We Need More of This! (RJS)

BioLogos has begun a series of posts, Southern Baptist Voices, exploring various objections to evolutionary creation as God’s method of creation. The series features posts by several Southern Baptist scholars and responses by scholars and scientists affiliated with BioLogos who favor the view of evolutionary creation. The comments are closed until all posts in a series are live, and then are closely monitored, censored for tone but not for position.

The first three conversations are now complete with another four or more anticipated over the next several months. The approach taken in these conversations is one that is much needed and probably far overdue.  Whatever your view, I recommend a careful look at all of these posts.

In the first conversation Dr. Kenneth Keathley of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest North Carolina outlined six concerns with evolutionary creation (part I and part II) while Kathryn Applegate, Deborah Haarsma, and Darrel Falk provided a response to these concerns (response I and response II).

The six concerns raised by Dr. Keathley are common concerns. Most of them have come up repeatedly in conversation here. Certainly they are concerns that require response. These concerns are paraphrased as follows:

1. Theological method – it appears that science controls the agenda. Why should theology take second place to science?

2. A faithful interpretation of Genesis has only so much elasticity.

3. Salvation history clearly contains discrete and recognizable acts of God. The incarnation and resurrection are two of the most prominent, but not the only such events. Why should we not anticipate such discontinuities in natural history as well?  How and why do we separate one from the other?

4. Adam and Eve – a common concern for sure.

5. The perennial problem of evil.

6. The nature and authority of scripture.

Some of these issues will be the focus of more directed contributions to this series, others are only touched on lightly.

Are there other concerns you would add to Dr. Keathley’s list?

What issues would you like to see us discuss in greater depth?

I am not going to summarize the response given on the BioLogos Forum, although you are welcome to raise any of Dr. Keathley’s concerns, or the response to these concerns, in the comments. Rather I would like to give my thoughts on one of the issues. Perhaps some of the others will be the focus of future posts if there seems to be significant interest.  I am, as all here are aware, firmly in the evolutionary creation “camp” if we want to define the conversation in that fashion.  As a Christian and a scientist I find no other way forward to be even remotely satisfactory. However, science does not drive my theology, there is no tail wagging the dog (an image used by Dr. Keathley). My theology is driven by the self-revelation of God, and most importantly through his self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Because God is the creator of heaven and earth, things seen and unseen, all science can do is illuminate the nature of God’s creation. But, it does no good as far as I can see, to hold the science captive to any specific interpretations of scripture or theological construct. Whether we find it palatable or not, I believe the appropriate attitude is that God’s self-revelation in the created order, in his interaction with his people recorded in scripture, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit, must be consistent. We need a level of humility that allows us to be molded by God through all of his revelation.

In the second conversation in the series Dr. William Dembski asked whether Darwinism is theologically neutral. He lays out four non-negotiables for the Christian faith and four non-negotiables for Darwinism. From his analysis of these non-negotiable elements he concludes that Darwinism is not compatible with Christianity (Part I and Part II). Dr. Falk responded to Dr. Dembski providing his view from the standpoint of evolutionary creation (Part I, Part II). The response is, in fact, one of substantive agreement. In particular there is agreement on all four of the non-negotiables for the Christian faith. The only substantive disagreements lie with connection between evolutionary creation and so-called Darwinism. None of us are “disciples of Darwin.” We are scientists who appreciate the science, but are perfectly willing to disregard the teleological or metaphysical assumptions of Darwin or of anyone else.

One of the biggest disagreements between Dr. Dembski and the position taken by Darrel Falk or, for that matter, by me is in the presence or absence of scientific evidence for the action of God. Here it is interesting to note that God and the Cosmos, a book I have been looking at through a series of posts and will return to next week, is written by two professors at Union University in Jackson Tennessee, a Southern Baptist institution. The discussion Poe and Davis present concerning the action of God in the world provides an interesting contrast to that of Dr. Dembski.

The third conversation in the series was posted just this week. In an essay entitled Teleological Arguments, Theistic Evolution, and Intelligent Design Dr. James Dew raises three issues that he finds concerning. (1) Is macro evolution actually true? While there is evidence that points, perhaps, in this direction it seems far from a done deal to most Christian lay people. Given this and the difficulties inherent in reconciling evolutionary creation with Genesis it simply does not seem reasonable to stake out a position of evolutionary creation, at least not yet.  (2) Theistic evolution portrays God’s creative activity in a fashion that borders on deism. Here, once again, there is a significant connection with God and the Cosmos by Poe and Davis. The core of this book centers on God’s action in the world. Deistic views are certainly supported by some, but this is not the only view consistent with modern science or evolutionary creation. (3) Finally, Dr. Dew wonders why theistic evolutionists reject Intelligent Design, but affirm the anthropic principle. This I think is a matter of degree – all Christians accept intelligent design, that is the concept that God designed the world intelligently and with a purpose and end in mind. The disagreement lies in the expectation for evidence of this design. The anthropic principle points to God, but does not prove the existence of God, nor, for that matter the “design” of the world. Much of biology can also point to the creator, but not in a manner capable of proof. The issues are far more complex than those in physics and cosmology.

The response to Dr. Dew is offered by Dr. Ard Louis, a Reader in Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford whose work borders on the boundary between chemistry, physics, and biology. Dr. Louis has been active in the discussion of the relationship between science and the Christian faith through BioLogos among other things. Part 1 to the response concentrates on the first question – the evidence for macro-evolution. Part 2 concentrates on the second two questions.

In his response to the first question Dr. Louis distinguishes between three facets of evolution at play in our society: Evolution as natural history, Evolution as mechanism, Evolution as worldview.  The evidence for evolution as natural history is overwhelming. The progression from simple to complex is clear, and there are transitional forms in the fossil record, with more found all the time. There is no evidence at all for complex life forms at the earliest times, no rabbits in the Cambrian for example. The evidence for evolution as mechanism, genetic mutation, natural selection and more is strong, but involves more speculation and ongoing research. We do not have the complete picture, and there is a growing understanding that the processes are far more complex than originally thought. In contrast the evidence for evolution as worldview is nonexistent.

We need more conversations like this one – with the questions raised and discussed honestly and amicably. I encourage you to take a look at the entire set of posts and responses on the BioLogos Forum. I’ve only given a very brief overview here. It is only a start, however, and a rather limited one at that. The issues are far too big for a blog post, or even a short series of posts. Ard Louis brings up a big part of the problem in his first response to Dr. Dew:

The big question for James Dew and other Southern Baptists who doubt macroevolution, is this: Who should they believe, scientists like myself, or advocates of ID? This problem is not easy to resolve, in part because —as Mark Noll famously pointed out—we evangelicals have not invested nearly enough effort or energy into higher learning. There is no trusted community of scholars to help the church adjudicate on such complex multi-disciplinary questions. We need scholars who have devoted their lives to these topics and who are working at the highest levels in their fields because these issues are difficult to master.

The issues are far too big for a small group with limited expertise and perspective. The task is a job for the church as a whole and requires the gifts of many. Pastors alone, scholars alone, theologians alone, scientists alone will have little impact. There are no fast and easy solutions. As a start to help facilitate this process the BioLogos Foundation, with funding support from The John Templeton Foundation, has announced a grants program, “Evolution and Christian Faith,” for 2012-2015. Awards will range from $30,000 to $300,000 for 34 months with the larger number of awards at the lower end of this range. Preproposals are due in about two weeks, June 15th. Questions about the program can be addressed to BioLogos staff at ecf@biologos.org.

Are the questions raised by Dr. Dembski or Dr. Dew ones you find significant? If so why?

What are the biggest questions you see confronting the understanding of evolutionary creation?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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  • Peter

    What are the biggest questions you see confronting the understanding of evolutionary creation?
    “The evidence for evolution as mechanism, genetic mutation, natural selection and more is strong, but involves more speculation and ongoing research. We do not have the complete picture, and there is a growing understanding that the processes are far more complex than originally thought.” This really is where my ‘issue’ with evolution lies. Granted, it’s been 30 years since I sat in cell physiology, genetics or biochemistry classes, and you tried to help me through this a few years ago, RJS, but my imagination struggles to get from where I am in understanding the cell, etc. to a point at which I can expect genetic mutation to result in evolution under the influence of natural selection. Maybe the “far more complex than originally thought” bit is what I’m lacking.

  • Luke

    Probably the most common objection I’ve heard (and I suppose this relates to #4 & #5) is the existence of death and suffering prior to mankind. Especially death.

    Another thing I’ve often wondered about is when did consciousness enter? If evolution is true, when and how did we shift from being mere animals to being the “image of God” occur?

