Friday, September 16, 2011

Sigmund Comments on the BioLogos/Discovery Institute Rift

Jerry Coyne has a guest post on his blog by Sigmund.  Sigmund has noticed the bad feelings between the Discovery Institute and BioLogos and has seen fit to comment on it.  He writes:
The slow descent into irrelevancy of BioLogos continues apace. From its inception by Francis Collins in 1997, the BioLogos Foundation’s original emphasis on increasing the acceptance of science amongst evangelical Christians has been gradually replaced by a more traditional focus on ‘worship’ and an increasing defense of Christianity from the challenges of secular reason.
This is a mite peculiar since many of the posts recently that I have seen including my own don't deal with what he describes whatever. My series of posts deals with the evidence for human evolution and three days ago, Dennis Venema started a series of posts on the basics of evolutionary theory. While it is true that Pete Enns expends much energy writing excellent columns on the nature of biblical interpretation, there are quite a few posts about basic science and, ironically, Sigmund writes that BioLogos has gotten away from science yet the whole purpose of his post is to illuminate a rift between the two organizations that is science-based.

He comments on the recent reaction to Dennis Venema's review (which I thought was smack on the money) of Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell by the author.  Meyer argues that complex specified information such as that found in the cell can only come from intelligent causes, while Venema states that there are natural causes that can create complex specified information without the need to invoke a designer.  Meyer responds to this charge (in a way that Sigmund describes as “shifting the goalposts”) by arguing that he was only writing about biopoesis, not established life.  Darrel Falk responded to Meyer's article in a way that Sigmund finds baffling. Sigmund and Falk are both fully aware that Meyer moved the goal posts, however Sigmund writes: 
It was at this point that the real problems with the new BioLogos strategy become apparent. Falk, needing to see the best in every Christian, comes across as the theological equivalent of Woody Allen in the aftermath of the nymphomaniac scene in ‘Play it again Sam’. Falk spends almost the entire article wondering “How did I misread those signs?” and getting sidetracked into talking about “complex specified information” an imprecise term regarding complexity, only used by ‘Intelligent Design’ supporters.
While it is clearly a case of the usual dishonest creationist tactics of trying to be vague and then shifting the goalposts when caught out, Falk doesn’t seem to be able to state the obvious.
I feel for Darrel here, because, as Christians, we are called to see the best in people, even in a scientific setting. But Darrel has been on the receiving end of questionable Discovery Institute practices before at the Vibrant Dance conference.  Commenting on it at the time, Steve Matheson wrote: 
The question is not whether Christians should point to the things they agree on. It's not about whether affirmations of shared belief are beneficial or appropriate when Christians find themselves in disagreement. For me and, I suspect, most of the critics that Falk was referring to, the question is whether BioLogos should cosponsor a conference on faith and science with organizations that seek to mislead people about science.
Here, Steve is referring to both the Discovery Institute and Reasons to Believe, an organization that Todd Wood has dealt with. I have written about them as well.

Those of us who follow Jesus Christ want to believe the best in our fellow Christians but the sad fact is that we have examples in Christendom where scientific evidence is very poorly treated or misrepresented outright. I would never accuse Ken Ham of not being a Christian. But I would also never state that he honestly treats the scientific evidence.  It is our duty to point out these errors in the hopes of reaching our fellow Christians and informing them that honest scientific inquiry can go hand in hand with Christianity.  If the goal posts get moved, it is our duty to point that out as well.  Darrel has done this.  We might fault the force of his response, but we should not fault his intentions.   

1 comment:

  1. Frankly, I find the approach at Biologos highly refreshing. They seem to be the one large organization in this realm of debate that consistently assumes the best of its intellectual opponents, and maintains a soft-spokenness that one would expect from responsible adults of good will.

    I think it is this very approach that is making Biologos more relevant, not less. And the bitterness towards Biologos that I see coming from the folks at Uncommon Descent makes me think that they see it as an increasingly relevant organization, too.