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US government genome mapper Francis Collins fronts new BioLogos theory, preferred to “theistic evolution”

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Francis Collins, the US government’s genome mapper, whose book The Language of God I reviewed here, has launched BioLogos, to advocate a sort of rebranded theistic evolution:


BioLogos is most similar to Theistic Evolution. Theism is the belief in a God who cares for and interacts with creation. Theism is different than deism, which is the belief in a distant, uninvolved creator who is often little more than the sum total of the laws of physics. (For more on God’s involvement with creation, see Questions 11 and 14 about Miracles and Divine Action.) Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is how God created life. Because the term evolution is sometimes associated with atheism, a better term for the belief in a God who chose to create the world by way of evolution is BioLogos. (For more about the definition of evolution, see Question 2 on What is Evolution?) BioLogos comes from the Greek words bios (life) and logos (word), referring to the gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Just exactly why Collins is doing this, I am not sure. Giving a new name to “theistic evolution” is like putting ballroom slippers on a horse. It won’t help either the slippers or the horse. But I am pretty sure which party will come out ahead.

Why try to rescue theistic evolution? It only ever got started because some people needed a religious belief that squares with the idea that God never intervenes. So you can believe, for all practical purposes, in a God who doesn’t exist. That is the key reason theistic evolution is so commonly associated with atheism.

Whether God in fact intervenes at specific times is, in my view, an open question. It is commonly raised in the Catholic Church around the canonization of saints.

Collins offers a reasonably fair assessment of intelligent design theory, compared to many sources. He seems stuck on the idea that Darwinian evolution can actually create huge amounts of new information, which is obviously untrue, but – in my experience – if people need to believe that, well, …

Of course, Pharyngula calls Collins’s view creationism – but what would you expect?

Update: The odd thing is that I am a theistic evolutionist myself, in the true sense. Tht is, I do not doubt that, in principle, God could cause everything to unfold from the Big Bang.  But – he need not have done so and has never been under any obligation to do so. The matter must be determined by evidence, and the typical “theistic evolutionist” or “BioLogist” doesn’t seem much interested in that.

