The intellectual vacuity of theistic evolution: a new book from BioLogos

I’m not sure what I think of the new book How I Changed My Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science, put out by BioLogos (and edited by Kathryn Applegate and J. B. Stump) in the group’s continuing effort to gather evangelical Christians into the Darwinian fold without endangering their faith. (Note: I haven’t yet read the book; I’m simply commenting on what the authors and editors have said about it.) On the one hand, it can’t hurt to have more people accept evolution, for the more who do, the less opposition we face to teaching the truth about biology.

On the other hand, for what is a man profited, if he shall accept evolution, but reject naturalism? For, according to an article on the book at Religion News Service (RNS), and the précis of the book at BioLogos (below), the book is a farrago of naturalism and supernaturalism.  Some of the authors, for instance, accept the historicity of Adam and Eve, whose existence—at least as the progenitors of all humanity—has been soundly disproven by population genetics.

Others appear to espouse theistic evolution, the doctrine that in some way God impelled the evolutionary process, usually toward Homo sapiens.  Now religionists differ in what they mean by theistic evolution. The most scientific of its advocates come close to being deists, claiming that God created the laws of physics (or the Universe itself), and then let everything roll without intervention. Then, in increasing order of divine intervention, there are those who claim that God created the first life form, and then it evolved naturalistically; others who say that God created special mutations when needed to allow life to get to its acme (us); and still others, like many Intelligent Design advocates, who accept a limited form of purely naturalistic evolution—but then argue that God created some entire lineages de novo.

Can we say that theistic evolutionists are down with the kind of evolution we teach in schools? No, and for three reasons. First, the entire concept, whether it be the “let it roll” or “constant intervention” brand, invokes God’s intervention, a violation of naturalism. And it’s a violation for which there is no scientific evidence, so right away we have a mixture of evidence-based science and revelation-based faith. It’s as if we espoused physics to religious doubters by saying that yes, the law of gravity keeps the planets orbiting the Sun, but God’s hand allows that to take place (“theistic physics”). The only reason we don’t have theistic physics, or theistic chemistry, is that neither chemistry nor physics violate Scripture or attack the view that humans are the special creation of God.

Second, these theories are all teleological, invoking a directionality to the evolutionary process: “upwards” to Homo sapiens. Yet there’s not the slightest evidence for such teleological guidance: mutations are, as far as we can see, random (and mostly either neutral, having no effect on fitness, or deleterious), evolution appears to operate in any direction that confers reproductive advantage, even if that makes you less complex (tapeworms, becoming parasitic, have lost their digestive and most of their reproductive systems). And then there’s the wastage of evolution and natural selection: the thousands of individuals who die a painful death, and the 99% or more of lineages that went extinct without leaving descendants. Why did God do it that way?  Theists have no answer except to invoke the Mystery of God’s Ways. But if God’s ways are that mysterious, how do they know that God is good, or powerful—or anything?

Finally, one of the great wonders of evolution is the very fact that a mindless, purposeless process, natural selection, drove the marvelous adaptations that we see in plants and animals—adaptations that, before Darwin, constituted strong evidence for God’s existence. After all, before Darwin what other explanation did we have for those adaptations? But Darwin and Wallace, in one huge blow, dispelled the strongest evidence for God that we had from “natural theology”, showing that the diversity of life could all be explained by the simple sorting of hereditary variation in populations.

It is this fact that makes evolution so marvelous: that when you see a squirrel, a sequoia, or a shark, you realize that these fantastically intricate creatures are the products of evolution over billions of years, starting only with a few inanimate molecules, and that nothing guided that save the exigencies of the environment. There is a reason why Darwin called it “natural selection” rather than “supernatural selection.”

Thus, I bridle when I see statements about the book like this one from Deborah Haarsma, president of BioLogos and author of the book’s foreword, quoted in the RNS article:

[Haarsma] treasures Genesis, she said, because she reads in it the message that “God is continually sustaining the universe he created with intention and for a purpose.” Science, she wrote, doesn’t replace God, “it gives us a human description of how God is creating and sustaining.”

Maybe a “how”, but surely not a why! As I noted above, it would be a cruel and capricious God who would create through evolution and natural selection. The onus is on theists to tell us why God used evolution rather than de novo creation.

