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An Encouraging Moment at Biologos

Submitted without further comment, for now, is this quote from Part 2 of a review of Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True”. With emphasis added:

Later, he claims “Darwinism tells us that, like all species, human beings arose from the working of blind, purposeless forces over eons of time” (p. 224). There are at least two problems with this line of argument. First, given what Coyne said earlier about evolution’s agnosticism regarding sources of variations in organisms (see Part 1), it’s rather striking that he so clearly rules God out as a possible source. What biologists mean by random variations is that the underlying causes are left open by the theory because mechanisms like natural selection can work with any variations handed to them, whether those variations are due to God’s activity through natural laws (e.g. genetic copying, cosmic rays) or God’s supernatural activity.. Consider the analogy with dice in Part 1 again. That the dice landed snake eyes on a particular throw is fully consistent with there being an underlying law governing the dice or that God somehow determined the particular outcome of the throw (the latter idea lies behind the Old Testament practice of casting lots). Similarly that some organisms in a particular population received a particular genetic variation that increases their likelihood of surviving and reproducing is fully consistent with there being an underlying law governing genetics or that God somehow determined the particular variation.

While I have some problems with how Robert C. Bishop considers this question – for instance, he says “What biologists mean…” without noting that Coyne is a biologist, and Dawkins was one once upon a time – I think his point here is worth considering. And I admit, I’m encouraged to see a view like this aired over at Biologos, even as a guest post.

I wonder if ID proponents will be as encouraged as I am. Any thoughts?

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25 Responses to An Encouraging Moment at Biologos

  1. Yes, but seriously, what about the forms of evolution besides Darwin’s? What about the way in which evolution seems to exist, for so many lecture room mediocrities, only to confirm Darwin?

    Most important: Is there any series of information that this person would accept as evidence of design?

    What I am seeing above looks like the same old Darwinism but this time stated without vitriol, crankiness, or heresy.

    Without heresy? I mean because he clearly acknowledges that God can interfere if he wants to = “God’s supernatural activity.”

    The point isn’t that God interferes, but that he can if he wants to.

    That’s always been a point of difficulty with Christian Darwinists. They usually try to escape dealing with it by claiming that God “wouldn’t” interfere. The only trouble is, … the entire history of Judaism and Christianity is one long interference in the natural course of events.

  2. I’m not sure why you find this encouraging for ID. It seems a defense of theistic evolution, and an assault on design hypotheses.

    The review states:”Second, Coyne’s recurring fascination with designers and “bad design” illustrates how easily the metaphor of God as a designer distorts our thinking about God and His relationship to creation. The image of God as an engineer or designer is a creation of 18th century deism not a biblical image. Theologians and historians have discussed how disastrous the design metaphor has been for biblical Christianity.”

    So design arguments are bad, and anti-design arguments even worse!

    The paragraph you cite seems like theistic evolution to me: random variation and selection (either natural or through God’s handiwork, but not discernibly so).

  3. Denyse,

    Yes, but seriously, what about the forms of evolution besides Darwin’s? What about the way in which evolution seems to exist, for so many lecture room mediocrities, only to confirm Darwin?

    I want to note that I’m not entirely convinced by Bishop’s claim of “what biologists mean”. I think he’s advocating a very reasonable understanding of how evolution must be understood, given the limitations of science. But I think his very reasonable understanding goes against what numerous biologists actually say and think.

    What I am seeing above looks like the same old Darwinism but this time stated without vitriol, crankiness, or heresy.

    And here I disagree. I think Darwinism without the “heresy” is hardly Darwinism at all, and it’s certainly – just by that alone – a vastly different concept compared to what’s usually offered, even by the author of the very book Bishop is reviewing.

    Now, I think ID requires more than this, and I think the ID questions still remain valid. But I also think that, by saying ‘Variation could be guided’ and, in essence, ‘Selection could be guided’, Bishop is offering a view of evolution that ID proponents and TEs could, at the very least, have something to seriously discuss. It’s something actually approximating common ground, and it’s very different from the now-typical TE tack of not wanting to talk about how, even in principle, God could work through or with evolution.

