant that God’s thumb would be detectible, they think “intention” is some magical force outside of the natural physical order and thus capable of setting off a chain of events in nature without ever setting anything on any scale, whether Shirley sets there or no (and thanks for the hat tip to my cat!)

          • Posted January 10, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

            Yes, exactly — it’s Doug Adams’s pond combined with a really big helping of hubris. I’m the center of my universe; therefore I’m the center of the whole universe; therefore everything that exists exists as it does just for my benefit.

            No amount of math literacy can penetrate that sort of a reality distortion field.

            And you can’t be serious about your cat’s name!

            b&

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        Ahhh, now I’m understanding this “breaking of cause and effect” that I found so perplexing as an argument from theists.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      “How can this be reconciled with a claim of purposeful evolution?”

      It can’t be and it isn’t. The inner monologue of the believer is an ongoing Gish Gallop. It is like they are endlessly scampering around a pond on tiny little logs. As long as they keep moving they don’t fall in, but if they dwell in any one spot for more than a moment they discover that there is no solid support for them anywhere in their pond of belief.

      To mix up the metaphor even more, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, it’s “raft”.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Biologos’ position is evolutionary creationism. Naked religious ideology. Same with Roman Catholicism (theistic evolution). Discovery Institute ID is duplicitous ideology. As much political as religious.

  3. francis
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    //

  4. Paul
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Forbes also ran a anthropogenic climate change denial story yesterday, so this isn’t too surprising. If you deny reality in one context, you’re bound to deny it in others as well.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      As noted in comment #1, Forbes blogs are not editorially governed things. You also find politically very-left bloggers there, a fact that inevitably results in Facebook comments that begin “Even Forbes says …” and go on to reference a very anti-Conservative blog post.

  5. Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    6.We believe that God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as “natural laws.”

    You’d think the polar vortex and numbers of deaths from influenza alone would have ended the fine-tuning argument. Oh well.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      Ah, but you forgot to note the infinite possibilities in that little concession that God “typically” uses natural laws. Sin is more powerful than God.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      Reminds me of when Katrina hit, and someone said, “Why did God make Hurricanes?”. I thought, be thankful your deity did not make a supernova on our star’s doorstep.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        If our star were big enough to go supernova, we wouldn’t be here anyway!

        As it is, we’ll get a few thermal pulses which might mean the Sun engulfs the Earth, and it’ll end up as a white dwarf.

        /@

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        The more I think about the Christian god, the more I am convinced that he is really Darth Vader.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      I find it incredible that more believers don’t realize that “sustaining” the world has as consequence one’s tacit agreement to everything that goes on in it. (It is also metascientifically ridiculous, but the believer should not adopt such a view even on their own terms.)

  6. Sigmund
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I’ve generally found Venema’s BioLogos articles to be pretty decent. However, he clearly knows enough to realize there is no ambiguity in the scientific evidence about human population genetics that leads to any possibility of a single pair of humans as ancestors of us all.
    But to admit as much is clearly a step too far for most evangelicals and so we have BioLogos’ continuing tap dance around the issue.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Yes, Venema’s articles are really good introductions to evolution for people inclined not to believe in it. I don’t understand how Dennis can agree to the BioLogos “What we believe” creed, but it doesn’t intrude much in his writing.

    • derekw
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      No ambiguity? The Li and Durbin paper (used by Sheehan more recently) often cited here used the ‘slower’ mutation rate from recent genetic family tree comparison studies (1.25 x -8) vs. the ol’ standard (2.5 x -8) which was accepted for a long time (even though seemingly circularly derived with phylogenetic distances correlated with fossil evidence/assumed divergence times.) This very significant parameter is still to be refined and a much smaller effective population size may still be in play.

  7. John Hamill
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Young earth creationism is not in opposition to formal Catholic dogma. The formal doctrine is described in a papal encyclical from 1950, which states …

    “the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God”

    That is, the Catholic Church allows that humans may have evolved but only up until the point that this proposition disagrees with scripture. At this point, scripture wins. The same papal encyclical (called Humani Generis) states that …

    “For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.”

    That is, there existing a real ‘first human person’ called Adam who committed the original sin. All direct descendants from Adam inherit this original sin. Any person who is not a direct descendant of Adam is not a real human.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      The Catholic Church takes a sort of fence-sitting approach to this sort of thing. Regardless of what the encyclicals say, you’ll come across public statements by various Vatican bigwigs which more or less reflect the personal scientific literacy level of the speaker.

