The Disco ‘Tute runs a bait and switch on BioLogos

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It’s no secret that the species of Christian intelligent design creationism embodied in the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture has no love for theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism. It’s also no secret that they’re masters of the bait and switch. As far back as 2002 when Stephen Meyers and Jonathan Wells sprung their “teach the controversy” compromise on the Ohio State Board of Education they’ve sailed under false colors, only to drop their deceptive flag of convenience at the last minute to run up their true theocratic colors. Now Darrel Falk, President of Francis Collins’ BioLogos Foundation, has fallen victim to the Disco Dancers’ bait and switch.

Falk was a participant in the recent Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science conference. The conference was organized ostensibly in order that Christians, particularly Christians who are scientists, could explore common ground. It included a range of people as speakers, Old Earth Creationists all, and featured such luminaries as Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. a leading old earth creationism ministry.

Part of Falk’s involvement was to have been as co-leader, with Stephen Meyer, of a breakout discussion on the origin of life, with participation also by Randy Isaac of the American Scientific Affiliation and Douglas Axe of the DI’s Biologic Institute. Falk tells us he sought and got firm reassurances that his participation wasn’t mere tokenism. He writes that the conference organizer said

… the organizers assured me that since they were travelling to personally meet with each speaker, I could be assured that even this session would exemplify Christians working together in a spirit of Christ-centered unity. We might differ on scientific and theological details, but we each would be held accountable to work within this context. I appreciated that.

That was the bait. Then at the last minute came the switch. Less than a week before it was to occur, the Disco ‘Tute publicized the event as a debate, using martial language that doesn’t seem to reflect that “Christ-centered unity.”

Next week the Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science becomes the God and evolution showdown in Austin, as the question of whether faith in God can co-exist with Darwinian evolution will be discussed and debated with people of faith on all different points of the spectrum.

Attendees have three days of speakers and sessions but should prepare for a rumble on Thursday, October 28, when Stephen Meyer and Doug Axe will go up against Darrel Falk and Randy Isaac in a debate on the origin of life, moderated by Walter Bradley.

That was contrary to the assurances that Falk says he received, and he tells us the Disco ‘Tute, in the person of an Associate Director, refused to withdraw the description when asked by the conference organizers. Is anyone surprised? The only person at the Disco ‘Tute who holds the title “Associate Director” is political scientist John West, so the implication is that it was West who approved the martial verbiage under Director Stephen Meyer’s leadership. So Falk, to his credit, pulled out of the session.

Welcome to our world, Professor Falk. Anyone still wonder why we don’t trust the Disco ‘Tute’s apparatchiks? As William Dembski plainly said,

Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution.

They really aren’t, you know, Professor Falk.

Finally, for a foreshadowing of Falk’s experience see Steve Matheson’s prescient critique of the underlying premises of BioLogos’ participation in the “Vibrant Dance” conference:

As long as Reasons To Believe and the Discovery Institute engage in openly dishonest attacks on science and deliberate distortions of scientific knowledge, discussions about “unity” between them and BioLogos should focus entirely on their failure to meet (or seek to meet) standards of integrity.

Good luck with that!

169 Comments

As William Dembski plainly said,

Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution.

Science can not and should not be friendly to theistic evolution either. Biologos is a religious endeavor that may help christians to cope with the challenges science throws on their belief. But it has definitly nothing to do with science.

sparc said:

As William Dembski plainly said,

Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution.

Science can not and should not be friendly to theistic evolution either. Biologos is a religious endeavor that may help christians to cope with the challenges science throws on their belief. But it has definitly nothing to do with science.

On the other hand, if theistic evolutionists aren’t using their religious faith to supplant science or trump reality, why should they be attacked for having faith?

After all, the fact that theistic evolutionists do not blindly, stupidly, unthinkingly adhere to a literal interpretation of their holy books is specifically why Creationists, like those at the Discovery Institute, constantly attack them as evil heretic apostates.

On the other hand, if theistic evolutionists aren’t using their religious faith to supplant science or trump reality, why should they be attacked for having faith?

If they are claiming without evidence that some intelligent being has been tweaking evolution to produce us, that evolution is not undirected, then that doesn’t seem to me to be consonant with science.

If they are claiming without evidence that some intelligent being has been tweaking evolution to produce us, that evolution is not undirected, then that doesn’t seem to me to be consonant with science.

Anybody have a response for that one?

Stanton said: On the other hand, if theistic evolutionists aren’t using their religious faith to supplant science or trump reality, why should they be attacked for having faith?

If someone has an objection to their religion as, say, superstitious twaddle, that would be reason enough.

Being an apatheist and having little knowledge of or interest in religious doctrines, if someone wants to fight with religion I have not the slightest objection – religion is clearly able to hold its own in such barking contests.

But I can say that, though from my point of view TE might be judged excess baggage, since it doesn’t contest the scientific consensus it leaves me with nothing to argue about.

One could make a philosophical dispute over TE of course, but I would find it a pointless bore myself, and I have better things to do with my time.

Stephen P said:

On the other hand, if theistic evolutionists aren’t using their religious faith to supplant science or trump reality, why should they be attacked for having faith?

If they are claiming without evidence that some intelligent being has been tweaking evolution to produce us, that evolution is not undirected, then that doesn’t seem to me to be consonant with science.

There are, I think, a number of flavors of theistic evolution (TE).

One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology. FWIW, this is my position.

SWT said:

Stephen P said:

On the other hand, if theistic evolutionists aren’t using their religious faith to supplant science or trump reality, why should they be attacked for having faith?

