Some months back I was invited to speak at this summer’s Portsmouth Institute, which took place last weekend (June 22-24). The title of this summer’s symposium was “Modern Science/Ancient Faith.” See here for the schedule of talks. The speakers included Michael Ruse of Florida State University (keynote), Kenneth Miller of Brown University, John Haught of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, Abbot James Wiseman of St. Anselm’s Abbey and the Catholic University, Joe Semmes of the True North Medical Clinic, the Reverend Nicanor G. P. Austriaco of Providence College, and me, representing Discovery Institute.
Anyone who knows anything about the science-religion dialogue will realize, simply from scanning these names, that I was the odd man out. When I was invited to speak at the event, I didn’t know who the other speakers would be. Not that that would have made a difference in my attending or foregoing the event. I’ve just recently relocated my family to Iowa and I knew that this symposium would come in the midst of a lot of chaos connected with the move, so I tried to get out of it. But the organizers insisted I come because I’m an alumnus of the school that forms the backdrop for the Portsmouth Institute, namely, Portsmouth Abbey, a Catholic prep school in Rhode Island. It was good to get back to the school and see some faces I hadn’t seen in many years.
The intelligent-design position has become increasingly unwelcome at science-religion events where Darwinian evolution is presupposed and intelligent design is assumed to have been tried and failed. It was therefore interesting to see Ken Miller in action, who takes precisely such a position. And even though I missed the talks of Michael Ruse and John Haught, who hold a similar view, I suspect that given Miller’s talk, I didn’t miss much (I know the work of Ruse and Haught also through their books).
Miller’s talk was titled “To Find God in All Things: Exploring the Evolutionary Architecture of Life.” With such a title, one would expect a talk sketching in broad strokes how evolution has played out in natural history and then making some (preferably nuanced) theological connections with evolution. Nothing of the sort…