Home » Christian Darwinism, News » Bill Dembski asks, Is Darwinism theologically neutral – at BioLogos (= Christians for Darwin)

Bill Dembski asks, Is Darwinism theologically neutral – at BioLogos (= Christians for Darwin)

Here.

Those who embrace Darwin and his ideas regard him and Christ as compatible. Those who don’t, regard them as incompatible. Now compatibility and incompatibility are funny notions. They’re not like strict logical consistency or inconsistency, which admit of proof. At the hands of human rationalization, compatibility and incompatibility have the disconcerting tendency to become infinitely malleable. We’ve already seen how some Christians, by reading Genesis as teaching the special creation of living forms, conclude that Christ and Darwin are incompatible.

On the other hand, Michael Ruse (in Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?) argues that Christ and Darwin are eminently compatible. Sure, as Ruse puts it, “Darwinism is a theory committed to the ubiquity of law.” But, in Ruse’s mind, that’s not a problem for Christian faith. He continues, “Even the supreme miracle of the resurrection requires no law-breaking return from the dead. One can think of Jesus in a trance, or more likely that he really was physically dead but that on and from the third day a group of people, hitherto downcast, were filled with great joy and hope.”

“Southern Baptist Voices: Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?”, April 30, 2012

So Darwinism is compatible with a Christianity where churches rise again – as some really nice condos with an airy central atrium, very hot real estate-wise.

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65 Responses to Bill Dembski asks, Is Darwinism theologically neutral – at BioLogos (= Christians for Darwin)

  1. Ruse is employing a ruse. Naturally, Darwinism is compatible with a Christianity that has been stripped of its essence. Allow me to choose my heresy, and I can make Christianity compatible with anything.

  2. It really depends what you mean by “Darwinism”. If you mean the sort of thing that Dawkins and Dennet like to trumpet that has as a fundamental axiom that the process is not guided at any level and that it is absolutely nothing more than chance variation combined with some sort of sorting mechanism to favor “fitness”, then absolutely that is incompatible with Christian belief because it is a fundamental part of Christian Orthodoxy that God is the creator of “life, the universe and everything”, and this denies that. If you mean by “Darwinism” something that allows room for a creative intelligence, either in determining initial conditions or via ongoing direct action of some sort, basically some sort of “guided evolution” or some such, then actually there is no strong problem with compatibility. Depending on your exact theology and exactly how you cash out all of the finer points.

    Although it seems this should be sort of obvious. Any position that demands God not be the creator and rules his action out in an a priori fashion could never be compatible with orthodox christian belief.

  3. Nor, for that matter, could it be compatible with science.
    –Merv

  4. I will comment here rather than at biologos.

    I am remembering back to my youth, when I was a member of an evangelical (but not fundamentalist) Church. At the time, I was undecided about evolution, but that was because I was undecided about the evidence. I never saw a theological problem.

    As I would have seen it at that time, a perfect God would have a perfect method for maintaining biology, and would not be going around magically poofing things into existence from time to time. Any magic would have been preserved for special occasions, not for routine use.

    I would not have had any problems with (C1) through (C4) at that time.

    Dembski’s (D4) seems to me to be philosophical naturalism, not methodological naturalism. So I think that needs to be removed from the list of requirements.

    His (D1) needs to be modified to common descent from a small number of ancestors. I don’t think Darwinism requires that there be only a single tree. A separate tree for each major phylum would be within the constraints of Darwinism. I don’t think this change much affects Dembski’s argument.

    For (D2), I don’t see the problem with randomness. My pastor, at that time, used to say “don’t say chance, say God” (and not specifically about evolution). So I don’t see the randomness as a problem. And I don’t see (D3) as a problem, for human exceptionalism would refer to the spiritual rather than the physical.

  5. As always, the problem is the protean definitions of evolution/Darwinism on the one side and (as has been pointed out above) Christianity on the other.

    Over on BioLogos (and amongst many of the leading TEs) a common view is of a Creator God whose active role in the world seems to be largely through creating a self-creating system. Evolution is thus self-directing (comfortably to naturalistic science) yet leaves room for a Creator (albeit with massive repercussions for God’s sovereignty, providence, the nature of sin, the nature of man etc). Biologists and physicists seem to love it, not being overly troubled about theology not dependent on science.

    Whether that fits comfortably, or at an awkward tangent, to what Jason describes above is hard to pin down.

    Sometimes I think that rather than discuss malleable terms and end up with a fudge, we ought to proceed as the ancient Church Councils did: “Whoever says that God’s role in creation is such-and-such, and denies this-and-that, let him be anathema.” The problem is, therere would be hardly anyone left in the discussion.

  6. 6
    Barry Arrington

    Jason Rennie writes: “If you mean by “Darwinism” something that allows room for a creative intelligence . . .”

    This is like saying “if you mean by “circular” something that is square . . .”

    The exact purpose of Darwinian evolution is to account for all of life in a way that completely excludes teleology.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington

    Neil Rickert writes “My pastor, at that time, used to say “don’t say chance, say God” (and not specifically about evolution).”

    Yes, this is the standard line taken by theistic evolutionists such as Stephen Barr.

    In order to take this line TE’s must say that what appears to be random is in fact specifically intended and thus nonrandom. This does great violence to language. It requires the TE to say random = nonrandom. Further, the TE must also say the “nonrandom” aspect of the process is utterly undetectable by observation, as all observations will appear to show “random.” If the nonrandom aspect of the process is undetectable, what warrant does the TE have for insisting it is fact nonrandom? None it would appear. It must be accepted on blind faith and therefore the TE position is the basest sort of fideism.

  8. Barry Arrington @ 7. Excellent!

  9. In order to take this line TE’s must say that what appears to be random is in fact specifically intended and thus nonrandom. This does great violence to language.

    I take “random” to be a mathematical term from probability theory. As used in real applications, I take it to mean only that the real world situation can be modeled by the mathematics.

    For my own view of how evolution works, admittedly not a strictly neo-Darwinist view, it does not actually matter whether mutations are random or merely pseudo-random (generated by a deterministic algorithm in such a way that they satisfy tests of randomness). So I don’t actually see a problem for TE.

  10. I don’t quite catch the “great violence to language” part. Could you elaborate? Why in particular ‘violence,’ rather than say ‘confusion’ or ‘injustice’?

  11. Barry,

    In order to take this line TE’s must say that what appears to be random is in fact specifically intended and thus nonrandom. This does great violence to language. It requires the TE to say random = nonrandom. Further, the TE must also say the “nonrandom” aspect of the process is utterly undetectable by observation, as all observations will appear to show “random.” If the nonrandom aspect of the process is undetectable, what warrant does the TE have for insisting it is fact nonrandom? None it would appear.

    One problem is that there are multiple types of TE – and for some TEs, ‘random’ really does mean ‘random’. I’ll always go back to the Michael Ruse paper on Biologos, where Ruse explicitly made clear that the only position he saw as compatible with Darwinism was full-blown unguidedness. That Ruse made that case without comment from Biologos is pretty damning (even if it’s certainly not the view of everyone there.)

    But for other TEs, it gets a little more complicated.

    Even if nature at times ‘looked’ random, the TE can call in all manner of reason to regard it as non-random. Does the TE think Aquinas’ Five Ways work? Any philosophical proofs of God’s existence? How about a properly basic belief (a la Plantinga) in God’s existence? What about inference to the best explanation in other areas (being convinced by miracles and revelation, by inferences from other empirical issues such as cosmological data)? If the TE has reasoning like that on their side, then they have reason to question whether evolution is random no matter what the actual data is.

    And I don’t think it’s right to say that “all observation will appear to show “random”". The best you can do is come up with a model that has some random parameters, and figure out if your observations are consistent with your model – that’s pretty tame, and it’s still fraught with limitation. Especially where evolution is concerned, and the randomness is not only filtered, but is filtered beyond expectation (from the TE perspective: convergent evolution, the workings of the cell, etc.)

  12. 12
    material.infantacy

    The problem with randomness as it pertains to biological novelty is that the idea is dead. It bears absolutely no fruit in explaining the technological development of life’s systems. There are no random (or blind, undirected) causes vindicated for this — biological complexity requires the purposeful input of significant amounts of intentionally configured information. Nor is randomness compatible with a necessity scenario. Even if one believes that God set up the initial conditions of the universe in such a way as to make life possible — even inevitable — the scenario could not have been determined at random; the fine tuning and chemical necessity for such an outcome would be empirically detectible, and by implication non-random.

