Over the last several weeks, in the midst of the two big Midwest winter storms, scientists, theologians, and philosophers with wildly different views on evolution, the Bible, Christianity, and most particularly, Adam and Eve, gathered in St. Louis for an unusual series of meetings. The meetings were attended by atheists, agnostics, evangelicals, YEC, OEC, TE, and at least one Catholic (me), and some with no particular religious view point at all. Reasons to Believe, Reasonable Faith, and Discovery Institute were represented at the meeting I attended (specifically, by A.J. Roberts, William Lane Craig, and myself). There may have been other groups as well. Discussion was civil, vigorous, and definitely of multiple minds.
What brought us all together? Professor S. Joshua Swamidass of Washington University has two projects going and these meetings were intended to further both projects. You can read about them here and here. I offer these links without commentary and encourage you to go read for yourself. I am not going to describe Swamidass’s particular projects or viewpoint here. He does a better job than I could, and I don’t want to give a skewed view because, as Josh likes to say, we disagree about a lot of things. But I have to give him credit for a bold vision.
The debate over faith and science has become so acrimonious, so poisoned on all sides, in particular concerning origins, that it is nearly impossible to communicate meaningfully with others with different opinions. This can be true even among those who one would think were natural allies. Enter Swamidass. He is trying to create a space where people of all opinions can talk honestly about why they believe as they do, and come to see others as genuine human beings with reasons for their beliefs and not caricatures. This is not easy, I can attest. It takes unlearning bad attitudes and it takes some thick skin and perseverance. Above all, it takes honesty and eventually, the building of a level of trust. The website where this is supposed to happen is called Peaceful Science.
A Positive Discussion
Sometimes it does happen. I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about a positive discussion on human exceptionalism we had there. But from my experience as an ID scientist, Peaceful Science is generally not peaceful. There are many atheists about. I am challenged, even attacked by some, most of the time that I am there, though it is better now than it was. I am a distinct minority. But I must also say I am allowed a voice, and I have learned a lot, and I think they learn from me. As everywhere, there are a few snipers and gadflies, but most are not trying to harass, just get straight answers.
What about the other effort, the Genealogical Adam Project? Swamidass and I disagree pretty strongly on this subject, but still he invited me down to his workshop because he is looking for feedback from all sides on his ideas. At the meeting I attended, one person in attendance worked for Josh, one was a physics grad student, two were theology professors, and one was a philosopher. A.J. Roberts and I were the only two women, and oddly enough, the only two biologists, besides Swamidass. This apparently was not true at the other session which was larger, and populated by more atheist biologists. There was disagreement among the people gathered about how to define terms like the image of God or monogenism. I know, not your usual ID fare. I stayed out of those arguments except to explain my position, which has nothing to do with ID.
At What Cost?
Swamidass thrives on conflict, the idea that he is building a big tent where everyone can come in and find a home, whether YEC, OEC, TE, atheist, agnostic. (Maybe ID.) He thinks we can do good science together, or at least find a way to interpret the science that doesn’t offend any religious sensibilities.
This is the theme of both his projects: To seek a way to allow all groups to find peace together. Swamidass sees his new idea as a way to reconcile science and faith on the issue of origins. It’s a noble aim, but I count the cost as too high, in terms of both science and faith.
Photo: A.J. Roberts, Ann Gauger, and William Lane Craig in St. Louis, with the permission of Peaceful Science.