      Likewise for the congregation. The more sophisticated and educated members do it by keeping two sets of books, so to speak. Sure evolution is real and we believe in “Adam” of the Original Sin – at least as a metaphor.

      Obviously it is an incoherent position to hold, but that’s a way to get around it. I can guarantee that “sophisticated” Catholics are mostly not in the slightest concerned with whether their personal beliefs are consistent with encyclicals.

      Of course, not all Catholic congregations consist of scientifically literate members, so where YEC will be believed, YEC is espoused.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        They similarly fence-sit on the issue of who’s in the pearly gates. Modern Catholicism believes all sincere seekers of God have an implicit faith that may get them in the door, but it still raises too many questions about good people for whom faith and/or God is not really very important.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          Miracles and apparitions are another example. The Church tends to support these things because it’s a great crowd-puller for the credulous and less-educated. But usually the faithful are allowed to decide for themselves if they believe in the embarrassing claims or not; because they realise that a significant number of their followers just can’t bring themselves to credit that sort of nonsense.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Right, the Catholic Church does not have dogma stating that its members must accept evolution, only that they can accept it. They have seemingly backed themselves into a corner when Human Generis was written and the Pope proclaimed Catholics are not free to accept polygenism. Even the Catechism says that Original Sin signifies a real event.

      Despite this, it is amazing to read about the mental gymnastics some of the apologists go through to square the Catechism, the Papal statements and the science indicating Adam and Eve couldn’t have possibly been real. It almost seems like a halfway interesting creative job trying to reconcile this stuff. George Carlin said when it comes to bullshit, we have to stand in awe of religion. There simply is no religion with a more massive, steaming pile of it than the Catholic Church. With 2000 years of experience, encyclicals, books, the Bible, etc., they have become experts at saying a lot while really saying nothing at all.

      It is very convenient that the true message is that Jesus came to redeem us so we are free to believe what we will regarding science. They aren’t overlapping. Except for when they are. And then there’s the bullshit. Ask questions, just not the one that could dismantle the foundation. The rest combines enough distractions and vagaries to not quite pin themselves down with internal inconsistencies (not that consistency equals evidence). It really and truly is a heaping mountain of bullshit and it stinks.

      As a side note, I just recently thought about how it is incredibly ironic that with all this “sophisticated theology,” that the foundation of the faith, the Eucharist, hinges on a literal interpretation of a single phrase, “This is my body.” Yet if one suggests taking an even quasi literal approach to say two Genesis stories with completely different accounts, both of which contradict evidence, one just isn’t reading it right. It’s utterly amazing.

      • Posted January 11, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Actually, it was the Eucharist that came first — long before Christianity.

        See Justin Martyr’s First Apology, chapter 66.

        If you read just that one chapter out of context, note that elsewhere Martyr’s primary thesis is that demons with the power of foresight planted all these false Pagan myths in advance of Jesus’s arrival so as to convince honest men that Jesus was just another myth indistinguishable from the others.

        Further, Plutarch mentions the Mithraic rites of the Cilician pirates a century before the Caesars, and their home town was Tarsus. As in, “Paul, of.” The same Paul who was the first to record the story of the Last Supper…which, in context, is clearly not at all about Jesus’s final meal but instead instructions on how to perform the Eucharist.

        It’s also worth noting that that’s the most substantial bit of biography Paul offers for Jesus.

        Cheers,

        b&

  8. Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    The findings of the Barna Group study that twenty-somethings are abandoning evangelism may be owed to a very special man!

    I hope that Readers of WEIT will join with me in urging those at the ‘Imagine No Religion’ conference at Kamloops in May, to present a Lifetime Achievements Award to Ken Hamm for his services to the cause of atheism. As you know, Ken has worked tirelessly to make Christianity sound so preposterous that eight year old kids are walking away from it. In one classic move he placed dinosaurs in the nativity scene. Bravo to Ken! His energetic opposition to the Theory of Evolution has made religion seem as daft as a box of tap-dancing frogs.

    I should, however, declare a personal interest in endorsing Ken for this award. I have been trying to secure the contract to supply his new Noah’s Ark museum with talking snakes that walk on the tip of their tails. When you pull a cord, the snake’s jaws flap and he speaks to you, telling you the truths (sic) of the holy bible. I couldn’t find anybody to voice the Aramaic, and so I have the snakes talking in Yiddish, from New Jersey. “Our fadder, who art in heven…?!”

    I confess that I lost the contract to supply the plastic dinosaurs ridden by Jesus because I carelessly took the blue-print from the description of a dinosaur in Job 40, 41, where the behemoth smokes from the nose and breathes fire. We had an accident in presenting our dino by pouring too much gasoline. The ensuing fire ignited some passing tumbleweed, and turnip truck-loads of Christians drove after the flaming tumbleweed hoping to hear the voice of their gods.