If they are claiming without evidence that some intelligent being has been tweaking evolution to produce us, that evolution is not undirected, then that doesn’t seem to me to be consonant with science.

There are, I think, a number of flavors of theistic evolution (TE).

One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology. FWIW, this is my position.

I have no problem with that. Its dangerous to promote the meme that evolutionary theory is inherently atheistic-that’s the enemy’s argument.

One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology.

In other words, (borrowing a line from evolutionist H. Allen Orr),

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that Caesar says he can have.”

FL

RBH, I don’t think that any of this was particularly surprising to Darrel or to BioLogos. Disappointing, yes. Unexpected, no. Darrel is an extremely gracious person, but he is anything but naive.

Steve Matheson’s critique is also worth hearing, and I agree with Steve on almost all of it. I think it’s pretty clear that BioLogos co-sponsoring this meeting was not an endorsement of the other groups or some sort of intellectual capitulation in the name of Christian unity. It was an opportunity to have a Christian view that accepts mainstream biology at the table in front of thoughtful Christians, many of whom are leaders in their congregations.

One sincere question, asked of Steve Meyer at one of the DI sessions, was this (I may not recall it exactly word-for-word, but this was the gist):

“How can it be, that Darrel Falk, a man of such integrity, can look at your evidence and come to such a different conclusion than you?”

That pretty much sums up the meeting in a nutshell for me.

SWT said: One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology. FWIW, this is my position.

The idea that the G-Man is actually tweaking evolution as it goes along is sort of playing footsie with intelligent design and is a fair target. The notion that evolution is simply part of the G-man’s Big Plan doesn’t raise any objections to scientific theory; more generally, to outsiders it amounts to simply declaring that “our religion has no problem with evolution” … which leaves no scientific argument at all.

Now the theology may be argued by those inclined, but as far I’m concerned it’s something like driving. If someone claims “God is my co-pilot” to deal with the clear hazards of driving, that may have a giggle factor to some – but as long as they’re obeying the traffic laws and not claiming it gives them the right to drive on the wrong side of the road, there’s no cause to bust them for it.

There are, I think, a number of flavors of theistic evolution (TE).

One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology. FWIW, this is my position.

Exactly. My position also. It’s the position of the DI that God is guiding evolution, front-loading or tweaking along the way, to create His masterpiece: humankind the bacterial flagellum.

Aagcobb said: I have no problem with that. Its dangerous to promote the meme that evolutionary theory is inherently atheistic-that’s the enemy’s argument.

Actually, as far as I can see that argument is played loud on both sides of the fence.

Dennis Venema said:

[SNIP]

One sincere question, asked of Steve Meyer at one of the DI sessions, was this (I may not recall it exactly word-for-word, but this was the gist):

“How can it be, that Darrel Falk, a man of such integrity, can look at your evidence and come to such a different conclusion than you?”

That pretty much sums up the meeting in a nutshell for me.

What was Meyer’s answer?

FL said:

One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology.

In other words, (borrowing a line from evolutionist H. Allen Orr),

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that Caesar says he can have.”

FL

Quote mine much?

RBH said:

Dennis Venema said:

[SNIP]

One sincere question, asked of Steve Meyer at one of the DI sessions, was this (I may not recall it exactly word-for-word, but this was the gist):

“How can it be, that Darrel Falk, a man of such integrity, can look at your evidence and come to such a different conclusion than you?”

That pretty much sums up the meeting in a nutshell for me.

What was Meyer’s answer?

Eventually these sessions will be online, so you can parse it for yourself.

Meyer left the impression that the data was so new that Falk hadn’t seen it yet. I can’t recall offhand exactly what “evidence” was under discussion at that point.

Dennis Venema said: Eventually these sessions will be online, so you can parse it for yourself.

Good.

Meyer left the impression that the data was so new that Falk hadn’t seen it yet. I can’t recall offhand exactly what “evidence” was under discussion at that point.

That’s a critical point: What is this purportedly ‘new’ evidence? Was Meyer riding his ‘How did genetic information originate?’ horse?

Aagcobb said: Its dangerous to promote the meme that evolutionary theory is inherently atheistic-that’s the enemy’s argument.

Evolution is no more “inherently” atheistic than is the solar system. But as Galileo learned to his sorrow, opinions vary among theologians.

Virtually all religions these days have somehow accepted the solar system. It’s gradually happening with evolution too. The holdouts will either adjust or they’ll eventually be regarded as soul-mates of the Flat Earth Society. But these things take time – a lot of time. Unfortunately, we’re in the middle of a long period of adjustment for lots of denominations.

If scientists take a hard-core “science or religion” position, it’s not helpful to those who are groping their way toward accepting science. As long as such denominations don’t get aggressive about interfering with science, their efforts to adjust to reality shouldn’t be discouraged.

mrg said:

SWT said: One form of TE posits that the evolutionary process is inherently the will of the Almighty – no intervention or tweaking is required. Such a TE considers scientific results when thinking through theology, but does not ask science to consider theology. FWIW, this is my position.

The idea that the G-Man is actually tweaking evolution as it goes along is sort of playing footsie with intelligent design and is a fair target. The notion that evolution is simply part of the G-man’s Big Plan doesn’t raise any objections to scientific theory; more generally, to outsiders it amounts to simply declaring that “our religion has no problem with evolution” … which leaves no scientific argument at all.

Actually, I think it does. The concept of a cause or starting point, in this case “god,” is a posit that has no evidence, reason, nor purpose. It is a needless complication to the theory that provides no explanatory power. There isn’t even an acceptable definition of “god.”

