Making religious virtues from scientific necessities

Unlike science, theology starts with conclusions (e.g., God exists, God is good, Jesus died for our sins, etc.) and then, as those conclusions begin to weaken in the face of evidence, tweaks its philosophy to buttress them.  (In science, we may begin with tentative conclusion, but we abandon them if they’re not consistently supported by evidence).   The reaction of both fields to the Darwinian revolution is instructive.  Biologists before Darwin were largely natural theologians, believing that nature testified to God’s grandeur and ingenuity.  After 1859, nearly all scientists accepted the fact of evolution.  Theologians did too, but still held onto the idea of a good and loving God, even though the argument from design had been their most powerful evidence for His existence.

Ditto with the Holocaust, which should prove to any thinking person that God is either nonexistent, apathetic, or malicious.  But instead of taking that as evidence against God, or against a loving God, theology regrouped and quickly came up with a host of reasons why things like the Holocaust fit perfectly into God’s plan. These reasons, of course, are simply post facto rationalizations, as well as being completely untestable.  It’s all just making stuff up.

And so it is with evolution. While organismal “design” was once considered strong evidence for God, theologians since Darwin—and especially in recent years—are now telling us that it makes much more sense for God to have used evolution rather than spontaneous creation as his way of producing life, and humans.  Instead of adopting the most parsimonious explanation—that the well-understood, blind, and materialistic process of natural selection is the real cause of “design,” with no involvement of God whatsoever—theologians now explain that gradual evolution is the most sensible way for God to have created.  Read John Polkinghorne or John Haught for good specimens of evolutionary apologetics.

To anyone with a brain, this kind of intellectual masturbation is laughable, showing the incredible tenacity of a soothing delusion.  And it’s amply on display in a six-minute video just appearing on BioLogos, “Evolutionary Christianity,” made by Ryan Pettey.  The clip is an excerpt of a full-length film that Pettey is making, “A Leap of Truth.” Petty explains:

With A Leap of Truth, we wanted to put something proactive on the table that could help motivate an elevated conversation about the “war” between science and faith. It was our goal to help Christians see (and accept) the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today.

A look at the film will bring you pretty much to date on evolutionary apologetics.  It explains not only God’s reasons for using evolution, but also asserts that humans are special in a way not understandable by evolution: they are altruistic.

Video here.

Here are a few highlights from the transcript.

Dr. Alister McGrath: “And when I stopped being an atheist and became a Christian instead, actually I found that that conversion really brought a new intellectual and spiritual depth to my scientific research. I studied the philosophy of science and began to realize that proof in science was much more complex than I had realized, and above all, I began to realize that the scientific narrative actually pointed to a deeper narrative, which is that of God himself.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “Well, why does God use history to achieve his purposes? Why not just have created everything right to begin with? And then, if it were made wrong at a point in time by Adam and Eve falling, why not just have Christ die right there in the Garden and have salvation? Why wait thousands of years for the revelation of Christ? And we don’t get to have the answer to that.”

But Polkinghorne has the answer!

Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “That shows us that God is patient and subtle, that God is prepared to create through process, unfolding process, rather than through just divine magic decree.”

More:

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “. . . If you believe in common descent and believe in evolutionary theory, then there is a sense in which no organisms are unique to the extent that they can be explained by the common mechanism of mutation and selection. When we look at human beings, human beings do things that, as of yet, are actually not adequately explainable by the common mechanism of genetic mutation and natural selection.”

This is evolutionary creationism (popularized not only by BioLogos, but by theistic evolutionists like Kenneth Miller and Simon Conway Morris), whose bedrock tenet is that God intervened or designed evolution to ensure the appearance of humans.  That, of course, is not the conception of evolution held by biologists, and is why theistic evolutionists can be considered creationists.

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument attempting to prove that there is a miracle or supernatural causes at work—that actually might be the case. But it might also be the case that there are natural causes at work, designed by God, not operating in other organisms, unique to human beings. Right now, evolutionary theory actually gives content to and illuminates the reality of human uniqueness. E.O. Wilson says that this capacity that humans have for unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice is the culminating mystery of all biology.”

There are no “natural causes” we know of that operated only in human evolution.  And of course other species besides humans show “unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice.” In fact, some species show more sacrifice.  A honeybee that stings you is sacrificing her life (the sting pulls out the bee’s viscera) for the sake of the queen.  Other primates, like chimps, show cooperation, reciprocal altruism, and things that look very much like empathy and a sense of fairness.  There’s no reason why human cooperation could also have evolved as simply an evolutionary elaboration of behaviors in our ancestors, now furthered by culture and secular reason.

Reverend Dr. Michael Lloyd: “What Mother Teresa did on the streets of Calcutta is not evolutionary useful. It is taking limited resources and giving them to people who are dying. That is not, from a survival point of view, useful. And yet, most of us think, that it’s a rather good thing.”

As I’ve explained before, the existence of this “altruism” is not evidence for God,  If you’re going to argue that Mother Teresa’s actions are evidence for God, then so is her chastity, and so are condom use and adoption: all things that could not have evolved directly by natural selection.  The difference between humans and other species—a difference that explains why we can act in ways that don’t comport with natural selection—is that we are a social species with big brains, and can reason.  Many humans decide not to have any children, adopted or otherwise.  Such behavior would have been quickly weeded out of our ancestors by selection.  Is that, too, evidence for God?  Nope, it’s evidence for reason.

The video ends with some amusing apologetics:

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “There is a fabulous and profound thematic continuity to the history of life: for example, the transition from primitive prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells, the transition from single cells to multi-cells, the transition from asexual, basically clonally individually reproducing organisms, to sexually reproducing organisms that have to do it together, the transition from individual to social organisms. Well, there is really no other way to put this, it is progressive. It is exactly what we would expect if a God, who we already believe on the basis of the sacred history of redemption described in scripture, is also involved in incrementally achieving his purposes over the entire course of history.”

Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “And when you come to think about it…if the nature of God is love, as Christians believe, then I think that is the way you would expect the God of love to create, not through just brute power, but by the unfolding of fruitful potentiality.”

Yes, yes, evolution is exactly what you’d expect God to do to create all species.  But isn’t it curious that the scriptures didn’t tell us this, or that theologians didn’t come on board with the idea until all rational people had embraced evolution?

Theology does change, but not of its own volition. It changes when science forces it to.  In contrast, science is immune to the currents of theology. Any “dialogue” between them is purely a one-way street.

142 Comments

  1. Matthew Cobb
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Oh yes that loving, progressive god who created those delightful parasitoids that lay their eggs inside caterpillars which then hatch out and eat the poor beast from the inside, or any predator that snarfs its prey alive. Etc etc. Don’t you get bored of arguing with this garbage, Jerry?

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      I think that of all the forms of creationism, Theistic Evolution is the most heinous and distasteful. If God is patient, not willing to create things instantaneously, then he really is the monster who created painful wasting diseases such as cancer and MS. He is the same monster that knew that Adam and Eve would fall and condemn billions of “souls” to Hell before Jesus offered the golden ticket to only those who heard the message and heard it the “right way” and chose the right religion.

