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Has the American Scientific Affiliation Forgotten Their Stated Identity?

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According to Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a plenary session speaker at the July 2011 American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) annual meeting, anthropogenic climate change is a scientific fact and the reason that many Evangelical Christians do not believe it is that the “science is complex and they cannot see it happening in their own backyards.” In her opinion, Christian groups are exacerbating the problem by “lying and spreading false information” about global warming, even though “98% of scientists agree that it is settled science.” She said that this is an example of where science and faith are in conflict (?) and we need to educate our churches about the issue so that they understand that questioning anthropogenic global climate change is anti-science. Of course, it seems to me, that if they are willfully lying about the issue, questioning must also be anti-Christian.

Now, hear me accurately. I am not saying that anthropogenic climate change is or is not true—I am not a climate scientist. And I do agree with Dr. Hayhoe that we should be responsible in how we use the Earth’s resources and mindful of those who are victims of natural disaster. I have implemented her only suggestion for remediation by using Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs and have even gone one better—I walk to the grocery store. But seriously, I do not consider it to be anti-science or unChristian to be intrigued that Dr. Ivar Giaever, Nobel prize winning physicist, and Dr. Harold Lewis, physics professor emeritus from University of California, Santa Barbara resigned their memberships at the American Physical Society (APS) over the APS’s refusal to consider all the scientific evidence surrounding this issue. I believe that evidence should be heard and considered and that those who do not agree with the politically correct consensus should not be labeled as uneducated or unChristian. Naturally, after a talk like this, those who had questions about the veracity of manmade global climate change or the cost/benefit ratio of governmental policies on controlling carbon dioxide emissions did not feel free to ask questions.

As a current ASA member, I was in attendance at the ASA meeting entitled, Science-Faith Synergy: Glorifying God and Serving Humanity. The result is that I have become very concerned about this organization. It appears that the ASA has forgotten who they are supposed to be: “a fellowship of men and women of science and disciplines that can relate to science who share a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science.” Instead, the meeting was explicitly slanted towards promotion of consensus science, theistic evolution (TE) and what appeared to be a very watered down version of Christianity. ASA says that they have “no official position on evolution” and are a Christian organization that “accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct,” but the content of several of the talks and the attitude of some of the speakers at the conference failed to embrace this commitment. The below paragraph was taken from the ASA website:

As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue. We are committed to providing an open forum where [scientific] controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation. Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth.

Although this statement projects the appearance of an environment where integrity in science and scientists who want to discuss their thoughts and follow the evidence where it leads could thrive, this is far from accurate. The purported openness to discussion of scientific controversies expressed on the ASA website is clearly disingenuous.

In fact, the organization appears to have strayed far from both their commitment to integrity in science (telling the whole story) and their Christian identity and is now ostracizing both scientists who question consensus science and those who are self-identified evangelical Christians. As a result, science-based reservations about evolution, global warming, and other controversial topics were not openly discussed. One scientist, who believes that Intelligent Design (ID) theory has merit from a scientific viewpoint, identified himself to me with the words, “feels like hostile territory here.” Speakers who made lock-step derogatory remarks about “conservative Christians,” “creationists,” and “ID people” doubtless fueled this perceived hostility.

Of the presenters I heard, Dr. Mark Winslow of Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma was particularly offensive, labeling anyone who does not accept all aspects of evolutionary theory as “scientifically and theologically illiterate.” His paper was on how 15 Christian students moved from an “immature Young Earth perspective” with “little tolerance for ambiguity” to an “adult faith” that can “accommodate degrees of dissonance” after accepting the “authority” of the “trained evolutionist” professor. Take home message: If one questions aspects of evolution, one is an immature Christian. Those who are faced with educating recalcitrant churches full of Darwin-doubters were counseled to show patience until the creationists come to understand that the scientific evidence should be more important than the Bible in their formation of a worldview. I hope he did not mean that!

Despite the fact that the ASA conference brochure says presenters should maintain a “humble and loving attitude towards individuals who have a different opinion,” a moderator in the session then repeated Dr. Winslow’s slur about illiteracy as if it were a joke, instead of deeply offensive to those who have science-based reservations about the merits of some aspects of evolutionary theory.

Until this ASA meeting I did not really think that the debate about evolution was terribly relevant to Christian faith and, as a former research scientist, I knew that doubting the evolutionary dogma does not affect my ability to “do” science. Personally, I “believed in” evolution for twenty years after I made my decision to profess faith in Christ. It was not my faith that caused me to question aspects of evolution or to consider that there is merit to ID. Rather, it was the science, the cell biology.

I am currently a self-confessed evolutionary agnostic—I see that there is intriguing scientific evidence for some aspects of evolution, but also acknowledge that there are holes in that evidence. For example, my knowledge of the cell shows me that the stated mechanism whereby macroevolution is said to proceed does not work. I see logic in the view of ID proponents, but also realize that ID is a theory in process. I find TE both academically and theologically frustrating. Academically, I am unwilling to commit to having the faith necessary to believe that the whole of evolutionary theory will be proven right eventually. Theologically, I am confused about the presupposition that, even though God created the world, His action must by definition be completely undetectable. I thought that I would find many like-minded people at a conference for Christians in science. After all, scientists are known for having questioning minds and Christians value humility, so Christian scientists should be very willing to consider that their scientific or theological understanding is probably incomplete.

But, what I learned at the ASA conference was that reason the debate over evolution matters is that it is a symptom of a much more serious disease: the elevation of the authority of science and the scientific community above the claims and values of the Bible and Christianity. Scientism is a belief system where science becomes the preeminent way to ascertain all truth, making scientists—well, very important people. Symptoms of scientism much in evidence at the ASA conference were the repeated assertions that “all real scientists think…” and the communicated attitude that we need to accept the consensus of the scientific community and, if necessary, change our interpretation of the Bible to fit with the science.

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exemplifies this type of thinking when he says, “And people are beginning to argue in very irrational ways based on a lack of understanding what the science says. If we could back off from all of the, sort of, hard edged rhetoric and really say, okay, what is science teaching us, I suspect that the moral dilemmas [involved with the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes] are not nearly as rough as people think they are.” The idea that science should inform our interpretation of Scripture contains some truth and some untruth (e.g. science being able to teach us morality), as do most harmful ideas. Unfortunately, at much of the ASA meeting, it was the first step on a slippery slope to so much more.

Dr. Gareth Jones gave another of the plenary session lectures. During the first part of the talk on neuroscience and reproduction, he set up a hypothetical situation wherein a couple already have a child with a genetic disease, have a ¼ chance of their next child also having the disease, do not feel that they could cope with the stress and work of another sick child, but would like more children. Dr. Jones outlined that this couple has four options.
1) Decide not to have more children,
2) Take the risk and have a child,
3) Conceive a child, have pre-birth testing, and abort if the child has the disease, and
4) Donate eggs and sperm for in vitro fertilization and genetic testing,
with the intention of not implanting any defective embryo. Dr. Jones stated that Options 1, 2 and 4 are the only ones that would be acceptable for a Christian, making it appear as if he is assuming that human life does not begin at conception. A questioner who asked about a 5th option (birth followed by adoption) was shot down with the reply that that this would still allow a “defective” person to be born and that “freely chosen ignorance is not a virtue.”

Dr. Francis Collins, who is a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian and long time member of the ASA, also seems unclear about the ethics of using human embryos for research. He says that “human embryos deserve moral status” but that it may be more ethical to use the 400,000 embryos that are currently frozen for “breathtakingly” beneficial research than to “discard them.” If the leading scientist in our country believes this, why then should an ASA plenary session speaker commit to the Biblical view that human life from conception onwards is sacred, as is espoused in Ps 139:13? One may argue that the ASA is a place where all views can be discussed “without fear of unjust condemnation,” but this should surely be held in tension with their self-proclaimed acceptance of Biblical authority.

The ASA bias towards a liberal form of Christianity and elevating science above Scripture continued. During parallel session talks on the ethics of neuroscience and reproduction by a number of speakers, attendees at the ASA meeting were informed that science shows that sexuality is fluid and so it might be unethical to offer help to those wanting to change their sexual orientation (or identity). After all, the scientific consensus is that one does not choose to be homosexual, transgendered, or even a pedophile. Dr. Heather Looy, a psychologist from King’s University College, was concerned that we be compassionate and not keep homosexual people from enjoying a full sexual experience. A lovely person herself, who practices what she preaches, she stressed that we should not judge those different from ourselves. Dr. William Struthers from Wheaton acknowledged that the traditional family unit with a father and a mother is best for children, but also explained that gender is a spectrum and that Christians should hold science and Scripture in tension, realizing that God is love incarnate.

Of course, Christians should be aware that we are all sinners saved by grace and this should make us as compassionate to those caught in sexual sin as we would want them to be towards us in our sin. In addition, we all have character traits that predispose us to be more tempted by certain sins than we are by others. You may be tempted to sleep with someone of the same gender; I would be more tempted by a juicy piece of gossip. Giving in is sin, no matter the temptation. However, the traditional understanding of the Biblical teaching is that that the Lord gave us rules for our benefit and safety, not because He wants to be a spoilsport, and that obedience, no matter how difficult, is always the best way to attain fullness of joy. The current politically-correct scientific consensus does not negate this. For Christians science does not trump the Bible.

Finally, there were several presentations on why science must be methodologically naturalistic and why we should help our churches to accept that evolution is a fact. The final session was offered by Ruth Bancewicz from the Faraday Institute at Cambridge University on a course called Test of Faith. The purpose of Test of Faith, which is now travelling the country giving presentations at places like Gordon College, MIT, Wheaton, Fairfax Community Church, Bethel University, Point Loma Nazarene, and California Institute of Technology sounds wonderful and very in keeping with both good science and Christianity. It is to show how science is compatible with faith by highlighting various believing scientists. But, the producers have a self-admitted bias towards theistic evolution, as do the majority of the scientists (Francis Collins, Jennifer Wiseman, and John Polkinghorne), and so only represent a part of the entire community of Christians in science. Certainly, although there is a lot of recommended reading on their website, I could find no mention of Stephen Meyers’ Signature in the Cell or Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution. Test of Faith has been working with Youth for Christ, ASA, and the Bible Society and is well-funded by the Templeton Foundation.

So, what is the worry? The entire picture. ASA and BioLogos, the organization started by Dr. Francis Collins, and Test of Faith, backed by Templeton Foundation money, working together to convert the Christian world to a belief in evolution and, if the parts of the ASA meeting that I witnessed were anything to go by, a very watered down version of Christianity. These groups are also working with InterVarsity Fellowship, Youth for Christ, and the Bible Society. They are targeting universities, seminaries, and churches with their message that belief in evolution is compatible with faith and that all people of intelligence should embrace evolutionary theory as fact. Quite apart from the scientific problems with this view, some people are questioning whether the faith that is being espoused is still orthodox Christianity. The fruit of the ASA meeting, which included arguing based on ad hominem attacks, advocating a type of Scientism, equivocating about the sanctity of life, and disregarding Biblical standards for sexuality, suggests that it is not. ASA has forgotten its stated identity. ASA has lost its way.

Personally, I hope that, with the help and support of those of us who disagree with the turn they have taken, the ASA will get back on track. I’ll be looking forward to next year’s meeting in San Diego! Meanwhile, why not check out a scientific association that really does encourage the open discussion of controversial subjects in a non-hostile environment? American Institute for Technology and Science Education (AITSE) is such a place. Our vision is to promote good science, based on impartial evaluation of evidence, not mere consensus. Our mission is ”…to improve science education and encourage scientific integrity” and “offer clear, reliable and balanced education with the goal of liberating science and technology from ideology, politics and the restrictions of consensus…”

Dr. Caroline Crocker, who holds an MSc in medical microbiology and a PhD in immunopharmacology, is President of AITSE. If you enjoyed this article, please “like” AITSE on Facebook, follow Caroline on Twitter, and sign up for AITSE’s monthly newsletter. If you would like to help AITSE with its work to restore integrity to science, please donate generously. Finally, if you are a scientist or physician of integrity, please consider applying to join AITSE’s scientific consortium. Together we can make a difference.

154 Replies to “Has the American Scientific Affiliation Forgotten Their Stated Identity?

  1. 1

    Thanks for this post, Caroline. Even though my research professorship pays for memberships to professional societies, I decided to let my membership in the ASA lapse last year (after more than 20 years a member) because I simply could no longer get behind the direction in which the organization was going.

    Let me urge that you start your own professional society through AITSE to fill that gap that the ASA is leaving — may some deep pockets reading this post provided you with the needed start-up capital!

  2. 2
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hello Dr Crocker.

    I think this is the first post I remember seeing of yours on UD.


  3. 3
    Jack Golightly says:

    Ditto – Thanks for this article!

  4. 4
    Ted Davis says:

    As a longtime ASA member (about 35 years) and a former ASA president, I want to respond to the larger picture painted by Dr. Crocker. Because I missed this past year’s annual meeting (for the first time in several years), I am unable to comment on the specific things she says about the meeting itself.

    For at least 50 years, the ASA has been a place where Christians in the sciences share ideas–often ideas that generate controversy within the organization and outside of it–receive feedback (favorable and unfavorable), and share fellowship. I do not agree with the views of some members on certain issues; that has been true as long as I have been a member. I have never expected everyone to agree with all of my ideas and beliefs, either. I strongly disagree with some of the views mentioned above (assuming that they are accurately reported), but a lot of these issues are very hard to sort out, especially issues in bioethics. Even within very conservative religious communities (such as Orthodox Judaism or various branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church) decisions are not easily made on some matters, such as what to do about the high incidence of beta-thalassemia among certain Jewish and Mediterranean populations. If anyone can show me what *the* Christian view is on many such issues, then they are surely much wiser than me.

  5. 5
    Ted Davis says:

    Now, as for the larger ID/TE issue, relative to the ASA, I have some things that need to be said, and this is a good place to say them.

    I have heard many ID supporters (some who are ASA members and many who are not) say that the ASA is a TE organization that is unfriendly to ID. A few isolated facts might be seen to support that conclusion–a given article or review from our journal or web site, or a particular comment in a session at our annual meeting, or something that was said in a conversation at a meeting. I won’t list any examples of such, but I have no doubt that there are some. (I also have no doubt that others, including some here, have said highly negative things about either the ASA as an organization or about specific members in connection with the ASA. On at least two occasions, highly derogatory language was aimed in my direction here at UD.)

    As far as the ASA as an organization is concerned, let me review some facts–all of them easily verified.

    (1) Our refereed journal (the oldest science & religion journal in the USA), Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, frequently publishes articles taking a pro-ID stance. I challenge anyone to take a period of several consecutive years (somewhere in the past 20 years), count the number of articles that favor ID (keeping in mind that a large number of articles are entirely unrelated to ID), and compare that number with any other refereed journal of their choice. Unless you pick a journal that is intended specifically to promote ID, I bet we do pretty darn well.

    Nevertheless, well known proponents of ID rarely submit papers to our journal, despite the fact that we do publish pro-ID articles.

    (2) Most of the papers submitted for our annual meeting — and that process is always open to anyone — end up on the program somewhere. Not a large percentage are rejected (unlike our journal, which is pretty selective, the annual meeting program process is not very selective). Most pro-ID papers are accepted. If the number of such papers on the program in any given year is low, it almost certainly means that only a few such papers were submitted. I have been involved in setting the program several times, and the information in this paragraph accurately describes all of those years.

    (3) ASA Council members, who are elected by the whole membership, have included a number of well known ID supporters in the past several years: Walter Bradley, Bob Kaita (who will be VP next April), and Ken Touryan all come to mind. In addition, another current council member is a Southern Baptist theologian (Hal Poe). There has been no effort to exclude pro-ID members from becoming Council members. For an organization that is alleged to be pro-TE, we sure have elected our share of pro-ID presidents. I challenge anyone to find a comparable degree of open-mindedness elsewhere.

    (4) ASA Council members must (according to our own by-laws) be Fellows fist. To become a Fellow, a current Fellow must nominate a person; that person must then respond to a request to confirm their interest in being named a Fellow and send in some information (basically a short c.v. and some other information); and, the current Fellows must then affirm that person by voting for them on a ballot they are sent.

    Sometimes people whose names are put forth do not respond to the request for information. This happens with at least one person in most years, and I can recall one year in which 3 people did not respond.

    I will now share a piece of information that has not been publicly shared before: during my time on Council, I placed in nomination as Fellows multiple people who support ID, yet the two most prominent names did not confirm their interest and their names did not move forward. Everyone here would know those names, but I will have to keep you guessing about their specific identities.

    So, what exactly am I saying? Simply this: relative to ID and TE, the ASA is what its members make it. I am (as you all know) not an ID proponent myself (although I am not without interest in ID or without sympathy for aspects of ID), but I always acted to keep the ASA what it has always been: an open forum on issues related to science and Christianity. I cannot submit papers to our journal or to the annual meeting on behalf of others; I cannot respond to requests for information on behalf of others.

    Here is my frank advice to anyone within the ASA who believes that we are unfriendly to ID: look in the mirror. Have you submitted a top-notch paper to our journal? have you submitted a decent proposal for a paper at our annual meeting? did you respond to a request to confirm a nomination to be an ASA Fellow? We are who our members make us. What more can I say?

  6. 6
    Ted Davis says:

    Finally, as for the identity and mission of the ASA, they are very clearly stated here:;Itemid=62

    I am concerned about what Dr. Crocker reports, relative to how she felt about collegiality and fellowship at our meeting; that might touch on our commitment to “fear of unjust condemnation” for discussing a particular view. (However, she is not hesitant above to respond perhaps with implicit condemnation of some views she heard voiced by others.)

    I am not concerned about our identity per se, however. We have changed our foundational statements more than once in our history, but our current statement has been operative for many years–and I believe it is the best one we have had, with its explicit reference to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds as expressing our understanding of Christian beliefs. Those creeds are silent on a lot of issues, including many of the things that concern Dr. Crocker above. Absolutely they are silent about origins issues, except for their clear affirmation of belief in the ultimate divine origin of all things–a belief that is perfectly compatible with either TE or ID.

  7. 7


    Thank you for your thoughtful and extensive response. You have a great point when you say that the ASA is who their members make them. Personally, I have only been an ASA member for slightly more than a year. However, now that I have scoped out the territory, I am going to take you up on your challenge, and will be submitting papers for presentation at the annual meeting and for publication in Perspectives. And, if I am invited to become a fellow, you can be sure that I will respond. ?

    You also make the point that the ASA is a place where Christians in science share ideas and fellowship and that one cannot expect to agree with everyone on everything. Point taken. However, it would do much to foster open communication if speakers were instructed that what should be discussed are ideas. Throw away derisive comments about “conservative Christians,” “those ID folks” and “creationists” from the podium do not encourage participation, nor do they promote Christian love.

    As for ASA being open to the ID viewpoint, perhaps it was. Now, it appears that this commitment is slipping. Perhaps this is the fault of the ASA, perhaps it is the fault of the ID community, most likely it is a mixture of both. But, I would love to see the ASA get back on track as a place where scientific ideas “can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation” in an atmosphere of “Christian love and concern for truth” and will doing all that I can to assist in that process.

    Finally, the ASA website specifies that members share a common belief in more than the Apostles and Nicene creed. Namely, they “accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.” Therefore, I think I am justified in pointing out that is important to remember that for Christians nothing trumps the Bible, not even science.

  8. 8
    kellyhomes says:

    Given that “creationism” is simply not science, except perhaps when science is defined to include astrology, why should it not be right to deride “creationism” when it attempts to use the cloak of science for unearned respectability?

    Therefore, I think I am justified in pointing out that is important to remember that for Christians nothing trumps the Bible, not even science.

    So according to you, any Christian who, for example, does not believe in a literal creation and Noah’s ark is not actually a Christian?

    No true Scotsman and all that?

  9. 9


    Walter Bradley contacted me in January or February of 2006, asking me to collect a CV and other supporting materials to propose me as fellow of the ASA. He didn’t spell out a strict deadline, so I sent the supporting materials in, as it turned out, two weeks late. Unfortunately, the deadline was strict and my nomination was put in cold storage — at least so I understood from Walter, who indicated that my nomination would be delayed a year. All the materials were in place to confirm my nomination — so Walter gave me to understand. And yet I was never ratified as a fellow, not the following year, not the three additional years that I still remained an ASA member.

    In any case, what finally got to me with the ASA was not the refused fellowship, but the condescension toward ID, the overwhelming (though not exclusive) view of the leadership that ID has no scientific integrity (I believe that Randy Isaac has said as much), and the sense that ID proponents will always be second-class citizens in the ASA.


  10. 10

    “For Christians science does not trump the Bible.”

    Perhaps not, but should we not expect science to inform one’s interpretation of the Bible, particularly in those instances in which the Bible is not clear or is open to diverse interpretations?

    That said, I’m talking about real science. So on the other side of the coin I don’t think it would make sense for a Christian to jettison the Bible in a knee-jerk fashion, based on some half-baked wild stories that sometimes pass as “science” these days (cough-cough, abiogenesis, for example).

    There are some real issues that need to be grappled with in terms of bringing faith and science together and it should be done in a thoughtful and careful way.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Kelly, before you go denigrating other ‘religions’, (though I don’t consider Christianity so much a religion as I consider it a relationship with the Creator of the universe and all life in it), perhaps It would be very wise for you to look at the foundation of your own Atheistic ‘religion’; Materialism and see how it holds up. Kelly, as quantum mechanics has now clearly shown, you simply have no self-sustaining material basis in which to appeal to as the ‘true’ ultimate basis of reality. In fact, neo-Darwinism itself is falsified because of this ‘failure of materialism’ to explain reality.

    Falsification Of Neo-Darwinism by Quantum Entanglement/Information

    As well, you quickly and smugly lumped Christianity with astrology not realizing that 1. Science is impossible without God. 2. That Christian Theists overwhelmingly made up the founding fathers of modern science. and 3. If neo-Darwinism were true we would be able to preform science because of ‘inconsistent identity’ towards absolute truth to form our cognitive faculties.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    correction ; 3. If neo-Darwinism were true we would NOT be able to preform science because of ‘inconsistent identity’ towards absolute truth to form our cognitive faculties.

  13. 13
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    Does this thread remind anyone of anything?

    “In the fall of 1961 Tinkle wrote to eight known or suspected creationists inviting them to join Lammerts and himself in forming an antievolution caucus within the ASA. The eight invitees were Henry M. Morris, Frank Lewis Marsh, Molleurus Couperus, Edwin Y. Monsma, R. Laird Harris, Duane T. Gish (b. 1921), Philip V. Livdahl (b. 1923), and Edward L. Kessel (b. 1904). By late January he had heard from all but Livdahl, a physicist, and Kessel, an entomologist who turned out to be a theistic evolutionist. Of those responding, only Morris had expressed any hesitation. Because he believed that the ASA ‘was too permeated with evolutionism ever to be reclaimed,’ he urged Tinkle to start a new society.”

    (Ronald Numbers, The Creationists, p. 224)

    “All this has happened before and will happen again. Again, again, again…”

    — Hybrid Cyclon from Battlestar Galactica

  14. 14
    MedsRex says:

    Cool, nick, great point. . .i guess. So you share nietzsche’s view of time and possible events, you know eternal recurrence and all that? Perhaps Groundhog Day is more your thing? Or. . . You seem to like sci-fi, based on your quote, there is a great Supernatural episode that deals with infinite loops. The show is on the CW. . .you should watch it.
    or to quote the great Matzke: “what the frack” are you talking about? Who gives a poop about “suspected creationists” from the 60s? so Dembski suggests a new Christian based science organization. Do you have a problem with that? Do you predict failure? Should you, a professed agnostic, really give a crap? Did Dembski mention creationism? Speaking of infinite loops: did you know both ID and Evolution have roots in ancient greek culture? So maybe Ol’ Nietzsche was on to something.

  15. 15

    Dr Dembski:

    If, as Ted Davis says, ID proponents rarely submit papers as articles to the ASA journal, or as presentations at the annual meeting, is it surprising that other members express some condescension regarding the scientific integrity of ID?

    It seems to me that rather than taking your bat home, the answer is simply to submit good ID papers to the journal.


  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest, Just up at ENV:

    Dennis Venema – Stephen Meyer Exchange in Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith Available Online
    Evolution News & Views October 14, 2011
    Excerpt: With permission from American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), we are now making publicly available all of the articles published in ASA’s journal, Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith (PSCF), by Dennis Venema and Stephen Meyer, in their recent debate over Signature in the Cell.

    The articles may be found at the following links:

    Dennis Venema’s Original Review of Signature: Seeking a Signature (PSCF, Vol. 62(4):276-283 (December, 2010).)
    Stephen Meyer’s Reply to Venema: Of Molecules and (Straw) Men: Stephen Meyer Responds to Dennis Venema’s Review of Signature in the Cell (HTML, PDF) (PSCF, Vol. 63(3):171-182 (September, 2011).)
    Venema’s Surrebuttal to Meyer: Intelligent Design, Abiogenesis, and Learning from History: A Reply to Meyer (PSCF, Vol. 63(3):183-192 (September, 2011).)

    Stay tuned to ENV as we’ll be posting a short follow-up response to Dr. Venema’s surrebuttal in the near future.


    Natalie Grant – Alive

  17. 17

    Thanks for illustrating my point, Elizabeth.

    I have published in the ASA journal and I’ve published in other journals associated with professional societies of which I am not a member. Merely getting published in a professional society’s journal is not reason enough to join or stay.

    As for good ID papers, I publish them in the peer-reviewed engineering literature, which is the appropriate venue (see the publications page at The ASA journal is a faith-science journal, and faith-science is not science but faith commenting on science. I have nothing against that genre, but it’s not where the action is in ID.

  18. 18

    Actually, Nick, the thing you should be worried about is ID special interest groups forming within an existing professional society, indeed, the biggest in the world, namely, the IEEE. Stay tuned.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Ted Davis says:

    Nick Matzke’s point is completely a propos, MedsRex. Nick is very knowledgeable about the history of antievolutionism. His point (unless I am badly misreading him) is that concerns about openness to evolution on the part of some ASA members in the 1960s (concerns that were evident since the early 1950s, I would add) led a number of members to sever their ties with the ASA and to form the Creation Research Society in order to advance their views about origins. They felt increasingly unwelcome in the ASA–especially Henry Morris, whose book “The Genesis Flood” received four separate, highly negative reviews in the ASA Journal.

    The ASA itself had in fact been founded by antievolutionists (although for some reason they did not write an antievolution platform into the by-laws, or we would not be having this conversation today); it split in the 1960s when those of the “young earth” variety saw themselves as increasingly marginalized. At that point, there were numerous TEs in the ASA, but Morris and some others were already very concerned many years earlier, when some “old earth” creationists in the ASA were highly critical of ideas advanced by George McCready Price, the famous young-earth creationist who spent his life popularizing the flood geology of the Adventist prophet Ellen White. Morris’ co-author on “The Genesis Flood,” John C. Whitcomb, Jr., wrote his doctoral dissertation about how Price’s ideas would help us understand Genesis. Both men strongly objected to the “progressive creation” or “concordist” views advanced by Bernard Ramm in his “The Christian View of Science and Scripture,” the same book I am about to recommend to Dr. Crocker in a separate posting. In their view (which is still the standard position among leading YEC organizations), even Ramm’s very thoughtful OEC position represented a dangerous compromise with unbelief. Thus, they started looking for the exits.

    As Nick also knows, there were other antievolution organizations in the mid-20th century that also found it impossible to hold themselves together. There were always factions that were unwilling to tolerate other factions: just as this describes large parts of church history quite well, so it also describes the history of antievolution organizations in America.

    Given all this, then, MedsRex, is Nick entirely off base to see at least some similarity with the conversation in this thread? I see his overall point being what I just wrote at the end of that paragraph above. However, I would add that the ASA really has, in effect, severed its ties with the YEC view, even though we still have some members who hold that view–they know that we are not likely to publish pro-YEC articles in the journal, for example, and they know that Council approved of what Randy Isaac wrote in an op-ed about the YEC view in our journal a couple of years ago (when he said that many proponents of that view did not respect the integrity of science). Randy’s opinions about ID, however, are his own, and not those of the organization; Council has never denied Randy the right to speak simply for himself on issues. (For example, when he spoke at the “Vibrant Dance” conference in Texas, on Council instructions he explicitly stated that he spoke only for himself and not as CEO of the ASA. Many of our members were involved with that conference, representing multiple perspectives, and Council wanted to send a clear message that we were not endorsing any specific view expressed by any of our members.) You will not find a similar op-ed about ID in our journal. If I were the CEO of the ASA myself (and I’m not contemplating any such possibility), I would want Council to have the same expectations for me: only rarely would I speak “ex cathedra,” so to speak, and otherwise I’d just be one voice among many.

  21. 21

    Why would any one be “worried” Dr Dembski? Unless the “special interest groups” were doing something underhand?

    If ID theories have merit, then they will be welcomed.

    If they don’t, they will be rejected on that lack of merit.

    My own view is that they have no merit. Which is a shame, because they are quite cool.

  22. 22
    Ted Davis says:


    I appreciate your comments. Relative to potential ASA fellows, the case that sticks out most in my mind is more recent than 2006 and involves someone else. I was very disappointed not to have any expression of interest from that person, both at the time credentials were requested and in subsequent conversations with me (since I had made the nomination).

    I’m sorry that you have let your membership lapse, Bill. As one of the major players in an area broadly related to Christianity and science, your loss is not our gain.

    I want to comment on this point of Bill’s: “The ASA journal is a faith-science journal, and faith-science is not science but faith commenting on science. I have nothing against that genre, but it’s not where the action is in ID.”

    I entirely agree with Bill’s assessment of the differences between the ASA journal and those he references implicitly above. Although I can think of a few instances in which the ASA journal has printed very technical articles, there are hardly any in the past couple of decades. That seems appropriate to me: like “American Scientist” or the first part of the journal “Science,” our journal is not intended to be a place where people make original *technical* arguments for the first time. (I made an original *historical* argument once in “American Scientist,” but did so in a way that was appropriate for their readers.)

    When I mentioned pro-ID articles in our journal, I was referring to articles that are more philosophical, theological, or historical in nature, not to those that are highly technical in nature. Certainly our journal is not the place where one would normally submit those. And, to that extent, it is certainly true that our journal is not where the action is in ID, any more than it is where the action is in astronomy or microbiology.

    Bill’s point is consistent with what I have heard from numerous other folks in the ID movement–namely, that the ASA is irrelevant to them (or has become irrelevant to them). I’m involved with X or Y and don’t have time for Z (what the ASA does); I’m not an historian or a philosopher or a theologian, and I’m more interested in the science (i.e., the technical arguments concerning ID). I have no argument with those who tell me such things; I listen, take note, but recommend no course of action. We all prioritize our time and energy according to our needs and areas of interest.

    Again, Bill, thank you for the comments. I’ll write a separate post about the larger issue related to the paragraph preceding this one.

  23. 23
    Gregory says:

    Dear Dr. Crocker, Dr. Davis and Uncommon Descent readers:

    The answer to the thread topic’s question is: No, ASA has
    not forgotten their stated identity. Ted Davis’ responses clearly show this.

    “relative to ID and TE, the ASA is what its members make it.” – Ted

    Bingo! Democracy – a ‘magic word’ in USA, along with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’!

    “Theologically, I am confused about the presupposition that, even though God created the world, His action must by definition be completely undetectable.” – Crocker

    Why then doesn’t one of the ID leaders trained in theology propose ID-theology? This would lay to rest the claims that ‘intelligent design’ is being proposed as ‘just science,’ which is how it appears to me to the current day. Wouldn’t efforts at making some kind of ‘God-detection theology’ become a hot topic, should someone in the IDM propose it? It seems the ‘desire to appear scientific’ within the IDM still trumps any willingness to promote an ID-theology, thus smacking of ‘scientism’ just as much as Crocker’s views of ASA.

    I asked this same question personally to William Dembski in 2008 in front of an audience. Jonathan Wells was in the room and later thanked me for my question. Dembski, however, tired from jet lag, disappointed with a dodgy answer – the ‘appearance’ of building a bridge still appears to be one-sided in his approach. Why? It is quite obvious that he lifts ‘natural sciences’ onto a pedestal, just as many atheists do, suggesting little possibility of the ‘bridge’ that he so desperately seeks.

    The 30+ other students in the room who witnessed Dembski obviously skirt my question can testify to this. Why is the IDM so against identifying ID as a theological position, in addition to its strivings ‘in science’?

    “ID is a theory in process.” – Crocker

    So is every other theory, *after* it has been ‘originated’ and articulated in print. There *are* original ideas that are ‘game-changers’. One should not confuse ‘origins’ and ‘processes’ on this theme. A post- or non-evolutionary theory would speak to this and it need not be referred to as simply ‘in process’ on the day, month or year that it is proposed and published.

    That day will come (maybe it has already, outside of the IDM); to the chagrin of ideologues. Christians and Monotheists of all kinds may welcome it as better integration of science, philosophy and theology than what had come before it either with “ID IS SCIENCE” or “TE uses the best science” rhetoric.