    Science is looking inward to the huge array of configured, prescribed systems which are highly specified for expression with variation. Even “heritable variation” is not some simple law of nature, but instead a contingent, sophisticated, intentional function of the machine’s internal configuration. There’s no room left for randomness, in regard to biological complexity, except as a destructive element; it’s putative design capabilities when paired with natural selection are extremely limited. Practically everything an organism does to change across generations is the direct result of it’s specified, irreducible complexity.

  13. Just curious: is the proper spelling ‘Biologos’ or ‘BioLogos’ and does that make any difference? (Sure, M. Ruse doesn’t think it does, but who really gives a flip about what Ruse says anyway?) I’d thought the capital letter ‘L’ in Logos indicated some uniqueness, even some possibility for reconciliation between TEs/ECs and religious IDers, but perhaps I was wrong. If the capital ‘L’ is ‘reduced/deflated,’ perhaps some people will conclude that no Logos makes a difference in biology either.

    Or it could be just a dismissive, contrarian attitude, like the term ‘Christian Darwinist,’ when I’ve not personally confronted a single Christian (other than Ken Millerspeak) who would wish to call themself a ‘Darwinist.’ No one at BioLogos that I am aware of accepts the label ‘Darwinist.’ Does anyone here have evidence of direct self-labelling ‘BioLogos Darwinist’ admission otherwise?

  14. I am an ID proponent, but I have no theological or philosophical objections to Darwinism. Just empirical ones. It seems to me that God could use a truly random process to create and evolve life, given enough probabilistic resources. I don’t see a logical problem with that idea. Just an empirical one: It seems that there haven’t been enough probabilistic resources for God to have created life that way.

  15. By the way, Biologos has the first part of Darrel Falk’s reply to Dembski up. It looks very good.

  16. material.infantacy

    The idea has been dead a long, long time:

    Nothing could be more certain than that what chance cannot begin the production of in a moment, chance cannot complete the production of in an eternity… what is needed to account for it is not time in any extension, but an adequate cause… We may cast our dice for all eternity with no more likelihood than at the first throw of ever turning up double sevens. (B B Warfield, 1897)

    Of course, Warfield as a Calvinist would contend that, actually, God is the author of all chance events. But in that case he would be citing a cause that the naturalists of his day would not admit.

  17. Bilbo:

    By the way, Biologos has the first part of Darrel Falk’s reply to Dembski up. It looks very good.

    Did you find it so? I have to say I found the part about God’s continuing activity in nature, though absolutely true, rather disingenuous given Darrel’s reply to me on a recent BioLogos to the effect that God has created a free, self-creating universe. Bearing in mind that Dembski cites a similar position, in the form of Ruse’s “randomness” (also posted on BioLogos), as a challenge to Christian orthodoxy, I would have though it warranted head-on treatment. He then says:

    The laws of nature, then, are simply a description of the ongoing activity of God which—because it is so consistent, dependable, and pervasive—points to the trustworthiness of God.

    In an autonomous creation, the dependability of God seems a little more problematic. There is a difference between God’s sustaining of the world and his government of the world – it is maybe significant that Darrel affirms the former in several Bible quotes, but not the latter. But perhaps the second part will clarify things – I shall look out for it.

  18. 18

    Jon Garvey,

    Are you getting the impression that Biologos is changing its tune on these things? Because I am.

  19. 19
    material.infantacy

    Null,

    Perhaps Biologos has no choice but to change its position. It has bridled itself to a dead horse, which is stinking to high heaven. Hoping nobody would notice, they’ve suggested that the horse could draw the theological carriage.

    Jon,

    Agreed. And as you may know I have no problem with God as the author of random events, as long as they’re still statistically random at the end of the day.

    Bilbo,

    Agreed, no logical problem; but the probabilistic one is insanely vast. Why not a multiverse? There’s no probabilistic resource problem there (although there is an empirical one).

    Does anyone know if any TE proponents have hinted at multiverses as a solution…yet? If God can choose to use randomness as a creative force, and since there is no plausible way that could have happened in this universe, why not just let the simulation run until he gets the result he wants. Intelligent selection with random variation seems like a “nice” sort of compromise. xp

    m.i.

  20. 20

    MI,

    Does anyone know if any TE proponents have hinted at multiverses as a solution…yet?

    Ruse’s guest piece at Biologos explicitly called on the multiverse, if only as a way that God could ‘design humans’ while Darwinism still being true. That piece is a gold mine, I’m surprised more people haven’t hammered away on it.

    In fact, Ruse pretty much uses your definition.

  21. Biologos is can only be described as a cult.
    Akin to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc.

  22. Nullasallus @11

    I think the issue is this: Did God intend and cause evolution to produce a specific result (Homo Sapiens) through a non-Darwinian teleological process or did He somehow craft a Darwinian, non-teleological process that could have produced a different outcome.

    In the “Language of God,” Francis Collins seems to argue for both positions (as does Biologos).

    On the one hand, he defends the “inefficient,” chance-driven, Darwinian process that could have produced more than one possible outcome (perhaps a reptile instead of Homo Sapiens).

    On the other hand, he claims that “Evolution could appear to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective, the outcome would be entirely specified.”

    Get it? The outcome is specified, except that it isn’t; the process is chance driven, except that it isn’t.

    Granting evolution (for the sake of argument), one can embrace neo-Darwinism or one can embrace teleology, but not both at the same time. In terms of the final outcome, either God is calling the shots through teleological evolution toward a specified outcome, or nature is calling the shots through non-teleological evolution toward an indeterminate outcome. Collins and Biologos want to have it both ways. It doesn’t work that way.

  23. 23

    StephenB,

    I think the issue is this: Did God intend and cause evolution to produce a specific result (Homo Sapiens) through a non-Darwinian teleological process or did He somehow craft a Darwinian, non-teleological process that could have produced a different outcome.

    Fair question. And I think the TEs answers are varied. Some basically say ‘It was a Darwinian, non-teleological, blind process, and we showed up by luck’, which is ridiculous. Others say ‘It was a non-Darwinian, teleological process, and everything showed up as God intended’. Still others say, ‘Darwinism, as far as science is concerned, is utterly silent on teleology’s presence or lack. All things, man included, showed up according to this process, as God intended’, which is a bit more nuanced, but still clear.

    And others, of course, just hedge and dodge and never say things one way or the other, despite talking a lot.

    On the other hand, he claims that “Evolution could appear to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective, the outcome would be entirely specified.”

    Get it? The outcome is specified, except that it isn’t; the process is chance driven, except that it isn’t.

    This statement I think is more defensible. Here’s another way to possibly put it: An encrypted line of code looks like a complete mish-mash of letters. From the perspective of the decrypter, it looks like a message.

    Now, I want to be clear. That’s THAT specific quote you’re giving me, and all I have to run on right now. And I’d object to the claim that something ‘appears chance driven’. But the key word there is appearance, not actuality. The person who knows the decryption key could say ‘This line of letters appears to be a bunch of confusing nonsense. In reality, it’s a highly specified message.’ without contradiction.

  24. Nullasalus @23, your abbreviated descriptions of the TE positions were truly excellent. All three were accurate and concise, aligning themselves perfectly with the coordinates that I provided. Thank you.

    Here are my reactions:

    [a] “Some basically say ‘It was a Darwinian, non-teleological, blind process, and we showed up by luck’, which is ridiculous.”

    I agree that it is ridiculous. Still, it is reasonably coherent. If a non-teleological, Darwinan process is in play, then all outcomes will, indeed, be accidents. It would be even more ridiculous, I think, to say that such a process could produce a specified result since it indicates that the Creator had no specific intent.

    [b] “Others say ‘It was a non-Darwinian, teleological process, and everything showed up as God intended’.”

    Among the three alternatives, this is, in my judgment, the most reasonable way of understanding evolution.

    [c] “Still others say, ‘Darwinism, as far as science is concerned, is utterly silent on teleology’s presence or lack. All things, man included, showed up according to this process, as God intended’, which is a bit more nuanced, but still clear.”

    Well, if God achieved the results that he wanted by using an end-directed evolutionary process, then teleology is clearly present and Darwin has left the building. On that same subject, science should speak only to that which it can infer from the data–Darwin’s special theory is confirmed, Darwin’s general theory is dis-confirmed, and some features in nature are not likely the result of evolution.

  25. Jon:

    Your points about Darrel Falk’s reply are good. He does seem to avoid “governance” in favor of “sustinence,” and the idea of a free, self-creating universe (such as we find in Ken Miller and others) does not fit in easily with the conventional theological language that Falk is trying to appropriate. Whether Falk is disingenuous here, as you suggest, or just plain theologically confused, is hard to tell. It may be a bit of both.