      And, what about all of the death and nature red in tooth and claw by which all of the animal kingdom experiences, unable to “learn the dignity of life through suffering?”

      No, I would rather be a Young Earth Creationist than a theistic evolutionist because I could not live ethically in a world created by the more worse monster.

      • Marta
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        You know that theologists/apologists are going to say that you’re “angry at God”, right? Apparently, and I’ve just recently come to discover this, condemning God for his own willful and petulant genocides–to say nothing of modern day horrors like the Holocaust–is an immature argument, and may be dismissed out of hand, like you’re a child angry at his or her parent.

        • Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          One of the ways that I respond is that I am not angry at something I don’t believe to exist, but angry at the authorities who created the myth and gave the creator all too human attributes while trying to make it seem mysterious.

          • Marta
            Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

            Yes. I say, if only there WERE a god with whom to be angry . . .

        • Grania
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

          The only way to handle those sorts of arguments is to point out that they are lamely attempting to change the subject. The reason they are doing that is that they cannot confront your argument intellectually. Therefore, deflection shields to maximum…

          • Notagod
            Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

            But cap’n it’s all I’ve got, Its coming apart at the seams as is. It can’t take any more I tell ya.

            Take It to full stupid ahead christans, that’s an order!

    • Matthew Cobb
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      Didn’t mean to be rude, Jerry – it’s just that the arguments they come up with are so self-satisfied and simply lazy.

      • Notagod
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        What else can we do though?

        If we ignore them the christians take that as approval and seem happy that no one is challenging them. It wasn’t long ago that christians (in the U.S. at least) maintained that there were no atheists.

        • Chris Granger
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          It’s something of a no-win situation. Silence on the issue comes off like we can’t refute their nonsense (even though it’s often easier than shooting fish in a very small barrel), and refuting their nonsense makes us look (in their eyes) like the stereotypical disrespectful angry atheists we hear so much about.

        • Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

          What else can we do though?

          We can inform their audience that these intellectual impostors are flat-out LYING.
          (In order to retain their comfortable parasitic existence).

      • kiloxray
        Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:27 am | Permalink

        How are Christian scientists not embarrassed by the astounding lengths they must go to in order to try and justify their Stone Age gobbledygook?

  2. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    “…if the nature of God is love, as Christians believe…”

    Even if one accepts the existence of God, which I don’t, the Christian notion that God is love is preposterous.

    Consider: God condemned the entirety of humanity to fry for eternity for the original sin. And then, a long time later, he’s going to “forgive” us all if we do the right hocus-pocus. (The specifics of which, BTW, even those people can’t agree on.)

    I always ask people who are into that, “Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do, by someone who KNEW you didn’t do it? Was your reaction to that to feel greatly loved?”

    Whenever I’ve been blamed for something I didn’t do by someone who knew I didn’t do it, I’ve felt hated, not loved. And anyone who is honest will admit that it is not a loving act to frame people. L

    • Phosphorus99
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      How do you define love ?

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        The exact same way you do: the emotion Jesus feels towards his victims as he orders infinite torture whilst excusing it because said victims committed the heinous throughtcrime of lusting after a woman (but not acting on it) without immediately gouging out their own eyes.

        Isn’t that what it says in the dictionary?

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Phosphorus99
          Posted July 18, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          Jeremiah 29 :
          10This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

          The Jews were on there way to 70 years of captivity in Babylon for disobedience.

          Should nations be punished and how ?

          • Posted July 18, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

            Of course nations should be punished! When did YHWH ever overlook a chance to order Moses to punish a nation?

            As to how? Well, take the recent case of the American maid who tempted Sarkozy. Clearly, according to Numbers 31, the proper answer is for the French to kill all adult Americans, make slaves out of all the boys, and force all the pre-pubescent girls into lives of sexual slavery.

            Obvious, really.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Posted July 18, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

              Technically, they would have to kill the boys, too. Only the virgin girls could be taken into sexual slavery or forced marriage (depending on how these things are defined).

              Such is the morality of the Bible.

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

                Biblical morality is that any nation which chooses to live as the Canaanites did will be punished with another nation being the instrument of judgment.

                It applied to the Canaanites , the Jews, the Egyptian etc.

              • Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

                You need to read Numbers 31. If its injustice doesn’t upset you, there’s not much common ground to discuss.

                What did the Midianites do to “deserve” genocide?

              • Tulse
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

                Biblical morality is that any nation which chooses to live as the Canaanites did will be punished

                That makes sense — kill all the babies because a few of the nation’s citizens were evil.

                Here’s a question, Phosphy: Does “Biblical morality” still hold? Would we be justified in committing genocide today?

              • Dan L.
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

                But we don’t know how the Canaanites lived. The only written record we have is a bit of (almost certainly fictional) political propaganda from the Torah.

                Interesting that you’d admit that Biblical morality involves genocide against people with different beliefs from your own, though.

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

                “Does “Biblical morality” still hold? Would we be justified in committing genocide today?”

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll

                Take a look.

                World Wars 1 and 2 took place after the Enlightenment.

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

                How the Canaanites lived :

                http://history-world.org/canaanite_culture_and_religion.htm

              • Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

                So you do endorse the Holocaust?

                Jesus Christ.

                Jerry, how much more do we have to put up with this Nazi?

                b&

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

                “What did the Midianites do to “deserve” genocide?”

                See Number 22

                How many times did God seek to prevent Balak the Midianite King from pursuing his objective ?

                People and nations are always give ample warning.

              • Dan L.
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                Phosphorous, did you read this link about the Canaanites? What part justifies wiping their culture off the face of the earth? Inventing the precursor of our written language? Or because they didn’t worship Yahweh?

                Also, one of your quotes here makes it sound like you think the Holocaust was morally justified. I don’t think you really believe that, but you might want to take the time to set the record straight.

              • Tulse
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

                World Wars 1 and 2 took place after the Enlightenment.

                Yes, and in neither war no one practiced the intentional destruction of an entire population of a nation, men, women, and children.

                With the exception, of course, of the Nazis. I don’t think it is an example of Godwin’s Law to point out that your comparing your god to the Nazis, and the genocide of the Canaanites to the Holocaust.

              • Posted July 19, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

                Phosphorus99:

                See Number 22

                How many times did God seek to prevent Balak the Midianite King from pursuing his objective ?

                Dude, Numbers 22:10 says that Balak was king of Moab.

                They did some divination, worried about the invading Israelites. For that they deserved genocide? Nice.

                I was thinking about Numbers 25, when the Midianites “crime” was that some of their women supposedly seduced some Israelite men. Where I come from, we called it “dating”.

                Nevertheless, Yahweh killed thousands of Israelites for this intercultural dating. Surely they should have realised how crazy their tribal god was at this point?

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

                To Ray Moscow.

                Absolutely Balak was the King of Moab.
                He worked with the leaders of Midian but :

                What were they trying to achieve ? and what was ultimately achieved ? Didn’t God seek to assist them by warning them through their own agent?

                Why should God regard idolatry and sexual immorality as dating ?

              • Tulse
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

                So your god punishes sexual immorality by subjecting girls to mass rape? Seriously, do you even read what you type?

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

                “So your god punishes sexual immorality by subjecting girls to mass rape? Seriously, do you even read what you type?”

