Pro-Evolution Christians - Camel's Hump?

This is exactly my approach and I find it widely appreciated and accepted among my scientific colleagues. Why not take this strategy? It is much less contentious then your proposal for a metaphysical science.

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It works, and it enables scientists of any faith or no faith at all to work together!

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That may well be the best approach for a working biologist, Joshua, since the aim is to be part of the scientific community. I wouldn’t expect an astronautics engineer to insist on using relativity to calculate Newtonian orbits - but to understand reality better, the latter is necessary…

But my interest is in the science-faith interface, and I don’t think that the current natural science paradigm deals with that very well, especially in the light of the fuzzy-edges of fundamental physics. And, indeed, in understanding God’s role in evolution. Indeed, I find it’s a major factor in the continued disconnect between Creation doctrine (my primary interest) and current science.

Science is metaphysical, of course - it’s just that the metaphysics is tacitly assumed (and so sometimes denied) as if “metaphysics” means “what Aristotle used to do instead of science”. The academics who worked on divine action a couple of decades ago _did _ do metaphysics, often from a process-philosophy angle when it wasn’t from a science-first position, and their legacy lives on in open process thinking and semi-deism within TE.

I think orthodox Christianity can, and should, do better - as it did historically first in the scholastic system for mediaeval times, and then in the naturalistic paradigm in early-modern science, before its theistic basis was eroded in the Enlightenment. That’s a project in which atheistic colleagues can’t be usefully involved - though it might help them in the longer term if the indications of teleology within living cells comes to fruition. After all, science has been based on at least two separate theistic paradigms before.

But remember my article was posted on my own site for the community that’s interested (which is of a reasonable size and of excellent academic quality, I’m glad to say, if BioLogos authors count!). You can look on those people as my working colleagues. It was George who decided to bring it to the attention of BioLogos. Nobody else is forced to consider it.

Okay, I think understand much better what you are doing, and why your vocabulary confused me.

The word “science” is hotly contested in culture, and scientists are very rigid in how they understand it and who they think has a right to use it. Challenging scientists in how they self-define themselves only leads to conflict. In these conflicts, I usually take their side.

Now, as Christians, we should know that human science (mainstream science or modern science or just “science”) give only an incomplete view of the world. We can and should endeavor to complete our understanding of nature, maybe even supposing how God works out His purposes in the world. This might include specifiying or proposing specific ways of understanding divine action in evolution. I think this what you and Camel’s Hump are trying to encourage. It is not that you want BioLogos to adopt a single position, but for individual TE proponents to more clearly lay out how they personally think about these things.

Am I right here?

So here is something that might seem tangential but is actually critically important when engaging the scientific community with what I consider to be an important and reasonable exhortation. You can’t present this as a proposal to modify or rework science. Ignoring this rule will almost always lead to conflict with scientists. Honestly, the word “science” is such a hot button, I’m not even sure if it helps you here.

I would relabel what you are proposing as calling for “Theologies of Nature” or “Philosophies of Nature” or “Understandings of Nature” instead of using the word “science” or the neologism “metaphysical science.” This a is really important shift in vocabulary that makes much more clear what you are hoping for, and also avoids the controversy.

What do you think?

@Jon_Garvey

I don’t really see how getting any more specific with Metaphysics can possibly help anyone.

Metaphysics is pretty much a blank canvas… You can say vanilla… and I can say chocolate… and who is to say who is right?

There are metaphysics implied by various Biblical texts … and denominations have staked their territory around them.

BioLogos does no one any good by taking sides!

@gbrooks9 , I think you need to see this recent article at the Camel’s Hump…

http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2016/06/28/why-evolutionary-creationists-need-to-be-specific-or-why-george-brooks-is-wrong/

While I disagree with their terminology (for reasons I have already stated), I think they are pointing the need for a plurality of theologies of nature to be expressed and worked out by theistic evolutionist. They are not asking BioLogos to pick a side or adopt one hegemonic position.

