The team of theistic evolutionists at BioLogos have had their ups and downs, undergoing not infrequent evolutions in their leadership staff but maintaining a consistently critical stance in relationship to the scientific theory of intelligent design. So I found it notable to stop by their website today and see they are planning a series of responses to Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.
This is a year and two months after the hardback appeared. It’s almost three months since the paperback came out with its new Epilogue by Dr. Meyer responding to his more timely critics. There must be some backstory to explain the editorial decision at BioLogos to roll out, now, what sounds at first like an armada of responders to reply to Darwin’s Doubt.
In a reflective essay that serves as an introduction to the series, current BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma promises responses from paleontologist Ralph Stearley, philosopher and historian Robert Bishop, geneticist and former BioLogos president Darrel Falk (currently BioLogos Senior Advisor for Dialogue), theologian Alister McGrath, on top of previous remarks by BioLogos Fellow for genetics Dennis Venema.
That’s a lot of writers, though as Dr. Haarsma also indicates, Stearley’s review was previously published in the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, while Dr. Bishop, the philosopher and historian, will "address the overall argument of the book, assessing the rhetorical strategies" — which doesn’t sound like a scientific evaluation.
McGrath will not be responding to "Darwin’s Doubt in particular, but to the overall apologetics approach of Intelligent Design." Except that intelligent design isn’t a form of apologetics, but never mind.
Amid previously published material and theological and philosophical reflections on ID, it seems, then, that the only new scientific critique of Meyer’s book in this group of articles will be from Darrel Falk.
A couple of things of note do leap out from Deborah Haarsma’s post. First, the acknowledgment that as Christians, the BioLogos team necessarily endorse some form of "intelligent design." As for the kind of ID that they don’t accept, Dr. Haarsma capitalizes it ("Intelligent Design") and says this about the difference between her view and ours:
The biggest difference is in how the two views counter atheistic evolutionism. Both reject the idea that the science of evolution disproves God or replaces God, but take very different approaches. Intelligent Design claims that the current scientific evidence for evolution is weak, and argues that a better explanation would make explicit reference to an intelligent designer. Evolutionary Creation claims that the current scientific evidence for evolution is strong and getting stronger, but argues that the philosophical and religious conclusions that militant atheists draw from it are unwarranted. Evolutionary creationists respond to atheists by pointing out that in Christian thought, a scientific understanding of evolution does not replace God. God governs and sustains all natural processes, from gravity to evolution, according to his purposes.
It would be more accurate to write that ID says the evidence for the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism — as an explanation of the whole historical development of complex life — is weak. Beyond this, she seems to be saying that ID’s response to evolutionary atheism is a scientific one, while the response from BioLogos concedes on the science and takes up its argument on "philosophical and religious" grounds alone.
And that too sounds correct. It’s also why I, like many other people, find the case for ID a more compelling, objective, and interesting one than arguments for theistic evolution.
The same idea seems implicit as she continues:
At BioLogos, we embrace the historical Christian faith and uphold the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Several leaders at the Discovery Institute, including Meyer, share these commitments. The organization, however, has chosen not to make specific religious commitments, welcoming Jews, Muslims, and agnostics as well as Christians. This difference is integral to our contrasting approaches to apologetics. DI seeks to make the case for the designer in a purely scientific context, without specifying who the designer is. At BioLogos, we take the approach that science is not equipped to provide a full Christian apologetic. Rather, we believe in the triune God for the same reasons most believers do — because of the evidence in the Bible, personal spiritual experience, and recognition that we are sinners who need the saving work of Jesus Christ.
The reference to "several leaders" at Discovery Institute sharing her Christian "commitments" sounds like a subtle dig at our Christian bona fides, which I don’t much mind (being an Orthodox Jew). The Young Earth Creationists at Answers in Genesis have the same complaint about us, though it’s more plainly expressed.
The important point, as she puts it, is that ID advocates "seek to make the case for the designer in a purely scientific context." And that, again, is true. It is our distinction. It is what makes arguments for intelligent design such an important phenomenon in science and culture, with roots stretching from Athens and Jerusalem to Maimonides and Aquinas, from the scientific revolution to the cutting edge of biology and cosmology today.
It would also seem to make philosophical, religious, historical, or apologetic objections to ID less relevant than scientific ones. So that lone review by Dr. Falk must carry a lot of the burden for his colleagues. We’ll look forward to seeing what else the folks at BioLogos have to say about Stephen Meyer’s book.