About a week ago, the useless Templeton-funded organization BioLogos decided to prevent all further commenting by readers, replacing it instead with letters to the editor. The avowed purpose was to give a larger segment of the readership a chance to contribute, since most comments seemed to be coming from a very small fraction of readers. (That’s true of this site, too, of course—and of nearly all websites. However, at least one of our readers, biologist Lou Jost, seems to be a regular BioLogos commenter.)
But, as I reported (link above), BIoLogos readers didn’t like the new policy one bit. In response, the website has gone back to its previous policy, as outlined in a new post by content manager Jim Stump: “Comments are back.” They’ll still institute the “letters to the editor” thing, and require an additional click before commenting, but it’s pretty much back to business as usual: coddling the fundamentalists in the futile hope that they’ll accept Darwin.
In his policy reversal, Stump managed to get in two licks against Professor Ceiling Cat, to which I’ll respond briefly:
One of the comments on our blog charged that BioLogos has completely ignored the problem of divine action, claiming there has “not been even one BioLogos column in the past 6 years that directly tackles the question of God’s involvement in the evolutionary process.”Prominent atheist blogger Jerry Coyne highlighted this on his own blog, and seems to have read our post through this lens. Now his readers have been informed that the reason we instituted the change in comments policy was that we have no answers for the problem of divine action and we needed to insulate ourselves from our critics. Really? Clicking on the “divine action and purpose” tag in our resource finder brings up 40 entries (many of which have multiple posts). Consider Alvin Plantinga’s series Divine Action in the World, the series The God Who Acts: Robert John Russell on Divine Intervention and Divine Action, David Opderbeck’s series God and Creation, and Kathryn Applegate on Understanding Randomness. These are all on our blog within the last year. Perhaps these are discounted because they’re not perceived to “directly tackle” the problem to the satisfaction of everyone of how God could be involved in a process which may appear from the perspective of science to need no such involvement. But they are certainly directly relevant to any such explanation and ought to be recognized as part of the ongoing conversation we’ll have on this important topic.
No, that was not my point, which was this: in an attempt to make the Evangelical Christian tent as big as possible, BioLogos offers a multiplicity of solutions (which I’ve written about) for reconciling Jesus and Darwin. And, of course, there is no way to decide which is the right one. There is no self-correcting process in religion. So what position is BioLogos taking with respect to the biological facts?
The most amusing example is their stand on Adam and Eve who, of course, did not exist. Population genetics tells us that the non-African human population over the last several million years could not have been smaller than about 2000 individuals.
Rather than admit that this part of the Bible is a complete myth, BioLogos has proferred a gazillion “solutions,” including the “federal headship” model in which God designates two of the many humans around as the “federal heads” of humanity—the metaphorical ancestors. I suppose they passed Original Sin on to everyone after them, but how did that happen? Was it transmitted horizontally? That doesn’t comport with the Bible, I think. Other solutions have been offered (all of them, by the way, rejected by BioLogos‘s former in-house Biblical scholar Peter Enns in his book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. Enns left BioLogos under a bit of a cloud, I suspect because his solution admitted that Adam and Eve were complete fictions, but weren’t necessary anyway to divine the Bible’s message. Enns’s hard-nosed insistence on science, and rejection of Biblical statements that conflict with reason and science, wouldn’t have sat well with the BioLogos administration.)
At any rate, BioLogos‘s “solution” to this issue is to punt: they say that they take no position on the historicity of Adam and Eve. Pardon my French, but I think that’s a chickenshit solution, but one that’s necessary if they’re going to keep creationist Evangelicals in their tent long enough to hear their sermons.
And this is how it goes over there. BioLogos proffers a multitude of solutions to the Darwin vs. Jesus dilemma, and doesn’t take a stand on any of them. Some of the problems, like the Adam and Eve issue, have a clear scientific answer, but BioLogos is too cowardly to endorse it. And really—publishing Alvin Plantinga’s “solution,” for crying out loud?
The problem is not that BioLogos doesn’t offer religious solutions to the reconciliation issue; the problem is that they offer too many, and won’t choose one. In other words, they’re trying to let Evangelicals believe whatever nonsense they want—so long as they accept Darwin. This is a strategy that baffles me. Creationism is the least of the problems raised by evangelical Christianity: think about discrimination against gays, women, abortion rights, denial of global warming, and so on. I’m not sure why BioLogos wants those people in its tent.