    For me, however, another point is more central. His reply is gloriously irrelevant to the ID/TE dispute over Darwinian mechanisms. He wants to stress that God doesn’t have to work through blatantly “supernatural” actions — “interventions” and “tinkering” and all those other terms the TE/EC people loathe and ridicule. He wants to say that God’s normal activity — in the rising of the sun and the growth of plants — is every bit as marvelous and worthy of worship as his special or miraculous actions. Obviously he is setting things up for a future installment in which he will argue that God’s glory doesn’t require imputing miracles or special interventions in the creative process — God might well have created life, species and man through wholly natural processes — and that’s a subtler and nobler way of doing it.

    The irrelevance lies here:

    (a) There isn’t a single ID proponent on the planet who would deny that God’s action through the normal course of nature is marvelous, intricate, amazing, worthy of admiration, etc.; the fact that God can and often does work through settled “laws of nature” is not in dispute between ID and TE. What is in dispute is the theological basis of the very pronounced TE preference for non-interventionist accounts of origins — ID people see no theological reason why “naturalistic” should be the default mode of explanation for origins, whereas TE people (certainly BioLogos TE people, anyway) think that naturalistic explanation is just obviously theologically preferable.

    (b) It doesn’t matter that God *might have* chosen to use wholly natural processes in order to create life, species, and man; what matters is whether the known set of purely natural mechanisms is *adequate* to account for the origin of life, species, and man. ID people say that the known set of mechanisms is nowhere near adequate, and shows no sign of becoming so in the near future. A parallel: the Egyptians “might” have chosen to build the Great Pyramid “wholly naturalistically” by cutting huge blocks of stone, then leaving them piled up in the general area where they wanted the pyramid, and waiting for earthquakes and tornadoes to assemble the stones into the right shape and dimensions; but if science tells us that such a configuration is wildly unlikely to have occurred via unguided mechanisms such as earthquakes and tornadoes, then it’s unreasonable to suppose that the Egyptians in fact used such a method, and more reasonable to suppose that they designed the pyramid and then guided its construction through intelligent supervision. Speculations about the preference of the Egyptians for “naturalistic construction” would be ludicrous. The empirical question has to be asked: can unguided mechanisms do it? And indeed, no matter how Falk dodges and feints, his numerous statements on the nature of science and on the so-called evidence for evolution indicate that he believes (though he will never say so directly) that unguided mechanisms can indeed do it, and that God takes no “hands-on” role in creation at all, but merely sets up the natural laws and “sustains” them and lets randomness and necessity take their course, and lo and behold, the infinite creativity of randomness will produce all that we see. Dembski of course disputes this; and the dispute should be settled not by theological speculations about whether God would have preferred naturalistic mechanisms over interventions, but by Falk’s provision of detailed evolutionary pathways by which these things might have happened.

    How odd that Falk, a geneticist, and by his own admission a babe when it comes to theology, so often argues for Darwinian mechanisms on *theological* grounds which he has no intellectual ability to defend, instead of providing *biological* grounds which he presumably does have the ability to defend. But for some reason, he seems to leave the biological heavy lifting to Venema and guest posters like Ussery, and cast himself in the role of theological educator regarding God’s motivations and preferences. That he does not see that he is simply not credible as a Christian theologian, having neither formal training nor natural gifts in the subject-matter, says a lot about him, though exactly what it says I am not quite sure.

  26. Another return to the respect issue:

    Is it properly called Biologos – small ‘l’ or BioLogos – big ‘L’?

    In this thread, Bilbo, nullasalus, StephenB and MI use a small ‘l’, Neil Rickert uses a small ‘b’ and a small ‘l’. What Mytheos said isn’t worth repeating. Otoh, News uses a Big ‘L’, and so does Jon Garvey.

    1) Is it not a sign of internet courtesy to speak to people as they ask themselves to be called?
    2) Are there people at UD who don’t see an ideological difference in incorporating a Big ‘L’, which speaks directly to, as nullasalus and Alastair just agreed in another thread, that God is actively engage[d] NOW (not in some distant past only) in an ongoing act of creation, and that Creation of the material world by God is an ongoing process, just by appeal to Logos alone, rather than a small ‘l’ as in Greek -logy?

    Given the confusion and manipulation between ‘small id’ and ‘Big ID,’ one might have thought you folks would be sensitive to this issue and deal with respectful courtesy to properly Name, rather than name-calling. I don’t recall, from over 18months being active at BioLogos, any name-manipulating on their behalf of ID or UD…

  27. In the meantime, Timaeus has returned (at 11:11 on 02-05-12). It looks like (as nullasalus was even talking of possible changes at BioLogos) he’s ‘changed his tune’ and is now willing to capitalise the ‘L’ in BioLogos. Bravo to this change-over-time by Timaeus!

    Will others at UD follow suit, out of respect for their dialogue partners and the higher meaning of Logos?

    To me, a non-TE, non-EC, the Big ‘L’ in BioLogos makes an awful lot of difference (and is by far the cleverest ‘philosophical’ contribution they’ve made to the science and religion discourse)!

  28. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m personally quite happy to write “BioLogos” with capital letters. My problem is that I haven’t seen a single column on BioLogos, during its entire tenure of existence, in which the Logos (spelled with or without a capital!) is the leading subject of the column. In terms of Greek roots, I see lots of *bios* but not much *Logos* over there. If someone could direct me to any writing on the site where Logos-theology (as found in the Gospel of John, and in the Patristic and Medieval and later traditions) is directly connected with biological matters, I’d be most grateful. If there are such columns, I’ve simply missed them. It may be the relative silence at BioLogos about the role of the Logos in creation that has caused many commenters here to unconsciously lowercase the “l”.

  29. nullasalus @18

    Are you getting the impression that Biologos is changing its tune on these things?

    Good question. Complex answer. It seems to me that, for a theistic evolution organisation with Evangelicals as its constituency, BioLogos was nevertheless always heavily biased towards heterodox ideas, especially Open and Process Theology.

    The staff changes over the last year or so seem to reflect a (non-acknowledged) retreat from that towards, at least, a broader coalition, and the discussion of controversial issues like historical Adam and Eve and philosophy of science has been more balanced – but that means one set of posters comments on articles of one bias, and a different set those of the opposite.

    But the problem is that many of its biggest hitters and many of its posters subscribe to those theologically unorthodox views, many of the celebrated academic figures associated with TE espouse them and publish on them, and so the list of recommended books reads like a primer on Open Theism.

    How would one (if one wanted to) say, “Theistic Evolution is a viable option for Evangelical Christians, but most of the popular books on the subjects, and many of the leaders in the movement, don’t subscribe even to historic Christian, let alone Evangelical, doctrine.”?

    Yet there is little debate on the site about this. Direct questions are waved away by platitudes or ignored, and many of the straight-ahead Evangelical supporters seem unaware that there’s an issue.

    In short, BioLogos could be a useful umbrella group for those who wish to work out how far Evangelical faith and current science can hold hands. In practice, hitherto, it has been a forum for seeking to neuter Evangelical theology to make it fully compliant with the consensus version of evolution.

  30. Timaeus @25

    I don’t disagree with you, but I refrained from arguing along those lines because:
    (a) Darrel hasn’t finished commenting on Dembski’s post yet and
    (b) The issue was not whether evoltionary theory is correct, but whether it is compatible with Christianity.

    A parallel might be that those of us who find Creation Science to be deficient might well say that Young Earth Creationism is in error – but there is no doubt at all that it is compatible with Christianity.

    Nobody goes to hell for a mistaken theory of origins – but a deficient view of God can have big consequences.

  31. –Gregory: “Is it properly called Biologos – small ‘l’ or BioLogos – big ‘L’? ”

    For me, the omission is simply a result of misplaced momentum, and is not sign of disrespect. So, I will try to form the habit of getting it right (BioLogos).

    That’s not to say that I respect the organization, only that I don’t express my disrespect through errors in punctuation.

  32. –Jon: “Nobody goes to hell for a mistaken theory of origins – but a deficient view of God can have big consequences.”

    True. However, a mistaken and ideologically-driven theory of origins can distort one’s view of God.

  33. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m personally quite happy to write “BioLogos” with capital letters. My problem is that I haven’t seen a single column on BioLogos, during its entire tenure of existence, in which the Logos (spelled with or without a capital!) is the leading subject of the column.” – Timaeus

    Good, I’m glad to hear that you’ve changed your thought-habit, opting now to correctly spell the name of ‘BioLogos.’ Will others on this list follow his lead in this ‘new tune’ from Timaeus? (Thanks now to StephenB also for stepping up!)