With one qualification (in addition to the terminology change), I can largely agree. They write…

So what is my qualification to this? I think that mystery and agnosticism are acceptable responses too. We saw this in @jpm’s recent article on divine action.

My personal position on divine action in evolution is (1) I think evolution is a good description of life on earth, but it is merely scientific. (2) I 100% believe that God designed and created us. (3) I’m agnostic about exactly how God acts to exert His will over evolution, (4) I wonder if the mystery here is intractable (both scientifically and theologically) by God’s intentional plan, and (5) one reason God might make His action in nature unfathomable is to render uniquely powerful His revelation though the life, death, and ressurection of Jesus.

In my understanding, God ensures that Jesus is the “one sign” (quoting Jesus again) in the world that He exists, is good, and wants to be known. As Bonhoeffer writes, “a god who lets us prove his existence would be an idol.” God might be protecting us from idolatry by intentionally rendering His action in the world, apart from Jesus, unfathomable (any thoughts @deliberateresult?) . In this formulation, ID and creation science (to me) feel like Babel Towers: efforts to reach God independent of revelation.

While I do not specify or deny any particular modes of divine action (and am genuinely open to almost anything), I explain theologically (in a Christ centered manner) why I think God might shroud His action in nature with mystery. This is a central component of my “theology of nature” and how Jesus reshapes how I might otherwise approach science, looking for proof and validation. No, now I enter science with confidence, not need any proof more than Jesus.

This response links to me to a long tradition of Christian contemplation on Divine Hiddenness. It is very Reformed. It is very Lutheran. It is very Barthian. It is distinctly Evangelical and Christian. It is a well considered theological position germane to the orthodox Christian faith.

I hope that Camel’s Hump would consider my mystery-embracing theology as an acceptable response to their exhortation. Comment’s here would be appreciated.

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@Samidass

This is a rather key text … by @Eddie, yes? [I put his name as the source of the quote above.]

I have done just this!

I have stated that I believe God has “front-loaded” the Universe at the very moment of creation…

and I have proposed that God uses Cosmic Rays, as well as other forms of radiation, to make pin-point mutations as necessary.

This is NOT a Deistic model, because I also see God as communicating with humanity … through prayer and through inspiration … and this can only be done in REAL TIME.

Can I get any more specific? Gosh, I don’t see how? I don’t know anything definitive about the afterlife, or how God may have structured dimensions or anything like that. So … what more does a man like Eddie need?

What else can I (or anyone else) offer that would make any sense or that is credible?

I suppose you have.

Rather than complaining that they are asking for a unified response from BioLogos (which they are not), I would put it to @Jon_Garvey, is this what you are hoping for?

Also @gbrooks9, while I accept your position as part of the tent and a possibility, do you agree that many Christians would have a hard time with this telling? To them, this “feels” deistic, even though it is not actually deism? I imagine you agree that this might not be an acceptable synthesis for all Christians. That is okay, and does not make it false.

@Jon_Garvey, what more are you asking from @gbrooks9? Just to acknowledge that more exposition of these synthesis from other people are important for the conversation? I could agree with that.

@Swamidass,

I guess i’m going to get pretty REPETITIVE on this issue of Deism! This is absolutely not so.

When God communicates and delivers inspiration to generation after generation of humans… there’s nothing DEISTIC about that at all. It’s REAL TIME interaction …

Deism does not account for this … it cannot account for this.

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Joshua, my first question would be to ask why “science” is such a “hot button” - maybe it’s the same kind of question as why “evolution” is such a hot button for Creationists, and why “Creation” is one for many secular scientists, even when Christian scientists don’t let belief in the Creator impinge on their science.

That aside, I’m happy with any labels that describe what is actually happening - that’s why I can’t get interested when people say that design inferences are philosophy, not science, when it’s their truth or otherwise that matters (and when all science depends on comparable inferences).

