I’ve lost most of my interest in the BioLogos site since they got rid of the few real pro-evolution people they employed, and also decided to change their mission from helping evangelical Christians accept evolution to engaging in apologetics, twisting biology however necessary to soothe the feelings of Darwin-affronted Christians. And, in truth, I don’t think BioLogos has accomplished much, despite getting another pot of money thrown at them by the Templeton Foundation. I find the organization pathetic in its fervent attempts to osculate the rump of evangelical Christianity.
From the outset Biologos has hosted an “Answer to Big Questions” forum, a sort of FAQ site where perplexed Christians can get answers about evolution that don’t upset their faith. They’ve just added a new Q&A topic, though: “The questions update: Why should Christians consider evolutionary creation?”
The answer to this question clearly shows the big flaw in BioLogos’s approach and methodology: their insistence of finding God’s hand somewhere in evolution. That, of course, does not comport with the way scientists view evolution. Scientists don’t think that somewhere in the hominin lineage God injected us with souls, nor that God engineered mutations on the sly to allow the evolution of H. sapiens. We simply don’t need such hypotheses.
As the new Q&A shows, BioLogos is engaged not in promulgating good science, but in promoting an updated “natural theology“: the discipline of finding evidence for God in nature. Natural theology is the bastard offspring of religion and science, a hobby of 19th-century British parsons that largely disappeared when Darwin arrived. As you can see below, though, BioLogos is reviving it:
The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and show his eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20). The Bible is our primary source of knowledge about God, and God’s character cannot be derived by looking at nature alone. But for those who know and trust God as their savior, the created order has the stamp of the Creator all over it. The starry heavens show God’s glory (Psalm 19), the thunderstorm displays God’s power (Psalm 29), and ecosystems show God’s care for plants and animals (Psalm 104:10-18). Today we know much more about God’s creation than the Biblical authors knew; telescopes and microscopes have expanded our horizons to the very large and the very small. Through science, we’ve learned how things work and fit together, too. Joining study and worship, we can think God’s thoughts after him, tracing his hand through the physical laws he used to create our world, marveling at the way he provides for creation as much as at the endless forms most beautiful he has created.
I contend that there is no conceivable observation about nature that couldn’t be used as evidence for God. The horrors of natural selection? It’s all part of the mechanism God created to produce humans and the luxuriance of life we so admire, and it’s simply impossible for God to allow evolution without causing suffering. (That’s not true, of course.) Gratuitous evils for humans, like childhood cancers and tsunamis? Those are unavoidable byproducts of God’s plan of allowing cell division during development and the movement of tectonic plates as part of Earth’s geology.
Sophisticated Theology™, which reaches its efflorescence in BioLogos, is sufficiently clever at doublespeak that even something like the Holocaust can be seen as evidence for God’s greatness. Or, if you completely fail to explain something, simply appeal to God’s unknowable nature—in which case you’re not entitled to even say that God is loving, omniscient, omnipotent, or chose to use natural selection as His means of creation. You either know God’s nature or you don’t: it’s not kosher to know just the parts of it that support your looney apologetics.
If you want to see modern natural theology in action, here’s an example from the BioLogos “answer” (emphasis is mine):
Here are three examples of biblical attributes of God emphasized by studying evolutionary science.
- God is extravagant. God did not create just one type of flower, but uses the system of evolution to create a huge variety of flowers, of every size, shape, color, and scent. As opposed to being “wasteful,” a biblical view of evolution helps us appreciate it as a pointer to the extravagance of God’s loving gift of life to the whole earth. God’s creation does not reflect a cold efficiency, but the transformation of such “waste” into worship, just as Jesus honored the woman who poured expensive perfume on his feet (Mark 14:3-9, John 12:3-8).
- God is patient, and most often works gradually rather than instantaneously. In the natural world, we see God creating life over billions of years, not instantly, and grand geological processes playing out slowly over time, as well. Similarly, in the Bible we read of the centuries that passed between God’s covenant with Abraham and his covenant with David and the centuries more before Jesus appeared “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). In individual lives, God often works by planting his Word deep in us and letting it grow slowly over time. God seems pleased with the slow but extraordinary unfolding of his universe, just as he is patiently unfolding his plan of redemption.
- God is the provider. He provides for his creatures in each moment, giving them what they need to survive, adapt and thrive in communities of life. The Bible speaks of God feeding and caring for animals (Jonah 4:11, Psalm 104), and modern evolutionary science is shedding light on how God has arranged complex ecosystems that support many different kinds of creatures together. But God provides for his creatures even at the genetic level, giving species a measure of biological “creativity” to help them respond to new challenges. As biologist Richard Colling says, “Evolution is not about the imposition of death and destruction and survival of the fittest. Those things are a part of it, but not the main core of what evolution is. . . [The] evolutionary process of creating duplicate genes that give rise to new possibilities [is] redemption, it’s possibility, and it’s hope.”
As an evolutionary biologist, I would see this as deliberate humor if I didn’t know better. For I could think of several not-so-nice characteristics of God also manifested by “studying evolutionary science.” But I’ll leave this amusing exercise to the readers. I’ll mention only one: if God isn’t wasteful, why did more than 99% of the species that ever formed go extinct without leaving descendants?
What characteristics of God do you see from studying nature and evolution?