Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt: Conclusion | The BioLogos Forum

Let me begin by thanking Steve Meyer for taking the time to reply to our reviews of Darwin’s Doubt and for his willingness to again share his thoughts on the BioLogos blog. I’m pleased that we share a good understanding of the purposes of this dialogue: our two organizations are not attempting to change each others’ views; rather, as Meyer writes, “Constructive dialogue between parties with significant disagreements can, in the best case, expose both common ground and the true nature of those disagreements.” In my introduction to the series, I outlined how I saw these areas of common ground and disagreement, and the series authors have discussed these in more detail. Meyer’s response shows that he and I still do not see eye to eye on where the differences really lie.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I welcome thoughtful comments and questions about this post. Also, I’d like to clarify one sentence of the post. I wrote "I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the idea of MN in this excerpt from Origins; I and other evolutionary creationists prefer to see the practice of science as a completely Christian activity rather than an activity that adopts the methods of naturalism."
The link explains my view more clearly. A more accurate one-sentence summary would be :
“I and other evolutionary creationists prefer to see science as a practice that arises naturally from our Christian faith, rather than an activity derived from metaphysical naturalism.”


I went back and re-read Dr. Falk’s assessment of DD. As far as I can tell, he agrees with Dr. Meyer that we do not know how body plans arose, and even quotes Douglas Erwin, a leading paleontologist in this field, as saying that “something different” in biology happened during the Cambrian explosion. True, Dr. Falk goes on to say that this is an exciting area for further research, but he agrees with Dr. Meyer that none of the present naturalistic models work at explaining how body plans arose.

Given this state of affairs, wouldn’t it be reasonable to at least suspect that the “something different” might have been special acts of creation by God? And that on a scientific level this would be described as intelligent design? And that it would be honest to admit that currently the leading hypothesis is ID?

EDIT: Let me add that such an admission does not mean that a Theistic scientist must abandon trying to find a naturalistic explanation. If she suspects that God somehow endowed creation with the ability to develop body plans, then by all means let her continue the search! But let her not cast in a bad light her fellow scientists who think that ID is not only the current best explanation, but also the correct one.

So much depends, it seems to me, on how we are defining terms. Is “science” a body of knowledge or is “a science” a particular discipline related to a particular domain of knowledge, carrying along with it specific methods intrinsically related to its object of study? Or, is it in some sense both? If the first, then it seems to me that notions such as intelligent agency should be included in our discussion about what we might, with good warrant, infer from the “big picture” produced by scientific observations. But I think it should be noted that this is a kind of “meta-science”: It seems to me to be more like a scientifically grounded philosophy, which ties together various lines of observation and argumentation into a unifying philosophical framework. If we think of “science” in the second sense, we have to ask: what do appeals to non-physical explanations look like in particular scientific disciplines, such as physics or chemistry or biology? Does the rejection of methodological naturalism endorsed by ID only work with the broader “big picture” meta-questions related to origins and evolution, or does it also promise to provide useful knowledge within the particular disciplines and how they operate on a day-to-day basis, as they contribute incrementally to their respective domains of inquiry?

Moreover, a potential problem for ID here is: what do we mean by intelligent agency? Meyer argues (in the words he quotes from Nelson) that “intelligence or mental activity is the only known cause of the origin of large amounts of functional or specified information.” O.K. (whether or not that’s true, I’ll leave to the scientists and information theorists), but granting that’s true, we know about agency of this kind always and only in relation to the physical beings that we observe carrying it out. It seems to me that Meyer is here conflating agency as we experience it (connecting intentions and purpose with the actual physical beings that perform actions) with an abstract notion of agency as a something attributed to a non-identified and non-physical Being. Philosophically, I’m quite comfortable with this, as an inference from what we observe to a (limited) metaphysical and theological explanation. But I wonder, once we move from agency associated with knowable, nameable, physical beings to an abstract notion of agency associated with an unnamed, invisible, and (probably) spiritual being, are we still within the domain of the sciences? And “sciences” in what sense? - So, the move is not just from “agency as the only observed cause generating functional or specified information” + “functional or specified information actually in the world” to the inference of intelligent design, but “agency as the only observed cause generating functional or specified information” + “functional or specified information actually in the world” + the positing of an abstract notion of disembodied, unidentified, unnamed agency (which is fine theologically and philosophically, but perhaps not scientifically), leading to the meta-scientific inference of an intelligent designer.

An intriguing discussion for sure – I look forward to the responses and ongoing discussion.



I read Steve Meyer ‘s response to this series with interest. Since he made several specific claims about the reviewers’ claims of DD, I also re-read Falk and Bishop’s reviews.

