Joshua and Cornelius get to know each other

First off @Cornelius_Hunter thanks for using your real name. I appreciate that. I always respect when people do that instead of using pseudonyms.

From a strictly scientific point of view, common descent is an immensely powerful result that quantitatively explains most of the patterns we see in human/chimp genomes. There are no enormous problems here. We are still waiting for you to raise even 1 real problem in human/chimp evolution. Of course, the “astonishment” you find when encountering the data here is totally understandable, but it is not evidence against evolution. Keep the astonishment alive and let it drive us all to worship, but it is not a coherent argument.

You are fond of saying that “religion drives science, and it matters.” You even wrote a book on this! So tell us, how does your religion drive your science?

You are paid by the ID movement and also a Young Earth Creationist. This probably what drives your science. Right? And why not talk about the theology then. I think how we understand Scripture is so much more important the science, don’t you agree? [Note: we find out quickly that Cornelius is not paid by the Discovery institute or a YEC. He also believes that common descent can be compatible with the Bible. So I was wrong here, and do not want those passing by to be mislead by my initial mistake.]

Why don’t you actually propose what you think happened, and lets see how well that fits the data? We have taken real options seriously here in the past. We would do the same for you.

Though, I do think you will just ignore this. You do not really seem like you have an alternative to common descent at all. Maybe that is what is driving our skepticism.

@Cornelius_Hunter’s final response here… Joshua and Cornelius get to know each other - #92 by Jon_Garvey

@Swamidass final response here… Joshua and Cornelius get to know each other - #131 by Swamidass

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No, not right.

Wrong on all counts. You are the one who is paid by an organization that takes a stand on this issue, not me. I am not “paid by the ID movement”** and I am not a “Young Earth Creationist.” Unlike evolution, I go by the science, and unlike you, I have lost a faculty opportunity at tier 1 institution because of my skepticism, which I documented in Science’s Blind Spot. (EDITED)

**It is true that I have an minor appointment with Biola University (not “the ID movement”), but my main academic appointment (still just adjunct) is with William Jessup, which has an eclectic, tolerant, position, and is nominally pro evolution and teaches from an evolution perspective, but is also interested in intellectual discourse.

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My apologies. So help clarify this a bit more.

First about funding. I was certain you were paid by the Discovery Institute. Is that information out of date or incorrect? I thought you were one of their senior fellows and a regular on their blog? Of course, please do clarify. I do not want to misrepresent you, but it does look like you are funded by DI.

Second, about your position in the debate. It sounds like you are not a YEC, and that you also think that evolution could be consistent with the BIble, but you reject evolution for scientific reasons? Is that correct? So model do you think fits the data more? Do you take an old earth/progressive creation model? Or a theistic evolution model like MIchael Behe?

Third, assuming what you say here is correct, that you have no theological objections to evolution, how do you reconcile it with the Bible?

Fourth, I’m sorry to hear about your experience with a tier 1 university. I can’t find any information about this online. Can you tell us some more about it? And I can also tell you firsthand that I know of many scientists (almost never biologists) at tier 1 institutions that do not agree with evolution. This usually only becomes a problem when they bring this into their scientific work.

As for me, I am not paid by BioLogos. I am paid by WUSTL to do my scientific work, but not to discuss my views about evolution. WUSTL as a whole does not take a position on evolution.


Incorrect. It sounds like you have been listening to the partisans and their disinformation. Please don’t assume that what you hear on the Internet about me is true.

I’m delighted to hear that.

I’d like to see those checks. Please tell them they have the wrong address for me.

That’s tricky. As I explained, I would not rule out a scenario where God uses natural law as His creation tools (e.g., Genesis says “Let the earth bring forth …”, that sounds like natural law to me). But “evolution,” as that word is universally understood by everyone, is much more than merely naturalism. It entails a whole raft, or what NT Wright referred to as a “matrix,” of religious traditions. [as NT Wright explains, “That’s why Darwin gets all the mileage that he does, it’s where people wanted to go …”] It is our modern day Epicureanism. These are clearly non biblical. So origins by natural law? Sure. Evolution? No, I would reject that religious program.

I reject naturalism for its obvious scientific failures. I would reject evolution for the same reason, as well as the fact that it is non biblical. Now I hope folks will avoid the strawman that “Cornelius says all evolutionists are not saved,” or some such nonsense.

That’s tricky, because Mike has a highly nuanced, unique position, but it definitely does not fit evolution. People like to say he is an evolutionist (or theistic evolutionist, which is a difference without a distinction, at least insofar as it matters), but that is not accurate. Yes, I think design/natural theology/ID is overwhelming and obvious, in an objective sense (evolutionists reject it for religious reasons, and will only go so far as to say design is detectable in a subjective manner, such as seeing beautiful sunset).

You can read about it in Science’s Blind Spot. There’s no need to hash out the details here. I’m not at all resentful–they did what they had to do, and I’ve been blessed with other opportunities.

Of course. Design cannot be objective. Evolution must be a fact. Those are the metaphysical ground rules.