Well, they are, of course, simply making a virtue of necessity. If these evangelicals were, as the book notes, forced to the conclusion that evolution is true because of the pervasive evidence, why aren’t they forced to give up the idea of Adam and Eve because of the lack of evidence? In other words, the book attempts to reconcile an evidence-based scientific conclusion with a brand of Christianity based solely on ancient scripture, revelation, and wish-thinking.

In the end, that’s why I don’t like this form of reconciliation, for while it touts the science, it dilutes it with superstition and enables faith-based “truths” at the same time. Is our goal simply to have people sign on to Darwinism, or is it to have them adopt a scientific attitude towards evidence? I prefer the latter, for its implications for society are far more profound.

The BioLogos description of the book underscores its problems:

We hope this book can serve both of these purposes. Undoubtedly, some people reading these pages are deeply suspicious of evolution. Perhaps they’ve seen Richard Dawkins, that ardent defender of evolution, sneer at religion and call it a “virus of the mind.” Or maybe they’ve heard Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist with an audience of millions, warn that “evolution and millions of years”—what he summarily dismisses as “man’s word”—are baseless ideas that contradict the clear message of Genesis and inevitably lead down the slippery slope to atheism, or worse, liberal Christianity. More nuanced views are often drowned out by the polarizing rhetoric at either extreme.

BioLogos represents another choice. Our mission is to invite the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. Some of us are believing scientists who find the weight of evidence for evolution so strong we would do injustice to God’s message in creation if we didn’t speak out. Others are biblical scholars and theologians—including some who argue passionately for the historicity of Adam and Eve—who see no scriptural warrant for rejecting biological evolution, even of humans. They are grieved by the way Scripture is often forced to answer twenty-first century questions that it was never intended to address. Pastors and educators in our community see firsthand the devastating impact of the false creation-or-evolution dichotomy our Christian subculture has embraced so thoroughly. They see young people encountering compelling evidence for evolution and feeling forced to choose between science and faith.

If they accept Adam and Eve—presumably based on “scriptural warrant”—why do they reject creationism, based on exactly the same scriptural warrant, indeed, the same bit of scripture containing the Adam and Eve fable? As for having to choose between science and faith, well, yes, the rational person should. You can’t accept scientific evidence based on one set of criteria, and simultaneously accept religious stories as true based on a completely different set of criteria. In Faith versus Fact I develop the argument that the Abrahamic religions, and others as well, are indeed grounded on assertions about the world and cosmos, and thus potentially susceptible to empirical testing—or rejection if there’s no evidence for them. I quote many theologians, including Francis Collins and Karl Giberson, the cofounders of BioLogos (Collins has a chapter in this book), saying this: “Likewise, religion in almost all of its manifestations is more than just a collection of value judgments and moral directives. Religion often makes claims about ‘the way things are.'”

More from the book description at BioLogos:

. . . It doesn’t take long for the reflective Christian to realize that neither science nor Christianity has all the answers. Science can’t tell us much about Jesus Christ or the way to have a relationship with God; you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you won’t find any descriptions of DNA or quantum mechanics! Some questions are obviously scientific and some are obviously religious. The difficulty comes when both seem relevant, as in the question of humanity’s origin. For cases like this, the way forward is to allow science and faith to dialogue with each other. Learn the best science. Talk to religious thinkers you trust. Give grace to everyone, remembering that our human attempts at knowing are finite and provisional.

A related theme you’ll see surfacing again and again throughout these stories is the commitment that all truth is God’s truth. Whether truth is found in Scripture or through careful study of the natural world (even when that study is undertaken by unbelieving scientists!), our contributors see God as the ultimate source of all truth. This gives us unshakable confidence that there will ultimately be no contradiction between science and theology. God is the author of both. Sometimes this is referred to as the “Two Books” model of revelation. Psalm 19 captures both of these: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (v. 1) and “The law of the Lord is perfect” (v. 7). They are complementary.

This assumes, of course, that religion does tell us the “truth” about Jesus Christ and the way to have a relationship with God. But Islam gives us completely different “truths” from Christianity. Which one is right? Science has a way of adjudicating these issues; religion doesn’t.