    That you make no defence of your choice to do this as having to do with ‘internet courtesy,’ my first question, and no attempt to answer the second question of whether there is an ideological difference in incorporating a ‘Big L’ instead of a ‘small l’ is noted.

    Maybe it is the responsibility of outsiders, i.e. non-BioLogosians, to encourage more work on Logos at BioLogos, so that it can some day perhaps live up to its (Francis Collins invented) name. Wouldn’t it be an ironic surprise if IDers could do a better job at showing how the Logos is actively (detectably) involved in processes of change-over-time ‘in nature’ than BioLogos has thus far done! ; )

  34. @ Jon 29

    “It seems to me that, for a theistic evolution organisation with Evangelicals as its constituency, BioLogos was nevertheless always heavily biased towards heterodox ideas, especially Open and Process Theology.” – Jon

    Yes, there are seemingly some ‘heterodox’ tendencies there in my view also. But at the same time, I’ve seen no evidence against the notion that all of the leaders at BioLogos are nevertheless considered ‘orthodox’ by the local Protestant churches they attend. I see this as a serious problem resulting from the Protestant Reformation as a whole (it’s not all peaches and cream, after all!); denominationalism makes it difficult to have any ‘orthodox’ meaning of ‘heterodoxy’ in Protestantism. BioLogos people, for example, might even consider you ‘heterodox’ by sticking to a ‘Closed or Static Theology’ that doesn’t take into account advances made in cybernetics, systems science or organisation theory, or me ‘heterodox’ and outdated for sticking behind the insistence that ‘real, historical A&E’ are ‘traditional’ teachings of the Abrahamic faiths, not to be compromised or discarded because of genomics or population genetics.

    I’m curious though, if you could suggest an alternative organisation to BioLogos, anywhere in the world, with a similar mission, i.e. to show that evolutionary biology and Christianity can be accepted (as far as that goes, which it seems is also your broad position) by one and the same person, that you would consider ‘orthodox,’ i.e. within traditional and historical Christianity as you see it. On the one hand, I appreciate criticism and rebukes of ‘heterodoxy’ when it is present; on the other hand, I much prefer to read solutions or constructive suggestions and not just identification of problems. BioLogos fails; well so have I and so I’m challenging you to suggest a better openly Christian organisation on this theme of evolutionary theories, broadly framed as a dialogue of ‘science and faith.’

  35. “a mistaken and ideologically-driven theory of origins can distort one’s view of God” – StephenB

    Would you not agree that *all* ‘theories of origins’ are ideologically-driven, in a sense that they depend on ideas? Personally, I cannot imagine a ‘non-ideologically-driven’ theory of (life or universe) origins. I gather you view ideology as a purely negative term, StephenB, whereas many other people do not view it that way. Have you thought about this possibility too?

  36. Gregory

    #35

    I would agree with you if all ideologists were open-minded and were ready upon fair discussion to change their views, based only on the cogent arguments against their ideology.

  37. @ Gregory 34

    My problem with heterodoxy in BioLogos is that it is, effectively, the only large and influential theistic evolution outfit, and it attracts very respected writers, which raioses its profile even more.

    That being the case it has a responsibility to more than itself. To the extent that it was founded within, and largely for, the Evangelical community then its theology ought to centre on that (which is wide enough, to be sure, but pretty distinguishable not only in the US but across the world). That, I think, would also make it useful to those from the historical traditions like the Roman and Eastern, which have fundamentally Biblical theologies, and respect for much of the same tradition, for all their differences.

    Alternatively a TE site could self-identify more broadly with “Christian Theistic Evolution”, but then ought to make room for a very wide range of different approaches indeed. I’m not sure I’d want to organise a site like that, and it might well end up in tears.

    Or, one could handle TE as a strictly non-sectarian philosophical position, which it essentially is. This would (in theory) avoid much in the way of discussion of Biblical themes, and might well have the same pleasantly speculative flavour as, say, Paul Davies’ books on fine-tuning. But that wouldn’t necessarily help those with the biggest problem, that is those trying to reconcile a real faith with contemporary science – and Christians, in our neck of the woods, are those most interested in that.

    From the dialogue between Farrel Falk and William Dembski there ought to be no more than a cigarette paper between them – a united front would not seem beyond the realm of possibilities.

  38. PS to blow my own trumpet in a most unseemly fashion, three posts on the Falk/Dembski exchange here

  39. –Nullasalus: “How would one (if one wanted to) say, “Theistic Evolution is a viable option for Evangelical Christians, but most of the popular books on the subjects, and many of the leaders in the movement, don’t subscribe even to historic Christian, let alone Evangelical, doctrine.”? ”

    Sure, Theistic Evolution properly understood, is no problem. God can certainly use evolution to produce Homo Sapiens. The difficulty comes when Christian Darwinists say that God used a random, Darwinian process (by definition, a process that is NOT directed toward a SPECIFIC end) to serve that end. God is in control of that random process, they say, insofar as He knows exactly what the final outcome will be. Most of the TE heavy hitters, especially Francis Collins, take this position. It will not work because God’s omniscience cannot compensate for what God’s omnipotence doesn’t provide, namely a teleological process that will infallibly produce a specific result.

    If God, through his omnipotence, designs an end-directed process, then God’s omniscience is, in that context, redundant, meaning that He knows the outcome in two ways: He knows it because [a] He caused it to happen and His omnipotence guarantees that the process will infallibly produce the result He wants, and [b] because His omniscience allows Him to know the final outcome of all processes. In that sense, God is using evolution to produce Homo Sapiens, a result that conforms perfectly to his original intentions.

    On the other hand, If God, through His omnipotence, crafted a random, Darwinian process, then obviously God did not intend a specific outcome. He was, in that sense, willing to settle for many possible outcomes. God’s perfect knowledge of that totally random process cannot make it an end-directed process that will produce a specific outcome. On the contrary, He knows that the process was designed by Him NOT to do that. This is where Francis Collins (and by extension, and for the most part, BioLogos) goes wrong. Darwinian evolution, which is, by definition, evolution that doesn’t know where it is going or where it will end, is not compatible with God’s purposeful creation. That should be obvious.

  40. —Gregory: “Would you not agree that *all* ‘theories of origins’ are ideologically-driven, in a sense that they depend on ideas?”

    Actually, that’s a good question. First, we must distinguish between “idea,” which is simply another word for concept or theory, and “ideology,” which, as I used the term, implies an apriori and uncompromising commitment to a body of binding doctrines.

    I would say that Biologos’ theory of origins, summarized as the notion that God must act solely through secondary causes and in no other way (no “tinkering” or interventions allowed) is ideologically driven.

    It is founded on two non-negotiable principles [a] God’s omnipotence would be compromised if He was “reduced” to functioning like an orchestra leader (as opposed to an engineer) and [b] Darwin’s general theory of evolution must be accepted at all costs, ever is the evidence doesn’t support it–and no Christian Darwinist would dare say that it does.

    So, is ID’s theory of origins ideologically driven. Let’s examine it:

    “The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.”

    Notice the words, “is best explained,” which in my judgment, rises above ideology and encourages one to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. It says nothing about how God “must” create. It simply bids the thinker to sit and nature’s feet and humbly allow himself to be taught. If certain features in nature appear to be designed, perhaps they are.

  41. make that “even if” the evidence doesn’t support it.

  42. Sorry, Gregory, I never realized that it was supposed to be “BioLogos.” I’ll try to remember to write it that way from now on.

    While we’re waiting for the second coming, we can debate exactly how God created it all. Perhaps God was an inveterate gambler, who created a multiverse, until the right one hit the jackpot. Maybe He was a scientist in a white lab coat, tinkering with a cell under a microscope. Maybe He was a swimmer who shrunk Himself down to the size of a cell and constructed it molecule by molecule. This last idea strikes me as being the most fun. I’ll place my bet on this one, since I think God likes having fun as much as we do.

  43. No worries then, Bilbo. Thanks for sharing your view on the matter. I was wondering if people at UD were being intentionally disrespectful in how they address BioLogos or not. I’m aware that you sometimes post on BioLogos also.

    Again, like I said above, it seems to me that capitalising the ‘L’ makes a REALLY BIG difference in its meaning. E.g. a ‘naturalistic theory of origins’ simply cannot be maintained when BioLogos speaks of the Language of God. At the least, it shows that ‘Logos’ is not simply a naturalistic term, based on shared traditions.