    “the scientific evidence should be more important than the Bible in their formation of a worldview.” – Caroline Crocker

    This is an inaccurate view of ASA, which Ted has stepped forward to address.

    I was active on the ASA Listserve for a couple of years and can assure you that ‘at the end of the day’ almost everyone in ASA sees Christianity as ‘more important’ than anything that they have learned or contributed personally in science.

    “Scientism is a belief system where science becomes the preeminent way to ascertain all truth, making scientists—well, very important people.” – Crocker

    This is a weak definition; a half-way attempt but no more. Such definitions of ‘scientism’ are common in N. America where ideology is poorly understood. The ideologies that most N. Americans hold are little understood in science, philosophy, religion conversations. All one has to do is notice the absence of philosophy, the prevalence of ‘science and religion’ as duo in institutions to accept this general point.

    Scientists simply *are* ‘important people’ when they produce ‘advances’ in knowledge’ that impact large sectors of human society, whether their own society or not doesn’t seem to matter. But there are also artists, musicians, athletes, gov’t officials, bankers and others who are ‘important people’ in a given society. Crocker seems to be in self-contradiction, since she has followed a career path that now seeks to show how unimportant her profession is!

    Re: ‘Scientism’ – many IDists *and* TEists commit excesses in how they ‘value’ science in comparison with other types of ‘knowledge.’ What is needed is more discussion of ideology to allow students to see more clearly when TEists exaggerate, when IDists exaggerate, and when evolutionary biologists exaggerate their domains. Why does Crocker not also advocate guarded resistance to some of the extravagant claims made by IDists (e.g. Dembski calls ID “the bridge between science and theology” and Behe speaks of IDs “implications for ALL humane studies,” 1999)? These ideological exaggerations are easily visible to those with a broader view. The double-standard on both/all sides wrt IDism/Evolutionism/Creationism should be made more explicit.

    Should we expect Crocker to know something about ‘ideology’ given her educational background in natural science? No. PoS & HPS are still highly underdeveloped in N. American preparatory and higher education. Does Crocker support more of them in schools?

    “science-based reservations about the merits of some aspects of evolutionary theory.” – Crocker

    Yes, why not? But ID leaders actually *accept* evolutionary theories too (see below). Thus the ‘anti-evolution’ label is only partly true wrt ID.

    “we need to accept the consensus of the scientific community and, if necessary, change our interpretation of the Bible to fit with the science.” – Crocker

    Unfortunately, this talk of ‘consensus’ is too thin to have any bite. One needs training in sociology of science (SoS) to discover much that is interesting on this topic. Has Crocker studied SoS? No.

    “I find TE both academically and theologically frustrating.” – Crocker

    Me too! ASA is against ‘Total Evolution’ and so is ID. Unfortunately, the two haven’t seemed able (yet) to come together with a stronger position rejecting the ideology of evolutionism and identifying fields and figures who abuse ‘evolutionary theories’ in neighbouring fields (e.g. eVo psych and socio-biology). Both ID and TE could speak more strongly in unison to attack these arrogant encroachments of natural sciences upon morality and ethics. Will effort to do this be made?

    “One scientist, who believes that Intelligent Design (ID) theory has merit from a scientific viewpoint, identified himself to me with the words, “feels like hostile territory here.” – Crocker

    Hostile?! Well, yes, there does appear to be some kind of ‘military mentality’ among many IDists, such that they feel they are involved in a ‘culture war’ or ‘revolution’ in the way science, philosophy and theology/religion are viewed in public. I highly doubt that Crocker felt anyone acting ‘hostile’ to her as a person at ASA. She was likely as welcomed there as the next scholar.

    “For an organization that is alleged to be pro-TE, we sure have elected our share of pro-ID presidents.” – Ted

    Touché! Will anyone here respond to Ted about this?

    “working together to convert the Christian world to a belief in evolution” – Crocker

    ASA is working together for acceptance of biological evolution, not ‘belief’ in biological evolution. Crocker should know this & adjust her language of communication. Not ‘believe’ but ‘acceptance.’ At times like this, she sounds like a YEC!

    Unfortunately, in this piece Crocker demonstrates lack of understanding in PoS. Someone with PoS knowledge should have edited her piece before it was published at UD. ID relies (read: cannot escape from its history) on a non-scientific (sounds negative) or extra-scientific (sounds positive) foundation. Without that foundation, the ‘science’ of ‘intelligent design’ would be dead in the water (iow, changing the foundations on which natural sciences are built to include ‘Mind/intelligence’). This should be taken as a compliment, i.e. that ID folks are at least AWARE of the non-scientific foundation upon with ID claims to being ‘scientific’ are built. Unfortunately, most ID advocates reading this will take it as an ‘attack’ and grow ‘defensive’. My intention is otherwise than merely to attack.

    The truth is that within N. American discourses, and English-language discourses generally speaking, you folks have little choice but to be offended, when in fact a compliment was meant. So I hope that saying this will lead some of you to question the ‘American-ness’ of the discourse and see that ‘other’ views are also possible and potentially over-coming of the false dichotomies that have been erected there.

    ‘BioLogos Foundation’ is one of the most philosophically naïve positions to ‘grace’ the internet in recent years. Ted Davis is listed on their website as ‘one of them.’ Ted is a super guy, a respected scholar and historian. He is not, however, a philosopher. There is not a single philosopher affiliated with BioLogos! The DI, otoh, has employed several people well-versed in philosophy of science (PoS), in addition to simply natural sciences them-selves. For this, I give them credit & estimate them above BioLogos.

    Crocker shows indirectly how important it is that we listen to psychologists, culture studies theorists, anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, moderating an end to the ‘natural sciences-only’ discussion that DI is unfortunately promoting by not going further, openly, in-public with its theological agenda.

    I agree with Crocker about concerns with the level of ‘evolutionism’ in the form of ‘theistic evolutionism’ in ASA. But the fact that Dembski accepts ‘technological evolution’ demonstrates he is likewise confused and contorted about the ‘limits of evolution.’ ID folks are simply not in a position to criticise ASA for its ‘evolutionism’ when ID has not established a clear position for ‘design’ or ‘intelligence’ wrt ideology, science and theology. Come forward with a ‘detection theology’ and we can discuss again ‘the bridge’ that Dembski claims to have already built.

    Yours sincerely,
    Dr. Gregory

  24. 24
    Ted Davis says:

    Now for that larger issue. As I just said, the ASA journal (and the organization that sponsors it) *is* about science and religion. As Bill put it so aptly, “faith commenting on science.” Many years ago I attended a workshop led by Bob Russell, the physicist-theologian who directs CTNS ( This was even before there was an ID movement, so it was indeed quite some time ago. Bob made the point that, in the conversation involving science and theology, philosophy was the crucial mediating third party. I found that perceptive, and I still do.

    Over the years, the ASA journal has increasingly reflected this. (I am not implying that I had very much to do with this myself. Although I have nudged things in that direction a few times, the trend predates my involvement as either a Council member or a consulting editor for the journal.) This is not to say that the ASA journal has become just a third-rate journal devoted to (say) HPS or theology; not at all. Rather, we are a high quality journal mainly given to theological, philosophical, ethical, and historical reflection on science, mainly written by and for Christians in fields related to science (including humanistic fields like HPS). Our current editor, Arie Leegwater, is an organic chemist who also studied history of science with the late Reijer Hooykaas; our next editor (as announced at our July meeting) will be bioethicist James Peterson (

    Even though original ID technical arguments will usually appear elsewhere, our journal is a good place to submit quality manuscripts dealing with non-technical aspects (though obviously drawing on technical aspects where appropriate) of ID, esp those related to Christian reflection on the nature of nature and the nature of science. ID authors have not been reluctant to address those issues in many venues, and they should not be reluctant to address them in our journal, either. The key issue (as always) is the quality of the paper. As a consulting editor for many years, I’ve seen a lot of subpar submissions, and some of those have been about ID. The fact that we’ve published a good number of pro-ID papers should indicate that I am not equating “subpar” with “pro-ID.”

    I am convinced–and perhaps I am mistaken; only time will tell–that both the current generation of Christians and future generations of Christians will find the ASA and our journal to be a very valuable resource for helping them to sort out these difficult issues. The process of faith formation is intensely personal; as Robert Boyle wrote in his twentieth year, “The Dialect of Faith runs much upon the First Person.” The conclusions of technical science can certainly influence faith formation, insofar as physics can rule out some types of metaphysics (as Polkinghorne has put it); but, science does not bring its own metaphysical framework with it–that is the fundamental error of the new atheists, whether their names are Dawkins, Hitchins, Atkins, Weinberg, or Myers. Gould (to his credit) realized this, even though he went too far (IMO) in thinking that science rules out the possibility of miracles and of a “supernatural” realm (i.e., of a reality that would exist even if nature did not exist).

    The ASA exists mainly for reasons related to this. First, we lay out for Christians what some of the philosophical and theological options are (and there is no single option, not even within a “big tent” like ID or the equally large tent of TE). Second, we provide a faith-friendly network for people in the sciences, including people at top research universities whose very existence functions as a defeater for Dawkins’ view (widely shared among the new atheists) that genuine science means atheism or something close to it. (This is not simply some quiet testimony to the contrary; people like Francis Collins really bother Dawkins. That is why Coyne and others have tried so hard to discredit Collins in the public eye.) Third, we foster creative thinking about science and Christian faith. We’ve been the main professional home for some really creative people, including (among others) the late Bernard Ramm (see my other post here about him), Dick Bube (who taught Christianity and science at Stanford until the PC police stopped him), the late W. Jim Neidhardt (who never had support from his university for what he did), George Murphy (whose ideas are ironically regarded as too liberal by many ID folks while being regarded as too orthodox by many in the larger “religion and science” conversation).

    Most of the things done within the ASA are openly theological or at least faith-specific, and that is of course another difference with ID, which (at least officially) deliberately avoids this. Consequently, differences within & among proponents of ID concerning theological and biblical matters are not matters that get very much attention; they do not lead people to wonder whether or not they are in the right place. Those differences exist, however; they are simply papered over most of the time. Bill Dembski knows the risks of expressing himself about such matters; he knows that people in some Christian circles will call for his head, even though objective observers would probably describe Bill’s theological views as very conservative. Should he talk about those issues, even with careful disclaimers that he’s not doing ID when he does? Or, should he avoid talking about them in order not to rock those boats? I think he should, myself; I think the refusal to talk about such things within ID itself is somewhat disingenuous, since IMO those issues really are there beneath the surface. In any case, when he does talk about those things he’s acting like we do in the ASA, even though he is no longer part of us.

  25. 25
    William J Murray says:

    Elizabeth says:

    If ID theories have merit, then they will be welcomed.

    If they don’t, they will be rejected on that lack of merit.

    That’s a very naive and historically erroneous view of human nature and the institutions they inhabit, including the scientific community.

  26. 26

    I don’t think so, William. It is true that it is harder to gain acceptance for radical new ideas (plate tectonics; relativity; quantum mechanics; geocentricity) than for ideas that only mildly tweak the status quo, but that’s as it should be. Cold fusion would be awesome, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    But that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be welcomed if supported. Cold fusion would be awesome, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And for cold fusion it hasn’t been forthcoming.

    Don’t mistake rigorous scrutiny for lack of welcome.

    Not that that happened in the case of Galileo of course, but then that was the church 😉

  27. 27
    Ted Davis says:

    Having sent in some other posts this morning on other aspects of this thread, I now reply to Caroline’s concern about the Bible, relative to the ASA. You’re right to raise this issue, Caroline. It’s the single toughest issue many Christians face: how should I understand biblical authority and inspiration, given what I also understand about the world from science?

    As you know, a very large number of books have been written about just this topic, and quite a few of those were written by ASA members–including members who reached very different conclusions about a lot of the specific matters pertaining to this huge issue.

    As I said elsewhere here, ID ignores questions like this, by definition. TE does not, by definition. Nor does the ASA; for many years, it was our bread and butter, and it is still a big interest for many of our members even though it is no longer topic number one for most members (according to what they tell us).

    B/c conversations about science and the Bible are and always have been openly visible within the ASA, they are openly visible. Because they are not openly visible within ID, at least not in the same way (that is, ID leaders might talk about them in a given place, but they state that they are not doing ID in that place; what rank and file people say here is more revealing, but can’t be taken for ID in some official sense), they are not openly visible.

    What results from this? Many things, but the one I will point out here is as follows. People will inevitably perceive the ASA as more “liberal” in its attitudes, b/c some “liberal” views about science and the Bible will be expressed by given members. As I say, this is inevitable from the nature of the ASA per se, vis-a-vis the nature of ID per se.

    What is the range of opinion about science and the Bible, on the part of ID proponents? In comparison with the state of opinion among ASA members, there is precious little data. The experiment simply can’t be done. From private conversations over many years, however, I can tell you that many ID proponents consider “creationism”, in the sense of YEC views, to be absolutely ridiculous. A few ID proponents are known publicly to hold YEC views; most just avoid the topic. The attitude that you report hearing about creationism at the ASA this summer, however, I’ve also heard quite often from ID proponents, including some folks who are very conservative themselves in terms of biblical hermeneutics. They simply don’t voice it where anyone else is listening. (I will have to leave myself open to the charge of rumor mongering or hearsay, b/c I will not provide chapter and verse on these conversations. But, as many here know, I do get around and I do not make things up.) When someone like Bill Dembski does talk about biblical hermeneutics openly (I’m thinking of his recent book, “The End of Christianity”), we discover that some people think he’s too “liberal,” too.

    The fundamental question here, Caroline, IMO, is how to navigate a distinction that is prominent in the single most important text (IMO) that has ever been written about science and the Bible: namely, Galileo’s “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina.” The distinction I have in mind is that between the inspiration and the interpretation of the Bible. As Galileo put it, “the holy Bible can never speak untruth-whenever its true meaning is understood.” This isn’t the place to have a detailed conversation about inspiration, interpretation, and that other “i” word that could be the elephant in the room: inerrancy. We can’t even have a detailed conversation about Galileo’s views on this, let alone those of other classic authors such as Augustine or Calvin, let alone important contemporary authors such as Peter Enns. All I can do is simply to say that even within a very conservative religious tradition, such as the PCA church, there have recently been detailed and very heated conversations about how to understand these “i” words, in the context of debating matters related to both the age of the earth and the motion of the earth (that is, whether Copernican astronomy is acceptable; I’m not making this up).

    Well, I suppose can do a bit more than that. For understanding conversations about the role of the Bible, vis-a-vis science, within the ASA, let me point you to a book written a long time ago: “The Christian View of Science and Scripture,” by the late Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm. It’s very dated (obviously), and many ASA members today would take a different approach on some of the many topics Ramm discusses, but it’s still a good introduction to the complexities of sorting out the “i” words in relation to science. Please try to borrow a copy from a library or buy one on the internet (long out of print but easily found for well under $10), pick a few sections to read carefully–including the very detailed footnotes, which say a great deal more than simply providing information about his sources–and reflect on what you read. I hope you can find time to do this.

    For more information about this book, in the context of the ASA and its history, go to

    Looking back to the 1950s, when Ramm wrote that book (which he did partly based on the experience of being assigned to teach an apologetics course on science and the Bible at BIOLA), it is worth keeping in mind that it was this book and the flood geology of George McCready Price that led Morris and Whitcomb to write “The Genesis Flood.” They loved Price and detested Ramm, to put it bluntly. They believed that Ramm played fast and loose with Scripture, and they wanted to show Bible-believing Christians that there is a better way–namely, young earth creationism. They would have resonated with your statement here, Caroline, that “for Christians nothing trumps the Bible, not even science.”

    I don’t mean to imply, not for minute, that you identify more with Whitcomb and Morris than with Ramm. I have no basis whatsoever to say that; we’ve never met, and I know nothing about you except what you say here and what has been said in news outlets (including ID news outlets) about your experience at George Mason. None of that indicates to me what you really think, relative to the “i” words and science. My point in quoting you, Caroline, is simply to say that what you mean by saying that nothing trumps the Bible could be similar to what Ramm said; it could be similar to what Whitcomb and Morris said; it could be something else. But, if you dig further into ASA conversations about science and the Bible, I think you’ll find that our members have thought a great deal about this, and that a lot of that conversation is hard to evaluate against your affirmation that “nothing trumps the Bible, not even science.” For example, anyone who really believes (as I do, and as our members implicitly say they do by affirming the ecumenical creeds) that God raised Christ bodily from the grave does not really believe that science trumps the Bible. On the other hand, anyone who really believes (as I do, and as most of our members do) that the earth is a great deal older than the human race really does believe that science trumps the Bible. I’m not contradicting myself; I’m only pointing to the complexity of the “i” words in this context. Reading Ramm might be very helpful in this connection. If you get a chance to do that, please let me know. My email address is available in the online ASA directory. If you want to talk about it in another column here, I’d love to join in.

  28. 28
    butifnot says:

    ID is not radical or new, it is very well supported but, it has implications that will cause it to be resisted by many with a fervor.

    Don’t forget the history of science that we all learned – Periods of know-it-all arrogance where the consensus scientist (smart as they were) thought it was all figured out, were resistant to everything, and were eventually made fun of in subsequent generations for what they thought was true. It will be far worse for evolution in the future.

  29. 29
    Ted Davis says:

    “Dr. Gregory” mentions that my name is listed on the BioLogos website as “one of them” (he says). OK, fair enough. I am more sympathetic with TE (which BioLogos calls “BioLogos”) than with ID. No secret there. As for the specifics of my views, please let me quote this, from the introduction to the place where BioLogos lists me as a “leading figure” (their description, not mine). There, say this: “The individuals we have identified below do not necessarily agree with BioLogos in every way, but their writings are complementary to the BioLogos view.” OK, fair enough, but as I told one of my ID friends recently, I hold to the motto of the Royal Society: “nullius in verba.” Anyone who knows what that means, in historical context, knows where I am coming from.

    Anyone who wants to know my views in detail, however, need only read what I have written in various places. For BioLogos, that would be maybe half a dozen columns and a few comments on those columns as well as some others. It’s true that I am not a philosopher, although I’ve studied some PoS and still read some in that field. (I gather that philosophers don’t think I’m a complete idiot, for I recently did a colloquium for one of the top PoS programs in the world, the one at the U of Minnesota.) I also share “Dr. Gregory’s” view that BioLogos would be a more effective advocate of its position if one or two philosophers were regular contributors.

    In an ideal world, I’d be a regular contributor to BioLogos myself; I was asked multiple times to have such a role, but to tell the truth finding time to teach many courses annually, to talk to and spend time with my wife and family, to do scholarship (as vs blogging), sometimes to blog (as presently), to be involved at my church, and to lecture outside of my campus is very hard to balance. It’s a zero-sum game, and blogging regularly for anyone (incl BioLogos) is not something I can commit to. I’d be interested in doing a column for UD at some point, if there were sufficient interest, but the same problem affects my attitude toward that. It’s a rare morning that I can do what I’m doing this morning.

  30. 30
    StephenB says:

    Gregory: “ the end of the day’ almost everyone in ASA sees Christianity as ‘more important’ than anything that they have learned or contributed personally in science.”

    Not really. Indeed, it is just the other way around. The entire premise of ASA’s predominant culture of Christian Darwinism is anti-Biblical because it militates against the rational foundations for Christian belief, elevating postmodern skepticism over Christian revelation.

    According to the teachings found in Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20, God’s handiwork is evident in nature. Because this Scriptural truth is expressed philosophically, it provides a rational basis for accepting the attendant Theological truths that must be accepted on faith. Hence, Christianity is a reasonable faith, unlike all other world religions, is dependent solely on a mindless leap of faith.

    The ASA culture of Christian Darwinism, on the other hand, subordinates Scriptural truth to Darwinist speculations that design is illusory. As they would have it, God did not, as the Bible teaches, reveal Himself in nature at all. Under the circumstances, we are reduced to the same irrational status of all other world religions.

    To deny God’s revelation in nature (God’s real design comes before the fact) on the strength of the unsupported claims of evolutionary biologists (the illusion of design comes after the fact) is to elevate the ideology of Darwinism over the tenets of Christian truth.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    That should read, “Christianity is a reasonable faith, unlike all other world religions that rely solely on a mindless leap of faith.”

  32. 32
    MedsRex says:

    Hi Ted,
    Firstly I want to express my thanks for your comment(s). As always they are thoughtful, well-informed and clear-headed. Secondly I want to apologize for my lack of historical context needed for a complete understanding of this conversation. I did not come to have an interest in Intelligent Design (or Theistic Evolution for that matter) through any sort of creationist background. Prior to this the best description of myself would have been: a somewhat agnostic(to God AND Evolution) pseudo-christian, spiritual pluralist. Most of my (Self)education came from reading the likes of Nietzche, Sontag, Barthes, Foucault, Buber, Camus, Sartre. . . etc. Along with Hawkings, Darwin, Desmond Morris and more.
    I say all that to point out that I was somewhat unaware of the backstage goings-on within the Creationist Movement.
    That being said I must point out that although your comment was well-expressed Nick’s seemed to be nothing more than a “see i told ya ID aint nothing but creationism” swipe.
    Also I still wonder why Nick would care if a new ID-friendly Christian-based science organization were to pop up?
    What if the Issues that faced some of those Creationist groups did not crop up in this ID group? I would imagine (hope?) that some (if not most) of those fractional issues wouldn’t occur given ID’s Large-Tent status.
    I also hope it is understood that there are a fair amount of IDist who are NOT Christians.
    Either way I pray the ASA and it’s members can find a common ground.

  33. 33
    Gregory says:

    Ted, if more people approached this ‘culture war’ like you do, with an even hand for consideration of progressive ideas, we’d be in much better shape!

    Truth be told, however, I don’t think BioLogos Foundation “would be a more effective advocate of its position if one or two philosophers were regular contributors.” I honestly think BioLogos would collapse if it was put under philosophical scrutiny. It is that backwards, primitive and damaging with its scientistic and anti-Orthodox views. Neither they nor you think they are acting ‘scientistically,’ but the record clearly shows this is happening and it is not a historian but a philosopher who is suitable to judge this.

    There is little behind the meaning of ‘BioLogos’ other than evangelical Christians desperately wanting to ‘belong’ in secular academia. Can you find a practicing biologist who is not an ‘evangelical’ Christian that uses the term ‘BioLogos’? I highly doubt it!

    Have you *ever* used the term BioLogos in a peer-reviewed publication, Ted?

    Indeed, ‘evangelutionist’ is an appropriate label for the appeasement-oriented management at BioLogos. They do not understand or take seriously the influence of ideology in science. Thus, they disqualify themselves from meaningful discourse in this heavily-ideological conversation.

    BioLogos, from a philosophical perspective, quickly turns into ‘biologism.’ And it runs away from addressing the ideology of biologism as fast as ice cream melts in a boiling sauna. I have much, much more respect for ASA than I do for BioLogos.

    Daryl Falk, in his book “Coming to Peace with Science” (2004) actually still thinks there is only ONE ‘scientific method.’ This is absurd! Who could pretend this in our era and try to keep a straight face? Just look at the language there – he speaks of ‘the scientific method’ as if a single universal method holds (true) across natural and social sciences, and even across only natural sciences. The only way a ‘scientist’ could hold such a view is if they’d never taken a course or read a text in PoS. Maybe ‘BioLogos’ is suitable for teaching in Falk’s Sunday school anti-warfare class, but nowhere else. Falk’s primitive views of PoS do no credit to BioLogos and unfortunately they are duplicated by several Fellows there.

    But wait, still more, Perspectives of an Evolving Creation – the primary text for TE – repeats the same obvious misunderstanding. When will these natural-physical scientists learn of their oversights? PEC suffers from lack of PoS just as does BioLogos. Why then, Ted, would I trust TE to provide an adequate view of ‘science’?

    “In an ideal world, I’d be a regular contributor to BioLogos myself” – Ted Davis

    Please don’t lower yourself to that level, Ted!

  34. 34
    Gregory says:

    Correction: Darrel.

  35. 35
    Gregory says:

    Well, I’ll listen to a respected former President of ASA about what ASA members think and believe and not some internet chat-head who simply doesn’t know (speaking for “the entire premise” of ASA) yet nevertheless seeks to attack fellow Christians.

    I got over C.R. Darwin a long time ago & operate in either a non- or post-Darwinian world!

    Biologists, however, will continue to recognize the legitimate scientific contribution of Darwin, the good with the bad. Meaningless hyper-anti-Darwin ID protesters aside.

  36. 36
    Ted Davis says:

    StephenB–who counts as members of “ASA’s predominant culture of Christian Darwinism”? Does Edward Davis count? If so, is he the same person who used design arguments in a campus debate at Oregon State?

    Does Owen Gingerich count? If so, is he the same person who answers the question, “Dare A Scientist Believe in Design?”, with a clear “yes”?

    Does Francis Collins count? If so, is he the same person whose work is described here?

    Does Karl Giberson count? If so, is he the same person whose forthcoming book from InterVarsity Press, “The Wonder of the Universe,” uses design in the universe as evidence for theism?

    Does Rob Mann count? If so, is he the same person who argues against the multiverse and for creatio ex nihilo as the best explanation of cosmic design?

    I’m sorry to appear so confused, StephenB, but the older I get the more it happens.

  37. 37
    StephenB says:

    Ted, I am a big believer in disclosing the basic assumptions that inform my positions. In this case, I hold that Romans 1:20 is a general statement about God’s creation that applies to stars in the sky and things of the earth. To suggest that the Biblical God intended to reveal himself in the cosmological realm and then decided go into hiding in the biological realm is, in my judgment, ludicrous and anti-Scriptural. I can’t imagine why any committed Christian would try to make such a case. Even Richard Dawkins admits that biology is the study of living things which “appear” to be designed.

    I mean, seriously, can you not discern the apriori design in such micro marvels as the skeleton of a bird’s wings? Is it any less obvious than the macro marvels in the larger cosmos? Is it any less a part of God’s revelation in nature? How many of those men that you cited accept this comprehensive understanding of Roman’s 1:20, and by what justification do they limit it to those things that exist “in the heavens.” There certainly is no scientific evidence to support the idea that nature alone could fashion such beauty. For these men, it seems, as with the Darwinists, biological design is an illusion. What makes Christianity reasonable is, among other things, the fact that evidence for God’s design is everywhere, which is why non-believers are said to be “without excuse.”

  38. 38
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    There is little behind the meaning of ‘BioLogos’ other than evangelical Christians desperately wanting to ‘belong’ in secular academia. Can you find a practicing biologist who is not an ‘evangelical’ Christian that uses the term ‘BioLogos’? I highly doubt it!

    Have you *ever* used the term BioLogos in a peer-reviewed publication, Ted?

    Why does this matter? BioLogos is entirely or primarily a name, not a term. IIRC they invented the word. What’s the big deal, it’s a free country.

  39. 39
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    What’s it going to be called, the IEEE special interest group for investigation of the Salem Hypothesis?

  40. 40
    Ted Davis says:

    Thank you for clarifying your view, StephenB. If I understand you correctly, you agree with me that the people I mentioned believe that a design inference involving science is possible, and that they favor some form(s) of it themselves. This is sufficient for me then to suggest that your description of them (“As they would have it, God did not, as the Bible teaches, reveal Himself in nature at all”) is a bit over the top.

    As for my own view, whether or not you regard me as a member of the particular group of ASA people for whom you have no sympathy, I cannot imagine a more accurate statement of my own position than this: “There certainly is no scientific evidence to support the idea that nature alone could fashion such beauty.” I should think that anyone who identifies the contents of their Christian beliefs in terms of the ecumenical creeds (as I do and our members presumably also do) also agrees. The whole of “nature” is a divine creation; the properties and powers given to ontologically passive matter by God’s free creative activity are indeed the source of all of the order we can comprehend. I fail to see how matter has the power to determine its own properties and powers; I fail to see how mathematical equations have any similar power, for they merely describe what we observe. (Hawking’s belief that equations “cause” the universe is true, if at all, only in the sense that what Aristotle labeled “formal” causes are part of the story. Tegmark’s belief that all mathematically consistent worlds must necessarily exist as physical realities tells me only that Tegmark enjoys science fiction and is not worried about Galileo’s caution against making worlds on paper.)

    Now, I’ll grant you StephenB, a belief such as mine might not give you what you seem to want, namely a knockdown argument you can use in as a club in culture wars.

  41. 41
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    I agree with Ted’s interpretation of my brief post. I would just add that the ASA has a long history of being *far* more open-minded about creationism/ID views than almost any other scientific organization that is not already explicitly creationist. The ASA has sometimes gotten flack from the more hot-under-the-collar sort of evolution defenders on that basis — some have even tried to lump it with creationist organizations! I think this is difficult to support from a well-informed historical viewpoint about the ASA and the development of the views of its members.

    (Although I can think of one instance, the 1986 (?) ASA booklet, entitled something like Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy, which was a response to the NAS booklet from the early 1980s. The first edition of the ASA booklet has some frankly creationist/proto-ID assertions, and was widely criticized. But this was largely taken out in a later edition IIRC.)

    So, it’s pretty ironic to see criticism of the ASA for not being open-minded enough.

    I think what is really going on is that over the past twenty years there has been a quite detailed and thorough debate within the ASA about ID — possibly a more detailed and coherent discussion with participants from both sides than has happened anywhere else. And yet, despite the extended consideration and the very sympathetic religious environment that the ASA presents, the ID movement has not been able to convince very many of ASA’s scientists that their biological arguments work. If anything, ASA’s membership seems to have moved very gradually towards being more and more theistic evolutionists, probably as the evidence for evolution keeps coming in, and the creationist/ID arguments get more attenuated, reworded instead of reevaluated, etc.

    This probably translates into more theistic evolution articles in the ASA journal, and more critical reviews of ID/creationist work both in published reviews and in whatever peer-reviewing the ASA journal does. But that’s not bias, it’s just the failure of ID/creationist arguments to convince people who are very well-informed about the relevant science as well as the relevant theology.

    I’m not sure what the solution is supposed to be to ASA’s “bias”, anyway. Affirmative action in the ASA journal for creationist/ID arguments that can’t get in on their own merits? Quotas for the number of creationists of different stripes in the membership?

    There is really only one worthy path for those who want more ID in the ASA: improve the scholarship.

  42. 42
    Timaeus says:

    StephenB and others:

    I think we have to distinguish between the ASA as an organization and the currently dominant opinions among its members. The currently dominant opinion (and dominant opinion doesn’t necessarily mean majority opinion) within ASA ranks may well be TE, but it doesn’t follow that all ASA members are TEs. The currently dominant theology within the ASA ranks may well be a post-Enlightenment, “reinterpret the Bible and Christian theology to make them compatible with modern science” theology, but it doesn’t follow that all ASA members are post-Enlightenment theological liberals.

    I think Ted is right to say that the ASA is what its members make it. It’s my understanding that the ASA includes many TE, ID and OEC members, and that no single group has a simple majority. It follows that TE-sympathetic members will not get their way all the time, unless the ID and OEC people simply abandon the field to them. So non-TEs should exercise their rights as members to run for executive offices, to vote for executive officers that they think will be fair to their views, to submit papers to the journal, to read papers at conferences, to serve on policy committees, etc. If non-TEs don’t do this, then of course TEs will run the show.

    How did the feminists gain such a massive influence upon the universities of North America? They have always been outnumbered on the faculty (and the extreme feminists have been outnumbered about 100 to 1), but because they are willing to spend enormous amounts of time on committees and governing boards and writing letters and making speeches around campus etc., and because those who are opposed to feminism have been unwilling to spend the same amount of time (perhaps because they think the main duties of a professor are teaching and research, not university politics, or perhaps because they have been browbeaten by claims that opposition to feminism is “sexist”), the feminists have come to have an influence upon university policies (speech policies, curriculum, whatever) that is far out of proportion to their numbers. Nobody stood up to them, and when they saw the political weakness of the silent majority, they naturally seized the reigns of power.

    The parallel is clear enough. If only TEs submit paper proposals for ASA conferences, and if only or primarily TEs submit papers to the journal, and if only TEs or mostly TEs are on all the governing bodies, hold all the editorial positions at the journal, etc., then of course TE viewpoints will dominate the organization. And if TEs can get away with nasty side remarks about ID or YEC people in their talks, because no one challenges them, either on the spot or privately afterward, then of course they will keep making those little jabs and put-downs. The non-TE people have to let the TEs who are being offensive know that they object to certain terms and attitudes. Complaining endlessly about city hall will never change city hall. Only concerted action ever changes anything.

    I think we should be careful not to identify the ASA with Biologos. At Biologos, there are no OEC or ID people; the TEs are completely in charge. Further, they are a particularly narrow group of TEs, strongly fideist theologically, with an extreme and almost irrational opposition to natural theology of any kind, and they are theologically liberal (though lately they are backtracking a bit on the liberalism, I would guess due to critical reaction behind the scenes from more orthodox Christian supporters who are bankrolling them), and on the scientific side committed to a very narrow neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution which is rapidly becoming dated science. Further, Biologos is not a democratically run body of Christian scientists, but an advocacy group. Advocacy groups have their minds made up, and therefore their responses to criticism take on the flavor of defensive apologetics rather than genuine dialogue. The ASA, on the other hand, is a democratic organization and therefore has to answer criticism in a responsible rather than a partisan manner.

