The Language of God: Biologos: Epic Fail

The Language of God, Chapter 10

By B.J. Marshall

In this chapter, Collins tackles the claim that BioLogos damages both science and religion. Collins disagrees in a way that fails so epically that it almost makes the previous sections of this book seem prescient.

For the atheist scientist, BioLogos seems to be another “God of the gaps” theory imposing the presence of the divine where none is needed or desired. This argument is not apt. BioLogos doesn’t try to wedge God into gaps in our understanding of the natural world; it proposes God as the answer to questions science was never intended to address, such as “How did the universe get here?” “What is the meaning of life?” “What happens to us after we die?” Unlike Intelligent Design, BioLogos is not intended as a scientific theory. Its truth can be tested only by the spiritual logic of the heart, the mind, and the soul” (p.204).

I can see how BioLogos isn’t wedging God between gaps in our understanding of the natural world, but only because BioLogos seems to set God outside of the scope of our inquiry. There’s simply no place for God in our understanding of the natural world. After all, even if science can one day explain everything naturally, there could still be some questions to which someone could point to God. However, to the extent that those unanswered questions don’t concern our understanding of the natural world (that is, well, everything we can know), the entire concept of God seems to be a red herring. Pretty much ends the conversation, doesn’t it?

But apparently BioLogos isn’t completely outside of our inquiry. We just have to ask god-questions with our hearts. Yes, the spiritual logic of the heart, mind, and soul; which is, of course, unfalsifiable.

I once asked a group of friends in a philosophy club if my idea of truth made sense. I said something like “truth is the extent to which the ideas in our mind correlate to objective reality,” and they thought that made sense. And here’s the problematic part. If we have to weigh the ideas in our minds against objective reality, then regardless of how logical our arguments might be, they can stand only with the support of evidence. The logic shows us that our thinking is internally consistent and sound, but we can’t see how that thinking correlates to objective reality without the evidence. For example, it’s completely logical and consistent for me to posit that all rocks fall to Earth at 3.0 m/s. But, given the facts shown through experiments, I’d be wrong.

So without any evidence to check whatever this “spiritual logic” is, how can one see how strongly those spiritually logically derived thoughts correlate to objective reality? I don’t think we can, which I think highlights the fact that scientific inquiry tends to converge on one answer (maybe not all at once, as it’s a sloppy process), while spiritual inquiry diverges into thousands of different sects and cults. In hindsight, I probably fell into some undocumented offshoot of Roman Catholicism, stemming from my decisions (which changed over time) to pick and choose certain parts of the official canon to believe.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Eurekus

    Where’s the ‘spiritual logic of the heart’ behind infanticide, homocide, xenophobia and homophobia? It’s obvious Collins is ignoring the reality of God’s nonexistence to keep his Christian warm and fuzzy feeling, with its wicked history.

  • NoAstronomer

    “What happens to us after we die?”

    We’re worm food. Science already answered this one.

    “What is the meaning of life?”

    Before you can ask that question you need to ask the question ‘Does life have a meaning?’ first. The answer to that question is ‘Apparently not’. The only meaning life has is the meaning we give it.

    “How did the universe get here?”

    Current cosmology is audacious enough to actually approach this question, but no, we don’t have an answer yet. So this is a gap. But what does religion have to offer in the way of answering the question: nothing. Nothing except bogus fantasies.


  • Jeep-Eep

    You could have skipped to this and had much the same effect. No need to show us him flailing about like an cuttlefish in a washing machine. It’s rather painful to look at. Like Man (do not look that up if you do not know what it is) or reading Ayn Rand. (same disclaimer.)

  • cat

    Asserting that certain topics are off limit to science does not settle the god of the gaps problem. It is merely an attempt to ensure that the gaps remain gaps rather than being resolved by trying to disable rational inquiry into the matter.

    As to the “what is the meaning of life” question, it is a begged question from the outset. First, it assumes that life has a “meaning”. Secondly, it utilizes a definition of the word “meaning” that requires an intentional actor. The word “meaning” is used in the following sense: “An interpreted goal, intent, or end”. As only conscious things have goals, intents, and ends, the question in its very structure calls for intentionality. What theists and other woo-mongers tend to do when this question is criticized is to change the definition of “meaning” under which we are speaking to use the word in reference to “inner significance” or value, which is a completely different issue and standard. So, my response to this question is a simple request “Please define your terms. Most specifically “meaning”.”

  • Monty

    “How did the universe get here?”
    Science can at least theoretically answer this question, though we’re not quite there yet. And the inevitable follow-up question to the answer of “God”: How did God get here?
    “What is the meaning of life?”
    Requires you to assume life has external meaning, which assumes the answer in the question. Yay fallacies!
    “What happens to us after we die?”
    It’s scientifically impossible for a soul to exist. So nothing happens to us when we die (aside from the physical decomposition/cremation/whatever). Stating otherwise is contradicting science.

  • Alex Weaver

    What happens to us after we die?

    That depends on how scrupulous the morticians are.

  • John Nernoff

    George C. Cunningham has written an entire book rebutting Collins, Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer? published by Prometheus. Cunningham has M.D. and M.P.H. degrees and frankly accuses Collins of cognitive dissonance. I have the book on order and look forward to enjoying it soon. Of course, Collins has published another book of his own, or rather a compendium of essays by famous theologians, called “Belief”, so there you go. Enjoy the war.

  • Udaybhanu Chitrakar

    Some people believe that there is a God who is eternal. Some people believe that there are eternal laws of science.
    In whichever way belief is defended, belief remains a belief.
    One belief-system (God) has been merely replaced by another belief-system (laws of science).

    A joke:

    In olden-golden days the saying was: When there was nothing, there was God. When there will be nothing again, there will still be God.
    But then came the scientists and changed everything. The above saying also changed to this: When there was nothing, there were quantum laws. When there will be nothing again, there will still be quantum laws.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless, changeless, all-pervading, eternal, unborn, uncreated and immaterial. Only that these laws lack consciousness. In every other respect they are just like God.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless and immaterial, because when there was no space, no time and no matter, there were still these quantum laws. (Alexander Vilenkin’s model)
    These quantum laws are all-pervading, because these laws act equally everywhere.
    These quantum laws are scientists’ God.

    N.B. Scientists will have a nervous break-down if some day they come to know that quantum laws are not eternal.