    Like I said, this was an encouraging moment. If Biologos shows more willingness to take seriously the idea of guidance and purpose in the evolutionary process, particularly in this sense where God may be behind both the variation and selection (either altogether or at particular points), it does seem like something ID proponents should encourage. And I’m almost certain that guys like Dowd, certainly Ruse, and absolutely Coyne, will react in ways that range from displeased to outraged.

  4. DrREC,

    I’m not sure why you find this encouraging for ID. It seems a defense of theistic evolution, and an assault on design hypotheses.

    Where did I say this was “encouraging for ID” in my OP? I think it’s encouraging in the senses I outlined to Denyse. I’m not sure you realize, but I’m a TE of sorts myself.

    The problem is that TEs are routinely unable to articulate what Bishop did. Some TEs aren’t – Stephen Barr, for example. But for others, particularly at Biologos, they get as far as “God and evolution are compatible” and when you ask why and how, they wring their hands and mumble about how that’s a very important question and there are many opinions, let’s discuss something else.

    Bishop hardly seems to touch on the question of ID. But I maintain that insofar as he admits that in principle God could guide variation, and presumably selection, it gives ID proponents and TEs something positive to discuss.

  5. “Where did I say this was “encouraging for ID” in my OP?”

    Sorry, I misread the line: “I wonder if ID proponents will be as encouraged as I am. Any thoughts?”

    I thought you were asking whether other ID proponents would be as encouraged as you (an ID proponent were); not whether ID proponents would be as encouraged as you (a “TE of sorts” were). My bad.

    I agree, I think it is an excellent exposition of the compatibility of Theism and evolution. It seems entirely disparaging of ID, in my opinion.

    I disagree with you here: “Bishop hardly seems to touch on the question of ID.” The paragraph I quote says otherwise.

  6. I disagree with you here: “Bishop hardly seems to touch on the question of ID.” The paragraph I quote says otherwise.

    That section you quoted doesn’t seem like an “assault on design hypotheses”. He’s complaining about a metaphor – and he’s doing it in passing. He also mentions, in part 1, how creationist and ID criticisms of evolution fail to persuade.

    I have no doubt that Bishop rejects ID, but he simply has little to say about it in his review. The bulk of both of the so-far 2 parts is dedicated to reviewing Coyne and giving an explanation of misconceptions of evolution. I will say that one problem is that some of what Bishop seems to deride as “Myth”, the man he’s reviewing would regard as “Fact”.

  7. nullasalus, thanks much for bringing this to our attention! I think you are right to note the much more measured tone. One can’t quite resist wondering whether post-Giberson, the tone will in fact change from announcing to Christians what we can’t believe any more to grappling with the issues thoughtfully.

    Count me a fan, and I look forward to hearing more.

  8. Theologians and historians have discussed how disastrous the design metaphor has been for biblical Christianity.

    Before or after Darwinism?

    Because of Darwinism or regardless of Darwinism?

  9. “Darwinism tells us that, like all species, human beings arose from the working of blind, purposeless forces over eons of time” (p. 224).

    Strange that when I say that sort of thing- the working of blind, purposeless forces over eons of time- I get jumped on for erecting a strawman. Yet it appears I understand the theory better than most evos I argue with. :cool:

  10. The view Bishop presents is not uncommon among TEs–at least those who talk to me. I probably hold it myself (I say “probably,” simply b/c it would depend on precisely how certain terms are defined, and that can vary from person to person), and I expressed this view in an exchange I had privately with a regular here at UD a few years ago. In that exchange, I stressed that various forms of radiation are created by quantum events, and quantum events are in principle unpredictable (“Random”) by us; they may well be predictable by God, however.