                We will not find common ground.
                For you God does not exists and morality is informed by game theory.
                To me God exists and He does not do game theory.
                Sin is the ultimate challenge to which all must be referenced. All death is the result of sin.
                To you there is no sin so its consequences cannot be analyzed.
                What Ray Moscow calls dating God calls sin.

                We live in parallel universes.
                These parallel universes must and will eventually become permanently separated.

              • Tulse
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

                Phosphy, your are dishonestly dodging the specific argument. My question has nothing to do with my worldview — I was asking if yours is consistent. You say your god condemns sexual immorality, yet your god also ordered the mass rape of young female prisoners of war. How can you reconcile that? This isn’t even about morality, but mere intellectual consistency, which you seem to have abandoned.

                Of course, you could just argue that your god doesn’t have to be consistent, that whatever he says goes, even if his commands are at times contradictory. But I don’t know how you can then complain about moral relativism.

            • Phosphorus99
              Posted July 18, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

              A lot of Jews would have died during the war with Babylon but It has been argued that it was during the time of their capotivity in Babylon that the Jews consolidated their ethnic identity which persists to date.

              So in allowing their captivity was God hateful and spiteful or securing their future ?

              • Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

                Jews in Babylon, Jews in Germany — what difference does it make? So long as Jesus is there with his sword, mowin’ everybody down, it’s all good, right?

                After all, if it weren’t for Hitler, Jews wouldn’t have established Israel, right?

                God damn but you are one sick motherfucker.

                b&

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for the comment Dan L.

                No I would never support the holocaust.

                Please see item 25.

                I merely wanted to make the point that the God of the Bible is clear and uncompromising about how nations should conduct themselves and uses them to punish each other.

                There is also no evidence that God supports random violence against any nation even if those nations did not worship Him as the Israelities found out when they broke their contract with the Gibeonites 2Sam:21

                The Canaanites were punished for sexual sins.

              • Tulse
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink

                The Canaanites were punished for sexual sins.

                Those naughty, naughty babies! They all deserved to die!

                (Of course, the invoking of collective, innate guilt worthy of torture and death shouldn’t be surprising coming from someone who believes that we all deserve infinite, endless agony because thousands of years ago a talking snake conned a women into eating an apple.)

              • Phosphorus99
                Posted July 19, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

                More correctly ” God Himself in the form of Jesus Christ”

            • Posted July 19, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

              He’s a scared little boy, trapped in his own imagination.

              “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And if he stops loving Jesus in return, Jesus will hurt him by throwing him to the monsters under the bed — and he can’t have that, now, can he?

              Everything else follows from that. The whole Bible must be literally true, because if it’s not, Jesus will feed him to the monsters. And, because Jesus loves him, even the really nasty shit that goes on in the Bible must be acts of love because Jesus loves him and if he doesn’t love him he’ll get eaten by monsters.

              The fact that it’s bleedin’ obvious that it’s all childish fantasy is entirely irrelevant, because Phosphorus99 is nothing more than a very small, very scared child.

              Who votes.

              Cheers,

              b&

  3. Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Sometimes I wonder how long it’s going to take for Francis Collins to realise that his belief in god is simply untenable. How many more “gaps” will he need to see filled before deciding to jump off the BioLogos crazy bandwagon?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Anyone with a bucketful of Templeton cash quickly finds it’s an excellent material to fill gaps with.

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:32 am | Permalink

        Perhaps we make cash from a new product range:
        God-gap-filler!
        As used in the Sistine Chapel to fill the god-shaped gaps in the edifice of the church, or temple.
        What would you pay for this miraculous product?
        30 pieces of silver?
        25 sheckels?

        No! For a limited period of eternity, you can obtain this truly incredible offer for FREE!!
        No money-lenders down, nothing to pay in this life!
        But, don’t pray now; because YHWH will throw in an incomparable hand-crafted set of cross-nails — Absolution Free!

        Buy a 5oz tube of God-Filler (sufficient to plaster over your guilt for missing your sister’s wedding), or go the whole-hog and get a 12lb tub to patch those gaping cracks in your personal theology.

        (Offer not valid in mental institutions or Churches)

  4. Claimthehighground
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Don’t all these theist work-arounds where they finally throw in the towel and embrace the scientific explanation (see e.g. Copernicus, Freud, and now Darwin), remind one of the Monte Python film with the fellow at the bridge who won’t let the king & his men pass. He loses one arm, then the other, then a leg, then two, all the time blathering “It’s only a flesh wound, you haven’t hurt me in the least.” So sad, so sad.

    • Your Name's not Bruce?
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      • Your Name's not Bruce?
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

        OOPS!

        Just meant to post the link, not the actual video. Sorry about that!

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      An excellent analogy, and thanks for posting the video, not Bruce. Haven’t watched that one for a while.

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Would it also be fair to say these guys are somewhat humourless? I’ve never seen a good sendup of atheism. What I have seen misses the point. Where’s their “Mr Adeity”?

        • Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          I’d say it’d be more than fair. Of course, we do have an advantage, what with theists being so ridiculous and risible to begin with.

  5. Leigh Jackson
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    It’s so blindingly obvious. Faith in God, if not because of some personal epiphany type moment is about need. Human need for meaning in the face of the unbearable horror of human existence.

    The paradox of turning to the being supposedly responsible for the horror is lost to those in the grip of the personal revelation or need. They simply find some way in their minds for not having God be responsible.

    The old “well there might be miracles or there might be natural forces with God behind them” gambit.

    Jeez. Sham acupuncture has been shown to be as effective as the real Mckoy. And what is the result say acupuncture researchers? Why, just that sham acupuncture isn’t really sham at all. No sir: pricking the surface of the skin at random with a toothpick can now be considered as acupuncture. I kid you not.

    There use to be an expression “mind-blowing”. Yeah; they’ve blown their tiny little minds right out of their brains.

    Really; theology, CAM woo it’s the same thing. This kind of faith is using your brain to prove what you want to believe.

    That is nothing to do with science – duh!

    • Mark Plus
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      I don’t see how theism necessarily provides human life with “meaning.” A god could, without logical contradiction, have created human life without any meaning at all.

      Besides, the traditional framing implies that people become atheists because we’ve perversely chosen to have “meaningless” lives, when it seems more likely that we’ve just decided that the theistic theory of meaning makes no sense, so we decided to look elsewhere.

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        That’s an excellent point! “Theocentricism” is as egotistical and unjustifiable as geocentricism, and stems from the same conceits.

        I hadn’t ever looked at it like that before, but you’re exactly right.

        Why should these all-powerful gods (from any religion) give a flying fuck about us ants, let alone devote their entire lives to us and create the entire universe for our “soul” benefit? What arrogance!

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Rob
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

          “The Lord is my shepherd, I shalt not want”

          Where do lamb chops come from?

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          But I think we have considered “theocentricism” before (though not as clearly perhaps) with Douglas Adams’ puddle argument:

          Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’

          • Posted July 18, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

            The realization that’s new to me is that it’s not enough for the universe to be a good fit for humans, but for the very gods themselves to be nothing more than our servants.

