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Historian of Science Michael Keas Refutes the Argumentum ad Francis Collins

At the TrueU blog, Discovery Institute senior fellow Michael Keas has responded to a theistic evolutionary commenter named “Preston” who argued the following:

Sir, with all due respect you don’t know a thing about the alleged failures of biology. You are a pastor, not a scientist. I have been in biochemistry for several decades and I can tell you that the scientists have not left room for a shred of doubt that evolution happened (common ancestry, including humans). The reason Christian college science faculties and Frances Collins believe that is that they are familiar in detail with the evidence that you seem to know nothing about. The scientists have really nailed it down. The ball is now in the theologians’ court, and denial is not really an effective or even grown-up way of dealing with it. It’s all explained rather well over at biologos.org in a number of essays. I suggest you go look at it.

Let me get this straight: Francis Collins is an eminent scientist, and he accepts evolution, therefore “scientists have not left room for a shred of doubt” about Darwinism, but if you have doubts, then you “don’t know a thing,” are in “denial,” and aren’t acting “grown up”? Somehow I’m not sure that’s a valid or fair argument. Yet this Argumentum ad Francis Collins is unfortunately very common among theistic evolutionists.

Dr. Keas, being the gentleman that he is, kindly informed Preston that he isn’t a pastor (though I doubt Keas would view “pastor” as an insult), that he’s actually a Ph.D. historian of science who has devoted considerable study to the scientific debate over life’s origins. Sure, Darwinian evolution has some “Christian college science faculties and Frances Collins” on its side. But Dr. Keas explained that there are quite a few other credible Ph.D. scientists, who happen to be Christians, and who also doubt Darwinian evolution.

Here at Discovery Institute, we respect our theistic evolutionary friends notwithstanding their disagreement with us, but we encourage all people — Christians or otherwise — to think for themselves. Don’t accept something simply because Francis Collins, BioLogos, or for that matter Michael Behe or Discovery Institute — or anybody else — tells you to. Accept it or not because you yourself have investigated, tested, and arrived at a conclusion on your own.

Keas thus encouraged Preston to adopt a better approach to this debate:

  • We should strive for respectful discourse that begins with an accurate understanding of the credentials of those with whom we disagree
  • The case for intelligent design (ID) is based on our knowledge of nature, not ignorance of science or the “alleged failures” of fields like biology, as Preston suggests. ID is not a religious theory, but it has religious implications.
  • Preston claims that “scientists have not left room for a shred of doubt that evolution happened (common ancestry, including humans),” but this ignores what a significant minority of scientists have been discovering and communicating (especially over the past few decades).
  • Preston advises us to consult www.biologos.org where the alleged fact of universal common ancestry (presumably by means of random variations and natural selection) is “all explained rather well … in a number of essays.” Experience with BioLogos materials (including books published by leading BioLogos scientists like BioLogos founder Francis Collins) does not support Preston’s claim.

On that fourth point, Discovery Institute has offered numerous respectful but direct responses to Francis Collins and others affiliated with BioLogos. Aside from checking out the material at the Faith and Evolution website, or reading the book God and Evolution, anyone interested in the subject should look into the links provided below. Check out the arguments and decide for yourself:

Junk DNA

Intelligent Design

Books and Other Reviews

Fossil Record

Biochemistry and Genetics

These are of course just links that deal specifically with theistic evolutionary arguments. There’s much more about the debate over Darwinian evolution and intelligent design to be found on websites like Evolution News & Views and Discovery.org.