Final Thoughts: BioLogos, Bill Nye, and the Power of Dialogue | The BioLogos Forum

(system) #1

Last week, we published an interview with Bill Nye. In the time since it was posted, the interview, as well as president Haarsma’s response, have engendered a wide range of strong reactions on social media and in our comment boards. We were criticized almost in equal measure for impiously endorsing Bill Nye and unfairly attacking him. This curious combination of feedback is a sign that the interview hit nerves across the spectrum of perspectives on science and faith.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Brad Kramer) #2

I am available to respond to thoughtful, on-topic comments and questions about this post and/or about the interview.

(GJDS) #3

I hope I can make a useful comment to BioLogos, and I think that all of us, theists or atheists, live with some measure of hope. Within this context I make the following comment – until “both sides” (to use the phrase common to this site) try and come to grips with the gap (vast) between atheists and theists, your goal of reaching a mutual understanding IMO will be unreachable. It is not a conflict of science and faith (that I can perceive); it is the great difference between atheist and theists, between materialist, and those who see more than the material in the Creation, that sets such groups apart.

So what is that BioLogos hopes for, what goal does it seek? To convince Christian sceptics (such as myself) that Darwin has the answer to everything? Some atheists may think so, but I think that Darwin himself would have argued against such a preposterous outlook. Does BioLogos hope to convince Christians that evolution shows what God has done? I cannot see how any Christian, in the final analysis, would abandon the doctrine of Grace, and look to biologists for revelation on what God does.

Thus my contribution to this site is to try and point out that it is the perpetual argument that centres on Darwinian evolution that is the question, and not that of science and faith. To some atheists, science is venerated and they seek all answers from it – that is their choice. To others, science is part of the answer, and they may look to a natural justice and values pertinent to a way of being– these seem to me to be enlightened. To some Christians, the Truth is all that matters, and the first truth is God Himself – thus science is a welcomed activity in understanding the truth of the Creation. To others who are confronted with conflict, they become secure in a notion that the Bible (as a Book) is the primary source of knowledge, and until they learn to look totally to God for guidance regarding the Truth, science may appear threatening.

In this vast canvas, Darwinian thinking is a small “smudge” that needs to be attended to and corrected. Once this has been done, science will continue to seek (and provide) greater insights regarding the grandeur of the Creation, and I thing sincere atheists will again make significant contributions to this, as will Christina scientists who are secure in their faith.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #4

> It is not a conflict of science and faith (that I can perceive); it is the great difference between atheist and theists, between materialist, and those who see more than the material in the Creation, that sets such groups apart.

I am responding to both Brad and GJDS. They have both made thoughtful and perceptive comments, however I think GJDS is a better analysis in some ways of the issue.

Clearly atheists are not going to agree with the world view of theists when they discuss science. The basic issue here is not the “facts,” but how people understand the “facts.” A fallacy of modern thought that once people know the “facts” they will agree on how to understand the situation. That is not true. Thus each side accuses the other of bad faith because they disagree on the situation, despite knowing the facts or not agreeing on what the facts are.

However I do believe that we still need to have these dialogues because many scientists are not atheists and we need to affirm the fact that while Christianity is in tension with some aspects of science, it affirms the scientific endeavor of discovering the truth about the world we live in. Also we need to proclaim the fact that we live in a rational world created by a rational God to be the ecological niche for rational, physical, and spiritual human beings.

However despite this gulf between those whose main concern is spiritual and those whose main professional concern is physical, that is scientists, there is a level that we can and must discuss the structure of Reality, and that the level of Philosophy. Sadly philosophy in the form of Western dualism is unable to make a positive contribution to this discussion. Again at the risk of appearing immodest I refer you to my book, Darwin’s Myth as to how theology, science, and philosophy need to work together to help us determine the Truth.

Our primary task is not conversion, but reconciliation by means of a search for the truth using the methods of logic (the Logos) so we can find common ground with others as truth seekers in the rational worlds of science and theology. Conversion will come if reconciliation is done properly.

(Brad Kramer) #6

BioLogos wants Christians to understand the overwhelming evidence for common descent, and help them process that evidence theologically, within the framework of orthodox (and particularly protestant evangelical) theology. I’m not sure where you are getting this idea that we think Darwin has the answer to everything, since we have never said this. I suspect what you are inferring here is that if Darwinian evolution is correct, naturalistic atheism is also necessarily correct (this is a common message from the ID community, I’ve noticed). Do we look to biologists to understand what God has done (not to mention geneticists, paleontologists, astrophysicists, and any other type of scientist)? Absolutely and without apology. This has always been the purpose of science, within a Christian framework. This doesn’t mean we are replacing or abandoning any doctrines, and I’m not sure how you are connecting the two.

[quote=“GJDS, post:3, topic:245”]
In this vast canvas, Darwinian thinking is a small “smudge” that needs to be attended to and corrected.
[/quote] Are you referring here to Darwinian-inspired atheism or the science of Darwinian evolution? If you are referring to the science, you’re dealing with one heck of a smudge.

(David Hume (nom de plume)) #7

Nice post, interesting and engaging and generous. Thanks.

In our last dialogue, you asked me (a skeptic) to tell you how you could make BL more welcoming to skeptics. Specifically, I asked you to think about what your rhetoric looks like to skeptics, and you wanted to know what you could do better. I’ll just toss some thoughts in, then be content to leave the conversation. Here are responses in no particular order.