    In sum, I don’t think we should identify the ASA per se as a TE organization, or a theologically liberal organization. I think, rather, that we should see it as an organization of Christian scientists which is, like all human organizations, subject to politics, and in particular to scientific and religious politics. I think that we at UD should be careful not to make sweeping judgments against the ASA as such, and should focus on criticizing particular opinions and actions of particular ASA members where we find them false or destructive, and encouraging any opinions or actions of ASA members that we see as good. For example, we should denounce any snide comments made by lead speakers at ASA conferences against ID or YEC people, and we should object to any slavish obsequiousness toward “consensus science” such as certain ASA people have from time to time exhibited, but we should also praise the editors of the ASA journal for the pro-ID articles that they have published, and encourage them to do more in the way of sponsoring ID/TE formal debates. Let’s not demonize the ASA; let’s encourage it to reform itself. It has good people within its ranks, and if their voices are heard, it can be rebalanced in such a way as to be truly representative of the diversity it embraces. And we can count on moderate people like Ted Davis to support any rebalancing that honestly reflects the views of the membership.


  43. 43
    StephenB says:

    Ted, I would affirm again, and you seem to agree, that the typical ASA position is that God revealed himself in cosmology and hid himself in biology. As I pointed out, this is not, in my judgment consistent with the more comprehensive Biblical world view in which God’s handiwork is everywhere. Psalm 104:24 proclaims, “How many your works are , O God ! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions.” For my part, then, any Christian who denies that point and claims that design in biology (detectable design to be precise) is an illusion has compromised a philosophical truth as set forth in the Bible for no good reason except to accomodate the Darwinist paradigm.

    As you know, the problem doesn’t end with God’s philosophical revelation because we must also take into account God’s theological revelations, for example, the teaching about an historical Adam and Eve and the fact that our singular first parents introduced sin into the world, a tenet that many in the ASA camp are also prepared to abandon, presumably in order to stay aligned with dubious neo-Darwinian claims about the unlimited creative power of natural selection, for which there is no evidence at all.

    You will recall that I was commenting on the ASA culture and was not referring to you personally or to every single member. I don’t doubt that a small minority in that camp would hold views closer to mine. Even so, it is, primarily, a Darwin-first, Bible-second culture, that should, in my judgment, be reformed and aligned more closely to its stated claims.

  44. 44
    Gregory says:

    Well said, T.

    I am glad you’ve spoken of ‘good people within its ranks.’ If you are the same person who visited ASA-List (when it was still open to the public) a couple of years back and ‘debated’ with just about the whole list, myself included, you did so imo honourably and effectively, even if Dr. Randy Isaac, then head of ASA, and others were not ultimately persuaded to ‘accept ID’. If I recall, this dialogue was indeed facilitated through Dr. Davis.

    The desire of certain ID journalist/reporters to continue to vilify ASA is baffling and imo counterproductive! But hey, it sure seems to ignite the self-styled ‘ID revolutionaries,’ and since the ideology is still ahead of the science, why let the open antagonism rest?

    “I think we should be careful not to identify the ASA with Biologos. At Biologos, there are no OEC or ID people; the TEs are completely in charge.” – Timaeus

    Yes, this is a fair distinction. As well, I think your characterisation of BioLogos as an ‘advocacy group’ is appropriate. Thus, it makes me wonder why Ted Davis would wish to be associated with them (mainly because he sees his ‘TE’ the same as what they name ‘BioLogos’?) and if Rev. John Polkinghorne would still accept being associated with them politically if he saw things that way.

    I’ve no doubt that Dr. Crocker was welcomed and treated warmly, without hostility by those she met at the ASA meeting. Will she speak here about her non-hostile interpersonal relations during the ASA meeting, or just about how most ASA people view ‘intelligent design’? Those at ASA whom I’ve interacted with have almost always demonstrated grace and restraint, even in the cases or on the topics which we significantly disagree. Surely I agree with Ted that StephenB’s view of ASA is inaccurate and needlessly condemning.

    The funny thing, again, is that if Crocker & her co-IDist there felt ‘hostility,’ it was to their ‘ideology,’ likely not to their person or to their ‘science.’ Suggesting that ID-ideology is inevitably part of ID-science, however, would be taken by ASA members as highly problematic and, indeed, something to warn its members against. Would Crocker accept as valid warnings given against ideology in science?

    In discussions of ideology, as I wrote above, surely some ID-leaders are far more capable of discussion than are those at either BioLogos or ASA, given their specific training in PoS, and not just in natural and applied sciences. ASA’s (partial?) rejection of Total Evolution, i.e. evolutionism as ideology or worldview, should be seen as entirely consistent with DI’s policy and its wedge strategy.


  45. 45
    Ted Davis says:


    There are many ASA members with views similar to yours–exactly how many we do not know, but we know from internal polls that the percentage is substantial. It’s not a “small minority.” However, as ID people leave (which they seem to be doing), apparently frustrated that they have been unable to persuade too many others of their views (see Nick’s post above), their influence will *necessarily* diminish. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, not to put too fine a point on it. Your rhetoric (esp for someone who has never been a member and to the best of my knowledge has never attended a single ASA function) strikes me as something of a whine, frankly: let the ASA reform itself to agree with me, even though I’d never be part of it myself. That is how it comes across to me sometimes, StephenB. Well, if you want to reform something you do it from within.

    There are so many things here unrelated to “Darwinism” that we won’t be able to unpack them adequately, even if I had months to blog–which I don’t. I will simply say that within the ASA there are wide variations among our members on design, common descent, and the historicity of Adam & Eve. Even among the group you single out for attention, there are variations on design and Adam & Eve. Your analytical tools do not allow the possibility to see these, and you have no experiential basis whatsoever to draw any conclusions.

    The way in which you lump these together also fails to account for the fact that, even if no one had ever proposed the main idea of evolution–the common descent of humans and other organisms, leaving natural selection entirely out of this–even if no one had ever proposed this, I say, the question of the historicity of Adam & Eve would have to arise. Genesis presents them as a neolithic couple, with cities and agriculture already present. This puts them within the past roughly 8000 years, which is fully consistent with the Genesis chronologies, but then this leaves a whole group of apparently human individuals (who looked just like us and behaved just like us, and if it looks like a duck…) who preceded them by tens or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of years. I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I don’t recall you noticing; you are too fixed on “Darwinism” and overlook things having nothing directly to do with common descent or natural selection. But, those challenges are there. Those who know the “science and religion” field, vis-a-vis those who focus on “Darwinism” and ID, realize that the landscape is quite a bit larger than what you are seeing.

    Many ASA people, including some in the group you single out, find ways to keep an historical Adam & Eve in this picture; a much smaller number think that is not possible. What seems very hard for me to understand (I do not speak for anyone else) has already been laid out briefly. The issue of Adam, Eve, and an historical fall is independent of “the creative power of natural selection.” You “presume” this connection, as many in our culture do, but the challenge is there independently of anything Darwin ever said. Your presumption is simply flat wrong. Just as the YEC people think that OEC (a view held by many ID people) is “evolution” simply b/c it accepts an “old” earth and universe (a ludicrous view, but one that gets them a lot of support from their wide public following), you think that the historicity of Adam & Eve does not arise independently of “Darwinism” (i.e., common descent and natural selection). It does.

    Please recognize this and incorporate it into your thinking. Put “Darwinism” aside and review some anthropological evidence.

    I will sign off this thread now for awhile, perhaps entirely.

  46. 46
    Freelurker says:

    No, this is something new. The Salem Hypothesis was (originally) about engineers presenting themselves as scientists. This would be about IDists presenting themselves as engineers.

  47. 47
    Timaeus says:


    Thank you for your kind words about my performance in the now-defunct ASA discussion forum, all those many months ago.

    In response to your comment about Dr. Crocker’s experience at the ASA conference, I want to clarify my position. While I think it is wrong to demonize the ASA as such, I am in no way challenging Dr. Crocker’s account of how *some* ASA members have treated ID supporters, OECs, and YECs. Many ASA TEs are particularly reactive against YEC, and think that they see connections between YEC and ID, and therefore take out their hostility against YEC on ID people as well, even though many ID people, such as Michael Behe, have no connection with YEC. I have heard many reports of this hostility, not only from the conference which Dr. Crocker references, but also from the “Dance of Faith and Science” conference which was held a while back. I have also seen this hostility for myself, in uncharitable remarks about creationists made on the old ASA list and by ASA members who post on Biologos. There is a certain constituency within the ASA (I don’t say it is the majority of the members) which encourages or condones derisive remarks against “creationists” or anyone who appears to resemble them.

    While I think that many people who call themselves “creationists” are misguided in their literal understanding of certain parts of the Bible, I think they have the virtue of taking the Bible seriously, unlike so many modern clergymen and theologians and lay intellectuals, who do not seem to hesitate to “rewrite” the Bible and Christian theology in order to make them less offensive to “science” or to the allegedly firm results of historical-critical study of the Bible. What Dr. Crocker is expressing is the concern that within the ASA a certain looseness of commitment to the Bible and to classical Christian theology can be observed. When one remembers that some of the leading lights at Biologos are also active ASA members, her concern is not at all unfounded.

    Of course, Ted Davis is right to point out that the founding statements of the ASA remain as official policy, but Dr. Crocker is concerned less about the nominal beliefs of the organization and more about the attitudes which she finds among some of its members, attitudes which in her view are affecting the institution’s behavior and hence its mission. This is not uncommon among Christian organizations of all types these days, i.e., that a traditional doctrine is affirmed on paper, whereas in practice many non-traditional beliefs are aired without much fear of admonishment for unorthodoxy, and many traditional beliefs are either ignored or openly criticized by members of the organization. Thus, the ASA is not unique in this respect.

    It is certainly reasonable to debate the meaning of Genesis, and a sincere Christian can legitimately argue that Genesis need not be taken as a photographic representation of the process by which the world was created, and that there are ways of putting together creation doctrine with an evolutionary process. Nonetheless, sneering at those who understand Genesis more literally is not a virtuous act for a Christian. Still worse, from a Christian point of view, is any attempt to shut down on legitimate questions raised by YEC, OEC and ID people about the danger that certain forms of evolutionary theory might pose for traditional understandings of God’s providence, omnipotence, etc. Also, the traditional position of Adam in the Pauline understanding is not easy to square with the argument of many ASA biologists about the impossibility of a first human couple, and responses to those who hold the traditional view need to be respectful and theologically thoughtful — but as you will know if you have read some of the Biologos discussions of Adam and Eve, this is not always the case.

    Thus, I see Dr. Crocker’s article as a legitimate protest by one ASA member about the direction in which her organization seems to be moving. At the same time, I agree with Ted Davis that those members who agree with Dr. Crocker cannot simply sit back and complain about the organization. They must get involved and change it. They must get involved in the journal, as writers and assistant editors; they must get involved in planning the annual meetings, and in submitting papers to be read at the annual meetings; they must be on the executive council and on all the committees of the organization; and they must speak up when some members, in speech or in writing, treat other members as intellectual pariahs. If they do not do these things, if they merely complain without acting, the organization will indeed move in exactly the direction they are objecting to.

    This strikes me as an obvious principle which is not enough observed in any aspect of modern life. How many Americans regularly complain that their political culture is too polarized, that Democrats and Republicans interact combatively rather than constructively, that the system in Washington is broken, etc.? Yet how many of those same Americans are involved in building a constructive alternative, i.e., organizing a third political party which could be an alternative to the traditional two? How many of them are involved in producing magazines which transcend traditional left/right politics, and which publish articles which promote sensible, moderate policies, taking the best ideas from the left and from the right? Ultimately, in a democracy, people get the kind of government that they deserve. Democracy is not in itself a guarantee of fairness or equality; democracy is only a guarantee of the opportunity to fight for fairness and equality. If members of democratic organizations (whether those be whole nations, or groups of Christian scientists) take the fatalistic attitude that there is nothing that anyone can do, then of course nothing will ever change.

    I therefore applaud Dr. Crocker for her courage in speaking out, and I urge her to submit scientific articles — whether critiques of Darwinian mechanisms, or arguments for intelligent design — to the ASA journal. I also urge the many silent supporters of Dr. Crocker’s views to get involved in their organization, make their views known, and try to steer the organization back to what they consider to be its proper course. I have heard that as many as a third of the ASA members are ID-sympathetic. If that is the case, then we should see a third of the executive and committee positions occupied by ID people, a third of the journal submissions sent in by ID people, and a third of the conference paper proposals submitted by ID people. If this is not happening, it is not the TE people who are to blame.


  48. 48
    Gregory says:

    Was ‘BioLogos’ not first introduced by F. Collins as a term, rather than as a(n institutional) name?

    Going by the on-line version “The Language of God,” it was first used on p. 197 (2007). It is in that book called a ‘position,’ a ‘perspective’ and an ‘alternative’ (i.e. to ID or YEC) and likened to ‘theistic evolution.’ That seems more to me like a ‘term’ than a ‘name’ (even if it is totally confused ideologically!).

    The institution/organization or ‘name’ called ‘BioLogos Foundation’ came later, did it not?

    What’s the point anyway, Nick? Are you frustrated because ‘intelligent design’ is actually a pretty darn good (no, I am not an IDist) concept duo (despite how some folks abuse it) or because ‘design’ is a legitimate term in many scholarly fields, not including biology?

    If this discussion were *only* about ‘biology’ or the ‘biosphere’ then ‘BioLogos’ (capitals required) would be a suitable name for those many, many people who believe ‘God/Allah/Yahweh’ is/was Creator of Universe (including biosphere), thus allowing space for respectful and even fruitful dialogue btw science, philosophy and theology, would it not? When StephenB claims ‘God did not hide God-self in biology,’ that could just be taken to mean ‘BioLogos,’ could it not?

    Btw, what ‘free country’ are you talking about? This is a global (for those connected) internet discussion. I’m afraid you’re thinking far too small if you mean only-USA.

  49. 49
    StephenB says:

    Ted, I am well aware of the difference between design-driven common descent and Darwinian-driven common descent and the fact that both paradigms have the potential to prompt questions about the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. I am, therefore, glad that you raised the issue so that we can put that misunderstanding to bed. The point of alluding to the Darwinian model is that the latter paradigm provides more motivation to dismiss Biblical teachings because it presumes to know the “how” of evolution and demystifies the “myth” of creation. A more important point, though, is that the Darwinian model rules out the principle of design whereas mainstream arguments for common descent do not.

    In any case, I visited the ASA website yesterday and read parts of four definitive essays on Adam and Eve. Three of them deny their existence as our historical first parents. Of course, four examples do not make a trend, but I think the pattern of 75% against the truth Biblical revelation and 25% for the truth Biblical revelation is representative of the ASA culture. So, I am not sure that the former world view is, as you claim, the minority opinion. Indeed, you seem to question (deny?) the historicity of Adam and Eve yourself, at least that is the way I interpret yourrecent response.

    What does that mean? If I read your right, your faith in speculative science has trumped your faith in no less than two essential and non-negotiable articles of the Christian faith, namely the design of life (Psalms) and the reality of our singular first parents (Genesis). Do you agree with St Paul’s teaching that “through one man sin entered the world?” Surely you can understand why asking me to read more books on anthropology or raising questions about my “analytical tools” will not suffice for an answer.

    Yes, of course the intellectual challenges are there, and that is precisely why we, as Christians, should allow our interpretation of Biblical teachings to tug away at our scientific speculations just as we allow our scientific speculations to tug away at our interpretation of Biblical teachings—except for those non-negotiable Biblical teachings that need no interpretation and, therefore, should not be compromised. If, in your judgment, only those truths contained in the Nicene Creed are binding and that everything written in the Bible unrelated to that creed is up for grabs, then feel free to disclose that information. Naturally, though, I would have one or two more questions.

    With respect to the science, let me summarize the two key points: [a] there is some evidence for common descent, but it is not by any means sufficient to close the case and [b] there is no evidence at all that Darwinistic processes could drive such a process. Put another way, universal common descent may or may not be true, but Darwinism is almost certainly not true. Yet, you seem to accept both arguments without question, which suggests that your faith in the claims of evolutionary biologists has trumped your faith in the aforementioned Biblical truths. It appears, then, that your scientific speculations cause you to question your Biblical theology but your Biblical theology does not cause you to question your scientific speculations.

    This is a very strange mix. On the one hand, you claim accept the proposition that God purposely designed evolution in such a way that the process would eventually produce man, although that design is, in your judgment, not detectable. On the other hand, you also seem to support the Darwinian model as set forth by most evolutionary biologists, which posits an unplanned outcome. If you support arguments for a planned outcome, why are you, as it seems, uncritical of the unplanned model of evolutionary biologists? Or, if you disavow the model of unplanned evolutionary biologists, then why to you accept their claim that design is an illusion, which is a corollary of the Darwinian principle of unguided evolution? Do you really want to say, in the name of Darwinian evolution, that you do not recognize the designed skeletal structure of a bird’s wings? What about the references of the early Church fathers concerning design in biology? Were they promoting a misguided theology because they were ignorant of what Darwin would later say? If so, what else did they get wrong?

    Do you repudiate Darwinian evolution, which is another name for undirected evolution, or are you trying to have it both ways. Design arguments do not challenge common descent; they only challenge Darwinian mechanisms as substitutes for design. Are you aware this fact? There is no doubt that people like Francis Collins have their feet planted firmly and schizophrenically in both camps (design and non-design) yet you speak of him with approval. Accordingly, there is no logical middle ground between a God-designed evolutionary model and the un-designed Darwinian model embraced by most evolutionary biologists. The latter has always been the alternative to the former. Make no mistake, I am not asking you to write ten paragraphs telling me something that I already know, while implying that I don’t know it, or to explain your perception of the history of the debate. I am, rather, asking you to tell me, explicitly and tersely, which side of the debate you are

  50. 50
    StephenB says:

    ..which side of the debate you support.

  51. 51
    Ted Davis says:


    You missed my point *entirely*. You keep missing this point, which I’ve made before.

    I’ll ask it just one more time. Let’s say that evolution *never happened*. Adam and Eve were specially created, such that all human beings are their direct descendants. Did this take place in neolithic times, as Genesis has it? If so, what do you make of all those humans who predated the neolithic period? If not–if this special creation happened tens of thousands of years before the neolithic period, then what do you make of Genesis?

    Please, Stephen, please put “Darwinism” to one side, just for the sake of this example. My question is *not* about “Darwinism,” not in any way. Nor is it about “evolution” of any kind. It’s simply about the antiquity of humanity and the historicity of Adam & Eve.

  52. 52
    Ted Davis says:

    I should illuminate this information for you, Stephen, where you wrote this: “In any case, I visited the ASA website yesterday and read parts of four definitive essays on Adam and Eve. Three of them deny their existence as our historical first parents. Of course, four examples do not make a trend, but I think the pattern of 75% against the truth Biblical revelation and 25% for the truth Biblical revelation is representative of the ASA culture.”

    Let me guess–you took all four of those articles from the famous issue of Sept 2010–am I right? That is, this one:

    (I say “famous” b/c it sold out in advance, including an extra 1000 copies. That’s small potatoes for many magazines, but almost 50% more than we normally print. We could have sold a whole lot more, if we’d anticipated it. Our bad. Hint: there is keen interest in this topic. It’s about time someone talked about it.

    Just so we can interpret this data fairly, Stephen, we should note that two of the four papers were written by ASA members (Jack Collins and Denis Venema). The other two were written by non-members (Dan Harlow and John Schneider). So, of the ASA members in this little sample space (which is, as you say, rather small to generalize from) about half argued for an historical Adam. Incidentally, Stephen, if you would like to submit an article on this topic you certainly can. Just as you can join the ASA, if you’d like to increase the percentage of our members who would identify more with Jack than with Denis. If I’m not mistaken, our annual meeting in 2013 will be within a day’s drive of your home–why not check us out?

  53. 53
    Ted Davis says:

    The papers you put into your sample, Stephen, all came from our 2009 meeting at Baylor. Here is the program:

    I’ve made the point here that there is no bias against having pro-ID papers at our meetings, that if there are few or none it’s b/c few or none were proposed by authors. Anyone who doubts that can take a look at the program and follow the evidence wherever it leads.

  54. 54
    dmullenix says:

    William Dembski: “Walter Bradley contacted me in January or February of 2006, asking me to collect a CV and other supporting materials to propose me as fellow of the ASA. He didn’t spell out a strict deadline, so I sent the supporting materials in, as it turned out, two weeks late. Unfortunately, the deadline was strict and my nomination was put in cold storage — at least so I understood from Walter, who indicated that my nomination would be delayed a year. All the materials were in place to confirm my nomination — so Walter gave me to understand. And yet I was never ratified as a fellow, not the following year, not the three additional years that I still remained an ASA member.”

    That was probably because in the summer of 2007 you published the private telephone numbers and email addresses of the entire Baylor Board of Regents on this blog. That would have been fresh in the minds of the ASA as they reviewed your nomination.

  55. 55
    Joseph says:

    It is obvious that ID has more merit than the current theory of evolution which cannot produce a testable hypothesis nevermind positive evidence.

  56. 56
    Joseph says:

    Hey Ted,

    Why can’t it be that humans of today of evolved versions of the original Adam & Eve? IOW evolution happens but it has limits- just as YECs say.

  57. 57
    Joseph says:

    Have there been any blind watchmaker papers at your meetings? That is papers that demonstrate the alleged powers of blind, undirected chemical processes?

  58. 58
    Ted Davis says:


    Richard Dawkins has never been one of our speakers, so I think the answer is NO.

    The adjectives “blind, undirected” are not likely to be used by most of our members, with regard to any natural phenomena, except in a very limited sense.

    For Christians (such as our members), nature is a *creation* that would not exist at all without divine intention. That limits the sense in which it would be appropriate to speak about “blind, undirected” processes of any sort, whether chemical, physical, or biological. Does it not?

    Now, for sure, a whole lot of our members probably like to think of a whole lot of natural processes as taking place without placing a mind into those processes, at the level of giving a scientific description. For example, did it rain yesterday b/c the particles of the air directed themselves to form storm clouds? Did it rain yesterday b/c God intended it to? Those are very different questions, I think you’ll grant, and the scientific question doesn’t introduce purpose. I suspect that everyone in the ID camp would think about those particles without bringing a purpose into the scientific description. Or, am I mistaken?

  59. 59
    Joseph says:


    Thanks for your response.

    The current theory of evolution posits blind, undirected chemical processes- natural selection is blind/ purposelesss/ mindless and the mutations are all said to be undirected chemical processes.

    That is why I asked- IOW it isn’t just a Dawkins thing.

    But anyway this is off-topic and I apologize- I also need to read more about the ASA….

  60. 60
    StephenB says:

    Ted, I have no opinion about whether the ASA is reluctant to accept ID papers because I have no experience with that organization. I do believe, though, based on numerous reports, that the Christian Darwinist culture is predominant, which would indicate that there are more members in that group who deny the teaching of the literal existence of Adam and Eve than those who accept it. For me, that point is more decisive than any impression I received from my spot check, which, as I stated, may or may not reflect the correct proportions. So, it is not necessary for you to spend a lot of time trying to convince me that my spot check may not reflect the correct proportions, if you get my drift.

    My abbreviated answer to your question would be this:

    If we accept the findings of physical anthropology and molecular biology, the first “human” species appeared in Africa about 150,000 years ago. According to that scenario, it was the gradual increase in brain size that caused the transition from sub-human species to homo sapiens. As the story goes, the human population was never smaller than 10,000 or some such number. I question this account for several reasons, but I do, nevertheless, think it can be reconciled with Genesis.

    According to the Bible, though, there was an original pair of humans. Thus, in order to reconcile Scripture with the scientific evidence presented by experts, we would have to assume that God, in some fashion, planted a spiritual soul into a pre-existing species, which was human in every other way except for the critical powers of intellect and will, and that He was, through that act, and in that sense, creating Adam and Eve.

    Meanwhile, my questions for you persist:

    [A] Do you believe in an historical Adam and Eve and that through one man sin was introduced into the world or do you not?

    [B] Do you accept as binding only those truths contained in the Nicene Creed, and consider everything written in the Bible unrelated to that creed up for grabs, such as the teaching on the detectable design in nature, including biological design?

    [C] We know that your scientific speculations cause you to question certain Biblical teachings. Are there any Biblical teachings that cause you to question your scientific speculations, or is it a one way street?

    [D] If, as you say, you believe that God planned or directed evolution, why do you not repudiate the unplanned undirected Darwinian evolutionary model as proposed by the majority of evolutionary biologists?

    [E] Are you trying to have it both ways?

    [F] If, indeed, you do disavow the model of unplanned evolutionary biologists, then why to you accept their claim that design is an illusion, which is a corollary of the Darwinian principle of unguided evolution?

    [G] Do you recognize the design inherent in the structure of a bird’s wings?

    [H] What do you have to say about the references of the early Church fathers concerning design in biology? Were they promoting a misguided theology because they were ignorant of what Darwin would later say? If so, what else did they get wrong?

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    As an amendment to [D] I would also ask if you repudiate the unplanned Darwinian model as proposed by Theistic Evolutionists, such as Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne, and the have-it-both-ways approach of Theistic Evolutionists such as Francis Collins.

  62. 62
    Ted Davis says:


    You’re asking me to do a lot here, by way of responding to a whole series of questions, some of which I believe I did in fact address at other times on this site. I won’t reply to most of your questions in detail here; it would take me many hours to delineate my views in a way that would satisfy me for accuracy and nuance you for specificity. Your request is appropriate, but I am not at the same point in life as you; I have a day job and family concerns, neither of which I can ignore, as much as I might want to devote many more hours to this. Nevertheless, I will offer an answer to the same question you have now answered. Fair is fair.

    Here is what you say:

    “If we accept the findings of physical anthropology and molecular biology, the first “human” species appeared in Africa about 150,000 years ago. According to that scenario, it was the gradual increase in brain size that caused the transition from sub-human species to homo sapiens. As the story goes, the human population was never smaller than 10,000 or some such number. I question this account for several reasons, but I do, nevertheless, think it can be reconciled with Genesis.

    According to the Bible, though, there was an original pair of humans. Thus, in order to reconcile Scripture with the scientific evidence presented by experts, we would have to assume that God, in some fashion, planted a spiritual soul into a pre-existing species, which was human in every other way except for the critical powers of intellect and will, and that He was, through that act, and in that sense, creating Adam and Eve.”

    I appreciate your reply very much. We have a lot of common ground, Stephen, more than you may have realized. My sense is that you do not really accept the science as described in the first of these two paragraphs; that’s fine, you need to say what you think. I don’t take those conclusions as rock solid–in this as in many areas of science, things are likely to be different in 5 or 10 years, at least in some important details. However, I think it’s very well established that genuinely human creatures have been here for at least many tens of thousands of years, far longer than the traditional few thousand years in Genesis. I believe that, if all of those creatures were biological descendants of Adam & Eve, then Adam & Eve could not have existed in a neolithic culture. Thus, it is hard for me to see how the couple presented in Genesis are actually the biological ancestors of all humans.

    So, how do I put this together? First, let me note our most important point of commonality: we both think that Adam & Eve are very important theologically, and we both think that science does not contradict this. We probably differ on what constitutes a satisfactory understanding of an “historical” Adam & Eve, but to be honest I am not certain that we differ even on that. What you say indicates to me that one does need to engage in some hermeneutical work to get to a workable solution: we entirely agree about that. What you have not said, however, I must still insist on saying: leaving “Darwinism” and design completely out of this, there is still a challenge from human antiquity. The genetics *sharpens* our picture of this; evidence for (IMO) common descent sharpens our picture of this. But, the picture is still there, and clearly enough to see the hermeneutical challenge. A large number of traditional Christians (I think you know this) would find your proffered solution (God implanting a soul into a creature that otherwise had evolved) completely unacceptable; in their view, you would have let science trump the Bible. You would have caved in unforgiveably to “Darwinism” for even considering such a thing. You have of course spoken favorably of the official Roman Catholic position on this; you are a Catholic, so this is not surprising.

    What might be surprising is the number of people I have met in the ASA who resonate with that view, or something close to it, including probably some whom you would otherwise think of as “Darwinists.” What all such views have in common is the same uncertainty evident in your answer: *If* A is the case, *then* we would have to say B. There simply is no given answer to this question on the part of the “Christian Darwininist” for whom you have so much contempt. They don’t know, either, Stephen, exactly how to put this picture together with full confidence. Nor do I. I don’t think you can fairly expect more of them (or me) than you expect of yourself.

    More coming.

  63. 63
    StephenB says:

    “You’re asking me to do a lot here, by way of responding to a whole series of questions…”

    Maybe so.

    I think I can simplify matters a bit with following categorical description.

    CHRISTIAN DIRECT CREATION (Rational: compatible with Scripture and Intelligent Design)

    Adam and Eve are created in finished form, body and soul
    Created design is detectable.

    CHRISTIAN THEISTIC EVOLUTION (Rational: compatible with Intelligent Design)

    The bodies of Adam and Eve evolve from the bottom up, but their spiritual souls are implanted from the top down.

    Evolutionary design is detectable.

    Evolution is designed with an end in mind.

    The arrival of man was inevitable.

    CHRISTIAN DARWINISM (Irrational: Incompatible with Intelligent Design and Scripture)

    Both body and soul evolve from the bottom up, meaning that spiritual, immaterial minds evolve from matter. (This is impossible because spirit is unchangeable while matter is always changing. That which is always changing cannot become unchangeable).

    Evolutionary design in not detectable.

    Evolution does not know where it is going.

    The finished product (man) was an accident and could have been different.

  64. 64
    StephenB says:

    So, my question for you can be simplified in the following way:

    Which of the last two categories (Traditional Theistic Evolution or Contemporary Christian Darwinism) do you identify with and, if it is Traditional Theistic evolution, why do you not repudiate Christian Darwinism?

    More concise and focused than this I cannot be.

  65. 65
    Ted Davis says:

    To get more specific on the details–as you obviously want me to–I can only point to various accounts by individual people that do not offer any clear single answer. Some of the options presented keep an “historical” Adam, in senses that the authors find meaningful, and perhaps you would also in a given case. You yourself speak about God “creating” humanity “in that sense,” which as I have already said does not make a satisfactory view for many Christians. I’ll list below five accounts by individual “Christian Darwinists” and let folks consult them as they see fit, to document my claim that there is no [single] view about an historical Adam & Eve among this group that you seem to be seeing as if it were a monolith–the way in which you typically (IMO) treat advocates of TE. (You don’t see TE as a “big tent,” even though it’s just as much of one as ID is.)

    (1) In Keith Miller’s book (readers please note, Keith Miller and Ken Miller are different people), “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation,” the essay by James Hurd, “Hominids in the Garden?” reviews three different scenarios: “Ex nihilo,” “Like Father Like Son,” and “Early Origin.” Each has its scientific and/or theological problems, but any of them might be satisfactory to you; it is not for me to say. Not available free on-line (a lot of TE material is in printed books or academic journals that have firewalls, so the diversity of opinion among advocates of TE is not as readily visible as it otherwise would be).

    (2) Same book, the essay by David Wilcox, “Finding Adam: The Genetics of Human Origins.” Presents the standard “out of Africa” scientific view and hedges his bets on how to understand it in terms of Adam & Eve–we can’t demonstrate any specific view as yet, he basically says, and he leaves it an open question.

    (3) Same book, the essay by non-ASA member and former Discovery Institute fellow Robin Collins, “Evolution and Original Sin.” This one doesn’t deal very much with anthropology, but it does tackle the title topic head on, including the crucial biblical texts in some detail. I recommend this one especially to you, Stephen. I can’t give a 3-minute version; I can say only that I like his “Historical/Ideal” view better than any of the other options I’ve seen. So, if you want to see my own view, you’ll go read this. If you want to start a separate thread about it after studying it, that might be a great conversation to have; perhaps (perhaps) I could persuade Robin to say something in it, but I make no promises. Although Robin is not an ASA member and is well known for his work on design, he would probably also call himself a TE. Neither he nor I presently sees those terms (TE and ID) as mutually exclusive, although I have the impression that you, Denyse, Karl Giberson, and many others do see it that way. I won’t try to have that conversation here and now; I’ll just point it out.

    (4) Denis Alexander’s article: (but be sure to see all four parts). Denis is well known here; he’s not an ASA member (rather he’s a member of the British equivalent, CiS), but he would have a good following among ASA members in the group you identify. I won’t summarize this since everyone can access it for themselves.

    (5) Dean Arnold, “How Do Scientific Views on Human Origins Relate to the Bible?” in “Not Just Science,” edited by former ASA President Dot Chappell. Arnold, an anthropologist, was recently elected a Fellow of the ASA. I can’t say for sure what his view is on ID, but my sense from this article is that he’s probably an OEC and not a TE. Again, I’m not sure about this interpretation of his work–why not read it and draw your own conclusions? He probably does not belong to the group you are worried about, but as a recently elected Fellow I think you can assume that he’s well respected within the ASA.