    I wonder if this language respect can be accepted en masse at UD. StephenB still used small ‘l’ Biologos in #40, while in another thread (in brackets), he managed to capitalise the ‘L’. It shouldn’t be that hard to press Shift-L in the middle of a word!

    Here I am simply mediating between BioLogos (TE/EC) and Uncommon Descent (ID) by pointing out communicative courtesy. In the spirit of both Dembski’s and Falk’s (and Timaeus’) ‘change of tune,’ perhaps using respectful language can be supported here.

  44. I would guess that in the overwhelming majority of cases where individuals type “Biologos” no disrespect is consciously intended. The normal English pattern of capitalization is “first letter,” not “first letter plus some other letter in the middle of the word.” It is therefore only natural that sheer typing reflex will produce “l” rather than “L” in many cases, with the person doing the typing in many cases not even noticing the change being unconsciously made.

    I would also guess that very few people over at BioLogos care much about the spelling of the word; I’ve seen it spelled “Biologos” there in scores of comments by many different people, and I’ve never seen anyone corrected either by other commenters or by any of the management of BioLogos. When you combine this with the first point above, I would venture to say that “respectfulness” is rarely at issue in the spelling of the word.

    That said, I think it is a good thing to spell it BioLogos, because that spelling actually holds the BioLogos team to their purported original vision. The God who creates, for BioLogos, is not the Deist God or the Muslim God, but the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity. The Logos is understood in Christian tradition to act in a rational, orderly way, i.e., with plan and purpose. Darwinian evolution, on the other hand, is inherently without plan or purpose. Someone who believes that the Logos is Creator should find it hard to accept that “randomness” is the Creator’s main mode of creative operation. ID people should have no problem at all with an emphasis on God as Logos, and should encourage that conception. It would help bring the people at BioLogos back to classical Christian theology, from which they very often stray in their enthusiasm for post-Enlightenment adjustments and improvisations.

  45. “I would guess that in the overwhelming majority of cases where individuals type “Biologos” no disrespect is consciously intended.” – Timaeus

    That’s fine, as your own personal guess. The ‘sheer typing reflex’ is different with Proper Names. Take for example how participants choose to capitalise (e.g. Bilbo, StephenB, Neil Rickert) or not capitalise (e.g. nullasalus, merv) their Names here at UD. It is respectful to speak to a person as they name themselves; one would have to be pretty unaware to not know that BioLogos capitalised the ‘L.’ A shift-L takes little effort – mind over matter, Timaeus! I’ve made the effort, now finally glad to see you do the same.

    Did you personally not know that BioLogos had a capital ‘L’ in its name until recently, Timaeus? You said you used to post there. Iow, while up until now you’ve been using the small ‘l’ (likely for rhetorical purposes), even after I reminded you of the Big ‘L,’ and you didn’t change, did you not expect this would be seen as a sign of disrespect, rather than simply habit, you who claims to be so careful? Or was it ‘unconscious’ forgetfullness on your behalf?

    Well, so if you can change, this is a good start. And now that you’ve said you “think it is a good thing to spell it BioLogos,” the official way, I’ll assume that this is a suggestion to other UD participants. Given the tendency to attack BioLogos and ASA, TE and EC by UD home players, let us see if following your suggestion produces actual results.

    The Big ‘L’ makes a Big difference!

    As for ‘classical’ and ‘post-Enlightenment,’ I’m not sure why I get the feeling you’d rather revert to a ‘pre-Enlightenment’ existence rather than living now, on the cutting-edge in the electronic-information age. Maybe it’s because, as you’ve told us, you’re a historian of ideas, iow, someone who spends most of their time looking into the past. I don’t mind that and can surely respect that. But as a member of a younger generation, I live and work in the real world today. This has brought me not only to consider ID and the IDM, but to think critically (here read: constructively) about them, and ID is undoubtedly a younger generation’s ‘revolution,’ Timaeus.

    I hope you’ll show you are capable of critical thinking rather than just towing a (negativistic, please don’t misunderstand ‘us’!) party line too. Dembski’s definition of ‘methodological naturalism’ at BioLogos is bunk, to which Neil Rickert commented in #4.

    From this back-and-forth between Dembski and Falk, it is quite obvious that BioLogos believes in a ‘theistic’ theory of origins, not a ‘naturalistic’ one, as Timaeus contends.

  46. I wouldn’t be surprised if I (along with many others) have unintentionally mis-capitalized, from time to time, regarding Nullasalus/nullasalus, Tragic Mishap/tragic mishap, etc. The use of capitalization in internet “handles” is notoriously idiosyncratic, and it’s not surprising that many commenters simply forget, in the hurry of composing their replies, what capitalization pattern a particular individual uses. But the moment anyone tells me: “I wish you would take proper care to capitalize my name as follows,” I will always try to respond with the necessary corrections. I don’t believe in gratuitously offending people.

    In the case of BioLogos, as I said before, I have never seen a single incident where any commenter on BioLogos, or any BioLogos official, has objected to an omitted capital “L.” The most logical inference from this fact is that they don’t regard the capitalization or non-capitalization of the letter as a big deal, and don’t see any breach of manners or disrespect. So I think the whole focus on “respect” here is misplaced. But if I am wrong, if anyone on BioLogos has ever objected to miscapitalization as a sign of disrespect, I would be glad to be given the location of any such remarks.

    But this is really irrelevant, since I have already agreed that “BioLogos” is a better orthography for the stated principles of the organization, and in future I intend (though I may slip from time to time, in which case I hope not to be upbraided) to employ the capital L. That’s the last thing I want to say about this subject.

    Regarding another set of remarks made, about history of ideas, I don’t see the point. There is no reason at all why a historian of ideas can’t be very concerned about what is happening in the world today, or be very committed to the intellectual advances made in “the electronic-information age.” As far as I can tell, the latest developments in engineering, mathematics, computer science, theoretical biology, etc., all support a Platonic, design perspective which I first encountered as a historian of ideas.

    Regarding “theistic” and “naturalistic,” the contrast made above is not sound, because “naturalistic” is an equivocal term. “Naturalistic” can mean at least two different things — (1) there is no God, but only Nature; (2) there is a God, but in producing life, species, and man, he acted only through natural (as opposed to supernatural) means. Obviously BioLogos is opposed to (1) and so are ID people. But BioLogos is a strong supporter of (2), and ID people are unconvinced of (2).

    Of course, BioLogos *formally* acknowledges the possibility of supernatural intervention in matters of origins; Falk has just done so in reply to Dembski. But *the actual working belief* of BioLogos columnists — the overwhelming majority of them — is that God used wholly natural means, and that the onus is on those who believe otherwise to prove supernatural intervention. The ID position is quite different; it is that there should be *no* assumption — *not even a working assumption* — that God preferred natural to supernatural means in origins. Thus, while Falk has “covered himself” by formally allowing for supernatural interventions in the sphere of origins, the substantive difference in approach between ID and TE remains. TEs have a theological preference for naturalistic means, and ID people don’t. That’s a very important difference, and one which springs from different notions of what Christian theology teaches — which is why historical questions are important and cannot be discounted as a preoccupation of old men who aren’t keeping up with the times. The question: “Does Christian theology imply or encourage a naturalistic approach to origins?” is crucial to the theology-science discussion, and can’t be answered adequately without a vast amount of historical knowledge.

  47. Gregory to Timaeus,

    I hope you’ll show you are capable of critical thinking rather than just towing a (negativistic, please don’t misunderstand ‘us’!) party line too. Dembski’s definition of ‘methodological naturalism’ at BioLogos is bunk, to which Neil Rickert commented in #4.

    What’s wrong with Dembski’s definition? In fact, Methodological Naturalism is an arbitrarily established rule which states that the scientist must study nature as if nature is all there is. Dembski said the same thing in different words.

    From this back-and-forth between Dembski and Falk, it is quite obvious that BioLogos believes in a ‘theistic’ theory of origins, not a ‘naturalistic’ one, as Timaeus contends.

    As I explained @39, Darwinian evolution, which is, by definition, a process that doesn’t know where it is going or where it will end, is not compatible with God’s purposeful, end directed, creation. By publicly embracing a process that is not end-directed, Falk is militating against a “theistic theory of origins.”

  48. I appreciate your efforts to be polite, Timaeus. Noted that you are not interested in gratuitously offending people. You didn’t answer my questions, “Did you personally not know that BioLogos had a capital ‘L’ in its name until recently, Timaeus?” and “was it ‘unconscious’ forgetfullness on your behalf?”(i.e. since I alerted you to this some time ago), but I’ve grown used to that.