I think Meyer read too much into Falk’s agreement on some of the difficulties (read, not currently fully understood) things about development of body plans, etc. It appears to me this was done to set up a hand-waving argument of “they agreed with me all to here, but now do not follow through with the ‘obvious’ conclusion”. The most significant critique I see from Falk of ID, is near the end, where he asks if ID is supposed to be a scientific movement, where are the verifiable (and falsifiable) predictions that it makes? This is what distinguishes a scientific theory from mere philosophical speculations. You might call it methodological naturalism (MN), which leads me into his discussion of Bishop’s review. Here, when he discusses MN, he overlooks a whole distinction that Bishop made between MN and metaphysical naturalism in part 3 of his review. I have no problem with MN, but Meyer seems to use the term differently; he uses it more like I, and I suspect many TE\EC proponents would use metaphysical naturalism. To me MN requirement would merely mean that any scientific theories must be testable (and falsifiable!) through some kind of objective means. ID as currently formulated does not meet that requirement. That’s not to say there could never be an intelligent cause that we could somehow test for (although I can’t wrap my head about how we could do that), it’s just that such kinds of predictions have not been forthcoming.

By trade, I am a software developer, which means I design and build systems with specified design and complexity, and it can be hard! However, these programs that human developers make pale in complexity and magnificence to biological life as it evolved on earth. God is great, far greater to me when I consider he could design a universe with laws such that creatures that could recognize him and worship him would one day evolve! The only thing greater is God’s love, so great that He would become one of them, and then die for them, so they could choose a full relationship with Him in spite of their rebellious nature.

Without trying to be too obvious evolution is a difficult topic to discuss because a) it is complicated, and b) it is a field that changing all the time, so the current state of the field is a constantly moving target.

They all referred to the modern, extended neo-Darwinian synthesis, which includes multiple evolutionary mechanisms (e.g., symbiogenesis, developmental constraints, and epigenetics) acting alongside natural selection to generate and constrain novelty, as well as the exciting work being done to apply this synthesis to the Cambrian explosion. (from the article)

Deborah refer to the current state of the field as the “modern, extended neo-Darwinian synthesis.” It seems to me that we have had Darwinism, then Neo-Darwinism, then modern Neo-Darwinism, and finally the extended neo-Darwinian synthesis.

Now I have been criticizing Richard Dawkins whose influential book, the Selfish Gene. was published more than 30 years ago and of course he is still living and influential. It seems to me that most popular evolutionary writing is based on his views. However this is the first that I have heard that his views are passé if it is true that we have gone from modern Neo-Darwinism to the extended neo-Darwinian synthesis.

To me this is important if true. If Meyer is criticizing modern Neo-Darwinism and BioLogos is defending the extended synthesis they are talking past each other. Also as I have said many times Dawkins & friends have used his Selfish Gene concept of evolution as the basis for their New Atheism. If the Selfish Gene view is no longer valid, then their atheistic views may also be in question. That is important in this discussion of faith and science.

In my study of evolution I have found that Darwin made a most important contribution in his distinction between Variation and Natural Selection as the twin pillars of evolutionary change. Variation proposes while Natural Selection disposes. We make evolution unnecessarily complicated and confusing when we confuse the two.

“Symbiogenesis, developmental constraints, and epigenetics) acting alongside natural selection to generate and constrain novelty”… This sentence confuses Variation which generates novelty (symbiogenesis and epigenetics) with Natural Selection which constrains novelty. The only way to really understand how evolution really works is through genetic Variation and ecological, symbiotic Natural Selection.

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I appreciate this series facilitated by Dr. Haarsma, including her description of the spectrum of views BioLogos authors have regarding methodological naturalism (MN).

I find it helpful to remember there’s another spectrum of views - regarding design in nature - among theistic evolution (TE) a.k.a. evolutionary creation (EC) a.k.a. BioLogos authors. As with the broad spectrum of views regarding MN, the similarly broad spectrum regarding the existence and source of design in nature likewise means that several BioLogos authors share views held by ID authors.

For example, many TE adherents share with most intelligent design (ID) adherents two convictions: 1) that there’s design in nature that cannot be attributed to humans nor to any other identified creatures, and 2) that God is the Designer responsible for this design.

TE and ID adherents may even share the same views on when the design is or was accomplished by God, which varies within both TE and ID but not necessarily between TE and ID. So, among both TE and ID adherents there are some people who imagine that God continually directs the course of natural processes (such as evolution) long after the beginning of the universe, and there are other people who imagine that God set things up at the beginning to guarantee certain outcomes so that no later “steering” would be needed.

Regardless of whether God designs by front-loading or ongoing direction, among people equally accepting of divine design, the difference between TE and ID is whether or not the divine design is detectable using the scientific method.

Design-accepting TE adherents argue that belief in design - while rational and consistent with science - requires theological reasoning that goes beyond what science itself can do if the designer is unidentified and potentially divine.

ID adherents argue the opposite: that design - while compatible with, and even potentially supportive of, religious belief - is a scientific conclusion reachable without reference to any theology even if the unidentified designer might be God.

I realize that some TE adherents do not believe in much design because they imagine that God left the outcomes of natural processes like evolution free and unspecified, at least to some extent. But again, that is not a fundamental nor consistent nor essential distinction between TE and ID; many TE adherents believe in design just as much as do ID adherents.

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Thanks for this beautiful description of God’s design, and especially of God’s love. Psalm 103 says that “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is God’s love” - the vastness of God’s universe helps us perceive the extravagance of God’s love.