    I think this may also be the view of Robert Russell, the leading (IMO) American scholar of religion and science. He writes about divine sovereignty over evolution, in connection with theodidy, in his contribution to “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation,” ed. Keith Miller (as in not Ken Miller). And, it might be Ken Miller’s view as well, though I’d want to take another look at some of his writings before having too much confidence in this. It’s almost certainly the view of John Polkinghorne, the leading (IMO) British scholar of religion and science. It’s probably also what Owen Gingerich believes, judging from what he says in “God’s Universe.” Owen is now finishing a book about evolution, and perhaps he’ll be more specific about this there.

    Asa Gray couldn’t have said exactly this, only b/c he didn’t have the genetics or the quantum stuff to draw on. However, he said that variations “are led along certain beneficial lines” (if I remember his words correctly as I write this), and that’s exactly the deal Bishop talks about. Note what I said about Gray (and others) in my review of Gingerich’s book for First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/art.....autiful-36.

    I’m puzzled, frankly, why this type of view (in which God is seen as directing variations through the apparently “random” processes of nature) seems not to have been noticed here before–or am I misinterpreting what is said above? These folks are some of the top TE thinkers; none of them is a process theologian; all of them believe in the Incarnation, Resurrection, and actual divine origination of the universe. (Ditto for Gray, though I can’t use the present tense for him.)

  11. Ted,

    Asa Gray couldn’t have said exactly this, only b/c he didn’t have the genetics or the quantum stuff to draw on. However, he said that variations “are led along certain beneficial lines” (if I remember his words correctly as I write this), and that’s exactly the deal Bishop talks about.

    I also recall that Darwin reacted pretty poorly to Asa’s position on this in private letters, going so far as to suggest that if Asa thought variation was directed in such a way, the end result was that Asa did not accept his (Darwin’s) theory.

    I’m puzzled, frankly, why this type of view (in which God is seen as directing variations through the apparently “random” processes of nature) seems not to have been noticed here before–or am I misinterpreting what is said above?

    As I said in a previous comment, I agree there are some TEs who articulate this view. Stephen Barr is one who immediately springs to mind as an example.

    I think it’s fair to say, however, that this is not exactly a very prominent or explicit view at Biologos. They’ve typically danced around even raising this as a possibility, much less endorsing it as a viable or credible view on evolution – and have also hosted atheists like Michael Ruse arguing that the only way to accept Darwinism and Christianity faithfully would be to presume that God has no idea whether something vaguely human-like will spring up in any universe, and thus He has to create multiple universes and hope one of them works out right.

    So no, you’re not misinterpreting me, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m saying Biologos has been extremely dodgy on the question of God’s role, even possible role, in evolution, and his words do stand in contrast to the norm at Biologos, and among some people who talk about mingling Christianity and Darwinism.

  12. Thank you for the comments; I don’t follow BioLogos closely enough to know this, although I also write for them once in awhile.

    As for Ruse, if I’m not mistaken, he’s often interacted with ID people also–but in print or on a platform, not here (I gather). Why don’t you have him come in some time? Ruse’s views on what form(s) of TE are acceptable–to him–are only Ruse’s views on what form(s) of TE are acceptable to him. I assume that’s probably understood all around, but I want to make sure. My view, Polkinghorne’s view, Gingerich’s view, Russell’s view–none of those would be acceptable to him. Ruse believes that “liberal” Christians and agnostics or atheists like him can get along just fine, but his idea of “liberal” Christians seems to me someone like John Haught or even John Spong. Not someone who believes in the Resurrection, such as all of those I named above.

    Ruse also thinks that the QM interpretation of evolution is a “god-of-the-gaps,” but he’s wrong, unless he thinks that something like Bohm’s theory of QM is right and the standard view is wrong. In the standard view, obviously, those explanatory “gaps” are ontological, not epistemological, and they’ll just never be “filled in” as science advances.

  13. Ted,

    Ruse’s views on what form(s) of TE are acceptable–to him–are only Ruse’s views on what form(s) of TE are acceptable to him.

