Overlapping magisteria – DI’ers vs. Francis Collins

This popped up on New Scientist’s online news this morning: Christians battle each other over evolution by Amanda Gefter.

So the Discovery Institute insists that to be a Christian means that theory of evolution must be rejected as espoused in their new Faith and Evolution web site. The web site, Geftner speculates, may be a response to Francis Collin’s launch of the BioLogos Foundation. Collins and crew — with funding from the Templeton Foundation — are proponents of theistic evolution which purports that the supreme being of Christianity chose to create life via evolution.

That actually sounds much like the belief of the minister of my childhood church (United Methodist). Rev. M. loved science, was fascinated by modern cosmology, embraced the theory of evolution, and in fact was a substitute science teacher at my high school. I daresay he’d look askance at being told he could not be a Christian for his scientific inclinations.

Strictly speaking, he was a creationist (divine hand behind the Big Bang, etc.). I recall a sermon in which he compared the imagery of an atom to a galaxy (a loose connection to physical laws) as a tribute to the Christian supreme being. To his credit, he never conflated God with science in the public high school classroom. So even if the magisteria of faith and science might have become entangled when he stood at the pulpit, they certainly did not when he spoke in the secular public arena.

So this is what concerns me about Francis Collins. He’s speaking from the pulpit on BioLogos — analogous to Rev. M’s paean to God via atoms to galaxies. However, Collins is rumored to be a potential pick for head of the NIH. Will he be able to keep the magisteria non-overlapping in a secular venue?

To echo Gefter, allowing the magisteria of faith and science to become entangled serves neither well. The DI’ers and BioLogos just conflate them in different ways.

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  1. #1 by kemibe on May 28, 2009 - 3:11 pm

    Theistic evolution is such a muddled concept. If these same people also accept that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, how do they explain the fact that humans (allegedly God’s most treasured creation) didn’t evolve into their present form until maybe 100,000 years ago (less than 1/100,000 of the age of the universe)? And the solar system has only been around for about 5 billion years. What was God doing for the first 9 billion (or 13+ billion) years, jerking off? That’s a long time to wank even for a deity.

  2. #2 by llewelly on May 30, 2009 - 1:32 pm

    If these same people also accept that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, how do they explain the fact that humans (allegedly God’s most treasured creation) didn’t evolve into their present form until maybe 100,000 years ago (less than 1/100,000 of the age of the universe)?

    The obvious conclusion would be that God didn’t think the particular solar system in which we reside was terribly important.
    And why did life on Earth evolve for 4 billion years before humans appeared? Again, perhaps because God didn’t think humans were particularly important (relative to the importance of other life on Earth – which has already assessed to be minuscule.)
    It doesn’t end with the time line. Jupiter has 1300 times the volume of Earth – but it’s an environment totally hostile to human life. Worse, God didn’t create just one. There are four other very large, very inhospitable planets in our solar system, and hundreds more so far discovered outside our solar system.
    On top of all that – every phenomena so far explained has been explained by an completely unintelligent mechanism. God, therefor, seemingly decided most of its creation wasn’t worth thinking about.
    Theism + science results in a bizarre sort of ‘God’ , one that is quite alien to most religious folk. That’s the central reality undermining the idiocy of the myriad claims that books like The God Delusion have an ‘unsophisticated’ or ‘primitive’ view of religion.
    Once goalposts for defining God have been through the hyperspace jumps necessary to make God compatible science, God is so removed from nearly all traditional religion as to make God essentially irrelevant.

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