    I’ve done my best to answer your question [A], the same one I posed to you, Stephen. I’m sure it won’t be hard for you to find a copy of Miller’s book–perhaps you already have one–and read the view that presently makes the most sense to me (that by Collins). All of these writers have thought about this more carefully than I have; I have no original thoughts to add to theirs.

    Your other questions, some of which I’ve answered elsewhere, will have to wait for another time, since I really have no time now to answer them as carefully as I would like.

  66. 66
    Ted Davis says:

    I’m sorry, Stephen, you’re too late. I spent the last 90 minutes answering your first question, and I have to let this thread go now.

  67. 67
    Ted Davis says:

    I forgot to mention a the book by Peter Enns, “The Evolution of Adam,” that is forthcoming from Brazos Press this winter. The basics of Pete’s view are probably known to you already, Stephen, and I would guess that you don’t see it his way. (Pete is not an ASA member, and I don’t know how much of a following he will have among our members. I like his work a lot.) However, IMO serious conversation about the Bible and evolution among evangelicals has been a long time in coming, despite efforts by many in the ASA and elsewhere to foster a conversation of that sort. I called for just this here: http://evanevodialogue.blogspo.....emics.html. Feel free to comment on that essay in this thread even though I will be unable to participate for most of the next week.

  68. 68
    Curt says:

    I decided that after over 42 years of membership, ASA has drifted from its original purpose– so I can no longer support the ASA. This has been a gradual change and I have been patient to see if would improve. My eye design web site has much evidence for a Creator–Designer-God. There are about 9 design themes of eye design where any kind of evolution would not have a credible answer in crossing over from one design theme to another. Also science is limited in answering questions regarding the creation of life, value of life, moral absolutes, purpose, immortality, etc. As science learns more we gain more appreciation of the complexity of materials, design of life, and the absurdity of life without God. It has been an interesting trip, but I must put my time and resources into something I firmly believe in.

  69. 69
    Gregory says:

    Ted, I’m so glad you raise PEC 3 times in one post! I spent part of the summer reading it. The book is quite obviously ‘heterodox’ and philosophically naïve, exactly in the sections you name. It will be a pleasure to explore this in public here and elsewhere. Comments on and quotes from PEC wrt A&E will follow.

    Thanks, Gr.

    p.s. after D. Alexander ok’d (i.e. allowed his name to be put on) the amazingly sophomoric definition of ‘Darwinism’ as simply ‘the theory of evolution by natural selection’ at BioLogos, which has now been removed, I’d say he’s lost some credibility due to his apparent ignorance of the ideologies involved, even if he can ‘speak current biology’ and faithfully ‘lay out’ the ‘options’ about A&E. Not having an opinion (e.g. D. Falk) doesn’t count much for credit in this discourse.

  70. 70
    Gregory says:

    Ted, There was not a single philosopher present in the book “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation,” (2003) ed. K. Miller. You know this. Does it not worry you in any way or lead you to think that something might thus be missing in your (collective TE/EC) approach?

    I found the anthropoogy there appalling and primitive, while your Chapter 3 paper was safely orthodox, historical and uncontroversial. No problem with what you wrote in that volume, Ted, only with what others wrote there.

    Quotes from PEC:
    “If Adam lived at the time of the Neolithic, how should we classify the pre-Adamic forms so abundant in the fossil record? If they walked like humans, worked like humans, and worshipped like humans, were they not human? Did they not have godness?” – J. Hurd (224)

    “It is not necessary for us all to be biological descendents of Christ for Christ to redeem us.” – J. Hurd (226)

    “certainly by the time of the UP, humans had a God-consciousness; they had spirit.” – J. Hurd (230)

    ‘Certainly,’ really?! As ‘certain’ as that we should even call those creatures Hurd casually refers to as ‘humans’?

    “Human: A folk category, not a scientific classification. The roughly equivalent scientific term is Homo sapiens.” – J. Hurd (231)

    Check this closely, ladies and gentleman: there *can be* no ‘science’ of humans, according to Hurd! So his classification of ‘humans’ in the previous quotation is based, not on science, but on __________?

    David Wilcox:
    Quoting Warfield: “It is to theology, as such, a matter of entire indifference how long man has existed on the earth.” – (1932)

    Theological indifference, perhaps this should be further explored?

    “it would seem that they really did live – these creatures that are ‘in the middle’ between the apes and ourselves. Who or what were they? It’s not easy to say.” – Wilcox (236)

    ‘They really did live.’ But…as it looks now, Wilcox is ‘in the middle’ between heterodox and orthodox. As an evangelical Protestant, who does Wilcox answer to about the reliability of his ‘scientific’ opinion? Again, you seem to want to trust biologists to answer anthropology questions. Why?

    “Certainly, God breathing spiritual life into Adam is not an event that we can expect to see in the fossil record.” – Wilcox (253)

    You still have not answered StephenB’s question: was it a real-historical event, Ted, in YOUR opinion? PEC uses verbs mystically when speaking of Adam’s actions. Reminds one of W.J. Clinton’s evasive “that depends on what ‘is’ is.”

    “It does suggest the sudden appearance of modern humanity, but questions the idea of a single pair.” – Wilcox

    Yes, it does, doesn’t it?! The questionig seems to be the view Ted and his ASA institution are now promoting. ‘What if’…no single pair, no direct intervention, no ‘miracle’ in the creation of ‘modern humans’ (as the palaeontologists call us). Well then, what if God didn’t make human beings in God’s image either? ASA should be (in a) free (country) to ask this question, even if Rome and Constantinople would reprimand them for it.

    “the choice to speak of ‘the soul’ or ‘soulishness’ is a matter of semantics and preference. I have argued that soulishness is a human attribute that has emerged from complex brain processes.” – Warren Brown (523)

    So ‘soul’ is not something ‘real’ or ‘historical’ either, according to PEC and its particular evangelical PoS; it is ‘just semantics’?! (Now time to remind that ‘soul’ is not the same as ‘spirit,’ and dance away?)

    Please excuse, but this sounds more ‘wishy-washy’ than ‘scientific’. So much for PEC’s ‘scientific authority’ – it looks more like a reactionary attempt to ‘shake evangelicals’ from their under-education (which, of course, as a basic idea is applaudable).

    No comment on Ted’s referral to Enns.

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    Ted, meaning no disrespect, but you did not answer any of my questions. You simply responded to my answer to one of your questions.

    I tried to provide direction and make it much easier by intergrating all of my concerns into one, unified question, one which could have been answered in one tenth of the time that you invested answering a question that I didn’t ask.

    There are serious logical problems inherent in the irrational Christian Darwinist formulation, and those problems are intensified by those who hold that world view in the name of Traditional Theistic Evolution, an entirely different world view that happens to be rational.

  72. 72
    StephenB says:

    Sorry Ted, but you did answer question #1. I appreciate it and apologize for hurriedly reading over it. Perhaps we can take up the broader issue next time, especially the logical problems inherent in the CD framework and how you might try to provide a rational justification for. I don’t think it is possible.


  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    I do, think, however, that Gregory has a point about your unwillingness to address the historical Adam and Eve.

  74. 74
    StephenB says:

    Curt, thank you for confirming the point as a former insider.

  75. 75
    Gregory says:

    In a single question, Ted:
    How (or why) do you imagine ‘God breathed spiritual life into Adam’ in a non-temporal framework?

    How can this ‘event’ that you acknowledge, possibly have happened ‘outside of time,’ within your TE perspective?

    It is baffling to me how a Christian could imagine this, so I am asking you out of geniune wonder, Ted.

    If you believe it without ‘knowing’ or because it is absurd, that is a fine answer. I don’t expect a ‘scientific explanation.’

  76. 76
    Ted Davis says:


    I’m afraid it’s difficult for me to think of anything by Robin Collins as being “philosophically naive.” Apparently you missed the obvious fact that Collins is a leading philosopher of science and also a philosopher of religion. If you don’t know this, then I am inclined to doubt your judgment throughout your comments here.

  77. 77
    Ted Davis says:


    It’s not apparent that you even looked at the Collins essay in PEC, which I cited as the option I regarded as the best I’ve seen thus far. As for Wilcox, you are correct that he’s a biologist rather than an anthropologist; he’s a geneticist, to be precise–an appropriate discipline to weigh in on this issue.

    You include a quotation above taken from B.B. Warfield (obviously from a posthumous edition of one of his works, since he died in 1921) as if it had no significance. Warfield was an author of the Princeton doctrine of inerrancy; in other words, theologically he was pretty darn conservative, although the YEC somehow imagine that he was a flaming liberal. (The Creation Museum in Cincinnati regards Warfield and his colleague Charles Hodge as “compromisers” for accepting an old earth, blaming them ultimately for the decline of Princeton Seminary. I cannot recall seeing a better example of being out to lunch than this.) The significance of that quotation is the astonishing degree to which someone as orthodox as Warfield allowed the principle that Adam & Eve could have been as far back as 200,000 years without a challenge to the Bible. He actually thought that 20,000 years was all that science warranted, but any date you wanted could be made consistent with the incomplete genealogies in Genesis, in his opinion–so far back that any idea of a neolithic couple is obviously obliterated. This does seem a bit out lunch as well. Once you go back past the neolithic, what’s the point in trying to harmonize with Genesis anyway? I think Wilcox is simply saying, why bother with a specific date? What matters is the theology, not the details of the history.

    (Warfield was heavily influenced by his friend, William Henry Green:

    In general, Gregory, when we’ve exchanged thoughts on other occasions I have often found myself unable to understand you at all. This is not meant as an explicit or implicit slam; it’s just a statement that our minds work so very differently, it’s as though we were each speaking languages unintelligible to the other. IMO, the “imago dei” is a concept, not a clearly defined thing that God gives us, such as a “soul” or “spirit.” I very much doubt that the Hebrews understood it to be a “thing” either; I believe they thought it was *who* we are, not an aspect of *what* we are. As Fosdick said once (and I know I’m quoting a “modernist” theologian, which I don’t normally do with approval, but he was right on this), “Origins prove nothing in the realm of values.”

  78. 78
    Timaeus says:


    Since Ted has retired from the thread, perhaps I can jump in and help here.

    The question you are asking Ted in #30 above is an important one, but I think Ted is trying to get you to focus on a narrower and less cosmic question, i.e., how does one interpret the Bible?

    Let me summarize the case that many have made against the “ASA reading” of the Bible. (And bear in mind what I’ve written above, that there is no “ASA reading,” but only the reading of individual ASA members, many of whom are OEC or ID people.) This reading of the Bible is accused of being liberal, heretical, unorthodox, a sell-out to scientism, etc. On what grounds? Apparently, that it puts science above the Bible. Well, I think that sometimes individual TEs (whether they belong to the ASA or not) are guilty of this — certainly we never see TEs calling for science to be adjusted to fit the Bible; it’s always the other way around. Yet I think it is too simple to leave matters this way.

    What Ted is trying to point out is that “the” teaching of the Bible is often not completely clear. A given passage or story may have several possible interpretations. In such cases, if some interpretations clash with what seems to be the best available science, it would make sense to pick one of the interpretations that doesn’t clash with the science.

    So, for example, if we take the genealogies in Genesis literally, we have Adam and Eve, parents of the whole human race, living approximately 4,000 B.C. But genetics, and the physical research of archeologists and paleontologists, indicate that the first parents of the human race couldn’t have been that recent. So many Biblical interpreters, especially TEs, have suggested an approach something like the one you have suggested: maybe Adam and Eve weren’t the first biological parents of all human beings, but were the first truly human being, i.e., the first hominids to be “in the image of God.” Adam and Eve thus became the “federal heads” (I believe that is the jargon some of the TEs use these days) of the race, and therefore, when they “fell” in 4,000 B.C. or thereabouts, the race fell with them; but there were other physically human hominids before them.

    But note that this proposal, which you appear to endorse as a legitimate one, and which many TEs like, plays fast and loose with the traditional understanding of Christianity. No one thought that Adam and Eve were only “federal heads” before. Every Christian interpreter understood them to be the literal parents of the race (based on Paul’s remarks) *until* modern scientific and historical study appeared to make that impossible. In other words, both you and the TEs have in fact adjusted the traditional Christian interpretation of Genesis in order to accommodate science. So if the TEs are “selling out” to liberalism and scientism and heresy, so are you, in your suggestion. But is it “selling out” to try to find an alternate reading of the Bible that makes sense in the light of modern science? Is it “selling out” to read the passages in the Bible which appear to imply that the earth is immobile in the light of what we now know, i.e., that the earth moves? Or is it reasonable and permissible for faithful Christians to do this?

    As a Catholic, you are not committed to absolute literalism regarding Genesis. Rome has granted that there may be figurative elements in the Garden story, for example. If there can be figurative elements there, perhaps there can be elsewhere. Perhaps the genealogies, for example, have figurative rather than literal significance. Perhaps we can allow tens of thousands of years between Adam and us, on the assumption that the genealogies in the Bible were stylized and not meant to be read as an accurate set of parish records, at least, not prior to the time of Abraham.
    If we can allow such a length of time, then the problem posed by the existence of modern human beings 10,000 or 100,000 years ago is no longer a problem. If we could have a first couple, ancestral to all modern human beings, and made in the image of God, that lived in 100,000 B.C. rather than 4,000 B.C., would that compromise anything essential to Christian faith? I’m not sure that it would. And it wouldn’t even require your adjustment of adding the “image” to a pre-existing race of hominids. The “image” might have come into being with the first physical humans, 100,000 years ago or so.

    More problematic is the population genetics argument that the earliest single couple that could have been ancestral to all human beings couldn’t have lived even as recently as 100,000 years ago, but would have lived something like 6 million years ago, and would have been pre-human. Such a couple would not have been Adam and Eve, made in the image of God. So if we accept the “science” there, we must either say that Adam and Eve never existed, or adopt a solution like the one you propose, i.e., that God endowed a biologically human pair with the spiritual essence of human beings much later on. But note that both of these answers have been adopted by Christians. Denis Lamoureux, a Pentecostal who accepts not only the Resurrection but all the Biblical miracles and contemporary miracles as well, thinks that Adam and Eve are mythical and were never intended to be taken literally. Other TEs go with your “federal head” notion. Is it obvious that Lamoureux is “selling out” and that the “federal head” people are more orthodox? I don’t think so.

    True, Lamoureux’s view has no basis in Christian tradition. But neither does the “federal head” view. *Both* views can be regarded as “selling out” to science, as letting Christian theology be modified by science.

    But what is our alternative? To deny the evidence of genetics, and thus deny the conclusion that a first set of parents couldn’t have been human? Well, it is possible that the inferences of the geneticists are wrong, but that puts a heavy burden on Christian apologists. They then have to become master geneticists and show that the scientific consensus is wrong. Is that what you would recommend, that Christians plant their feet on the assertion that the calculations of the geneticists are wrong — must be wrong — because the Christian tradition insists otherwise? But then, what if it turns out that the consensus of the geneticists is right? Does Christian faith then fall? Is there no alternative but to risk Christianity itself on the gamble that the geneticists have made an error?

    I’m not taking sides here, Stephen. I’m pointing out the complexity of the matter. And I haven’t even touched on another aspect of the complexity — the interpretation of Paul’s statements on the Fall. What if those statements are not historically meant, as the tradition has assumed? So what I am saying is: the TEs *can* be interpreted as “selling out,” but that isn’t the only possible interpretation. They *can* be interpreted as doing what all Christians always do — trying to make the Bible make sense in the light of all the rest of our knowledge.

    Is it heretical to demand an integrated body of truth — a common truth shared by science and theology — about the past? If it is, then the only truly Christian position on Adam and Eve would be something like that of Todd Wood, who schizophrenically asserts that the evolutionary view has the best scientific argument, but that Christians should not accept it anyway, but should prefer the Biblical view, on faith. So he pits faith against science, religious loyalty against reason. The warfare view, all over again. I can’t believe that you, Stephen, a Catholic with respect for the Catholic tradition of reason in theology, would go for that schizophrenia. I think that you, like Ted Davis, are looking for an integrated view, that harmonizes the essence of the teaching of the Bible with the best science, without compromising on the essence of Christian revelation. And this is Ted’s point — that it’s not sinful, wicked or liberal to look for such an integrated view. So it’s not sinful, wicked or liberal to revisit the Bible and inquire whether certain passages might bear some non-traditional (but still textually respectful) interpretation.

    I agree with you completely, Stephen, about the theoretical incoherence of much of what goes by the name of theistic evolution. But Ted is not here defending TE per se. He is asking you to grant what you have already in fact granted, i.e., that Biblical interpretation that harmonizes with the best science is not *necessarily* “selling out.” It can be, but it need not be.


  79. 79
    Gregory says:

    The main problem in our misunderstanding, Ted, seems to be that you wish to reject the Catholic-Orthodox view of A&E as real, historical persons, while I do not. Or maybe it is not that you ‘wish to reject,’ but rather that, priority-wise, ‘given the genetics,’ you’ve decided that you simply *must* reject it? If the latter, this is precisely the charge others here have spoken to you and I’ll leave it to them to do a better job at it than I have, given your expression of finding my writing ‘unintelligible.’

    If you find yourself unable to understand me, Ted, then go back to ‘the’ Catholic-Orthodox view of A&E and it will speak much more powerfully and clearly than I do writing at this blog. Your position is hard to understand and unnecessary from (within) that perspective, but you know this already and acknowledged as much to StephenB – “You are a Catholic” Christian who shares the “official view”. Whether you and I share the same native tongue or not, Ted, is irrelevant, since the ‘official view’ one way or another navigates us both.

    Might it be that the Catholic-Protestant/Evangelical divide in USAmerica is even greater than the ‘science-religion’ divide generally and if not, then how to show this? It sure seems to inform much of the debate there, viewed from the outside.

    Warfield’s view about ‘theological indifference’ is not insignificant. I don’t find it authoritative, while you seem to elevate it above the teachings of the Vatican and the Orthodox churches on A&E. Such an ‘atemporal’ theology of indifference wrt human history sounds strange to me, but seems welcome to you. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that and you’ll continue to Protest your ‘right’ to hold that view.

    I stand corrected; Robin Collins is the lone philosopher in PEC. My memory has failed again (fallible child that I am!), since I took no notes from his paper (which can be found on-line here: He presents a theological philosophy on “Evolution and Original Sin” similar to that of Lutheran physicist-minister George Murphy. I read the paper in PEC, but missed the philosophy link.

    Thanks for drawing attention to him as “the best I’ve seen thus far.” I do value your views, Ted, and it is noteworthy to me that you place this emphasis on R. Collins’ position on this topic. I did notice your reference to him above, but he has not been on my radar. He will be now. Perhaps he is more important in the ‘ID-evolution’ conversation, especially inside USA, than I realized, especially given his previous affiliation with DI? There are ship-jumpers and new converts from/to DI, ASA and BioLogos – it’s hard to keep up, especially from far away!

    “Once you go back past the neolithic, what’s the point in trying to harmonize with Genesis anyway?” – Ted Davis

    Touché. How would StephenB answer this? The Neolithic sounds like a harmonious place for A&E and their Garden. Living in a City today need not lead one to doubt this Garden, Ted, though it may be harder to remember when living with concrete all around. Abraham’s ‘real, historical’ parents are even outside the realm of possibility for some TE/ECs, just as are real, historical A&E.

    “I think Wilcox is simply saying, why bother with a specific date? What matters is the theology, not the details of the history.” – Ted Davis

    Who precisely is advocating a ‘specific date’ – are you arguing with Bishop Usher’s shadow as it still haunts Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals, rather than with the current sociological situation? Indeed, much of the thrust against ID in ASA can be explained as a reaction to YECism, an ideology that many TE/ECs have ‘overcome’ in their personal lives & now vehemently fight against.

    Yes, on this topic theology of course matters, but not in a vacuum as you propose it. Anthropology, psychology, economia, culture, society, etc. matter too, Ted! To these fields, a date of some kind, general or specific, *is* important (at least for Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha’is employed therein) and it is of course open to debate, just as it has been debated in biology. Why do you persist in promoting ahistorical theology about ‘the creation of man’, when this ‘anthropic’ history matters to other fields, fields containing knowledge which may cause you to change you views on ‘the power of genetics’ as the primary field in which to ‘scientifically’ address A&E?

    If you can think of a more integrative, inclusive approach to global humanity today than addressing an ‘anthropic/Adamic’ principle (outside of natural-physical sciences), then please name it. My ears are open! This may be a new direction for you, aside and differing from the American physics/cosmological ‘anthropic principle,’ but it may be worth entertaining.

    I find your privileging of genetics unnecessary, Ted – witness how you laud Wilcox’s suitability as biologist on this topic – and your definitions of ‘human,’ just as are Hurd’s, unsatisfactory and highly partial. Where you diverge from accepting an ‘anthropic/Adamic’ principle is where I embrace it.

    You and I would agree, Ted, if you would go further, saying “The ‘imago dei’ is a concept…” describing a ‘historical reality.’ Your linguistic approach seems to discount the reality, while the Catholic and Orthodox approach embraces that reality wrt A&E. This is the main ‘gap’ in understanding between us. Nothing that I am saying about A&E is new; what you and your PEC colleagues (and perhaps this should be taken as ‘the current majority ASA non-consensus view’ also?) are proposing is indeed, a radical (heterodox) departure from what R. Collins calls ‘tradition.’

    Questioning whether or not it is a ‘thing’ is unnecessary; if we agree it is *who* we are then does that not make it also a historical reality?

    The R. Collins piece in PEC to me sounds like W.J. Clinton philosophy, Ted – “that depends on what ‘is’ is.” I can see how you would find so much value in it; maybe this is what counts as ‘normal philosophy’ in your circles. A verb the way Collins uses it is not a verb in the common sense. He contorts history the way he writes; sometimes ‘is’ means ‘is’ and at other times it means something else.

    I stand by what I wrote, with a clarification: PEC is based on a naïve philosophy ‘of science’ (PoS). Loren Haarsma actually still writes there (2003!) about “the scientific method” as if there was a single monolithic way of ‘doing science’ in all of its current-day manifestations. Do you agree with Haarsma that there is a ‘single scientific method,’ Ted? Now, after reading more a bit more of R. Collins and re-skimming his PEC paper, he would not agree with Haarsma (or with Falk) about the notion of there being only a single ‘scientific method.’ Why then did R. Collins not review the book and correct the Haarsma’s and others’ outdated approach?

    That said, there is much good in the book, imho, in terms of its aims to help Christians learn and understand what scientists who are ‘believers’ have discovered…and how that relates to their religious faith. It is the faulty PoS in PEC that I am focussing on and which I find unacceptable.

    Since ‘heterodox’ views about A&E in your approach seem insignificant or even impossible (the latter, which may be over-reaching to make a point, thou), the discussion cannot proceed any further than where PEC has already gone. You’d prefer to believe in a real, historical A&E, but can’t see in our ‘scientific age’ how that is possible. End of story.

    To Fosbury flop (or Brill Bend) your Fosdick: “Processes prove nothing in the realm of origins.” Your PEC friends and colleagues hype the process and hiccup the origin. I guess that strategy has its place too. But I don’t find it to be a balanced or sustainable one in the end. Maybe it is a necessary reaction in the face of hyper-origins approaches and the persistence of YECism in your dialogue circles; it smacks of the ideology of ‘scientism’ in the more mature PoS circles that I am trained in.

    So, ID is mainly interested in ‘origins’ and TE/EC is mainly interested in ‘processes’ (while we forget about YECism as an ideology of the past). Does this partly explain why the two groups find it hard to see eye to eye?

    Respectfully Yours,
    p.s. the duo ‘Christian Darwinist,’ dated to very recently, seems more like an inquisitional device than one that most people will take seriously. It is an ID-centric self-display of ignorance in a post-Darwinian age. Even the freaky-fly geneticist D. Venema seems to back away from, or just not to answer, whether or not he considers himself a ‘Darwinist’. So the label seems more like a tarring tactic & a witch hunt rather than a helpful attempt at dialogue, as neither StephenB nor I question whether or not Venema is a(n evangelical) Christian. If you prefer this approach, then just carry on with UD-ASA bashing and worsen the general TE/EC-ID discord.

    p.p.s. this message was written before reading Timaeus’ recent post to StephenB, which contains obvious overlaps as well as distinct views.

  80. 80
    Gregory says:

    “Many ASA TEs are particularly reactive against YEC, and think that they see connections between YEC and ID, and therefore take out their hostility against YEC on ID people as well, even though many ID people, such as Michael Behe, have no connection with YEC.” – Timaeus

    Is there a place where ID states its approach to the ideology of YEC? Does it hold a doctrine of ‘appeasement’ between geological and cosmologial sciences and biblical literalist ideology?

    I am not condoning hostility. It would be helpful if the IDM could take a stand against ‘young earth’. But given the high percentage of US citizens who ‘believe’ young earth ideology, it seems to me they are forced to have no official position. Catholic-Orthodox tradition has accepted ‘old earth.’

    “While I think that many people who call themselves “creationists” are misguided in their literal understanding of certain parts of the Bible, I think they have the virtue of taking the Bible seriously” – Timaeus

    So are you suggesting they are virtuous in their theology and without virtue in their scientific understandings?

    “What Dr. Crocker is expressing is the concern that within the ASA a certain looseness of commitment to the Bible and to classical Christian theology can be observed.” – Timaeus

    Fair enough. Let us wait to see what Crocker can do about ASA’s theology.

    “I therefore applaud Dr. Crocker for her courage in speaking out, and I urge her to submit scientific articles.” – Timaeus

    Remember that this is ‘safe space’ on ‘home field’ for Crocker. Courage comes with going into the lion’s den. If she submits scientific articles involving ID to ASA, great! Again, however, the issue of a seemingly unnecessary lack of ID-theology raises it head.

    Implications of ID easily become presuppositions for ID, which is why I raised the topic of ‘ideology’ above.”If this is not happening, it is not the TE people who are to blame.” – Timaeus

    Completely agreed!

  81. 81
    Gregory says:

    p.p.p.s reading further, in the recent (2006) message from Robin Collins, we are agreed:

    “As for my proposal to include the hypothesis of design as a metascientific hypothesis, it is not a mere appeal to authority. Despite what Gross says about Newton (which is historically inaccurate), the history of science amply testifies to the positive role that belief in a designer has played in grounding the incredibly fruitful idea that nature has a underlying, elegant, mathematical order and that nature is intelligible by human beings. The question is whether such an idea can play a positive role beyond physics, even if following Einstein it is merely considered as a useful fiction. I am not advocating that scientists in general treat the world as if it were designed when they are doing science. I am only advocating that this be considered a legitimate position for a scientist to take as she theorizes and evaluates hypotheses about the structure of the natural world. What I am ultimately opposed to is the requirement that one be a methodological atheist, according to which one must treat the world as if it were not designed when doing science.”

    Steve Fuller has made this point in “Science: The Art of Living” also (though without the MN vs. MN language of the mainly USAmerican discourse). One of the chapters is titled: “What has atheism ever done for science?”

    This may be an occasion to bring TE/EC & ID voices together, where it seems all too easy (e.g. origins vs. processes) to speak past each other and to move further apart.

  82. 82

    So you consider that not “calling for science to be adjusted to fit the Bible” is something that “TEs” are “guilty” of in your view?

    Does that mean that in your view, science should be adjusted to fit a prior assumptions/ideology?

    Isn’t that what ID proponents are constantly (without justification IMO) accusing “Darwinists” and “materialists” of doing?

    The fundamental precept of science is that you fit models to data, not data to models. In other words you go where the evidence leads not where you want the evidence to go.

    I would have assumed you would agree. Don’t you?

  83. 83

    By the way, you do Todd Wood a great injustice. Todd does indeed accept that the evolutionary model fits the data.

    But his position is that it cannot be the correct model because it conflicts with the bible. Therefore, it is the job of scientists to come up with a model that is consistent with the bible and fits the data just as well.

    His faith, therefore, is not simply “well Genesis must be true, even if the evolutionary argument implies it is false”, but “if Genesis is true, as I believe it to be, then there must be an alternative model that fits the data at least as well as the evolutionary model”.

    And he has committed himself to finding that model.

    His faith is not simply that Genesis is true, but that there is a scientific model that supports Genesis.

    There is nothing “schizophrenic” about Todd.

  84. 84
    Ted Davis says:


    I have indeed dropped out of this thread. I came by this morning simply to confirm that I lack time to say more with the care that I would want to take. By the time I could get back to this, everyone will have moved on. Print media aren’t like that, and (IMO) that’s one of the biggest reasons why print won’t be obsolete at any time I can foresee: it gives people time to work through hard stuff carefully, create new knowledge, and get it right (as far as one can).

    Timaeus has very nicely reinforced my point: any effort to deal substantively with what we now know about humans and did not know when Genesis took its current form (after the Babylonian exile) will necessarily involve hermeneutical exercises. For my part, Stephen, the pre-Abrahamic portions of Genesis do not seem to be historical in anything at all like the modern sense of “historical” that I think you have in mind. This complicates the matter for me, in terms of offering an answer. Please do read what Collins says. Short of having me write a similar paper of my own, which would take literally years (since I don’t have the same level of background knowledge here that I would have on some other specific topics), that’s the best answer you are going to have from me.

    It’s conversations of just this type, Stephen, that make the ASA such a valuable organization–IMO. And no, Gregory, not everything is “up for grabs” for us, although I understand why a casual observer and non-participant in the ASA might think so. The ecumenical creeds are not exactly empty of content, as I think you will admit; but, notions of what the Bible actually teaches relative to science are not delineated with equal precision. That is a separate topic that I also do not have time for presently.

    One note for Timaeus: I believe that the concept of “federal headship” predates controversies about evolution, whether or not the term itself does (I don’t know whether or not it does). Calvinists have used the concept for centuries, to the best of my knowledge.

    As I step out the door, please let me add, God bless all here.

  85. 85
    Timaeus says:


    First of all, I assume from the position of your response that you are addressing me, but it would be nice to be addressed by name. The sudden “you” is jarring.

    Second, I’m still waiting for a reply to you from several days ago on the computer thread.

    Third, I am aware of the elementary facts about what science is. No, I am not calling for science to be adjusted for religious reasons. As you are unlike many of us here, in that you have not been debating TEs to the tune of millions of words for several years now, you are missing important context for my remark.

    The TEs, particularly at Biologos, are fond of saying that we should do complete justice to both faith and science, not sacrificing the one for the other. They are great champions of a division of labor, whereby theology deals with certain kinds of truths, and science with others, and the two do not interfere with each other but respect each other’s competence. Yet whenever there is an apparent conflict between the claims of science and claims of theology, this vaunted equality of importance, this vaunted mutual respect, vanishes; if “science” purportedly shows X to be the case, and the Bible or theology has always been understood to teach not-X, Christians are supposed to redo their Biblical interpretation or their theology to bring it into harmony with the alleged truths of science. Never has a TE urged the reverse procedure, i.e., argued that, since the traditional interpretation of the Bible or traditional theology is sound, the currently accepted science must be a misinterpretation of nature, and scientists should go back to the drawing board, doing new experiments to get better data, or interpreting the same data differently, in order to make the truth of science conform to the known truth of the Bible. In other words, the deliverances of “science,” (i.e., currently accepted science), are regarded as authoritative, and the deliverances of theology are regarded as shaky, subjective, soft inferences which need to be constantly policed and patrolled. So much for the allegedly equal partnership of theology and science!

    So you see, I am not making any claim at all about how science should harmonize with theology; I am pointing out the inconsistency of TEs who do not practice what they preach. This was a point raised by StephenB in one of his questions to Ted, and I was confirming his observations.

    I do not personally claim that science should adjust to theology, or theology to science; but then, I am not a Biologos TE, whose precarious intellectual existence hangs on such adjustments. I am quite willing to say that sometimes theology is wrong and sometimes current science is wrong; I don’t believe in harmony between theology and science at all costs. I believe in following the evidence wherever it leads, no matter who is inconvenienced, be they Darwinists or Christian theologians of various stripes. I’m thus a very different sort of person than the TEs of Biologos.


  86. 86
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth, you wrote:

    “Todd does indeed accept that the evolutionary model fits the data.”


    “But his position is that it cannot be the correct model because it conflicts with the bible.”

    Correct. And this is exactly the sort of attitude which you implicitly condemn in your reply to me just above. Why should science confirm the Bible? Maybe the Bible is just plain wrong.

    “Therefore, it is the job of scientists to come up with a model that is consistent with the bible and fits the data just as well.”

    But he is willing to take “the Bible’s side” indefinitely — to the end of his living days if necessary, if neither he nor anyone else can come with such a model. He thinks that in that eventuality, faith requires the intellectual surrender of what reason and evidence appear to teach. And he, like you, holds a doctorate in the life sciences. Do you think that this attitude is appropriate for a scientist? I cannot imagine that you do.

    He may *hope* that there is a scientific model that supports Genesis, and he may be actively looking for such a model, but when push comes to shove, he has made it clear that he will support Genesis no matter how strong the scientific evidence looks regarding origins.

