Christian Darwinism Culture Intelligent Design

Second question: Who takes BioLogos seriously once they hear founder Francis Collin’s views on disposing of the youngest humans?

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(Second of a series of seven)

BioLogos was founded by genome mapper Francis Collins to reconcile Christians to Darwinism.
To set the context for the second question, consider: In “First question: Are the Christian Darwinists at Biologos conscious fronts for atheism? Or unconscious ones?” The force of the question is a two-fold difficulty:

1. They claim that a Christian can be a Darwinian yet the significant majority of serious, professional Darwinists are materialist atheists.

Plus, Paula Kirby, the textbook definition of a conventional journalist, recently explained candidly how Darwinism caused her to cease to be a Christian. One sees one’s co-worker, one’s neighbour, one’s realtor in her. The reason they don’t lose whatever faith they have is because they do not believe Darwin.

Doubtless, there is some contortion by which a Christian can be a Darwinian, but who would care to undertake it, when most of the interesting stuff that is happening in evolution is non-Darwinian? And that was the other problem.

2.

If you want to hear about real evolution (convergence, co-evolution, epigenesis, symbiogenesis, along with stasis and extinction), you’re better off at Uncommon Descent than BioLogos. Here, once we shut up Darwin’s fervid devotees, we found lots to talk about re evolution … and atheism just did not make the cut. Problem solved.

So why is BioLogos – a self-proclaimed Christian organization – fronting the one and only belief about evolution that reliably produces atheism?

Now, let’s move on to that second question: What about Francis Collins, BioLogos’s founder? How do his views – as the most famous Christian scientist in North America – square with typical traditional views?

Normally, I wouldn’t count the views of an individual no longer associated with BioLogos. After all, in most cases, we don’t really know why the person is no longer associated, and what we don’t know is so often the only story that matters.

But Francis Collins is a special case. He is BioLogos’s founder, and he resigned in order to avoid conflict of interest when he accepted the position of NIH director. Is there any reason to think he would have resigned otherwise?

Now, if the BioLogians are right, that orthodox Christianity is easily reconciled with Darwin’s rule, Collins should demonstrate it. So let new atheist Sam Harris be our witness here:

At the time of this writing, the Obama administration still has not removed the most important impediments to embryonic stem-cell research. Currently, federal funding is only allowed for work on stem cells that have been derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. This delicacy is a clear concession to the religious convictions of the American electorate. While Collins seems willing to go further and support research on embryos created through somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), he is very far from being a voice of ethical clarity in this debate. For instance, he considers embryos created through SCNT to be distinct from those formed through the union of sperm and egg because the former are “not part of God’s plan to create a human individual” while “the latter is very much part of God’s plan, carried out through the millennia by our own species and many others” (Collins, 2006, p. 256)

Here, let’s be too charitable to even compare Collins’s revolting remarks (“by our own species and many others,” for example) with the transparent Christian witness over two millennia against destruction of unborn children, however conceived.

The BioLogians think that Christians can gain favour with the unconverted by embracing Darwinism. Harris, who has little or no respect for Collins, makes clear that that would never happen:

There is little to be gained in a serious discussion of bioethics by talking about “God’s plan.” (If such embryos were brought to term and became sentient and suffering human beings, would it be ethical to kill them and harvest their organs because they had been conceived apart from “God’s plan”?) While his stewardship of the NIH seems unlikely to impede our mincing progress on embryonic stem cell research, his appointment seems like another one of President Obama’s efforts to split difference between real science and real ethics on the one hand and religious superstition and taboo on the other.

So now, what about Collins? Was BioLogos doomed from the start by his ethical obtuseness?

See also: “First question: Are the Christian Darwinists at Biologos conscious fronts for atheism? Or unconscious ones?”

Next: Is there any proposition advanced in Darwin’s name – accepted by fashionable Darwinists – that most BioLogos contributors would reject?

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6 Replies to “Second question: Who takes BioLogos seriously once they hear founder Francis Collin’s views on disposing of the youngest humans?

  1. 1
    Barb says:

    F.M. Kamm wrote an article on ESC research in which he discusses the moral imperative of this research. However, he goes off the rails in discussing ‘the moral importance of embryos.’ He notes: “An embryo may have some moral value in the sense that its continued existence in its own right (even if it’s frozen and will never develop into a person) gives us a reason not to destroy it. This is very different from saying that we should not destroy the embryo because that is bad for the embryo.”

    He uses the analogy of a painting. We preserve great works of art in museums because they are valuable in their own right and therefore should not be wantonly destroyed. We don’t preserve paintings for the sake of the paintings themselves, because they cannot sense, perceive or experience anything. Likewise, an embryo does not have and never had the capacity to sense, perceive, or experience anything.”

    Kamm’s moral problem is that he doesn’t think it’s wrong to destroy embryos because they have the potential to become humans with the capacity to think, sense, perceive, and reason. Too bad. One of those embryos could grow up to become a famous physician who cures cancer.

  2. 2

    Kamm’s moral problem is that he doesn’t think it’s wrong to destroy embryos because they have the potential to become humans with the capacity to think, sense, perceive, and reason. Too bad. One of those embryos could grow up to become a famous physician who cures cancer.

