Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Tue May 19 2009 - 22:14:59 EDT

I don't think the version of TE Cameron condemns is all too common - that
whole affirming that there is no design in nature and evolution/nature is
unguided and unplanned, etc, fundamentally. And I think most of the
appearance of such rests on what seems like a common TE v ID confusion -
with the former believing in design but not believing design is
scientifically detectable. And the latter believing that, in principle at
least, it -may- be detectable. Which seems to turn into ID proponents
believing TEs don't believe there is -any- design, and TEs believing ID
proponents think design is scientifically proven (and 'proven' in a bad or
gap way, such as denying evolution outright, etc.)

In Cameron's defense though, I can at least think of one prominent TE who
struck me as endorsing what he's outlined here: Francisco Ayala. In fact, I
recall Ayala arguing that what's so spiffy about evolution is that, by
evolution being totally unguided and unplanned, it "gets God off the hook"
for natural evil. Which struck me as such an unbelievably horrible argument
that I was convinced Ayala was trying to function as an atheist 'good cop'
by making the TE position look utterly horrible to anyone with an ounce of

I also recall Ken Miller, at least early on, expressing similar sentiments.
But since then Miller has also discussed convergence and quantum-level
interactions of God with nature, and I think Ayala's view on things has
changed to something similar.

Maybe these were misunderstandings on my part (I can't find the quotes right
now - in too much of a hurry), or maybe both Ayala and Miller have changed
their views over the years. But I don't think the sort of TEs Cameron talks
about are flat-out nonexistent. (I think a far more common view, in ID and
TE alike, amounts to a belief in guidance, but no clear idea of how that
guidance was accomplished - and for TEs, writing off as metaphysical excess
what Cameron would regard as essential for 'real' darwinism.)

On Tue, May 19, 2009 at 8:13 PM, Merv Bitikofer <> wrote:

> You are right to reject TE as you have described it here. My question,
> though, is: What TEs here (or anywhere) describe themselves this way?
> I have pretty strong TE leanings at this point and I would like to think
> that my inclinations are based on sound understanding of it. But obviously
> my understanding is widely divergent from yours as I do not in the least
> consider myself a Darwinist --or schizophrenic about science and
> spirituality. Are there any TEs here who would say that science has proved
> our existence to be a cosmic "accident" --in the strong "life is
> meaningless" sense of that word?
> At least I didn't *think* I was anything like a Darwinist, though perhaps I
> had better be careful here, since Ted's references to historical Darwinism
> confused me. Perhaps I need clarification on just what a Darwinist is taken
> to be. Ted? A simplistic reading of your post seemed to me to be that
> Darwinists deny design and instead (promote?) natural selection as the
> (only?) driving force? But I'm not sure I understood all your wording
> correctly. What George said earlier --essentially that general design
> acceptance is a pretty big camp that includes almost all Christians (and I
> would add TE Christians if he didn't already imply it) makes a lot of sense.
> We may be stuck all over the map on the details, but what Christian is
> making a blanket denial of God's hand in creation?
> You are right to strongly reject this view, but I strongly doubt too many
> TEs have been caught in your net.
> --Merv
> Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>> It seems to me that the neo-Darwinian possibility you are propounding here
>> (and again, I recognize that you aren't affirming it dogmatically, but
>> merely allowing it as a possibility) is profoundly schizophrenic. With the
>> "reason" or "science" side of our minds and souls, we acknowledge the
>> universe, including life and mind, as the product entirely of chance and
>> necessity. With the "faith" side of our minds or souls, we look at the same
>> universe and see its accidents and necessities as meaningful and purposive.
>> It is almost as if by some strange act of will we can make the purposeless
>> purposeful, the meaningless meaningful, the undirected directed. It is this
>> schizophrenic side of TE -- *not* the quantum-direction notion put forward
>> by Ted, George and Robert Russell -- that ID people, YEC people, OEC people,
>> and many other Christians find repugnant. On such a view, faith becomes an
>> a-cosmic, irrational, idiosyncratic personal quirk, a way of looking at
>> reality which some people adopt, and others do not, while reality itself
>> provides no basis for faith's way of looking at it. Faith and reason are
>> radically disjoined, not connected at all, even by the slenderest of
>> threads. What we "know" through faith is entirely distinct from, and
>> opposed to, what our senses and reason tell us. Existence is not a coherent
>> whole, in which the knower and the reality known are integrally connected,
>> and in which the truths of the head ("science") and the truths of the heart
>> ("faith") are connected. A TE-Darwinist and a Dawkins-Darwinist can walk
>> out of the same lab after a hard day's work, both agreeing, "Yep, the
>> marvels of the human brain are the result of a cosmic accident -- that's
>> been proved by science, except for a few details of the evolutionary
>> pathways", and then the TE-Darwinist can wander off to Church and pray to
>> the providential Biblical Creator-God, while the Dawkins-Darwinist goes off
>> to give a talk to the Rationalist Club about the stupidity of religious
>> belief. It's a scene straight out of the theatre of the absurd.
>> I cannot prove that this schizophrenic view of reality is wrong. But at a
>> fundamental, existential level, I simply reject it. It strikes me as a
>> modern, science-dressed-up, secularized version of ancient Marcionitism. For
>> the evil God who created the world in Marcionitism, we have the uncaring
>> secular god of chance and necessity. For Marcion's higher, good God, we
>> have the unknowable-by-reason-or-nature God who selected our world out of
>> the cosmic corner store, but handed its governance entirely over to the evil
>> (or at least uncaring) god of chance and necessity, so that the world which
>> the good God secretly ordained looks and feels (to us human beings) like a
>> world ruled by an evil or heartless one. And for the escape route from the
>> world of the evil or heartless god to the realm of the higher God, we have
>> faith -- faith in the good God, for whose existence the world provides not a
>> shred of evidence.
>> It may be that this is the truth that Christianity teaches, and that I
>> simply lack spiritual understanding. It may be that I have failed to grasp
>> the sheer irrational otherness of God, and perhaps my sunny, optimistic
>> disposition is blind to the horrible truth of the oppressive, alienating
>> darkness of the world. But irrationality, darkness and alienation is not
>> the teaching about nature that I find in Genesis 1. I don't take Genesis 1
>> literally as a series of events, but I think that we are meant to adopt the
>> "feel" of the world described in Genesis. And I don't think that any
>> version of "Christian Darwinism" has this feel. When I read Genesis, I
>> understand the world to be objectively (not just subjectively, to the eye of
>> faith only) "very good". When I read the Psalms I understand the world to
>> be "very good". And I understand the world to be orderly and rational,
>> reflecting, in a way partly accessible to our understanding, the mind of its
>> maker. I believe that all of this is the traditional Jewish position, and I
>> believe that it was also the position of Jesus as a Jewish teacher. This
>> position is also compatible with much that is found in Greek philosophy, and
>> with much of Patristic, Medieval, Renaissance, Protestant and neo-Thomist
>> theology, and with the Pope's Regensburg address.
>> Therefore, I maintain my position. I agree with you that God might have
>> produced this word in a number of ways -- front-loading, miracles, some form
>> of evolution punctuated by miracles, immanent intelligence of some kind,
>> etc. I also agree with you that it is not necessary to settle the exact
>> means of creation in order to have a sound Christian theology. So we agree
>> on much. But I still must exclude what I call "Christian Darwinism". I
>> think that the attempt to bring full-fledged Darwinism under the wing of
>> Christian theology is profoundly mistaken. I think that undiluted,
>> full-fledged Darwinism implies a metaphysics which is incompatible with
>> Christianity, and that if Dawkins, Coyne, Sagan, etc. are right about the
>> way that nature is, then Christianity is false and must be surrendered. And
>> I think that some (not all) TEs confuse the world by suggesting otherwise.
>> Cameron.
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Received on Tue May 19 22:15:37 2009

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