    But I have a chance at supplying the poisonous snakes, the cups of cyanide to test the faith of the true believers, and the miniature tower of Babel. But then I had a good idea. I thought that I could just take the Christians over to hear Sarah Palin talk so that they know what it sounds like when someone is ‘talking in tongues’ which somehow mimics the sound of the English Language.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Yeah, Ken Ham and Ray Comfort have done wonders for the atheism movement.

      • Chris
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        And the manufacturers of ibuprofen. All that face-palming hurts after a while.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      “The ensuing fire ignited some passing tumbleweed, and turnip truck-loads of Christians drove after the flaming tumbleweed hoping to hear the voice of their gods.”

      Awesome! ;-)

      /@

    • derekw
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, georgerumens is right in that the modern young earth moment, boosted big time in the 20th century in conservative evangelical circles mostly by Whitcomb and Morris’ ‘The Genesis Flood’ & Institute for Creation Research, survives (though no longer thrives) with proponent Ken Ham and AIG. As the Barna report mentions it’s clear that many churched youth are being fed one thing and often fail to have the critical thinking skills to resolve apparent conflicts of science and faith. Fortunately the past few decades have seen growth in ministries like old earth Reasons to Believe and BioLogos that give the science a fair shake with their Biblical interpretation.

  9. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    We believe that God is directly involved in the lives of people today through acts of redemption, personal transformation, and answers to prayer.

    It disturbs me that they believe this. It’s like an indifference to suffering.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      But the defense to that charge is unfalsifiable. IF people find comfort in God, then they will find comfort in God. Tautology acts as theodicy.

      If people figure out a way to make themselves trust that God always does everything for the best, then they will not be concerned over the fact that it appears as if everything is not for the best. Instead of using your reasonable point to attack the hypothesis, they use it as a reason to double down and believe it even more.

      Hey, there’s no problem to worry about if you can manage to stop worrying. The responsibility – and thus the fault — now lies in you.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Yep, God is too busy redeeming and transforming to, like, prevent earthquakes and floods and nuclear meltdowns and cure diseases and end poverty and stuff.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Notice this glosses over all the crummy things like where god is for when you really are in trouble. I heard an interview with a homeless person. Given the cold temps, news outlets were asking the homeless how they coped. This person said they “prayed to god they’d make it through the night” & I kept shouting at the radio, “where was god when yo became homeless! The government & charities are the ones who help you!”

  10. Kevin
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Science is the succress story as partner between beteen humans and nature. Biologos’ apologies cling to that success because science is the only direction that obstacles to our understanding must be overcom.

    Science is the middle ground. It is the high gorund and low ground, there is nothing else for Biologos but religious equivocation.

  11. Chris Branch
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Do you happen to have more info on the point about Ensatina salamanders not being a good example of a ring species? I’ve always liked that example…

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      The criticism is in my book, Speciation, written with Allen Orr. The problem, as David Wake now admits, is that these salamanders never comprised a continuous “ring,” but were separated geographically on and off over millions of years, so it’s entirely possible that the reproductive isolation did not occur through the gradual attenuation of gene flow with distance.

      • Chris Branch
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Got it; thanks!

      • John Harshman
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Does that leave any ring species in the real world? Larus is out. Does Trevor Price’s Phylloscopus example still work?

        • gbjames
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Wikipedia is our friend.

          • John Harshman
            Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

            Not so much. Those are all *alleged* ring species. Why, even the page you link to discounts the Larus example.

        • Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          After reading about all the well known “examples,” I concluded in my book (with Orr) that none of them demonstrate the true “ring species” phenomenon. The warbler case is a possible, but I discuss that in the book too and there’s a possibility of allopatry some time in the past given a distinct break in the mtDNA distribution.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Is there any chance of Speciation getting an eBook edition?

  12. Sastra
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    You’d think an evolutionary biologist would be better placed to understand gradual change over time in a population.

    Yes, but an evolutionary biologist is also in a good position to understand that a selection pressure of “always believe in magic and remain irrational from the point of the world” is not likely to continually drive a population towards becoming more and more reasonable.

  13. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    6) We believe that God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as “natural laws.”

    Like the natural laws underpinning disease and parasitism, volcanoes and tsunamis? If not – how do they know that?

    • darrelle
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Uh oh. Your stepping over the line there. Curiosity is okay, up to a certain point. Once you get to “goddidit” though, curiosity is hubris, at best. And you know what happens when you disrespect the Paramount Prick of the Desert Dogma’s.