  • Norman


    I believe the Biblical concept of “the Image of God” has been classically misunderstood by the church by trying to turn it into a biological function. God didn’t finish completing the “functional” creation of Man in the Image of God until Christ instituted the Holy Spirit. The Idea in Genesis 1:26 was like Barney Fife used to say “that’s the plan”. It’s really not a biological discussion in the purest sense, but an ongoing realization that humans are naturally mortal in their methodology but through Christ they move into a higher plane of existence with God instead of our self-serving mortal mode. Paul’s discourse resounds with this understanding that through Christ we are lifted up into that higher calling and set our minds on the spirit instead of the Flesh.

    In essence Paul argues that Adam really wasn’t yet fully endowed with the Image of God but was a natural mortal man who needed to shed this mentality and live in the higher plane that came down from God through Christ. There are many verses in the NT that attest to this concept. This section below is often construed to be discussing biological concepts which close inspection indicates is not the case.

    1 Cor 15: 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.

    Here it is in a nutshell.

    Rom 8:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

  • Joe Canner

    I have encountered the “theistic evolution=>deism” argument before and I think it is significant not because it is problematic but because it is a philosophical/theological issue that really has nothing to do with evolution. As such, the skills required to engage with it are much more readily accessible than those required to engage the scientific issues.

    I have never understood why people assume that evolutionary creation requires a God that does not interact with creation. Where one lands on the theism/deism continuum has much more to do with personal experiences and one’s openness or skepticism regarding divine intervention, not evolution per se. Personally, I struggle with doubts about God’s interaction with creation, not because of an a priori commitment to evolution, but because of the lack of evidence for such interaction in my own experience and because my statistics training has conditioned me to look for alternative explanations for unusual phenomena. Others, without such doubts, can (and do) easily affirm both a highly interactive God and evolutionary creation.

  • John Inglis

    I appreciate RJS’s drawing our attention to the fact that the issue of real design by an agent, and not an apparent design by nonpersonal forces, has a dimensional nature, a range, a spectrum, levels.

    I see significance in the failure by various parties to identify and be explicit and outspoken about the fact that there is not a single defined and scoped aspect of design in nature with only a binary answer to be discussed.

    What complicates this discussion is the extremely dismissive and hostile attitude expressed by most so-called theistic evolutionists to those theistic evolutionists who also self-identify as “IDers”. People in the pew can understand the dismissive and hostile attitudes of atheist scientists, but it really boggles the mind to see self-declared scientists ridicule IDers and cut off that entire area as even a possible avenue of research.

    IDers, such as Dembski etc., are actively investigating what it means to have knowledge, what it means to be designed, and how do we detect design. If we want to know how to understand the Bible’s declarations that the heavens declare his glory, and that man can know something about God from looking at nature, then these are important things to investigate. Some of the research falls under the typical heads of science, and some under philosophy of science, but all is relevant.

    Second, and equally important, is the fact that those in the pew aren’t stupid–they have PhDs, are educators, mensa members, etc., and have the ability to reason and understand even though they don’t have external recognition by way of academic degrees. Consequently, they can understand and reason through the very cogent and science based criticisms raised by young earthers and those theistic evolutionists who are also IDers. The pew sitters can readily see change over time in various rocks, but they can also see that evolution has no viable mechanism for creating and compounding positive changes in organisms. DNA mutation doesn’t yet cut it (if it ever will). When they see theistic evolutionists brush over this problem, their antennae go up and the theistic evolutionists start to lose not just credibility but their voice too. They see theistic evolutionists as just too “rah rah” for the evolution camp and copted by that camp.

    These issues raise a further issue regarding why so-called theistic evolutionists and the theistic evolutionist IDers are not cobelligerants. Both groups agree that there is change over time, both groups agree that some sort of evolution is going on, and both agree that there is some sort of design at some scale or level in the universe. However, they currently land at different points in the spectrum. The failure to be cooperative certainly doesn’t seem to be the fault of the IDers who (at least the professional ones) do not mock and dismiss the theistic evolutionists in the ways that the latter camp mocks and dismisses them.

    All of which is to say that the theistic evolutionists of the Biologos persuasion will find that they get a better hearing if they acknowledge the problems in evolution, are not so triumphalistic, are more humble about the capabilities of science, do not mock or dismiss their brethren, and are not dismissive of legitimate questions and issues.

    As for this pew-sitter, I have become more skeptical of science and scientists over the years because I make my living cross-examining them. Hence I’m not firmly in any camp, and hold both the science and Bible aspects of the evolution issue in suspension. The only thing I’m most sure of is Jesus because I meet him daily through his Spirit. If necessary, I would hold the contradiction of materialist evolution and a real Adam in suspended tension just like those Calvinists who hold the contradiction of real free will and predetermination in suspension.

  • Norman

    John Inglis,

    I agree with you to an extent. TE’s and ID’s all see intelligence and I believe TE’s like myself need to be more careful in speaking toward Intelligent Design as we ultimately abide there as well.

    However there is a difference in the approach that classical “Intelligent Designers” investigate the issues of evolution versus the approach by TE’s. The classical “Intelligent Designer” often appear to go beyound science and speculate more regarding “special creation” oppurtunities when they don’t quite know the answers yet. Not unlike the YEC who flat out say that we were specially created 6000 to 10000 years ago out of nothing. The ID’s often attempt to insert something similar to stay away from observed evolution as it is being presented. TE’s typically work within the observed scientific realities as we uncover them and attribute those observations to Intelligent Design but perhaps through God’s Providential purpose that has occured naturally (albeit under His quiding purpose). We all see Intelligence.

  • AHH

    Peter @1 points out that there is still more room for ongoing research, etc., regarding the detailed mechanisms for evolution. And I agree.
    But, with regard to science/faith issues, does that really matter much? The part that IS firmly established (common descent, covering many milions of years, including humans, with the human population never as small as two, with death way before any sort of “Fall”) is already enough to create tension with much traditional conservative theology. I think most of us Christians in science would be ecstatic if the church were simply willing to accept the clear fact of common descent and deal with it theologically; discussions of details of how the evolution happened are secondary.

    And I wonder if John Inglis @5 is living on the same planet as me when he blames theistic evolutionists for all the animosity. I will not deny that there has been poor behavior from the TE side on occasion (although one would be hard pressed to find such on the Biologos website). And I agree with John that ID and TE can potentially be on the same team (for that fraction of the ID movement that does not deny evolution in the sense of common descent). But the history of the ID movement is rife with vitriol against theistic evolutionists. Phil Johnson has called us “dupes” and on multiple occasions impugned our Christian integrity. Dembski has also been quite nasty in the past — his Uncommon Descent blog is much more confrontational than Biologos (maybe his willingness to dialog with Biologos is a good sign). The Discovery Institute expresses contempt for theistic evolution while cozying up to Young-Earth creationists.

    We shouldn’t let this devolve into a thread about whose behavior is worse, but I couldn’t let those comments in #5 go unchallenged.

  • #3 Norman,

    So you are saying the ‘image of God’ in humanity is not present or complete until the reception of the Spirit in Christ? Have I understood you correctly?

    I can’t see how this is a conceivable idea in light of Scripture. I can’t even imagine how it could even be attractive.

    What do you do with Genesis 9:6 which clearly shows that the image of God is fully intact post-Fall and Pre-Christ? Opinions about capital punishment aside, that text has ethical ramifications for the treatment of every human being because of the image of God that each retains.

    Christians are to afford respect, dignity and protection to every human life. Agreed? If one denies the full image of God until reception of the Spirit (until one is ‘in Christ’) what happens to that ethic?

    Help me understand your thoughts.

  • Joe Canner

    John #5: In addition to the issues raised by AHH in #7, I would like to address your statement: “Both groups agree that there is change over time…some sort of evolution is going on, and …there is some sort of design at some scale or level in the universe.”

    Seeing as how ID is a “big tent” that includes YEC, I’m not sure this is really true. Be that as it may, the reason TE and ID aren’t “cobelligerants” (interesting word choice) is because ID chooses to attack science and TE chooses to accept science and search for better ways to understand the Bible in the light of evolution. We can discuss which of these two strategies is likely to be more fruitful, but I don’t think there is much point to finding common ground between the two.

  • John Inglis

    RE Joe Canner #9

    If one broadens the ID tent to simple “design”, then both theistic evolutionists and YECs would be included. However, the ones who have and are developing the concepts within as less materialist framework (Discover Institute) are not accepted by YECs. Indeed, most YEC websites warn of the dangers of the standard ID movement because everyone of the ID movement accepts both a great age of the Earth, and the existence of different organisms over time. Furthermore, IDers accept some form of evolution from some beginning point(s). YECs repudiate all three of those principles. Consequently, YECs cannot be incuded in that design tent (of IDers).