With that in mind maybe part of the reason for sensitivity over the word “science” is that it is habitually used beyond the modest bounds that you have wisely set for it. If one defines “science” as the post-Aristotelian research programme currently operating, then clearly any critique of its metaphysical basis is “anti-scientific”, and any empirical research done under a different paradigm is not science. I’m happy with that, if everybody agrees.

“Understandings of nature” is good, (once one defines “nature” more broadly than is usually done), and I would suggest that a project called “Evolutionary Creation” has more to do with that than with “science” strictly defined.

I would just note, though, that the neologism “metaphysical science” is yours, not mine. My piece simply questioned the metaphysical underpinnings of current science, and tentatively suggested what kind of thing might be easier under different assumptions.

Joshua,

I’d pretty much agree with your responses to George.

I take “you” here to be a plural including Eddie’s piece and The Hump of the Camel as a (broad tent!) entity. In that context, any criticism we have made over the years is of BioLogos as an entity, or specifically of its spokespersons. In that sense I’m asking nothing whatsoever of George, since commenters have engaged in many conversations down the years, just as anyone is free to comment at my blog.

To address George’s particular proposal, I pointed out above that it is not the subject of my article. However, “divine action” is certainly part of the EC discussion, and in some ways George’s suggestion is on a level with, say, R J Russell’s proposal about divine tinkering with quantum events, which was explored at length by Ted Davis, and cited more recently by Jim Stump.

George’s airing of it enables you to point to the intrinsically deistic nature of putting all ones eggs into frontloading. One could also point to the current science suggesting the universe is not that deterministic. A good conversation would be “What’s wrong with Deism then?” (a theological matter), which might lead to some kind of consensus that entirely Deistic schemes ought to be off the EC table (and why), and so lead to progress in general understanding.

That discussion wouldn’t detract from George’s protest that he’s also proposing a real-time divine action, which could lead to a different discussion about why that might be necessary - or if not, if extreme frontloading is outlawed, why not, how providence can exist without it. Etc. But with no disrespect to George, such discussions need to be initiated and progressed mainly by the leaders of the EC movement.

@Jon_Garvey

Protests against this so-called “front loading” (which is not how this term was first used OUTSIDE of BioLogos … but seems to be a more useful way of using the term) seems to be a sniping at the most logical proposal to those who see natural law as the logical implement of God’s plans.

The “clock-maker” or “deist” scenario of God’s intervention does not accommodate God speaking to Abraham… to Moses … to David and so on.

God doesn’t leave answering machine messages for humanity … he speaks to people LIVE.

So… lingering efforts to cast God as a clock-maker would seem to be a willful decision to actually ignore the basics of the proposal…

Jon G., I am happy to see you grasping what I’ve been saying.

Respectfully, this is dangerously idealistic thinking.

Because of the long history of political resistance to evolution, including the Scopes Trial and the Dover Trial, there are LEGAL implications regarding the use of the term “science,” especially by scientists. Anytime we give credence to a creationist or ID idea as part of “science” proper, it leads to court cases and political challenges to how science is taught in public schools.

Carefully guarding the use of the word “science” is what currently guards the peace, effectively keeping the conflict in pop culture, and out of courtrooms and science classes. This, also, is how I am able to operate in science, without tenure, without fear of reprisal. I know the rules here, and I follow them. They are wise rules too, because they enable a real ecumenical peace among scientists.

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So let’s tone it back a bit. I agree, you are not a deist. Still, your model raises several (answerable) questions.

  1. Why would God choose to direct evolution in a manner that is scientifically undetectable? Why would He create life in a manner so easily mistaken for atheistic evolution?
  2. Why would God need or choose to use cosmic rays to insert His influence? Couldn’t He just as easily have used a primary cause? What evidence do you have that cosmic rays are His way?

I’ve previously given my answers to question #1. How would you answer these questions?

You certainly propose a logically possible theory. However, I struggle to see (as you present it) its full coherence. Maybe you could flesh it out.

That being said, I do agree that you are not a deist. You are theist. Moreover, a fully developed and coherent theory of origins is not required to be part of the Church and the BioLogos tent. So perhaps you do not really care to take it further. That would be okay.