    What is “schizophrenic” about this is that such a person walks around with two truths about the same reality — origins — in his head. As a professional, as a scientist, Todd Wood admits that “consensus science” has the best explanation of the data. As a Christian of a certain type (not my type), who interprets Genesis in a certain way, he thinks that is the wrong explanation of the data. The best explanation that his scientifically trained mind can come up with, he does not believe to be true. He spent years and years studying science in order to learn how to interpret nature, yet cannot allow his training to affect his conclusions about origins. I call that “schizophrenic” — the scientist in him is at war with the fundamentalist. (Of course I am using schizophrenic in its popular sense rather than in any technical or clinical sense that may be different from the popular sense.) If you don’t like my choice of words, well, I have now explained what I mean, so if you would prefer to attach some other term to cover the inner bifurcation of Todd Wood’s position, go ahead and attach it.

    In any case, my remark about Todd Wood was a minor sidelight to the rest of my post to StephenB. Perhaps you would care to comment on the substance, rather than pick at a side point? No, cancel that request; I’d rather have a reply to the older post on the other thread.


  87. 87

    I profoundly disagree with Todd, as he himself knows 🙂

    But I disagree that there is anything “schizophrenic” about his position, which, on the contrary, I find to have great integrity.

    I disagree here (but we could ask him to check):

    He thinks that in that eventuality, faith requires the intellectual surrender of what reason and evidence appear to teach.

    No, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. For a start, he is very dismissive of the idea that God would lie or mislead. What he appears to me to think, and it is a measure of his faith, that there is a perfectly good model that will satisfy both our reason and evidence, and will also be in accord with the bible, we just haven’t found it yet. That’s why he’s so interested in “baraminology” and how the evidence we have might fit a very different model.

    He may *hope* that there is a scientific model that supports Genesis, and he may be actively looking for such a model, but when push comes to shove, he has made it clear that he will support Genesis no matter how strong the scientific evidence looks regarding origins.

    I think he has *faith* that there is a scientific model that supports Genesis! So far, when “push comes to shove” he gets on with shoving, in attempt to uncover it! That’s the weird thing to me – Todd gets a lot of flak from Creationists of all people, for having what seems to me more faith than they do! For actually believing that God doesn’t lie, and that eventually scientists will figure out how it all hangs together.

    Yes, I know it was a minor sidelight, but I just wanted to set the record straight as I see it!

    I have a soft spot for Todd 🙂

  88. 88

    Apologies for not addressing you by name. As we now have nested replies, I thought it was unnecessary, although actually I should have done, because I actually thought I was addressing StephenB! (As his name was at the top of your post).

    Also I owe you a couple more replies, which I hope to get to eventually. (Oh, as you point out.)

    Anyway, thanks for the clarification. Oddly, what you seem to be advocating is exactly Todd Woods’ position.

    Which I think you have misunderstood 🙂

  89. 89

    btw, Todd posted a nice and relevant piece on his blog yesterday, entitled Is the church anti-science?

  90. 90
    Timaeus says:


    Note the following exchange:

    Timaeus: “He thinks that in that eventuality [i.e., in the eventuality that neither he nor anyone else during his lifetime can find a scientific model that is non-evolutionary and compatible with Genesis], faith requires the intellectual surrender of what reason and evidence appear to teach.”

    EL: “No, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t.”

    Let’s take a look at some of his own words, shall we? Look at the following blog post:

    Here, after *as a scientist* praising evolutionary theory for its great explanatory power, its massive evidential strength, and so on, he writes:

    “It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution. I am motivated to understand God’s creation from what I believe to be a biblical, creationist perspective.”

    Do you see it, Elizabeth? The best explanation that science has so far come up with regarding origins — and a very good explanation, in his scientific estimation — he *rejects* on the basis of his faith commitment, i.e., his firm belief that the Bible “reveals true information about the history of the earth.” This to me is crystal-clear.

    There is no evidence, in this blog post or in the others that I have looked at on the same site, that the rejection is in any way tentative. I.e., there are no statements to the effect of: “I intend to spend the next 20 years of my life trying to find a better scientific explanation than evolution, one that is compatible with Genesis, but if I can’t, I will give up Genesis as a literal account of the past and come over to the straight evolutionary side.” His rejection of evolution is presented as non-negotiable, as following from his faith commitment which he has no intention of betraying at any time, no matter how much more confirming evidence is found for evolution and no matter how little confirming evidence is found for any scientific alternative.

    You seem to be reading something into his position that is not found in his words. Maybe he has told you something privately that he has not shared with the world? Perhaps, but the rest of us have to go on what he has written. I think what he has written is quite clear, and supports exactly what I said.


  91. 91
    StephenB says:

    Timaeus, Ted, Gregory. In some ways, I regret the fact that this discussion has focused too much on the Adam and Eve problem, which is real enough, and drifted away from the main point I was trying to make, namely that the ASA (more so Biologos) is using the rhetoric of design while embracing a non-design world view. Most of my questions are designed to illuminate that issue. Indeed, in my summary I indicated which issues were most important to me and the problem of Adam and Eve was not even mentioned.

    I think all my questions are fair, and Ted, if you have time to come back and congratulate Timaeus for expressing your views, then you would appear to have time to answer at least three of my questions and Timeaus and Gregory would, it seems, have time enough to decide if they are worth answering and whether it is fair for you to ignore them.

    If, as you say, you believe that God planned or directed evolution, do also you repudiate the unplanned undirected Darwinian evolutionary model as proposed by the majority of evolutionary biologists?

    If, indeed, you do disavow the model of unplanned evolutionary biologists, then why to you accept their claim that design is an illusion, which is a corollary of the Darwinian principle of unguided evolution?

    Do you recognize the design inherent in the structure of a bird’s wings?

  92. 92
    StephenB says:

    “Once you go back past the neolithic, what’s the point in trying to harmonize with Genesis anyway?” (Ted and Gregory)

    The point is to recognize that harmony is a two way street, which means that faith and reason are mutual partners in the aquisition of knowledge, which means that we should challenge the provisional conclusions of historical science with our interpretation of Scripture with the same rigor that we challenge our interpretation of Scripture with the provisional conclusions of historical science.

  93. 93
    PNG says:

    It seems that I am jumping into this at a late point, but what the heck. I expect Biologos to get bashed on this site, but it seems to have come in for a lot of bashing in this thread that I don’t really understand. Biologos exists for a pretty simple reason. Molecular biology and comparative genomics have produced a mountain of evidence supporting common ancestry and evolution in general, including humans, indeed bringing it to the point that there are really only two alternatives: Accept common descent, or invoke miracles, millions of them, which work together to make the genomes of different species look like they have common ancestral genomes when they don’t.

    Most evangelicals seem extremely determined to either ignore the evidence (understandable for the mass of churchgoers who would just like the whole thing to go away) or find some way to rationalize it away. Biologos is an attempt to get those people who care about evidence to look at it and take it seriously. They also try to demonstrate that this doesn’t imply that core Christian beliefs have to be discarded. There is of course some disagreement about what counts as core Christian belief.

    Gregory, as always, is offended that social science doesn’t get enough attention, and is anxious to defend its prerogatives against mere geneticists and preachers. (Nasty, unscrupulous geneticists, to borrow something from Peter Paul and Mary, which should tell you how old I am.)

    The others I’m not so sure about. I look at Biologos all the time. I see some arrogance in some of the commenters who come on to thunder against the liberal wickedness, but I just don’t see the awfulness in the articles. It looks pretty gentle and humble (and well informed) to me, but I am a mere biochemist who once majored in philosophy. If Gregory wants to instruct everyone on his view from the social sciences, maybe he should offer to write an article. I gather that it would have to be rather more succinct than his comments here.

  94. 94
    PNG says:

    The difference is that the Bible hasn’t changed in quite a long time and science has. It seems inevitable that when one field has changed a huge amount over the centuries and the basic texts of the other (the Bible and the creeds) have changed either not much (the latter) or not at all (the former) that the one that is changing is going to be doing the pushing.

    Science was already pushing Biblical interpretation by the time of the church fathers, when Ptolemaic science was pushing Augustine and others to change the ancient interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures without even realizing that they were doing it. Theology and Biblical interpretation are inherently conservative and naturally get pushed by changes in science and social conditions. The conservatism is appropriate, but the historical pattern is that theology/interpretation eventually figures out what in science is really based on solid evidence and reasoning and figures out how to adjust to it.

    With this dynamic it seems pretty apparent that some among the scientists will know where things are headed before the theologians do. Frances Collins and others claim to be in that position now. I think that they are right, but I am a practitioner of the same sort of science. My guess is that the 21st century will recapitulate earlier history – evangelicals will slowly come to terms with evolution. There will be a great deal of regrettable accusations of heresy, and the change will come slowly, and in the end conservative Christians will have a better idea of what is really essential about Christianity than they did when the fracas began. Some of the fracas will occur here on UD. I suppose they might as well get on with it.

  95. 95
    rhampton7 says:

    I certainly hope so.

  96. 96
    Timaeus says:


    As you know from our past interactions, I am in complete agreement with you about the intellectual incoherence of the Christian Darwinism espoused by a good number of TEs. I thought that your summary for Ted of three positions on creation, design, chance, and evolution was good. Nonetheless, I would defend Ted for not getting into that discussion here.

    As Ted sees it, this thread is about Caroline Crocker’s charge that the ASA seems to be wandering from Christian orthodoxy into a position where it modifies Christian theology and ethics in accord with the latest findings of science. Ted has chosen to address that issue only, and not to discuss the general question of evolution and creation. Thus, he chose to focus on the question how the Bible is to be interpreted. And his argument, I take it, is something like this:

    The Bible is not always easy to interpret. On a number of questions to which we would like a direct answer, it is either silent or ambiguous, allowing of multiple interpretations. Where this is the case, is it necessarily “liberal” or “heretical” or “unorthodox” to take a line of interpretation which, though yet unexplored by the Christian tradition, seems to be at least a possible understanding of the words as given? Are *all* new readings of Biblical texts forbidden? Are we allowed to believe only those interpretations which have been sanctioned by time, i.e., the Roman interpretation, the Reformed interpretation, the American fundamentalist interpretation? Or are we allowed to consider new possibilities? Is it faithless for Christians to contemplate the possibility that we are only just now beginning to see the fuller meaning of some parts of the Bible?

    In past ages, some theologians argued that the earth must be immobile because certain verses in the Bible seemed to say or imply that. The best science of the 17th century, however, seemed to indicate that the earth was mobile, and that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the planetary system. Eventually, all Christians came to reinterpret those verses of the Bible that seemed to indicate a stationary earth, and you presumably do not have a problem with that reinterpretation. Yet you have to admit that the reinterpretation was prompted by a felt need to harmonize the Bible with the findings of natural science. Are you saying that it is wicked or heretical for Christians to desire such a harmony between the different sources of knowledge, revelation and reason?

    The TEs are saying: why couldn’t this be happening today, with evolutionary theory? Just at it was possible to interpret the Bible on the earth’s mobility differently without “selling out,” so perhaps it is possible to interpret the Bible differently regarding fixity of kinds, or the age of the earth, without “selling out.” And in principle I have nothing against this general *form* of argument. My problem is with the details, the particular things that TEs try to squeeze out of the Bible (and out of the Christian tradition); they often seem to be cherry-picking verses and passages, with little respect for the context.

    It is one thing to argue, for example, that Genesis need not be interpreted as teaching six twenty-four hour days of creation; it is another thing to read Genesis 1 in a way that denies that God is a designer. A non-literal understanding of the “days” can be defended quite comfortably from the text, whereas the denial that God designed the world, including man, and intended the arrangement of its elements, including the ranking position of man, flatly contradicts the plain sense of the text. Further, I don’t think the former view is dangerous to traditional Christian faith — the Creeds, etc. — whereas I think the latter view undermines the traditional doctrine of Creation, which is not only found in the Creeds but is also central to Christian thought in many ways. Nothing important for faith hinges on how long it took God to effect the Creation; but that the world and man were designed by God is absolutely central to any coherent formulation of Christian faith.

    This is where we could all use some more clarification from Caroline and from people who agree with her. What exactly are the criteria by which “Biblical truth” is determined? How does Caroline, or anyone else, arrive at the Biblical teaching on a subject? I think that Caroline is quite right to suggest that some of the interpretations of the Bible held by ASA members are in fact incompatible with the Biblical text, but this needs to be shown in detail.

    Your own position in this thread is a little unclear, Stephen. I don’t mean your position on evolution and Darwin and design — that is crystal clear. But you are a Catholic. Catholics don’t usually place emphasis on the Bible in the way that YEC and OEC people do, yet you appear, in your remarks to Ted, almost as if you are defending traditional Christianity by defending “sola Scriptura.” But sola Scriptura is not a Catholic position, it’s a Protestant one. If Caroline Crocker is a Protestant (as I would guess she is, as I know of no Catholic ASA members), it makes sense that she would cast orthodox or correct Christian belief in purely or heavily Biblical terms; but you belong to a Church which holds that not only Scripture but also Tradition is a source of doctrinal authority. So your rhetorical “Protestant turn” is confusing to me, and I suspect to Ted as well.

    For example, the Roman Church admits (in a doctrinal summary that is easily available online) that there may well be much that is figurative in the Garden story; but most YECs and many OECs will fight tooth and nail to defend the literal details of that story. I don’t know where Caroline Crocker stands on literal talking serpents, but many of the people who criticize the ASA certainly think that the Garden story is very close to a photographic, eyewitness account of past events. Do you believe that? Do you believe, also, that the earth was created in six twenty-four hour days? And that on the first day, light was created before the sun or stars? Do you believe that Genesis rules out *any* evolutionary account, even an account where God guides the process to produce the various “kinds”? I don’t think you are this sort of literalist; yet some of your arguments sound as if you are.

    So maybe you could clarify for us. Are you still arguing from a traditional Catholic position, a position in which a degree of non-literalness regarding Genesis is allowed? Or have you gone over to a more Protestant, or more precisely, more literalist, view of Biblical interpretation? If so, what brought about the change?

    I myself would argue that the main Christian doctrines are found in the Creeds, and that the Creed-makers were far less concerned about defending Genesis literalism than many modern Christian conservatives seem to be. Thus, I have no problem with TEs merely on the grounds that they don’t take this or that narrative statement in Genesis literally. My problem with the TEs is that their position on the meaning of Genesis is not first and foremost a principled one; it is driven by a need to vindicate Darwinian mechanisms in evolution, and any genuine interest in hearing what Genesis teaches for its own sake is very much secondary. In line with this motivation, the harmonizing exegesis of the Bible that is generally employed by them (Lamoureux would be one of the few exceptions to this charge) is of a proof-texting kind, and thus disreputable from a scholarly point of view. And so it is with Calvin, Augustine, Aquinas, etc. One can easily show that the TEs are cherry-picking from these authors, using out-of-context statements to misrepresent the thought of these authors as more modern and more Darwin-compatible than it actually is. It is this methodological dishonesty that must be rejected. If one honestly believes that the Bible and the Christian tradition can easily be re-read to harmonize with Darwin, one would not use such dishonest methods.

    So, given my suspicions of the motivations of some of the TEs, I am greatly sympathetic with Caroline Crocker, but I agree with Ted that she has not dealt with the hermeneutical problem. Of course, that was not the point of her post, and I don’t fault her for that in this context; but if she is to make her argument stick, sooner or later she and those who agree with her are going to have to make the case, within the ASA, that the Biblical hermeneutics of the “liberals” are unacceptable.

    How such a debate can take place within the ASA, I do not know, as most ASA members are scientists with little or no training in Biblical scholarship or Christian theology, who rely much on secondhand opinion for their notions of what the Bible and what the tradition teaches. But given the claims that both the “liberal” and the “conservative” sides within the ASA are making, the hermeneutical question cannot be set aside any longer. Either it will be dealt with in a way that is satisfactory to the majority of the members, or it will not, in which case the ASA will split, with the OEC and ID members leaving to form their own organization, as the YEC members did years ago.

    Stephen, I don’t have time for any more long posts on this subject. If you wish to give answers to my questions here, clarifying your position, I will read them, and I may respond to them briefly as well. But this is all I can do for you, in the absence of Ted Davis. I hope my discussion has been helpful.


  97. 97
    Timaeus says:

    rhampton7, I wondered if you had died. Why did you bail out on the Sept. 12 thread (regarding the $1,000 prize)? Did you not see the last replies of the Catholic philosopher Vincent Torley and of myself? If you didn’t, you are welcome to go back there and post again.


  98. 98
    rhampton7 says:

    I got quite busy for a couple of weeks. I’ll go back and take a look.

  99. 99
    Timaeus says:


    I remember Peter, Paul and Mary well, so we seem to be of about the same vintage. But do you remember the Lettermen?

    To answer your question about why Biologos is so often bashed by ID people:

    1. Biologos has spent an inordinate amount of time bashing ID people, and unkindness begets unkindness. Literally dozens of columns, many with insulting titles or prefaces, have appeared on Biologos targeting Behe, Meyer, Dembski, and ID in general. Biologos’s obsession with bashing ID is equal to, or greater than, its obsession with refuting YEC.

    2. Biologos has frequently misrepresented ID. Among the many misrepresentations promoted by Biologos is the charge that ID requires miraculous interventions; it doesn’t. When ID people (many of them) have written in to Biologos to try to correct the misrepresentations, they have generally got one of two reactions: (1) stony silence, since most of the Biologos columnists rarely or never engage with commenters, especially critical commenters; (2) prickly defensiveness and a stubborn sticking to the misrepresentation. There is no dialogue; there is no openness to correction. Biologos has its straw man picture of ID firmly ensconced in its mind, and won’t budge.

    3. It is not just the columnists on Biologos that are the problem, it is several of the groupies who post comments there. They repeat the misinformation provided by the columnists, and are often condescending, sarcastic, or personally insulting to ID, YEC, and OEC people who post there. The management clamps down on any rudeness coming from ID and YEC people, but lets rudeness toward ID and YEC people ride. Many ID people have been suspended for very dubious offenses, but not a single ID-basher or YEC-basher among the commenters has ever been suspended (at least, for comments made against ID or YEC), even when guilty of direct insults. Generally speaking, double standards are odious and those who enforce double standards are perceived as hypocritical.

    4. The theological and historical material presented on Biologos is badly biased and filled with scholarly errors. A recent discussion of C. S. Lewis’s thoughts on evolution by a professor at a liberal seminary (liberal on evolution, anyway) was based on gross proof-texting and seriously misrepresented Lewis’s thought in the interest of the columnist’s TE agenda. And the scientist-columnists, when they make statements about Christian tradition, generally show gross ignorance of the primary sources (Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Aquinas, etc.) and of the standard academic secondary sources (such as would be studied at Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, etc.), and rely almost wholly on secondary sources written by liberal evangelical scholars who agree with them. The recommended theology is almost always post-Enlightenment and modern; there is very little classical Reformation Protestantism, or classical Medieval or Patristic Christianity. Indeed, even some of the commenters on Biologos who are very sympathetic to TE have noticed this, and often the TE commenters (especially the British ones) are more informed theologically, and more historically orthodox in their Protestantism, than the columnists.

    5. The biological science presented on Biologos is largely classical neo-Darwinism (Modern Synthesis). There hasn’t yet been a column there on the serious theoretical criticisms of the modern synthesis which are coming from a large number of cutting-edge evolutionary biologists. The columnists don’t discuss Shapiro or the Altenberg group, for example, and don’t appear even to have read their writings. Thus, the evolutionary theory on Biologos is seriously dated. Here, by contrast, you see columns on the latest ideas of Shapiro, the Altenberg people, Koonin, and many others. In other words, here we discuss the evolutionary biology of the 21st century, rather than preach the evolutionary biology of Ernst Mayr and Theodosius Dobhzhansky, both of whom have been dead for some time. Biologos is a very poor site for information on the latest developments in evolutionary theory; yet it has the conceit that it is up to date.

    6. Discussions of the history and philosophy of science on Biologos are generally absent, and in the rare case where they occur, they are astoundingly uninformed and naive, as Gregory will tell you. There is simply no one there well versed in either of these fields. How any organization that claims to be able to harmonize science and theology can operate in a knowledge vacuum regarding these areas is beyond me. In the ID camp, by contrast, we have people like Meyer and Nelson who have Ph.D.s in the philosophy of science, Flannery who is an expert on Darwin and Wallace, and others. And in heavy philosophical questions directly related to theology, Biologos has no experts at all, whereas we have Vincent Torley and others. This is why the discussions by the Biologos columnists of omnipotence, providence, indeterminacy and freedom, chance and necessity, etc. are so laughably amateurish. You can’t take a moonlighting physicist or a retired zoologist and expect him to discourse on these matters with competence.

    7. The leaders at Biologos, Falk and Giberson (the latter now gone), have tended to write with a condescending tone toward ID people, and have tended to lecture ID people sanctimoniously on what “good science” is; yet neither Falk nor Giberson appear to have produced any peer-reviewed scientific articles in decades, and whatever they did produce in their youth seems to be unlocatable on the Web; whereas some of the people they criticize (like Behe and Sternberg) have been or are very prolific. (I believe that Behe has more peer-reviewed scientific articles than Falk, Venema, Giberson and Applegate combined, but I’m willing to retract that if anyone can come up with verifiable figures that contradict it.) This condescension of the scientifically unproductive to the scientifically productive is in my view deeply offensive. Are you familiar with the term “chutzpah”?

    What I’ve given is merely an introductory list of the offenses of Biologos. There are also a number of discreditable behind-the-scenes machinations of Biologos people which it would not be appropriate to discuss in public, as they cannot be documented, but which have generated deep distrust and dislike from the ID camp. However, this tip of the iceberg ought to be enough to indicate to you some of the causes of the hostility that people at UD, and from the ID camp generally, have toward Biologos.


  100. 100
  101. 101
    StephenB says:

    If faith and reason are mutual partners in the acquisition of knowledge, then each must be given the opportunity to illuminate the other.

    Robert Jastrow once wrote this:

    “Oh yes, the metaphor there was that we know now that the universe had a beginning, and that all things that exist int his universe, life, planets, stars can be traced back to that beginning, and it’s a curiously theological result to come out of science. The image that I had in my mind as I wrote about this was a group of scientists and astronomers who are climbing up a range of mountain peaks and they come to the highest peak and the very top, and there they meet a band of theologians who have been sitting for centuries waiting for them.”

    Some on this thread are suggesting, perhaps unwittingly, that science should do all the teaching and that theology should do all the learning. This is often the case, but it is more often not the case. The reason for that is that scientific findings change, but theological truths never change.

    Indeed, there are some Biblical truths that do not need interpreting because their meaning cannot be misunderstood, such as the idea that God’s handiwork is evident in nature. Christian Darwinists refuse to accept this truth. Indeed, they militate against it by saying, in the name of Darwinist ideology, that detectable design is an illusion. This is understandable for an atheist who doesn’t claim to believe in the Bible, but it is inexcusable for a Christian.

  102. 102
    StephenB says:

    Timaeus @32.1, thank you for your response. I do have a few thoughts that I will share with you tomorrow if you have time to read them.

  103. 103
    PNG says:

    There are different levels or ways of being evident. For me design in the universe in general has always seemed evident at an intuitive level. However, some people don’t seem to have that intuition. I’m don’t know how to bring them to it. I suspect that that is the Holy Spirit’s job (one of them, anyway.)

    But that isn’t the same as saying that you can turn that intuition into what we mean by “science” at this point in history. I haven’t seen that done yet. I suspect that it can’t be done – my reason for that suspicion is basically theological. I don’t think God is going to privilege people who happen to live in this age and have a lot of scientific education by making his existence a virtual certainty for them, unless they are willing to seek Him personally, but that I think is available to anyone in any age. If you find this inexcusable, I suppose you will have to call me a heretic, or whatever makes you feel like you have done your duty.

  104. 104
    Upright BiPed says:


    I haven’t seen that done yet. I suspect that it can’t be done – my reason for that suspicion is basically theological.

    It is becoming more and more difficult to find a reliable distinction between the contributions on this blog from materialists, and those from the defenders of Biologos.

    They come here effervescing over the same “mountain of evidence” which has always been 1) a misrepresentation and a strawman to ID, and 2) used as a shield against the material evidence that ID does present.

    In the end, they say the same things.

  105. 105

    OK, perhaps you might like to look at this piece:

    You seem to support the argument

    …that, since the traditional interpretation of the Bible or traditional theology is sound, the currently accepted science must be a misinterpretation of nature, and scientists should go back to the drawing board, doing new experiments to get better data, or interpreting the same data differently, in order to make the truth of science conform to the known truth of the Bible.

    This seems to be precisely Todd’s position, as articulated in the above post.

    How do you think his position differs from yours?

  106. 106
    Upright BiPed says:

    By the way, I intentionally posted my two comments on this thread as separate to the ongoing conversation between Timaeus, Stephen, and others. It is not my intent to intrude on those conversations, I just wanted to remark on the parallels I find rather obvious.

  107. 107

    Suggesting, perhaps, that the reason people are persuaded by the theory of evolution has nothing to do with their “worldview”?

  108. 108
    Eugene S says:


    Why then is the amount of contention around the theory of relativity for example, or the theory of elasticity nowhere near to that around the theory of evolution?

    It is obvious to me that this is because the case of evolution does have a lot to do with peoples’ world views. Atheists for some strange reason do not want to recognise it pretending they are just scientists. TOE is a form of religion that requires a priori commitments. It is a blind faith because it is not supported by evidence. It is claiming that it is science, well in this case scientific evidence is necessary to support it. There is no evidence that would be enough to legitimately extrapolate microevolutionary effects to the whole biosphere.

  109. 109
    Eugene S says:


    I understand your point. However ID is not claiming it can prove with a virtual certainty that God exists. ID is about inferring the design cause based on probabilities (btw, irrespective of the designer). I interpret ID as a sort of “litmus test” for design, but then again one might say, I choose not to believe it and I put my trust in something below the plausibility bound. This is in fact what atheists are constantly doing: they are fabricating all sorts of “Mt Improbable” excuses not to see the obvious.

    Francis Bacon said: “A little science estranges a man from God; a lot of science brings him back.” But I don’t think that on the last day people will be judged based on their education. IOW, I don’t think that science interferes with our free will.

  110. 110

    The TOE does not require “a priori commitments”.

    It is not blind faith. It is supported by evidence. It is a theory that generates testable hypotheses that are tested against data.

    It is a huge theory, with many parts that can be, and are, individually tested, and it is constantly subject to updating and refining.

    I have no idea why there is so much contention about it. I can only think that it is a threat to some people’s worldviews, just as geology also is contentious because it threatens some worldviews.

    It’s certainly not for want of evidential support.

  111. 111
    Joseph says:


    There isn’t any evidence that prokaryotes can evolve into something other than prokaryotes. So what is this alleged evidence tat supports the theory of evolution?

    What are these alleged testable hypotheses?

  112. 112
    Petrushka says:

    This “There isn’t any evidence” line is getting pretty stale.

    How about you demonstrate your knowledge of this issue by presenting the evidence. Then you can explain why you don’t think the evidence is convincing.

  113. 113
    Eugene S says:


    You are blurring the border between what is really testable about the TOE, i.e. microevolution (or adaptation), and the ungrounded extrapolation of microevolution to macroevolution (emergence of new phyla, which has never been observed). It did seem plausible at the times of Darwin. Now it is no longer due to tremendous advances of biochemistry and information theory over the past 150 years.

  114. 114
    Eugene S says:


    “This “There isn’t any evidence” line is getting pretty stale.”

    There would be no need to repeat it over and over again, if there were willingness to accept the obvious: there is evidence only for microevolution (adaptations roughly within the existing species).

    I’ll bold it for you once again 🙂

    There is no evidence whatsoever that complex multipart systems with controlled information flow critical to proper functioning of the system as a whole, can emerge spontaneously without a designer.

  115. 115

    There you go again, Joseph, with your “there isn’t any evidence…” 🙂

    The origin of eukaryotes is indeed interesting, and the evidence (that stuff you say doesn’t exist) that eukaryotes didn’t exactly “evolve from” prokaryotes, but resulted from a kind of merger between proto-eukaryotic cells and prokaryotes.

    You might be interested in this very clearly written paper by Carl Woese:

    in which he cites the evidence for current models.

  116. 116

    You are blurring the border between what is really testable about the TOE, i.e. microevolution (or adaptation), and the ungrounded extrapolation of microevolution to macroevolution (emergence of new phyla, which has never been observed). It did seem plausible at the times of Darwin. Now it is no longer due to tremendous advances of biochemistry and information theory over the past 150 years.

    No, I am not blurring any borders. What I think you are doing is putting artifical boundaries round the concept of “testable”. Obviously we cannot observe macroevolution taking place. Nor can we observe Big Bang taking place. What we can do, however, is to derive testable hypotheses from explanatory theories, and test those: “if this theory is true, then we should observe that” – and then you go out to see whether “that” is in fact observed.

    But there is another problem. Different people seem to have different definitions of “macro-evolution”. Some people seem to think that longitudinal evolution that results in change more than some degree is “macro-evolution”; some think that speciation is “macro-evolution”. You seem to think it’s the emergence of phyla.

    Why phyla? What’s special about phyla that you think is more “macro” than any other branching? And why do you think it poses a particular problem for evolutionary theory?

    Far from the !”tremendous advances of biochemistry and information theory over the past 150 years” rendering evolutionary theory “implausible” it seems to me that those advances enable us to model evolutionary process with astonishing predictive power!

  117. 117
    Joseph says:


    Endosymbioisis is the current “model” for how eukaryotes evolved from prokaryotes. However there still isn’t any way to scientifically test the premise. And that means there isn’t any evidence that such a thing can occur.

    BTW the “evidence” for endosymbioisis ammounts to “It looks like endosymbiosis to me because those mito/ chloro look like they could have been bacyeria at one point in time”

    IOW Elizabeth you are just gullible as heck and you don’t understand why I am not.

  118. 118
    Joseph says:


    This “There isn’t any evidence” line is getting pretty stale.

    The truth gets stale for those who don’t like it.

    How about you demonstrate your knowledge of this issue by presenting the evidence. Then you can explain why you don’t think the evidence is convincing.

    No it’s up to YOU to produce the evidence that you think does exist and tell us why you think it is convincing.

  119. 119

    Yes, there are lots of ways to test the premise, Joseph.

    And, tbh, Joseph, I think you are the gullible one – you seem to have been persuaded that there “isn’t any evidence” for any of the evolutionary hypotheses that the overwhelming majority of evolutionary scientists think there is.

    I guess if you don’t look for evidence, you won’t find it. that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Read Woese’s paper for a start, and whenever he mentions “evidence”, check it out. A lot of it is genetic.

  120. 120
    Joseph says:

    No Elizabeth, there isn’t any way to test the premise. If there were you would have presented it.

    And I don’t care what scientists think. I care what they can demonstrate.

    I looked at the evidence for endosymbuiosis and it boils down to “it looks like it to me” and that is not scientific.

    I read Woese. I read Margulis.

    I used to be an evolutionist until I pulled my head out and actually looked.

  121. 121
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth (re

    I will take your ambiguous “OK” at the beginning of your message as the closest thing I am going to get to an admission: “Yes, you were right; Todd Wood does say what you said he said; he is committed to his reading of Genesis no matter what the scientific evidence suggests, and he does believe that, when push comes to shove, if the best human reasoning from the data indicates an evolutionary origin, faith requires the surrender of the best human reasoning to the Biblical teaching.” I’m glad we now agree on that point. 🙂

    Now, I read the article that you linked me to. There is nothing in it incompatible with the understanding of Wood that I presented to you, so I am not sure why you wanted me to read it. In any case, I will go to the quotation you took from me:

    EL: You seem to support the argument

    Timaeus: “…that, since the traditional interpretation of the Bible or traditional theology is sound, the currently accepted science must be a misinterpretation of nature, and scientists should go back to the drawing board, doing new experiments to get better data, or interpreting the same data differently, in order to make the truth of science conform to the known truth of the Bible.”

    No, Elizabeth, I don’t support that argument at all. You can’t have read my previous explanation very carefully, because I said clearly that I was putting forth that argument only hypothetically, in order to show the inconsistency of Biologos. I was saying that if Biologos is sincere about its vaunted equality of faith and science as equally valid sources of knowledge, it would at least sometimes use verified theological knowledge to send inadequate science back to the drawing board, just as it frequently uses allegedly verified scientific knowledge to send allegedly inadequate theology back to the drawing board. But in practice, in any case of conflict, Biologos *always* recommends changing theology and Biblical interpretation on the basis of what scientists say about nature, and *never* recommends that scientists reconsider what they think about nature based on what expert scholars say about the Bible or theology. My argument was of the form: “Biologos, since you think X, you logically also have to endorse Y, but you don’t endorse Y, so your account is illogical hash.” I was making no comment whatsoever on the correctness of either X or Y.

    As for your last question, I disagree with Todd Wood on just about everything — everything of major importance, I mean. I don’t agree that faith could ever require the surrender of the intellect, or of the best human reasoning, on questions of origins, or on any other question. And I completely disagree with his literalist/inerrantist Biblical hermeneutics; I don’t think he understands the nature of Biblical literature at all.