    RE AHH at #7

    I agree that there has been vitriol both ways, but my point was not about the vitriol, but about the triumphalist and dismissive attitudes. IDers of the Discovery Institute type accept the use of the scientifict methods, the use of statisticis, etc. and read all the same literature as theistic evolutionists do. They are not simply and categorically dismissive of the work of even secular and metaphysically materialist evolutionists. They critique the work, sure, but are not immediately dismissive of it. This contrasts with the dismissive attitude and writings of theistic evolutionists who generally put so little effort into understanding the ID work that they continually get it wrong, and in the same ways. And I was referring to scientists, of which P. Johnson is not one.

    BTW, “I wonder if John Inglis @5 is living on the same planet as me ” makes my very point about the dismissive, mocking, and condescending attitudes of those who are not IDers.

    Furthermore, my point was not about who throws the most vitriol, or who threw it first, or even about vitriol at all. My main point was about why theistic evolutionists have a hard time getting a hearing from those in the pew. I suggest it would be more relevant to interact with that main point.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I don’t understand the skepticism that there can not be common ground between ID and TE? Can’t we do better than this? I think there are a ton of people like John Inglis and people are saying to people like him, “You have to take sides!” Why? “You have to be for one and against another?” Why?

    Maybe it’s just me but it seems like American polarized politics just as much comes into our science discussions than trying to find unity amidst diversity which seems more the Trinitarian way from my perspective.

    Here is my own reformulating of this from Scripture, “For in Christ, there is neither ID nor TE that counts for anything but what counts is the new creation!”

  • EricG

    I see issue 5 – the problem of evil/suffering – as by far the most significant issue. This blog has done a great job explaining the very strong evidence for common descent, interpretation of Genesis and Romans in conjunction with this, and related questions. The big question that remains with TE and science generally is whether they make the problem of suffering worse, because they make it clear that death, suffering, natural disasters, cancer, etc. all preceded the Fall (and a metaphorical reading of the Fall does not resolve this problem). Moreover, the very mechanism of creation via evolution seems to arise out of substantial death and suffering. When the dust settles years from now, I suspect people will accept common descent (like they did the earth revolving around the sun), but the question of suffering will remain (as it always has) as a major obstacle to faith. Given recent comments by David Opderbeck on his blog and elsewhere, maybe he would be willing to do a post on this? It seems like many dodge the question – Enns in his recent book for example.

  • Norman

    Steve, W

    Actually it makes perfect sense theologically from the Hebrew mindset and style. The Jews were not enamored with political correctness from our modern mindset viewpoint as can be illustrated in how they contrasted Gentile and Jew categories of humanity until Christ. The section in Gen 9 is projecting a standard that will be held against those who murder those who are God’s faithful and has it ties back to Gen 1:26. It also is alluding to the murdering of Abel by Cain who according to Heb 11 would be raised to the Standard of those who bear the Image of God. Again it’s a theological and relational standard and not biological. We are not changed biologically when we receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ but we do stand with God in His eternal Image.

    These stories in Genesis are all pointed to at the time of Christ and the Jewish persecution of the early Christians as fulfillment of prophecies that illustrate who the true Children of God would be. Those who murdered their faithful brothers would be judged.

    Now if you are implying that bearing the Image of God through Christ is denying the dignity of humans then your mistaken as Christ died for everyone to have the opportunity to put on the higher calling of God’s relationship. Again it’s reverting back to a Greek model that permeated the church and lost the Hebrew approach. The implication of your model is universal gift eternal life for everyone whether they come to faith in God and Christ or not. One needs to reflect upon the Universal implications that this approach puts forth which may be all right if one is a Universalist.

    There is no justification that a faithful believer should disavow the sacredness of humans because we believe that He has endowed the faithful with His higher calling. It should be the idea that we want everyone to embrace.

  • Joe Canner

    CGC #11: I’m generally a big fan of common ground, by I don’t see much in this instance.

    ID folks are (rightly) concerned when scientists make metaphysical claims. However, instead of attacking the improper claims, they attack the science and anyone who believes in evolution, even TEs, get caught in the crossfire. There is also an implication that there is only so much evolution that one can believe in before crossing over to the dark side.

    TEs are also concerned when scientists make metaphysical claims. However, they want to maintain dialogue and connection to the scientific community and so do not attack the science, but rather attempt to counter the improper metaphysical claims. This comes across to some as being weak on theism or Biblical authority.

    So, yes, there is common ground: resisting scientists’ unwarranted metaphysical claims. However this common ground is only helpful if both sides give up their other agendas*, otherwise there is too much collateral damage. The resulting fusion would have a totally character and would be neither TE nor ID, at least as currently defined.

    *I happen to think that the TE agenda is worth keeping, more so than the ID agenda, but that is just my bias.

  • Norman #13,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate it but I still don’t get your position.

    This is what I hear you suggesting:
    1) God’s image is only fully granted to those who are ‘in Christ’ or ‘gifted with the Spirit’.
    2) God’s image is about a relational standard, how each of us relates to God.
    3) Genesis 9:6 refers only to the murder of God’s covenant people.
    4) The implication of Universal respect for all image-bearers is Universal Salvation.

    Am I wrong on these points? If this is what you believe than I have never heard such things suggested before. You’re the first!

    Question #1 What is the basis for “the sacredness of humans” if not universal image-bearing?

    Are you getting your ideas from anywhere? Are there books, websites, authors, scholars who have helped you arrive here? I’m genuinely interested.

  • John Inglis

    IDers attack the science?

    Um, isn’t that the point of doing science? Isn’t that how it is claimed that science advances?

    IDers are not attacking the doing of science, nor the methodologies of science (experiments, etc.), nor the possibility of science per se. That much at least should be obvious. Nor do IDers “attack . . . anyone who believes in evolution”. For Pete’s sake, IDers believe in evolution, and their views are not monolithic but have differences between them. IDers just don’t accept that purely random nonagent forces (i.e., the laws of physics) can account for life as we know it. They are not saying “oh stop the research, God did it”, but rather what secondary causes did God use, and how did he use them, and what are the limits of materialist methodology. This is the same perspective as the christian scientists of the pre-enlightenment and enlightenment era. They want to understand how God did it, and they are not limited by preconceived narratives that have received the blessing of the establishment and so become the Kuhnian paradigm.

    What IDers do attack is the explanations for data and experimental results, improperly done research, conclusions that overreach the data, etc.–the same as any other scientist. That stuff is all fair game. The fact that most TEs and the inhabitants of the Biologos site are dismissive of these criticisms and fail to adequately engage them is obvious to the people in the pew and results in pew sitters taking TE pronouncements with a large grain of salt.

    In between reading the posts, and writing my own, I’m reviewing several reports about forest and tree ecology as several scientists battle out whether a stand of trees constitutes a significant natural woodlot. The civil disagreement between the scientists I’m reading as regards the data and the meaning and signicance of that data, and then the relationship of that data to policy is such a far cry from “I’m doing science and you’re not” accusations of the TEs to the IDers, that it just boggles my mind that evangelical community even has the patience to suffer any of them. I can totally understand the retreat of pew sitters to YEC. “I know Jesus, Jesus supports the Bible, I get real life from Jesus and the Bible, I can absolutely trust Jesus and the Bible, I don’t get any help at all in my life from evolutionary science, and if they appear to disagree, so much the worse for science. Too bad, so sad, bin nice knowin’ ya.”

    Turfing Jesus would make a huge difference in my life. Turfing evolution would make no difference at all. If I had to choose sides, it’s pretty obvious what side I would choose, and many people have already made that choice. Sure, some people lose their faith thinking about the issue of evolution and their church’s denial of a completely materialist evolution, but the vast majority do not and are in no danger of doing so.

    Jesus is so real, that people around the world are being murdered rather than giving up their faith. With a reality that is so strong that it can beat out the threat of death, is it any wonder that materialist evolution can’t hold a candle to it regardless of how convincing it is alleged to be?

    If evolution was something that one could see under a microscope, and you took all the Christians I know, including me, and told them that there was only a bivalent choice between materialist evolution and Jesus, and then had us look through a microscope such that we could not deny that evolution was beyond doubt, most people I know would say “too bad for evolution, I’m sticking with Jesus”.

    Fortunately, it is not a bivalent issue, and evolution is much more complex and nuanced as are its potential relationships to faith and the Bible, but my point is that evolution can never win, will never win, if its proponents simply think it’s all a matter of the preponderance of science based evidence.

  • Norman

    Steve, W

    Check out N. T. Wrights lecture “Being Human (N. T. Wright)”. Do a Google search.
    He essentially lays out the ancient idea of the Image of God however I make a modification to his view as he backtracks from his logical presentation and reverts back to give lip service to your position. In other words he is trying to straddle the fence while making the biblical presentation. Theologically IMO you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    The basis of human dignity comes from the acknowledgement that I stated earlier that God sent His son to die for each and every one of us. That’s a pretty substantial editorial on humans worth and it demonstrates how much He desires for us to have union with Him. Again you’re looking for some intrinsic biological determination and as far as I can tell the Jews recognized our mortality but didn’t speculate upon evolutionary issues that make us human. At least not to the degree that we imply toward their scripture.
    This issue boils down the concept of the saved and lost as it has historically been understood and has the same ramifications that we have classically dealt with. That is why universalism is popular because it skirts this issue.