            Jesus exists for no other reason than to create an eternal paradise for his followers. And he can be commanded, just like a servant, to heal dear Aunt Ethel’s bunions, if only you know the magic spells^W^Wright prayers.

            Now that’s hubris!

            Cheers,

            b&

      • Leigh Jackson
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        If theism necessarily provided human life with meaning I’d happily give it a go! Why wouldn’t anyone?

        I’ve looked at it: and it don’t. I recognise that some people just need it. They don’t want to think about it critically, they only want the comfort that they get from it. They are so wretchedly stupid when they talk about it. Christ if only they knew how stupid. Some of they is truly truly stupid and not worthy of pity.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see how theism necessarily provides human life with “meaning.” A god could, without logical contradiction, have created human life without any meaning at all.

        Gods get bored in art class some times. Hmmm, grab some clay, see what we can come up with this time…

  6. Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    What Mother Teresa did on the streets of Calcutta is not evolutionary useful. It is taking limited resources and giving them to people who are dying.

    “Mother” Teresa was no saint.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      I read that she once said that if Jesus wasn’t God then all her work was worthless.

      If she did say it I interpret her to mean she was doing what she believed Jesus wanted her to do.

      I think she was deluded, obviously.

      Going berserk and murdering your family ain’t evolutionary useful either. Possessed by the devil?

    • Chris Granger
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      You beat me to it. As soon as I saw the Mother Teresa reference, I had a vision in mind of Christopher Hitchens giving Jerry the evil eye.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Aspirin and tiny cots don’t grow on trees, you know. Well… actually, they do, but that’s not the point.

  7. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    This all shows how scared they are of being irrelevant. They know they have a lost cause and will dream up this stuff to save face. The gaps are closing fast and they need to keep on running. The goal posts are a heavy burden.

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Are they scared of being irrelevant, or are they scared of losing their bucketsful of money and their ridiculous level of influence? L

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:35 am | Permalink

        I believe the answer is “Yes — both.”

    • Mark Plus
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      They worry that they live in their own equivalent of the late BC era. Some other life stance (they fear a secular one) will replace theirs in a few generations and result in a “Jesus who?” world.

  8. Sidd
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    One of the commenters noted that Jeff Schloss used to be a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, which Multivac–er, I mean Google–seems to verify.

    I’m sure Schloss means well, though perhaps old habits die hard. It does seem, as the commenter points out, that Schloss is using ID-style arguments but with “irreducibly complex” (or whatever ID term) replaced with “mystery”.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Pick the big bone out of this Schlossism:

      QUOTE: I joined the Westmont College faculty 25 years ago, after undergraduate and graduate studies in biology and philosophy. I am, and I encourage students to be, decidedly ambivalent in refusing to choose between teaching & research, experimental fieldwork & integrative scholarship, and the integrity of science & viability of biblical faith

      Non-sense

  9. Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this illustration two different world views. My theology did not start with the premise God exists. It started with the conclusion God doesn’t exists. Only through consideration of the evidence followed by the experience of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit did I come to learn of God. I now look at science, philosophies and ideas through a different lens. I start with the worldview that something cannot come from nothing.

    • Your Name's not Bruce?
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      And how did you determine which god it is? What is it about the world that allows one to differentiate between the workings of Ishtar, Osiris, Zeus, Brahma or Yahweh, to name just a few of the thousands of dieties that humans have worshiped? How would the world be different if the god in charge of it was one (or several) other than the one in which you happen to believe?

    • Chris Granger
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Please demonstrate for us something that this “indwelling power of the Holy Spirit” does that can’t be explained by other means.

    • penn
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      I question the authenticity of your atheist to theist conversion based on evidence when you use such tired and debunked arguments as “something cannot come from nothing”. Here is Lawrence Krauss explaining how modern cosmology deals with something coming from “nothing”.

      Also, I think we would all appreciate it if you could lay out the evidence that led you into theism.

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        Oh, I’m sure creditaction’s conversion was sincere — it’s the definition of “atheist” that’s not.

        In creditaction’s lexicon, the word most commonly means, “a true-believing Christian going through the very common ‘I hate Jesus’ phase.” It also often refers to believers in false gods — including the Jesuses of other sects.

        In contrast, most people who actually self-identify as atheists view all gods — Jesus, Allah, Quetzalcoatl, Satan, Thor, the Virgin Mary, and the rest — as childish faery tales and so much nonsense.

        When you can’t start reading the Bible without laughing out loud over the people who take seriously a story about a magic garden with talking animals and an angry giant, then you can be reasonably confident that you’re an atheist.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • penn
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          I’m well aware that evangelicals like to claim they used to be atheists whenever they weren’t active evangelical Christians. They could be another type of christian, or just lapsed evangelicals who didn’t go to church for awhile. But, there is no creditaction was someone who completely dismissed the existence of any deities and then came around to his current brand of Christianity through rational inquiry. That is a boldfaced lie.

      • Mark Plus
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        And we can create nothing from something. When you pay the exact balance owed on a debt, the balance becomes nothing at that very instant. Woo-WOO-woo-woo! How could something in one minute turn into nothing the next?

        • Badger3k
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          Not only that, it is a nothing that exists! Explain that, evilutionists! Therefore Jeebus?

    • Marta
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Oh, nuts. You’re here again.

      You will not consider the reasonable posts and arguments posted here for a picosecond. Your mind is closed tight like a clam, and that’s the way you want it to be.

      You’re trolling, and it isn’t even amusing trolling.

    • Mark Plus
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I started with the question, “How does the universe seem to work, given the available evidence?” and concluded that it certainly doesn’t work the way Abrahamic theists claim.

    • Rob
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Evidence?

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      If I follow the same steps you did to get to this “indwelling”, and I get nothing or a different result of any kind than you did, how do you explain that? L

    • skepticallead
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      I start with the worldview that something cannot come from nothing.

      How odd that believers use this line with such frequency without realizing the inherent logical disconnect. If something can not come from nothing then whence cometh god? If you make an exception for god then your statement is wrong – something did come from nothing. If you make the exception for one then you can’t exclude other possibilities. If you hold your statement to be true then your god had to have a creator, and we are back to the fallacious argument that it is turtles all the way down.

      The appeal to “evidence” is also a frequent dodge because it is often, as in this case, quickly supplanted by non-evidence based appeals to emotion; the “indwelling power of the Holy Spirit” is really no different than the “indwelling power of The Force” for which there is just as much evidence for as the “Holy Spirit.”

    • Notagod
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Do you have any evidence to suggest that jesus didn’t suck It? There is substantial christian style evidence that It did in christian fact suck It. If you have any christian style evidence that jesus did not in fact suck It, please present it or accept the christian style fact the jesus did in fact suck It.

    • PeteJohn
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Oh an argument from personal experience. How do you know it was Yhwh and not Vishnu? I know you believe that, but how do you know it?

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Creditaction: Please refer to the gospel of John, Paul, George & Ringo where in the book called ‘We can work it out’ it says: “Think of what you’re saying. You may have it wrong and still you think that it’s all right.” or better, just think.

    • Moewicus
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      1. Something can’t come from nothing.
      2. Pre-scientific religious literature talks about magical beings.
      3. ???
      4. Goddidit!