Supernaturality is outside of the realm of science, by definition, and therefore cannot play any part in theory. Any causative agent of evolution, should evidence be found for such, would be considered natural.

If they are claiming without evidence that some intelligent being has been tweaking evolution to produce us, that evolution is not undirected, then that doesn’t seem to me to be consonant with science.

The term “theistic evolution” seems to generate confusion.

In the context of the politicized “creationism versus evolution” conflict in the US, between false magical claims and science, the term “theistic evolution” is nearly always used to describe a position that accepts mainstream science as the best description of physical reality, but happens to be held by someone who also claims some kind of religious belief.

(As mrg pointed out above, the question of whether “any” religious belief “whatsoever” is incompatible with “true” science is a different, theological/philosophical question. It is one of great interest to some people - not to me.)

Any claim that biological evolution required, or even had, magical input, in order to generate the current terrestrial biomass from common ancestry, is by definition an ID/creationist claim. Those who use the term “theistic evolution” generally do so to differentiate themselves from such claims.

They are despised and rejected by ID/creationism advocates as a result. Indeed, the content of the article at the top of this thread should make that clear.

It is also critically important to note the presence of FL here.

FL’s entire message is that “no Christian can accept biological evolution”. Although he is ambivalent about whether accepting evolution alone leads to eternal damnation, his whole point is that he gets to tell other Christians what to believe. FL is in tune with a major social movement.

A major, major meme in American politics is “if you want to follow ‘real’ Christian traditions, you are obliged to accept a right wing ideology that includes science denial”. Another major meme is “non-Jesus-like behavior such as scorn and sadism toward the less fortunate, dishonesty, promotion of war for profit, violent anger toward those who verbally disagree with you, narcissistic egotism, etc, is made 100% ethical as long as you just describe yourself as ‘Christian’, no matter what you actually do”.

Theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins threaten these memes and are despised for doing so.

For the record, I am not religious at all, just explaining.

harold said: As mrg pointed out above, the question of whether “any” religious belief “whatsoever” is incompatible with “true” science is a different, theological/philosophical question.

I might add that to the extent there is an argument of this, it is an argument of abstract principle.

In practice, science makes no consideration of religion at all. The work of a theistic scientist is judged on the same basis as that of an atheistic scientist, and the Nobel Prize committee takes no consideration of the theistic positions of a scientist in making the awards.

Once a scientist attempts to use theistic notions as part of a specific scientific theory, that goes over the line and is a legitimate target.

It is one of great interest to some people - not to me.

Yep. It’s not really out of deference, just a refusal to argue intangibles when there are usually tangibles at hand. It’s just spinning the wheels. No use going for the Nerf Gun when the Barrett Fifty is available.

Just Al -

The notion that evolution is simply part of the G-man’s Big Plan doesn’t raise any objections to scientific theory; more generally, to outsiders it amounts to simply declaring that “our religion has no problem with evolution” … which leaves no scientific argument at all.

Actually, I think it does.

So you’re going to produce some positive scientific evidence against god. Excellent. Should be interesting.

The concept of a cause or starting point, in this case “god,” is a posit that has no evidence, reason, nor purpose. It is a needless complication to the theory that provides no explanatory power. There isn’t even an acceptable definition of “god.”

Wait a second. That’s all true, but it’s actually exactly the same as what mrg said. I thought you were disagreeing.

Supernaturality is outside of the realm of science, by definition, and therefore cannot play any part in theory. Any causative agent of evolution, should evidence be found for such, would be considered natural.

I completely agree with this, but again, it supports the original point you are responding to.

I don’t want to go around and around in circles. If you have positive, empirical, replicable evidence that every religious view ever held or conceivably held by anyone can be scientifically ruled out, let me have it right now, and if I can replicate your findings, I will accept them.

Otherwise, we’re all saying the same thing. Some guys have a religious belief that adds nothing to science but can’t be tested one way or the other by science, either. I don’t have any religious belief, and you may choose to argue with those guys on a philosophical level, but as far as science is concerned, their beliefs are irrelevant.

(For full disclosure, Francis Collins has made some informal statements about his religion that I definitively disagree with on a logical, not subjective, level. However, he could abandon those claims and still call himself “religious”.)

RBH said:

Dennis Venema said: Eventually these sessions will be online, so you can parse it for yourself.

Good.

Meyer left the impression that the data was so new that Falk hadn’t seen it yet. I can’t recall offhand exactly what “evidence” was under discussion at that point.

That’s a critical point: What is this purportedly ‘new’ evidence? Was Meyer riding his ‘How did genetic information originate?’ horse?

I wish I could remember - my best guess (don’t hold me to it) was that it was Axe’s 2010 paper in the new ID journal BioComplexity. Fortunately it was taped, so we will know for sure in due time.

Dennis Venema said:

RBH said:

Dennis Venema said: Eventually these sessions will be online, so you can parse it for yourself.

Good.

Meyer left the impression that the data was so new that Falk hadn’t seen it yet. I can’t recall offhand exactly what “evidence” was under discussion at that point.

That’s a critical point: What is this purportedly ‘new’ evidence? Was Meyer riding his ‘How did genetic information originate?’ horse?

I wish I could remember - my best guess (don’t hold me to it) was that it was Axe’s 2010 paper in the new ID journal BioComplexity. Fortunately it was taped, so we will know for sure in due time.

As an aside, I find Meyer’s remark (as relayed here) to be incredible. At the Biola event I participated in last May, it was learned that Meyer’s understanding of fundamental gene expression mechanisms was so lacking that he had not moved out of the 1970’s on one front, and was blissfully unaware of Nobel prize-caliber research on another.