    You said … “4) The implication of Universal respect for all image-bearers is Universal Salvation.”
    That’s not the nuance that I infer. Take out the word “respect” and replace it with “application”.

  • Norman,

    Thanks. I’ll listen to Wright, as I am always eager to do.

    I’ve enjoyed our dialogue but I must stop my procrastination and do some work now.

    Many blessings.

  • AHH

    John I. @10, I think I see part of where we have talked past each other.

    I now see (it was not clear in your comment #5 but was in #10) that you are talking about being “dismissive” of the science of the “other side”. And perhaps you have a point there. Part of the problem, I think, is that many of us see ID “on the ground” — in churches, on popular blogs, etc., where it is mostly propaganda and what science there is is pretty garbled (such as the arguments over educational standards in Kansas, where leaders of the ID movement sided with anti-science crusaders). It is easy for me to forget that there are ID-advocating scientists (Michael Behe, Mike Gene, a few others might come to mind if I thought enough) who do engage in thoughtful discussion and raise points worthy of consideration. It is probably too easy for somebody like me to throw out the baby with the bathwater, to dismiss the 10% that is worth listening to because I am so disgusted with the other 90%.

    This dialogue on the Biologos site that RJS is talking about is a good step toward making this problem better. So credit Biologos for including contrary voices in civil discussion. As a contrasting data point, at least as of a few years ago (I have not been there recently), anybody questioning ID ideas on Bill Dembski’s blog, no matter how civil they were, would get banned from commenting in short order.

    The angle I was talking about was being “dismissive” of the people on the other side. Personal attacks, labeling them as traitors to the faith, impugning their integrity, ad hominem propaganda tactics. Which is pretty common from the Discovery Institute, etc., but which I do not see nearly as often from the TE side. One could, for example, compare the level of such attacks on the Biologos site to that on the Uncommon Descent blog.

    But the point of RJS’s post was about the different camps engaging in respectful and civil dialogue about the scientific and theological issues, which I think we can all agree is needed no matter where we might assign blame for the scarcity of such dialogue. Kudos to Biologos for providing space where this can happen, and kudos to the Dembski, Dew, etc. for being willing to engage in such conversations.
    Would that it could happen more often in our churches — I know at my church when it seemed that there might be teaching sympathetic to theistic evolution the snipers came out firing (often armed with ammo from Uncommon Descent or the Discovery Institute).

  • Joe Canner

    John #16: What you are describing is the way ID *should* work. Perhaps it even achieves this ideal from time to time. However, from where I sit, I do not see the average ID proponent engaging with science in this way. For the average “pew-sitter” in my world, ID is mostly just a way to get around First Amendment restrictions on teaching creationism, or a way of putting a scientific veneer on creationism. They know all of the arguments against evolution, but none of the arguments for it.

    Sorry if I sound frustrated, but my reality is that ID folks have very little interest in engaging in dialogue about actual scientific findings. Perhaps my experience is unique, but I doubt it…

  • Kevin

    When Dawkins released “The God Delusion”, he was criticized for his lack of understanding of the discipline of philosophy. His arguments against God were the result of bad philosophy rather than good science. The same mistake is being made here. Evolution as science is not the same as Naturalism as a philosophy, yet the two are unnecessarily thrown in bed together. It is possible, if not preferable to take seriously evolutionary science, while rejecting a naturalistic philosophy, while also upholding faithfulness to God as Creator and scripture as authoritative.

  • holdon

    From the article here above: “Part 1 to the response concentrates on the first question – the evidence for macro-evolution.”

    And this part 1 article by Ard Louis then says: “Southern Baptists pastors should be aware of this development because such genetic evidence – e.g., humans have clear remnants of a gene that chickens use to make egg yolks — is much easier for bright teenagers in their congregations to understand than more traditional evidence for evolution based on the fossil record.”

    No kidding. The fossil record is based on fossilized life forms in geological strata (hence the “zo” in their names like “paleozoic”), of which the sequences and ages are based on supposed evolution of these life forms, which are of course arranged to the sequence and age based on the geological strata. Thus you have a nice circular reasoning and which “bright teenager” wouldn’t see through this scheme?

    Anyway, the quote links again to one of Venema’s articles about the common descent evidence of humans and chickens based on yolk. Here is what Venema says:

    There Dennis Venema says that pseudogenes are a very convincing argument for evolution (E1 and E2 I guess, see Ard Louis ).

    Venema wrote: “No special training in genetics is required to appreciate the strength of the evidence that these examples provide. Nor does it require special insight to see that attempts made by antievolutionary groups to refute this evidence face an uphill battle.”
    So, my hopes go up: “no special training required”….

    Wow! Good enough for “bright kids” then possibly good enough for me. So I start reading up on his example of vitellogenin that supposedly is “no longer” (bias alert), needed in humans, although the pseudogene is still there. The vitellogenin gene is needed in egg layers (animals that lay eggs) to make yolk. Of course we humans “approximately 300 million years since we last shared a common ancestor with chickens” (lit. quote), who have become mammals have no need for vitellogenin, and therefore since this codon doesn’t get expressed and is therefore not subject to natural selection, but has all the chemical signs of being there, it is called a pseudogene and “remnant” (bias alert).

    Now, from a biological standpoint, humans may be mammals (not birds for sure), but they still “lay eggs”. From the release of an egg up to it connecting to the uterus, it needs stuff: yolk. In very small quantities to be sure, because the egg is well protected in that environment. It is likely that vitellogenin is responsible for generating the small amount of yolk the egg needs.
    Did Venema forget that humans lay eggs? How does he know that VTGL is a pseudogene? Sometimes “pseudogenes” do get expressed and are therefore not so pseudo anymore. This may well be the case in the human egg.

    Wouldn’t it be possible that to call 97% of the DNA junk and pseudo only betrays a bit of ignorance?
    Put otherwise: if only 2 – 3% of DNA is subject to natural selection with 98% (some say 99%?) of the mutations in that 2 – 3% being so detrimental that the organism cannot hold up in the natural selection process, how does that statistically (let alone logically) favor evolution from amoebes to humans? Consider also that amoebe species were able to survive to today and perfectly adapted as-is throughout the ages to withstand “natural selection” without having to evolve into something else.

  • DRT


    I think you may be missing a key concept or two, and/or are not aware that you are actually using the exact rationale that he is pointing towards as evidence. Let me try to explain

    I believe that the point you are making is that since mammals still do have an egg involved in the reproduction process, and there is a time during the process where the egg needs to subsist without a placenta, then it is possible that it uses something akin to a yolk to support itself and this gives justification for there to be a yolk gene in us, and it does not really imply that we (humans and chickens), have a joint ancestor that was an egg layer some 300 million years ago. Is that right?

    What you are leaving out of that analysis are the parts that give rise to the allegation that it is from common descent that we have this gene.

    First, I agree, if we both lay eggs (though that is quite a stretch here) then it may make sense for us both to use a yolk making process to feed the egg. OK. But, what about the fact that the yolk making gene is found next to the same genes in a chicken as it is in us? If it were just that god made a chicken and god made us shouldn’t he at least use a little imagination and put it somewhere else? Isn’t this a strong pointer toward common ancestry?

    Also, you are missing the forrest because you are looking at trees. If we were to be independently created to be special, why on god’s good earth would he make us have to make use of a yolk mechanism for a couple days while the egg moves from the tube to the uterus. I mean if I was making it from scratch I would think that there would be different mechanisms given the drastic difference in operation. Heck, why not make the time between fertilization and implantation short enough to not need a yolk? Or why not just put the dog gone eggs in a chamber right off the uterus. Or why not put them in a pouch under my right ear? The answer to the why not is because it was common descent.

    Last thing, please show me where it says we still need to make a yolk at all. As far as I can tell you just made that up.

  • DRT


    There are some companies out there who administer tests to people and one of the types of questions is where they give you a bunch of info then simply ask if you have enough info to solve the problem or not. Perhaps this is a well known type of question, but I don’t know so I am saying it like I am.

    Arguing with ID, for me, is exactly the same as answering one of those types of questions for me. I can tell you without even really thinking very hard about it that the ID allegations do not have enough information to solve for what they are trying to solve. Not even close. Every time I see one of their allegations about irreducible complexity I know within a second or two that I could think up several different ways that we could come up with that mix of functions. It is not even a fun game so I don’t typically play.

    If the attitude I just expressed is typical of what you categorize as dismissive, then I stand convicted. I am very dismissive of ID.

