BioLogos and Theistic Evolution: Selling the Product
Giberson and Collins' insistence that God work through rather than outside natural laws is problematic but raises some interesting possibilities. It presupposes that nature operates without discontinuities. But how do we know that? Such discontinuities or gaps need not be gaps of ignorance but gaps in the very fabric of nature. This is a logical possibility and one that needs to be considered. As they read the evidence of evolution, no such gaps exist. As I read it, they do (e.g., the Cambrian explosion—but note, there are design theorists who find no gap here, such as Michael Behe). Nature's operations, without the activity of God, might be fundamentally incomplete. Yet such activity need not be construed as "interventions."
According to Giberson and Collins, "The actual patterns of natural history may, in fact, be a combination of pathways specified by laws laid down 'in the beginning' and the steady infusion of divine creativity" (206). This sentence, to which I can say Amen, is entirely consistent with intelligent design. Such infusion of information at the beginning and then continuously thereafter could, in principle, guide an evolutionary process and be consistent with natural laws. But it would not be reducible to natural laws as the scientific mainstream now conceives them (certainly not reducible to a trial-and-error tinkering mechanism such as Darwinian selection).
Years back, John Polkinghorne speculated about a notion he called "active information," which acted orthogonally to ordinary physical causation so that God could direct nature without violating it. I've since developed that notion mathematically in my work with Robert Marks' Evolutionary Informatics Lab (www.evoinfo.org), through which we have published work in this area in standard information-theoretic and computational intelligence journals (for a review paper summarizing our technical work in this area, see "Life's Conservation Law"). Giberson and Collins are right when they say that we don't have a good understanding of how God's creativity gets inputted into nature. But it seems that "active information" can provide some common ground, making room for real teleology that also preserves the integrity of nature. Thus, for all my gripes about this book, I think it does suggest a way forward for a meaningful dialogue among the various parties addressed.
I therefore close with the following statement from their book, which I wholeheartedly endorse and hope presages some fruitful interactions in the future: "We submit that all Christian positions on origins share a commitment to a mysterious and transcendent divine action, and we might as well acknowledge that we are all in that boat together. The conversation needs to be about what is revealed in the details of the creation, not who can explain exactly how God works (for nobody can). We should all start with the affirmation that the world is the product of a transcendent intelligence and then inspect that world to see what we can find out" (192). Amen.
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.