In other words, for Meyer, “new” is circa 1969 or so. Its not likely that Falk is equally ignorant or behind the times.

Arthur Hunt said:

In other words, for Meyer, “new” is circa 1969 or so. Its not likely that Falk is equally ignorant or behind the times.

Certainly one of the main shortcomings of Meyer and all other ID/creationists is that they are way behind the times on current facts and evidence.

But the more fundamental shortcoming is that their conceptual understanding of science is completely screwed up. And it is their screwed up sectarian orthodoxy that is the reason they screw up scientific concepts.

That is why religion and real science cannot coexist for them. They have to mangle the science; hence they can’t understand or do science.

And the bankruptcy of their religion is simply highlighted by the fact that they attempt to prop it up with pseudo-science and use politics to ram it down the throats of everyone else.

Dennis Venema said: I wish I could remember - my best guess (don’t hold me to it) was that it was Axe’s 2010 paper in the new ID journal BioComplexity. Fortunately it was taped, so we will know for sure in due time.

Thanks. I suspected it was one of Axe’s protein folding gigs. Axe’s recent review paper on it in Bio-Complexity is here (3M PDF). Following the example of Marks and Dembski and others, Axe models evolution as a search problem, thereby being stuck with all the attendant problems of that model. As I’ve said many times, the search model of biological evolution is a snare and a deception.

Mike Elzinga said:

But the more fundamental shortcoming is that their conceptual understanding of science is completely screwed up.

I think that can be seen as an aspect of a very fundamental problem – a complete inability to visualize concepts in concrete terms. They have and can have no notion, even a wrong one, of how things work. They instead see the subject matter as a set of factoids and sound bites that can be juggled and rearranged using semantic and rhetorical tricks – and since that’s all it is to them, they can honestly believe they aren’t lying.

SWT said: Quote mine much?

Yes. Yes, he does. It’s rather expected of him, I think. Almost a religious duty.

I wish I could say I’m surprised by this, but given the DI’s long and distinguished track record in such matters, one wonders why nobody at Biologos thought to perform a little due diligence. Perhaps they simply decided to trust, on grounds that a fellow believer would never, ever, do anything underhanded. Naive of them, neh?

The MadPanda, FCD

harold said: So you’re going to produce some positive scientific evidence against god. Excellent. Should be interesting.

Methinks the burden of proof is on the believers to demonstrate why the null hypothesis ought to be rejected. Thus far, little has been forthcoming.

What have you got? I’d be thrilled to see some positive scientific evidence on behalf of Hanuman or Ganesh, for example.

The MadPanda, FCD

RBH said:

Dennis Venema said: I wish I could remember - my best guess (don’t hold me to it) was that it was Axe’s 2010 paper in the new ID journal BioComplexity. Fortunately it was taped, so we will know for sure in due time.

Thanks. I suspected it was one of Axe’s protein folding gigs. Axe’s recent review paper on it in Bio-Complexity is here (3M PDF). Following the example of Marks and Dembski and others, Axe models evolution as a search problem, thereby being stuck with all the attendant problems of that model. As I’ve said many times, the search model of biological evolution is a snare and a deception.

Wow! There’s that Fundamental Misconception of the ID/creationists again.

Nobody doing real science approaches problems this way. ID/creationists approach to science finds its roots in their burned-in justifications of sectarian dogma.

This is one of the most unmistakable set of memes that identify creationists. No matter how much they obfuscate politically, you can identify them by their characteristic thought processes.

harold said:

Just Al -

So you’re going to produce some positive scientific evidence against god. Excellent. Should be interesting.

Science assumes the null set (as does reason.) If there is no evidence for something, there is no reason to consider it. You don’t prove negatives, and in fact, don’t really “prove” anything in science - you simply establish good evidence for its existence. When your evidence consists of nothing, that’s your evidence against it. What else could you use?

Otherwise, we’re all saying the same thing. Some guys have a religious belief that adds nothing to science but can’t be tested one way or the other by science, either. I don’t have any religious belief, and you may choose to argue with those guys on a philosophical level, but as far as science is concerned, their beliefs are irrelevant.

Failure to be testable is an actual facet of science - specifically, ruling the concept out of being considered “science” altogether. Empirical tests require something measurable. Defining something as unable to be measured isn’t scientific in any way. It’s philosophy, which has no rules for posits from fantasy versus real world.

I’m fine with theistic evolution being considered a theosophical standpoint, but to argue that science cannot address it is wrong. It is a blatant attempt to take a scientific concept and add religion to it, and it has nothing to do with science. It has no more scientific support than Young-Earth Creationism.

eric,

Apparently you miss my sarcasm. Science and faith are two different modes of thought and should not be mixed, except maybe in a philosophy or history of science setting in which one could acknowledge that Western scientific notions of progress could be viewed as a philosophical legacy of Judeo-Christian thought. But that’s the only exception I am willing to admit:

eric said:

John Kwok said: As I noted a few days ago here, we don’t have any discussions of a “Christian” perspective on astrophysics, on chemistry, or even geology. Then why the special treatment for evolutionary biology?

Christian geology.

Christian cosmology.

On chemistry: nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry are affected by the whole age of the earth thing.

So yes, we get fundamtentalist “christian” perspectives on all these things. The debate is a lot bigger than just biological evolution, though of the various scientific theories that is clearly the primary target of fundie ire.