I think, because of the theology of Jesus that I laid out earlier, deistic schemes are not off the table. Rather, they need to be couple with a robust theology of WHY God would be deistic in creation by theistic in redemption. Of course, I think that the revelation Jesus could harmonize deistic creation with theistic redemption.

I am convinced, in fact, that Jesus is the missing peice in all our origin discussions. @Keith_Furman, do you agree?

What is “atheistic evolution”? And is there such a thing as “atheist gravity” or “atheistic photosynthesis.”?

I’m not trying to be dismissive or disrespectful. I just don’t understand how science can be designated “atheistic” any more than geometry can be considered atheistic. (Is the Pythagorean Theorem atheistic? After all, it “leaves out God”. Or does it?)

The Bible says that God directs the movement of the heavenly bodies. Yet, that sovereignty of God over the motions of the planets and stars are scientifically undetectable. Indeed, God is not matter-energy so God is not subject to the scientific method at all. Should that surprise us at all?

You see, I just can’t grasp the problem. I don’t “believe in” things like “atheistic evolution” for the same reasons why I don’t believe in “atheistic mitosis.”

As to “Pro-Evolution Christians”, such terminology makes me wonder if I should call myself a “pro-gravity Christian”. However, while I’m thankful that gravity exists----it can be quite useful, especially on a windy day—I’ve never really thought of myself as for or against gravity. Gravity is simply a reality. Same with evolutionary processes. They operate whether I personally approve of them or not.

Of course, even when I used to deny the Theory of Evolution, my opinion did nothing to prevent evolution—just as my opinion had no impact on gravity, mitosis, and photosynthesis.

So I guess that is why such terminology has always frustrated me—and I fear that Christians being associated with such terminology produces yet another unnecessary obstacle to the progress of the Great Commission.

We as Christians have a long history of getting our science “wrong”, long after everybody else starts getting it right. Do we ever learn from that history of shooting ourselves in the foot? Not really.

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I agree with you here. If it wasn’t clear, I am a theistic evolutionist too. Perhaps I misspoke too. The question is for @gbrooks9 and rooted in his notion God uses cosmic rays to nudge evolution as he sees fit. I do not know why this is necessary, and my questions were just trying (imprecisely) to explore how the theological issues raised might be resolved.

And, of course, scientific evolution is not “atheistic.” However, atheists (e.g. Dawkins) assert a version of evolution that is atheistic. I refer to this as ‘atheistic evolution’. My question is, if God must nudge evolution for it to work, why would God choose a nudging mechanism that is so easily mistaken for atheistic evolution? Moreover, why does he need cosmic rays to do this? As well intentioned as the proposal maybe, I have a hard time making a coherent picture out of it. Of course it is possible. I’m just not sure if it makes sense to me.

On a scientific note, I should also point out that cosmic rays might enable “nudging” of some types of mutations (e.g. point mutations and perhaps non-homologous end joining). However, there are whole classes of mutations that would not (as far as we can tell) be tweaked by cosmic rays (e.g. transposon jumping).

When discussions move into that territory, I always wonder why we don’t just tackle the larger question of “Why does God choose to not reveal himself directly to everyone on a continual basis?” How many people in the history of the world have looked to the sky and said, “God, if you truly exist, show me that you are there!”

Thus, any question about why God chooses to do what God chooses to do is usually related to the broader question of the “hidden-ness” of God.

Also, as a Molinist, I have no need to see God “nudging” anything. No, out of all of the realities which God could have created, this is the “reality-path” God chose. So God has no need to nudge in order to bring about his will.

Consider what the Bible says about God controlling the outcome of the casting of lots. Does that mean that God nudges the roll of dice with a tiny little extra push to make sure the outcome fits what God wanted? Or did God create a universe which would “naturally” WITHOUT EXTRA INTERVENTION comply with God’s will?