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      How do you distinguish this “experience of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit” from delusion? (And don’t say “because it’s totally convincing” because every delusion does that.)

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      “Only through consideration of the evidence followed by the experience of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit did I come to learn of God.”

      One of the great advances in neuroscience and psychology is reaching the awareness that what we experience and remember in our evolved meat-brains is not as perfect as we like to think. The brain makes up assertions as to how true or correct our memories are, or what we are experiencing, sometimes regardless of their actual truth. Witness statements, including and especially spiritual ones, are liable to be incorrect, misinterpreted or change over time, and are therefore unreliable for establishing the truth. This is why the scientific method of independent verification has proved to be so powerful, in that it takes away the potential for the brain to deceive itself into believing something that isn’t true.

      I suggest reading The Invisible Gorilla and/or Paranormality, both of which contain excellent explanations of why we should be sceptical if our brains are telling us something, so we are less prone to mistakes from the illusions of memory and perception and the like.

  10. Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Hard to believe the verbal gymnastics of theologians.
    And yet another 24 carat piece of nonsense from Alister McGrath – so glad he’s no relation!

    Was it Sam Harris who said that there REALLY is no talking to some people?

  11. Tim
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    Biologos’ target audience is primarily Evangelical Fundamentalists. And you really have to understand this group if you’re to understand what Biologos is trying to do, and why they have to go about it the way they are.

    Evangelical Fundamentalists represent not only a religious tradition, but an intellectual one as well. One forged in the crisis of modernity taking over (in the universities and major denominations) from the previously dominant Conservative Evangelical culture during the very early 20th century. A sub-group of these Evangelicals essentially said “no thanks” to the advances of Modernity, hardening their doctrines (e.g., general Biblicist and Authoritative views of the Biblical text were hardened into strict Inerrantism), and rejecting all aspects of modernity they saw as threats (Biblical Criticism, Evolution – and by extension non-Baconian science, Intellectualism – holding onto instead Common Sense Realism).

    These Evangelical Fundamentalists adopted a siege mentality with respect to the broader culture, and manned the fort such that no “suspect” ideas or practices could “corrupt” their idea of pristine, “true” Christianity. Essentially sealing themselves into an intellectual and doctrinal bubble of isolation.

    So, how would you propose to break through? Evidence? Pressing “convincing” arguments? Social pressure and ridicule? These fundamentalists have been resisting that and more for nearly the past 200 years. If they feel their Biblical views are under threat, you are just not going to get through (at least on the community level).

    So, simply, Biologos is trying to convince the Evangelical Fundamentalists that their most cherished Biblical views are not under threat. This is the only strategy that currently has any chance of working.

    Believe me, you want them as allies. Evangelical Fundamentalism is not going away. We have to learn to deal with it. Either we deal with them trying to force evolution out of our schools and creationism in, or we support the efforts of our allies such as Biologos.

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      So, how would you propose to break through? Evidence? Pressing “convincing” arguments? Social pressure and ridicule? These fundamentalists have been resisting that and more for nearly the past 200 years.

      The social pressure and ridicule they’ve experienced to date has largely been the same sort heaped upon Harold Camping. That is, by Christians who agree with 99% of their shared lunacy, but call them out on the 1% difference based upon obscure theological interpretations.

      The kind of social pressure and ridicule being brought to bear now is their children being laughed at for eating zombie Jesus crackers, and that’s far more caustic than anything they’ve experienced to date.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Mark Plus
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        The social-science evidence suggests that people hold religious beliefs as superficial opinions. When they grow up in the conditions of “existential security” found in most developed democracies, they lose interest in religion:

        A Cross-National Test of the Uncertainty Hypothesis of Religious Belief

        http://ccr.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/05/08/1069397111402465.abstract

        For complicated political reasons the U.S. has a weaker commitment to its citizens’ “existential security,” so we have disproportionately more religiosity. But the trend in the U.S. has started to head in the same direction.

        I’ve met a few people who had the good fortune to have grown up as atheists. To me they seem nearly like characters from some advanced civilization out of science fiction. I wish I could have grown up that way myself, given that I had to endure my teen years in the “rapture ready” Tulsa of the 1970’s, where had few sane people to talk to.

    • Jeff Engel
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Allies against… what? Really, we’re not interested in getting evolution taught for its own sake. Not much, anyway.

      It’s part of an entire scientific worldview – if it gets in but, say, cosmology or rationally practiced history don’t make the Evangelical grade, then our “allies” are our benighted stumbling-blocks again. And if it gets in only with empirical untestable or already disproved provisions, we’ve abandoned rationality to get along with those who’ve relentlessly opposed it.

      With “friends” like those – you’ve given up.

      • PeteJohn
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        What Jeff said.

    • Notagod
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      I’ve come to the conclusion that cleaning the bedroom by dumping the dirt in the kitchen is a futile process.

      Showing the christians the truth is much better than joining in the christians infantile game.

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Tim – I share your perspective. Ken Ham and Al Mohler as well as the Discovery Institute will not be marginalized by Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins, but hopefully BioLogos can pull it off. To be sure, BioLogos is ‘creationist’ and should perhaps embrace the term evolutionary creation rather that theistic evolution. Their big challenge is developing a theology that is not simply deism.

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        Their big challenge is developing a theology that is not simply deism

        Their big challenge is developing a parasite that is not simply sub-lethal.

  12. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    E.O. Wilson says that this capacity that humans have for unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice is the culminating mystery of all biology.

    It’s certainly worth trying to explain. The godstruck preach human exceptionalism – but there is no guarantee that the unusual degree of cooperative sacrifice is an example of evolutionary fitness. Some people already argue that there are way too many people in the world. If humans go extinct in a climax of resource depletion and war then our ‘exceptional’ qualities will have been a dead end.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      Accomodationist though he might be, I have enough “faith” in Wilson to wonder if this quote might not have been cherry-picked? I’d be rather sure he didn’t go on to ascribe it to anything supernatural, at the least.

  13. Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Yes, yes, evolution is exactly what you’d expect God to do to create all species. But isn’t it curious that the scriptures didn’t tell us this, or that theologians didn’t come on board with the idea until all rational people had embraced evolution?

    Yes, yes, QM and general relativity are exactly the way you would expect the world to be. But isn’t it curious that the Newtonians didn’t tell us this?

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Never mind Newton. Why didn’t Jesus tell it to the prophets when he was dictating the Bible to them?

      b&

      • Rob
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        Or if it’s a loving God, how many lives would’ve been saved with a commandment “Thou shalt wash your hands”?

        Not something easily misunderstood, even if the rationale behind it wouldn’t be understood by bronze age sheepherders.

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink

        Use sunscreen.

    • Tulse
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      No one claims the Principia is the Word of God.

      • Mark Plus
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        I’ve gathered that Newton viewed his work as an attempt at what we would call reverse engineering, only he applied it to the great machine of the universe created by the christian god.

        • Leigh Jackson
          Posted July 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          He did, he did!

          • Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            To be fair, this is a decent metaphor in general, not just the theistic context, *provided* that one is honest. That’s how one can come to the conclusion that the universe is “fine tuned” for so-called dark-matter, or something.