In the end, that’s why a dialogue between science and faith is futile. Or rather, it’s a one-way dialogue—a monologue. Science can tell religion which of its claims are false, but religion can’t tell science which of its claims are true. And it is this asymmetry that compels a rational person to choose between science—construed as a combination of evidence, observation, agreement, and reason—and faith.

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69 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. rickflick
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    BioLogos is doomed. It all reminds me of square pegs and round holes where the only pounding tool is the author’s frontal cranial bone. What a waste of human effort.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      It is as doomed as religion. Which is to say that its resonance with certain people will continue to decline, one funeral at a time.

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted June 24, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        ‘…one funeral at a time.’

        I like that. It’s a version of evolution, cultural evolution perhaps? Slowly, but inexorably religion is fading. It’ won’t likely be gone in my lifetime, and perhaps not in my children’s lifetime, but maybe my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will enjoy a world of very limited and impotent religious factions. The world will one day ask, ‘I wonder if there was ever a time when there were only 2 atheists on the planet?’ (Okay, that’s my attempt at making a play on the Adam and Eve ridiculousness. I doubt it worked very well, though.)

        • Posted June 24, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Gentlemen – my opinion is that, unfortunately, humans will become extinct before religion.

          • Ken Elliott
            Posted June 24, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            That is, indeed, the fear.

          • Posted June 24, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

            Indeed. I’ve sometimes imagined a sort of Douglas Adams style tombstone floating in space with the inscription “Man, the first creature to evolve the capacity to extinct himself, promptly did”

            • Posted June 25, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

              Not sure why WordPress trashes some comments, but I’ll try again.
              I like your tombstone idea, and Adams would likely approve. I am a fan of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, but I doubt if the extinction will be voluntary. What I have been thinking is that perhaps the Rapture will take all folks with any inclination toward religion – some believe that those Left Behind will face horrors, but I think that it could be quite pleasant 🙂

  3. Colin
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Children don’t like letting go of their security blankets; sadly, nor do many adults.

  4. Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Is there any convincing argument against deism? Apart from an Occam’s razor approach. I find the idea unconvincing and unnecessary, but it is hard to argue against it beyond saying just that. Theism on the other hand makes lots of falsifiable claims.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      The convincing argument against deism is to always require the deist to prove the existence of god, and to strictly resist any comment about you being able to, or ever needing to, provide a convincing argument against them.

    • ChrisH
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Not really, as the deistic god doesn’t interact with the material universe. At this point any existence claims are essentially moot.

      I suppose that you could call the whole concept of a deistic god incomprehensible: how in any way can you discuss the “existence” of something that doesn’t even follow the basic rules rules of what needs to be the case for “exist” to have any meaning?

    • Sastra
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      It seems to me that even the Deistic god is much more than “whatever started the universe,” and so it contains implicit claims. One of them involves the relationship and role of the mind in the great scheme of things.

      Is “intention” a force, or a thing? Does it make any sense to go back in time to the point where molecules have yet to form and suddenly say that there was a — what? — essence or being or spirit (what?) — which exist for no reason and which developed within no environment who somehow wanted human beings for purposes unknown … but it probably had something to do with love? This doesn’t fit in with anything we’ve learned about what the mind is, or how it got that way. It doesn’t fit in with anything at all.

      An ‘invisible fairy in the cup’ doesn’t only violate Occam’s razor. Unlike a fly that came and went without our seeing it, there are problems with “fairy.”

      • Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        +1

        As much as any theist so inclined tries to extract her god from the naturalistic nexus, they just never succeed. There are always smuggled premises/assumptions/assertions/whathaveyou.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      The universe proper has no origin, so the traditional form of the deist god is nonexistent. The (local) hubble volume has one, but there’s no reason to suspect that this requires anything “really powerful” to do. For all we know, we live in “Baby’s First Spacetime Expansion”. Also, it seems that hubble expansions obliterate their initial conditions, so there’s no notion of providence possible at all.

    • Evan Harris
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Pure deism is almost indistinguishable from the logic of agnostic atheism. The only difference is the deist choosing belief in the absence of evidence, where the agnostic atheist takes the default position of being without belief while the question of a god is without evidence.