    “Does Christian theology imply or encourage a naturalistic approach to origins?”

    No, it encourages something beyond nature-alone and not merely ‘in nature’. So, what alternative to “a naturalistic approach to origins” do you propose? A ‘supernaturalistic approach,’ a ‘spiritualistic approach,’ an ‘intelligence approach,’ an ‘agency approach,’ a ‘non-naturalistic approach,’ etc.? Could you put a Specific Name on your personal alternative to “a naturalistic approach to origins” please? Also, by ‘origins’ I imagine you are referring to the (scientific) field of cosmogony, but if not, please specify which (scientific) field of thought you are referring to.

    BioLogos accepts “a theistic approach to (cosmogonic & biological) origins,” not “a naturalistic approach to origins.” This (especially the 2nd part of the 1st claim) should be entirely obvious from the Big ‘L’ in Logos – why else would they capitalise it?! – to anyone who understands the meaning of ‘caritas’ in the recent papal encyclical or in religious scripture. Citing political reasons ‘why else’ will likely not provide a satisfactory answer.

    “Regarding “theistic” and “naturalistic,” the contrast made above is not sound, because “naturalistic” is an equivocal term.”

    Your claim of ‘equivocation’ does not hold, Timaeus, because you personally cannot say either where nature ends and where the supernatural begins, and vice versa. And ‘theistic’ can mean more than one thing too. ID makes no satisfactory distinction on this topic and you are surely not defending a ‘science of ID’ that can (or should try to) do this.

    “a Platonic, design perspective which I first encountered as a historian of ideas.”

    Plato, instead of Aristotle. O.k. here actually we would agree. But again, not fresh for the 21st century, not on the cutting-edge, not dealing with electricity and at too slow a pace.

  49. I don’t know if this helps, but I was invited to write an article for BioLogos last year and used the word “Biologos” 5 times. They had a good sub-editor.

  50. “They had a good sub-editor.” – Jon

    Meaning, they (purposefully) made a Big ‘L’ – BioLogos – of your small ‘l’ – Biologos.

    It helps. Respect. OR Respect. It helps.

  51. To Gregory:

    I would guess that I typed “Biologos” on this site scores of times before you ever raised this point, and in all such cases, it was without paying any attention to whether or not I was using a capital L. In no case was I thinking: “The people at BioLogos will see the lower-case “l” and really be ticked off, and I love irritating them” or anything of the sort. I simply was typing in a hurry. In some of those cases, I doubtless momentarily forgot that they used a capital L; in other cases, probably, I remembered it after typing the word, but thought it was a non-issue, and didn’t deem it worthy of any time to correct. (Since I’d never seen a BioLogos commenter or columnist express any indignation about missspelling the word, I’d have no reason to think it would offend.)

    I think I have now directly answered your questions about my intentions, and I don’t intend to return to this topic.

  52. Sorry, Timaeus. But that deliberate non-answer (diversion of responsibility) does not earn my respect. The question was simple and clear; you chose to complicate it.

    Bilbo I’s sincerity in #42 is far more appreciated. And it has nothing to do with me, but with awareness of reality and respect in ‘speaking people straight in the eye’.

    May it be that you’ll find ‘communicative courtesy’ somewhere in your heart as well.

  53. 53

    Frankly, I’ll believe that it’s a form of ‘communicative courtesy’ to fret over the capitalization of the l in BioLogos/Biologos the moment I hear Falk or any reps say they find it offensive or anything close to it when the l is compromised.

    C’mon guys. It’d be one thing if this were insulting (Calling Mitt Romney ‘Mittens’ comes to mind), or something similar to failing to capitalize the g in God. But this? I think there’s better stuff to talk about.

    Barring that, find me the rep from there that gets worked up over this.

  54. Gregory:

    Terms like “theistic” and “naturalistic” are right smack in the area of my academic training. My understanding of “naturalistic origins theories” is not some idiosyncrasy of my own, but standard for the subject area. Further, since I have read virtually every column on the BioLogos site, and many other things published elsewhere by BioLogos authors, I am certain that I have not mischaracterized the BioLogos people in saying that they have a marked preference for naturalistic, i.e., non-interventionist, accounts of origins.

    This is characteristic not only of BioLogos TEs but of ASA-TEs in general, as I know from extensive interaction with ASA-TEs (as a “guest star”, courtesy of Ted Davis) on their now-defunct web site. (Someone named “Gregory” was there at the time, though it may have been a different Gregory from yourself.) I have seen ASA-TEs ridicule ID discussions of origins by making sarcastic references to “angels pushing the planets around in their orbits,” and of course you cannot be unaware that TEs constantly charge ID with “God of the gaps” (i.e., interventionist) thinking about origins. The TE mindset is a post-Enlightenment, naturalistic mindset: God works through natural causes, except for the case of the miracles connected with God’s revelation to Israel. (And a good many leading TEs doubt the actual historical occurrence of a good number of those miracles as well.)

    I have made no claim whatsoever about ‘where nature ends and where the supernatural begins.’ I am not characterizing how God acts; I am characterizing how the overwhelming majority of BioLogos writers and supporters *think* that God acts, when it comes to origins. They think that he acts through natural causes alone (even though they periodically grant the theoretical possibility that he might not). Dennis Venema does not think that God “tweaked” the DNA of some sub-human hominid to turn him into a true human being, and Darrel Falk does not think that God directly inserted new information into the evolutionary process during the Cambrian Explosion. They think that all of the transformations, from molecules to man, occurred as a result of the natural powers of atoms, molecules, DNA, etc., without need for any special divine action. They will never say that outright as a dogmatic theological proposition, but that is their *operational* understanding of how things happened. And it is the operational understanding of a person, not the theoretical allowances a person makes for the sake of diplomatic coverage, that tells us what a person really thinks.

    The entire raison d’etre of TE/EC is to reconcile Christian faith with post-Enlightenment scientific naturalism. The odd exception to this generalization — the occasional TE who says that there was an isolated bit of intervention here and there, maybe for the origin of life or the origin of man — does not overturn the overall accuracy of the generalization. (Especially since those TEs who make the exceptions are generally too embarrassed to say so in front of fellow-TEs — which makes catching such exceptions on camera hard to do.)

    So, to come back to the point: You are right to say that BioLogos explicitly endorses a theistic account of origins. But you are wrong to imply that therefore it cannot also endorse a naturalistic account of origins. It endorses both, the first formally and the latter informally. For BioLogos, life, species, and man were created by God — through wholly natural means, without any special interventions (special divine actions, miracles, violations of the laws of nature — call them whatever you wish), and it’s the job of Christian natural scientists to work out the details of these wholly natural means. ID refuses to accept this arbitrary delimitation of origins scenarios. Hence the two must clash. Were BioLogos to make its *formal* allowance (that God might occasionally intervene) into an *operational* principle (in each case, let’s consider interventionist and non-interventionist scenarios on their merits) — the dispute between ID and TE would dissolve. But as long as TE maintains “naturalism in origins” as an inflexible operational principle for theology-science discussions, there can be no progress in talks between the two groups.

  55. Gregory:

    You speak of the need of respect. You pose as a champion of “respect.” Yet you have just publically (52) disrespected me by accusing me of deliberately evading your questions, and leaving the reader to assume bad motives on my part. In fact I answered your questions clearly. I indicated that I knew what the spelling of BioLogos was; I told you that I sometimes momentarily forgot it when I was typing in a hurry, but didn’t deem it worthwhile to go back and correct, for reasons which I clearly stated. I also indicated that I had no malicious intent in misspelling the word. Your response, on the other hand, openly avers distrust of my words and motives. I consider this open declaration of distrust a much more disrespectful act than the failure to type a capital L. So show me some respect, and apologize for your unwarranted distrust of my sincere words.

    If you don’t respect your interlocutors here, you hardly have the moral high ground in asking them to respect the people at BioLogos.

  56. Gregory,

    Sorry, but I must ask you again. Why did you say that Dembski’s definition of “methodological naturalism” was “bunk?”

    In keeping with that point, please tell me if you agree with this corollary that follows from the principle of methodological naturalism:

    A burglar who ransacks a room and leaves it in disarray is the same kind of cause as a tornado that ravages a room and leaves it in disarray, i.e, they are both “natural causes.” True or False.

  57. “I knew what the spelling of BioLogos was.” – Timaeus

    Repeat: “I knew what the spelling of BioLogos was.”

