Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Francis Collins Launches Biologos - a strange re-working of theistic evolution

Biologos.  All I can say is, well, I am just really baffled by the whole thing. I am all for trying to have discussions about science and religion. But I do not think the two topics are really compatible in the sense of merging them together. Science (and medicine) should be about, well, science. And religion can be about whatever it wants to be. And when we can get religious and scientific leaders together to talk about the implications of each area on the other and on the world, fine too.  But merging the two together into one hybrid such as Christian Science and Creation Science?  Not for me.

Thus it is with some horror that I have been browsing the web site for Francis Collins' new The BioLogos Mission | The BioLogos Foundation (f0r some other discussions of it see e.g., Larry Moran's discussion here, and PZ Myers here and Time Magazine here and US News here). BioLogos appears to be Collins attempt to promote a slight variant of "theistic evolution" which he has been discussing for years and is also in his recent book.

And whatever you may think of theistic evolution, the Biologos version of it is just icky in many ways in my mind. For example, the site has many many links and pointers to books authored by the members of the Foundation (e.g., the front page says "Among other resources, this website posts responses to many of the questions received by Collins, Giberson, and Falk since the publication of their books, including: The Language of God; Saving Darwin; and Coming to Peace With Science.") There are also other links to this page with ads for their books. Not that there is anything wrong with selling ones books, but to have a foundation whose purpose seems in a large part to promote one's books really seems distasteful. 

And the details of Collins attempt to merge science and religion into a version of theistic evolution are really unclean.  Basically, he is trying to argue that on the one hand science and religion are completely separate activities (I support this) but at the same time argues that God can intervene in the setting up of natural laws and in providing some guidance here and there in order to, for example, produce human beings in his image.  

The web site repeats some things from Collins book that are equally illogical - such as saying that altruism can be explained by science (and even specifically saying that science is the way to explain the natural world) but then turning around and saying that science cannot explain extreme forms of altruism (and therefore implying that actually, the natural world cannot be explained by science).  Which is it?  Is science for the natural world or not?

What one wants to believe in terms of faith/religion is a highly personal issue.  But trying to both say that science and religion are completely separate but also that they are not is just completely illogical.  

UPDATE: See also:


  1. Biologos is the spanish word for "biologists", in plural...

    Foul name choice!

  2. The biologos website is just another creationist website in sheep's clothing. Just another sign of the poor state of science in this country.
    Sad, sad.....

  3. Sorry Dr. Eisen, I don't know where you stand on religious faith, but its unfortunate that you've chosen to use the militant atheist language that deliberately misrepresents what Collins is doing. Nobody is trying to meld religion and science. The words used by those working to remove religious questions from science education are deliberately ambiguous. This has the unfortunate effect of allowing the efforts to be misrepresented and opposed. The word "reconcile", for instance, doesn't necessarily mean that anyone is trying to join science and religion, or replace science with religion. The two are very different processes, and they do not necessarily have to conflict no matter how much extreme fundamentalists and extreme atheists want them to. This foundation is the most hopeful news of opposing the anti-science education campaign that I've seen in my 40 years of following the scientific creationism movement. Its insane that anyone who claims to be concerned about the destruction of science education by extreme ideologs should be attacking this effort. There seem to be two contributing misunderstandings here. One is an unjustified complacency that the courts are taking care of the anti-science education campaign. Wrong. We're losing, and there aren't enough courts in the universe to handle it. The other factor is that the scientists with the greatest motivation to speakout against creationism in public school science classes, atheists, aren't willing to separate out the issue of science education from the greater culture wars.

  4. I appreciate your comments mike

    My problem with biologos and Collins is that they do not do exactly what you say which would be great if they did

    Part of the time they say great things about science being separate from religion And if they stuck to that I would be very happy

    But they do not since they also make statements about how certain religious beliefs Must be correct because science cannot explain things like certain types of altruism

    I think this argument is very risky and does not do justice to either science or faith both of which I support as long as they are really separate

    So perhaps I have not made clear what I do not like about biologos but that is part of it

    The other part I do not like is that it seemed more about the three members and selling their books than I would like

  5. "they also make statements about how certain religious beliefs Must be correct because science cannot explain things like certain types of altruism"

    Yes, Collins is guilty as charged, but so long as the argument doesn't show up in public school science classes, his effort is critically necessary. There are very few institutions with sufficient motivation to speak out on the subject in defense of science education. We need more of this, not less.

  6. Re what should be taught to all students, it is clear that Evolution should be presented only in parallel with Creationism and the Planar Planet Theory. No theory has as much empirical backing and irrefutable evidence as Planar Planetism, and if asked I would be happy to provide many contemporary photographs which confirm PP.

  7. Just got this fun email

    Dear professors,

    The debate was a success! Since none of you were bold enough to show up, we thought it would turn out to be a one-sided lecture, but at the last moment, Professor Frank Araujo came forward and agreed to defend evolution from the onslaught of Eric Hovind (to no avail I might add).

    To the satisfaction of many, the debate did not come across as a personal duel between the participants. It was ended with a handshake, a pat on the back and a round of applause. Not withstanding, creation holds the heavyweight champion’s title.

    The challenge still stands and if there is any willing contender who will actually stand for what he believes in, another round is scheduled for the coming semester. If short notice was the problem, it no longer is. Warm up, or cool down, or do whatever you need to do, but this next semester I’d like to see a noble defense of evolution on your part..

    If it’s not worth defending, it’s not worth believing.

    Director of Public Relations (ARC student gov't)


    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.


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