Blog of Jonathan A. Eisen, Professor at U.C. Davis.
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.