Let's be clear when we talk about evolution and science

The words ‘science’ and ‘evolution’ are often used interchangeably by evolutionists. For example, author Michael Dowd has written a book called Thank God for Evolution. On the front cover it says, ‘How the marriage of science and religion will transform your life and your world’. Biologos says it is showing the church and the world that no one has to choose between Christianity and science. Biologos says it invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. These are just a few examples. It gives the impression that people who reject evolution are rejecting all science. This is obviously not true because there are many scientists who question evolution, and some reject it completely, but it doesn’t prevent them from doing science. What exactly is Biologos position on this? Is Biologos saying that questioning evolution is the same as questioning science?

Hi, Michael.

I’m not a spokesperson for Biologos, so you can take my answer as simply coming from one who has hung out here enough that I ought to be pretty clued in to what Biologos is about. Still, for the official views, I’m sure you’ve already visited the Biologos “our mission” page or the “what we believe” pages?

My own quick answer to some of your thoughts …

That is a polemic over-simplification (straw man) that is often leveled against creationists - I think you’re right about that. Obviously questioning some science or even some entire fields of science does not imply that all science has been rejected. Evolution has become something of a “Shibboleth” in this regard - or in other words, there are some science enthusiasts who, to make sure that somebody is accepting all major fields of science (including mainstream biology) to their satisfaction, throws in the word “evolutionary” as the most convenient “test word” to distinguish how you fall on this; usually the view being that if you are willing to throw out an entire field of expertise (evolutionary biology), then your commitment to scientific principles must be suspicious at best, or to put it in less charitable ways: fatally compromised or missing at worst. I.e. they would conclude that such folks have a higher commitment to certain doctrinal understandings, and only underneath that (and definitely in competition with it) comes whatever commitment to science they could be said to have left. [would such an appraisal be inaccurate on their part?] There is still plenty of science left out there (if one sets aside all the interconnectedness all these fields have for the moment) where a young-earth creationist could presumably carry on ably and well without ever needing to directly cross his own convictions.

Well; there is “questioning” evolution, and then there is questioning evolution. It is every scientist’s job to question stuff all the time, so yes - evolution is no exception to that. But I’ll wager that’s not what you meant. By “question”, you probably mean: to doubt any or all of the entire enterprise that includes ancient times scales and certainly common descent. If so, then I doubt that you could find “many” scientists (at least not as a percentage of all scientists) who do so. Sure there are some who contest the sufficiency of current understandings or mechanisms (like Behe), but note that they [or at least Behe] don’t count among those who reject common descent - but only among the many who still have questions about how it all works. And if we loosen up your word “question” to mean that, then nearly every scientist could be said to have questions and various levels of credulity about details.

So to conclude my (maybe not so short after all) answer: I think “Biologos” (or many of us here anyway) could be said to think that, at minimum, if you’re willing to put enough of today’s science “on hold” so as to leave certain doctrinal understandings of yours undisturbed, then you’ve been pretty seriously picking and choosing how/when/or even if certain bedrock scientific principles can be applied. And that would seem to make your acceptance of science somewhat inconsistent. Not that we can’t / don’t all live with inconsistency. Lord knows we all do - some with a little and others with a lot! And some could even function scientifically with it (as many [historically] have). So I think your challenge should be conceded in that regard (just speaking for myself.)

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The BioLogos position is that scientific consensus (which includes, among other things, common descent, standard geological eras, the reality and threat of climate change) is compatible with orthodox, Bible-believing Christianity.

Certainly someone can value science and “do science” in one field while questioning scientific consensus in another. But the mission here is to counter the narrative that Christians must question scientific consensus in order to be faithful, and that certain positions that involve flat-out denial of scientific consensus are default “Christian” positions.

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But here Christy does exactly what @originmike is complaining about; assuming that those who question “evolution” are questioning “science”.

Perhaps @Christy, you meant to say was “But the mission here is to counter the narrative that Christians must question The General Theory of Evolution (GToE) in order to be faithful”.

Of course very few YEC question that adaptation by natural selection can occur; aka microevolution. (Which is why I referred specifically to GToE). Indeed we think Biblical creation isn’t a salvation issue, (but it is a Gospel issue), so you can be saved as a Christian and still believe the GToE.

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Translation: “It isn’t a salvation issue, but it is a salvation issue.”

Or in other words, what exactly do you consider the difference between a “salvation issue” and a “Gospel issue” to be?

Oh and one other thing, any creation model that seeks to be described as “Biblical creation” must fully obey Deuteronomy 25:13-16. Because if it doesn’t, then it isn’t Biblical.

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Read the link.

I did. The writer feels that we must believe in a physical real Eden before we could begin to hope for any kind of “restored” creation. And that furthermore, this is all a foundation for the gospel events.

Both sides here are willing to grant from the top that salvation is not at stake. And perhaps we need to both have patience with each other in granting that this initial allowance is necessarily followed with caveats and qualifications that there are still many important considerations to be had even as we move down from our penultimate concerns. I think it more accurate to say that it is the claim to the title “biblical Christianity” that is being disputed.

I think the writers of your linked article may give the clearest insight into their most core commitments when they conclude with these lines:

These articles are important because they defend Genesis as history, not as poetry, myth, or allegory.

I wonder if these priorities haven’t stolen into the real heart of their program: in essence as if they had stated… “whatever else we do, we mustn’t admit any of these ‘inferior’ modes of communication, but must let our modernist commitment to our brand of literal historicity be the reigning and default template in every possible place it can be imposed.”

So if there are any who are convinced by this, we should fairly ask just what it is they have been won over to … is it to truth? or is it a commitment to a certain kind of ideology? We here on this site are very concerned about those who would divorce their faith from significant portions of the testimony of God’s physical creation.