    See, that would make sense if Ruse was simply writing an article off in some newspaper somewhere. I’d nod my head, say “That’s nice” and turn to something more important. Probably “The Phantom”.

    But when Ruse is given the opportunity to air his views on Biologos, the TE site devoted to showing how Darwinism and Christianity are compatible, I don’t think the impression comes that “this is only Ruse’s view”. Especially when, as near as I was able to tell, no one from Biologos jumped in to disagree with Ruse, and explicit affirmations of something like Bishop’s view were hard to find to say the least.

    My view, Polkinghorne’s view, Gingerich’s view, Russell’s view–none of those would be acceptable to him. Ruse believes that “liberal” Christians and agnostics or atheists like him can get along just fine, but his idea of “liberal” Christians seems to me someone like John Haught or even John Spong. Not someone who believes in the Resurrection, such as all of those I named above.

    I agree entirely, and I don’t want to insinuate that all TEs are akin to Ruse. Ask just about any regular around here – I routinely point out there are some TEs who take the view you do, and that I do as well. But Biologos hasn’t exactly been encouraging on that front in my eyes – for quite a while their main contribution to these discussions has been to take shots at ID and creationism, praise Darwin or evolutionary theory in general, and leave most talk of evolution and God to ‘They’re compatible, it’s complex, let’s not dive too deeply into that.’

    I mean, I *want* Biologos to be more than that. I hoped they’d take a line closer to yours from the start – maybe not advocating it exclusively, but at least giving it a more prominent role. And the moment I saw someone there taking that stance, I spoke up about it in praise. But I really believe it’s a change in tone – perhaps at most a momentary disturbance – for Biologos, compared to their past.

    So, what can I say. If this view is prominent at Biologos, let’s hope they stop keeping it a secret. And let’s also hope that if they become more explicit about it, they stand by their view when – inevitably, as has happened previously when they vaguely hinted in this direction – Dawkins, Coyne and the rest throw a fit and talk about how Biologos is starting to sound like a bunch of creationists.

  14. I think all Christians should embrace the label “creationist.”

    If there was no creation, what is the basis of our belief in the new creation? If I am not now, in Christ, a new creation, then what am I?

  15. Let me correct an error in something I said above: when I mentioned one of Bob Russell’s essays, I incorrectly described it as “about divine sovereignty over evolution, in connection with theodicy.” I must have been thinking of something else–either another essay of his or an essay by someone else.

    Needless to say, when I wrote this I didn’t have my copy of the book nearby: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/pec.htm

    Now that I do, let me simply say that Russell’s topic is precisely the topic addressed by Bishop: “Special Providence and Genetic Mutation: A New Defense of Theistic Evolution.”

    Russell’s views on this topic are essentially the same as mine, but he is much more qualified to make the case than I am. He is trained as a physicist, he has taught theology for decades, and he has spent much of that time thinking about just this kind of question–more time than anyone else I am aware of.

    He doesn’t blog, and most of his work is not available online. He also writes in a fairly dense manner, so it can take some work to understand all of the nuances fully–but this is the kind of topic in which the devil lies in the details, so that work is justified.

    Let me comment on BioLogos, relative to the content of this particular book. None of the contributors to this book is a regular at BioLogos. At least two (George Murphy and me) have written a few columns for BioLogos, and at least one of us (me) was invited to contribute regularly–I a welcome invitation that I had to decline, b/c my day job, my other commitments, and my inability to write serious stuff quickly (I regard writing blog columns as serious stuff, on the same level as writing an article for a magazine) just didn’t leave enough time for me to take that on.

    The two most important people at BioLogos (Francis Collins and Darrell Falk) do not have the kinds of backgrounds (both in terms of formal academic study and also in terms of the kinds of scholarship they have done) that many of the authors in this book have. (The same could be said of many folks at UD, so please don’t see this as an attack on BioLogos; it’s just a relevant observation.) They aren’t scholars of science and religion; they write for a broad public audience. What they write is important in its own way, but they are doing something quite different from what the authors of this book do.