    • Dan L.
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      I’m trying to make sense of this analogy. Here’s the trouble I’m having. It makes sense to see relativity and mistake it for Newtonian mechanics because Newtonian mechanics is an idealized special case of relativity.

      In what way is special creation an idealized special case of evolution by natural selection?

  14. Ben
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Surely instead if calling it theistic evolution this is really just intelligent design where the advocators are at least honest enough to say “God” instead of blustering on about some supernatural creator who totally isn’t God.

  15. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Dr. Jeff Schloss: “This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument attempting to prove that there is a miracle or supernatural causes at work…

    Say what? God-of-the-Gaps arguments never try to prove supernatural causes, they just assume them when a naturalistic explanation is not yet on offer.

  16. Corda
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    In an earlier thread I had defended Ken Miller on the grounds that theistic evolution was, I thought, indistinguishable from the evolution accepted by mainstream science. If someone wishes to say that every chance event happens by God’s will or that God’s interventions are indistinguishable from chance, then there’s no way for me to really rebut that except to indicate that the hypothesis is unnecessary. From an empirical standpoint it makes no difference. Note this would be not be Christianity but some generic theism.

    But now I am left wondering what theistic evolution really means. The video seems to be talking about evolution plus a sprinkling of historical miracles, which is certainly not what I had in mind. I now see that theistic evolution refers to a spectrum of beliefs, not just the deism-ish one I had originally imagined.

    In principle one could still believe in deism-ish theistic evolution alongside Catholicism by not combining them. I.e., the only historical miracles would be the ones which Catholicism requires, with none being needed for evolution. I never expected to play the role of a Miller apologist, but out of fairness I am trying to consider the best case scenario.

  17. GordonWillis
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    not through just brute power

    It’s curious that God’s greatness and might, in which so many have believed for so many generations, can become devalued for the sake of some newly desired accommodation. Now it’s “just brute power”. The trouble with just fixing the bits is that you end up with a whole mess. I dare say this is the mystery of God’s humility. And no doubt Polkinghorne thinks he is discovering more about the mind of God. So arrogant of Hawking not to do it properly.

  18. 386sx
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I am a documentary filmmaker who has been amazingly blessed to work on a feature-length documentary over the last year and a half called A Leap of Truth.

    Great, God likes it. Hey, if God wants me to buy it, then who am I to argue?

    • 386sx
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I wonder how much God wants me to fork over…

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      A Leap of Truth, hmmm…maybe a better title would be Take a Flying Leap.

  19. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    “…condom use…could not have evolved directly by natural selection.”

    Somewhat off-topic perhaps, but it’s actually not hard to construct just-so stories about courtship rituals that use sex with condoms now to create opportunities for unprotected sex later. Obviously there hasn’t been time yet for selection of this sort to have had much effect on human behavior, but the general idea of trading off short-term for long-term fertility is certainly not beyond the scope of natural selection. (Here’s an article on how male blue-footed boobies use sexual abstinence to enhance their future sex appeal.)

  20. Moewicus
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I love this quotation:

    Dr. Alister McGrath: “And when I stopped being an atheist and became a Christian instead … I began to realize that the scientific narrative actually pointed to a deeper narrative, which is that of God himself.”

    Who would have thought that, when one becomes a Christian, one reads Christianity into the “scientific narrative” of the universe? Holy cow, this must be the discovery of the millenium. More research needs to be conducted in this area. For instance, if I take off my Jesus goggles and put on my Krishna goggles, will I see that the scientific narrative points toward the deeper narrative of Krishna himself? If I put on Buddha goggles, will I find that science points toward the deeper narrative of the escape from Samsara?

    Oh brother.

    Dr. Jeff Schloss: “Well, there is really no other way to put this, it is progressive. It is exactly what we would expect if a God, who we already believe on the basis of the sacred history of redemption described in scripture, is also involved in incrementally achieving his purposes over the entire course of history.”

    Dr. Schloss is more right than he thinks. Given the earth’s history of repeated mass extinction events and the implied suffering of millions of creatures over the 4 billion years of life’s history, what we see matches the Hebrew Bible’s Genesis narrative: specifically, it is a story of a short-sighted process leading to an incalculable amount of suffering punctuated by events which violently wipe the slate clean through mass death. If the nature of God is love, love is not very loving, doesn’t have much foresight, and is cruel and capricious.

  21. sinz54
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    From what I read in “Finding Darwin’s God,” Ken Miller does NOT believe that God set up evolution to produce humans. He knows better than that, that the process of evolution does not have to produce any particular species.

    What Miller does claim, however, is that God set up the laws of nature so as to produce species capable of *high intelligence*. And there is evidence that evolution leads to more intelligent species over time.

    There does seem to be a trend toward increasing Encephalization Quotient (brain-to-body-mass ratio), over time. Late Cretaceous dinosaurs appear to have had bigger brains than early Jurassic dinosaurs. Later on, mammalian brain size tended to increase. When hominids appeared, Hominid brain size increased over time as well.

    That given enough time, high intelligence eventually arises by the process of evolution, is a basic assumption of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI). (If it’s not true, then there’s no one out there worth trying to contact anyway.) Sagan certainly believed there was a strong argument for the evolution of high intelligence once life begins on a planet–and he was no theologian.

    Whether God had a role in setting up such conditions is a matter of personal belief. But whether there is a good chance that high intelligence eventually arises on an inhabited planet, is a legitimate scientific question–and one that has scientific proponents.

    • Kassul
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Eh, depends what you mean by “enough time” I suppose but I think SETI might be a reasonable waste of a ‘few’ dollars despite not thinking that intelligence of our kind is inevitable.

      I have little difficulty imagining a planet where for 5, 10, 15 billion years no technologically advanced(eg: spacefaring) species develop. It doesn’t have to eventually develop everywhere to be worth looking for. Advanced technological intelligence could just develop on a handful of life-bearing planets and it’d still be really interesting to discover evidence that it’s out there.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      With all respect, I don’t think Sagan’s ideas comport with what most biologists today think of this.

      Besides the illusory definition of intelligence, as regards the various aspects of biology, regards society, regards SETI and regards Miller’s ideas of connection with his favorite religious text, there is the problem of evolution having no goals.

      – Starting from rather but not quite simple cells there will be some accumulation of traits. However most biomass are still unicellular. Parasites show that trait shedding can be as deep as accumulation.

      – If we pick any other trait, say noses, we can say the same. There does seem to be a trend toward increasing Olfactorization Quotient (nose-to-body-mass ratio), over time. When Proboscideans appeared with their fusion of nose and upper lip, evidently the inescapable evolution of the trunk was finished.

      – If we play the numbers game from the above, then ETI seems unlikely. Say as one trait among millions or a few species among tens of billions. If we play the numbers game over Earth history, we will conclude the same.

      I think PZ Myers recently presented a more structured approach though. I have still to absorb it, but in essence he noted that mass extinctions looks like separate “worlds” replaying diversification. (Though with accumulated history of course.)