      • gbjames
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        The pope says curiosity is a bad thing.

        • darrelle
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          Ahh. So the new pope wants us to hobble and blind ourselves, wants to maintain an ignorant and needy population. Despite all of the hopeful hype (see Steven Pinker’s Grammar Puss if you object to this construction), this pope does have a traditional streak.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

            Yep. The new pope is much better at PR. But he still prefers a world living in ignorance.

        • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          What a curious thing to say… 

          /@

      • darrelle
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Uh oh. Please, really, my education was not a total failure! I actuall know the difference between, and proper usages of, “your” and “you’re”! But my fingers have a mind of their own!

        • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Like not always typing terminal “y”s … 

          /@

          • darrelle
            Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

            Damn! I better stop. I’m just digging deeper.

  14. Richard Olson
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    sub

  15. Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    “I could carp about a few things (for example, the salamander Ensatina is no longer considered a good example of a ring species)”

    Perhaps you could correct the Wikipedia entry which you link to, as it uses this example.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      I can’t edit Wikipedia entries (don’t know how), but if you look at my response to comment #11, above, you’ll see that the Ensatina example doesn’t stand up as an example of a classic “ring species” in which speciation at the ends of a closing ring occurs as a byproduct of the attenuation of gene flow in a geographically uninterrupted population. The evidence is now that the species was repeatedly fragmented and rejoined, so that reproductive isolation may well have evolved during the periods of geographic separation. This is all described in Chapter 3 (I believe) of my book “Speciation,” co-written with Allen Orr.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        “I can’t edit Wikipedia entries (don’t know how)”

        At the top, there is an “Edit” tab. Just click on it and you get popped into an editor similar to that one gets when writing a comment on your WEBSITE.

        One can get a bit fancier and state the reason for the edit on the “Talk” page (again a tab at the top, edited in the same way) and/or register as a user, so that entries will be associated with your username.

        Thanks for the explanation. I’ve read your other book. :-)

        • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

          Test: :-) :^) 8-) 8^) :) 8) :D :-D :^D
          :-( :^( 8-( 8^( :( 8(

          • Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

            Yes, WordPress has changed smiley functionality. Not all work. Sometimes, only the sad version works.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Wikipedia entry fixed!

        /@

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted January 11, 2014 at 6:28 am | Permalink

          Cool!

  16. Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Since Prof Ceiling Cat is an authority, could he write a couple of paragraphs on Ring Species, and tell us why the salamander in question is not a good example. What is a good example, and why are Ring Species an indication of evolution? (We can guess, but we don’t know)

    • gbjames
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Ring species are a good example of evolution because they demonstrate variation in a population that on the “ends” can not viably reproduce but at all points along the way reproduction works just fine. The example is good because you can see in spacial distributions the kind of variations that happen all the time in populations over time. You can see that what is for classification purposes two distinct species over time is a continuous population with no clear species boundary.

      • Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        See my response to comments #11 and #15; I discuss in my book Speciation (cowritten with Allen Orr) why Ensatina is not a good example of speciation occurring in a geographically continuous population (i.e., “ring speciation”). It can still serve as an example of evolution, but its main fame has been as an example of speciation in a continuously distributed population. The latter doesn’t withstand close examination.

        • gbjames
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          A wording issue on my part. I didn’t mean that Ensatina was a good example of ring species but that ring species (in general) were useful explanatory tools because they show in space what usually happens over time but is less visible.

  17. CM
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    If the goal of biologos is to bring evangelical Christians to evolution what kind of effect does it have on people of other religions like Islam, Hinduism, etc.? Does it bring those people to evolution or to evangelical Christianity?

    • paxton
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Yes, if they: ” believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature”, on what basis do they conclude that this god is the one that includes Jesus as part of the trinity, as opposed to the one that told Muhammad that Jesus is not god? One problem with god of the gaps is there is till no basis for believing it is one version of god rather than another.

  18. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    “We believe that all people have sinned against God and are in need of salvation.”

    Now, there’s a worldview.

    I believe that all jeebus wankers are in need of learning to mind their own business.

    I don’t trust ANYONE with an agenda. As long as they are looking at me as a potential scalp, and not a person, I don’t want to have anything to do with them. l

    • darrelle
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      That does kind of poison the well doesn’t it? We are all scum, except us christians know the right rump to osculate so actually, we aren’t scum. But everybody else still is.

      • Chris
        Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Pretty sure that they think that they are still scum too but have been thrown a metaphorical life-jacket.