    If not, then I don’t understand your point.

  • holdon

    “But, what about the fact that the yolk making gene is found next to the same genes in a chicken as it is in us?”

    There are lots of genes found in the similar locations (between remote species). That does not say anything about common descent. (unless you already want to believe it). That most cars have 2 front wheels and two rear wheels does not mean they come out of the same factory. It has all to do with a certain design where these fit better. It wouldn’t make sense to have doors for front wheels, or would it?

    “I mean if I was making it from scratch I would think that there would be different mechanisms given the drastic difference in operation. ” Thankfully you were not.

    Why is the answer to the “why not” common descent? How do you get there? There are too many things different between chickens and humans that I would say the answer is: “no common descent”.

    Why do you need to see evidence that “we make yolk”? Would that change your opinion?

  • JohnM

    I’ve asked this before and I would ask it again – if it’s theistic, is it evolution? Surely not if evolution is synonymous with the “Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”.

  • DRT

    holdon, ok, so you are ready to claim that there is a reason why it makes sense for the yolk gene to be between those other ones? I call you on it. Why? The analogy to a car makes absolutely no sense. The wheel arrangement is strictly driven (ha!) by function. I am a mechanical engineer, I can vouch that it makes sense to have two front and back wheels. Find me where there is a reason to have the yolk gene between gene a and b.

    As far as your second comment, I don’t think I understand what you are saying. Could you please lay it out (lay, egg, eh?), lay it out better please?

  • DRT

    JohnM, if I am reading your comment correctly, it is akin to saying, “if a car requires a human to steer it to a purposeful direction, can we say that the car can go without direction?”. Clearly the car can go without direction. But it goes to a more useful destination with direction.

  • Bev Mitchell

    This is all very interesting, sort of. But it is far too unfocused to get us very far. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that it has many of the classic hallmarks of displacement behaviour! The  peripheral issues are so vast and wide ranging that we can spin around and around forever. I gave up on the YEC vs theistic vs whatever fray years ago – because fog is the primary product. Sometimes, I fear, it is the intentional product. Anyone who has attended a faculty, board or business meeting where experts are at work to prevent a conclusion from being reached, will understand what I mean. Sorry if this sounds harsh, and I really am reluctant to question motives. However, the results couldn’t be better if one tried.

    AHH (#7) hits the nail on the head saying “The part that IS firmly established (common descent, covering many milions of years, including humans, with the human population never as small as two, with death way before any sort of “Fall”) is already enough to create tension with much traditional conservative theology. I think most of us Christians in science would be ecstatic if the church were simply willing to accept the clear fact of common descent and deal with it theologically; discussions of details of how the evolution happened are secondary.”

    I can only say Amen and Amen.

  • AHH

    John M @26,

    It is of course important to be clear on what one means by “evolution”. The basic scientific meaning, which is what I and others would mean in the phrase “theistic evolution”, is the development of life by common descent (Biologos phrases it as “descent with modification”). That meaning says nothing about the mechanism (natural selection, etc.) by which that happens.

    But even under the definition you give, which is another way in which the word is sometimes used, how is “by means of natural selection” incompatible with “theistic”?
    It is only incompatible if one accepts the premise that God cannot work via “natural” processes to accomplish His ends. And that premise is falsified by sound Christian theology that affirms God’s sovereignty over nature.

  • JohnM

    DRT – A car cannot do anything (or exist) without human action being involved.

    The question is: Do species originate apart from God’s (i.e. SUPERnatural) action? If no, then can we properly say they evolve by NATURAL selection, and what happens to the “evolution” part of theistic evolution? If yes, species do evolve apart from God’s action, then where does that leave the “theistic” part of theistic evolution?

  • DRT

    Bev Mitchell, you are right. But some of us are enticed by unsolvable problems. The unsolvable part is doing it in a time less than it takes for a couple of generations to get cycled through the system. I am wondering myself when I will move to your position. All the time it increases my respect for those who show patient, kind positions in this (RJS, yes you). That is not part of my constitution.

  • JohnM

    AHH #30 – I used Darwin’s terminology – which I take to desribe the fundamental theory of evolution. See also my answer to DRT in #31 for where I’m going with the question. Perhaps we need to re-think our terms and definitions.

  • holdon


    “The wheel arrangement is strictly driven (ha!) by function.” How do you know (as a mechanical engineer) that the position of genes have nothing to do with function or that it’s not somehow “driven”? That’s the question for you.

    Maybe the Creator chose here and there to use common building blocks for certain organism. No problem with that. Actually that’s a more likely explanation than common descent, because it still leaves plenty of differences perfectly plausible as well, which in evolution are not so plausibly explained unless you throw gazillions of years at it of course.

    Evolution needs to explain the differences despite a common descent and it needs to take into account that natural selection is a very powerful guard to preserve a species in its state rather than allow for mutations to take a permanent hold.

  • DRT

    JohnM, the car, once made and going, will go, regardless of human action or inaction.

    The theistic/deistic dualism is not a true choice, they both exist. God created and set the stars in motion the same as we set the car in motion. Once in motion it does not require anything to keep going.

    In this sense god is deistic, he does not need to intervene.

    Aside: For the sake of this argument I don’t really want to get into whether the universe requires god to be actively interacting at all times. I think it is probably OK for us to use the case that he may not need to constantly interact once he sets the processes in motion.

    But if we want the direction to have the fullest expression of his intent, then we need a driver.

    To your question, I believe that it could easily be that god set it all up in the beginning and it has been going ever since. yes, species being created and evolving and moving all without his interaction. I do not see why it is required for god to intervene in his creation for evolution to occur. It seems that it can without him.

    But that does not mean that he does not interact. He has shown that he does. The question is the extent.

    I don’t see a seperation between natural and supernatural. I see it all more in terms of god driven or human driven, since we are the other ones with free will in this whole thing. God drove, drives and will drive creation either through his initial set up or intervention. I don’t really care which it is, they are just a matter of time.

    We can change creation too. We have free will and can go against his will, he has made space for that. I hope we don’t change it to the point that it is not conducive to his processes of evolution….that would be terrible.

  • JohnM

    DRT (and others) – “Once in motion it does not require anything to keep going.”. Okay, that (deism) is one possible view, but I don’t know why we would call it “theistic” evolution as it relates to biology, since the deity does nothing to affect how things develop.

    If there is no separtion between natural and supernatural then at least one of those terms doesn’t mean anything.

  • DRT

    JohnM, like I said, I think the deism/theism is a false dichotomy.

    The theism is obvious in Jesus, if nothing else. That means that in addition to deism, theism happens. [can that be a T-shirt? Theism Happens]

    I am certain many believe that god does intervene, and I believe he does, but how often does he have to intervene for it to be theism? It may have been the initial spark of life only, or perhaps the invention of a thumb, or a yolk sack. Who knows.

    We do know that he did/does with Jesus.

    My personal belief is now forming up to be that he works through his image bearers. I don’t believe he really needs to intervene, per se, he interacts and that is through us. We have the ability to effect change in the system. Is it still theistic if the way he interacts (aside from Jesus) is through us? I say yes.

  • DRT

    I’m compelled to finish that last thought.

    I don’t know who it was that I read that said the following, but I like it. When god created the world he was building his temple. The last thing that you build and put in your temple is your image. The author, I wish I remembered who, says that it would have been obvious to many back in the OT days that Genesis was describing this building of a temple and then putting the image of the god into the temple.

    That really resonates with me. It’s a sort of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz type of thing, no? We spend all this time looking for god in our world when we had him all along. All we needed to do was believe and look inside ourselves.

    Now people can twist that idea into all sorts of perversions, but in the innocent tone that I am saying it I feel it is a beautiful and wonderful sentiment. We need to look at ourselves and take ownership for the voice of god within ourselves. Isn’t that what Jesus really taught? That the Holy Spirit (god) would be with us?

  • DRT

    holdon, I don’t know that the genes have nothing to do with the function . The author of the article simply labelled them ‘a’ and ‘b’ so my argument is that YOU can’t use them for anything. Given the author is a geneticist I would imagine he would have said that there was something there if he knew of it. If you think otherwise then you are saying he is intentionally trying to deceive and that is not warranted.

    This is especially true given that the author was using that as one of the points he was making. So if you simply want to say he is trying to deceive then there is little use in talking about it. But the fact is that he did make that point and that we have zero evidence that there is a reason for them to be in the same sequence, other than it being consistent with common descent.

    If you want to think that the creator of the universe simply decided to put gene ‘a’ and ‘b’ on each side of the yolk producing gene because he wanted to, then again there is not a whole lot of point in discussing this. He is god. He can do anything that he wants. Why would he possibly think that he would be thrifty in design and put genes in the same sequence in different species? That is simply an absurd comment holdon.