    The authors of this book do take on the big questions, relative to evolution and Christian faith: divine action, providence, theodicy, original sin, miracles. Their opinions are their own, obviously, but they are serious opinions about serious questions. One author (Howard Van Till) is no longer an orthodox Christian–this is no secret. All of the others are, to the best of my knowledge. None is a process theist, none is a panentheist, and all of us believe in the actual divine origination of the universe, the bodily Resurrection, and the Incarnation (the big three, as I like to call them). All of us affirm the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers.

    In addition, some of the authors respond to some of the claims about evolution made by proponents of ID. Those chapters have only minimal theological content, to make them fit into a book that is mainly not about ID. I don’t know whether those chapters have been discussed here, but it’s more likely that they would have been–esp in the old days, when theology wasn’t usually on the menu here.

    SO, HERE’S MY MAIN POINT: If anyone here wants to see what some of the leading “orthodox” Christian TEs have to say about the tough questions, this is a good place to start. (Many of the contributors have written much more extensively elsewhere, so this is just a place to start.)

    On these kinds of topics, BioLogos is probably not the best place to start. Books are not obsolete. Not now, and not for a long time to come. A lot of the best stuff–esp on issues related to science and Christianity–is still in books. Why not get a copy? (Full disclosure: I was paid nothing for my contribution, and I won’t make another dime if you buy a copy.)

  16. As for Dawkins, Coyne, and my being a “creationist” in the broad sense Mung refers to (I’ve never been a “creationist” in the narrow YEC sense), well obviously I don’t care what Dawkins or Coyne thinks about that. If I worried about stones thrown by that crowd, I wouldn’t have written this: http://network.nature.com/grou.....reply-7767

  17. 17

    I agree with you null. TE is straddling the fence. Any thinking TE must realized that either mutations are genuinely random and God had little or nothing to do with creation, or they are not genuinely random and therefore evolution is guided by God directly.

    Bishop has realized this and chosen to allow at least the possibility of the latter, which is perfectly compatible with ID.

  18. I respond to this: “TE is straddling the fence. Any thinking TE must realize that either mutations are genuinely random and God had little or nothing to do with creation, or they are not genuinely random and therefore evolution is guided by God directly.”

    TE, like ID is a “big tent.” If one inclines toward open theism, as some do, then God might create by using at least some amount of genuine randomness. Open theism hardly requires that, but it allows for it. The people I mention above do not hold a single view on this. Russell is not an open theist; Polkinghorne is.

    Let me add this. Open theism didn’t arise in the context of interpreting evolution, not at all. Those TEs who may use it with regard to a theology of nature/creation are bringing it into the conversation from somewhere else–questions related to divine foreknowledge, free will, and theodicy. Unlike ID (at least unlike ID as usually practiced), TE does deal directly with theological issues, and thus TE advocates don’t get a pass on the hard theological questions that advocates of ID can leave unaddressed, if they wish. Some will see that as an advantage for ID; others will see it the other way.

    I sense that you might be frustrated with TE for “straddling the fence,” tragic, so let me point out that one might just as well ask this: Is ID straddling the fence, relative to the age of the earth & universe, the big bang theory, and the common descent of humans and other organisms?

    I dare say, if ID weren’t also on a fence of its own, its “big tent” wouldn’t be nearly as big, but more TEs might be found under the canopy.

  19. A few comments.

    Tragic Mishap,

    I agree with you null. TE is straddling the fence. Any thinking TE must realized that either mutations are genuinely random and God had little or nothing to do with creation, or they are not genuinely random and therefore evolution is guided by God directly.

    I imagine an open theist could chime in with the possibility that some mutations are guided, others aren’t. But for me the key is that, if someone stresses that evolution and theism are compatible – and I fully believe they are as well – then it is at least appropriate to ask them for details. The conversation can’t stop at the claim “they’re compatible”.