There. Did I just do it again? Well - no; because I did not question yours or anyone’s actual salvation (the one parcel we’ve all agreed to leave alone here). It’s just the same kind of [rightly necessary] expression that takes the initial “yes,” and follows it with a “but…”

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This! We have touched briefly on other topics, and will do more so going forward, but we are advocates for scientific consensus in all fields, although our primary mission for the past decade has been to provide an avenue for Christians to accept the GToE as valid and not let it shake their faith. In addition, we also want to promote science more generally as a viable vocation for Christians.

From what I can tell at my (short) time here so far, is that it’s not so much “interchangeable,” but we aim to be able to be flexible as an organization, to talk about a range of scientific topics with a Christian lens. Hope that helps!

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If you are questioning evolution, you are questioning science, because evolution is the scientific consensus of biology. Evolution is not the whole of science, but is a significant part. Just like you would be questioning math if you questioned plane geometry. You could theoretically doubt the validity of plane geometry and do just fine with number theory. It would still be a correct statement to say that your questioning of plane geometry constitutes “questioning math.”

Questioning the reality of climate change is questioning science. Questioning the established age of the universe is questioning science. Questioning that some mental illnesses are chemical imbalances in the brain not spiritual problems is questioning science. There are many areas in which you can doubt scientific consensus.

It is not, however, the mission of BioLogos to yell at people for questioning scientific consensus.

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Are you saying that TRUTH is decided by scientific consensus? If scientific consensus denies miracles, such as the virgin birth, raising Lazarus from the dead (after he started to decompose and smell), turning water into wine, walking on water etc, does this mean we have to stop believing the bible?

This sounds like the redefining of words that I see a lot in these discussions. I’ve heard at church “Evolution isn’t science”, and thus they can say they aren’t against science. They just redefined words to make it true.

Miracles are outside the realm of science. So I wouldn’t expect a scientist to comment on such things in the Bible. They are things that don’t leave any evidence to examine one way or another. We have plenty of evidence to examine about evolution, the age of the earth, and even whether there was a global flood. We have nothing to examine about crossing the Red Sea or the feeding of the 5000. I believe both those things happened, as did Jesus’s resurrection, which our faith is built upon.

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I am saying that what constitutes “science” or “scientific fact” is decided by scientific consensus. The point of science is to discover truth about the world. I wouldn’t call it TRUTH, all caps. But I think science endeavors to describe reality truthfully. Decisions are involved when there is a choice to be made. I don’t know that observations and measurements involve many “decisions” about what is true. Either they are accurate and describe reality correctly or they don’t.

Science doesn’t speak to supernatural realities. “Miracles never happen” is a metaphysical statement, not a scientific one.

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You say that there is no evidence for the miracles in the bible. There is eye witness testimony for miracles - Jesus walking on water, the feeding of the 5000, and more. Their testimony is evidence. Do you doubt their testimony?

Hi originmike,

When @Boscopup said this…

…I took “nothing to examine” to mean no evidence of a scientific nature.

There is no reason to leap to the assumption that he thinks there is no evidence of any kind. Indeed, he believes in those miracles and in the resurrection, so he must think there is evidence of some kind.

Best,
Chris

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@originmike, I believe in those miracles because of that eyewitness testimony. I absolutely believe the Bible. I just don’t expect to find scientific evidence of those things left behind. We can’t evaluate them scientifically, and miracles are outside of science, being “supernatural”.

I think @Chris_Falter explained pretty well what I was saying. (And I’m a “she”, but I don’t expect you to get that from my username :wink: )

Creation 6000 years ago would leave some evidence, or at least would not leave evidence of a very long history. A global flood would leave some evidence, or at least not leave evidence of continuous civilizations that have no interruption at the supposed time of the flood. Things that we can measure today and see evidence of today CAN be looked at scientifically. Miracles that aren’t expected to leave behind evidence CANNOT be looked at scientifically. I absolutely believe in miracles though, as a Christian!

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Noted. Glad you’re here.

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I think its very important for everyone to acknowledge that science is a great tool for understanding the truth of the natural world that is subject to scientific exploration but that this leaves out a very large portion of the entire truth of human experience. Some parts of the natural world are also not at the moment entirely accessible to scientific study. And areas like history, philosophy, the arts, and aspects of human exceptionalism are also only marginally subject to in depth scientific investigation. Confusing science with total TRUTH is a mistake. Thus, its perfectly rational for @Boscopup, @Chris_Falter, myself and others here to accept consensus science as true, and also accept Christian faith statements which are not subject to scientific scrutiny (the Resurrection, miracles, etc) as just as true.

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They are used interchangeably by scientists. It is the scientific method. You test an hypothesis to see if the results agree with the hypothesis or not and then you accept the results. That is what the scientist does. When you insist on ignoring the result of every such test then you are rejecting the work of science… pure and simple. Evolution is the result of the scientific inquiry into the origin of the species. In my experience, creationists simply do not want there to be any such inquiry by science into that question because they want to dictate such things to everyone. I see a strong correlation with delusion that they speak for God… and suspect they don’t believe in a real God at all but only in the rhetoric by which they use the word “God” for power and manipulation of other people.

Dear @sygarte,
Welcome to the forum. I really wish that some scientists would learn what you just wrote! This is for me the root of the struggle between science and religion: arrogance on both sides. For me, modern philosophy has failed to fill the large gap that you describe, because science will never fill it because their tools are limited. This gap can only be filled with logic and reason, not peculation and doctrine.
Best Wishes, Shawn

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I think @Boscopup is referring to is objective evidence that can be measured and quantified as opposed to subjective evidence that requires interpretation. Certainly I embrace miracles through faith, but I do not expect all to agree, and cannot expect to see objective evidence.
I guess we EC folk just have greater faith.:wink:

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