      • juan martinez juan
        Posted June 24, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Guess that by “agnostic atheism” you mean sheer atheism. And I find that your claims of symmetry between both stances are utterly unfounded. Any atheist would no doubt revise his unbelief if faced by an adequate exhibition of godly powers and traits by an unmistakably supernatural being.
        But could you imagine a deist revising his beliefs right after witnessing… What? An unmistakably natural and self explainable world, completely devoid of supernatural beings? Such a thing is already there, along with stubborn deists, ever eager to create god in every gap left by science.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if this fits your definition of deism, but there are good Bayesian arguments against the idea that the universe was created for us.

      If the goal is to make a universe in which people of some sort can enact some kind of story or drama, we know roughly what that sort of universe would look like, because we’ve made a few of them ourselves. It would look like The Incredibles or World of Warcraft: insubstantial puppets animated directly by supernatural agencies, because that’s the most expedient way to build such a world from whole cloth. Anything more is overkill.

      It would not look like a world of particles and forces governed by natural law, internally consistent, with many orders of magnitude between its largest and smallest parts. That’s what you’d expect from a fully natural world with no creator. So the fact they we find ourselves in that kind of world, and not in some ad hoc magic puppet show, is strong evidence that nobody’s watching.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        Well put. That’s what I thought more or less intuitively. Thanks for putting it into words.

  5. Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    “…the historicity of Adam and Eve, whose existence—at least as the progenitors of all humanity—has been soundly disproven by population genetics.”

    Is this true? Leaving aside the myth connotation, haven’t we established the factual truth of both Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam? They are the progenitors of all humanity — except for those humans who lived before they did.

    True, they were not the “first” humans, created by magic, but isn’t it a powerful response to those touting biblical adam/eve to champion Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam when they bring it up?

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      There is a different “Adam” and “Eve” for each bit of the genome, including the Y and mitochondrial DNA.Each bit of the DNA comes from a single individual in the distant past, for that is the subject of coalescent theory. But each bit of the DNA comes from a DIFFERENT person living at a different time, so there cannot be any single human, male or female, who is the ancestor of all of humanity’s genes. Mitochondrial Eve, for instance, contained the copy of mtDNA from which all modern mtDNAs descend, but a different bit of DNA in our genome descends from a different person.

      • Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        I conceded that with my phrase “…except for those humans who lived before they did.”

        I find it a devastating strategy to respond to biblicals with facts about mEve and yAdam.

        • Jeff Lewis
          Posted June 24, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          I’m not sure I quite follow what you’re saying. I have 46 chromosomes plus mitochondrial DNA. Because the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA don’t undergo recombination during reproduction, all of their genetic material can be traced in simple lineages. My Y-chromosome and all the genes on it can be traced directly to yAdam. My mitochondrial DNA can be traced directly to mEve. That still leaves all the other genes on the other 45 chromosomes, many of which probably can’t be traced directly to mEve or yAdam. The individual that was the last common ancestor for all of humanity for any particular gene may have been alive either before, after, or (unlikely) at the same as either mEve or yAdam.

  6. Steve Pollard
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    “Science can’t tell us much about Jesus Christ”. Oh yes it can: science broadly construed (including history, archaeology, etc) can tell us a great deal about the origins of the stories about JC as well as giving us a way of approaching such questions as whether he even existed. But the likes of Biologos would never dare go anywhere near such fields of study. Their entire world-view depends on swallowing the Jesus myths whole.

  7. Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Worth reiterating:

    “If these Evangelicals were, as the book notes, forced to the conclusion that evolution is true because of the pervasive evidence, why aren’t they forced to give up the idea of Adam and Eve because of the lack of evidence?”

  8. Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “They usually start by questioning the accuracy of the observations. If that fails, they try to modify the theory in an ad hoc manner. Eventually the theory becomes a creaking and ugly edifice. Then someone suggests a new theory in which all the awkward observations are explained in an elegant and natural manner…” — Stephen Hawking

  9. Jay Baldwin
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I’m okay with taking the small victories, the acceptance of natural selection inherent to each retreat of religionists. They’re managing a great deal of cognitive dissonance and, while cultural evolution happens much faster than biological evolution, we have to accept, I think, a degree of gradualism in seeing the kinds of socio-cultural changes you seek. As a professor in the U.S. south, I’m happy when my students are willing to say that evolution is true “but God did it.” I can work with that. I can’t do much with the “Evolution is a lie” crowd.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I agree. Totally. Whatever framework the students need to put evolution in is OK by me, as long as they do understand that evolution happens. Maybe later the knowledge will modify the framework, but it won’t really bother me if it doesn’t.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        I will take the small victories as I become aware of them. Some of my doubting students come to accept microevolution, but that’s it. Or others also accept limited macroevolution within a bauplan.
        But deep inside, I wish they would stop BioLogosing their science.