        Why anyone thinks that this is a healthy belief system is beyond me.

        • darrelle
          Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

          Since “+1″ and “This” are frowned upon, how about “Word”?

          • gbjames
            Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

            Everything is frowned upon by somebody.

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted January 11, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

              Frown :-(

    • Filippo
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t trust ANYONE with an agenda. As long as they are looking at me as a potential scalp, and not a person, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

      That would also be true of some capitalist who views flesh-and-blood human beings as human “resources” and human “capital.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, this is why I find it amusing when Christians are so repulsed by atheists. We don’t actually see a new born and full of “sin”, yet we’re the cynical, angry ones.

  19. Dermot C
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    If, as in point 1 of ‘What We Believe’, Biologos states, “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God…” why does God make so many textual mistakes?

    Such as these NT misinterpretations of the OT: bad Greek translations; running separate bits of text into one; twisting the sense and reference of nouns (Galatians 3:8); mistaking speakers; mistaken use of personal pronouns (John 19:37, Matthew 27:9); thinking that David and Isaiah had written (Acts 2 or 8:26); muddling Jeremiah with Zechariah (Matt. 27:9); Peter (Acts) misquoting Psalms 16 and 132, quoting them in poor Greek, not his tongue to an audience who wouldn’t have understood it.

    What else did God get wrong?

    God works in misattributed ways.

    Slaínte.

  20. Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    In principle, I could live with BioLogos if it actually served as a ‘wedge’ for evidence-based thinking among christians. Not only does it apparently fail in that regard, my hunch is BioLogos’ true mission is not to ‘convert’ evangelicals to evolution, rather to prevent apostasy by soothing cognitive dissonance. They may even harbor hopes of luring back apostates and even an atheist or two.

    So long as people are encouraged to divide the world into ‘things I have to accept the evidence on’ vs. ‘things I get to believe without proof’, moving evolution into the former category achieves little or nothing. For it leaves the irrational, dissociative part of people’s minds free to get a zillion other things wrong.

    If I train my horse to move his feet when I ask him, he’ll go over an obstacle, into a trailer, or back-up through a gate — I don’t really have to train each as a separate concept. Similarly, get people to think skeptically, and belief in evolution follows as a matter of course.

    Accommodation is not a ‘soft-sell’ or ‘honey vs. vinegar’ approach. It’s a concession of the vital high ground of the battlefield — rational, evidence-based thought.

    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Well-said. The goal of science education is not to get people to believe in evolution or some other theory, but to think more rationally.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Recognizing the importance of why we ‘believe in’ evolution also means we don’t have to bother with trying to increase the number on the pro-evolution side by coaxing psychics into finding confirmation in mystical ancient runes that yes, evolution happened so it’s okay to believe now.

  21. Hempenstein
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Properly interpreted, Scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.

    Properly interpreted by whom? Shades of Richard “If I do it, it’s legal” Nixon.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      That phrase is also a favourite of the Roman Church.

  22. Leigh Jackson
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    “We reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process”

    The ideology is not that evolution has no purpose – science can discern no purpose to evolution. Science is not an ideology. If science could discern purpose in evolution it would be taught in school classrooms.

    The ideology belongs to Biologos and other religious denominations who proclaim their belief in purpose – entirely and solely because their religious faith demands it!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      As far as I understand it evolution makes a hard test on the idea of “purpose”, and rejects it, since variation must be independent of selection or it wouldn’t work.

      If so, the process clearly says that there is no magic in biology.

  23. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    What thin gruel. And not compatible with available data, how typical.

    And this:

    It’s not surprising, for Venema, that any group that claims robust evangelical faith is perfectly compatible with a deep appreciation for science would receive criticism from both sides.

    Translation: If we can be persecuted from “both sides”, we feel doubly vindicated.

    [Never mind that there isn't two "sides" of evolution processes, climate processes or vaccination techniques.

    There is however contrary public opinion that rejects the science by substituting their own prefered strawman and then cuddling it or clubbing it.]

  24. Anonymous
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    From the article: “How can you rely on evidence on one part of your site, and then completely reject that reliance on another, avowing belief in completely unsubstantiated claims?”

    I don’t see this inconsistency on the Biologos web site. Believing in completely unsubstantiated claims is what evolution is all about. The fact that Christians are latching onto the theory of evolution is all the more reason to abandon it and go back to doing real science.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 12, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      A troll walks into the bar…

      Now, I just need to figure out what makes this particular joke funny.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 12, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        Ah good, I wasn’t sure I read it right but yes I see a troll has walked in.


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