But I’ll combine two earlier poster’s comments: we need to recognize that science and scientists are different. There may be no theistic science, but there are theistic scientists, and very often one side or the other will bring up the theism (or atheism) of scientists for political purposes. As scientists we may think of this as dirty pool/illegitimate reasoning, but character considerations and behavior outside the workplace are a part of politics whether we like it or not. People make political decisions based on non-policy-relevant traits. You can complain that they shouldn’t, but they do.

Personally I tend to think of the adjectives as unconnected to each other. ‘Theistic scientist’ is like ‘German accountant.’ Using the adjectives “German” and “accountant” together does not imply to me that Germany has its own special bookkeeping system. It means the person you’re talking about is both a German and an accountant.

And I couldn’t disagree more with the approach taken as you’ve described:

Rich Blinne said: I couldn’t disagree more. Not only was what you are talking possible at the conference, that’s precisely what did happen. The purpose of the conference was to allow many voices to speak. ID has a monopoly in the evangelical church through Meyer’s influence on videos of just one side such as the Truth Project and True U. The debate portion of the Biola visits was organized by DI while the Vibrant Dance conference only had DI as one of many participants. They tried to turn this into a “rumble” and they failed because Darell blocked them. Even you noted for Biola the progress was made when Arthur and Steve were outside the debate format and could be teachers instead. There was a lot of that going on at the conference because that was the purpose of the conference despite the DI’s failed attempt at hijacking it. So, in both cases we had people interacting directly with an evangelical audience which were more productive but in the more recent case without the “rumble”. When this happened, evangelical laypeople – being the fair-minded people they are – listened to and understood the evidence that the DI propaganda machine was denying them.

More importantly than all of this was the conference was on video. As I stated above ID and only ID videos are shown in the evangelical church. People will get to see for themselves Randy explaining why ID gets information theory all wrong and Dennis being cool in a debate and Darell giving his testimony showing the audience we don’t have horns. Having ID people there helps and doesn’t hurt. It’s not the people who are there that’s the problem, but it’s the format of one-sided debate. ID has promoted a false narrative that they are being picked on for their faith rather than they are being picked on because the science is simply not there. By also turning up the temperature they can also sell the other false narrative that people disagree with them because we are not confident in our position as proven by our stridency.

The video will show them being treated as brothers and that the disagreement between us stems from their utter failure to make their case. All Christians believe in intelligent design but ID has failed to prove it. Since they conflate themselves with Christianity as a whole when they go down in flames they bring all other Christians down with them. Evangelicals can see with their own eyes why the scientific community rejects ID and discover that mainstream science is not a threat to faith. This was the point of the conference and it succeeded despite the efforts of some to sell the warfare model.

Where you (and Dennis) and I part company is in failing to recognize this observation of Steve Matheson’s as noted in his blog entry warning BioLogos of its participation in this conference:

“This, then, is what I will call the cost of artificial unity, of persistently vocalizing points of agreement without also noting that some people don’t tell the truth: the gospel, that which was claimed to be the unifying anchor, is diminished. It’s hard to argue for the transforming and radical nature of the good news if others see it as a banner of legitimacy for nonsense and a license to deliberately distort the truth. And, in fact, I would go further. It is precisely the openly Christian nature of Reasons To Believe that should cause Christians to hold it to a higher standard of truth-telling. It is precisely the juxtaposition of Christian faith with anti-science rhetoric that should cause Christians to reject and isolate the Discovery Institute. These outfits aren’t just abusing science. They’re doing it under the banner of the faith.”

“As long as Reasons To Believe and the Discovery Institute engage in openly dishonest attacks on science and deliberate distortions of scientific knowledge, discussions about ‘unity’ between them and BioLogos should focus entirely on their failure to meet (or seek to meet) standards of integrity. If and when that topic is tackled, dialogue about points of theological or philosophical disagreement can proceed in a context of Christian unity. Until then, Christian moral credibility is damaged by a misguided attempt to be unified in the presence of misconduct. There are, after all, proof texts about that stuff too.”

You should recognize immediately that part of Steve’s concluding remarks were cited by RBH at the start of this thread; I opted to post all of them here merely as a reminder to you and to Dennis as to why I think this conference was a mistake and that both BioLogos and ASA’s participation was a serious lapse in judgement.

I think far more useful would have been a serious dialogue with someone like eminent evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson - who, as a product of the “Bible Belt”, understands it well - who would gently, but still firmly, explain why it is ridiculous for otherwise well meaning people in the Evangelical Christian community to reject the scientific validity of biological evolution, in a setting that included Wilson - and maybe others like Steve Matheson and Keith Miller - who could hold “court” without any potential - or actual - interference from the Dishonesty Institute.

John Kwok said:

I think far more useful would have been a serious dialogue with someone like eminent evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson - who, as a product of the “Bible Belt”, understands it well - who would gently, but still firmly, explain why it is ridiculous for otherwise well meaning people in the Evangelical Christian community to reject the scientific validity of biological evolution, in a setting that included Wilson - and maybe others like Steve Matheson and Keith Miller - who could hold “court” without any potential - or actual - interference from the Dishonesty Institute.

It seems to me that one just has to wait and see what ultimately happens. If this approach can start getting people in evangelical churches to start learning the real science instead of the fake stuff they have been fed for close to 50 years now, they might start listening to other scientists also.

I haven’t found that most scientists are mean spirited toward religious people; we all work among them quite regularly. And they come in all different religions, races, and nationalities. We get along just fine.

The “religious” ones that draw our ire are those hucksters at the DI, AiG, ICR and a few others that push pseudo-science and lie routinely. Nobody should like them no matter what these charlatans want to call themselves.

