Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Wed May 20 2009 - 04:45:42 EDT

Hi Mike and Cameron,
 
First, Mike, I owe you an apology for the previous post. My only excuse can be that I've been sick in bed for the past couple of days with a headache and obviously wasn't thinking clearly when I wrote that message to you. My head must have been particularly throbbing at that moment when I called you an 'armchair thinker' because, truth be told, I am too such an 'armchair thinker' on some topics. So, I hope and trust that you were not offended. We've had some good discussions, sometimes critical and provocative, but always, it seems to me, respectful over the past 5 years.
 
My biggest beef with your 'because of us' theory (i.e. I don't really believe you would call it an 'it doesn't matter' theory!) is that it doesn't seem to involve human-social thought at all. It would appear to be the meandering thoughts of a natural-physical scientist, who could greatly profit from insights gathered in other non-naturalistic spheres. But for whatever reason, the ladder remains to be climbed (anti-reductionism) so that the higher realms of human culture may compliment the physical world and other living organisms.
 
There is also indeed an antidote to 'anthropocentrism' that is beneficial for a healthy Christian understanding of (as Ted Davis clarifies) God, humanity and nature. This antidote is significant in the realm of 'science,' Mike and is why I asked you if you were seeking to apply an 'anthropic principle' (AP) in biology in the first place. You've said your AP is only in metaphysics and theology. But to me, there is no need to adopt such a strategy; indeed, it doesn't make much logical, rational or mystical sense.
 
Cameron writes:
"I take it for granted, Mike, that you are aware, from my past posts, that by "Darwinism" I mean something much narrower than "evolution", and that I don't find "evolution" a threat to theistic or Christian belief at all."
 
Yes, I'm certain that the three of us understands this quite well and each accepts it. As it turns out, however, there are some people on the ASA list who equate 'Darwinism' with 'evolutionary biology.' To me, this is a problem. But to Francis Collins and BioLogos, it is just the way things are (which I'll refer to in the other thread):
 
"Darwinism is the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection" - BioLogos
 
Thus, we seem most accutely to be having a problem with definitions. I have just as much trouble with BioLogos' definition of 'evolution' as I do with their definition of 'Darwinism.'
 
Further, Cameron writes:
"the God of whose existence you are certain is logically incompatible with pure Darwinism as the means of creation.  You do not agree with me that the two are logically incompatible."

I agree that the 'Darwinism' is incompatible with theism, a Creator God. Darwin was not a theist, at least not in his later years or when he died. Unfortunately, many people will not accept my definition of 'Darwinism' and many people will not accept Cameron's definition.
 
Does one have to be a biologist to be able to authoritatively define 'Darwinism'? Likewise, the challenge to Mike is to say what 'bad theology' is according to him that BioLogos is committing. Is it those against the 'inevitable humans' idea only that he is challenging?
 
What I've been offering to this 'conversation' over the past few years is 1) recognition that 'evolution' is one of the most interdisciplinary concepts in the academy, 2) that 'evolution' is a misnomer in some of the areas in the academy in which it is used, and 3) that an alternative concept to 'evolution' is preferable when 'evolution' is incomprehensive or inappropriate.
 
Charles Darwin simply needs to become a 'has-been' and the ideology of Darwinism to become obsolete. This would allow 'science' to move forward without the ideological baggage. I have been pointing out in my dissertation that 'evolution' has too many philosophical-spiritual implications when interpreted in a certain way. If people wish to actualise scientific-technical discoveries and to 'progress' in their fields, then massaging the vocabulary and dropping the term 'Darwinism' seems to be the best way forward. Darwin can still be respected and honoured, just no longer idolised.
 
So, for Mike Gene, who acccepts the label 'front-loaded-ID-theistic-evolutionist,' I would ask him to consider the limitations or boundaries of evolutionary thinking. If he can argue that 'evolutionary theology' is somehow 'bad' or improper or misinformed or misleading, then we'll be moving forward in some new ways. His position, however, seems to be an unusual mix of views, some of which, when taken each individually are contradictory to others. Thus, only with his uniquely personal definitions of the terms involved can he suggest a unity of (what most often appear to others as) opposite views.
 
What has happened in America, partly as a backlash to 'creationism' and partly due to the growth of process philosophy (e.g. post-Whitehead) and process theology, is that some (especially liberal-leaning) theologians and laypersons have tied the idea of 'evolution' up tightly into their theologies. Collins is such an example. In such a situation, giving evolution limitations or boundaries has become a difficult exercise. It is against the exaggeration of 'evolution' - what C. Rusbult at ASA calls Total Evolution - that I am positioned.
 
Gregory
 

--- On Wed, 5/20/09, Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca> wrote:

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
To: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Received: Wednesday, May 20, 2009, 11:21 AM

Mike:

I think I can make this one much shorter.

I agree with this paragraph:

> The way I see it, we have all been deeply shaped by a culture that places
> great value on reason and science.  What we claim to "know" we should be
> able to prove or support with evidence.  And I understand the value of
> that approach.  But as I have aged, I have come to know that you can take
> that approach too far.  Y'see, I am the type of person who pays attention
> to the little things, the subtle things.  I collect such knowledge. And I
> know many things, about myself, others, my surroundings, that I cannot
> prove or support with strong evidence.  In other words, I know things and
> I know I can not get others to see what I know.   I know that you can know
> without proof or evidence.  And I know it would be folly to jettison that
> knowledge because I could not prove it to another person.