    Ted,

    Again, I don’t doubt that there are TEs who believe in the “Big Three”. I like Polkinghorne (I regularly read the Starcourse blog), and some others I’ve been exposed to have been great. Dare I say it, I’m even a fan of some of what I know of your past writings.

    Let me put it another way: If TEs were aggressively promoting their views in a way comparable to ID and Biologos (Both of them being, I think, at least fairly organized groups of like-minded individuals making their case in media, and to the popular reader), and if these TE views were of Russell’s, Bishop’s, yours or similar’s – not even necessarily as orthodox – I’d be very encouraged. And I’d even defend the validity of their approach and perspective, happily.

    One problem here is that Biologos is currently functioning as TE Central – like it or not, that’s what they are right now. So I watch Biologos and see how they approach the topic, or if they even approach it at all. On the whole, the experience has been negative. Not wholly negative – again, Bishop’s reply was very encouraging, and I’ve seen a glimmer here and there in the past – but what can I say. What I’ve seen out of Biologos thus far is largely what I’ve said: Shots at ID and Creationism, praise of Darwin, and silence or worse on the actual subject of God’s role in evolution (with Ruse occupying part of the ‘worse’ side of the spectrum.)

    Here’s another way to put a concern of mine: I’d like to see TEs of the variety you’re talking about more actively presenting their views to the public. I was hoping Biologos would be that, but I’ve been disappointed. And at this point, I think it’s a fair worry that “Theistic Evolution” is going to be associated far more with Michael Dowd and Michael Ruse, or at least views which look similar to theirs.

  20. Unlike ID (at least unlike ID as usually practiced), TE does deal directly with theological issues, and thus TE advocates don’t get a pass on the hard theological questions that advocates of ID can leave unaddressed, if they wish.

    But are any of these hard questions a result of accepting the Darwinian view of the development of life?

    ID wants to be seen as scientific, thus they try to avoid theological debates. TE’s want to be seen as scientific, thus they accept what science says, including Darwinism.

    Is ID straddling the fence, relative to the age of the earth & universe, the big bang theory, and the common descent of humans and other organisms?

    More like straddling the Grand Canyon. :)

    I wonder if we are consistent in our method of inferring from present known causes, what sort of conclusion we’d reach about the age of the earth.

    I wonder if we are consistent in our method of inferring from present known causes, what sort of conclusion we’d reach about the question of common ancestry.

  21. 21

    null:

    But for me the key is that, if someone stresses that evolution and theism are compatible – and I fully believe they are as well – then it is at least appropriate to ask them for details.

    This is exactly what I told my church group when I spoke on the topic of origins. Don’t accuse evolutionists of being necessarily non-Christian. But do ask the ones who are Christian what they mean by “random.”

    Ted:

    Open theism didn’t arise in the context of interpreting evolution, not at all. Those TEs who may use it with regard to a theology of nature/creation are bringing it into the conversation from somewhere else–questions related to divine foreknowledge, free will, and theodicy.

    I never said anything about open theism, but I am interested in the topic. I am hostile, but I would appreciate someone who could defend it in more detail along those lines you mentioned of foreknowledge, free will and theodicy. I haven’t allowed myself any “pass” on those issues. I went to a Calvinist high school. I had to deal with those issues before I was even interested in ID.

    Is ID straddling the fence, relative to the age of the earth & universe, the big bang theory, and the common descent of humans and other organisms?

    What I said was that there are basically two kinds of TE. There’s the Francis Collins kind who believe that mutations really are random but God still directed it. They don’t make any sense.

    Then there’s the ones who believe that “random” mutations aren’t really random at all but directed by God. They at least make sense but it follows there’s no reason to be hostile to ID. If God directs mutations then we can see those mutations as signs of intelligence.