    Mind you, Todd Wood’s position is intellectually more respectable than the position of Biologos. It is a principled position, which draws clear lines in the intellectual sand, and it is a position which takes courage to hold, as it draws down upon its holder the ridicule of the world. Todd Wood is willing to make intellectual choices and stick with them. Biologos, on the other hand, is not motivated by any clear theoretical principle, unless you count “I love Jesus and I love evolution, too” as a clear theoretical principle; and it seems driven in large part by a craven need to ingratiate itself with secular biologists such as Ayala and Coyne by denouncing creationism and ID. Thus, I give Todd Wood 10 out of 10 for spine and clarity of purpose; I give Biologos failing scores on both.


  122. 122

    No, I did not mean that.

    However, if by Todd’s “schizophrenic” position you mean the one you seemed be talking of with approval, then I agree, they are the same. I don’t think they are “schizophrenic” however. Both differ, for example, from that of Kurt Wise, whose position I would so describe, were I to use that word in that way, which, being a schizophrenia researcher, I don’t!

    I do agree with you that they are wrong. However, I am now very puzzled about your own position: what do you advocate with regard to reconciling theology with science, if the one you advanced was only “hypothetical”?

  123. 123
    Eugene S says:


    And another circle we go…

    Have long duration experiments on bacteria or fruitflies demonstrated anything like speciation? Have we seen anything like spontaneous self-organisation (as opposed to self-ordering)?

  124. 124

    Have long duration experiments on bacteria or fruitflies demonstrated anything like speciation?

    Yes. Also field studies.

    Have we seen anything like spontaneous self-organisation (as opposed to self-ordering)?

    What does “spontaneous self-organisation (as opposed to self-ordering)” mean?

    And could you answer my question about phyla?

  125. 125

    I have presented you with a paper, Joseph. You may you think “it boils down to ‘it looks like it to me'”

    I disagree.

  126. 126
    Joseph says:

    There isn’t anything in that paper that demonstrates prokaryotes can evolve into something other than prokaryotes.

    And it is not a matter of thinking that it boils down to “it looks like it to me”, that is exactly what it is. You can disagree all you want but you don’t have anything to support your disagreement.

  127. 127
    ScottAndrews says:


    It’s like abiogenesis. “Huge” is the problem. There are too many varying and often contradictory hypotheses, some tested, others not, to say that together they all support one broad, sweeping conclusion.
    At that point the overall theory becomes vague and weak. They are exactly what ID is frequently accused of being, theories of ‘something happened.’ It looks and smells like the conclusions were the starting point. This is further indicated because in both cases, in practice, the hypotheses are viewed and spoken of as facts.

  128. 128
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth, you have to be clearer in your pronoun references. You open your reply with “No, I did not mean that.” I have no idea which of the many points I made in my previous reply that you are referring to with the word “that.”

    As for your other comments, I thought we had already dropped the discussion of whether Todd Wood was “schizophrenic” and were now trying only to resolve the point whether Todd Wood would under any circumstance accept rational and empirical arguments for evolution. I argued that he never would, even if after a lifetime of scientific research he could not come up with an alternate scientific explanation to evolution. And I argued that the reason that he could never accept evolution, even if he was convinced that it was the best explanation that science could offer, was his commitment to a certain literalist/inerrantist way of reading the Bible. I think I have demonstrated by direct quotation that this is his position. And nothing in the article you referred me to contradicts anything Wood said in the article I quoted, so I continue to affirm that I have understood Wood rightly.

    As for my own position on theology and science, as my background is academic, I think that everything in this area needs to be carefully defined, qualified, nuanced, etc., so I would be inclined to answer you with a 300-page footnoted scholarly book, and I’m not sure you want that kind of response at the moment. In any case, I certainly did not undertake any harmonization of science and religion in my comments to StephenB or in anything I said about Caroline Crocker or Ted Davis, so I don’t understand why you would expect to find my own harmonization set forth anywhere on this thread. I undertook only to analyze the positions of the people I was responding to or writing about, and to suggest how they could make their positions stronger or more clear. I hope that I was useful to them in these efforts.

    And now it’s my turn to be puzzled. If I correctly understood a comment you made to someone else on another thread, you are an unbeliever, i.e., you do not think there is a God. Why, then would you care what I or anyone thinks about how to reconcile science and theology? Would theology not be, for you, just a tissue of deranged imaginings? And would that not mean that all positions which take seriously the claims of religion — that of Todd Wood, that of Biologos, etc. — are not worth the efforts of the scientist to try to “harmonize” with? Do explain, if you feel the inclination.

    In any case, I’m done talking about Todd Wood.


  129. 129

    Apologies, I was referring to your opening comment.

    And my only point was that I couldn’t see any difference between the “hypothetical” approach you seemed to be commending and the “schizophrenic” approach you attributed to Todd Wood.

    And now it’s my turn to be puzzled. If I correctly understood a comment you made to someone else on another thread, you are an unbeliever, i.e., you do not think there is a God. Why, then would you care what I or anyone thinks about how to reconcile science and theology?

    Because I’m interested in the difference between good and bad theological arguments, and between coherent and incoherent notions of what scientific methodology can and can’t do!

    In any case, I tend to resist labels. I don’t think of myself as “an unbeliever” – I simply don’t think the evidence supports the case for an afterlife, and that there is no good reason to posit mind/matter duality. In fact, I would argue, good reasons for adopting a monist model.

    But I used to think there were. And I still enjoy good theological arguments (i.e. arguments that to my mind are consistent with what science tells us about the world).

    Would theology not be, for you, just a tissue of deranged imaginings?

    Depends on the theology, and depends what the “imaginings” are used for.

    And would that not mean that all positions which take seriously the claims of religion — that of Todd Wood, that of Biologos, etc. — are not worth the efforts of the scientist to try to “harmonize” with? Do explain, if you feel the inclination.

    I have huge respect for any worldview that seems to me to be rigorous and coherent – has integrity. I also have huge respect for anyone who rigorously insists on integrity. Whether I agree with them or not!

    Indeed, as a scientist, I regard all positions as provisional (that’s why I don’t like labelling myself although I accept that some positions can be more or less accurately summed up with a label), and so I’m always interested in any view that seems to me to make sense.

    Also, in deconstructing views that seem to me to make nonsense 🙂

    BTW, I haven’t forgotten your posts on the computer thread.

  130. 130
    StephenB says:

    —Gregory: “Well, I’ll listen to a respected former President of ASA about what ASA members think and believe and not some internet chat-head who simply doesn’t know (speaking for “the entire premise” of ASA) yet nevertheless seeks to attack fellow Christians.”

    And I will take the word of former disenfranchised members who report of being treated like second class citizens than the rationalizations of those in leadership positions who have a vested interest in maintaining ASA’s underserved image of evenhandedness, just as I will dismiss the credibility of an insulting name-caller like yourself who knows nothing of my background and confuses the difference between a personal attack on Christians and a negative description of an institution’s culture.

  131. 131
    Gregory says:

    Since you’re done with Todd Wood, maybe you’d be willing to return to my questions to you in, Timaeus?

    “Is there a place where ID states its approach to the ideology of YEC? Does it hold a doctrine of ‘appeasement’ between geological and cosmologial sciences and biblical literalist ideology?”

    When I say “ID states,” it would suffice to have an official policy position by Discovery Institute about approximate age of earth, universe, or about ‘how to treat’ YECists and why.

    Part of the disappointment expressed in the OP was about perceived ‘hostility’ towards YECs and their ‘young earth’ views. Of course, if a YEC walks into a geology department, they may or may not be treated with hostility when they promote their ‘ideology/worldview-based science’, but they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they suggested ‘thousands, not millions.’

    Should YECs expect a ‘fair hearing’ at ASA about ‘age of Earth’? Does the IDM give YECs a ‘fair hearing’ scientifically? If so, why?

    Likewise, how do you expect a ‘flat earther’ to be treated at ASA; with ‘due respect’ for their ‘scientific opinion’?! Iow, *just because they are a Christian,* does this mean that they can hold whatever view of/towards scientific topics they want and therefore ‘anything goes’ wrt science at ASA?

    Such a view as the latter seems imho as too much capitulation to ideology, thus pushing the label of tolerance. What could a YEC say that would be deemed intolerable for the IDM, thus requiring it/them to finally take a stand against ‘crackpottery’?

  132. 132
    Gregory says:

    I also regret the focus shifted to A&E, which drifted away from the main point – Caroline Crocker’s theological disagreements with ASA, how YECs (and others) are viewed and treated there, the ‘direction’ of ASA (& the IDM), etc.

    Could you clarify what you think a ‘non-design worldview’ is, StephenB? I have no idea what a ‘design worldview’ might mean. Could you direct us to published literature on this or is this just your jargon?

    Many people in ASA have stated they believe in a non-scientific meaning of ‘design’ and even in the scientifically unprovable ‘creation/Creation’ of the universe. Perhaps many people in the ASA simply think that ID is trying to force a particular concept/term into a field in which it is not welcome?

    Michel Foucault once wrote: “Look everywhere for power, you will find it.”

    Is this the same type of position you are advocating wrt ‘design’ – look for it everywhere, it is there?

    “design is an illusion, which is a corollary of the Darwinian principle of unguided evolution” – StephenB

    Design is obviously ‘real’ and not an ‘illusion’. Even the most stringent atheist will agree with this…when you specify you are speaking about human artefacts. This doesn’t have anything to do with C. Darwin, oftm, with R. Dawkins. It has to do with the desire to have ‘design’ accepted as a legitimate term ‘in biology.’

    In any case, if one would speak about an (intelligent) ‘design-worldview,’ then wouldn’t it make sense to propose an ID-Theology, to ground or anchor that ‘worldview,’ that is, unless one can hold an atheistic ‘design worldview’?

  133. 133
    StephenB says:

    Timaeus @32. Thanks for your thoughtful response. It is evident that you have given this matter a great deal of thought in the past. I will provide a response in as few words as possible.

    Three individuals in this blog have shared their experience with the ASA. Carolyn Crocker, William Dembski, and one blogger have all testified to the fact that they were mistreated in some way and each characterized the ASA culture as being hostile to the ID world view, which is essentially the same point I made in my own critical remarks. In my judgment, Ted has listened respectfully to their protests but has not, in my judgment, taken them seriously enough. At the same time, both Ted and Gregory have insulted me personally and directly, and those insults were obviously inspired by my negative criticism of ASA and their misguided perception that I am not entitled to pass judgment on the matter because I have never been a member.

    Trivializing Dembski’s complaint, Ted writes this: “Bill’s point is consistent with what I have heard from numerous other folks in the ID movement–namely, that the ASA is irrelevant to them (or has become irrelevant to them). I’m involved with X or Y and don’t have time for Z (what the ASA does).” The problem is that this wasn’t “Bill’s point.” Where does Dembski say the ASA was “irrelevant to him?” For that matter, where does Carolyn Crocker say that she doesn’t “have time?” Ted is discounting the essence of the problem and reframing it to serve the interests of the ASA. The reasons these individuals leave, or consider leaving, is because of the way they are treated and because they feel awkward in a Christian Darwin, anti-ID culture.

    Just as Ted seems to read his hopes for the ASA into Dembskis comments, he also seems to read his pet criticism of ID proponents into my comments. I did not suggest that “Darwinism” was the sole reason that liberal Christians seek to demythologize the Bible or question the historicity of Adam and Eve, and I made this point clear more than one time. Even so, Ted spent an enormous amount of time and space trying to refute that strawman, apparently in an attempt to evade the more difficult questions. To sum up, I asked about his apparent proclivity to conflate, and simultaneously identify with, two logically incompatible world views, Traditional Theistic Evolution and Christian Darwinism. Indeed, it was I who found it necessary to make this distinction, one which both Ted and Gregory seem unable to grasp or unwilling to confront.

    When I say that the ASA culture is predominantly Christian Darwin, I accepted the burden of articulating exactly what that means and what it doesn’t mean, which I tried to do in as few words as possible. In such a discussion, it seemed natural enough to ask questions about Ted’s own views on the topic since they obviously inform his perspective on the quality of ASA’s communicative culture. After all, a Christian Darwinist whose own views on evolution are conflicted and incoherent, if indeed his are, will hold much sympathy for an organization’s culture that labors under that same intellectual burden. As usual, little came of it. Unfortunately, it has been my experience in dealing with Theistic Evolutionists that they will not submit their ideas to scrutiny. That pattern continued on this thread.

    Moving forward, I agree with your assertion that many parts of the Bible are open to multiple interpretations. It is also true, though, that Christians often play the ambiguity card so that they will not have to submit to the authority of inconvenient teachings. In the present context, I suppose we may disagree on one point because I can’t imagine any two Biblical truths that are less ambiguous than the historicity of Adam and Eve (confirmed for Catholics by Pope Pius XII [Humana Generis]) and the declaration that God’s handiwork is evident in nature [self interpreting]. To me, these are not in the same category as topics more vulnerable to the vagaries of phenomenology, such as science’s early conclusions about a stationary earth or a static universe.

    If you are asking me for my position about the ascent of the intellect to matters of faith, I hold that after all attempts to reconcile the two have failed, Scripture (as interpreted by the magisterium of the Catholic Church) trumps science. For me, the historicity of Adam and Even is a non-negotiable tenet of Christianity. On this point, I think you may be misunderstanding a critical distinction with one of your questions. The term “Sola Scriptura,” which I reject as a Catholic, pertains to the belief that the Bible contains all the truths necessary for salvation. The Catholic view is that God’s revelation is contained both in the Sacred Oral Tradition, that is, preaching of the apostles which informed Sacred Scripture, and in Sacred Scripture itself, which is a partial written record of that Sacred Tradition. In other words, all the truths of salvation cannot be known solely through Scripture. That is a different relationship than the one between faith and science (or, from a broader perspective, faith and reason).

    On matters of scientific methodology, however, I am not a Bible first Creationist. In that context, I am a data first analyst. That is why I defend ID as a data first process against critics who portray design detection as a faith-based enterprise. On matters of epistemology, faith and reason are, for me, mutual partners in the acquisition of knowledge, but when I say mutual, I mean mutual. As with any dialogue, each must be permitted to scrutinize the other. I hope this clarifies my position. Thank you for asking

  134. 134
    Gregory says:

    “the ID world view” – StephenB

    Is ID a ‘worldview,’ according to anyone else at Uncommon Descent other than StephenB? Or is this just a case of someone elevating ‘ID-science’ ill-advisedly into an ‘ID world view’?

    Maybe Nick will chime in with ‘it’s a free country’ again.

    It would seem to be valuable in such cases to have an ID-Theology spelled out, so people could better tease apart ‘ID-science’ from ‘ID-ideology.’ To help guard against elevating science into worldview, doesn’t building an ID-Theology make sense?

    This would give Caroline Crocker a theological argument to potentially influence ASA’s theology, which is home not just to ‘liberals’ but also to ‘conservatives.’

    p.s. a ‘data first process’ & at the same time a ‘world view’! = )

  135. 135
    Timaeus says:


    My apologies. I never saw your rejoinder. Now I’ve gone back and read it.

    There aren’t really fixed conditions for “membership” in ID, as far as I know, Gregory. I suppose that the essence of ID would be summed up two broad positions: (1) skepticism regarding the creative powers of neo-Darwinian and analogous “chancey” mechanisms; (2) belief that the universe or some part thereof bears signs of intelligent design. As you can see just from looking at them, these two broad positions cover a lot of ground, and that means ID doesn’t have a narrow “orthodoxy.” And since the “membership bar” is so low, all kinds of people can call themselves supporters of ID: YECs, OECs, agnostics, Deists, philosophers who accept teleological arguments, and believers in various non-Christian religions. ID is not a creed or a church or a political party that can keep people out.

    It’s more like, say the environmental movement. Among environmentalists you have left-wing Democrats and “crunchy con” Republicans; you have vegetarians and meat-eaters; you have pro- and anti-capital punishment people; you have a variety of stances on foreign policy; you have capitalists and socialists; you have Christians and practitioners of Wicca; you have feminists and male chauvinists; etc. You can’t really keep anyone out of the environmental movement. If a guy shows up one day to clean up the litter in a public park, you can’t say: “Sorry, we don’t allow Republicans in the environmental movement.” If he wants to help, you welcome him. Similarly, if someone shows up at a debate and bashes Darwinism and argues that the bacterial flagellum is designed, you can’t say: “We don’t accept your arguments about Darwin and design, because you think the earth is only 6,000 years old.”

    Obviously one ID proponent can disagree with another, but the disagreement won’t be over the two broad positions I’ve stated. So obviously Michael Behe disagrees with those ID people who think that evolution has not happened. But he doesn’t therefore try to sue them for using the label “ID.” He works with them where there is common ground, and follows his own lights where there isn’t. I don’t see him as trying to “appease” anybody. If he were trying to “appease” YECs, he would not have published *The Edge of Evolution*.

    I myself see no problem with this “big tent” approach. I know that many, including perhaps yourself, would like to see ID define itself more narrowly, both on scientific and theological questions. But ID isn’t like the early Church, which could call a council of Nicaea, settle its doctrine, and then enforce the result. The early Church already possessed a rough unity which could make such a doctrinal agreement possible. ID is not a “body” in the sense that the early Church was. It an intellectual and social alliance of many distinct bodies, and of some stray individuals who identify with no body at all. It thus proceeds not on the assumption of absolute unity, but on the assumption of limited common goals. It therefore cannot conduct itself as though it were a church or a school of political theory which looks to the writings of a single Master. Or, in American terms, ID is never going to pass beyond the stage of the Articles of Confederation to the American Constitution.

    I think that you and others want to see ID adopt a sort of religious and political Constitution, which could then be used to keep certain people out, and I have a pretty good idea which people you would like to see kept out. But it isn’t going to happen. The ID people are content with the alliance that they have forged, even if the rest of the world finds it odd or incomprehensible.

    Now, regarding the ASA, that is a different problem. The ASA is a body of Christian scientists, not a body of ID supporters. (There are some ID supporters in it, but ID is not the raison d’etre of the organization.) As scientists, ASA members have to come to some agreement on what counts as acceptable science and what does not. Obviously they have come to the conclusion that a flat earth is not good science. Obviously they have come to the conclusion that a young earth is not good science. They have not yet come to a conclusion whether or not ID is good science; that debate is still going on. How it will turn out, I do not know, because I do not know the ASA from the inside. I cannot gauge the internal dynamics. What I do know is that the future of the ASA without the ID perspective can be seen by a glance at Biologos. On questions of origins, at least, the ASA will become an advocacy organization for TE, and probably a very narrow brand of TE of the sort that Biologos champions.

    As for your question:

    “So are you suggesting they are virtuous in their theology and without virtue in their scientific understandings?”

    I wasn’t making any comment on the quality of the *contents* of creationist theology. I was praising the *motivation* of some creationists, i.e., I respect the fact that they take traditional Christianity seriously, and not as something that can be abandoned or rewritten piece by piece, in accord with every new demand of “science” or “history.” When you compare their cautious defense of tradition with that of some of the wildly liberal pastors and theologians who post on Biologos, who ask “How high?” every time someone speaking for “science” says “Jump!”, the creationists often come across as much more admirable *human beings*. They understand that religious traditions are not something you abandon or drastically modify, merely in order not to be ridiculed by the intelligentsia. They take seriously the words of Jesus that the world will sometimes be very hard on those who are faithful, but that they must hold fast.

    I think the creationists draw the lines in the sand in the wrong place — Genesis literalism, a wooden understanding of inerrancy, and so on — but I find their fundamental religious attitude more in tune with the Gospels than the aspirations to middle-class intellectual respectability which appear to drive many of the former-creationists-turned-TEs who populate Biologos.

    The bad science of creationists follows from their literalist hermeneutic. If they would abandon that hermeneutic, they would no longer need to do bad science. But that literalist hermeneutic, while misguided in my opinion, is adopted because they take the Bible and the theological tradition seriously in a way that many Biologos columnists fail to do.

    The beauty of ID is that it allows one to adopt all the creationist criticisms of Darwinism which are actually based on scientific considerations, while abandonding all the creationist criticisms of Darwinism that are based on a literalist hermeneutic.

    As for your last question, regarding what a YEC could say that would be intolerable for ID, I would say that what YECs believe privately or confess in their churches is of no concern to ID, but if a YEC started to argue from religious authority, instead of from the data provided by nature, ID would renounce those arguments. So, for example, if someone argued: “There is design in biology because Psalm X says that we are assembled by God in the womb,” ID proponents would have to nix that as an acceptable argument to be included in their publications. But when has any major ID proponent argued in this way? I’m told that Paul Nelson is a YEC, but if I hadn’t been told that, I’d never know it. All his columns here are about the views of various scientists, about the arguments for and against a last universal common ancestor, etc. I’ve never seen anything but science and philosophy of science in his writing. And if, for the sake of argument, he privately believed that the earth was only 10,000 years old (in fact, I think he has no fixed view on the age of the earth, but let’s suppose he did), if none of his arguments for design in biology, or against neo-Darwinian evolution, depended logically on his opinion about the age of the earth, what would it matter? There have been famous scientists who have gone in for phrenology or attending seances, but if their beliefs in those areas don’t affect the quality of their research in their physics or their chemistry, what does it matter? As long as YEC beliefs about the age of the earth, or the interpretation of Genesis, are kept out of any arguments they make regarding Darwinism or design, ID as a movement is indifferent to those beliefs.

    I probably agree more with Darrel Falk than with Paul Nelson regarding a number of things, e.g., the age of the human race, but there is no doubt in my mind that Paul Nelson has a knowledge of evolutionary theory, especially current evolutionary theory, that vastly surpasses that of Darrel Falk, because Darrel doesn’t keep current. He’s too busy doing TE apologetics to do real science anymore. And to my mind, someone like that, someone who purports to defend “evolution” without having a clue what Shapiro and Koonin and Newman and other leading-edge theorists have been saying on the subject, is much more of an embarrassment to “good science” than a young earth creationist who keeps up with the literature.

    I think that you and others are making far too much of the creationist-ID connection. The leading “creationists” in the ID movement do not argue from Biblical texts, and they have an impressive string of Ph.D.s from very good schools (Meyer from Cambridge, Nelson from Chicago, Wells from Yale and U. of California, etc.) If you want to argue that their scientific arguments are invalid, then by all means do so. But you can’t say they base their arguments for ID on the Bible or on their private theologies. That’s simply not true.


  136. 136

    What a great conversation! Thank you all for your thoughtful and respectful interchange of ideas. This is what I was hoping for at the ASA annual meeting, not just within the interpersonal relationships (which, Dr. Gregory, were excellent), but from the podium and in the meetings. I am very aware that what was said from the platform might have artificially prevented disagreements in the corridors. After all, those of a timid disposition (obviously not me) would not have expressed views that they were warned against holding, perhaps ensuring that interpersonal relationships remained friendly, if shallow.

    In answer to your implied question, Ted, yes, what I reported about what was said from the podium was accurate—I took notes. In fact, the recordings show that some of what was said by Dr. Hayhoe was even more objectionable than what I reported. As Timaeus advised in his uniformly clear and helpful posts, this incivility from the podium must be curbed so that the ASA will provide an “open forum” where ideas can be “discussed without fear of unjust condemnation.” After all, where the leaders lead, the flock soon follows. Timaeus summarizes my position very accurately when he says, “Dr. Crocker is concerned less about the nominal beliefs of the organization and more about the attitudes which she finds among some of its members, attitudes which in her view are affecting the institution’s behavior and hence its mission.”

    At this point, I do need to apologize to those who have taken so much time to comment on my post only to find that I do not reply. There are several reasons for this. First, this is my first foray into posting an article that has attracted widespread comment and, as such, I was not aware of the need to set aside time for reading and writing and, therefore, did not do so. I have a couple of biology consultancy projects on the go, not to mention the work of leading a nonprofit. Therefore, I regret that I have not been able to take a more active part in the discussions.

    Second, as Dr. Gregory points out, I am a trained immunologist, not a philosopher or theologian, so do not have much to add to a discussion about Biblical hermeneutics! I do hasten to add, however, that this is not because I received my education in the USA. I did not. Three of my four degrees were earned in the UK, where they also do not train scientists in philosophy or theology. Therefore, I am aware that, short of my natural ability to reason and observe, my reading of the Bible, and my thirty years as an Anglican, I am not qualified to comment. Yes Ted, I will buy and read Ramm. Meanwhile, I tend to run everything I write by family members who are Oxford-trained theologians. But, if Dr. G is offering…

    Finally, I note Timaeus’ advice that “sooner or later she and those who agree with her are going to have to make the case, within the ASA, that the Biblical hermeneutics of the “liberals” are unacceptable” and agree that, not being theologically trained, this would be difficult for me personally to do. But, I am aware of many scientists who also trained in theology or philosophy and are more than capable of fulfilling this role. Perhaps we could listen to them.

  137. 137
    StephenB says:

    Thank you for asking. I use the phrase “world view” informally, as in perspective, not formally, as in global world view. So I am not referring to something on the order of Aristotelian/Thomism or Materialism, but rather about an orientation to design. So, when I write about the ID world view, I am referring to the belief or attitude that biological design is real, that it is detectable, and that its effects can be measured. I appreciate the question.

  138. 138
    StephenB says:

    “a data first process & at the same time a “world view.”

    No, a data first process, by my description, is ID’s methodology that begins the investigation by observing data and following the evidence wherever it leads, as opposed to the Creationist methodology, which begins with a presupposion of Biblical teaching and seeks to harmonize that data with that presupposition. Thank you for the question.

  139. 139


    This thread is everything I wanted to say and know about ASA and more.

    Thank you all for your time and effort to write these exchanges. I’m going to have to print them out and read them slowly.

    Two very quick comments.
    a) There is way too much deference to specialists. I admit that the problems in hermeneutics are severe–yet that has not stopped anyone on this list from discussing “what the Bible says”. Likewise I admit that philosophy of science, like metaphysics and epistemology is a huge field that cannot possibly be mastered by any one human being–yet that has not stopped anyone on this exchange from talking about science.

    So why all the deference to experts? Or to put it another way, do you need to be an expert in General Relativity to know that gravity works on dropped tumblers? There needs to be a “Common Sense” approach that can be applied to all these differing areas and which is relatively free of contradictions.

    b) Which brings me to my second point. The place where people put their inevitable contradictions is generally at the spot where they know the least. For some, it is hermeneutics–how we know what the words in the Bible mean. For others this is philosophy–how we know reality, or how we know that something is true. For others this is science–what it means for a theory to have support, what makes a theory a good theory.

    (Illustrative anecdote. Liquid crystal displays–flat panel TV’s–used to cost thousands of dollars, because it was so difficult to make a defect-free display. Defects occur because the silicon crystals used to make the Si-on-glass transistors of the display, have incompatible crystal boundaries, so there are literally millions of such boundaries in a flat panel. A transistor on a defect would fail, a pixel would go black, and black pixels would mar the screen. If only 0.01% of the pixels went bad, a 1000 x 1000 display would still have 100 of them. Then my brother-in-law invented a way to concentrate the incompatible boundaries in certain places–say, the border–where they didn’t get in the way. Bingo–cheap displays, and he gets royalty checks every month. Moral: put your contradictions someplace they won’t be seen.)

    So when a person who has all his contradictions located, say, in science, argues with a man who has all his contradictions located in hermeneutics–they don’t understand each other. In some sense, they can’t, because then somebody would have resolved his contradictions and would have had to change his views.


    My hope, and personal goal, is to hold to my contradictions lightly, ready to move them around if I can find a better spot for them. I was brought up in a “fundamentalist” home, and started with my contradictions in science. After high school, I moved them to hermeneutics. Then after some years in seminary have moved them to linguistics (or philosophy of language). So far this has been a quite unnoticeable spot, and I humbly suggest, the visible parts of my science and faith integration don’t have any big black pixels in them.

    So the point of experts should be to detach the black pixels of contradictions from prejudice and allow them to be shifted to less noticeable places. When the ASA functioned in this fashion, it was a pleasure to attend. But if it functions as a gatekeeper of the orthodoxy, putting bandaids over the black pixels of its contradictory integration, then it not only will become less pleasurable to attend, it will also become irrelevant.

  140. 140
    Timaeus says:


    Thanks for your clear and careful response.

    I don’t want to talk too much about personal frictions here, but I do want to address what you said about being insulted. I haven’t read carefully what Gregory said to you, so I can’t comment on that; you will have to take it up with Gregory. Regarding Ted, however, I must have missed the insult. I think Ted spoke to you firmly, but I don’t think he meant to belittle you. I am guessing that you are referring to his remark that you are not a member of the ASA, and his suggestion that this makes your observations less than authoritative. Let me comment on that.

    Ted has spent years of his life involved in the ASA. He’s held the highest executive office and has been involved with it in almost every imaginable way. He knows a large proportion of the members personally, and knows the internal politics of the various camps very well. He knows a vast amount about the history of the organization, and he knows a lot of stuff that cannot be published because it was told to him in confidence.

    I think that what Ted is trying to say to you and to all of us here is that when we make generalizations about the ASA, he is not going to let them pass unless they match his own deep and broad experience of the organization. He knows that most of us here are not members and never have been, and that we see it only from the outside, and only in relation to isolated issues that pop up. So he wants to make sure that we see the bigger picture, not just a few isolated and dramatic conflicts that have come to our attention. I think this is a legitimate conversational goal for someone in his position.

    So if you felt he was saying: “You don’t know what you are talking about” in a harsh way, I think you have to understand that as: “What you have seen is only the tip of the iceberg, and you should be careful not to judge the whole organization by the little bit of it that you have seen.”

    That said, I agree with you that it is possible that Ted has underestimated the number of slights that ID people have received from ASA members who champion TE. Even Ted can’t be everywhere, and he hasn’t been at all the talks and hasn’t been witness to all the conversations that Caroline and others are talking about. He may not realize how frequent and pronounced the condescension of some individuals toward ID people is. I am sure that he knows that such attitudes exist — he’s a very wide-awake person who knows the score. But he may not have fully gauged the acceleration of these attitudes over the past two or three years.

    I have to agree with Ted about this, however. In any democratic organization, the majority has power, if it chooses to exert it; but if it fails to exert it, the organization will be run by a party or clique. This is a fact of human nature. The politically more involved will rule over the politically less involved. It happens in political parties, in university faculties, etc. Now I am told that TEs make up only 1/3 of the membership of the ASA. That means they are in a minority. So how can they push the others (ID, OEC, uncommitted, etc.) around, unless the others are passive? The others have to become more active, as I’ve said before, more active on the intellectual side (writing papers for conferences and articles for the journal), and more active on the political side (making sure they have representation on every panel, committee and governing body of the organization).

    OK, enough on that point. Now to your other points.

    I agree with you about Christian Darwinism. You and I have both posted comments here in the past about the difficulties of putting the two things together, and we are on the same page. But I understand why Ted did not want to take that up. First of all, the compatibility of chance and providence etc. are huge topics worthy of a thread in themselves, and would take the discussion away from the main subject, i.e., the ASA. Second, Ted has frequently discussed these metaphysical topics before, here on UD in responses on various threads, and on the old ASA discussion list (now defunct), and he has discussed them at great length. I don’t think he is avoiding the topic; I think he just doesn’t want to address it in this context.

    I think what Ted was trying to get you to see is that from the TE point of view, it is not as simple as “either science trumps the Bible, or the Bible trumps science.” From the TE point of view — and keep in mind that the TEs vary from very liberal Christians to much more conservative ones, so generalizations can be misleading — it is not science versus the Bible; it is “Must we interpret the Bible in such a way that it necessarily clashes with science, or are there other ways of reading it?”

    Remember that the TEs are in constant battle against the YECs who tend to interpret the whole Bible very literally, and in particular interpret Genesis very literally. Probably 90% of the Bible-science conflict in the USA comes from YEC or YEC-related quarters. If you don’t have to take the days in Genesis literally, if you don’t have to take the Flood story as an entirely accurate news report, if you don’t have to accept the genealogies in Genesis as complete and accurate lists of all the generations back to Adam, then most of the Bible/science conflicts evaporate. Not all of them, but most of them. So Biblical interpretation is crucial for TEs. If the Genesis is read one way, then evolution cannot have happened, because the Word of God says the earth isn’t old enough. (This is Todd Wood’s view.) But if Genesis is read in other ways, evolution is possible. (I’m not here talking about whether evolution is scientifically plausible; I’m discussing only whether or not Genesis, and more generally, Christian theology, can make room for evolution.)

    Now I have no problem with exploring different ways of reading Genesis, including ways which allow the earth to be old enough for evolution to have happened. And I’m not sure that you have any such problem, either. I think you have granted that evolution is compatible with Catholic thought and with ID, if it is construed in a certain non-Darwinian way. So I don’t think that you and Ted are really disagreeing on that point.

    However, there may be some points of disagreement between the Bible and science that don’t depend on an extreme literalist perspective, and I think this is what you are getting at when you talk about Adam and Eve and the Fall. I think you are saying that this must be a historical event, and that the Catholic Church vouches for it as such. I think you are saying that the story of Noah’s ark and of seven days of creation and of the age Methusaleh are not central to Christian theology in the way that a historical Adam and Eve and the Fall are. I think you are saying that the literalness of Genesis is negotiable on some things, but not on other things. Do I understand you correctly?