  10. Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Evolution, directed or not, is a savage and wasteful way for god to create homo sapiens. God must be a sadist.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Not only a sadist, but an incredibly poor designer. One example: the food and air pipes crossing in the throat, guaranteeing the a certain percentage of his dearly beloved will choke to death on steak each year. Then there’s the incredible amount of wasted space in the universe, if it was designed for us. And the extinction of at least 99% of the creatures he/she/it designed before getting to Homo sapiens. A freshman engineering student at Lehigh could do a better job.

      • Posted June 24, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        You guys keep forgetting that it was SIN that caused all of the problems, not the perfect creation! 🙂 You need to pay more attention to the one-who-knows-all, Ken Ham.

  11. Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    The most scientific of its advocates come close to being deists, claiming that God created the laws of physics (or the Universe itself), and then let everything roll without intervention. Then, in increasing order of divine intervention etc etc…..

    YECs,IDers and TE all form a continuum. They differ in their view of origins not because of differences in their knowledge and acceptance of science but in their interpretation of scripture. Those who are more flexible in their scriptural interpretation are TE, those who are less are YEC. But what unites them all is that they start with a religious understanding and then adjust it more or less based on what the science says. The weight of the scientific evidence matters less than their particular ability to reinterpret Genesis

  12. John Harshman
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    …mutations are, as far as we can see, random (and mostly bad)…

    Mostly neutral, surely.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I would think that, on average, a random mutation must be deleterious to the fitness of an organism because it is likely to reduce the order in the geonome that is honed to fitness.

      • Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Not really. Natural selection can only do so much. It favors a genome that works pretty well, but it can’t get rid of the remnants of mutated viruses, the contents of introns, the remnants of duplicated genes that have mutated to uselessness, etc. Therefore, mutations in many parts of the genome are unlikely to do harm. Most mutations are neutral, most of the rest are harmful, and some are beneficial.

        • Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          Yes, I agree. I meant random changes in genes that affect the performance of the organism. Random changes in noise is just noise.

        • Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Yep, I need to correct that. Most mutations surely have no effect on fitness, esp. given that the vast bulk of our genome is junk.

  13. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    To try to reconcile evolution with a generic teleological deity involves wild speculation and was in particular badly botched by Teilhard de Chardin.

    But BioLogos wants to reconcile modern biology with a semi-literal reading of the Bible. Aside from the Adam and Eve problem, there is much refutation of the Old Testament from archeology. It is a virtual certainty that the Exodus never happened, that Deuteronomy is a forgery by King Josiah, etc.

    =-=-=

    I’m tickled by the citation from Ken Ham “inevitably lead down the slippery slope to atheism, or worse, liberal Christianity.”
    Mr. Ham, I’m quite glad to have had my basic ethical and political sensibilities to have been formed by liberal Christianity (and Buddhism from my mother’s side of the family), thank you very much.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that comment caused me to smile. So, hateful as atheism may be, it’s not as bad as liberal Christianity. Wow!

  14. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    So they even quote Psalm 19:7 “The law of the Lord is perfect.”

    I suppose that includes the bit in the Ten Commandments which indicates that women are property.

    We can do without such examples of perfection.

  15. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    If we’re talking of guided evolution, and god moving in mysterious ways, how do we know we are god’s goal? We might be just the over-run of the evolutionary processes ‘needed’ to create dinosaurs (or cats), or a step on the holy path to produce a world ruled by slightly radioactive cockroaches.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      the holy path to produce a world ruled by slightly radioactive cockroaches

      Nice one 😀 😀

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Descartes (no atheist, but not a Christian) said that no human knows about god’s plan, and if you want to pray, pray for what god would do anyway.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 23, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Whoever that guy is, he sounds like a Cartesian dualist!