    You also say that evolution needs to explain “the differences”. What differences are you talking about and why does it need to explain them. We (at least me, and most scientists and many non-scientists) are looking to come up with the best explanation given the facts. We don’t need to do anything.

    Your last point, I summarize as follows: Given that natural selection is at work at some level, it would also tend to screen out deviations given it was already the best at that time and it would not allow something else to take hold.

    This is fascinating to me. Are you saying that you think that just because something is the current ingroup, the one that existed before, it somehow will not be willing to change if something better comes around? I will assume you are male at this point for this response. If you have a son, who finds a woman who is faster, smarter and hotter than anyone else around would you believe a) that he would not take her as a mate because she is different or b) that he would want her as a mate because he feels she is somehow better? Would you really pick ‘a”?

  • AHH

    John M. @31 and 33,

    Indeed, terms and definitions are important to clarify in these discussions. A sometimes useful distinction is between the “fact of evolution” (common descent) and “theory of evolution” (explanations of how it happened, Darwin and his successors). While probably the majority of Christians who affirm theistic evolution have no problems with the basic outline of the theory of evolution as currently understood, the general usage of “theistic evolution” (except by those seeking to attack it) tends to be minimalist — simply affirmation of common descent and affirmation that God is ultimately the creator all that has evolved.

    But I would challenge the categories you set up in #31, where you equated “natural” with “apart from God’s action”. I would submit that such an equation, where God is only in the “supernatural” and absent from the “natural”, is bad theology; Christians should affirm that God is Lord over both categories (some might argue that the categorization itself is fallacious). The premise that “natural” explanations mean God is absent (sometimes called the “God of the Gaps” fallacy) is a major contributor to problems in this area, and I think Christians need to learn to reject it.

  • JohnM

    AHH #40 – Perhaps there is no such thing as supernatural after all? Then there is no “both catergories”, nature is simply God acting. I think we would have to believe in meticulous providence in all things – and I suppose some do.

    I don’t necessarily believe God must or does actively, constantly, and meticulously, direct natural processes, e.g., where each raindrop impacts the ground, or what the wind speed is at every given time and place. I do believe God is lord over the weather and God can and has intervened in the process. When God intervenes I would call that supernatural – outside the natural process that exists by God’s design and would otherwise occur without His direct action. Again, perhaps there is no need for terms such as supernatural or miracle. But I think there is.

    The thing about evolution specifically via natural selection (and very much without divine intervention) is that it is a fundamental feature Darwin’s theory and Darwin’s theory, described in his seminal work, is the foundation upon which all subsequent developments in evolutionary theory are built. Without Darwin, would we have a theory of evolution? Perhaps, and even likely assuming something like evolution is a fact there to be discovered. But without Darwin what would it look like? Would it best be called evolution? Do theistic evolutionists repudiate Darwin?

  • RJS


    Bringing Darwin into this conversation and asking if without him we would have a theory of evolution is like asking if without Newton we would have a theory of gravity, without Einstein relativity (including its impact on the theory of gravity). It is nonsensical. Darwin was not some great leader, but one man among very many. A thoroughly human 19th century Englishman. No one person is the last word on anything. No lasting theory in science is dependent on the proclamations of any man or woman.

    Natural selection is one part of the mechanism – and it would be accepted as a major contribution today with or without the existence of a man named Charles Darwin.

    To complain about natural mechanisms in evolution – whatever they may be – is akin to complaining about the natural processes that determine the weather – thermal gradients, presence of water, form of the land masses, gravity, diffusion, and more. All of these “natural” mechanisms are part of God’s creation.

    Does he interact and intervene? – yes, in relationship and for his purposes. But we could no more prove his intervention today than we could prove after the fact that he caused a flood or a windstorm or an earthquake.

  • John Inglis

    RE Canner & AAH & Dismissiveness or Vitriol

    Yes, I agree that we were talking or sailing past each other a bit. I have no time to read church or individual blogs, though I do know that their comments (especially the latter) do get quite heated and over the top. Furthermore, they usually don’t understand either side. In my church it’s not an issue at all, so I’ve never had to argue it out.

    In terms of vitriol I refer to the comments by Dennet, Dawkins, Coyner, Meier who don’t hold back on the name-calling, ad hominem, etc., including statements that there should be laws against teaching children religion, etc.

    I typically read only Biologos, P. Enns, Discovery Ins. and Darwin’s God. The tone of the ledes is very different and does not contain the vitriol of the evolutionist sites. I don’t find biologos to be full of vitriol, though most of the writers are very triumphalistic and also dismissive of anything written by an IDer (and consequently, I often get the impression that I’m not even reading the same book as reviewed on Biologos).

    I don’t read Dembski’s site, but given his treatment by both Christians and materialists, I’m not surprised he’s a bit touchy about what he allows on his website.

    ID & Knowledge

    First off, given that we know a designer and that we accept that the universe was designed and created, and that we can detect our own design, research into the nature of design is important research–especially for Christians. Furthermore, it is possible to research design. Yet Biologos dismisses that entire field. That hurts their credibility and reduces their voice.

    Second, the issue of knowledge is researched by both secular and Christian scientists and philosophers. ID proponents are making contributions in this area.

    As to things like “irreducible complexity”, it is a valid concept to research and explore so why be dismissive of it in general? Further, if one thinks that it’s arguments are so easily dismissed, then one is not as familiar with the topic as one thinks. But even if the arguments are currently weak, that does not mean that research should stop–isn’t that one of the accusations that gets thrown around? that research stops because it is thought that the definitive answer has been found? Isn’t that what Kuhn opposed?

    For example, the big bang theory was pooh poohed for a long time and the steady state theory reigned supreme. Fortunately, that didn’t stop research and now the big bang is almost universally accepted.

    Or what about string theory or multi-universes? The former set of theories is highly problematic, and there is no evidence at all for the latter. Nevertheless, research, investigation and thinking still continues in both these areas. One can even take courses at university about multi-verses even though there the whole concept is entirely speculative.

    Or what about the investigation of the relationship between brain scans, revealed brain structure and activity, and personal behaviours and traits? Again, highly controversial, yet the research continues.

    Again, to the pew sitter who believes in a designer who actively created, it makes complete sense to investigate and explore agentive design in all aspects of the universe (physical, biological, etc.). When Biologos just blows this off, they lose their voice.

    If theistic evolutionists and Biologos want to convince pew sitters and non-theistic academics, they have to address the issue of design. To be fair, there is some sense of this in respective of “fine tuning”, and fortunately not all Biologos writers disagree with it. But Christian scientists cannot limit it to that one area.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Well, I am off on another trip today so here is a quick reply to the nature/super-nature thing. This is another example of dichotomous thinking like separating things between the sacred and the secular from my perspective.

    First off, these are our categories (certainly not scriptural ones—-we say we are people of the book but I am always amazed how so many of our arguments are not really based upon that book but on things we bring to that book and then call it “biblical”).

    Secondly and last, God interfering with laws God put in place to begin with has so many logical problems that I don’t have time to spell them out right now. Can I at least make a proposal for others to consider?:

    Miracles are events that express yet higher but still undiscovered laws of nature, rather than violating the ones we now know. Therefore, God works in and through nature, rather than interrupting it! Or to put this differently, God’s relationship to the world is more in and through it than from above, below, or behind it.

    PS, Drt, I don’t even like the whole theism and deism vocabulary (I am not saying you are doing this but I think too many people use these categories and end up making God into the image of “the god of the philosophers” rather than the living God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac). I think the whole discussion may be moot if God actually at some sub-atomic level holds all things together as the book of Colossians suggests. I can’t remember if it was you or RJS but somebody correctly spoke about God’s divine actions as primary, secondary and so forth which I think more nuances these issues better than simply putting it as either God intervenes or simply let’s things go on there own. I for one at least think framing the whole discussion like this gets things off on the wrong foot.


  • John Inglis

    Would you consider reading Karl Giberson’s book “The Wonder of the Universe” and then provide feedback specifically concerning problems you perceive with his logical approach. It would be interesting to see how you interface with his “fine tuning” arguments from a “theistic Evolutionist” perspective. It’s not a long read and IMO pretty well summarizes the position that many of us TE’s agree with. Perhaps it would provide a balanced view to your understanding of where we TE’s come from.

  • holdon


    “That is simply an absurd comment holdon.” To me it isn’t. It makes perfect sense to see the hand of the author, the painter, the mechanical designer, etc.. in the things he makes. So with God. There is zero evidence that this “pseudogene” (it isn’t) has its place there because of common descent. There is no common descent. VTG genes cover a spectrum of locations.
    There is a common Designer, Creator and that explains everything.