Clive Hayden @5, very nice! One cannot probe a singular author for multiple examples on a narrowly defined topic without knowing that author very well indeed. StephenB
Good question tribune7, lol! I'm not sure even Collins could answer that. tragic mishap
What problem does Collins have with ID? tribune7
tragic mishap, The quote from Lewis: “The endless fluctuations of scientific theory which seem today so much friendlier to us than the last century may turn against us tomorrow. The basic answer lies elsewhere.” is from the essay Dogma and the Universe, from God in the Dock. Lewis was not a theistic evolutionist as Collins paints him. One only has to read his essays "The Funeral of a Great Myth", "The Empty Universe", "Is Theology Poetry?", "Modern Man and His Categories of Thought", "The World's Last Night", "Two Lectures", "De Futilitate", "Historicism", "Evil and God", and his poem "Evolutionary Hymn", which are all critical of evolution as a biological theorem or evolution as a philosophy. Then there are the "Acworth Letters" in which Lewis corresponded with Bernard Acworth, an ardent anti-evolutionist, and in which Lewis wrote in a letter "What inclines me now to think that you may be right in regarding it [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders." And of course there is A.N. Wilson's biography "C. S. Lewis, a Biography" in which he states that Lewis, in conversation at a dinner party, was asked who he would most like to meet if he could meet anyone at all. And his answer was Adam, and said "Adam was, from the first, a man in knowledge as well as in stature. He alone of all men ‘had been in Eden, in the garden of God, he had walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire’. He was endowed, says Athanasius, with ‘a vision of God so far-reaching that he could contemplate the eternity of the Divine Essence and the coming operation of His Word’. He was ‘a heavenly being’ according to St. Ambrose, who breathed the aether and was accustomed to converse with God ‘face to face’. A dinner guest named Helen Gardner replied that Adam would have been a Neanderthal, whose conversation would've hardly been interesting, to which Lewis replied "I see we have a Darwinian in our midst." So, no, C. S. Lewis was not a theistic evolutionist, as Collins has claimed. Clive Hayden
Mr Borne, Are you reading the recent thread on Dembski and Marks' new book chapter? In it they argue strongly for accepting the reality of deep time, common descent and the action of evolution to bring about the current state of the world. While I am not a Christian, it seems to me that if humans are descended from another ape-like ancestor, for Christ to be fully human he must share that quality. Why is it more difficult to accept than the idea that Christ ate and drank, moved his bowels, could feel pain, could be tempted, could die? Nakashima
Denyse I have a question for you. You said in part three of your review: "I was uneasy with Collins' ready willingness to suppose that if a detailed pathway for a given event, such as the origin of life, can be discovered, that means that life is not an argument for the existence of God ("this is not the place for a thoughtful person to wager his faith.", p. 93)." Lewis wrote: "The endless fluctuations of scientific theory which seem today so much friendlier to us than the last century may turn against us tomorrow. The basic answer lies elsewhere." (I'm sorry I couldn't find the reference but I'm sure it must be somewhere in "Christian Reflections" or "God in the Dock".) Lewis here was saying that we cannot base faith on science, because science is a professional discipline that changes from age to age. He wrote elsewhere that "every age gets the science it wants" and uses that argument to explain how evolution rose to prominence because: "Already, before science had spoken, the mythical imagination knew the kind of 'Evolution' it wanted. It wanted the Keatsian and Wagnerian kind: the gods superseding the Titans, and the young, joyous, careless, amorous Siegfried superseding the care-worn, anxious, treaty-entangled Wotan. If science offers any instances to satisfy that demand, they will be eagerly accepted. If it offers any instances that frustrate it, they will be simply ignored." In other words, the wise man does not build his house on science, because it is shifting sand. I agree with you that Lewis is talking about a different world than the one we live in, but I think his point here is not restricted to any one time period. Compare that to Paul in Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." There does seem to be a biblical implication that science points to God, but it is a weak one I think. Primarily exhortations to faith in the New Testament are to believe in Christ. Perhaps Lewis was simply saying that the popular imagination can take humble scientific musings and blow them completely out of proportion, and those exaggerations are nothing to base faith on. But I'm not sure he would have said directly that real, solid scientific truth, absent the popular imagination, is a great place to base one's faith. I'm not sure what to think of all this so I was wondering if you would comment. At any rate, since Collins apparently respects Lewis that much he should read "The Funeral of a Great Myth" in "Christian Reflections". "In the science, Evolution is a theory about changes: in the Myth it is a fact about improvements." C.S. Lewis tragic mishap
lars : agreed. I've always seen theistic evolution as an escape route for those terrified of confronting the Darwinist academic and science career terrorists. I have also never been able to swallow a Christ descended from a monkey. Just seems both degrading to the very idea of the incarnation and ludicrous, not to mention weird. Especially since Christ upheld the Adam and Eve story as did the apostles. One read of Sanford's Genetic Entropy should be enough to end the whole illusion of Darwinism for any intelligent person. Darwinian macro-evolution isn't even possible under the laws of physics, chemistry, probability and information. Something Sanford's book as well as Stuart Pullens and several others now demonstrate rather forcefully. Borne
Why try to rescue theistic evolution? It only ever got started because some people needed a religious belief that squares with the idea that God never intervenes. So you can believe, for all practical purposes, in a God who doesn’t exist.
I don't think this is why many believe in TE. I think many Christians believe in TE because they are under the impression that the empirical evidence is hands-down in support of evolution, and they need some way to square that with Christianity. But you end up then taking a fuzzy position of "God caused an unintentional creation" which drives you toward deism.
Whether God in fact intervenes at specific times is, in my view, an open question.
OK, but if He doesn't, the incarnation and the resurrection are false and our faith is in vain. (I Cor 15:13-14). lars

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