    No, you didn’t say this. But now you have. You said: “probably, I remembered it after typing the word” and “I simply was typing in a hurry.” You simply could not or would not answer the direct question: “Did you personally not know that BioLogos had a capital ‘L’ in its name until recently, Timaeus?” You didn’t answer. But now you have. The record doesn’t lie. That is the real situation in this thread.

    From #26 to #52, please quote where you said you knew what the spelling of BioLogos (with a capital ‘L’) was before I pointed it out to you here on this Blog.

    “I am characterizing how the overwhelming majority of BioLogos writers and supporters *think* that God acts, when it comes to origins.” – Timaeus

    Sorry, but after faking it about not knowing that BioLogos has a capital ‘L’, I think you characterisation of ‘BioLogos writers’ is worth very little.

    You are right to say that BioLogos explicitly endorses a theistic account of origins. But you are wrong to imply that therefore it cannot also endorse a naturalistic account of origins. It endorses both, the first formally and the latter informally.” – Timaeus

    I’m glad you finally acknowledge, Timaeus, that BioLogos “endorses a theistic account of origins.” This is important on its own.

    “It endorses both” – now you seem to be starting to understand something new, i.e. ‘changing your tune’ like finally calling Proper Names by their Proper Names. Informally or formally (and bet your house I’ve studied the difference), Timaeus has finally acknowledged BioLogos’ unmistakeably theistic approach to (cosmogonic and/or biological) origins.

    Now will he retreat or move forward?

  58. 58
    material.infantacy

    Stephen and Timaeus, Gregory appears to have put himself in the role of inquisitor, mediator, and journalist. He will ask the questions; you just worry about answering them, and then await his judgment — recorded for posterity on the pages of UD. I wouldn’t expect much beyond tangential obsessions and accusations; and he will often expose you for non-controversial statements. It’s more than a little strange. I haven’t read anything here where he is plain and forward about his agenda, his biases, his motivations, or beliefs — not to mention his actual views on the detectability of design. You will be left trying to extract that information from between the lines, with no real help from Gregory himself, and not much confirmation as to whether you’ve interpreted him correctly.

    Stop me Gregory, if I’m being unfair. Our last conversation ended with you essentially declining me the courtesy of answering my questions directly, after I went out of my way to be entirely plain and straightforward with you. I see this pattern repeating itself now. If I’m wrong, and you’re genuine and sincere, you can address both of Stephen’s questions in #56 with direct unequivocal answers.

    Now will Gregory accept the invitation to equitable dialog, or decline and delegitimize himself here?

  59. 59
    material.infantacy

    This UD thread has been brought to you by the capital letter ‘L’.

  60. Gregory:

    I won’t further indulge your continuing personal disrespect (I “faked” nothing, and your motive-mongering is insulting) by continuing to answer your charges regarding the spelling of BioLogos, but I will answer your question of substance.

    I never, at any point, denied that BioLogos was theistic. I have made no new admission, so there is simply nothing to “retreat” from.

    However, what you fail to see, Gregory, is that not all “theisms” are created equal. The theism of Calvin or Augustine, and the theism of Ken Miller or Darrel Falk, are quite different sorts of animals, and go with very different conceptions of Christian theology. The fact that BioLogos is “theistic” does not prove that its form of “theism” has any healthy relationship with the “theism” of historical Christian orthodoxy.

    BioLogos’s brand of theism is tied to a de facto understanding of naturalism in origins. It therefore envisions God’s creative activity in a restrictive way. And this restriction has never been justified intellectually; it’s simply a theological preference. It’s important that the public realizes that BioLogos is selling a particular theological preference. Otherwise, it might think that BioLogos is merely trying to relate “good science” to historical Christian theology. But in fact, the defense of historical Christian theology is very, very low on the BioLogos list of priorities.

    That is where ID people strongly differ from TE/EC people — they have a much greater commitment to retaining the uncompromised theologies of the various ancient Christian traditions — Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox. The TE/EC people are generally much more enthralled with post-Enlightenment developments in Christian theology. But the “theism” of post-Enlightenment thought is quite different from the “theism” of pre-Enlightenment thought. The theism of pre-Enlightenment thought was not the captive slave of naturalism in origins.

    So I repeat my original claim: the fact that BioLogos is theistic does not prevent its being naturalistic. And the insistence upon naturalism in origins is a metaphysical/theological position, not a scientific one. It can be denied with a good conscience by any working scientist.

    Would it be rude to ask you, Gregory, if you agree with the working understanding of BioLogos, i.e., that ultimately the origin of life, species, and man will all be explained in wholly naturalistic terms, i.e., as requiring no “intervention” but only “natural laws” devised by and sustained by God? I don’t believe you have ever spoken to this subject. It may be your silence in this area that makes your position so hard for people at UD to understand.

  61. “This UD thread has been brought to you by the capital letter ‘L’.” – material.infantacy

    Next time you write the Proper Name, BioLogos, we shall see if you’ve learned, and can remember or if you prefer to continue to disrespect; you were one of the offenders, as indicated above.

    “Stop me Gregory, if I’m being unfair.” – m.i.

    Well, it’s not ‘unfair’ to ask me questions in a dialogue. As I’m sure you realise, for those of us who write under ‘pseudonym’ here (i.e. most of us), for a variety of reasons that don’t need to be addressed, there is a disadvantage for some more than others. It ‘levels’ the playing field so a person with little to no training in the relevant disciplines can discourse with someone trained, engaged, involved with professionals who discuss and think about these things regularly, i.e. not just as a hobby. On the one hand it is the ‘greatness of the internet’ forum to be inclusive and welcoming to all voices; on the other it flattens authority and competence so that sometimes those who speak the most are taken most seriously, rather than giving preference to those with knowledge and insight.

    By profession I am a professor and StephenB’s comments sometimes remind me of first year university students; so I don’t always respond to him. E.g. he told me he considered ID as a ‘worldview.’ I’m not often going to waste my time responding here at UD trying to educate StephenB on this topic. His ‘True or False’ question in #56 is of this variety.

    Regarding my views on the ‘detectability of design,’ I believe and accept some design is detectable while other supposed design isn’t. I don’t believe ‘everything is designed’ because that would be a mess of a theory, given the world I see around me (surely the same for you; e.g. vast inequality of wealth in USA – ‘designed’?). I’ve already mentioned here various arenas in which ‘design’ is a legitimate concept, has been for quite some time and where there is no controversy about it. Please don’t forget that I asked nullasalus for a ‘debate’ thread, between just him and me, where I would ‘disclose’ some of the ‘agenda, biases, motivations, beliefs’ as you call them. Otherwise, you surely must realise that it is difficult to ‘feel home’ at UD if one doesn’t tow the party line about ID, don’t you?

    But all of this is beside the point that Timaeus has finally changed his tune and now openly acknowledges the Big ‘L’ in BioLogos, which makes it very difficult to speak of them as ‘wholly naturalistic’ like he accuses. Small ‘l’ maybe; Big ‘L,’ impossible. He has conceded that “BioLogos explicitly endorses a theistic account of origins.” If he still wants to wrestle with their ‘naturalistic theism,’ in science, philosophy and religion dialogue, he is of course free to do so.

    The fact remains that my simple, clear, direct question to Timaeus was not answered; what he did what practice sophistry, waving his hands and seeking partisan comfort from UD, where he is valued (we don’t know if anyone in the ‘real world’ values him or if he actually publishes or attempts to publish about ID, rather than just blogging here about it; he won’t say). But we do now know, from his own words here, that Timaeus (all along) knew BioLogos had a capitalised ‘L,’ but that he *chose*, intentionally, purposefully, for rhetorical purposes, for whatever personal reasons he had, to write a small ‘l’ in their name, thus disrespecting them and the discourse. This displays that though he seeks respect, he hasn’t earned it by his actions.

    Now he will capitalise the ‘L’ in BioLogos; great – a better playing field for discussion! That accomplishes the mission. Will you and others do the same by your actions, m.i.?

  62. 62
    material.infantacy

    Gregory, I see you have declined to be reasonable. It is impossible to take you seriously. I’m beginning to wonder if you do so yourself. Your refusal to answer plain questions, along with your ridiculous obsession with trivialities and non-controversial issues, dodging meaningful dialog, bizarre motive mongering, your apparent inability at any sort of introspection, the way you talk down to everybody, consistently rude behavior, at least mild paranoia, and general demeanor of cluelessness, leads me to believe that you may be one of the most clever and persistent sock puppets I have ever seen.

    I can’t believe anyone, myself included, has taken you seriously for this long.