I didn’t know that. So you would have been hired even if you had expressed a rejection of evolution, and there are evolution skeptics in your department?

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Well thanks for clarify. That is helpful. In particular, my apologies for

In particular…[quote=“Cornelius_Hunter, post:32, topic:9418”]
That’s tricky. As I explained, I would not rule out a scenario where God uses natural law as His creation tools (e.g., Genesis says “Let the earth bring forth …”, that sounds like natural law to me).

That is some real theological common ground between us. I am really glad to hear that, and think this is a good place to focus. Common ground is really important.

But how do you square that with saying evolution “is non biblical”? What specifically do you object to about theistic evolution from a biblical point of view? (Let’s leave atheistic evolution out of this, because clearly that does contradict the doctrine of creation.)

Well we disagree here. I do not understand"evolution" in the same way as you. Neither does, for example, Michael Behe or most of my colleagues. Therefore, it is not universally as you say it is. Most scientists understand evolution as a natural process of common descent that is silent about God. In our view, evolution is not philosophical atheism or darwinism or open theism. Sure, many people conflate these things, as if evolution is (e.g.) atheism or deism or epicurianism, but these are separate things.

It is also fortunate that you quote NT Wright; he is a theistic evolutionist like BioLogos and me! The way I see it, he is careful enough to separate atheism (and its religious program) from “evolution”, and has no objection as a biblical scholar to common descent. So he is a theistic evolutionist. At what point, exactly, do you depart from him?

It seems like we all agree with you that atheism is wrong, but unlike you, we can separate atheism from evolution. Is that is what is going on here?

Behe himself identifies as a “theistic evolutionist”. Because he accepts common descent, I totally agree with him. He is a theistic evolutionist. In fact, the Discovery Institute itself makes the case that design is not intrinsically opposed to evolution.

Regardless, you’ve already made clear that you are not a theistic evolutionist like him. I’m glad that you make allowances here.

So why exactly do you not make allowances for BioLogos? We hold to theistic evolution too. We ardently oppose any notion that science has disproven the BIble or creation. We think that God created us; He designed us all. Why is it that we do not fit into your category of a “nuanced” position of theistic evolution, just like Behe (but a different flavor)?

At all major universities, the unofficial policy is “don’t ask don’t tell”. From across the country, because of my public position, some have told me in private they have questions about evolution, and I keep their identities secret. The university is just not that interested in thought policing, so many YECs and OECs actually do quietly work in the sciences. Some of them are even known and respected among their non-Christian colleagues.

Now, my colleagues (but the not the University itself) do have a big problem with people claiming the authority of science to making unscientific claims. So anyone who uses their scientific position to publicly make bad arguments against evolution will certainly call down wrath upon themselves. If you identified as an anti-evolutionist during an interview, you would raise a lot of red flags for this reason. So, of course, most universities would probably have a problem hiring (for example) one Dr. Cornelius Hunter.

In contrast, at most Christian universities, the policy is usually much more rigid and stifling. You will be asked about evolution, and if you do not agree with the belief statement (which often includes rejection of evolution) you will not be hired. There is no toleration of disagreement at all at many Christian colleges. Because everyone is asked about the belief statement, there isn’t even a way to to privately disagree.

Thankfully, secular universities are more diverse and open-minded than most Christian colleges. They do not care to thought police. But they do care about stewarding their reputation. That is good news, and it is much better than an inquisition or doctrinal hardline for real academic exchange. More diversity of thought is welcome here.


One last though.

Of course you should understand the Bible the best you can. I would never want to encourage you to violate your conscience in following it. So if you think that evolution is not consistent with the BIble, that is good enough reason to reject it.

However, if that is the case, does that not shape your science? If there was very clear evidence for evolution, with that theological starting point you would rightly reject it. Your religion would drive your science.

Just to emphasize, I do not object (on a spiritual level) to trusting Scripture and following it the best you can. I respect that and it is open of the things I think that (for example) YECs like Todd C. Woods, John Sanford, and Kurt Wise get “right” in their faith. I admire their willingness to obey the Bible to the best of their understanding.

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Please list them.

See here.

I’m delighted to hear that.

It is not that I think that, evolution is inconsistent with the Bible. That is no more in question than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of course the JWs here will disagree, but their position is unsupportable. Such a debate is really not symmetric. Everyone can believe what they want, but JWs is not consistent with the Bible. It is not as though there is a meaningful debate.[quote=“Swamidass, post:6, topic:10729”]
However, if that is the case, does that not shape your science?

No, it shapes your science, not mine. It doesn’t bother me if God created by primary causes, secondary causes, somewhere in between, etc.

That is a list of scientific laws. There is no evidence there for the “obvious scientific failures” of “naturalism”.

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There is no scientific eviidence that those blind natural laws, combined with random, chance events (Monod’s “Chance & Necessity”) can create the world. And not for lack of trying! That is a pretty obvious failure.

So you don’t actually have any evidence for the alleged obvious scientific failures of naturalism, you’re just making an argument from personal incredulity. This is the kind of stuff which pushed me away from ID.