Churches need to start cleaning house of these hucksters. Forgiving them and taking them in only emboldens them and shelters from being prosecuted for fraud. They are interested in only their own aggrandizement; not the spiritual or intellectual welfare of other church members.

Maybe, but I’m not optimistic, especially when that conference agenda was organized by two “Christian” organizations hostile to science. Again, I think a much better effort at understanding of science by Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians was undertaken at Biola earlier this year by both Arthur Hunt and Steve Matheson. In the long run I think that will be far more important than this risible exercise at “Christian Unity” which Steve Matheson was right to reject as implied by RBH in his initial comments opening this discussion thread:

Mike Elzinga said:

John Kwok said:

I think far more useful would have been a serious dialogue with someone like eminent evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson - who, as a product of the “Bible Belt”, understands it well - who would gently, but still firmly, explain why it is ridiculous for otherwise well meaning people in the Evangelical Christian community to reject the scientific validity of biological evolution, in a setting that included Wilson - and maybe others like Steve Matheson and Keith Miller - who could hold “court” without any potential - or actual - interference from the Dishonesty Institute.

It seems to me that one just has to wait and see what ultimately happens. If this approach can start getting people in evangelical churches to start learning the real science instead of the fake stuff they have been fed for close to 50 years now, they might start listening to other scientists also.

I haven’t found that most scientists are mean spirited toward religious people; we all work among them quite regularly. And they come in all different religions, races, and nationalities. We get along just fine.

The “religious” ones that draw our ire are those hucksters at the DI, AiG, ICR and a few others that push pseudo-science and lie routinely. Nobody should like them no matter what these charlatans want to call themselves.

Churches need to start cleaning house of these hucksters. Forgiving them and taking them in only emboldens them and shelters from being prosecuted for fraud. They are interested in only their own aggrandizement; not the spiritual or intellectual welfare of other church members.

I’d also note too that Steve Matheson is most likely right in condemning the organization of this conference since it was based on the false pretense of “Christian unity”. Blinne - and apparently even Venema, who presented there - haven’t really addressed this point in their comments here. Steve’s critique was a rather damning condemnation on both scientific and Christian grounds, and it is really a shame that neither Darrel Falk nor Randy Isaac heeded his most prescient warning.

This is, after all, the very point which Steve Matheson concluded his critique of the conference, but one apparently lost on the likes of Venema, Falk, Isaac and Blinne:

Mike Elzinga said: Churches need to start cleaning house of these hucksters. Forgiving them and taking them in only emboldens them and shelters from being prosecuted for fraud. They are interested in only their own aggrandizement; not the spiritual or intellectual welfare of other church members.

eric said:

Personally I tend to think of the adjectives as unconnected to each other. ‘Theistic scientist’ is like ‘German accountant.’ Using the adjectives “German” and “accountant” together does not imply to me that Germany has its own special bookkeeping system. It means the person you’re talking about is both a German and an accountant.

I agree except when it comes to “Christian Scientist”, which is apparently a noun. I learned that from Tom Lehrer. ;P

Anyone who thinks that this conference was designed to promote a better understanding of science from a Christian perspective should realize that most of the breakout sessions were dominated by Dishonesty Institute staff, including sessions devoted to Bill Dembski:

http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1[…]out-sessions

Of the organizations involved in co-sponsoring this conference, one of the others involved was Chuck Colson’s organization (An avowed creationist, Colson is also a Dishonesty Institute supporter.):

http://vibrantdance.org/symposium-1/co-sponsors

IMHO this was truly not a forum designed to promote better understanding between science and Christianity, but rather, to promote further ignorance of valid science amongst some Christians, given the extensive participation of Dishonesty Institute staff such as Bill Dembski and Stephen Meyer. This merely reinforces my belief that a much better forum would have been one comprised solely of those like E. O. Wilson - well known mainstream scientists who understand Evangelical Christianity and are willing to engage with it - and Evangelical Christians who are also scientists, such as Keith Miller and Steve Matheson.

John Kwok said:

This is, after all, the very point which Steve Matheson concluded his critique of the conference, but one apparently lost on the likes of Venema, Falk, Isaac and Blinne:

Mike Elzinga said: Churches need to start cleaning house of these hucksters. Forgiving them and taking them in only emboldens them and shelters from being prosecuted for fraud. They are interested in only their own aggrandizement; not the spiritual or intellectual welfare of other church members.

Throughout the period from the early 1970s to nearly the present, I have often wondered where these religious scientists, who presumably understood science, were coming from.

It also occurred to me that these scientists didn’t understand the fraud being perpetrated by the ID/creationist crowd; and perhaps didn’t really know the science very well themselves.

In those instances where I had some information about what was going on within some of those evangelical churches, and even in some of the more moderate churches, I didn’t get the impression that this was being addressed.

In fact, I had the distinct impression that the people in these churches didn’t want to face this issue. There would be responses that suggested that they didn’t think they should be fighting with their “Christian brothers” and that praying about it would solve the problem.

You have to admit that the ID/creationist scam has been quite effective; and many of the evangelical churches have been duped so badly that they are having a hard time facing up to that fact. And then there are still all those “delicate issues” with church dogma.

I suspect it’s going to be a while, if ever, before any of this gets ironed out in these particular religious circles. There’s too much at stake; and still a tendency to deny reality.