    ” it somehow will not be willing to change if something better comes around?” Natural selection does not know of “better” or “progress”. As a principle it wipes out everything that is dissimilar. Since you’re a mechanical engineer, you will understand this. A thing that is no longer fit (wear and tear, broken, etc.) it gets discarded. So with NS. It doesn’t change anything.
    As to your hot girl example: it betrays the fact that somehow there must be reasoning in order to achieve “better” ie against NS (reason is not natural). Now, where do you suppose that “reasoning” comes from in the first amoebe?

  • John Inglis

    Dr. A. Louis’ response to J. Dew’s essay makes some very helpful points:

    “For the purposes of this essay, let me distinguish three clusters of meaning:

    E1) Evolution as natural history: The earth is old and the kinds of organisms that populate our world have changed over time.

    E2) Evolution as a mechanism: A combination of variation and natural selection helps explain the structure of the observed change over time in natural history.

    E3) Evolution as a worldview: Also called “evolutionism”: Evolution as a way of seeing the world and extracting meaning from it.

    Unfortunately popularizers of science sometimes conflate these meanings. Christians rightly object, for instance, when George Gaylord Simpson makes statements like the following in his book The Meaning of Evolution:

    “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned.”

    Now Gaylord Simpson’s book mainly describes evidence for evolution that falls under definition E1 and E2—in other words, the subjects of normal evolutionary biology. Unfortunately, we see here a common pattern in the popular science literature: Evidence for E1 and E2 are very strong, therefore you should also hold to E3. Ideally, Christians would respond to this conflation by pointing out the underlying philosophical presuppositions that lead a great scientist like Gaylord Simpson to make the statement above, and show why they don’t follow from his science. But unfortunately such distinctions have not always been made, and one can hardly blame the layperson for this.” [end of quote]

  • Luke


    I only used the term “Image of God” because in my theology it is deeply connected to consciousness, which is what I was actually asking about. Consciousness. Sentience. You’re theological views are interesting but ultimately you missed the point of my question.

  • DRT


    You objected to me saying that it is absurd that god would put the same genes in the same sequence if he was creating beings from scratch because you feel it puts his stamp on his creation, so to speak. i don’t think I can discuss this much more because that is a severe anthropomorphism of god. So his signature is that he did it the same in chickens and people instead of it hinting that we came from a common ancestor. Now if that is all the evidence there was then I would still pick the common ancestor choice on this, let alone with all of the other evidence that makes it the best choice. I stand by my word choice, that is absurd.

    Remember, I too think he is the designer of everything. I just believe he used common descent and evolutionary mechanics to get to the design.

    Your last point again seems to purposefully try to miss the point I was making. I set up a scenario where it would be likely for someone to make the choice i was getting at, and you simply assert that they would not make that choice because that is the way you think. That too is absurd.

    I guess I am not going to be able to discuss this with you in detail any further.

  • DRT

    CGC#44, I pretty much agree with what you wrote in your response. Part of the point i was making was the the whole deism/theism thing is a false dichotomy.

    I also would not be surprised that god indeed is consciously holding everything together at every instant. Or not. I simply don’t believe we can make that decsion since it is all god anyway.

  • DRT

    John Inglis#43,

    Please show me something that we people have designed that is anything remotely like a person, or a tree. I have no ability to see how you can believe that our designs are like the designs in nature.

  • DRT

    john Inglis#43 says “As to things like “irreducible complexity”, it is a valid concept to research and explore so why be dismissive of it in general?”

    Why is it a valid concept? It does not look like one to me. Every example of it that I have seen seems to be ridiculous. Please point me toward an example that I might not be able to come up with multiple paths to achieving that outcome.

  • DRT

    I take back my challenge that I can come up with multiple pathways and simply submit the wiki article on irreducible complexity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreducible_complexity

  • holdon


    “Now if that is all the evidence there was then I would still pick the common ancestor choice on this”

    See your apriori position is clear: you must have evolution no matter what. That is not uncommon.

    I hold to that God created the organisms “after their kind”. Only Man after His image and likeness.
    So the Common Designer trumps common descent by a margin. And the phenomena play nicely along with that.

  • AHH

    John Inglis @47,

    Bingo! Gotta distinguish those different meanings of “evolution”. One of my problems with the ID movement (again, there are a few who do better) is that it typically fails to make those distinctions — acting as though the only way to combat (E3) in Louis’ notation is to attack (E2). So the people in our churches get the impression that evolution as science must be false in order for Christianity to be true, when in reality it is not the science but the metaphysical extrapolations (E3) that are the problem.

    Others have offered similar classifications; for reasons some might figure out I am partial to the one given in “Chapter 5” of this online resource:

  • DRT

    holdon says:
    “See your apriori position is clear: you must have evolution no matter what. That is not uncommon.”

    holdon, although it seems that you would like to think that, it is not true. I meant what I actually said, not that I “must have evolution no matter what”. You characterature is insulting and it seems like you are not interested in engaging with what I actually am saying. I said given those two choices that I would reason that common descent made the most sense. Your trying to extend that to saying that I have to have evolution no matter what is simply insulting. I am done.

  • John Inglis

    RE DRT #52 & “irreducible complexity”

    We may be ships passing again. I meant “valid” in the sense of “possible”, “worthwhile to invesitigate”, “consistent with the hypothesis of a designer”. I did not mean “valid” in the sense of “true” or “proven”, which may be what you are getting at. Given that we have a designer, and he tells us that the universe reveals himself, it is inherently possible that he used or left instances of irreducible complexity. Whether he did so or not bears looking into.

    Even if does not account for all data, it does at this point account for some. And evolution is no better off, in that it too accounts for some but not all data (depending on which particular version of evolution one looks at, in general evolution is often used in a vague or ambiguous or equivocal sense and so seems to be unfalsifiable). And even in respect of its current shortcomings, those shortcomings do no entail that that avenue of investigation should be abandoned. It may be the further work validates it as a very plausible hypothesis.

    As to the Wikipedia article on irreducible complexity, it raises issues, but not of these are defeaters of the concept. Failure to be falsifiable cannot be relevant, because evolution is not falsifiable either.
    Falling within a certain definition of science cannot be relevant either, because science is not amenable to a single definition. There are various definitions of science, and secular philosophy of science has acknowledged that definition is a real and unresolvable issue.
    As noted by the Wiki article, the flagellum issue has not been resolved in favour of evolution, and so remains a live debate.

    A problem with the Wiki article is its general treatment of the issue as if it were a god of the gaps problem, where IDers keep raising the question “how could this particular structure evolve? Impossible!” and evolutionists keep solving the problem.

    It is also problematic that the alleged explanations given are rife with speculative assertions. I realize that a Wiki article is not a treatise, but the article does not sufficiently explore the ID responses to the problems and solutions raised by evolutionists. It’s not like IDers don’t have their own cogent responses.

    The issue raised by irreducible complexity is a more generalized one than that. Furthermore, research on DNA mutation appears to indicate that at most it can account for skipping one, or maybe two immediately reproduction enhancing changes (so that two or more changes that do not of themselves increase reproductive success can be combined into a new structure that does give greater success). In addition, the time frames needed for such success by that process greatly exceed the time resources available, given the structures that need to be evolved.

    It may be that there is a complete evolutionary explanation for the creation of irreducibly complex structures. The current problem, however, is the failure of Biologos and theistic evolutionists to acknowledge it as a real problem and to admit that evolution does not have all the answers at this point in time. Furthermore, if theistic evolutionists want a more receptive hearing, they need to be humble enough to admit that it may also be the case that evolution ultimately does fall short of being a complete explanation. Such humility is not inconsistent with adopting evolution as an explanatory and investigate paradigm and trying to discover how much it can explain. Perhaps it can explain things all the way back to the first cell. The early Christian scientists had no problem with seeking to explain everything possible by way of natural (and hence secondary) causes. But they were also open to the possibility that they might not.

    RE DRT #52 & “design”

    DRT wrote, “I have no ability to see how you can believe that our designs are like the designs in nature.” This state indicates a lack of knowledge about the nature of design. Unlike DRT, secular scientists routinely describe and talk about design in nature. Dawkins talks about the apparent (but not “real”, i.e. agentive) in nature. So neither I nor IDers are describing something that no one else notices. Furthermore, it’s not merely complexity that is relevant, with nature being far more complex.

    ID seeks to understand what exactly is design, and how do we detect it? How is it that we can find something that we’ve never observed before and decide that it’s been designed? What are the features that are present in design? Are features the only relevant criteria? etc. One avenue that has been explored is the presence of information. And how do we know that something constitutes information? One of the avenues of research in this is the concept of “specified complexity”, which is thought to be one of the effects that intelligent agents often leave behind that is indicative of their activity.

  • DRT

    John Inglis#57, let me concede that I don’t know how to falsify ID. I also don’t know how to falsify the spaghetti monster or the flying teapot. What I am saying is that ID does not make sense as a pursuit because it rely’s on our ignorance not our knowledge.

