Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

An Interview with the Genomics Man

Here are some very eloquent and controversial explanations and observations from Francis Collins. A number are directed against dogmatic atheists and dogmatic GENESIS literalists alike. He shows that you can be an orthodox Christian and know that evolution happened; "theistic evolution" in the loose (non-Hegelian, no implication of "intelligent design") sense he uses the phrase is not an oxymoron. He also shows that you can’t use what we really know about evolution to prove that God is dead. Unfortunately, he’s not quite a Thomist (his book shows his main theological influence to be C.S. Lewis), and few (on either side) are going to agree with his nuanced if finally incorrect view on embryos and research. He only hints at his scientific reason for opposing abortion. Collins is pretty much the most impressive scientist ever to testify bfore the Bioethics Council. He’s amazingly lucid, confident, and appropriately modest about what we can know and likely accomplish (a lot, but far from everything) through scientific research.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Thanks for this, Peter. I hope I can get to read the book. I have never understood the hostility of some Christians to Darwinian evolution, just as I do not understand the hostility of some philosophers and scientists to religion. I suppose they need each other to sustain their respective dogmas.

We cannot now, or ever, see to the point of singularity or beyond it. So, the argument is ridiculous! Further, the problem as I see it is that mankind has the largest conceit in the universe to even think he knows precisely what happened 13 billion, 5 billion years ago, let alone today.

I am an atheist so it doesn’t matter to me. But, if I believed in any god, it would be a god that didn’t hold me accountable for anything but being the best, honest and truthful human being
who helped others and had love in their heart. Any more than that to get into any heaven is simply not worth all this chatter.

I have never understood the hostility of some Christians to Darwinian evolution


Check out:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/GilderEvolution.php

"theistic evolution" is almost always an oxymoron, in that philosophical materialism is the real unexamined assumption. Darwininian evolution is not science, but a creation myth - the most dogmatically defended one we have in our culture today. Interestingly, C.S Lewis thought the same. Read his essay "Is Theology Poetry" collected in the book "The Weight of Glory", so those who appeal to Lewis for some sort of "theistic evolution" are mistaken...

But, if I believed in any god, it would be a god that didn’t hold me accountable for anything but being the best, honest and truthful human being who helped others and had love in their heart

What about the other side?

Christopher - Is philosophical materialism part of biological science, or part of the way it is defended by non-scientists such as philosophers?

. . .philosophers and economists?

Christopher - Is philosophical materialism part of biological science, or part of the way it is defended by non-scientists such as philosophers?

Does not matter when you are talking about Darwinian evolution (which is what is being talked about 99.9% of the time). Read the essay I posted above - what does Darwinian evolution have to do with "science", whatever you mean by that term (more than one definition to science as we all know ;). "Science" and the "Scienfific method" needs to be seperated from the myth of philosophical materialism if it is to move forward (again, see link)

Christopher, who cares? If I went up then what’s down is unimportant to me.

Well, I care. The Gilder piece was interesting and clever. While its conception of Darwinism is a caricature, its review of other work is quite creative. It seems to assert, in the end, a kind of digital Deism, though I don’t think that follows from the discussion of "hierarchy." But in any case, surely that’s not why many Christians want "intelligent design" taught.

The attempt to enlist science on behalf of faith seems less plausible to me than the idea that scientific work inevitably rests on unexamined assumptions and wonder.

While its conception of Darwinism is a caricature

By that do you mean that philosophical materialism, and the resulting flat metaphysic is not part of darwinian/evolutionary biology? I ask because that is what many people assert, but I have never heard an argument for it that did not end up right back in philosophical materialism.

It seems to assert, in the end, a kind of digital Deism, though I don’t think that follows from the discussion of "hierarchy."

I took away from it simply the fact that what ever reality is, it’s not the flat world of philosophical materialism. Like you point out, the recognition of hierarchy does not lead to any thing other than an ’opening of the mind’ and an ’opening of scientific method/theory’ to something other than philosophical materialism. His point is that science will not advance until this is done on a large scale (i.e. by the "peers").