I won’t speak for Darrel, but I know various people in the BioLogos community who are at about the point you describe. Theologically and philosophically, they are open to the idea of God doing special acts of creation in natural history, but scientifically, they see so much progress in recent decades and so many promising avenues of investigation that they prefer to seek the natural mechanisms by which God created life forms.


Then perhaps there could be a compromise: BioLogos will admit that even though some form of ID (special creation? guidance?) for body plans is a reasonable explanation, they are not yet willing to grant that it is the best explanation. This won’t completely satisfy Dr. Meyer or other ID people, but it might remove some of the abrasiveness betwen the two groups.


///Both groups celebrate the evidence that the parameters of the cosmos are fine-tuned for life///

The fine-tuning argument is flawed. It results from:

(a) seeing teleology in everything and
(b) a failure to appreciate the role of random chance and contingency

Consider this: If we look back at our lives, we can identify many chance events that happened by accident, yet changed the course of our lives and made us what we are today. But that single chain of events was not the only course our lives could have taken. Our lives could have taken any of the countless other alternative routes and then we would have ended up differently. It is pointless to look back now and claim that the sequence of past events in our lives were fine-tuned deliberately to lead us to our current position. That’s wrong.

Now consider this: There are innumerable possible paths from the present to the future. Which one of those will eventually materialise is unknown and very much contingent on chance. 10 years from now, it will be meaningless to declare that the successful path was purposefully set up by someone. No, it was not set up by anyone, it was just one among millions of alternatives, but it was the only one that materialised.

It’s exactly the same with the flawed fine-tuning argument. The cosmological constants could have taken any of countless possible values, but they ended up in their current values by sheer chance. Stars, planets and life are mere consequences of the way the universe ended up being. You are now looking back with a teleological mindset and saying that somebody set up the values to produce us. You’re attaching too much importance to yourself.

///most scientists would resist the claim that truth is only discoverable though science.///

I don’t think so. No scientist who understands what he’s talking about will say that objective truths can be reached upon by non-empirical means. To make statements about reality with any degree of confidence, one must propose verifiable hypotheses grounded in evidence and empirical methods. Otherwise anybody could propose whatever he/she feels like saying, just like what theistic evolutionists are doing. You claim that an unknown, imaginary God, who cannot be observed or studied and whose intentions can never be known, set nature in motion - no evidence, nothing required! That doesn’t work because such a God is so abstract and vague that he can be force-fitted to any scenario one desires. Theistic evolution is a scientifically untenable position.

The reason we see teleology in everything is because scientists and everyone else observes teleology all around us at every level. We observe cosmic unity, inbuilt structures, natural laws, mathematical predictability and regularity, precisely balanced particles, cosmic fine tuning, inherent patterns and biological genetic coding of breathtaking complexity. And we logically and rationally conclude that all this is far to complex and improbable to have occurred by undirected “chance” events, and far to “unified” to have been organized by an ad hock unguided committee.

As for the role of “random chance”, you no doubt believe that all these “vastly improbable” cosmic events happened by undirected “chance” events. Even though no testable or verifiable scientific evidence exists for any of this, including the origin of the universe, life consciousness and a vast multitude of other phenomena.

I need to tell you that “magic” and “miracles” can be defined as “vastly improbable” events for which there exists no scientific answer. And that’s exactly what godless “metaphysical” naturalism and mainstream scientism is founded on. Namely, “vastly improbable” chance events for which there exists no testable or verifiable scientific answer to this very day. Meaning, it is not a matter of whether or not theism and atheistic naturalism hold metaphysical beliefs beyond science and physics, and believes in " miracles", but rather whether the miracle worker resides in or beyond the universe.
As for “contingency”, it is here that you face your greatest dilemma. A “transcendent” non-dependent “self-existing” first cause is both a “philosophical” and “scientific” necessity, without which nothing would exist and we wouldn’t be having this conversation). Here’s why:,

The scientific world affirms that we all live in a universe that cannot explain or sustain itself. A universe that is undergoing radiometric and biological decay , and is running down towards a final state of maximum entropy(disorder) and heat death.

My challenge is this: Can you or anyone else name ANYTHING in existence “within” the universe that is “self-existing” and “self-explaining”, and NOT dependent on a cause outside and beyond itself to explain its existence. In other words, can you name ANYTHING in existence in our running down dying universe that is capable of creating the universe, and all else, Namely, something that is “self-existing” .
Because if can do this a Nobel Prize awaits you we can eliminate God, as we don’t need to look beyond and outside the universe for a cause.

So, here’s your contingency problem! If everything in the universe needs a cause, and nothing exists “within” the universe that is self-explanatory and “self-existing” you are of necessity forced to look beyond the universe for a cause. And if no preceding cause of the cause of universe is “self-existing” there is no philosophical of scientific basis for life or existence. Not ever! Forever! In which case nothing would exist and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Meaning, the existence of a non-dependent “self-existing” first cause is both a philosophical and scientific necessity to explain why anything exists. And this necessary self-existing entity has been historically called God.

Now all you have to do to eliminate God and prove me wrong is provide us and the Nobel Committee with an answer to my challenge.

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