Your rhetoric toward Bill Nye is noticeably harsher than it was toward Stephen Meyer. I am familiar with the output of the Discovery Institute, an organisation notorious for anti-science positions and tactics, frequently accused (quite reasonably) of gross misrepresentation of science. You used words like ‘troubling’ and ‘disturbing’ to describe Nye’s positions. As before, I will disclose that I have not read more than a dozen or so BL posts, but I read the whole series of “Darwin’s Doubt” entries, including the final comments from DH, and found nothing resembling confrontation in any of them. Even if I thought it reasonable to call Nye’s comments ‘troubling’ or ‘disturbing’ (and I don’t), I would be taken aback by the contrast between your treatment of him and your treatment of Meyer. (I have not looked at your conversations with the even more notorious Mr. Ham, but email correspondents make it sound like a common theme in your approach.)

In your conversation with me, and in your reflections on Nye, you consistently exaggerated the words of skeptics, in what looks like an effort to make their statements look extreme and/or unreasonable. It’s hard to tell whether you notice this, but several of us did, and it gives a strong impression of low-level hostility. This is all the more noticeable (and offensive) in light of how you talk to Meyer (and other fellow believers, I presume). The comments suggest that other skeptics see and feel this clearly as well. I think you should look again at how you chose to represent what Nye said, and what I wrote. It looks pretty bad.

Your posts often emphasize religious “unity,” often when discussing what we may politely (too politely) call misbehaviour by people on your religious team. It is inevitable that this pervasive team-talk sends an us/them message to those who can’t affirm the creed. It would take a little effort to realise this and to try to minimise it. In this post, you did a wonderful job. In the previous posts, you didn’t.

But now I will undo what I just did. Because I don’t think you can realistically make BL a friendly or even moderately welcoming place for skeptics/unbelievers. You are a religious organisation, with religious goals. I used to be a Christian, so I know how the us/them thing works and how powerful the “unity” appeal is in a religious context. More importantly (and tragically), I suspect that you pay a price for NOT being obnoxious to unbelievers. I am not your audience, and my discomfort is not your concern. What you need to do, and what many of us in the skeptic/humanist community really want you to do, is to blunt the anti-science force of evangelical Christianity. If you have to misquote me to make me look like an ignorant pagan who embraces “scientism” in order to get a few more evangelicals to think, then please do it. I only ask that you make it count, so that my forbearance is not for naught.

(GJDS) #8


“…evidence for common descent, and help them process that evidence theologically, within the framework of orthodox (and particularly protestant evangelical) theology.”

My comment has to do with the goal of BioLogos, and its rhetoric is important, as this is how such a goal is articulated. IF the goal is articulated as avoiding conflict between science and the Christian faith, we would be equally aware of what is believably true in science and what speculation is, within an overall context. To avoid further exchange on common descent, I will instead use the example of fine tuning. We may be sufficiently persuaded by the argument of fine tuning, in that the scientific data and understanding makes it highly improbable the Universe, and the earth, are the result of random and undirected events. Nowhere would the science tell us how God went about creating these constants and fine tuning. This surely is a clear example of how we can accept science, without claiming any addition to the orthodox framework – “how God does” in a theological statement. This example also shows us how atheists would still argue against theists, since they are committed to their case of “there is no God” … in which case they will also claim vast evidence in support of their case, to avoid any inference that the Universe is specifically created as it is and not the product of random and undirected events.

The fine tuning argument avoids any speculation, and it also avoids an over-dependence on any particular field of science. Yet even this argument does not seek to claim insights into “what and how God has created”.

I will stop my comment at this point, in the hope that I have clearly articulated the point regarding science and orthodoxy in this discussion. It is equally clear Orthodoxy in the Christian faith has not, nor would IMO, see conflict between general tenets of the physical science and the Christian faith. The activities on this site, and in many others, is clear testimony to “apparent endless” conflict in this area. I am suggesting the roots of such conflict are found in the gulf between theists and atheists.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9

I am definitely in agreement with you. The problem is, even though science and theology are in general agreement, there is much specific conflict. Much of this is because both science and theology are human activities, which means that they are not perfect.

However some of us seem to think that science is divine since it has at least potentially all the answers, while others think that theology is divine since it has all the answers. My point is we need a bridge between these two positions, if our commitment is not to either science or theology, but to the Truth.

Now we can reject this task if we believe that there is no Truth, or we believe that science or theology are not human, but divine or absolutely True. Now I consider myself to be a Christian theologian and believe that the Christian faith to be a valid way to understand the Truth, I know that there is more than one way to understand Christianity and they all can’t be perfectly true. Thus our theology might be in some sense true, but not the Truth.

I am also deeply interested in science and aware that science has evolved through the years. Science is a very important tool in understanding the world we live in and God created, so it is also important in understanding truth, but while much of it is true, it is not the Truth.

A two legged stool is of little good. Truth is based on triangulation. Jesus based His claim of Truth not only on His own witness, but also on the witness of the Father and I would say the Spirit.

That is why God gave us Philosophy based on rationality (the Logos) as the third discipline to help us find the Truth and resolve conflicts between Science and Theology. The problem now as you have noted is that we are divided by worldview, atheism vs. theism, materialism vs. idealism, monism vs. dualism, etc.

These then are the issues that we need to explore on philosophical basis if we, and I means everyone, are committed to finding the Truth. That does mean that we need to accept the fact that we are living in a rational world and there is a rational Truth, which many today reject.

(system) #10

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