Re: [asa] Olasky on Collins

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Sun Aug 09 2009 - 21:12:51 EDT

Alas, I was engulfed in a myriad of technical and logistics issues when I arrived at the ASA meeting so the task of completing this letter was delayed until I could dig out from the under the mountain when I returned. In any case, I appreciated all of your suggestions and comments. Some of you asked for a final version so here it is. I sent this today. Of course, Collins was unanimously confirmed last Friday so the issue is not his confirmation but a clarification of ideas.


Dear Mr. Olasky,

   The American Scientific Affiliation is a Fellowship of Christians in science. We are committed to a statement of faith based on the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds and to integrity in science. We were founded in 1941 at the instigation of the president of Moody Bible Institute. We are not an advocacy group and do not take positions in areas of honest disagreement among Christians but encourage dialog in a spirit of Christian love. See

   Francis Collins is one of our members who was elected a Fellow in 2006. Though I cannot speak for him and our organization does not take sides, we do want to ensure that there is a clarity of dialog with accurate and fair analysis of all sides. In that spirit, may I offer the following comments, compiled with edits from several of our members, in response to your recent column titled “An Hour, Sir, Please”.

 1. "Collins recently set up the BioLogos Foundation: Its website defines BioLogos as "the belief that Darwinism is a correct science." This is confusing: Darwinism means unguided evolution, right?"

 No, Darwinism means different things to different people and is used in different ways. In Collins's statement he is simply talking about the predominant role of descent with modification and natural selection in the development of species.

2. "Does Collins mean by "theistic evolution" the concept that God is guiding the evolutionary process?"

Yes, Collins does mean God guiding the evolutionary process just as he guides the gravitational process, the electromagnetic process, and other processes in nature. God insures the continued functioning of the laws of nature he created, and scientists study the ways in which they are manifest in nature. This is consistent with the Christian belief in God as both creator and sustainer of his creation.

3. "If so, isn't that a version of ID?"

No, not ID as usually described by its advocates. Yes, as Christians we all believe that our Creator is an intelligent designer and we believe that the awesome world around us declares the existence of this intelligent designer. But ID generally refers to the belief that a) evolution is not an adequate scientific explanation of the origin of species, and b) that there is a specific logical argument based on DNA-information being specified complex information for which the best explanation is an indeterminate intelligent designer. That is the position with which Collins disagrees.

4."On the other hand, if Collins believes that God passively watches evolution unfold, isn't that deistic evolution? "

No, if by deistic evolution you mean that God starts the evolution going, and no longer has any role in his creation. In Collins's views, God guides evolution and is intimately involved in sustaining his creation at every instant--the same for evolution as for gravity and for electromagnetism.

5."The basic problem may be that Collins believes in Christ's resurrection but doesn't seem to have a high view of Scripture, which is where we primarily learn about Christ's resurrection."

No, that is mistaking a "high view of Scripture" for a particular interpretation of Scripture. Collins is committed to the inspiration of the Bible which
to him means understanding it for what God is teaching, not defining "high view" to be a certain human interpretation of what God might be teaching. Specifically, God did not plan the Bible to be a textbook on modern science or to reveal scientific mysteries such as what sort of particle causes gravitational attraction or the exact processes of biological development. Rather, God meant it to reveal his sovereignty and plan of salvation. Is it proper exegesis to force the Bible to answer the sort of scientific questions we feel are important, rather than recognizing what message God intended the text to speak?

6. "For example, Collins' BioLogos website declares, "It seems likely that Adam and Eve were not individual historical characters, but represented a larger population of first humans who bore the image of God."

Yes, that is a likely scientific interpretation and an appropriate biblical interpretation as well. There are many well-respected theologians and Bible-believing scientists and philosophers, dating back at least to St. Augustine, who have differed over the specific scientific relevance of various portions of scripture, yet have held an authentically Christian theology.

7."Many subsequent figures in the Bible, preeminently Jesus, referred to Adam as an individual: Were they deluded? "

No, they were not deluded but neither were they modern scientists or historians trying to document a historical event. This was the conventional populist belief at the time and the messages Jesus and Paul were giving were not science lessons but deeper theological lessons. This isn't delusion, but speaking in the language of the people.

8."Still, I'm not so worried about Collins' theological statements: Many readers can exegete them and come to their own conclusions. What I and many others need help with is the science. I'll put it simply and personally: I like Collins and find him convincing as he attacks ID. But when I hear Steve Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, a major new book published by HarperCollins and reviewed positively by many scientists, expound the flaws in Darwinism, I find him utterly convincing."

It is true that Stephen Meyer is a very convincing writer. I recently obtained this book and am partially through reading it. It is indeed a well written manifesto—perhaps a definitive ID scientific apologetic. The arguments are not convincing to most scientists, including Christians in science, but the case is made in such a persuasive style that many people will be impressed.

9."I don't understand the science well enough to ask Collins intelligent follow-up questions, so I'd love to see a discussion between Collins and Meyer. Earlier this year I asked Collins personally if he'd come to The King's College in the Empire State Building sometime and spend an hour before faculty and students discussing the issues with Meyer: We'd tape it and put excerpts in WORLD. Collins said no, and he has since said no to other entreaties."

Collins has the right to be selective of the many requests he has received. It is understandable that he would prefer to engage a biochemist regarding topics in biology.

10."Of course, he was busy earlier this year and he'll be even busier now. Collins may also be averse to sharing a platform with someone below his status, but Meyer has a Cambridge University Ph.D. and, as of 10:49 p.m. on July 6, had the No. 1 best-seller in Amazon's Kindle store in the "science and religion" category; Collins' book, The Language of God, was No. 3. (Note: Collins' has been out for a couple of years and has sold widely-but Meyer is a worthy challenger.)"

Truth is not based on best-selling book volumes.

11."I still want to hear two intelligent, influential guys discussing design, so I'm asking Collins publicly: Please, sir, busy senators and governors and major authors are coming to King's these days, and I suspect you too will be coming to Manhattan sometime. Whenever you do, can you spare an hour?"

If you had come to the ASA meeting last weekend, that's exactly what you would have heard. There are advocates on both sides of the ID debate among ASA members, and we encourage dialog in a spirit of Christian love.


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Received on Sun Aug 9 21:13:40 2009

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