It’s too bad that none of these “scientists” have been as honest as the likes of religiously devout scientists such as the great Theodosius Dobzhansky - the evolutionary geneticist who was one of the architects of the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution - or Vatican Astronomer Guy Consolmagno (a Jesuit Brother) or cell biologist Ken Miller. All of them have regarded themselves, first and foremost, as scientists and acted only as such, reserving their religious faith for private moments in which they were not acting as scientists:

Mike Elzinga said:

John Kwok said:

This is, after all, the very point which Steve Matheson concluded his critique of the conference, but one apparently lost on the likes of Venema, Falk, Isaac and Blinne:

Mike Elzinga said: Churches need to start cleaning house of these hucksters. Forgiving them and taking them in only emboldens them and shelters from being prosecuted for fraud. They are interested in only their own aggrandizement; not the spiritual or intellectual welfare of other church members.

Throughout the period from the early 1970s to nearly the present, I have often wondered where these religious scientists, who presumably understood science, were coming from.

It also occurred to me that these scientists didn’t understand the fraud being perpetrated by the ID/creationist crowd; and perhaps didn’t really know the science very well themselves.

In those instances where I had some information about what was going on within some of those evangelical churches, and even in some of the more moderate churches, I didn’t get the impression that this was being addressed.

In fact, I had the distinct impression that the people in these churches didn’t want to face this issue. There would be responses that suggested that they didn’t think they should be fighting with their “Christian brothers” and that praying about it would solve the problem.

You have to admit that the ID/creationist scam has been quite effective; and many of the evangelical churches have been duped so badly that they are having a hard time facing up to that fact. And then there are still all those “delicate issues” with church dogma.

I suspect it’s going to be a while, if ever, before any of this gets ironed out in these particular religious circles. There’s too much at stake; and still a tendency to deny reality.

I don’t deny that the ID scam has been quite effective. But just because it is doesn’t mean that there should be conferences like this one in which science is “treated” to make it more palatable to a devoutly Evangelical Christian audience. Despite Venema and Binne’s optimism with regards to this conference, I am more inclined that the messages were mixed - and not at all quite sympathetic to science - when people like Dembski and Hugh Ross were able to monopolize time for themselves. Had this conference included the likes of E. O. Wilson, Keith Miller, Ken Miller, Arthur Hunt and Steve Matheson, then I’d have ample grounds for optimism (And Dennis, if you are reading this, I think I have every right to voice an opinion on this event, especially when it was so deferential to the likes of Dembski, Meyer and Ross.).

Hi John,

Yes, you’re more than welcome to voice an opinion. No one is suggesting otherwise. My comment was that you were not the intended audience of this meeting.

The fact of the matter is that either this conference would have gone ahead without those from the EC/TE view or with this view represented. Is it a perfect setting? No. Would turning down the invitation and boycotting the meeting have been an improvement? Here we disagree.

The meeting was challenging for me at times, I admit. The ID and RTB folks, as we all know, can throw up more dust and smoke than a careful scientist can address in a short time to a non-specialist audience. Still, every time I got discouraged, some random person from the attendees would seek me out to offer their thanks that we were there, and that we were presenting accurate science. Several others I spoke to were clearly starting to have doubts about the ID movement. This was especially the case for attendees younger than myself (i.e. in their 20s).

Had Biologos not been there, these things would not have happened. The fact that a group of real scientists who are also “real Christians” (with apologies to the scotsman) were there, presenting accurate science, and more importantly, saying they don’t buy what the ID / RTB groups are selling, said a lot to the attendees.

So, was it perfect? Nope. I doubt there is any perfect way to address these issues. Was it worthwhile? Yep. The fact that Darrel took the high road also was not lost on the attendees at all. It spoke volumes.

Dennis,

I realize that, but thanks for the reminder that this conference wasn’t meant for me:

Dennis Venema said:

Hi John,

Yes, you’re more than welcome to voice an opinion. No one is suggesting otherwise. My comment was that you were not the intended audience of this meeting.

The fact of the matter is that either this conference would have gone ahead without those from the EC/TE view or with this view represented. Is it a perfect setting? No. Would turning down the invitation and boycotting the meeting have been an improvement? Here we disagree.

The meeting was challenging for me at times, I admit. The ID and RTB folks, as we all know, can throw up more dust and smoke than a careful scientist can address in a short time to a non-specialist audience. Still, every time I got discouraged, some random person from the attendees would seek me out to offer their thanks that we were there, and that we were presenting accurate science. Several others I spoke to were clearly starting to have doubts about the ID movement. This was especially the case for attendees younger than myself (i.e. in their 20s).

Had Biologos not been there, these things would not have happened. The fact that a group of real scientists who are also “real Christians” (with apologies to the scotsman) were there, presenting accurate science, and more importantly, saying they don’t buy what the ID / RTB groups are selling, said a lot to the attendees.

So, was it perfect? Nope. I doubt there is any perfect way to address these issues. Was it worthwhile? Yep. The fact that Darrel took the high road also was not lost on the attendees at all. It spoke volumes.

I understand your sentiment, but I still think that a more appropriate setting would have been having a conference featuring ONLY those from BioLogos, ASA and others, such as E. O. Wilson, who understand the Evangelical Christian point of view. Ken Miller doesn’t debate now since he thinks it is more productive reaching out one on one with his audiences. For similar reasons physicist Laurence Krauss frequently lectures at Fundamentalist churches and schools to explain why mainstream science should be the only science seen as valid by Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians.

By no means do I doubt your sincerity or your hard work on our behalf and let me apologize if you thought some of my comments may have suggested otherwise. However, I am still convinced that situations such as those which Arthur Hunt and Steve Matheson were able to create at Biola free of any Dishonesty Institute or Reason to Believe or Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research interference would have been far more effective.

