BioLogos and Theistic Evolution: Selling the Product
In bringing Ruse to this discussion, I don't mean to give the impression that Darwinian evolution strictly precludes belief in miracles (as Ruse contends). Kenneth Miller, for instance, calls himself an orthodox Catholic and an orthodox Darwinian and in correspondence has admitted to me that he accepts the Virgin Birth as well as the other affirmations of the Nicene Creed. Giberson and Collins object that advocates of intelligent design claim "that accepting evolution (at least in some forms) is embracing atheism" (23). But I don't know of any ID advocate who claims that Darwinian evolution entails atheism.
The reverse implication, however, does seem to hold—if you're an atheist, you're going to need a mechanistic/materialistic creation story of how we got here, and Darwinism, by providing such an account, fits the bill. No wonder that atheists love Darwin (Richard Dawkins: "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist"; Will Provine: "Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented"; etc.). Giberson and Collins are right to be concerned about the connection between atheism and evolution, but in arguing as they do that evolution need not be conducive to atheism, the burden of proof is on them.
Hence, when Giberson and Collins put their cards on the table, this is what they write: "The broadest and most general question we are addressing in this book is how to understand evolution as the way that God created life. This question, in fact, is the basis for this entire book" (114). They continue, "We want to argue most insistently that God's creative work can be done through the laws of nature, and not merely by breaking or suspending those laws" (115, emphasis in original). This is also why they are so opposed to intelligent design, because, in their view ID "promotes the idea that nature has gaps in it that God must intervene to fill. According to ID, nature is powerful and capable of accomplishing much, but some things—like the origin of the bacterial flagellum—require that God must 'step in' in an unusual way. This seems piecemeal and incoherent to us" (190).
But in fact, ID is not an interventionist theory. ID is, in the first instance, concerned with the detectability of design. But detecting the activity of a designing intelligence says nothing, without further investigation and evidence, about how the designing intelligence acted, whether by discrete interventions or by continuous infusions of information or by front-loading of all the necessary information. Giberson and Collins miss this point. Hence they write, ID "suggests that design may be detected in some places and not others. In contrast, BioLogos affirms that God is present everywhere in nature and not just in the gaps in our knowledge" (194). In detecting design, we can say where design is. But in failing to detect design, we can't say where design isn't. Design detection eliminates false positives (false ascriptions of design to things that are not, or may not, be designed) but it can never eliminate false negatives (false denials of design to things that are in fact designed).
Most ID proponents are Christians and believe, like BioLogos, that God is present and active everywhere in nature. Yet we hold that in some cases God makes his activity more obvious than in others. Design detection calls forward these more obvious instances of design. Moreover, methods of design detection operate over a limited domain. I, for instance, have never said that specified complexity, as a method of design detection, covers every possible case where design might be detected. Far from it. This method is quite limited and requires situations in which independently given patterns may be identified and events associated with these patterns can objectively be assigned probabilities.
A mathematician and philosopher, William A. Dembski is Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, where he also directs its Center for Cultural Engagement. He is Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle and Senior Research Scientist with the Evolutionary Informatics Lab.