    This argument doesn’t work, IMO. First of all, it applies equally well to any event that might have happened but didn’t – the sex you might have had last month, but didn’t; the sperm that might have reached the ovum you released this month, but didn’t; the children you might have had with the man you might have met but didn’t. Potential Nobel prize winners fail to reach adulthood all the time. Second, some children are born that wouldn’t have been born if some earlier embryo had survived; some children fail to be born because too many embryos were transferred into a uterus for any of them to survive.

    I have some, limited, respect for the argument that an embryo (not actually strictly an embryo even, before 14 days – the old usage reserved the term for after the primitive streak had formed; after all before that, you don’t even know whether it will be one embryo or two) is a human being from the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to full human rights, but I just don’t think that the argument that the embryo “might” be a Beethoven or an Einstein makes any sense. So might the beneficiary of stem-cell therapy.

    As for the personhood of the conceptus – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to grant personhood to a conceptus in which there is not even a primitive streak. In my view it doesn’t make a lot of sense to grant personhood to an embryo until it has substantial neural function, in fact. A potential person is not a person, IMO, no matter how wanted that person is. And I speak as one with a beloved son, born after 20 years of infertile marriage and many many early miscarriages.

  3. 3

    Barb: “Kamm’s moral problem is that he doesn’t think it’s wrong to destroy embryos because they have the potential to become humans with the capacity to think, sense, perceive, and reason. Too bad. One of those embryos could grow up to become a famous physician who cures cancer.”

    Elizabeth: “This argument doesn’t work, IMO. First of all, it applies equally well to any event that might have happened but didn’t – the sex you might have had last month, but didn’t; the sperm that might have reached the ovum you released this month, but didn’t; the children you might have had with the man you might have met but didn’t. Potential Nobel prize winners fail to reach adulthood all the time. Second, some children are born that wouldn’t have been born if some earlier embryo had survived; some children fail to be born because too many embryos were transferred into a uterus for any of them to survive.”

    Pardon, but the argument does work against Kamm’s claim, and the key is in the word “potential” that Barb introduces. Kamm claims that since embryos aren’t sentient that it’s moral to destroy them, and he uses paintings above embryos as something we should preserve. Well, Barb’s argument can be taken further in that paintings, no matter how valuable don’t have the potential to ever be sentient, whereas embryos do; so it’s a very bad analogy. I think that’s as far as we can take it. Every argument has its limits.

    Elizabeth: “As for the personhood of the conceptus – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to grant personhood to a conceptus in which there is not even a primitive streak. In my view it doesn’t make a lot of sense to grant personhood to an embryo until it has substantial neural function, in fact. A potential person is not a person, IMO, no matter how wanted that person is. And I speak as one with a beloved son, born after 20 years of infertile marriage and many many early miscarriages.”

    Let’s go back to the painting analogy. A very famous artist has just begun a painting by making a few brushstrokes. He/she already has in mind where those brushstrokes will lead, and those few strokes are key to what the painting will be. You come along looking for a piece of paper in the artist’s room with the intention of using it to write a message on; and the only semblance of a piece of paper you seem to be able to find is the canvas on which the painter applied his/her first few brushstrokes. You run across the room, grab the canvas and tear off a piece on which to write your needed message; and destroy the potential painting in the process.

    Your argument doesn’t work unless you can somehow inform that an embryo is not some intended creation like the painting you’ve just destroyed. I think we can all admit that an embryo contains far more than a few brushstrokes and if intended to form a sentient human, it contains much more than a “primitive streak.”

    The only way you can inform otherwise is by the a priori assumption of materialism.

  4. 4

    I agree that an assumption of materialism makes a rather large difference to this moral question.

    It’s one of the reasons I think it matters whether or not materialism is true. It was not an a priori assumption on my part though, but a conclusion I reached.

  5. 5

    “I agree that an assumption of materialism makes a rather large difference to this moral question.

    It’s one of the reasons I think it matters whether or not materialism is true. It was not an a priori assumption on my part though, but a conclusion I reached.”

    Pardon, but if it was a conclusion you reached, you would be able to demonstrate that it is necessarily true. From what you’ve offered as the basis for your morality as the golden rule, it doesn’t even work. “Do unto others.” Is not an embryo another? On what basis. Your materialism is the basis, so it is necessarily your a priori.

  6. 6

    Sorry, I need to clarify:

    By materialism the embryo is not even like the artist’s canvas. It is unintentional, and simply a lump of matter, which can have more than one use. It is material, and does not have a soul. It is not sentient, and since it hasn’t reached that point yet, it’s material can be used to the extent of destroying it.

    You have to demonstrate that the embryo was not intended for a specific purpose; to become a sentient human being in order for you to determine that it could be morally used for another unintended purpose. As I stated, since we know that human embryos do become human beings, your argument could only be based in an a priori of materialism; which as you can see and have agreed, it makes a difference. The evidence is against you that it wasn’t intended to become a sentient human being; since human embryos do become sentient human beings. You don’t get sentient human beings without first having human embryos.

    An inference to design is appropriate in this sense based on what we know about embryos. Even someone like Richard Dawkins would acknowledge that an embryo serves a particular purpose apart from what humans force upon it, even if he does not acknowledge that the purpose is beyond biology.

    So while you would not destroy an artist’s painting because it is intended for a purpose beyond your needs, what reason beyond your a priori assumption of materialism would drive you (or even allow you) to destroy a human embryo that some other artist intended beyond your own needs? There is none. Even your golden rule acts against you in this case if your materialism is false.

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