      See his timeline, 3d from last figure. He deducts the first two primarily aquatic “worlds” and retain 3 for a period of ~ 0.4 Gy. That seems reasonable, the development time for intelligence of ~ 0.1 Gy (last world) over 0.4 Gy (land era) means a ~ 0.25 normalized delay or rather easy process. If rare, only 1/3 of “worlds” produce intelligence.

      Other worlds may see the same rate of extinctions, so the event of not making it in the first 5 Gy is expected to be (2/3)^3 or ~ 30 % likely. It decreases rapidly after that. Maybe half the inhabited exoplanets 5 Gy old will have intelligence, and almost all 6 Gy old.

      That given enough time, high intelligence eventually arises by the process of evolution, is a basic assumption of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

      The sufficient assumption is that given enough worlds, there is a reasonable likelihood of ETIs (interstellar communicative societies). Existence of SETI isn’t enough to support Miller’s apologetics.

  22. Sawdust Sam
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    At risk of sounding overly pedantic, I have to take issue with Gerry’s statement: ‘A honeybee that stings you is sacrificing her life (the sting pulls out the bee’s viscera) for the sake of the queen.’
    Surely, ‘sacrifice’ implies a conscious choice. The bee is following an imperative inefficiently defined by evolution: isn’t the death a waste of resources?
    The wasps got a better deal.

    • Sawdust Sam
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:05 am | Permalink

      Apologies: I meant Jerry, not Gerry.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:15 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but where do you get the idea that I think the workers do it consciously? I’m an evolutionary biologist, and of course I know that this is genetically based behavior, just as the workers’ sterility is genetically based physiology. And no, the death is not a waste of resources: the sting protects the queen, as the whole system evolved to do.

      As do all evolutionists who understand this system, I used the word “sacrifice” as meaning “gives up her life for the sake of the queen”. Consciousness is not part of that; Richard Dawkins made this very clear in his article “Twelve misunderstandings of kin selection.

      • Sawdust Sam
        Posted July 18, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        I appreciate you’re an evolutionary biologist (I’m enjoying reading WEIS at the moment). If I understand you correctly, you’re saying ‘sacrifice’ in terms of biology has a specific technical meaning. I can understand that the queen survives and that some male spiders provide a necessary protein boost for their unborn progeny – there are probably countless other examples. As a non-biologist, it’s not the term I would have used, just as I have difficulty applying ‘altruism’ to non-human species, although I think that it’s probably the best word we have to explain the observed behaviours. These words have been coopted (can’t think of a better term) by biologists while excising some of the nuances that are assumed by the non-specialist. But that’s how language works. It’s not just nations that are separated by a common language, it’s also disciplines.
        People who choose to work in difficult or dangerous parts of the world to help their fellow man are giving up an easier life by choice and I’m sure you would agree that this context implies more than a biological interpretation of ‘sacrifice’.
        Or does it? Is the soldier who throws himself on the grenade to save his comrades, or the miner who uses the last of his strength to hold up the sagging mine shaft while his mates escape, choosing to sacrifice his life or is he following an innate impulse?
        Is there a school of Contextual Semantics?

        • Dan L.
          Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          Sam, I think all that Prof. Coyne was trying to do is argue against a very naive form of selectionism. Some people argue that human beings are different from other animals because they sometimes do things that aren’t in their evolutionary best interest. Prof. Coyne is merely pointing out that other organisms also do things that aren’t in their evolutionary best interest, so this ability can’t be what makes humans different.

          BTW, if you don’t like the word “sacrifice” in the context of a worker bee, how do you feel about a chess player “sacrificing” a pawn? The word “sacrifice” doesn’t have to be morally loaded.

          • Sawdust Sam
            Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:56 am | Permalink

            Dan, I agree entirely with Jerry’s views on the process – we only differ over semantics (and even here I understand the reason for using the word; I just wish biologists had picked a different one – I hadn’t known that ‘sacrifice’ took on a different meaning in this context).
            I’m afraid your example reinforces my point: the chess player *chooses* to lose the pawn, an action conforming to the standard dictionary definition of a sacrifice. In everyday terms, the bee, pawn, sheep, bull or dove have no say and are not sacrificing themselves.
            But this discussion is really off topic.

  23. AlT
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Theology does change, but not of its own volition. It changes when science forces it to. In contrast, science is immune to the currents of theology. Any “dialogue” between them is purely a one-way street.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Excellent summary of the _phenomenology_ of the debate.

    Question: why scientists that understand this still engage in the conversation?

    do they not have _more important_ task to attend to?

    And I mean the tasks that are relevant tohomo species (i presume those who “promote reason” do it out of the desire to “hel” homo species because they believe that “more reason equalss more well-being”

    This puzzles me.

    Can people tell me why they want to be part of sciene vs. religion conversation?

    Why not do the project “science in and out of the lab” at least in parallel to the “science vs. religion debate”?

    • Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Rational people who dismiss religion are often told that they don’t understand it.

      In response to this criticism, Dr. Coyle is reading theology to see if he’s missed anything of value there. So far, he seems to have found only nonsense.

  24. Posted July 18, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I didn’t get a chance to say this yesterday, and now this will be buried in the comments, but anyway…

    It occurred to me while reading this that the entire history of theology is like a kid falling off a skateboard over and over, and every time he gets up and says, “I meant to do that!”

  25. Phosphorus99
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    “So you do endorse the Holocaust?”

    Definitely not.

    I am merely pointing out that biblically, nations are used to punish other nations.

    I, of course, can’t tell the specifics of every situation and the wrong that a nation is being punished for may well be unjust action against another nation e.g Egypt against Israel in the Bible.

    This does not take away from the biblical statements that the Jews were used to punish the Canaanites ad that the Babylonians and Assyrians were used to punish the Jews.And, by extrapolation some of the wars etc that we see will fall into the same category.

    • Rob
      Posted July 19, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Why not?

      What does “Gott Mit Uns” mean? How do you know it wasn’t accurate?

      • Phosphorus99
        Posted July 19, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        What does Gott Mit Uns mean ?

        • Rob
          Posted July 19, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          “God is With Us”. Prove it is wrong.

          And of course, don’t forget this:
          “…Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirt of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.”

  26. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    The magic of foresight after the fact!

    Dr. Alister McGrath: “And when I stopped being an atheist and became a Christian instead, actually I found that that conversion really brought a new intellectual and spiritual depth to my scientific research. I studied the philosophy of science and began to realize that proof in science was much more complex than I had realized, and above all, I began to realize that the scientific narrative actually pointed to a deeper narrative, which is that of God himself.”

    He based his idea of atheist depth of research on his first year as research student before religion ate his brain? This isn’t only irrelevant anecdote, it is a bloody poor attempt at anecdote in the first place!

    And I am left to lament yet again about the cover that philosophy of science gives theologists and other apologists to hide behind. Why is a factual science of science such a tenuous goal to entertain?

    Yes, method development happens in each area. But often when technique gets complicated enough the synergism of the field moves people to study it separately. For example, despite computer development and programming being healthy and distributed subjects on their own, we have a field of Computer Science™.

    After centuries, why is there no similar Science Science™? Surely it can’t be because philosophy of science is so successful!

  27. Posted July 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Soooo…

    On the one hand, humans have a capacity for altruism which is said to be unique on our planet, and therefore proof of a Creator.