    If this is your position, then here is where you are going to clash with most of the TEs on the ASA. All of the TEs who are geneticists appear to be of the view that there cannot have been a first human couple, but only an original hominid population of 10,000 or more. So *part* of the Adam/Eve story cannot be literally true. They therefore want to insist that the “first parents” part of the story cannot be taken literally, and that Genesis has to be read loosely on that point. However, many of them believe in a historical Adam and Eve as the first hominid couple to be truly human, to possess the image of God. You will find this view asserted in various places, in the ASA journal, on Biologos, etc. I do not know if this view is compatible with current Catholic official statements, but it is becoming increasingly common among Protestant TEs. In their view, it allows them to hang on to what is essential in Paul’s Adam/Christ parallel. So they see themselves as being true to traditional Pauline Christianity, in the main, and they think that dropping the “first biological parents” part does not damage the core assertions of the faith.

    There is a more radical position among the ASA membership, held by, I would think, a small minority of TEs. This would be the position of Denis Lamoureux, who says that the whole Garden story is intended mythically. There is no need to postulate a real Adam and Eve, he says. There never were any such persons. The point of the story is to show the estrangement of God from man in a pictorial way. Now you may ask: how does he square that with the statements of Paul? I answer: I don’t know; you will have to ask Lamoureux. But quite a debate has raged. A few months ago, I saw Lamoureux savage Biologos on this issue, claiming that the moderate position I described above (federal headship rather than biological parentage) was lousy Biblical theology and that the Biologos people who held to it didn’t know what they were talking about. He became quite heated, and said some very sharp and accusatory things, and within an hour or so most of his comments were taken down by the moderator. I, however, happened to be reading at the time, and so did many others.

    In the aftermath, Biologos explained that it was trying to make room for a wide variety of positions, including the position that Adam and Eve were real people whose Fall necessitated the coming of Christ. It allowed Lamoureux’s position as possible, but did not accept it as proved. So on that point, Biologos was more conservative than one of its TE contributors. Even Biologos is hesitant to throw out Adam and Eve altogether, just to harmonize with science.
    We have to give the Devil his due, and score one point for Biologos there.

    On the other hand, if you insist that Adam and Eve must be literally the first parents of all human beings who have ever existed, then the position of Biologos is liberal, because that is the one position that it will *not* accept. For them, the population genetics argument is unassailable, and as certain as Newton’s Laws or the periodic table or the boiling point of water at sea level, and so Genesis *must* be reinterpreted on that point. So Biologos can defend a form of the doctrine of the Fall, but not the full, traditional doctrine.

    Now, not every TE needs to agree with Biologos on this. A TE might doubt that the population genetics argument is compelling. I don’t know any TEs who have openly said so, but there may be some. Are there any such in the ASA? I don’t know. But even if every TE in the ASA does agree with Biologos, I come back to the point that the TEs are a minority within the ASA and that this is not the official ASA position. So we have to be careful not to identify the position of the ASA with the position of Biologos, even if many prominent ASA members are involved with Biologos.

    I am glad to hear that I misinterpreted your remarks about the Bible, and that you still hold to a traditional Catholic understanding, i.e., that Christianity is more than simply the Bible, but requires an interpretive tradition. Thanks for clarifying.

    I think I have to leave this thread now. Like Ted Davis, I have run out of time. But I thank Caroline for starting this conversation. I hope that in future days she and Ted and other sensible people on both sides of the TE/ID divide will be able to work together constructively, so that the ASA does not fall apart due to internecine warfare between the various camps regarding origins.


  141. 141
    Timaeus says:


    Thank you for this reply.

    I don’t disagree with everything that you say, but the way in which you talk about religion in terms of “evidence” and “rigor” and so on seems to me to be rather bloodless. It seems to me that there are two Elizabeths: Elizabeth the hard-minded, no-nonsense scientist, who doesn’t believe in anything unless she can put salt on its tail, and Elizabeth the musician, who plays wonderful classical music with (I presume) great feeling. I would suggest to you that if you are ever going to understand the nature of religion (and the nature of theology can’t really be grasped without understanding the nature of religion), that you pay greater attention to that part of your soul that houses Elizabeth the musician, and less to that part of your soul that houses Elizabeth the rigorous methodologist of science.

    If you play the piano, try your hand sometime at the Kelberine arrangement of “Komm, Susser Tod.” I think the Passion is better expressed there than in a thousand theological treatises. I think that such works get one inside the Christian mind and heart, and more generally, inside the religious mind and heart, better than any of the external modes of investigation that you seem to prefer.

    I think that in this matter you have been too influenced by a sort of empiricist or positivist notion of religion. Unfortunately this notion of religion undergirds the whole “religion/science” and “creation/evolution” cultural battles, as it is the notion of religion shared by most of the combatants from Richard Dawkins to Ken Ham. It is certainly not my notion of religion. Of course, as my name indicates, my philosophical master is not Bacon or Descartes or Hume or Kant or any of the other moderns whose notions of reason and truth have led to this false misconception of the divine and how we can know it.

    Best wishes,

  142. 142

    No, there aren’t “two Elizabeths” 🙂

    But I am a trained scientist, and also a trained musician. Both require rigor, and both require imagination.

    And both require empathy.

    Gil will probably agree 🙂

    As for my soul – I was certainly not a bloodless believer, although I did tend to go for Aquinas rather than happy clappy stuff. I’m not a pianist – I play the viol, and was steeped for many years in 16th and 17th century music, including the amazing liturgical music of that era.

    And you can’t be bloodless about anything, certainly not religion, while playing Es ist Vollbracht 🙂

  143. 143
  144. 144
    StephenB says:

    I suppose that I am destined to be misunderstood when I use technical terms like “predominant culture” in a discussion such as the one we just had. This must be the case since so many here continue to instruct me on the ASA’s demographics, mission statement, and written policies. An organization’s culture is a pattern of shared assumptions, a collection of values and norms that determine the way people interact with and react to each other. It defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior and may or may not reflect the organization’s stated mission and written policies. Quite often it does not.

    Even in the context of diverse world views, every organization forms its own culture naturally and it is always changing. Again, it will not suffice to say that I should not judge the “whole” organization based on elements within in, as if no such thing as an undercurrent could exist. Based on what I have read, the ASA’s culture has changed and is now subtely taking on an anti-ID flavor.

    Yes, of course I could be wrong. On the other hand, it appears that the ASA’s leadership and defenders feel no need to reflect soberly on the mattet and that critics could not possibility be on to something, which is a good reason to suspect that they may be wrong.

  145. 145
    Gregory says:


    No worries about missing the initial questions. I’ve enjoyed this thread generally and appreciate that you took the time to address them. If more discussions by people in the ID camp would occur like this, there would be much more ground for collaboration and common projects with non-IDists. Now I must repay the apology as recent days have not allowed me to respond to your thorough rejoinder.

    This long response will address several comments, by you and others in this thread.

    First, I’m glad to hear that Dr. Crocker was treated well at ASA – excellent interpersonal relationships – all things considered. If ASA members are not ‘behaving’ as Christians, this would go against their mission. It seems to me that Ted Davis has dispelled one rumour – the title of this thread can be answered easily: No, ASA has not forgotten their stated identity as a home for scientists and scholars who are Christians. The theological content of ASA is visible openly; this distinguishes it from the IDM and the DI.

    To me the main point is this: most of ASA’s members have decided to ‘take a stand’ against ‘young earth’ views, which YECs insist is not ideology, but rather ‘good science.’ YECs reject the science of a vast majority of geologists, cosmologists, biologists and others, including their Christian brothers and sisters in those fields. ASA has decided that it cannot any longer ignore the ‘evidence’ that comprehensively points to an ‘old’ earth.

    The IDM otoh lowers its credibility because it does *not* ‘take a stand’ on the ‘science’ involved in ‘age of Earth,’ when it quite easily could do so. One can argue that it doesn’t have to, but that misses the sociological point about how the IDM is perceived because of its welcome association with (& funding from) YECs. If the sociological point isn’t important to you, at least it should be understood for what it is.

    “As scientists, ASA members have to come to some agreement on what counts as acceptable science and what does not. Obviously they have come to the conclusion that a flat earth is not good science. Obviously they have come to the conclusion that a young earth is not good science. They have not yet come to a conclusion whether or not ID is good science; that debate is still going on.” – Timaeus

    Yes, this seems to me an accurate description of the current situation. Some in the ASA may say ID is ‘bad science,’ but they would be speaking prematurely imho, since ‘pattern recognition’ qualifies ‘design detection’ as a kind of ‘science,’ even if not within the (natural-physical) fields ID currently highlights.

    Does the Discovery Institute not see or not care that its legitimacy as an institution concerned with ‘truth in science’ and ‘academic freedom’ becomes dubious simply by its ongoing affiliation with people who accept a ‘young earth’ as if it were ‘good science’?

    “The bad science of creationists follows from their literalist hermeneutic.” – Timaeus

    Why then allow this ‘bad science’ into the big tent of the IDM? Why not just cut it off at the door/tent opening, which DI could easily do? Only ‘good science’ and not ‘bad science’ should be welcomed by the DI & the IDM!

    Whatever the reason for YECs’ ‘bad science,’ it does not change the fact that if the IDM won’t officially address ‘age of Earth’ then it will be perceived that the DI does so for duplicitous reasons, e.g. to maintain funding channels with YECs or to perpetuate a ‘culture war,’ etc. I’ve met DI leaders and do not question their integrity generally speaking! Why not then solve the dilemma by facing this problem?

    By having the courage to take a formal stand as an professional institute, the DI would enhance its appearance as an organization of scientists, scholars and people to actually treat science seriously, not just cherry picking topics as they see fit. (I’m not saying the DI *must* express position on *all* branches of science, but ‘age of earth’ is obviously quite important in the ‘controversy’ over which evolutionary theories to teach and which to discard as ideological.)

    “I think that you and others want to see ID adopt a sort of religious and political Constitution, which could then be used to keep certain people out, and I have a pretty good idea which people you would like to see kept out. But it isn’t going to happen. The ID people are content with the alliance that they have forged, even if the rest of the world finds it odd or incomprehensible.” – Timaeus

    Just keep YECs out of the IDM, that’s all I’m asking for; honour them as ‘well-intentioned’ Christians who are obviously backwards scientifically. Pat them on the head and tell them to go ‘Reform’ their views of/in science – tell them not to be scared that the earth revolves around the Sun! My point has nothing at all to do with a ‘religious and political Constitution,’ so I don’t know what you’re suggesting there. Just keep what in your own words is ‘bad science’ out of the ‘big tent,’ Timaeus. What is unreasonable about that request? The tent might grow in some ways, while it shrinks in others. Care to risk it?

    It isn’t about Behe or Dembski or Meyer ‘appeasing’ people; it is about the DI appeasing ‘bad science’ by not taking a principled stand about the age of the earth. Your argument is noted, Timaues, but seems to me to be full of holes. You’re inviting contradiction and mutually exclusive views into your ‘big tent’ – this is not a recipe for welcome reception by the scientific community or by Christians who seek a healthy, fruit-producing balance between science, ideology and religion.

    Wrt ‘deference to experts,’ Robert Sheldon, I don’t see the big deal, unless one is under-educated and tries to speak down to those who are educated. Have you heard of the notion of ‘ProtScience’ put forward by Steve Fuller (2010), one of the few social scientists friendly to ID? If not, you really should check it out; just as the printing press led to the Protestant Reformation and reading scripture for oneself instead of bowing to Church hermeneutics, so the internet is leading people to ‘become their own scientist’ even if they are hardly in a position to be a credible interpreter of evidence, based on internet blogging experience.

    ASA is right to speak strongly against YEC and its ProtScience. Amen! However, they are simply reflecting their biases against ID when they say it is anti-science when it quite obviously supports (and oftentimes but not always promotes) ‘good science.’

    Indeed, the reason why many theists don’t accept ‘intelligent design’ is because it is proposed as a ‘science-only’ theory, not as a meta-science (R. Collins) or as a worldview, which is what one person in this thread called it. Do you have any guess at just how many people who call themselves IDists, actually think of ‘intelligent design’ as a worldview, not just as a science? It’s an honest question; I have no idea.

    See for example, StephenB’s on-going self-contradiction:
    “when I write about the ID world view, I am referring to the belief or attitude that biological design is real, that it is detectable, and that its effects can be measured.” … “ID’s methodology that begins the investigation by observing data and following the evidence wherever it leads” – StephenB

    Before StephenB starts, he has already concluded the reality of ‘biological design.’ The method of looking at evidence and ‘measuring’ it is presupposed and does not matter at this point. Following the evidence where it leads is a methodology; starting with ‘intelligent design’ *and then* following the evidence where it leads is not a methodology, it is an ideology. “It looks like design” (bird’s wing) is not a scienfitic statement. But again, this thread is not really about ID, it is about Dr. Crocker’s experience at ASA.

    I accept that her qualifications do not prepare her to challenge biblical hermeneutics in ASA; neither do mine. It does seem to me also largely a sociological phenomenon, rather than only a theological one, which she is noting (plus, people keep throwing the labels ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative,’ involving religious politics in USA). The strong reaction of ASA towards YECs to me is understandable; they are rejecting the ‘bad science’ of YECs, which is laudable. The strong reaction of some people in ASA, and basically all affiliated with BioLogos, against ID-as-science makes much less sense, given the relative newness of information theories, and the awareness that many in the IDM are also ‘evangelical Christians’ just like them.

    I still wonder why ID is not more versed in cybernetics and systems approaches, given that both highlight information and both use the language of ‘design.’ It seems to me this is because of the ideology of people in the IDM, rather than because of the science of cybernetics or systems approaches. But perhaps that can just be left as grist for the mill on another thread.

    It is not my intention to frequent this place. Partly due to the negative stigma brought on by triumphalism, such as Dembski’s ‘waterloo’ moment. That Crocker is interested in making a change without throwing mud at ASA affords her more credibility than another writer in particular working on behalf of the IDM.

    Yes, Timaeus, I’d agree that Darrel Falk does not appear to ‘stay current’ and that Paul Nelson probably understands current evolutionary and non-evolutionary theories in biology better than Falk does. Does it not make you wonder then, Timaeus, how Nelson could still allow ideology to trump science wrt age of earth?! Indeed, if a guy like Nelson were to go through a public ‘conversion’ to ‘old’ earth this would speak volumes for ID’s mission. It speaks badly about the IDM with clear examples of people who accept ID and who yet at certain times allow ideology to dominate their ‘science’.

    I couldn’t say who is more of an embarrassment to ‘good science:’ Falk or Nelson. This is a point that the IDM should be making much more openly and transparently than they have thus far. Yes, Falk is outdated, out of touch and his BioLogos view is difficult to defend with a straight face (in the absence of F. Collins even more so). But Nelson is an embarrassment to the IDM – when it comes to his ‘bad science’ – and that is the crucial point re: Crocker’s experience at ASA.

    Not challenging the ‘bad science’ of YECs is the appeasement that needs to end.

    “I think that you and others are making far too much of the creationist-ID connection.” – Timaeus

    The thing is, there shouldn’t need be *any* connection possible to make between ‘creationism’ and ID. If the DI takes a stand, this would solve a bunch of problems (even if it may lead to funding cuts & other such consequences). The DI is inviting the connections with the ‘big tent’ approach by turning its head the other way wrt YECs; I and others are not making this stuff up.

    If ‘intelligent design’ is trying to re-define science, while at the same time it allows ‘bad science’ to exist within that ‘new science’ neighbourhood, it should be understood that scathing remarks from people inside the ASA will be forthcoming. Ted is a classy guy and he likely won’t insult you to your face; much worse things will be said and done by non-Christians and atheists, who are likewise simply defending the territory of science from ideology. The situation is exacerbated by the DI’s unwillingness to ‘come clean’ about its non-YEC foundation.

    Otoh, if the IDM *would* put forward an ID-Theology, then it would at the same time offer an opportunity to do what some people in this thread have asked for: give theologians and regular people who are theists an opportunity to ‘push back against science’ when it makes exaggerations and forays outside of its boundaries into philosophy, socio-cultural thought and worldview. Indeed, it would be a win-win for the IDM; build an ID-Theology and take a stand publically against YEC ideology. This would gain credibility for the IDM and allow Dr. Crocker a (potentially legitimate) leg to stand on next time she goes to an ASA meeting.

    So then, why not put forward an ID-Theology?

    “intelligent design is a purely scientific pursuit wholly separate from creation science” – Evolution News and Views (Oct. 21, 2011)

    Quite obviously, this is too strong a statement to keep repeating, given what has been said above, by as competent a defender of ‘intelligent design’ as Timaeus.

  146. 146
    StephenB says:

    –Gregory: “See for example, StephenB’s on-going self-contradiction:

    Sorry, there are no contradictions in my statements. Any perceived conflict exists only in your dubious orientation to the subject.

    Gregroy quoting me:

    …“when I write about the ID world view, I am referring to the belief or attitude that biological design is real, that it is detectable, and that its effects can be measured.”

    … “ID’s methodology that begins the investigation by observing data and following the evidence wherever it leads” – StephenB

    Correct. An ID world view, as I define it, is a belief in the validity of the ID approach. It is not a methodology which begins with an analysis of the data. One of the reasons our language contains multiple words is so that we can make distinctions.

    —Before StephenB starts, he has already concluded the reality of ‘biological design.’

    No, I have not. You asked me to define what I meant when I used the word, “world view.” You said nothing about methodology. I introduced that word so that you would, one hopes, come to understand the difference. ID methdology does not begin with an assumption, it begins with an observation. It is a laudible habit to follow the trajectory of your own questions.

    —Gregory: “The method of looking at evidence and ‘measuring’ it is presupposed and does not matter at this point.”

    How, in the name of sense, does one presuppose the conclusion by first examining functionally specified complex patterns in nature and then drawing formal (ID science) or informal (intuition) inferences from that observation. If you are going to assume a cricital tone on a given subject, you have a moral obligation to learn something about it.

    —“Following the evidence where it leads is a methodology; starting with ‘intelligent design’ *and then* following the evidence where it leads is not a methodology,”

    You are tripping over your own words. It is possible to detect design in nature informally, that is, to recognize its existence independently of any scientific analysis or measurement. Hence, most rational people recognize the design inherent in the structure of a bird’s wing. On the other hand, one can, without presuming the existence of design, draw an inference to design by using ID methodologies. If only you and yours were as open to scrutiny and willing to define your own positions as some of us are, things would go a lot smoother.

    “It looks like design” (bird’s wing) is not a scienfitic statement.”

    No kidding. Do you labor under the illusion that every rational argument is scientific in nature.

  147. 147
    Timaeus says:

    Hello, Gregory.

    First, let me compliment you on the thoughtfulness and tone of your post above. Especially on the tone. From time to time on this thread and elsewhere, you have been somewhat scrappy in your debating style, but here you are in fine academic form, and it looks good on you.

    I won’t respond to all of your points, but will address only two: (1) the argument that ID should dissociate itself from some of its supporters, in particular its young-earth creationist supporters; (2) the argument that ID would be better off if it had an explicit theology.

    (1) I agree with your sociological analysis, i.e., that ID’s willingness to include within its big tent people who are considered by the intelligentsia to be sub-scientific carries with it a certain amount of risk. There is always the danger that ID will be accused of being “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” if it does not distinguish itself firmly from creationism. And while it has done that conceptually, it has not done that politically, in the way that you and others would prefer. On the other hand, there are other things to consider.

    (a) First of all, even those ID proponents who are not creationists, and are known by all honest critics not to be creationists, are savaged by the atheists, by the TEs, and by the the biological establishment. Behe is hammered more often and more insultingly than people like Cornelius Hunter or Paul Nelson. And he is treated thus, not primarily for failing to dissociate himself from other ID people, but for the views on Darwinism and design that he holds, as set forth in his books and articles. So accepting an old earth, and accepting macroevolution, including the evolution of the human form, does not protect one from the hatred of the anti-ID people.

    Similarly, Sternberg, another Catholic who appears to accept macroevolution and to dispute only the Darwinian mechanism, is denounced whenever his name is brought up, by atheists and TEs alike. So again it appears that association with young-earth people is not the decisive element in the rejection of ID and is not the cause of its vilification. The cause of its vilification is that it questions the scientific consensus re Darwinian mechanisms, and that it introduces the notion of design into scientific discussion.

    If every single ID person were a Catholic macroevolutionist such as Behe, the reaction of the biological community, of the New Atheists, and of the TE community would be much the same as it is now. There would be fewer “target areas” on ID’s body (no chance of scoring points regarding the age of the earth or alleged theocratic conspiracies of right-wing Protestants), but the remaining target areas would be riddled with bullets all the same. The only way that ID can avoid such violent opposition is to surrender its basic position and say: “Darwinian science is really great, and we were impudent and insubordinate to criticize it, and we were fools to think that there might be detectable design in nature or even that design could ever be talked about in science.” The opponents of ID will accept no less than total surrender.

    Under such circumstances, there is no sensible reason why the ID macroevolutionists should severe their ties with the ID creationists. It is much easier for their foes to annihilate each of them if they stand alone than if they join forces to defend each other. And there is no doubt that their foes do want to annihilate each of them.

    (b) Second, while I think that literalism/inerrantism has often produced bad science, I do not see those ID proponents who hold to literalism/inerrantism arguing for science based on that literalism/inerrantism when they argue for ID or criticize Darwinian biology. For example, I am told that Paul Nelson is a young earth creationist, but I have never seen him discuss young earth creationism here on UD or anywhere else. I have read his articles on important scientists and science writers; I have read his articles on technical biological matters, regarding flaws in Darwinian theory and so on. I haven’t seen any arguments from him that the earth is young, that the geologists are wrong about the age of the earth, that evolution can’t have happened because the earth was created in six literal days, etc. As far as I can tell, whatever he believes privately about the Bible as history, when he is operating publically as a Darwin critic and ID supporter, he bases his arguments on empirically accepted science regarding cells, genes, evolutionary tree data, etc.

    In light of this, let’s bring to full light the structure of the argument you are making, and test it for logical soundness. Your implied argument (and whether you are speaking for yourself or only representing the view of ID critics is immaterial here) is essentially this:

    1. Paul Nelson does not accept the current scientific consensus on the age of the earth.
    2. Therefore, Paul Nelson is an incompetent scientist.
    3. Therefore, anything Paul Nelson says about any scientific topic whatsoever, even if what he says does not in any way depend on his opinion of a young earth, can be discounted.
    4. Therefore, his genetic arguments against LUCA (a single universal common ancestor), even though they have nothing at all to do with the age of the earth, can be dismissed as unscientific without examination.

    But all the steps from 2 to 4 amount to ad hominem argumentation. Why should ID people dignify ad hominem arguments by jettisoning intelligent people like Paul Nelson? The opponents of ID have no right to employ such arguments in the first place.

    You know, Gregory, there are people who say that anyone who believes in the Resurrection, or other miracles, cannot possibly be a truly competent scientist. Do you remember Coyne’s opposition to Collins’s appointment to the NIH? If we are going to say to Paul Nelson, you can’t be taken seriously as a scientist because you believe literally in the genealogies of Genesis, why can’t we say to Collins and other Christian scientists, you can’t be taken seriously as a scientist because you believe that people can get up from the dead, or turn water into wine, or walk on water? After all, Collins and other Christian scientists believe in the Gospel miracles precisely because “the Bible says so” — the same argument that literalists use to defend the Genesis genealogies. So is the argument that any scientist who believes in miracles because the Bible vouches for it must be sub-intellectual and sub-scientific? And that other scientists should distance themselves from such colleagues? In that case, all the Christian science faculty would have to be expelled from the universities.

    Sure, from a sociological point of view, denying an old earth seems anti-scientific to most Americans. But 50 years from now, affirming the Resurrection or water into wine may seem anti-scientific to most Americans. If that turns out to be the case, should the ID supporters of the future distance themselves from those who believe in the Resurrection as well? And from all the other miracles? Then ID in the future will be restricted to Deists and agnostics.

    My view is that, as long as Collins’s belief in the Gospel miracles doesn’t affect the way he does science, the scientific community has no reason for concern, and so I think that Coyne’s objections to Collins’s appointment were petty and partisan. But the same applies to the YEC people within the ID movement. As long as none of their scientific arguments against Darwin or for ID are grounded in their particular views of the Bible, I don’t think those views are a fair subject for discussion. I am sure you are correct that from a sociological point of view their views are bound to be discussed, and targeted; but it does not follow that it is legitimate for anyone to do so. Ad hominem arguments remain illegitimate no matter how popular and politically successful they are.

    The moment that Paul Nelson makes his scientific arguments depend on his particular understanding of the Bible is the moment that I will repudiate him. Until then, I have no problem with his involvement in the ID movement, and I don’t think any honest scientist should, either.

    (2) You would like to see an ID theology. I understand your desire. But here is the problem. Organizations like the ASA and Biologos are clearly Protestant in their historical roots and religious culture, even if they do not formally demand Protestantism as a condition of membership. They therefore are already dedicated to a particular interpretation of Christianity which gives them at least the possibility of some kind of theological unity. But let’s look at the ID movement. Behe, Chapman, Richards, Sternberg, O’Leary, StephenB, Vincent Torley — lots of Catholics there. Meyer, Dembski, Luskin, Hunter, Dodgen, bornagain77, probably most of the posters here and probably most of the donors to Discovery — lots of Protestants. And Berlinski — an agnostic. And Klinghoffer — a practising Jew. And Denton — apparently a Deist. And Wells — from the Unification church. There are also Eastern Orthodox ID supporters, and Muslim ID supporters. What theology could unify all of those people? What would the doctrines of such an ID “Church” be? I can’t imagine. The adherents of such a Church couldn’t even agree on theism, let alone on Jesus Christ, and even those who could agree on Jesus Christ would split over whether authority came from Scripture alone or from Tradition as well.

    I don’t think you can make a Church or a theology for ID, any more than you could make a Church or a theology for everyone who believes in Darwinian evolution. What sort of “theology of Darwinian mechanisms” could equally accommodate Catholic Ken Miller, evangelical Protestant Francis Collins, vaguely pantheistic Francisco Ayala, agnostic Michael Ruse, and hardnosed atheist Richard Dawkins? Ruse and Dawkins would walk out the church door the moment Collins pulled out his guitar.

    What unites ID people is the argument that there is design in nature; what unites the Darwinians is the argument that there is no design in nature. This difference cannot be translated into any particular theology, for either camp. There will always be many different pro-design theologies, and many different anti-design theologies (or anti-theologies, if you will). The theology of Platonism differs from the theology of Ken Ham, and the calm atheism of the Epicureans differs from the angry, fist-shaking atheism of Richard Dawkins. In my view, there is no “ID theology” and never can be. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I think that ID is simply too limited an insight to be the basis of a religious life.

    I’m going to exit this thread now. If you reply, I will read what you say, but I don’t have anything more that I want to add. I must return to other work. Thanks for the exchange.


  148. 148
    Gregory says:

    Thanks for your compliment, Timaeus. I did spend considerable time on that post and attempted a respectful tone. With you it is not hard to express/achieve that; with others in the IDM (e.g. the ID-worldview holders & ‘everything is designed/nothing is not-designed’ people) is it difficult indeed!

    Unfortunately, there is no time to respond any more in-depth or point-by-point on my side either, so I must exit this thread also. With the sociological point granted, I think what Dr. Crocker experienced at ASA in terms of how they treat the ‘bad science’ (in your words) promoted by YECs (typically spoken in Protestant Christian circles as [hostility towards] ‘the sin, not the sinner’) is more understandable. Surely you are not upset, Timaeus, that ASA is ‘taking a stand’ against ‘bad science’!

    Accepting ‘bad science’ in ID’s ‘big tent,’ as you admit and as I too agree it is, for political or culture warring reasons, is imo an on-going mistake and one that should be corrected. But as you acknowledge, it is known (by Bruce Chapman, John West, Stephen Meyer, et al.) to indeed be a ‘risk’, and so nothing more need really be said on that theme.

    “What unites ID people is the argument that there is design in nature; what unites the Darwinians is the argument that there is no design in nature.” – Timaeus

    This is far too simple a dichotomy for a scholar of your calibre to maintain, Timaeus. First, these are ideological rather than scientific arguments, which is why the influence or place of ‘ideology’ in this discussion deserves more space than is currently given. ‘Darwinism’ is an ideology not a mere ‘science’, which is why BioLogos removed their definition of Darwinism from their blog; they called ‘Darwinism’ “the theory of evolution by natural selection,” which is obviously misleading.

    On one hand, to suggest that “intelligent design is a purely scientific pursuit wholly separate from creation science,” is likewise quite obviously to misspeak. Purely?! Not only is ID a ‘pursuit,’ it is one that happens just as often ‘outside of science’ and/or that involves extra-scientific presuppositions (see above in this thread). However, mark my words, if I were an IDist, I would have no problem with that at all, since, as Max Weber noted (1919):

    “No science is absolutely free from presuppositions, and no science can prove its fundamental value to the man [sic] who rejects those presuppositions. Every theology, however, adds a few specific presuppositions for its work and thus for the justification of its existence. / For theology, these presuppositions as such lie beyond the limits of ‘science.’ They do not represent ‘knowledge,’ in the usual sense, but rather a ‘possession’.”

    Reading texts like this provide an alternative view of ‘intelligent design,’ ‘theistic evolutionism’ and ‘evolutionary creationism’ than what is currently available in the N. American discourse. They have led me ‘beyond ID’ toward something better, which I will gladly share with you and others, Timaeus, should you express genuine interest in the possibility.

    Second, the desire both to seek and ultimately (or trivially?) to find ‘design’ of some kind ‘in nature’ actually contradicts the IDMs cause of challenging ‘naturalism’ as ideology contaminating science. The non-natural features of ‘human design,’ not just ‘design in nature,’ are apparently easy to see…for those who already operate on the presumption that the world/universe/every hair on our heads, was ‘made by God the Creator.’ ‘By our presuppositions they shall know us.’

    Since all ASA members accept or believe that “In the beginning God created,” they are already functioning on the same presuppositions when they ‘do science’ as (most of) you folks are. Sure, they do not suggest they can ‘scientifically’ _____ the Creator’s creation, while ID likewise says the ‘Designer/designer’ cannot be ‘scientifically detected;’ only the ‘designs’ which are undeniably modelled on human-made things (mousetrap, Easter Island statues, etc.) can be ‘detected’. Indeed, Fuller’s contention that ‘intelligent design’ aptly means ‘divine technology’ is appropriate, when understood in the proper context & ‘divine technology detective’ would be a replacement for the word ‘scientist’.

    Whereas people here at UD don’t seem to talk much about Steve Fuller or his support of ID, otoh, I’d much rather engage fruitfully with Fuller than un-fruitfully with Ruse or Coyne, who are basically beyond repair and humility.

    “In my view, there is no ‘ID theology’ and never can be. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I think that ID is simply too limited an insight to be the basis of a religious life.” – Timaeus

    Don’t worry, it doesn’t disappoint me. I agree with you. But I still wonder then why Dembski would title his book “Intelligent Design: the Bridge between Science and Theology” if there is no such thing as ID-Theology possible. What is a ‘bridge’ worth for travellers that doesn’t touch down on one side of the cliff and doesn’t aim to? Impassable is what I would call it.

    Here StephenB’s point above is valid; why is a one-way street being presented, with (natural) science dictating (from below) to ethics, values, beliefs, faith and theology? The best answer to this is ‘scientism’ (not just the simple Anglo-American meaning of this ideology) which you of course would wisely seek to reject.

    If you folks are really still seeking ‘cultural renewal,’ as DI-CSC’s mission once indicated, then simply promoting ‘good science’ (even in the name of ID) is insufficient. You likewise need to be promoting ‘good theology’…in the name of _____ or ‘intelligent design’ (and its implications) too. Indeed, this is what Dr. Crocker is saying is needed at ASA; I’m suggesting it is needed at DI also.

    As it is, I have one kind of answer for this dilemma. Just today I re-submitted a peer-reviewed paper for publication; accepted with a few changes. It is anti-evolutionistic and focuses little on Darwin. Here’s a quote from it explaining why:

    “We are reminded of humanity in the tools of our creation, which reflect our primordial human (anthropic/Adamic) ‘nature’ or ‘character.’ A.R. Wallace took pains to identify ‘human selection’ (1890), the power of human choice, free will, to communicate, beyond mere ‘natural selection.’ This was his spiritual-humanitarian stand against Darwin’s and T.H. Huxley’s naturalistic agnosticism. To confess that ‘Adam’ was not a real person, as many of Darwin’s and Huxley’s followers have done, is tantamount nowadays to suggesting that humanity is in the process of being evolutionarily superseded by machines. To embrace Adam is to profess an anthropic understanding that no natural science is capable of superseding.”

    I wonder what Ted Davis would say to this, mired in geneticism as he seems still to be.

    There is indeed vast fertile ground, suitable for scholarly research and publications, that the IDM has yet to discover, in large part due to its choice of disciplinary priority; biology-first. If you’d like, Timaeus, I’ll send you a copy of something that indeed speaks of a post-evolutionistic way of ‘seeing/hearing/thinking,’ i.e. a ‘possession’ likened to ‘faith’, should you be willing to risk confidential private communication given below.