John, repetition does not make your argument more persuasive. Let’s let that line of discussion fade away, please.

Laurence Krauss is the only prominent New Atheist who will reach out to Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians, speak at their institutions, and treat them with civility and respect. Maybe what is needed is a major grassroots effort by ASA and BioLogos to make similar kinds of engagement with such audiences. Hope you can make such a recommendation to your colleagues belonging to both organizations. IMHO I believe such a strategy may prove to be far more effective in the long term.

RBH,

I was setting that up for what followed (see my second comment to Dennis). Moreover, I’m not sure whether much of the PT online audience understands why Ken no longer is interested in debating or that Krauss doesn’t hesitate to accept invitations to speak at Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian institutions:

RBH said:

John, repetition does not make your argument more persuasive. Let’s let that line of discussion fade away, please.

But your point is well taken.

One quick last comment - John, Biologos is pursuing the types of venues that you prefer as well. One example is the professional development program they are running for science teachers from Christian high schools. A second would be the conferences they put on themselves - for pastors, Christians in the sciences, etc. Your point is a good one - these types of meetings aren’t the be-all and end-all of how to approach these issues. Rest assured that Biologos doesn’t think so either.

What I find especially encouraging is that Biologos was INVITED to this event at all. It means that Biologos is gaining credibility as an evangelical viewpoint with the very audience that needs most to hear what they have to say.

Am glad to hear this. Truly I am:

Dennis Venema said:

One quick last comment - John, Biologos is pursuing the types of venues that you prefer as well. One example is the professional development program they are running for science teachers from Christian high schools. A second would be the conferences they put on themselves - for pastors, Christians in the sciences, etc. Your point is a good one - these types of meetings aren’t the be-all and end-all of how to approach these issues. Rest assured that Biologos doesn’t think so either.

What I find especially encouraging is that Biologos was INVITED to this event at all. It means that Biologos is gaining credibility as an evangelical viewpoint with the very audience that needs most to hear what they have to say.

But I hope Darrel Falk, Karl Giberson and Peter Enns realize now that the Dishonesty Institute can never be trusted, that any hope of working with some at the DI who are fellow “Brothers in Christ” is one that should be rejected for the very reasons which Steve Matheson has stated (Peter Enns had asked me for detailed information on some of Dembski’s most notorious acts of malfeasance, but apparently nothing was ever done with it.). In light of this recent experience, I hope they have a different, and substantially less concilliatory, view of Meyer, Dembski and their fellow Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pronographers.

John Kwok said: Science and faith are two different modes of thought and should not be mixed, except maybe in a philosophy or history of science setting…

Hogwash.

Scientific hypotheses can come from anywhere. Our most famous stories are how people got their ideas from lying in a bathtub, or a dream about snakes, or sitting under a tree. Those stories are probably myths, but the point of such stories is to teach young scientists that ideas can come from anywhere. Don’t ignore your “off-time” ideas. That the legitimacy of a hypothesis is not decided based on its origin, its decided based on testing. And that means [cue drumroll] there’s nothing necessarily illegitimate about a hypothesis coming from a revelation.

“Not mixing” is baloney because hypothesis generation is an anything goes process. You’re not just allowed to mix modes of thought, you’re practically encouraged to.

Now, a problem arises when a religion tries to call their revelation a form of evidence, or give religious ideas some special extra weight. But there is no problem with a religious person using their faith as a source of ideas to be tested. They still have to convince some funding source that their idea is worth resources to test, but that’s another story.

I don’t disagree at all with your remarks, eric, but I think you missed my point:

eric said:

John Kwok said: Science and faith are two different modes of thought and should not be mixed, except maybe in a philosophy or history of science setting…

Hogwash.

Scientific hypotheses can come from anywhere. Our most famous stories are how people got their ideas from lying in a bathtub, or a dream about snakes, or sitting under a tree. Those stories are probably myths, but the point of such stories is to teach young scientists that ideas can come from anywhere. Don’t ignore your “off-time” ideas. That the legitimacy of a hypothesis is not decided based on its origin, its decided based on testing. And that means [cue drumroll] there’s nothing necessarily illegitimate about a hypothesis coming from a revelation.

“Not mixing” is baloney because hypothesis generation is an anything goes process. You’re not just allowed to mix modes of thought, you’re practically encouraged to.

Now, a problem arises when a religion tries to call their revelation a form of evidence, or give religious ideas some special extra weight. But there is no problem with a religious person using their faith as a source of ideas to be tested. They still have to convince some funding source that their idea is worth resources to test, but that’s another story.

Truly religious scientists who are successful (e. g. Ken Miller, Guy Consolmagno, Mike Rosenzweig, Theodosius Dobzhansky) have tended to “compartmentalize”, by adopting, for all practical purposes, NOMA, when they work as scientists and then, in private, as devoutly religious adherents of whichever faith they choose. That, as we all know, is a distinction lost on “scientific” creationists, especially those from the Dishonesty Institute. IMHO that is a distinction that should be emphasized within ASA and BioLogos, if it isn’t already.

However, those of us who are not religious or are at best lukewarm (such as yours truly), should not forget that notions of “deep time” in cosmology and geology, for example, are the result of Judeo-Christian thought, and that philosophical legacy should be remembered, but only within the context of the history and/or philosophy of science. Now that legacy, I will concede, is a historical accident, and I don’t know enough about the history and philosophy of science from a non-Western context (e. g. Hinduism or Buddhism) to venture whether similar concepts could have arisen independently of Judeo-Christian thought and used effectively by Indian and Chinese scientists.

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