    On the other hand, many humans have a tendency towards homosexuality which is alledgedly unique on our planet, and therefore proof of its unnaturalness and sinfulness.

    … or is altruism purely evil, and are gays a Gift from Heaven?

  28. Posted July 20, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    OK, this is where I lose any remaining shred of patience with religion. These disgraces should be ashamed of putting on their clown show in public, and should all be kicked in the balls.

  29. Posted July 21, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    For a variety of reasons, I generally avoid posting to blogs like Jerry’s but a couple of days ago he made a statement that I just have to respond to:

    “This is evolutionary creationism (popularized not only by BioLogos, but by theistic evolutionists like Kenneth Miller and Simon Conway Morris), whose bedrock tenet is that God intervened or designed evolution to ensure the appearance of humans. That, of course, is not the conception of evolution held by biologists, and is why theistic evolutionists can be considered creationists.”

    Simon can speak for himself, but for good reason I have always rejected the label of “theistic evolutionist.” In fact, I’ve given several talks with the titles like “Why I am NOT a theistic evolutionist.” The reason I reject the label is because I agree with Jerry that it implies Divine intervention as a guiding force in the evolutionary process. However, despite Jerry’s assertion that is not a view I hold or have ever advanced.

    I have made very clear in my writings and public talks that I view evolution as a fully-independent naturalistic process, constrained only by the principles of chemistry and physics and driven by natural selection. That is exactly the view of evolution “held by biologists,” to use Jerry’s phrase, and it is my view as well. I have, in fact, always explicitly rejected the view that God guided, rigged, or set up evolution to ensure the appearance of the human species. I tried to make this clear in my 1999 book, Finding Darwin’s God [p. 238]: ” [religious people] want to know how God could have ensured the success of mammals, the rise of flowering plants, and most especially, the ascent of man. My answer, in every case, is that God need not have. Evolution is not rigged, and religious belief does not require one to postulate a God who fixes the game, bribes the referees, or tricks natural selection.”

    Now, maybe that language was just too subtle for Jerry, but let me make this abundantly clear: I do not see any difference between my own view of the evolutionary process and that held by the mainstream biological community, including Dr. Coyne. As he knows very well, last month I made my views on evolution clear when I delivered the Gould Lecture at the SSE meetings, which he chaired – and they did not include the view of “theistic evolution” that he routinely attributes to me. If Jerry found anything in that lecture to object to, he hasn’t made it known, far as I can tell. I am an evolutionist who happens to be a theist, not a “theistic evolutionist.”

    Ken Miller

    • Posted July 21, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      I wasn’t at the lecture that day as I was in Oklahoma City, so I can’t know what was said. However, Dr. Miller has, in Finding Darwin’s God, made other statements that suggest a divine incursion into the process of evolution and the creation of a life-friendly universe. Here are two:

      The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.

      I need hardly add that the effects of a “clever and subtle God” in tweaking mutations and neurons is not the mainstream biological view of evolution.

      And, after a discussion of the “fine-tuning” of physical constants, Miller notes:

      The scientific insight that our very existence, through evolution, requires a universe of the very size, scale, and age that we see around us implies that the universe, in a certain sense, had us in mind from the very beginning…. If this universe was indeed primed for human life, then it is only fair to say, from a theist’s point of view, that each of us is the result of a thought of God, despite the existence of natural processes that gave rise to us.

      Smells like divine intervention to me.

      • Posted July 21, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Jerry wrote: “Smells like divine intervention to me.” Sure. But Jerry, you’re missing your own point.

        You claimed I believe that “God intervened or designed evolution to ensure the appearance of humans.” As I made clear, I do not – and the two quotations you cited don’t say that either. I do not believe, nor have I ever written, that evolution was designed or rigged to “ensure the appearance of humans.” Period.

        Now, if there is a creator-God (as all theists believe), there would be nothing to prevent that God from intervening in the existence He fashioned. That was the point of the first passage of mine you quoted. The point of the second one is that if there is a creator-God, then people of faith are completely justified in seeing their own existence as the result of His work. Neither implies that such a God intervened in the evolutionary process or rigged it to produce the appearance of a particular. predetermined species (Homo sapiens).

        I simply don’t believe that God “micromanaged” the course of evolution, to reply to another posting on this blog, and have never said or written anything to that effect.

        I wrote my first posting only to correct the record. I know you’ll feel free to vigorously criticize me and other theists for their beliefs. Fair enough. I welcome that. But I do object to being criticized for views that I do not hold.

        Ken Miller

        • Posted July 21, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          Dr. Miller: Now, if there is a creator-God (as all theists believe), there would be nothing to prevent that God from intervening in the existence He fashioned.

          This is Intelligent Design territory, which of course you vigorously and rightly attacked at the Dover trial and elsewhere. But why, if you think it is reasonable to posit a divine intervention in our evolution?

          Dr. Miller: The point of the second one is that if there is a creator-God, then people of faith are completely justified in seeing their own existence as the result of His work.

          Not really, because they could simply be accidents as far as the Creator is concerned. In fact, they would be, if the Creator did not in fact “create” them in some way, either by miracle or by guiding natural processes in some mysterious way to guarantee their eventual existence.

          I think it really does come down to naturalism vs creationism. You are much deeper into the latter than you realise.

    • Posted July 21, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      Dr. Miller, please permit me an analogy.

      If you’re driving a quality car on a straight stretch of well-maintained road in good conditions, you can easily set the cruise control and take your hands off the wheel for long stretches of time, and only make very occasional very minor adjustments. Yet we would rightly maintain that you are still driving the car and remain in full control of its operation.

      How can your position of a supremely powerful entity who created at least our corner of the universe not be seen as equivalent to my analogy? Arguing that your God isn’t responsible for the course of evolution seems to me like arguing that, because the driver isn’t manually pushing the engine pistons up and down, he’s not really driving the car. Or, alternatively, if the car were to crash while the driver wasn’t touching the wheel, to suggest that the driver wasn’t responsible for the crash.

      That is, if it is within the power of your God to micromanage the course of evolution on Earth, then asserting that your God didn’t do any micromanaging can only mean that your God is happy with the outcome — else, of necessity, unless your God is insane, he(?) would have done whatever is necessary to fix things until he was happy with the outcome.

      Cheers,

      b&

  30. Posted April 19, 2012 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    all religious philosophies are one and only one as all teaches mankind ONENESS ONE CREATOR to mankind. HE is no other HIM prevails in every soul to lead prefecr life with full of divine love and this divine love has magnetic power that heals hatered and malice so that mankind live as one race.
    we should live in this global world as loving divine creation of THE CREATOR with full of HIS divinity and spiritualism.

    • Posted April 19, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Ramu is echoing popular existential pluralism that those who believe in evolution could see because it can be aligned to the idea of evolved natural selection. However, I have yet to find a structure without a designer, or for that matter the idea that something could come from nothing. Belief in evolution starts with faith in the idea that something could come from nothing. Utterly comic to anyone with the eyes to see the creation around us.


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  1. […] on the bizarre claim that the Holocaust must have been part of His Wonderful Plan. Well worth a read. This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink. ← A few questions for […]

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