Add to that the fact that God is not subject to time contraints. God doesn’t “live” within in time-realm of cause-and-effect, because time is an attribute of a matter-energy universe. So God certainly isn’t confined or subject to something which he himself created as described in Genesis 1:1. We are just so accustomed to the arrow-of-time and the cause and effect that goes with it, we wrongly assume that EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING is similarly dominated by cause and effect. We fail to recognize that “nudging” may be necessary in our sphere of experience—but not in God’s. (Yes, the fact that miracles are described in scripture tells us that nudging can happen when God so chooses, but I don’t see any reason to think that that is necessary for things like particularly evolutionary outcomes. In scripture, miracles are primarily a means of God making an impression upon people when communicating his will.)

I just see no reason for thinking God had to constantly “nudge along” certain evolutionary outcomes. It is an anthropomorphic view of things. I believe God’s sovereignty is absolute in the sense that he chose a reality-path and that has been set along along—and no nudging is necessary. In fact, to say that nudging is necessary is implying that the universe which God created is somehow prone to stray from his will and that God has to regularly intervene to “show it who’s boss.”

Yes, one can come up with “proof texts” to imply more traditional views. But I think we fail to see how often the scriptures MUST descend to our finite human minds and describe things as simply as possible so that the average reader through the centuries could get just enough of the main idea to get along. Does God control the movementw of the heavenly bodies? Yes. But to think of them as if they are a flock of sheep and God as shepherd must constantly keep them in their places is an ANALOGY, not a tightly defined description of the reality.

Does God decide when each radioisotope atom will “randomly” decay? Yes and no. I say yes in the sense that God’s choice to create the universe and selected its “reality path” such that that atom’s decay was established from the beginning. I say no in the sense of God deciding when it was time for him to “nudge” that atom to decay. (The theologians of the Middle Ages liked to speak of God commanding an angel to carry out such nudging, such as the actual pushing of heavenly bodies through the sky. That’s why some of them got very angry with Copernicus for appearing to throw out such a notion. They struggled to see how BOTH viewpoints agree on God’s sovereignty being fulfilled in the operation of the universe. Both are incomplete but very human ways to try and grasp God’s sovereignty.)

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What a marvelous exploration! Thank you @Swamidass!

Now that I’ve actually seen some thoughtful discussion of the parameters, I’m all a flutter to further clarify my comments about cosmic rays:

  1. I don’t think I ever intended to EXCLUDE any other “rays” or “energies” from God’s list of tools.

  2. I once read a short list of the energies and factors that can cause genetic mutation. So, in response to your comment about “I do not know why this is necessary,” It would appear my comments about cosmic rays have been ROUNDLY misunderstood!

  3. I have always left it up to the believer to decide how God was guiding evolution:

a) Cosmic rays could well be a normal part of the functioning of the Cosmos and its natural laws…
and all the OTHER energies and events that we already know trigger mutations.

vs.

b) God points his finger and fires a cosmic ray, or a gamma ray, or a beta ray, or a thermal impulse … or WHATEVER … to make the desired mutation occur.

Roger tells us that God would not do this… he doesn’t TOUCH genes. But I find this to be a bit more presumptuous than anything I would ever say. If God can pull out a man’s rib and make a woman … I think he can send a photon (or anything else) into a chromosomal mass.

  1. Is this God nudging things along? Well, only if that’s what you think should be happening! I believe God is perfectly capable of “front-loading” the entire Cosmos at the point of creation … with natural laws unfolding for everything in his plan … his plan for Earth, for life on earth, and for human evolution.

This is NOT deism .… because God must ALSO, in real time, communicate with the humans (and whatever else) of its creation!

So, to recap:

  1. I allow anthropomorphic tendencies to be indulged by whomever requires them. I do not require them; so do not accuse me of such behaviors.

  2. I am not proposing Deism; Deism does not allow for God to communicate with his creations in REAL TIME.

  3. If you think God is behind the whole COSMOS… then everything that we think is atheistic is really GOD… doing his God-thing through natural laws.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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