The end is nigh, and by that I don’t mean the Second Coming but the First Going. What is going—and has been going for some time—is the credibility and efficacy of BioLogos, the Templeton-funded organization founded by Francis Collins to help evangelical Christians embrace evolution.
It’s been apparent for a while that the matchmaking between Jesus and Darwin has not been a rousing success. Several of the BioLogos’s bigwigs, including Karl Giberson and Pete Enns, the vice-president and head Biblical scholar respectively, have jumped ship, I suspect because of disagreements about the organization’s increasing fear of offending evangelicals. BioLogos, for instance, takes no stand on the historicity of Adam and Eve, despite the manifest genetic evidence that the population size of human ancestors could not have been smaller than several thousand individuals in the last million years. They don’t want to offend evangelicals by speaking the truth: that Adam and Eve are complete fictions.
It is in fact BioLogos’s failure to take the hard line when it comes to science that has led to its failure. Rather than insist that the science is right, and then cajole Christians into accepting it, BioLogos has been moving itself toward the Christians, waffling on crucial scientific (and theological) issues rather than offend its audience.
I suppose this was predictable. In fact, I suspect the BioLogos mission was doomed from the outset. Evangelicals are simply not going to cede crucial issues affecting their faith to science. If Adam and Eve were metaphorical (one interpretation offered by BioLogos in the ludicrous “federal headship” model), then Jesus died for a metaphor. That simply won’t do. Well-intended as they were, Giberson and Collins didn’t know what they were up against. Karl, I think, has finally seen the light, but BioLogos continues to move more and more towards apologetics and farther and farther from science. So much for the accommodationist strategy of “If we don’t insult the dogma of Christianity, creationists will come around to evolution.”
BioLogos’s latest desperation move is to turn off all reader comments, allowing instead a small selection of comments to be vetted, published, and answered by the editors. According to a
description rationalization of their new comments policy, outlined by content manager Jim Stump:
We’ve been talking about how well our current open comments policy on the blog serves the purpose of facilitating discussion within the BioLogos community. So we did our own study, and it turns out that our comments section does very well at facilitating conversation among very few people. We have multiple tens of thousands of unique visitors to our site per month. During the month of September, 93.7% of the comments made on the blog came from .026% of our visitors. That leaves a lot of voices “cowering in the back of the classroom” (in a virtual sense, of course). So we’d like to try something different.
Beginning next week, comments on the blog will typically be closed (there may be some exceptions to that policy for certain posts). Instead, we’ll invite readers to submit their comments and questions to an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Then, every so often we’ll ask the author of the blog post to respond to some of the best of these, and we’ll feature them in a “Letters to the Editor” format on the blog. We want to see if this encourages more people to join in the dialogue about origins. Perhaps we’ll revert to the open policy at some future time, but we thought we’d give this a try. For now our Facebook page will remain open for comments. And comments to this post are open for one last time.
I’m not sure how to take this, but one thing it means is that there won’t be free discussion, but rather discussion slanted toward what the editor wants. And I’m not sure, either, whether this policy will encourage more people to comment—or at least to take issue with either BioLogos’s views or views of other readers. Why would someone be more likely to comment under this new policy, particularly if the comments aren’t anonymous (BioLogos says nothing about that)?
I can’t imagine turning off comments on this site for two reasons. First, I learn a ton from those comments. I think people see that there’s a huge range of expertise on my site—expertise that often either takes issue with what I say or finds errors in my reasoning or statements. Although I do ban people for rudeness or micturation on the carpet, I try not to stifle free discussion—so long as it’s civil. I’ve learned a lot from those discussions, and a lot of thinking inspired by my readers will be on tap in my next book. (Thanks, folks!)
Second, what good is it to put something out there and not allow people to have their say? My guess is that readers come here at least as much to speak their piece as to listen to mine. And if people disagree with me or others, they want to voice their dissent. I hope that in the end there’s been more light than heat.
The reaction of BioLogos readers to the new policy is mixed, but mostly negative. Here are two comments:
This, it seems, is the real explanation: people were arguing back and forth about how God interacts with the world, and those comments apparently turned people off. Atheists showed up, and so did young-earth creationists: precisely the people BioLogos doesn’t want. And “sophisticated” Christians, like those who run BioLogos, don’t want that kind of discussion for two reasons. First, it emphasizes how little (i.e, nothing) any of them know about God, and may shake their faith. Second, if the nonbelievers and yahoos get their say, it will show clearly why BioLogos will never sway most evangelicals.
And of course neither BioLogos nor the new comments policy are ever going to settle the issue of “how God interacts with the natural world.” But in the end, that’s exactly what BioLogos has to do if it is going to draw Christians toward evolution. It is going to have to admit the science: straight evolution, no evidence for theistic guidance, no guided mutations, no Adam and Eve. It is going to have to say that there is no evidence that God does interact with the world, and then proceed on that basis.
I’m amused at Stump’s statement, “Not everyone within BioLogos agrees on how God does this.” Doesn’t that show the ultimate futility of their mission? Scientists can agree on stuff like evolution, but Christians won’t agree on whether it really happened and, if so, how God did it. Some of Biologos’s commenters don’t believe in God, or at least in the Christian God (the readers include Jews).
Commenter “Eddie” cuts through all the crap (I’ve left off the last two bits of his comment):
All that Templeton money, all those electrons expended in the service of accommodation, and what does BioLogos have to show for it? Have they offered a consensus view on how God works through evolution? (For example, does God make mutatons? And why all those extinct species?) Have they brought even one evangelical and creationist Christian around to evolution? In terms of converts per dollar, I suspect that Richard Dawkins is infinitely more efficient than BioLogos.
The reason BioLogos won’t succeed is because they have no consensus view to offer evangelicals: just an array of speculative and untestable options which are in various degrees unpalatable to everyone. Templeton should stop throwing money down this empty well.