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Sunday, May 03, 2009

More on BioLogos ...

Here, Tribune asks "What problem does Collins have with ID," in response to my post on his new venture BioLogos, "US government genome mapper Francis Collins fronts new BioLogos theory, preferred to “theistic evolution”"

Well, first, truth in advertising, I have written three reviews of Collins's book, The Language of God, two of which were quite favourable, and the third more thoughtful and critical. The first two merely recommend to book as suitable for a student at Christmas, for example, and I would stand by that. If the student comes home raving that he is an atheist because all scientists are, well, Collins thinks otherwise, is famous, and is an easy read.

But while Collins is an outstanding geneticist, I don't find him a deep thinker in these matters. So I am not sure how fruitful it would be to worry about what bothers him individually about ID, in an age when even an atheist like Bradley Monton thinks ID discussable and another atheist, Thomas Nagel, thinks ID discussable in schools.*

I am glad that, as others have noted, he isn't misrepresenting ID as a "God of the gaps" theory (= we can't understand it, so God dunit), when ID is about what we do understand (design). I assume that that is a sign of his good character.

The BioLogos project seems an effort to protect theistic evolution from the charge of practical atheism, by invoking Scripture. I do not think that will work, but I can certainly see how Christian clergy and scientists of a certain generation and religious preference would embrace it.

Theistic evolution got started in an age when it looked like Darwin was right, and people wanted to hang on to their faith. They professed that one could be a Christian and a Darwinist without paying any attention to the fact that it didn't work for Darwin and Darwin's aim was explicitly contrary to theirs, as he made clear to Wallace and Asa Gray.

But now it looks like he was wrong or doubtful, so theistic evolution is an answer to a problem that doesn't exist. However, so much has been written in its defense and so many careers built on it that we must not expect it to just go away.

I would predict instead that there will be more efforts like Biologos, as theistic evolutionists try to position themselves in relation to current evidence.

*For the record, as a curriculum writer and sometime advisor, I would say that anything should be discussable in schools if the students actually care about it. Making the teacher or the curriculum irrelevant to students' true concerns is not the way to educate. Not every student who thinks school a waste of time has been wrong, unfortunately.

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