Reader Sigmund is an indefatigable follower of things BioLogos, and, examining founder Francis Collins’s views before he started that organization, came across some interesting video. He’s even boosted the audio to make it easier to hear.
Below is Sigmund’s take on Francis Collins’s response to the encounter between a straight creationist (the now-familar surgeon Ben Carson) and two evolutionists: Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett. I don’t think you’ll be pleased with the response of the present director of our National Institutes of Health.
Was BioLogos doomed even before it started?
What happens when the Director of the Human Genome project hears creationist claims that he can easily counter using genetic sequence data? Well, exactly that scenario occurred six years ago in a recorded debate between Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Francis Collins and Ben Carson (the creationist surgeon recently featured in WEIT). The recording has been on YouTube for a few years but the sound quality was terrible.
In the light of recent posts about both Collins and Carson, I thought it might be worthwhile to boost the audio and revisit this debate, which occurred in Beverly Hills in 2006, a year before Collins founded BioLogos.
The debate is useful for one reason: Collins’ response to the evolution denialism coming from Carson shows why BioLogos was doomed from the outset.
In the following seven-minute clip from the debate, it’s clear that Dawkins apparently hadn’t realized that Carson was a creationist and appears shocked when Carson says he doesn’t accept evolution.
I’ve transcribed the section after Carson tried to use, as evidence for a creator God, the dubious claim that we have consciousness and other animals don’t:
Dawkins: Well, I would like to ask Dr Carson then at what point in the evolutionary divergence between the common ancestor of us and chimpanzees or us and rhesus monkeys, did this human faculty arise, and why do you need to postulate, given that, presumably, you believe in evolution, how do you reconcile the fact of evolution, because it is a fact, with the separation that you seem to be wanting.
Carson: Well thank you for asking that question because, in fact, I don’t believe in evolution, so that…
Dawkins: (sounding shocked!) Ahh, so Dr Collins and you can have a discussion about that.
Carson then launches into a standard creationist trope about an alien coming to a future Earth and finding a Volkswagen and a Rolls Royce and, because the Rolls Royce is more complicated than the Volkswagen, asserts that evolutionary theory would have us believe it evolved from the Volkswagen. Carson finishes his point with the following lines:
Carson: Darwin himself, as you know, said that we would eventually have a mechanism, we would be sophisticated enough, geologically, to show, completely, the lineage from an amoeba to a man. He said it would probably take fifty to a hundred years. Well it’s been a hundred and fifty years. We still haven’t found it. I suspect , maybe one day you will. When you do find it I will be all ears.
Unfortunately, Dan Dennett, the next to speak, misses the opportunity to send the question directly over to Collins – who, at this time was head of the Human Genome Project and hence probably one of the most appropriate individuals on the entire planet to tackle Carson’s challenge using the evidence from the genome project.
Astoundingly, when Collins does get a chance to speak, about a minute and a half later, he completely avoids Carson’s creationist claims and instead immediately resorts to accusing Dennett and Dawkins of “scientism” (defined by Collins as “the error of applying in a vigorous scientific way, arguments about faith”).
Remember, despite claiming that his faith is compatible with science, Collins, wanting to have his communion wafer and eat it too, sees a problem with examining arguments about faith” in a vigorous scientific way”. As Dennett has said before, this is tennis without the net.
In other words, even before BioLogos was founded, Collin’s response to a fellow believer who espouses creationism is not to correct him on the science but rather to attack those who make valid points about the evolution of aspects of humanity (in this case consciousness and human morality), accusing them of the crime of “scientism”. We can see now, in hindsight, that BioLogos was never about promoting good science. It was about defending religion, if need be by attacking science and addressing methodological naturalism with accusations of ‘scientism’.