But in any case, surely that’s not why many Christians want "intelligent design" taught.

Here we have an unnecessary assertion of bad faith. I suppose I could assert that the reason why "many" (most?) people go to law school is so that they can use the law to swindle others and get rich. The reason most Christians want "intelligent design taught" (and this is really a simplification) is because they correctly intuit (if they don’t usually understand all the philosophy) that darwinian evolution is a religious creation story and not science (or rather a limitation of science). They intuit philosophical materialism as the acid to not only their faith, but even more importantly to rational thought itself.

Darwinian evolution is itself to "enlist science on behalf of faith". C.S. Lewis explains this beautifully in his essay "is Theology Poetry?"...

Christopher - These are obviously big questions, and I do not feel adequate. Let’s remember the starting point: whether evolutionary biology and religious faith can perfectly well coexist. I said they can, and I said I didn’t understand the earnest attempts on the part of either one to deny the validity of the other.

"Caricature" - Gilder sometimes refers to Darwinism as an essential part of biology, and sometimes more generally as one or another outlook "inspired" by Darwinism. In the latter instance, he says for example that Darwinian theory is tautological, repeating the point that Lester Ward long ago made against Spencer and social darwinism: an all-purpose tool of reductionism. (This is also what alarmed W. J. Bryan, as Gould and others have pointed out.) But OK, he eventually gets to the biology. But here he refers to a "pretence" - whose? one wonders - that Darwinian evolution is a complete theory of life. I suppose that makes Darwinism like unto a religion, but I doubt that actual biological scientists hold that view. (I suppose some of them get carried away.) Let’s remember Darwin’s own much narrower subject, the origin of species, not the origin of life.

As for the materialism, as I understand it, information is carried in the chemicals. Does anyone know why and exactly how, except as part of religious faith? Is that a scientific question?

"Hierarchy" - Isn’t this entirely a scientific theory, making sense of evidence, testable? How do we get to God from there, except metaphorically? Is that the God of faith?

Whether Darwinism is a "religious creation story" depends on who to talk to. Devout Catholics don’t seem to think so, don’t think it threatens their story. As I understand it, only when Darwinism is interpreted so that matter drives out Spirit is there trouble. You and Gilder think that is inevitable, but I’m not so sure.

Mr. Thomas,

You say much here but let me address two points.

Let’s remember Darwin’s own much narrower subject, the origin of species, not the origin of life.

Like I said earlier, one common reaction among the defenders of what Gilder call’s the mindset among the "Peer’s" or what Lewis identified as "the Scientific Outlook" is the strategic retreat. It’s not "life" we are explaining, merely speciezation. Yet, to explain this speciation the Darwinian hypothesis relies on philosophical materialism, a sort of neo-Epicurean metaphysic (or as Gilder says simply a "physic") that by definition implies certain things about life, the universe, and everything. As Gilder argues, let’s move science past this myth so that we can truly move forward.

Devout Catholics don’t seem to think so, don’t think it threatens their story.

This is simply because they do not understand the contradiction. Who can blame them, I barely understand it myself. There are even some spokespersons for this idea, but more and more this idea is being flushed out and shown to be untenable. The Vatican has been "diplomatic" about the whole thing and sometimes muddied the water by seemingly to support the oh so modern "compartimilization" of reason. On the one hand you have reasoned faith, on the other you have reasoned "science" and the two shall never come in conflict. What Gilder and others grouped in the "intelligent design" crowd are after though is an internal critique. Christianity, being wiser (as almost any traditional philosophy is) than modernism just happens to be "ahead" of philosophical materialism and so those who are resisting this internal critique like to trot out the "faith vs. science" angle...

Christopher- I’m not sure we disagree. Gilder suggests that many Darwinians may be unaware of scientific advances that affect the scientific theory. On this point I don’t feel qualified to comment.

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