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Should Chuck Colson really have listened to Francis Collins on ID?

Why?

Remembering the late Charles Colson, David Klinghoffer notes (Evolution News & Views, April 24, 2012),

In an appreciation published in the Wall Street Journal, political scientist John J. Dilulio Jr. writes a lovely tribute to Colson’s influence on Dilulio’s own thoughts, how “in the late 1990s Colson was among those who softened and spiritualized my views on crime.”

Promoting the concept of “restorative justice,” Colson godfathered into being several conservative coalitions that are now making real headway in reducing prison populations and changing penal codes in many states. For example, as documented by the Texas-based Right on Crime organization, in recent years the Lone Star State has cut crime rates while reducing its adult prison population by thousands, and the number of juveniles behind bars by more than 50%, by repealing draconian sentencing laws and increasing support for community-based corrections.

Disappointingly, Dilulio gives it as an aside that Colson’s advocacy of ID slightly mars the record of his life: “He insisted that hard science supported ‘intelligent design’ even when leading evangelical Christian scientists, like Francis Collins, former head of the international human genome project, counseled otherwise.”

Dilulio was among the writers I edited and admired when I worked with him as an editor at National Review. I truly cannot understand how a thoughtful and independent guy like that, at the mention of ID, can write a sentence that thoughtless. He seems to be saying that because Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian and a famous scientist, Colson ought to have let Collins do his thinking for him.

Perhaps one reason Colson was not overly impressed by Francis Collins is that he knew Collins to be a leading government exponent of embryonic stem-cell research. Maybe another reason is that Colson had read enough of the actual content of ID proponents, and written on the subject himself, to know that Collins spoke on the subject in a misinformed and therefore misleading way.

Has Francis Collins ever taken a position because it is a clear outcome of being a Christian, even if it hampered his career? Information warmly welcomed.

Colson knew enough not to care what tenure bores say. Only what authentic people say. You learn that in prison.

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6 Responses to Should Chuck Colson really have listened to Francis Collins on ID?

  1. I too was disappointed by Dilulio’s cheap dig in the otherwise respectful Wall Street Journal piece. Is he unaware that there are also many Evangelical scientists who do not share Collins’ opinion? Or is Collins’ vote the only one that counts?

  2. Unfortunately, yes. Evangelicals are supposed to feel honoured that he says he is one of them. Meanwhile, poor quality reasoning in books such as Language of God fails to either represent or commend the evangelical’s position.

  3. From an ‘inauthentic tenure bore,’ who not only claims to be, but unquestionably IS a USAmerican evangelical Christian: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob-r5MPa-ms

    Perhaps noteworthy, from Colson’s constructive Foreword to Dembski’s “The Design Revolution,” is that Darwin is only mentioned once, in the form “Darwinian evolution,” while ‘naturalistic evolution’ is mentioned 3 times and ‘naturalism’ (or ‘naturalistic’) 8 times. Would it be fair to say that ‘Darwinian evolution’ and ‘naturalistic evolution’ are treated as synonyms by the IDM? Darwin is the prototype ‘naturalist’ and later ‘naturalists’ like David Atenborough or David Suzuki are following in Darwin’s line?

    As for me, I guess I just don’t agree with Colson that “naturalistic scientists [to] dominate Western thought.” For example, I can’t think of a single natural(istic) scientist in the west (perhaps Hawking?) who could draw a crowd comparable to Billy (or Franklin) Graham, Rick Warren or Ravi Zacharias, or for that matter, J.K. Rowling, Steig Larson, Dan Brown or Paulo Coelho. I think this myth of ‘the prolific naturalist’ needs to be burst; the supposed ‘dominance of Science’ compared to Art, Music and Sports, sounds different in a post-Sputnik & space race era. Is Bill Gates a ‘naturalist’ or a ‘humanist’ or some other ‘ist’ people would wish to name?

    Iow, Dembski searches for ‘design in nature’ while Colson (post-1974) catered to ‘designs in the human heart,’ which cannot be contained by ‘naturalistic’ language. Is it not therefore appropriate to reject ‘naturalism’ *unless* one is 1) a natural scientist or 2) a practising ‘naturalist’? I just don’t see ‘naturalists’ as being as significant as Colson and Dembski seem to attribute them to be in ‘western’ cultures/societies/civilisations.

    Is Richard Dawkins significant? Not for me. He is the one who should instead be called an ‘inauthentic, tenure bore,’ little worth our time or attention, rather than Francis Collins.

  4. Good points, Gregory. Though there is in my view some complex secularising bias going on in all kinds of areas. Space permits only one non-science example as a taster.

    Philip Pullman writes kids books with an overtly atheist agenda (like dethroning God at the end). The BBC devoted an entire afternoon on Radio 4 to a dramatisation (as they did for Harry Potter), and in the accompanying interview Pullman frankly discussed the effects he hopes to achieve on kids’ religious views.

    C S Lewis writes the Narnia tales, which are allegories of the Christian gospel and life, and the films thereof are a runaway success. But the Christian imagery is minimised – and when discussed in mainstream media, are represented as the weakness of the books (and of the films). One simply couldn’t imagine the director saying in a BBC interview that he hoped the films would open the kids to Christian faith.

    That same unspoken rule not to mention God applies across rock music, medicine, show business, journalism – and notably education.

    Now I recently downloaded the pdf of “Beliefs about God across Time and Countries” linked from here or maybe ENV (but I’ve lost the link, sorry). Notoriously hard to decode trends, but the most interesting charts were those of belief across age. For the UK (which I know best), the increasingly elderly believe more, presumably reflecting generations brought up to worship. My cohort (48-57) shows a big dip, which I think corresponds to the apex of liberal Christianity and skepticism in Britain in our formative years. Surprisingly, the younger cohort (38-47)has more believers, which plausibly to me might well arise from more confident evangelism across the denominations and maybe the charismatic renewal.

    Most interesting are the youngest two cohorts: those below 28 show significantly lower belief in God than the decade older (which is, though, significantly higher than the 38-47s). For me, a mere 9% confident belief in God in the youngest, compared to double that for the next group up, suggests a strong secularising effect in education as the most likely cause. I don’t think much has changed in the last few decades there, so maybe as kids grow up the balance is redressed by exposure to Zacharias et al (though seldom from the mainstream media), and more questions are asked.

    In other words, my impression is that kids nowadays may well be rebelling against an intensively secularist (or unnaturally naturalist) upbringing.

  5. Jon Garvey, thanks for the info. It’s hard to know how to take the views of very young people. Some of us are most concerned about the relationship between secularism and the Brit riots. Secularism is not, of course, philosophical atheism; it is a settled conviction that we live for this life only, to please ourselves any way we like, that the government exists to ensure this, and that anyone who seems to be an obstacle has done us an injury.

    Or at least – whatever the theory – that is how it seems to amount to among a large swathe of rootless young people.

    Wiser heads have pointed out that mobs are easily recruited among such groups. One trembles at the thought of the sort of religion they are attracted to in that state …

  6. Here’s the link: http://www.norc.org/PDFs/Belie.....Report.pdf. I should have been a bit more conscientious and found it when I posted. Useful food for thought.

    As for last summer’s riots – secularisation doesn’t help, obviously. Many other factors too. But our youth seems to have been rioting quite effectively over here for centuries: bonfire nights in the 19th century were a time to stay indoors in many towns. And of course poor old Wesley was regularly done over in the previous century on the grounds he was perverting Christianity.

    I’m pretty sure that, by and large, it wasn’t the church youth groups burning down shops, though.

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