No, you are confusing the scientific failure of naturalism with personal incredulity. Two different things. You make it sound as though I just sat there and arbitrarily decided that it is all so unbelievable. Evolutionists (presumably such as yourself) have no such evidence, and when someone points it out we get the blame for “personal incredulity.”

This clarifies things immensely. Thanks!

So, in your view, theistic evolution is about as incompatible with the Bible as Jehovah’s Witnesses. JWs’ deny the bodily Ressurection of Jesus (, the foundation of our faith.

You have said elsewhere that you do believe…

Now I hope folks will avoid the strawman that “Cornelius says all evolutionists are not saved,” or some such nonsense.

So I infer you think that theistic evolution is just as opposed to the Bible as JW, but not on as important an issue as the Resurrection. My guess, is that you think common descent is incompatible with the BIble. This would explain why you focus on arguing against this, but are okay with God creating through “lawful” processes.

Let me know if I missed something here.

As for me, I think the BIble is compatible with YEC, OEC, and evolution. Read @JohnWalton’s books if you want to see now. Theologically, I understand the purpose of the Bible is to bring us to correct knowledge of Jesus, not a precise scientific understanding of our origins.

To restate your position, it appears that you do not think common descent (evolution as I understand it) is theologically viable in light of Scripture. As a Christian, you are bound to rejecting evolution for as long as you hold this understanding of Scripture. That, to me, explains your steadfast focus on interpreting data in one way, and ignoring obvious evidence for common descent. It makes sense now.

Religion really does drive science!

So, my understanding of Scripture frees me to interpret data however it leads. Your understanding of scripture makes it so you cannot. You are only interpret the data in a way that denies common descent. This is particularly striking in your case, because you seem unwilling to even recognize any evidence for common descent. Even most young earth creationists do not go that far. Makes sense though. Your interpretation of science is driven by your understanding of scripture. Your religion drives your science this way.

As for me my religion drives me too. I take confidence in Jesus, and have no fear of where the data leads. It leads to evolution, and my confident faith is unthreatened. Because I place less faith in science, and more in Jesus, I am more free to see where science leads without fear.

So I guess religion drives both of us. =)

Also, quite surprisingly, your fear of science extends to calling thermodynamics, quantum mechanics and electricity “failures” of science. If this is not anti-science, I’m not sure what is. Good luck with that.


No, I’m not saying CD is incompatible with the Bible. As I said, I don’t think secondary causes is necessarily a problem. I think you are equating evolutionary thought with secondary causes / naturalism. They are very different. As I explained earlier, NT Wright pointed this out. I like what he said because it nicely summarizes what I have been saying much less artfully.

Evolutionary thought is non biblical. It makes theological claims that mandate naturalism. This is much more than mere naturalism.

No, religion drives your science, not mine. I can go with secondary or primary causes. For me naturalistc origins can be true, but, unlike you it can also be false.


Okay, if you mean Dawkins and Darwinism by “evolutionary thought”, I certainly agree with you. That is just philosophical atheism with a fig leaf of science.

So that means I probably misread you. You are not saying that theistic evolution (TE) is incompatible with the Bible. Rather, you are saying that atheism (e.g. Dawkins and “evolutionary thought”) is incompatible with the Bible. I think all of us agree with you here. It would be hard to imagine anyone who didn’t.

But evolution, as we at BioLogos understand it, and is understood by my scientific colleagues, is just the scientific theory of common descent. This theory does not deny God, but is silent about His involvement.

I don’t think you understand my position. I do not believe in fully naturalistic origins. I think God created us. He designed us all. I am not a naturalist.

I think the core of the confusion between us is that you conflate “evolution” with “naturalism”. I do not. These are different things.



You still haven’t explained where all the millions of species came from … if they didn’t evolve over millions of years…

Cornelius, you’re not doing any science. That speaks volumes.


So touched by the charity you and a few others have shown.

To put this a more directly (without the double negative). You think…

CD could be compatible with the Bible. And God working by secondary causes is not a problem either.

Well, that is real common ground. And I will take it. We agree here. In fact, a person that believes this is a theistic evolutionist. Evolution is just common descent, and it tends to emphasize secondary causes. And this version of theistic evolution you believe is consistent with the BIble. Great. That is the type of theistic evolutionist I am. And also the type that NT Wright is also.

But then you go on oddly (to me) to write about Wright, who himself is a theistic evolutionist like us. What exactly do you mean by “evolutionary thought”? Can you put it in your own words? And at what point to do you disagree with NT Wright? He is a theistic evolutionist after all.

I suspect you have an idiosyncratic definition of “evolutionary thought.” I also suspect that I might agree that the Cornelius version of “evolutionary thought” is a bad thing, but I would probably give a different label (maybe “epicurianism” or “dawkinism”?).

Clearly, what every NT Wright means by this does not preclude him from being a theistic evolutionist. My guess is that we at BioLogos are in his camp too (in your categorization of the world).

And to reiterate. I do not believe in naturalistic origins. So tell me again how “religion” drives my science?

I think it does, of course, but not in the way you think…

You think I reject non-naturalistic mechanisms in our origins. I do not. So try again.

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