The Language of God: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Faith

The Language of God, Chapter 10

By B.J. Marshall

Chapter 10 introduces Collins’ concept of BioLogos, but first he gives an overview of Theistic Evolution (TE) and why it works to bridge science and faith. Although we’ve talked about TE previously, this chapter shows Collins laying out six premisses that support TE. He then has a short discourse explaining the conclusions he thinks follow from these premisses.

Premiss 1: “The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago.” This premiss is difficult to accept if you acknowledge that the universe has zero net energy and could have, as Lawrence Krauss presents, come from nothing. It’s also difficult to accept this premiss if you think Hawking and Hartle might be onto something with their no-boundary universe model.

Premiss 2: “Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life.” I find fine-tuning arguments to be incredibly arrogant; why must we place ourselves as the result par excellence of fine tuning? One could argue that our universe was fine-tuned for iPads. Life is incredibly rare, and iPads are more rare still, but hydrogen and helium are abundant. Shouldn’t we say that it’s more miraculous that we could wind up in a universe with so much hydrogen?

Premiss 3: “While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time.” One might quibble over semantics, since I might have written “evolution by natural selection.” This premiss is one I’m willing to accept, except that he completely ruins this premiss later.

Premiss 4: “Once evolution got under way, no special supernatural intervention was required.” I think I understand what he’s trying to say, and I can accept that, but that’s only because I was charitable enough to rephrase his premiss to be clear. This premiss as stated is unclear and ambiguous, in my opinion. By saying that no special supernatural intervention was “required,” the reader might assume that a supernatural agent acted anyway, even though it wasn’t “required” to act. Also, the way this premiss is worded sounds like a supernatural intervention might have been required to set off evolution in the first place. While in either case the reader would be falling into an illicit contrast fallacy, Collins’ poorly worded premiss doesn’t help the reader.

Premiss 5: “Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes.” Here’s another premiss I can accept pretty easily. I do wonder, though, how much his readers would have cringed if, drawing from his earlier chapters on DNA similarities, Collins said “sharing a common ancestor with the great apes, rats, and banana trees.”

Premiss 6: “But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.” Do I even need to comment on this one?

The conclusion is a polemic diatribe of suck that sounds like he rewrote Genesis for the 21st century:

“[a]n entirely plausible, intellectually satisfying, and logically consistent synthesis emerges: God, who is not limited in space or time, created the universe and established natural laws that govern it. Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures (here’s where he ruined Premiss 3), God chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. Most remarkably, God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong, free will, and a desire to seek fellowship with Him. He also knew these creatures would ultimately choose to disobey the Moral Law.”

That intelligent people like Collins can find the Goddunnit explanation as plausible, intellectually satisfying, and logically consistent disappoints me. I shouldn’t say it baffles me, because I understand why people believe weird things. To me, the Goddunit hypothesis is not:

  1. Plausible: Assuming one were to looking for an inference to the best possible explanation, how does “an omni-being that is spaceless, timeless, noncorporeal yet magically and physically operates in space and time” fit that bill?
  2. Intellectually satifying: Goddunnit is a mystery. Answering a mystery with another mystery and thinking you’re done is just plain stupid.
  3. Logically consistent: Argument from Ignorance much?

Now that Collins has formally laid out TE, he’ll pose some critiques on why TE hasn’t been more widely adopted and present his BioLogos idea.

Other posts in this series:

Popular Delusions: Electrosensitivity
The Pope's Laudato: So Close And Yet So Far
#BeyondMarieCurie: Women in STEM & Medicine
When Rationalists Reinvent Religion
About Adam Lee

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


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