Finally, BioLogos says that, contra Coyne, their accommodationist strategy is working! As I’ve always said, there are many people who say that reading about evolution has dispelled their faith (I met two Orthodox Jews at TAM who told me this story), and their “conversions” are documented in many entries at Richard Dawkins’s “Converts Corner.” In contrast, I’ve yet to hear of one person who, previously a creationist, has come over to evolution because BioLogos has convinced them that evolution is compatible with their faith. There are no letters like, “You know, I couldn’t accept evolution because it was pushed by strident atheists like Richard Dawkins. But when you guys at BioLogos showed me that I could have my Jesus and Darwin, too, well, I am now a firm believer in evolution.” I’m sure some people have experienced this, but they hardly appear in droves. In fact, I can’t name one. But BioLogos claims this:
Finally, one more note about Coyne’s characterization of BioLogos. He is certain that there can be no rapprochement between evolution and Christian faith, so it is a foregone conclusion in his mind that we are dying. Our announcement on Friday signaled to him that the end has come (though to invoke Mark Twain, I think that the news of our demise is greatly exaggerated). In his view our cause of death is that we have tried so hard not to offend Evangelicals that we have nothing relevant to say about origins. Are we pandering to Evangelicals? That seems to us like accusing New Englanders of pandering to Americans. We ARE Evangelicals, and though there are other Evangelicals who hold some different positions, it is at the core of our mission to help the evangelical church come to terms with what science has shown us about the world. We’re happy to engage with atheists and others outside of evangelicalism when the opportunity arises, but primarily we’re committed to working out as best we can the implications of evolution for Christian faith. And contrary to the assertion that our work hasn’t helped one person, we regularly feature testimonials from those who have found our message valuable.
My response: “people who find your message valuable aren’t necessarily converts to evolutionary biology.” Also, “If you want to help evangelicals come to terms with what science has shown, why the deuce don’t you just admit that Adam and Eve were made up?”
But don’t take my word for it—take Karl Giberson’s, a guy who used to be Vice-President of BioLogos but left (probably for the same reasons as Enns) to teach. The other day Giberson gave a talk at the University of Miami on “Are science and Christianity at war?”. His answer was “no,” of course, but we had a spy in the audience: one of our readers, Bertha, who emailed me that she was going to the talk. She asked if there was anything I would like to ask Giberson, and I said, yes, I’d like to know if he thinks BioLogos was successful in turning evangelical Christians toward evolution. Since Giberson’s talk and answers were public, I’ll report them here, as conveyed by Bertha (who did ask that question) and published with her permission:
At this point, KG [Giberson] took questions. I asked him what you suggested, “Has BioLogos been successful in convincing fundamentalist Christians to accept both Jesus and Darwin? If it has not, why not?”
The host asked him to explain what BioLogos was for the audience before answering. KG went into a rather long description of BioLogos and Francis Collins (a fair description, in my opinion). He said Collins called it “BioLogos” because he knew that even the term “evolution” by itself would turn off his fellow evangelicals. When he finally got around to my question, his response was as follows: “Biologos has struggled a lot. Evangelicals are not ready to accept what Francis Collins is proposing, despite his winsome personality. There is a lot of work to be done there.”
Another good question asked: Will there be a tipping point when fundamentalists will begin to accept evolution as the truth? Will they ever relinquish their literalist reading of the Bible? Will the evidence eventually overwhelm them?
KG said that he wished he could say that the truth would eventually win out but he fears that the industry within the fundie movement that promotes their belief is very strong. He referred to Ken Ham and company. He fears that recent polls show that American opinion is actually going in the wrong direction. And that homeschooling and private schools is keeping the fundie community walled-off. “The trajectory is not encouraging.” However, young Evangelicals are leaving the church “by the millions” as they get to high school and college and realize that they have been lied to.
Bertha wrote a longer report on the talk, which I’ll be glad to send to any interested reader. But for the nonce just compare what Karl said with what BioLogos official Stump claimed. One of them is wrong. My money is on Giberson’s answer, as he has no vested interest in pretending that BioLogos is a roaring success.
BioLogos isn’t accomplishing much except sucking up Templeton dollars. And that’s completely understandable, for accepting evolution is a severe concession to many evangelical Christians. So, though Stump argues that many BioLogos readers find the organization’s message “valuable,” I guess it’s not valuable enough to change their minds about science.