  63. m.i. – like I said, we’ll see if you show respect in action wrt BioLogos and capitalisation. I am no ‘agent of BioLogos’ but for all the ‘defend against misunderstanding’ I’ve heard here, it seemed necessary to push the point forward. Most people at UD now know that there’s a Big ‘L’ involved in BioLogos, so proper and respectful naming should apply.

    The fact that Dembski even agreed to write an article for BioLogos and that Falk has somewhat ‘changed his tune,’ as nullasalus suggested in #18, is to me meaningful. But if the rank and file of the IDM, like yourself, aren’t willing to change their attitude, such overtures as Dembski’s and Falk’s will be lost.

    On one hand, I’m assuming there’s a cash deal involved in writing this series of articles for BioLogos by the Southern Baptist Convention. BioLogos did after all receive a considerable grant from Templeton (worth less than half of the DI’s annual budget). On the other, there does appear to be desire for dialogue between at least some IDers and TEs/ECs at BioLogos. Indeed, the considerably different missions – reconciling (not just Darwinian) evolution and evangelical Christianity (plagued by YECism) and proving ‘design in nature’ (not just ‘in society’) – are not so different as to preclude collaboration. Unfortunately, the ‘culture war’ mentality appears to work against collaboration and cooperation in the USA today. Chest-thumping and sophistry (see Timaues’ refusal to answer simple questions) abound.

    As for ‘sock puppets,’ like I said, for various reasons people here do not show their real names. We were instructed to be careful with revealing our ‘true identity’ at the DI’s summer program. ‘material.infantacy’ sounds like a brave shield for the IDM. But rude communication is not welcome.

    Your only question in #58 appears to be rhetorical. Otherwise, #62 is humourous in its unwillingness to deal with the actual cards on the table. As above, Mission Accomplished – Timaeus now writes a Big ‘L’ for BioLogos (which means he knows they are not ‘wholly naturalistic’ regarding origins). Will you?

  64. 64
    material.infantacy

    Gregory, I will watch with great interest what happens to the BioLogos organization. For the record, I don’t see them doing God’s work upon the earth, as apparently you do (if you can even be accepted as sincere). No, I don’t have a lot of respect for it, nor liberalism in general, nor pedantry. They will likely either fold under the weight of their own irrelevance, or will steadily drift over to the ID side. (Darwinism is dead, but there’s still a bit of central nervous system activity registering on the EEG. “Stay away from the light Darwin; don’t go into the light!”)

    I think you know what a sock puppet is. Your feigned ignorance is noted, as well as your strange and disconnected response. And if you want to issue exhortations about rudeness, perhaps try showing anything but a mocking contempt for respect when addressing those with whom you disagree. That you won’t answer direct questions makes dialog impossible, as is evident by reading through this thread. You are officially wasting everyone’s time with your very private obsession. But perhaps you already know that.

    Just to be clear, if the IDM and BioLogos remain as far from each other as east is from west, it will suit me just fine. Not only is there an obvious theological disparity between the two, but a scientific one as well. This means that the common factors between the organization and the movement are about as relevant as the fact that most of us like cheese, fruit, and wine. Let me restate that: there is nothing of substance in common between BioLogos and IDM, and so any “dialog” that isn’t focused on trying to wake up a few of them is probably pointless.

    (Can anyone comment as to whether BioLogos was formed in response to the IDM?)

    m.i.

    P.S. Here’s how a sane person would have approached the observation that folks weren’t always referencing BioLogos correctly:

    Hey guys I’d really appreciate it if you’d take some care with the spelling of BioLogos. Some of you aren’t capitalizing the ‘L’ in “Logos” and I can’t really tell if this is intentional disrespect, or simply an oversight. Thanks!

    That you’ve descended into bizarre obsession over this is either comical or disturbing, depending on your level of sincerity.

    P.P.S. Stephen’s second question in his #56 seems entirely reasonable. Feel free to answer it directly, and give your justifications. That should actually make for an interesting conversation.

  65. A typical conversation between Gregory and an ID proponent.

    ID: Gregory, please explain why you renounce ID’s paradigms even though you are not even on speaking terms with the relevant concepts.

    GR: No explanation is required. I have written a book on that subject. Not only that, I speak about this topic to many international audiences.

    ID: That really isn’t much of an answer. You often ask if ID is associated with “Imago Dei..” Why do you ask the question and what do you mean by it?

    GR: I know and interact with some of the most prominent ID scientists in the world. Also, I sit in audiences where they speak and grill them. You wouldn’t believe how easy they are to stump.

    ID: I am not sure that I would trust your account of those events, but let’s return to matters of substance. Though you take no stand, you appear to support the idea of methodological naturalism, but you provide no rational defense for that position. Do you have a defense?

    GR: I covered that subject in my master’s thesis. Besides, my international audiences adore me. You wouldn’t believe how many invitations I get to speak.

    ID: Well, I don’t know about any of that. I can only judge you by the substance of your comments, or more precisely, the lack of substance. So, let’s get back to the issue. How do you account for the fact that methodological naturalism, insofar as it acknowledges only two kinds of causes, “natural” and “supernatural,” must, by definition, classify both burglars and tornadoes as “natural causes?” That is a problem. Do you know why it is a problem? Let me make it easy for you since there seems to be no other way you will apprehend the point. If both are natural causes, how does the archeologist differentiate between them in order to infer that an ancient hunter’s spear was not the product of wind, air, and erosion?

    GR: Your question is so stupid, it reminds me of my first year students, who are, themselves, very stupid. That is why I made the comparison.

    ID: Well, given your evasion, I have to wonder if you are bluffing with your bluster, or if you understand the significance of the question, or if you have any familiarity at all with the subject matter. Partisan ideologues are presuming to tell ID scientists that they are permitted to study only natural causes, yet they cannot define a natural cause except in a way that destroys archeology, SETI, forensic science, and a number of other disciplines. Do you grasp any of this?

    GR: Let’s change the subject. Do you know which prominent ID proponents are “naturalists?”

    ID: You certainly know how to head for the tall grass when someone asks a specific, well thought out question. With respect to your own thoughtless inquiry, it should be obvious that I cannot respond until you tell me which definition of “naturalist” you are using. One meaning refers to expertise about biological history and an extensive knowledge of nature; the other refers to a commitment to naturalistic metaphysics. Which meaning did you have in mind?

    GR: You wouldn’t believe how many books I have read on ID.

    ID: Let me try it yet another way. You have stated that Dembski’s definition of methodological naturalism is “bunk.” Why did you say that? What is wrong with it?

    GR: I don’t answer stupid, unimportant questions. By the way, do you realize that you forgot to capitalize the L in BioLogos?

    ID: Well, I never really thought about it that much. However, if it will make you happy, and if it will encourage you to answer some of my questions, I promise that I will capitalize the letter L when I use that title.

    GR: Another blogger gave me that same unacceptable excuse. He is just trying to cover his a**. I claim that he purposely insulted the BioLogos Institute and now he is trying to weasel out of it.

    ID: Because of your inexperience, you apparently don’t realize that it is your sensibilities that are on trial–not his.

    GR: (Thinking)I can’t let this subject alone because, frankly, it is the only one about which I can speak with authority and conviction. By now, everyone knows that I am blowing smoke and don’t have a clue about the subject that I claim to have mastered. My hope was that if I told everyone that I am a professor, they would accept me as an expert on those terms and I would not have to prove the point. Why isn’t my plan working?

    ID: Do you get away with insulting your questioners in other places? How do you handle the Q and A session with your many adoring audiences.

    GR: If they ask me a question that will reveal my true level of incompetence, I simply respond the same way I respond to Timaeus and StephenB. I will refuse to answer on the grounds that the question and the questioner are unworthy of a response. StephenB, for example, once used the phrase “ID world view.” That proves that he is unqualified to ask questions and that I am above answering them.

    ID: Huh? What’s wrong with that characterization? Didn’t Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton and perhaps Albert Einstein believe in an “ID world view?” What was the context of StephenB’s comment? For what point was he arguing? Did he draw a contrast between an ID world view and an ID scientific paradigm? What was his stated purpose for using that kind of language? Did you follow any of this?

    GR: Never mind that. Do you know how to spell Paul de Vries. StephenB, in referring to this author, capitalized the D?

    ID: What in the world?

    GR: That’s right. It prompted me to ask him if he had read a certain article by this author, which as it turns out, he had. Then, horror of horrors, he had the temerity to ask me if I had read it and, worse, if I had understood it.

    ID: Did you answer him? Had you read it? Did you understand it?

    GR: Your questions remind me of my brother in law and he is one of the most unworthy questioners I ever encountered.

    ID: I have one final question. Are you capable of rational thought?

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