        • Posted June 24, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          That’s actually kind of interesting in an unexpected way. To a first approximation, Descartes says you need an immaterial mind because no machine could produce language in the way we do (and that all people, no matter how otherwise stupid, manage to do). Practically everything else he thinks one can do “mechanically” – see the misleadingly named _Passions of the Soul_. I didn’t understand Cartesian dualism until I read that.

          (It doesn’t work, of course, but it is much more of a complicated messy view, historically, than the textbooks make it out to be.)

  16. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Up to the top of my “to read” list. NOT

  17. Sastra
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s as if we espoused physics to religious doubters by saying that yes, the law of gravity keeps the planets orbiting the Sun, but God’s hand allows that to take place (“theistic physics”). The only reason we don’t have theistic physics, or theistic chemistry, is that neither chemistry nor physics violate Scripture or attack the view that humans are the special creation of God.

    I bet we DO have theistic physics, theistic chemistry, and theistic every-other-branch-of-science-you-can-come-up-with. After all, “God is continually sustaining the universe he created with intention and for a purpose.” If someone were to stand before a congregation, smile, and say “The law of gravity keeps the planets orbiting the Sun, but God’s hand (or better yet ‘God’s will’) allows that to take place” I doubt whether even liberal and moderate believers would see anything wrong.

    The only reason atheists aren’t quite as aware of theistic physics, theistic chemistry, etc. is that WE haven’t made as much of a fuss about using them to attack the view that God exists. But let someone like Lawrence Krauss, Vic Stenger, or Sean Carroll argue that the Core Theory effectively eliminates the God hypothesis and watch God’s guiding and/or sustaining hand come out like a flash in order to grab physics and chemistry for Itself.

    Also … New Age physics. I mean, “physics.”

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      The “sustains” bit is in my view extremely theologically dubious, because it makes god *actively complicit in everything that happens*. I.e., occaisonalism. Ironically, that’s more consistent with the bible than with Christianity as practiced, since the good book (sic) does say god creates evil. (Isaiah 45:7)

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      I have heard on the radio a particularly enthusiastic holy roller say that an obvious sign of the continuous handiwork of god is seen in the forces that hold together atoms and molecules. So to this person, if a tree falls in the forest and kills someone then that too must be by direct manipulation from god.

      • Posted June 24, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Or if someone *does* something like pull a trigger or release Zyklon-B, they are doing so with the concurrence of something which can, by hypothesis, stop the action. In every case. And doesn’t, even in situations where a 6 year old would. So there is no god.

        (Self contradiction works better than the “nothing outside the universe”, because people have trouble with that, but …)

    • Posted June 24, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Sastra – since you mentioned Vic, sadly he passed away in 2014.

      • Sastra
        Posted June 24, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I know. I always loved his work.
        Years ago I ran across an extensive email exchange Stenger had with one of those ‘quantum consciousness’ advocates. It quickly went out of my league, but stayed so firmly in his that I was enchanted … so to speak.

        • Posted June 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

          Thought you probably knew. What I find rather amazing is that precious few on the CU-Boulder campus seem to know who he was and that he was an adjunct faculty member in philosophy. It’s a demonstration of one of the reasons I do not like humongous campuses.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Nice allusion to Mark 8:36 in Coyne par. 2: sentence 1!

  19. Posted June 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Even in a perfect universe it would still be impossible for one to have ones cake and eat it too. I see this as an attempt to get around the problem of an bald face untruth (one of many) being put forth in their holy scripture (supposedly informed by the deity himself/herself/itself.

  20. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    While we are near the subject, last night on t.v. I just saw the 1st commercials of Ken Hams Ark Encounter.
    Yee-Haa.

  21. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Well argued. You ought to write a book about this.

    BioLogos’s accommodationism – “nuanced views [that] are often drowned out by the polarizing rhetoric at either extreme” – is nothing but squatting halfway to The Asylum. Despite their protests there is nothing extreme about science. And there is nothing nuanced in the religious position of accommodationism.

    But when BioLogos wag the tail of magic, they loose their balance and fall on their rump. They claim that science is “finite and provisional”. But they have “unshakable confidence that there will ultimately be no contradiction between science and theology”. Which is it!?