    Here at UD I would not risk it.

    Yours Respectfully,

  149. 149
    Timaeus says:


    A final set of replies:

    1. No, I’m not upset that the ASA is taking a stand against bad science. But what is bad science, and what is merely unorthodox science (i.e., possibly of some merit, but not yet accepted) need to be carefully distinguished. So if someone builds a museum in which human beings are depicted as living alongside dinosaurs, he is promoting bad science, because all the empirical evidence suggests that dinosaurs were extinct long before human beings came onto the scene; but if someone applies information theory to biology and discovers patterns of information strongly suggestive of design, the possible implications of such a discovery should not be rejected merely because certain ASA members are too timid to challenge the reigning Darwinian orthodoxy in biology.

    2. I don’t think bad science is any part of ID’s big tent. ID’s big tent is all about inferring design, and the means used to infer design (probability theory, information theory, engineering considerations, etc.) all come from well-established sciences. Some individuals who hold what you might consider unscientific beliefs (e.g., about a young earth) are ID theorists, but when they speak as ID theorists they must keep those beliefs out of their arguments and writing.

    It is no different than the situation in the late 19th century when some Victorian physicists (who certainly did “good science”), went in for spiritualism and attended seances in hopes of talking to their dear departed. The physics community did not cease to publish their scientific papers on electromagnetism simply because they privately engaged in some speculations about ectoplasm and so on. Similarly, there is no reason why ID proponents who accept an old earth should care that a few of their colleagues believe in a young earth, as long as that belief does not impinge upon the design theorizing. And I’ve seen no evidence that anyone’s young earth beliefs have corrupted the quality of his writing on Kolmgorov information or on the genetic evidence for single versus multiple common ancestors or on the evidence that biological form is not determined entirely by DNA but appears to have laws of its own. If anyone can show me where a “young earth” assumption is built into any scientific argument by an ID proponent, I’m all ears.

    3. When I spoke of what unites the ID people and what unites the Darwinians, I was speaking of what unites each group insofar as it genuinely addresses the science of nature, and does not intrude upon that science with ideological concerns. Obviously there is plenty of ideology in the popular debates over evolution, just as you say. There is plenty of theology on both sides as well. ID is scientific only to the extent that it separates itself from Christian apologetics, just as Darwinism is scientific only to the extent that it separates itself from an anti-teleological philosophy of nature. Thus, Behe’s arguments based on irreducible complexity and the inordinate time needed for certain combinations of mutations are scientific arguments (whether valid or not is a separate question), not ideological ones; whereas arguments such as “God would not have been so cruel as not to let human beings manufacture their own Vitamin C, therefore human beings got here by an unguided natural process of evolution” — the kind of argument used regularly both by atheist Darwinians and TEs — are not scientific arguments, but arguments derived from theology.

    Thus, I reaffirm my stance about what unites ID people. ID people cannot be united by religion because they embrace different religions. They are united by their belief that nature reveals strong evidence for design. They may be right; they may be wrong; but that is what unites them. If certain ID proponents argue for certain political or historical conclusions — that society is going down the drain because it has abandoned Christian principles, that the Nazis were influenced by Darwinism, etc. — these other conclusions may well be true, or they may be false, but either way they have nothing to do with science and therefore nothing to do with intelligent design as an explanation of nature. They merely reflect the social and religious interests of certain ID proponents. One can disagree with every social, political and theological view that has ever been advanced by any ID proponent, and still be an ardent supporter of intelligent design in nature.

    4. Regarding your remark about suppositions of all science, I agree with Max Weber that scientists necessarily make certain extra-scientific suppositions. They assume, for example, that nature works regularly. They assume that human sense-perception is reliable. They assume other things. However, I am not aware of a single additional assumption that ID people have added to the set of suppositions that scientists already use. If you can show me something that ID theorists assume that mainstream science does not assume, please do.

    5. I certainly agree with you that people should read Max Weber, and that anyone interested in evolution and design should read some of the things written by Steve Fuller. I certainly agree with you that scientific discussions take place in an extra-scientific social context, and that this context sometimes intrudes upon science itself, not usually in the details, but in broader questions, such as: what counts as science? For example, it was just obvious to Aristotle that final causes belonged to science, whereas it was obvious to Bacon and Descartes that final causes should be kept out of science. Two different understandings of nature are presupposed in these judgments, and understandings of nature are in part shaped by culture. Steve Fuller is very good at pointing out how “methodological naturalism” is used to fence certain ideas out of science, and that it is a construct which, at least in its current usage in the evolution debates, has a recent social and historical origin and falsifies the actual history of scientific thought.

    6. On your last point, I certainly affirm that human beings are more than what they appear to be to the biologist. You can see that from your perspective as a social scientist; I can see it from my perspective as a philosopher and humanities scholar. We have no disagreement: human beings cannot be reduced to their biology. But you misunderstand ID if you think that it places “biology first” in the analysis of human nature. ID discusses biology because it is a response to a biological theory — the Darwinian. That is why it focuses on genes and cells and molecular mechanisms and biological information and so on. You should not expect a theory which argues for design in living things to comment on the best form of society or the best methods of early childhood education or the moral status of euthanasia. You should expect that it would limit itself in exactly the way that it does. But nothing in ID *precludes* social scientific or humanistic investigations into the nature of man. Indeed, ID *clears the way* for such investigations by demolishing the Darwinian approach to man, which is inherently reductionist because it explains (or attempts to explain) *everything* about man — including his morality and religion — in terms of his biological antecedents. ID is not social science, but it is the ally of social science — at least, of all social science that is not based on reductionism and materialism.


  150. 150
    Gregory says:


    Sunday greetings! Thanks for your replies. Yes, it is busy times for me also. I send this because of its higher level of dialogue and more than 2000 visits, suggests that perhaps interest in this thread can somehow continue.

    Let me begin by clarifying something I said wrt Dr. Crocker, as I don’t wish to put words or motivations in her mouth and could have been clearer with what I wrote at one point above, wrt her position.

    “You likewise need to be promoting ‘good theology’…in the name of _____ or ‘intelligent design’ (and its implications) too. Indeed, this is what Dr. Crocker is saying is needed at ASA; I’m suggesting it is needed at DI also.” – Gregory

    To be clear, Dr. Crocker did not suggest an ‘ID-theology’ is needed at ASA, but rather that ‘good theology’ is needed there; not just theology cow-towed to scientism, geneticism or climate change alarmism – i.e. bowing to ideologies. In other words, she was implying that theology is important at such an organization as ASA, and that in her view they have perhaps for some reason ‘lost their way’ as a particular evangelical Christian organization, the largest of its kind in USA. My apologies if I wronged her by making it seem that she is promoting ID-theology, when as far as I know, she hasn’t said that within her program of encouraging ‘scientific integrity.’

    Turning then to the discussion with Timaeus, for the record, he (or she) has not responded to me in private at the e-mail address I provided. The offer is still there, though from what he (based on Greek character, if I may presume gender) wrote above, there seems to be a huge, perhaps insurmountable gap in the way we are approaching ‘design’ and ‘intelligence’ as well as what they (could) mean to people around the world, not just in the USA.

    “When I spoke of what unites the ID people and what unites the Darwinians, I was speaking of what unites each group insofar as it genuinely addresses the science of nature, and does not intrude upon that science with ideological concerns.” – Timaeus

    Both ‘Darwinists’ and ‘IDists’ simply *are ideological* as soon as (more accurately, before) they open their mouths. Thus, Timaeus, the ‘science without ideological concerns’ gambit you are attempting is not worth my effort to counter; it is a fantasy easily check-mated. You are playing the game the way your opponents want you to play, rather than forging a winning new strategy for the future. I do not write for Ruse, Coyne, Dawkins or Ken Miller as audience; why do you?

    ‘Darwinism’ is obviously not just ‘the biological theory of evolution by natural selection,’ as BioLogos used to publically call it (stamped by D. Alexander’s TE/EC-Faraday Institute authority), but is rather ‘ideology parading in scientific garb.’ This is a huge problem in Anglo-American S&R discourse. Once you understand this re-prioritization, the ‘nobody here but us ID-scientists’ mirage can be put away. And then you wouldn’t need to focus your message on those who won’t agree with you by force of will alone, not because of ‘the science’.

    “ID is scientific only to the extent that it separates itself from Christian apologetics, just as Darwinism is scientific only to the extent that it separates itself from an anti-teleological philosophy of nature.” – Timaeus

    It is not only the ‘anti-teleological philosophy of nature’ that compromises what you call ‘Darwinism’ or ‘the Darwinians’ as ‘non-scientific,’ but also (among other things) the inherent ‘conflict narrative’ that prioritizes Malthus-Darwin’s ‘struggle for life.’ Daniel Todes’ book (1989) reveals many non-scientific features of Darwin’s approach, not to mention in the ‘Darwinism’ and the ‘neo-Darwinism’ that followed in part from his works and in part from the imaginations and contortions of others. The perversion of Darwin’s ‘good botany/biology’ (you will admit, surely, Timaeus, that at least *some* of C.R. Darwin’s natural science contribution is still valid and correct, as of today, will you not?!) into bad psychology, sociology & ethology is an important conversation to have across the sciences, as a ‘meta-science’ discussion. If you are looking for someone to argue against who insists that ‘Darwinism is good science,’ then I’m not the right person; it is predominantly bad ideology.

    However, I see no problem whatsoever in uniting ‘ID’ fruitfully and necessarily with Christian theology (& thus also apologetics), in the sense that ‘implications’ of ID were at the forefront of the “Unlocking the Mystery” film and are quite obviously rife in ‘non-technical’ literature by ID advocates, like Dembski and Meyer. The problem is when one decides to limit them-self to ‘just science now’ and ‘just theology later;’ it is this (unimaginative) compartmentalisation of knowledge that confuses the discourse (red state/blue state, yet still united?).

    Newton did his science, Boyle did his science; many others have done and still do their ‘science’ while at the same time believing in God, creator of heaven and earth. The compartmentalization you are suggesting, Timaeus, may seem to be required to participate in the ‘natural science-only’ dialogue in USA. But the science-philosophy-religion discourse when globally-oriented can offer much more profound (powwow) understandings of human existence, beyond the merely technical advances made in any specialized (natural) ‘scientific’ field.

    “One can disagree with every social, political and theological view that has ever been advanced by any ID proponent, and still be an ardent supporter of intelligent design in nature.” – Timaeus

    It astonishes me that you are a philosophy and humanities scholar who has not studied ‘reflexivity’ because this fundamentally changes the ‘rules of the game’ and your argument thus fails in its unnecessary desire for pseudo-objectivity. Why are you asking us (21st c.) to still check our ‘faith’ at the door, Timaeus? In order just to do ‘natural science’ (especially when you are not yourself a natural scientist!)? Or because that’s what ‘secular’ journals require of your ‘natural science’ colleagues?

    Well, then why not publish an ID-breakthrough (by a natural scientist or engineer, if need be) that will actually change the (natural or applied) ‘scientific’ world in ASA’s journal PSCF, because they *will* surely publish *any* paper by an ID proponent if it indeed promises to impact the scientific world, and which *also* adds its spices of theology and philosophy – holistically – into the same mixture? Ted Davis has promised a fair shake at ASA’s journal in this very thread and I for one take his word for it that you or your ID colleagues would get a fair shake! Do you doubt Ted’s integrity on this, Timaeus?

    The ‘in nature’ clause you repeat and repeat comes with too many strings and ambiguities, Timaeus. I see what it disguises. Like I said above, tvs, radios, e-readers, etc. *all artefacts* of human-making are indisputably ‘designed.’ I just met a 1st year university (you call this a ‘fresh-man’) student who, when I asked what he is studying, answered, without blinking an eye or equivocating, ‘design’…of the ‘graphic design’ variety. The obvious analogy to human-made things is what makes ID so attractive to engineers and other applied scientists, programmers, etc. What is harder to swallow is how that analogy can be properly extended from the obvious (noosphere) to the not-so-obvious (biosphere)…as if we *should* therefore conclude Mind (or even aliens?!), not just human mind(s) are/were involved.

    “I am not aware of a single additional assumption that ID people have added to the set of suppositions that scientists already use.” – Timaeus

    Here’s the irony: without Rev. Thomas Malthus’ ‘non-natural scientific’ population argument, neither Darwin nor Wallace would have concluded/discovered their ‘science’ of ‘natural selection.’ Sure, they were looking at ‘natural’ history and seeing that a ‘young earth’ simply didn’t make sense of what they saw (long continuity). But again, since you’ve taken age of Earth tentatively off the table, we can’t have that argument and the IDM *necessarily* loses a plank of credibility. Check it.

    What we see here when we look closer is how ‘natural’ scientists have ‘stolen’ (softer: ‘appropriated’) a concept/percept from a political economist. Over the past century & a half ‘evolution’ has been injected with the powerful ‘steroid’ or aroma of ‘legitimacy,’ which is implied in the phrase “this *is* a scientific conclusion.” Thus, they have made ‘evolution (change-over-time) in the struggle for life by means of natural selection’ a feature of indisputably valuable ‘natural scientific’ knowledge for every boy and girl to learn at as early an age as possible.

    Here’s the rub: Only by kicking the argument back in the Political Economy will you be able to overturn this malevolent mischievousness; yet you insist on hiring a tiny fraction of humanitarian thinkers at DI compared to natural and applied scientists. Why? Because you’ve forgotten the ‘human’ in the ‘nature,’ just as ID leaders mourn the spiritual loss. The whole spectacle is baffling and people in USA are still feeding into it (with chants of ‘culture war’ winning the day) with their ‘evolutionary political economy’! What good is it if you ‘defeat’ the Darwinians in biology if at the same time you lose ethics, values, beliefs and faith to ‘evolutionism’? Please think through this carefully before denying it could be so.

    “Steve Fuller is very good at pointing out how “methodological naturalism” is used to fence certain ideas out of science, and that it is a construct which, at least in its current usage in the evolution debates, has a recent social and historical origin and falsifies the actual history of scientific thought.” – Timaeus

    Yes, Fuller does what you say. Fuller mocks the entire USAmerican discourse of MN vs MN. He thinks it is shallow & fruitless. It is not just about ‘using MN’ to ‘fence out’ certain ideas. It is the whole model of pitting MN vs. MN that is the problem! ID’s opponents grin like Cheshire cats when IDists bring up MN. Fuller is helping to take us beyond this primitive philosophy of science, initiated in its ‘modern’ form by evangelical Christian Paul de Vries (1983, Wheaton), who really was/is in no position to be an authority on this topic.

    In Steve Fuller’s most recent book – Humanity 2.0 (2011), he speaks of the US National Academy of Sciences & that the “rearguard appeal to ‘methodological naturalism’ as its official ideology continues this embarrassing modern tendency for (some) philosophers to promote the scientific beliefs they inherited as if they were timeless epistemological truths (e.g. Pennock 2010).” (176-7)

    ‘Naturalism’ is always-already an ideology; it is *never* just a ‘method’ for ‘doing science.’ When/if you finally train more science studies, sociology of science and philosophy of science trained professors, this recognition will become patently obvious. The questions “which science?” and “whose science?” blow the doors open on ‘naturalism’ as it is often viewed. But because ‘socialism’ is a black-listed term in USA, you’ve got little choice but to fall back into ‘naturalism’ discussions until the cows come home.

    “You should not expect a theory which argues for design in living things to comment on the best form of society or the best methods of early childhood education or the moral status of euthanasia.” – Timaeus

    I am not expecting ID to do something outside of the fields of competence of its main theorists; there are very few humanitarian thinkers or social scientists in the IDM and even those who are have apparently given up on defining an ‘ID theory of society.’ The folly in doing so should be obvious. I’ve read the list of DI fellows and taken note of their familiar fields. That is why even talk of ‘human nature’ that you give here is marginal lip service for what the IDM is actually proposing. DI simply has no money to fund humanitarian thinkers or social scientists, so the story goes. Indeed, ID may be one of the theories ‘least concerned’ with human beings that I’ve read in a long time! But then again, as you acknowledge, I am a social scientist, and so ID as it is framed at the moment should have little meaning or consequence for me.

    “nothing in ID *precludes* social scientific or humanistic investigations into the nature of man. Indeed, ID *clears the way* for such investigations by demolishing the Darwinian approach to man.” – Timaeus

    No kidding aside, I burst out laughing when I read this, Timaeus. Thanks be given to ID for ‘clearing the way’ for ‘enchanted’ social or humanistic investigations from the bottom-up?! A shocking reversal of priorities & betrayal of academic sovereignty this would require.

    ID as currently formulated is little ‘ally’ of social sciences. It is at best neutral toward social sciences, if not outright dismissive of them in virtue of its primary focus on natural-physical and applied sciences, to the exclusion of other relevant knowledge fields. To say ID is friendly to social sciences is disingenuous. You’re biting the hand that has fed you, Timaeus, philosopher, & humanities scholar. Why?

    Michael Behe’s comments in the introduction to Dembski’s 1999 book reveal this ironically condescending style; ID is *supposed to* have implications for “all humane studies,” he wrote. But does Behe have the faintest idea what he was suggesting with regard to social sciences and humanities or was he simply pontificating outside of his rights? Did he even consult with ‘humane’ (?) scientists before writing that ‘patently scientistic’ trickle-down remark? Do you now see how ‘economy’ is still very well positioned to deal a major blow to Darwinism from the ‘other’ side (like the Eastern front broke through first in WWII)?

    Lest you think I’m being impartial against ID, the same thing is what F.J. Ayala does when he writes about “The difference of being human.” He blatantly over-reaches his grasp, by biologizing humanity, or as Fuller would say, by ‘dehumanising’ us. He writes as if humanity is simply an after-thought to the ‘pressures’ of genes and (natural) environments. This is free-will empty anti-monotheism rhetoric that at least T. Dobzhansky did a better job in negotiating with his “Biology of Ultimate Concern.” Dobzhansky openly admitted he was a ‘creationist’ since he believed in God the Creator. But the Ukrainian nevertheless still committed transferability fraud by invoking ‘evolution’ into the cultural realm, as is still being done with impunity.

    Now Behe has done it backwards, in suggesting ‘design’ that is ‘intelligent’ somehow ‘belongs’ in ‘humanitarian fields,’ though he is quite obviously not trained to know one way or another the appropriate language(s) in those fields. He just presumes himself upon those fields, without apology or even recognition.

    I’m interested, not in ‘the nature of,’ but in ‘the character of’ man, Timaeus. You can study ‘intelligent design’ from within a natural-first perspective if you wish, but in so doing you’ll be joining with those you oppose about morality, values, beliefs and religion. I’ve got a better alternative to this bias and your words in this thread are validating my resolve to move the mission forward, as is already happening behind the scenes. Again, my e-mail address is open to you for correspondence in this regard, if you would choose confidentially to do so.

    Since you wrote about your “perspective as a philosopher and humanities scholar,” let me offer a new diagnosis: You’re arguing with the wrong ‘Darwinists,’ dear friend. A colleague of mine was just at a conference in Europe almost entirely brimming with ‘Darwinists.’ Very few of them are biologists, however. She actually presented a ‘non-evolutionary’ approach there, and my guess is that she was well received (haven’t heard the news yet). I helped with the language massage because English is not her native tongue. Yet your dialogue is still Anglo-centric.

    What this says, Timaeus, is that you are wrestling in a kind of ‘culture war’ that is a purely nationalistic contest unfairly rigged against you, where a ‘victory’ is not only out of sight, but indeed impossible on the field you have chosen to play on. Why play under these conditions? If I were to name 10 influential figures at that event, I’d guess you are familiar with no >1 of them, if any. And you thought you had the Darwinists running for the exits! This is laughable.

    For example, W.G. Runciman: “I am in no doubt that neo-Darwinism has a long life ahead of it.” (“Great Escapes: Intellectual errors and how they were overcome,” 2007) This has nothing to do with biology!

    Are you going to come up with an economic theory to counter Runciman-Malthus, while Darwin himself (neo-) is out of the picture? You’ve got the story backwards, Timaeus, with your trickle-up approach, that in turn (yes, it does) elevates ‘natural science’ out of due proportion in the Academy. This strategy will indeed come back to bite you, unless corrected, as you have bitten from the hand of the humanities by privileging natural sciences, like biology…and dehumanized us further in the process.

    Perhaps that’s enough academic-rapping here to provoke you (Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything” partly inspired this reply – ‘you can’t match this’ rapper/academic – I do not write as for publications on a blog). If Dr. Carolyn Crocker (in California) is enough concerned about the ‘direction’ of the ASA and feels somehow ‘abused’ or marginalised by critiques of ‘young earth’ Christians who still think they are defending ‘good science’ as all proper martyrs should do, then she’s going to need something more like what BioLogos (uggh!) is offering than anything currently ‘in’ the IDM. That is, what ID needs is a theological wing – Christian, Muslim or Jewish theology front and centre (bah Berlinski’s pompous agnosticism!), which attempts to integrate ID-as-science, with the ‘implications’ of ID for theology and philosophy, in order to push back against the so-called ‘liberals’ who have (supposedly) taken over the ASA. If there is truly concern for the theological leanings inside the ASA, then only, as you said above, will studies of sacred scriptural hermeneutics, Ecclesia and Tradition enable an appropriate reply or response by Crocker and/or others.

    Otherwise, sobbing about the state of ‘evangelical’ Christian scientists at the ASA alone offers no fix. At least BioLogos has had the courage to bring theology to the forefront, regardless of the fact that their biology-centric, philosophical and ideological dilettantes have blown a gaping hole in their ship, from which many good people have fled. Indeed, BioLogos is more biology-centric than the IDM (while still unbelievably claiming to speak for ‘science’ [and faith] as a whole), but in my view, only slightly more so. What if Dembski’s father had not been a biologist?!

    Since my previous post here, Timaeus, I was in the company of a 2011 Nobel Prize winner. No, it wasn’t a ‘natural scientist.’ But who cares?!? An amazing person, whose work displays God’s ‘creation’ to/in the human heart of anyone who is honestly open to look and listen; no ‘design apologetic’ is needed or desired. I do not worship ‘natural science’ and wonder why the IDM is playing into the hands of natural scientists by its chosen prioritization of fields.

    Creation of nature, in nature, beyond nature – supra-natural divine meaning for/of humanity depends little on the activities or opinions of natural-physical scientists (quiet down in the back!), but more on philosophers, theologians and humanitarian thinkers.

    Thanks for your provocative thoughts, well-argued and courteous dialogue, Timaeus! Thanks also to Dr. Crocker for her report from the ASA meeting, with hope for development in her new organisation AITSE.


    “Why? Why is that impossible? You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank’s table that you’ve missed your God given right to something better.” – William (in film)

  151. 151
    Timaeus says:

    Gregory (

    I thank you for your further reply.

    Unfortunately, because of its length, I cannot hope to engage in a point by point response, or even to address the majority of the points that you make.

    I am pleased that you think my response was civil and thoughtful. However, it appears, from a number of things that you say in your current reply, that you have not fully understood what I have been arguing.

    I thought that I had gone out of my way to agree with much that you have stated. I opposed reductionism; I opposed the imperialism of Darwinism over the social sciences; I criticized the methodological naturalism/metaphysical naturalism distinction and praised Steve Fuller. I also went out of my way to make clear what I was *not* saying, so that you would not continue to criticize me for things that I was not asserting. But most of what I wrote appears to have been of no avail, as you continue to accuse me of undermining social science (and the humanities!) and continue to accuse me (and ID people) of saying things that I have not said (and that they have not said). I don’t know how to get over this impasse. If my already-long previous replies weren’t sufficient, I don’t see how writing even longer replies would help any. At a certain point, more words confuse things rather than help them.

    It is not true that ID people have no insight into the social sciences and humanities. John West is a trained political scientist who has debated the implication of Darwin’s *Descent of Man* with political theorist Larry Arnhart. Jay Richards has a Ph.D. in Theology and Philosophy. Jonathan Wells has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies (as well as in Biology). Richard Weikart has a Ph.D. in History, and has written extensively on the social consquences of Darwinism. William Dembski has a degree in Psychology. It is true that ID is not rich in sociologists, but it cannot be accused of being unaware of the social sciences and humanities.

    Even the lack of sociologists among ID people is not necessarily a bad thing. Most ID proponents are Americans, and sociology as they know it — American sociology — embodies all of the things you criticize — it tends to be reductionist, left-wing ideological, and shallow. Maybe if ID proponents were located in a European nation, where sociology is more philosophically sophisticated, they would be more interested in it. But as it has so frequently in North America been enslaved by Darwinism and other reductionisms, it is no wonder that they ignore it. You should be applauding the ID people for their good instincts in avoiding the intellectual wasteland that is American sociology.

    Your remarks about Behe are inappropriate. He is the least pretentious writer in the whole field of ID, TE and atheist writers, and his modesty and humility deserve a better treatment than your remarks offer. As for the contents of his remark, I don’t find them objectionable. If ID can show that we are *not* the product of chance, but of design, then a massive reorientation of the humanities and social sciences will inevitably follow. This is obvious to anyone who understands the history of ideas and is aware how much the “chance” notion has permeated every field of the social sciences and humanities, and has altered our human self-conception.

    You seem to speak out of confusion. On the one hand, you lambaste ID people for speaking outside of their fields when it comes to social sciences and humanities; on the other, you demand that they become explicitly involved in theology, a field in which only a few of them are trained. So which do you want, Gregory? For ID people to stick narrowly to their expertise, and shut up about everything else? Of for them to risk applying their ideas to other fields? You can’t criticize them both ways. But that’s what you are doing. If Behe rests his fame on the biochemical arguments in his books, you blame him for refusing to engage in theology, for “compartmentalizing.” But when he makes a very bland, very general remark that ID has implications for the humane sciences, you jump all over him for not being trained in those sciences. He’s damned if he compartmentalizes, and damned if he doesn’t. There is no pleasing you.

    You are a social scientist, and there is nothing wrong with that. But by your own admission you know little about biology. The debate between the ID people and the Darwinists is mostly over biology (and over the philosophy of natural science as it pertains to biology). No one can force you to be interested in that debate if biology does not turn you on. But it’s imperialistic of you to be suggesting that ID people and Darwinists are wasting their time in having their debate, and that they should be arguing about things that social scientists argue about instead. Would you tell a classical musician that he should stop playing Mozart and start playing Shania Twain? Frankly, it’s none of your business what people in other intellectual fields want to argue about. If you are competent to discuss biology, you can jump into the ID-Darwinist debates. If you are incompetent, or uninterested, you can keep aloof from them. But for you to say or imply that the debates are a waste of time, or misconceived, or that ID people should really be doing social science or theology, simply because *your* interests are in social science and theology, is intellectual bullying.

    Gregory, there are thousands of people on the internet, debating daily over Darwinian mechanisms vs. intelligent design. You are not going to stop these people from focusing on biology. Your continued attempts to derail the biological discussions of ID proponents will come to nothing, so you are wasting your time by complaining about the biology focus. You are spitting into the wind.

    If you really want to *connect* with ID people, Gregory, rather than to engage in confrontation with them, I have a very useful suggestion. You are not a biologist, but you are a social scientist. You are interested in opposing Darwinian imperialism in social sciences and social policy matters. Well, two ID proponents who agree with you are John West and Richard Weikart. They devote themselves, not to arguments about irreducible complexity and probability theory, but to showing the internal incoherence of Darwinian thought on human nature, and the socially destructive aspects of Darwinian thought in the human/social sphere. That ought to be right up your alley. Why not start by reading their books? You might be pleasantly surprised. And I guarantee that you will find no discussions of that sort, on that academic level, anywhere in TE-dom, or on any of the atheist Darwinist sites. ID people may focus primarily on biology, but despite that focus, they do more justice to extra-biological questions than anyone else in the arena. You won’t get ID to redefine itself to please you, but if you give it half a chance, you might find some useful conversation partners among ID proponents.

    You can reply again, but this will be my last word on this thread.


  152. 152
    Gregory says:

    Some time has passed since Timaeus’ last message and since he repeated that he would not respond to me again in the thread, I thought it not good use of my time to respond to his message right away.

    Let me now make just a few key points to Timaeus and this Blog:

    1) Timaeus agreed with me that YEC is ‘bad science’ (his words) – we can thus fairly assume that Timaeus is not a ‘young earth creationist’ – but that for some reason he feels it is unimportant for ID to take a stand on the scientific question of the age of Earth (or that it is important for ID *not* to take a stand on age of Earth), even if that topic is often associated with the ‘controversy’ over evolution and Darwinian scientific thought. I objected to this avoidance, but Timaeus stood his ground.

    2) As a scholar in the human-social sciences, I study the so-called ‘effects of intelligence’ almost every single day of my life. Does that make me, unavoidably, an advocate of ‘intelligent design,’ in so far as what I’m doing is scientific and/or scholarly? For some reason, I gather Timaeus would try to suggest something like ‘then you’re actually one of us’ simply because I study (the effects of) intelligent agents. He would be wrong to suggest this, however. It is rather that my fields of study are ‘outside’ of the ‘us’ that currently constitutes the intelligent design movement (IDM). ID is currently a ‘movement’ or ‘paradigm’ of thought that does not actually include study of ‘intelligent designers’ (cf. ‘designers’ that/who are ‘intelligent’).

    3) After suggesting “It is not true that ID people have no insight into the social sciences and humanities,” Timaeus suggested to me: “Why not start by reading their books?” As it is, I’ve already read some of their books. In fact, I attended the Discovery Institute’s Summer Program for university students in 2008; John West was the leader of the section on “Intelligent Design in the Social Sciences and Humanities.” He and I had several one-on-one discussions about ‘id/ID’ and ‘social sciences and humanities.’ We had Weikart’s Darwin to Hitler book on the reading list, along with a book by Jay Richards. But it is not my intention to share secrets about that event/program here at this venue now or to speak about the ‘ID’ and non- or anti-ID books I’ve read in ‘social sciences and humanities.’ The point to note is that I’ve seen the ‘inside’ of the IDM via the DI and have survived as a non-IDist to speak about it.

    4) Whether or not USAmerican sociology is ‘enslaved by Darwinism’ is debatable. ‘Evolutionism’ is the more operative and functional ideology, since Darwin’s views are mainly from and for the natural sciences. Yes, Darwin’s Descent of Man overlaps into psychology and anthropology, but the real discussion involves ‘neo-evolutionary’ ideas, moving up to M. Harris, S. Sanderson, Richerson and Boyd, and the Lenskis and on to the recent section on “Evolution, Biology and Society” of the ASA ( Timaeus is nonetheless suggesting ‘enslavement’ in fields that he is not trained or particularly knowledgeable in, but yes, we could agree to some degree on the influence of evolutionistic ideology in those fields. Why then does William Dembski support the ideology of technological evolutionism, without having yet made clear ‘which evolutions’ he accepts from those he rejects (e.g. eVo economics, eVo sociology, neo-eVo anthropology, etc.)? And why does the DI’s existence make no difference on the topic of socio-cultural evolutionism, when it’s main organ includes ‘culture’ (Centre for Science and CULTURE) in its title?

    5) As a point of fact: 7 out of 35 Fellows (when last I counted) at the Discovery Institute have higher education (university) degrees in theology. In my view, that is more than ‘a few,’ as Timaeus suggested. Theologians are openly courted by the DI; this is no secret. What is (or seems to still be) a secret, however, is the explicit link between ID and theology in IDM collective expressions. When will there be a text that explores the theological/worldview ‘implications’ of ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design’ (theory) with the new meaning of ‘science’ that the IDM is hoping to spread and to make popular?

    This message is aimed to over-lap with Dr. Caroline Crocker’s OP re: ASA and its predominant rejection of both ID and YEC and I have alerted her to its posting.


    “Design theory is at best a supplementary consideration introduced along-side (or perhaps into, by way of modification) neo-Darwinian biology and self-organizational complexity theory. It does not mandate the replacement of these highly fruitful research paradigms, and to suggest that it does is just so much overblown, unwarranted, and ideologically driven rhetoric.” – Bruce Gordon (DI Fellow)

  153. 153

    Very nice essay, Gregory!

  154. 154
    Gregory says:

    Thank you, Elizabeth. Here do you notice engagement with someone who takes ideology seriously, i.e. Timaeus?

    Timaeus’ opponents are ‘theistic evolutionists,’ ‘evolutionary creationists’ and ‘(neo-)Darwinists.’ No doubt he has thought considerably about the impact of ideology on science, within his USAmerican PoS.

    My opponents are ‘evolutionists’ (of all non-naturalistic stripes) and ‘naturalists’ (who accept a particular type of reductionism, privileging ‘natural’ sciences above ‘extra-natural’ sciences). I am applying a non-naturalistic, pre- & post-evolutionary approach in my work, which has been accepted and published in various scholarly venues in several countries.

    Indeed, this move is actually closer to Phillip E. Johnson’s work contra-naturalism, though without his black-and-white evangelicalism. Of course, he & I both accept the reality of a Mind behind or within the rational order of the universe. But we see a very different order in human society and culture (i.e. in ‘extra-natural’ categories), based on who we are and where we come from and have lived.

    To ignore ideology is to imagine that words make no difference to lyrical music. Just the sound please, without the meaning…

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