I, too, believe that sometimes we know things are true, but cannot prove
them.  However, I can't see that it has any bearing on my argument.  I am
not talking about whether or not God can be known to exist in the private
heart of the believer.  I am talking about competing public claims about the
structure of reality.  I don't believe that Christianity -- at least, as it
has historically understood itself -- is merely a private understanding of
the heart.  I think it makes public claims about the world, about nature and
history and about how God interacts with both.  And I think that Darwinism
makes public claims about the world, e.g., about the complete absence of
intelligence at any point in the evolutionary process.  This claim is
compatible only with either an absentee God -- who throws matter out into
space indifferently, and sits back and lets its movements of chance and
necessity surprise him, without caring whether or not the earth or man will
ever be produced -- or with no God.  Thus, I think that these two claims,
the Christian and the Darwinian, are logically and metaphysically
incompatible, and that if one of them is true, the other is false.  That's
why Darwinism -- pure Darwinism, not Darwinism tamed and compromised by
Christian sentiments or doctrines -- is a threat to Christian faith.  That's
why, if the public ever truly believes that pure, unadulterated Darwinism is
"true" -- as true as Newtonian physics or the germ theory of disease or the
periodic table of the elements -- the public will stop believing in the
Christian God (and the Jewish God and the Muslim God).

To confirm my general reasoning, I cite as empirical evidence the surveys
which show that the specialists in evolutionary biology, the ones who most
fervently believe that pure Darwinism is "true" in the sense given, have a
90-95% agnostic/atheistic score, higher than other biologists or than any
other group of scientists, and higher by far than the general public, which
is widely skeptical of the pure Darwinism that the evolutionary biologists
espouse.

[Note: 

Now, if you say that you have an inner certitude about Christianity, I do
not challenge you.  I am not denying that people can have inner certitude,
nor am I trying to psychoanalyze your certitude away.  But your inner
certitude does not address our disagreement, because our disagreement is
logical or metaphysical, not spiritual or psychological.  I am saying that
the God of whose existence you are certain is logically incompatible with
pure Darwinism as the means of creation.  You do not agree with me that the
two are logically incompatible.  Possibly you have not grasped the force of
my argument; on the other hand, possibly my argument is invalid.  But that
is the disagreement between us.  And I don't see how we can get any further
on it, because (a) I don't think that you have really addressed my argument
in rigorous detail; and (b) I don't think I can improve my argument any
further, at least not at this point, so I am unlikely to be able to persuade
you by writing any more.  So I will have to drop this thread for now.

The good news is that, on everything except the incompatibility of Darwinism
and Christian creation doctrine, we appear to agree.  We agree that the
exact means by which God created the world is unknown, that it is not set
forth in stone by Christian theology, and that it should be a question for
friendly joint speculation, not an issue over which Christians should be
angrily divided.  And, though I have not read your book yet, based on what
you have said about it, I think we agree that design in nature may be
detectable and that belief in design detectability is not banned by
Christian faith or Christian orthodoxy.

Cameron.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nucacids" <nucacids@wowway.com>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 12:11 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

> Hi Cameron,
>
>
>
> I thank you for taking the time to understand my views and recognizing
> that I am not proposing the way things ARE.  I'm simply pointing out why
> the Gould/Dawkins view of reality would, if shown to be valid, not cause
> me to abandon my faith.
>
>
>
> You 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."
>
>
>
> That may be, but then such Christians need to contemplate two facts of
> their life.
>
>
>
> First, how did they come into existence?  Most Christians (that I have
> known, at least) believe that God brought them into existence.  And when
> they have children, they view the birth as a precious gift from God.  Even
> secularists, shaped by the memories of our Christian culture, often speak
> of the "miracle of birth."  Yet the "reason" or "science" side of our
> minds and souls tells us it is chance.  "God gave us a beautiful little
> girl!" is also "The sperm that impregnated the egg happened to have an X
> chromosome in it."
>
>
>
> Second, many Christians will speak openly, at least among themselves,
> about answered prayer.  I myself have experienced some of the most
> remarkable examples of answered prayer, to the point that it has given me
> goose bumps. I store them in my heart, just as Mary stored stories about
> her son Jesus in her heart.  But the "reason" or "science" side of my mind
> and soul knows it "could have been" weird coincidence, and if I shared my
> stories with atheists, they would certainly view it as such and there is
> nothing in reason/science that would help me convince them otherwise.
>
>
>
> The way I see it, we have all been deeply shaped by a culture that places
> great value on reason and science.  What we claim to "know" we should be
> able to prove or support with evidence.  And I understand the value of
> that approach.  But as I have aged, I have come to know that you can take
> that approach too far.  Y'see, I am the type of person who pays attention
> to the little things, the subtle things.  I collect such knowledge. And I
> know many things, about myself, others, my surroundings, that I cannot
> prove or support with strong evidence.  In other words, I know things and
> I know I can not get others to see what I know.   I know that you can know
> without proof or evidence.  And I know it would be folly to jettison that
> knowledge because I could not prove it to another person.
>
>
>
> But what I don't know is if I am making any sense here.
>
>
>
> Perhaps I should put it this way.  They often say, "It's not what you
> know; it's what you can prove."  But a world that is based solely on what
> can be proven is an illusionary world.  Illusionary because it is
> incomplete and where incompleteness is often mistaken for completeness.
> After all, one example of such a world is our multi-media world of
> politics.
>
>
>
> So it may seem absurd to embrace God as our Creator while agreeing with
> Gould about evolution.  But I find it absurd to deny God as our Creator
> because of Gould's views on evolution.  Why?  Because I find it absurd to
> think that human reason can sit in such judgment.
>
> And
>
> I know God exists.
>
>
>
> -Mike

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Received on Wed May 20 04:46:16 2009

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