    And we all know that true randomness could exist and some mutations may be in fact random. But you know what we are talking about. We’re talking about the mutations required to lead from a single-celled organism to man, overcoming the massive probability barriers along the way.

    There is no such division within ID because the theory of ID doesn’t depend on what you think about the age of the earth, etc. TE, as you point out, is a holistic worldview. And as I point out, there is a major division within that worldview when it comes to Darwinian evolution. Some of you take Darwinian evolution at face value. Some of you if you were honest would be forced to reject important aspects of it. In fact if you believe that some mutations are random and some aren’t, you would be forced to divide evolution in half just as creationists have done: macro and micro.

  22. tragic mishap,

    Then there’s the ones who believe that “random” mutations aren’t really random at all but directed by God. They at least make sense but it follows there’s no reason to be hostile to ID. If God directs mutations then we can see those mutations as signs of intelligence.

    I don’t know if this works. ID makes the claim that making inferences about design in nature is not only possible, but that such inferences can be/are “science”. I can see someone who’s full-blown YEC disputing such a claim, not to mention a TE. The key question is what the proper scope of science is, before even getting into the particular ID methods and evidence.

    Then again, this depends on what you mean by hostile. What I’m saying boils down to “a person can believe variation (and selection) is guided either always or sometimes and still reject the ID view”. Whether they should be hostile depends, since some ID hostility is touchier than that. (Ayala, for example, has harsh criticisms of ID that would also catch Russell, Davis and others up in the same net.)

  23. 23

    I understand what you’re saying. My point is that the latter view of what actually happened in natural history would be completely compatible with ID. Perhaps I’m just not enough of a philosopher or theologian to give much importance to differences that might exist beyond that.

    My gut tells me that it really has little to do with either philosophy or theology, and has more to do with politics.

  24. 24

    TEs to me look like they are scrambling to find rational objections to ID after having already decided to oppose it.

    This neo-Thomist objection for instance. It wasn’t even on the radar until a few years ago. It all feels very desperate and contrived to me.

  25. tragic: relative to your comments about why (many) TEs oppose ID, I would agree that politics is part of the story. So is theology, philosophy, and the science itself.

    In the B[efore the] C[hange] period, by which I mean the period before the A[fter] D[DaveScot was canned] period, I commented at length on the reasons I have heard TEs articulate for their opposition. You can probably find some of those posts by searching for my name in the archives; I haven’t tried to locate them right now.

    Nor will I try to distill them into a single reason, but one of the biggest reasons is this: there is a profound disconnect between “following the evidence wherever it leads” (which is IMO an excellent attitude to hold) while maintaining an official silence concerning large parts of the evidence, relative to natural history/origins; namely, the evidence for an ancient earth, an ancient universe formed in a “big bang,” and the common descent of humans and other primates (let alone other organisms). As it is, the ID position allows for (IMO) unreasonable dissent on those things–i.e., dissent that effectively says, “we don’t necessarily follow the evidence wherever it leads,” on this set of scientific questions.

    That leads many TEs to wonder: if so, then what really counts as scientific evidence? are the historical sciences being rejected in principle?

    Suppose that ID said this: the evidence shows that the universe and the earth are very old, that it probably began with a “big bang,” that humans and other living things are all related by common descent, that humans have been here for a long time (i.e., a lot longer than the traditional 6000 years) –and it all looks like it was designed.

    Then, a lot of TEs would probably say, yes, we agree with you.

    As it is, however, ID maintains an official silence on all of that good science, and thereby functions for a large number of people as a kind of anti-evolutionism that allows them to avoid tackling the biblical questions related to each of those scientific conclusions. In other words, many Christians (I realize that not all ID supporters are Christians) like ID b/c it seems so scientifically valid (despite what I’ve been pointing out here), and it offers a way to embrace science without having to accept (or seriously consider) a non-historical interpretation of Genesis.

    Is this politics? In some ways, yes, it’s the politics of the culture wars, although it doesn’t reduce entirely to that.

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