    In reality, it is science that is ‘infinite’ (say, in describing functions living in infinite-dimensional Hilbert spaces) and ‘eternal’ (water will always be H2O). Put that against their one-dimensional ‘god’ myth and their failed ‘Adam & Eve’ myth.

    The most scientific of its advocates come close to being deists, claiming that God created the laws of physics (or the Universe itself),

    They can’t have both. If they have laws there is no beginning of the universe. If they have a beginning of the universe there are no laws.

    Or at least that is how I interpret Sean Carroll’s interesting talk based on his new “Big Picture” book. It is well worth a watching! (I also love that Sean references the arguably best tested emergence of life theory, that of Russell et al.) [ http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2016/05/24/the-big-picture-the-talk/ ]

  22. keith cook + / -
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    All of lifes’ diversity and no god is abhorrent to the theist and like the genome, they are full of junk long past their usefulness and weighing them… I was going to say down but in fact the’re all airheads, to see the truth of evolution and ignore naturalism is to have your head in the clouds.. the cirrocumulus type, very high, light and puffy.

  23. Zado
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought “theistic evolution” is an oxymoron.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      You’ve got to learn to think outside the Punnett square diagram.

  24. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 24, 2016 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    [BioLogos reads post]
    *turns the other cheek*
    Ergo God
    Checkmate PCC(E)

  25. Posted June 24, 2016 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    A practical problem with theism in science was suggested by Richard Feynman who said he preferred questions that cannot be answered to answers that cannot be questioned.

    A second practical problem probably occurs to many. Once we admit theism, where do we go from there? Would it not mean the end of science if one theory explained everything?

    God seems so boring, which may explain why there is so much conflict among theists. Pure escapism.

    Finally, if we admit theism to science, we would have to spend so much time deciding which theistic version to follow that we would have little time for science.

    So for me, the issue is not whether or not the theists are right or wrong, but the purely practical one of ensuring that every scientific statement remains falsifiable, even if never falsified.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 24, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      “preferred questions that cannot be answered to answers that cannot be questioned.”

      That’s a real gem.

  26. Posted June 24, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    If these Evangelicals were, as the book notes, forced to the conclusion that evolution is true because of the pervasive evidence, why aren’t they forced to give up the idea of Adam and Eve because of the lack of evidence? In other words, the book attempts to reconcile an evidence-based scientific conclusion with a brand of Christianity based solely on ancient scripture, revelation, and wish-thinking.

    This certainly is limited to Evangelicals. The Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination on the planet, now won’t even answer the question directly as to whether Adam and Eve existed, only that Scripture points us towards a “a real event.” Wow, how specific of them! Then they fall back on the nature of science, that it doesn’t deal in certainties and that new findings could conceivably change the consensus. Well yes, all that is true about science in principle, but why choose then to believe specifically in Adam and Eve? It’s also possible in principle that we find evidence that an alien race created 4 parents of humanity who lived in a duplex but were injected with the DNA from a diverse population so as to ensure genetic variation in their first offspring. Why don’t we just hold on to that via the “Mystery of Faith?” {Insert any of an infinite amount of other logical possibilities here} and ask the same question.

    • Posted June 24, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      That should read “is not limited to Evangelicals” and apologies for the double post, it looks like WordPress hiccuped.

  27. Posted June 24, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    If these Evangelicals were, as the book notes, forced to the conclusion that evolution is true because of the pervasive evidence, why aren’t they forced to give up the idea of Adam and Eve because of the lack of evidence? In other words, the book attempts to reconcile an evidence-based scientific conclusion with a brand of Christianity based solely on ancient scripture, revelation, and wish-thinking.

    This certainly is limited to Evangelicals. The Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination on the planet, now won’t even answer the question directly as to whether Adam and Eve existed, only that Scripture points us towards a “a real event.” Wow, how specific of them! Then they fall back on the nature of science, that it doesn’t deal in certainties and that new findings could conceivably change the consensus. Well yes, all that is true about science in principle, but why choose then to believe specifically in Adam and Eve? It’s also possible in principle that we find evidence that an alien race created 4 parents of humanity who lived in a duplex but were injected with the DNA from a diverse population so as to ensure genetic variation in their first offspring. Why don’t we just hold on to that via the “Mystery of Faith?” {Insert any of an infinite amount of other logical possibilities here} and ask the same question.


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