    Design – I stand by my comment. I was a design engineer, a good one too, for 10 years. I have a clue about design. I have designed numerous mechanical objects, and since my time as a design engineer I have designed computer code, organizations. I am married to artist and own a company that employs graphic artists who are paid to design things for their clients. I know a thing or two about design.

    When I am talking about design, I am talking about developing something that will meet some set of requirements. In the case of a person, or tree, or ecosystem, we have never come close to anything that even resembles the design present in these systems. The designs present in nature so far exceed our capabilities that we cannot come close to replicating them.

    We could not have designed them. They are in their own league. Do you hear what I am saying?

    Given that the designs we see in nature are so far beyond what we are capable of doing, what makes you think that can guess at the origination mechanism for such a design? That we could look at an eye and think, “that must be designed because I don’t see any other way for it to exist”. Do you see why that makes no sense? Why is our standard for design the measuring stick? I am about to use a banned word here, but I think it fits so well that I have to do it. Why would we possibly be so arrogant to think that our state of knowledge would be able to determine whether something was designed or not? That is simply absurd. Anything that I show you that exceeds your knowledge base would fit the criteria.

    No, ID makes no sense as a pursuit since it puts our knowledge as the basis for determining whether god did something or not. Or an alien did it. Or it evolved. Just because we don’t understand it does not mean that it did not happen.

  • DRT

    John Inglis said

    The current problem, however, is the failure of Biologos and theistic evolutionists to acknowledge it as a real problem and to admit that evolution does not have all the answers at this point in time. Furthermore, if theistic evolutionists want a more receptive hearing, they need to be humble enough to admit that it may also be the case that evolution ultimately does fall short of being a complete explanation.

    There are times in my life when I learn something that I was not expecting to learn, and it was so cool 🙂

    I think I just learned something with this. To me, or nearly any scientist, everything they say is followed with a silent “given all the information we have and subject to any new information coming up that is contrary and proven to disprove what I am saying”.

    Of course they know that it does not cover everything. That’s like a me saying that my wife loves me, but then having to add the caveat that it is that way only absent pictures of her cheating on me.

    Evolution is, by far, the best theory to account for the information we have. If we get new information then of course we would need to incorporate that. But up until now, over the past couple hundred years, every time new information comes up it seems to fit evolution. That strengthens the argument. If you have seen new info coming up for 200 years and it supports, like really supports your theory, it is reasonable to believe it is a good theory and not have to give the asterisk at the end of every sentence.

  • John Inglis

    RE #58 “What I am saying is that ID does not make sense as a pursuit because it rely’s on our ignorance not our knowledge.”

    That is a misunderstanding of the ID issues and approach. It does not rely on ignorance. Aside from further explication and quotation, even what I have discussed above prima facie indicates that it is not about ignorance. Answering the questions, “what is design”, “what is information”, “how do we detect design”, “how much non-stepwise change can random mutation accomplish” are all investigations that involve existing knowledge and which will create additional knowledge. They are not claims that we can never know something, and that the only explanation for what we can never know is a god. They are positive claims and investigations into what we can infer from what we observe, and into what explanations are consistent with the data we gather.

  • JohnM

    RJS #42 – I would disagree that Darwin, Newton, or Einstein were merely “one man among many” with regard to their respective theories and my question was not nonsensical. I acknowledged that others have built on Darwin’s work, but it was Darwin who laid the foundation on which they built. I wonder if all evolutionists would agree with you that Darwin was not some great leader or that it’s nonsensical to bring Darwin into a discussion of evolution.

    Are acts of God – beyond initial creation and design of mechanisims – any part of the evolutionary process? If not, I’m still missing the theistic part – it’s just evolution, period. If so, and particularly if God’s ongoing intervention and interaction is a necessary part of the process without which it wouldn’t happen, then it would be imprecise at best to speak of evolution as a mechanism.

  • AHH

    JohnM @61 asks:
    Are acts of God – beyond initial creation and design of mechanisims – any part of the evolutionary process? If not, I’m still missing the theistic part – it’s just evolution, period. If so, and particularly if God’s ongoing intervention and interaction is a necessary part of the process without which it wouldn’t happen, then it would be imprecise at best to speak of evolution as a mechanism.

    It is useful in such discussions to replace “evolution” with other scientific explanations and see what happens. Let’s substitute “rain”. That is fully understood by natural mechanisms, with no place where God sticks his finger in and intervenes. Yet the Bible tells us God is responsible for the rain. So are we going to condemn meterology as incompatible with theism? Probably not, because we recognize that God is still in charge even if we see no “intervention”. The same reasoning works for other “natural” processes like evolution.

    You are in a sense right that, for the subset of theistic evolutionists who believe God supervened evolution in a non-interventionist way, it is “just evolution” — after all we don’t talk about “theistic meteorology” despite our affirmation that God is sovereign over rain. But with so many people claiming that evolution is atheistic, Christians in that field need an adjective to affirm their theism — nobody is asking meteorologists to defend their theism in relation to their science.

    And I think the point of RJS in #42 was not that Darwin, Einstein, et al. were not great scientists, but that others were also figuring things out and would have eventually made the same discoveries. Somebody (I forget who) almost figured out special relativity before Einstein. And Darwin provides a good example; Alfred Russel Wallace independently came up with essentially the same theory — seeing Wallace’s work prompted Darwin to finally publish what he had been sitting on for several years. And many others since have contributed and modified. So whatever individual views Darwin might have held are pretty irrelevant to the science of evolution today, much like views of the Wright Brothers on airplane design might be interesting but would not define the field today.

  • JohnM

    AHH #62 – Your second paragraph is at least closing on part of the point I’ve been trying to get across. However, at some point theists who believe God supervened evolution in a non-interventionist way need to decide, and clarify for the rest of us, where the line is drawn between their viewpoint and the deist’s.

    I partly accept comparisons with meterology as way to try and understand the posited mechanisms involved in evolution. However, there are significant qualitative differences between the two. Jokes about the weatherman aside, weather can be predicted. Not perfectly, but the mechanisms of meterological phenomena are such that meterologists can predict with some reliability what type of weather will develop consequent to a given set of circumstances. They can predict it will happen every time those circumstances are present. Weather operates in cycles that repeat rather than transmuting from one thing to another. We can have a pretty good idean where weather is going. Does the evolutionist claim to know where evolution is going?

    Finally, mention of Wallace serves to support part of my point (posed a question which perhaps no one entirely read) in #41, as Wallace held some view different from those of Darwin, and despite objections the latter is the spiritual (ironic choice of words I suppose) father, and largley the historical father, of evolutionary theory. How might our understanding be different were it Wallace or someone else?

  • RJS


    Our understanding of evolutionary biology today would be no different in any significant fashion if Darwin had never lived. Absolutely nothing done in evolutionary biology relies on any unique “decree” of Darwin. Other than being a “first” to have an insight he invented nothing. Some of the language used would be different. He was a replaceable cog in a much larger process. Both Wallace and Darwin were very wrong about many things – of course, because they knew nothing of genetics or genomes or quantum mechanics or mutations or amino acids or the structure of an atom or hydrogen bonding or any other of a million different things. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before – but as a community not as individuals.

    The analogy with meterology is an excellent one – except that the mechanisms of evolution are more complex and not quite as well understood yet (not that the weather in fact is all that well understood it is a complex system). Yes we can make projections under appropriate controlled conditions, but it would be as foolhardy to predict the precise future path of evolution as it would be to predict the weather 1000 years from today at 42.2708 N and 83.7264 W at the time of day when the the sun is precisely overhead.

    The place where there is significant disagreement is with the metaphysical conclusions drawn from our understanding of physical and chemical processes … a theist, of which I am one, acknowledges that God did it. He interacts with his creation and is in relationship with his creatures. But evolutionary or “special” creation changes nothing in this general picture.

  • RJS

    But I will also say that we have no real scientific understanding at all of consciousness and will and capacity for abstract thought and imagination … I don’t take a leap then and say it must be supernatural or natural or anything. We have a lot of random data – no real mechanism or theory.

  • DRT

    AHH, Ok, I am now a fan. The weather thing really works.

    I think one of the most interesting parts of human evolution is going to be from here on out. We are now in the position to explicitly chose rather than implicitly chose who gets to procreate. It is likely that we are going to breed more illness and other normally unwanted traits into our species. But this also opens the options for serendipity to a level that we would not have attained otherwise. We may find a strand of short lived ugly people who can have one heck of a good time for the first 30 years. It could be interesting.

  • holdon – Hold on. You state quite explicitly that, in humans, vitellogenin is not a pseudogene. “There is zero evidence that this “pseudogene” (it isn’t)…”

    We know the genetic code pretty well these days, and we can tell what gets transcribed and what doesn’t. What are the actual genetic sequences involved, and how do you know that vitellogenin is, in fact, expressed?