Dr. Dennis Venema, lead geneticist over at BioLogos, whose evasiveness regarding divine action in evolution we thoroughly documented here, here, here, and here, appears to have noticed our efforts.
In his latest column over at BioLogos, he writes to Bilbo (70458):
“I’ve appreciated your work to hold the feet of certain ID folks to the fire over at UD.”
I guess I must be “certain ID folks,” because Bilbo’s recent extensive argument was directed at me.
But let’s be clear: Bilbo’s argument was focused wholly on my claim that there was tension between neo-Darwinian evolution and the traditional Christian understanding of divine providence, governance, and sovereignty over nature. He disagreed with me over that. But he did not at all discuss — in fact he refused to discuss — the main concern of my article, which was to show that Drs. Venema and Falk were so evasive on the question of divine action in evolution that it was impossible to be sure whether their position was orthodox or not. So nothing in Bilbo’s discussion with me gets Dr. Venema off the charge of deliberate dodging and obfuscation.
In any case, why should Bilbo have to hold our feet to the fire, when Dr. Venema can do that himself? He is completely at liberty to write a series of columns on BioLogos clearly answering the questions which he systematically ducked when they were asked of him by Crude, and thus dispel the charge that he continues to be vague and evasive. Or, if he wishes, he can write an extensive answer here, under this column, and even (gasp!) engage in conversation with us. We are happy to have BioLogos people responding here, even if they disagree with us.
One of the ongoing frustrations that ID people have had with BioLogos is, of course, that many of the theological positions taken there appear to be somewhat unorthodox, but are stated so elliptically, allusively, and sporadically (scattered here and there across the site, in various columns and comments), that it is hard to determine exactly what the BioLogos writers actually believe. This is the perfect opportunity for Dr. Venema to remove this continuing communications problem, by stating clearly, in one place, his own personal view of how (if at all) God is involved in the evolutionary process.
For example, he could state: “I believe that, given laws of nature created and sustained by God, that a bacterium could easily evolve into a human being without any special divine action (steering, directing, nudging, etc. — whether at the macroscopic or at the quantum level). I believe that random mutations plus natural selection are sufficient causes for the transformation. Therefore I would not speak of ‘guidance,’ and I could have, and should have, said that to Crude.” Such an answer would do quite nicely.
Or, if he holds a different view, he could state, for example: “I believe that evolution proceeds exclusively through laws of nature which are created and sustained by God, but I also think that, in order to get life started in the first place, God had to create the first cells by special divine action, and I think that in order to turn a prehuman hominid into man, another special divine action would have been needed.”
Or, if he is of a different opinion, he could state: “I believe, along with Robert Russell, that evolution is directed by special actions of God which, though not capable of detection by scientific means, cause evolution to produce different results than it would if God did not perform those special actions.”
Or, if he is more inclined to a Dentonian scenario, he could state: “I believe that evolution was programmed into the first cells by God to produce a whole series of pre-determined outcomes, including man, by purely natural processes, without any special divine intervention needed after the process began.”
Or he could state anything else that reflects his true position.
And on the question about evolutionary outcomes, he could state: “I believe that every single species that was produced by the evolutionary process, was intended by God, and that God did not leave anything to chance, but made sure that the evolutionary process produced exactly those species.” Or, “I believe that God did not intend any particular outcome of evolution, not even man, but intended only the general process, leaving it up to contingency to determine the specific outcomes.” Or, “I believe that God intended certain very specific outcomes of evolution, including man, but I also believe that he left a number of evolutionary outcomes (e.g., the color of the blue jay, or the existence of unicorns or legless lizards) to chance.”
And on the question of God’s love of “freedom” he could state whether by that he means only that God leaves the human will free (to accept or reject God), or whether he means that subhuman nature is also “free”; and in the latter case, in what sense a rock or a solar flare or a protein molecule is “free.”
On more general theological questions, he might indicate to us what denomination he belongs to and/or what theological school he subscribes to. We know that Dr. Falk thinks of himself as a “Wesleyan”; does Dr. Venema have the same self-identification? Or would he call himself “Arminian”? Or something else?
Answers such as these would greatly facilitate ID/TE dialogue. If we knew where Drs. Venema and Falk stood on the question of divine involvement in evolution, as clearly as we know where Dr. Coyne stands and where Dr. Denton stands and where Dr. Behe stands and where Dr. Russell stands, we would be much less likely to impute to them views which they do not hold, and to criticize them for such. But as it stands, we have to guess, from hints and ambiguous statements and evasions, what our TE friends probably believe, and it’s inevitable that we will sometimes guess wrongly. We’re not mind-readers — and in a serious academic discussion of theology and science, we shouldn’t have to be.
So I turn it over to Dr. Venema and Dr. Falk. Would either of those gentlemen care to drop in here and present a coherent, articulate account of his personal view concerning divine involvement in evolution? We are open to any and all explanations of how God is connected with evolution — we request only that we not be subjected to another repetition of the Wesleyan Maneuver.