Theistic Evolutionists

I often suggest that there are at least cynical reasons to encourage those scientists who proclaim the compatibility of modern science and traditional faiths. The need for such a protective coloration to present to the public is especially plausible when trying to keep creationists out of the hair of scientific interests.

Still, I admit that there are reasons to feel uncomfortable about some varieties of theistic evolutionist and other compatibilists as well. For example, Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk, Christian scientists, have an op-ed in USA Today, “We believe in evolution — and God.” It’s fine as far at it goes. It’s full of the standard kinds of intellectual laziness, but then, as I said, I’m somewhat in favor of exploiting such laziness to protect science from the even worse species of loonies. But there is a problem when theistic evolutionists don’t just indulge in the usual vapid “evolution is God’s way of creation” nonsense but start pushing bullshit with more substance. For example, Giberson and Falk say that

Evolution is not a chaotic and wasteful process, as the critics charge. Evolution occurs in an orderly universe, on a foundation of natural laws and faithful processes. The narrative of cosmic history preceding the origin of life is remarkable; the laws enabling life appear finely tuned for that possibility. The ability of organisms to evolve empowers them to adapt to changing environments. Our belief that God creates through evolution is a satisfying claim uniting our faith and our science.

In other words, the Francis Collins claim that while intelligent design doesn’t appear in biology, it shows up in physics. (No accident, since Giberson and Falk are involved with BioLogos.)

I guess that if I had to choose, I’d prefer the BioLogos kind of intelligent design to the Discovery Institute version. Nonetheless, it annoys me that we have to put up with any sort of intelligent design at all.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10563649474540441597 atimetorend

    "I guess that if I had to choose, I'd prefer the BioLogos kind of intelligent design to the Discovery Institute version. Nonetheless, it annoys me that we have to put up with any sort of intelligent design at all."

    Ah, if we only got to choose for everyone! I prefer to see it as pragmatism rather than cynicism. Whichever you call it, there is a certain amount needed to get along with people and to see real progress made in people's beliefs and tolerance of one another.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00565212411446092552 smijer

    Theistic physicists (by and large) don't fall prey to the bad physical arguments of Collins, just like theistic biologists don't fall prey to the bad biological arguments.

    It isn't the theism.. It's the pontificating outside one's field of expertise.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02113192159669193981 Apashiol

    "Evolution is not a chaotic and wasteful process…"

    I was raised as a Christian in the countryside and while still quite young I remember vividly the horror of realising that the vast percentage of all things born would die cruelly. From baby birds and animals snatched out of their nests to grown ones either eaten alive or dying of disease. It all seemed so monstrous that I couldn't reconcile it with a loving god.
    I remember asking an uncle why god would create a world so full of pain. He tried to make some excuse that the world 'had' to be the way it was. Even then I thought it was a poor response.
    What kind of omnipotent god was constrained to create a world full of suffering?
    I think those were my first steps on the road to atheism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    The underlying concepts here appear to be that we shouldn't criticize ignorance because communities are built on that ignorance and attacking the ignorance is therefore attacking those communities which is a bad thing to do because communities are good. That in any case people won't like us if we criticize their ignorance and will react in a counter-productive and destructive manner to criticisms of their beliefs. That communal commitments to ignorance is human nature and thus must have evolutionary advantages and justifications so it should be accepted as such.

    What bothers me about all of this is the underlying 'we are above it all looking down on the rest of humanity' kind of elitist attitude. We aren't them, they are a different species of humanity, we shouldn't engage them and share our thoughts with them because that would do harm to them and us. For us they are amusement and our reaction should only be restricted to the level of aesthetics. We shouldn't engage the political process on these issues because public policy is a domain for the policy experts and we are not public policy experts.

    I don't see it that way. They are just like us, we are part of this world just like they are, we should engage them and share our thoughts with them just like they should do with us, and public policy is a concern of the general public and needs active public input from us to function well. Communities don't get a free pass from competition over their beliefs by other communities or even by individuals outside of their communities. All of this means we shouldn't be shy about our judgements or expressing those judgements in the public arena or engaging with the political process. That is my view, and I really strongly disagree with Taner Edis on these points, even though I essentially agree with him about most everything else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    Explicit Atheist: "What bothers me about all of this is the underlying 'we are above it all looking down on the rest of humanity' kind of elitist attitude. We aren't them, they are a different species of humanity, we shouldn't engage them and share our thoughts with them because that would do harm to them and us."

    I don't think it's elitist in the sense of an advantage that translates into a position of power.

    If you want to call me something that has more bite, "defeatist" might work better. Much of what I say about politics is informed by a strong sense of defeat. Throughout my life, I have seen political positions I identify with, particularly secularism, steadily lose ground. It is quite possible that I therefore overemphasize political positions informed by this sense of defeat, especially in blog writings that are more spontaneous and more exploratory.

    "They are just like us, we are part of this world just like they are, we should engage them and share our thoughts with them just like they should do with us, and public policy is a concern of the general public and needs active public input from us to function well."

    Oh, I fully agree. I'll fight tooth and nail to make more scientific and secular views available to a broad segment of the population. It's just that I don't expect much immediate success in persuading people.


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