Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


The Vision Lives On

posted by Darrel Falk

Francis_Collins_Speaking.jpgEvery Monday, “Science and the Sacred” features an essay from one of The BioLogos Foundation’s leaders: Francis Collins, Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk. However, in light of the news of Francis Collins’s confirmation as director of the National Institutes of Health, we have posted a special weekly feature today. This entry was written by Darrel Falk.

Dr. Francis Collins has resigned as president of The BioLogos Foundation. After forming and guiding the foundation through its initial stages, he is stepping aside from a formal role in order to assume leadership of the National Institutes of Health.
Despite the seminal importance of this one unique and highly gifted individual, the organization will continue to fill a most important niche: to encourage a paradigm shift that shows that faith and science can exist in harmony. The need for this shift runs so deep in our culture that this project will not be derailed by the departure of one person, even when that individual is Francis Collins.

It is impossible to measure the massive harm that has been done by those who have tried to show that science and faith are in conflict. Multimillion dollar enterprises like the Creation Museum in Kentucky have sprung into existence. They exist for one purpose: to demonstrate — on the basis of their faith alone — that core findings of science are deeply flawed. On the other side, a host of science blogs and authors who sell millions of books argue that scientific data have demonstrated conclusively that there is no supernatural being, and those who put their faith in God are out of touch with reality. Science has spoken, faith needs to be eradicated. It is to this latter group that I especially want to address my comments as BioLogos moves into the post-Collins era.

When I speak to groups of evangelicals, I am sometimes asked if I can think of any potential finding of science that would cause me to lose faith. I enjoy reflecting on that question. Consider, for example:

    1. Even if it turns out that our sense of right and wrong emerges through natural selection and other natural processes that can be explained through science–and I personally suspect this will be the case — it does not in any way imply the absence of a personal God. The Creator, after all, may well function through natural selection in some manner that the scientific process is not equipped to detect.

    2. Even if it turns out that the human mind emerges from molecules interacting in a manner that can all be explained through the physical properties of matter — which I also suspect is the case — this in no way implies the absence of a God whose existence is necessary for that mind to come into being. It also has nothing to say about whether there is a God who interacts mind-to-mind with those persons who seek that interaction. Even if the cell and the information it contains is explicable through natural processes, this does not in any way imply the absence of God’s Spirit “hovering” (Genesis 1:2) and thereby influence the outcome in some manner beyond exploration by scientific tools.
    3. Even the most contentious issues don’t undermine core tenets of evangelicalism. Many brilliant persons have reached the conclusion that there is good reason to believe in a God who works in creation, a God whose action is beyond the realm of scientific testability. (See this earlier posting for more detail.)

In the three months since the public launch of The BioLogos Foundation, I would have thought the strongest negative reaction would have come from religious conservatives. However, a quick scan of the blogosphere indicates that evangelicals who hold a young earth perspective have been almost silent about BioLogos. Within the Intelligent Design community, it is not the Christians who have been most vocal; by far our most vocal critic has been an orthodox Judaist. With a few exceptions, it is evangelical Christians who have been the strongest supporters of our effort to show that science and faith can be brought into harmony. I suppose we now have thousands of supportive letters from evangelical Christians who indicate they have identified with our books and, more recently, with the purposes of The BioLogos Foundation.

Still, almost 50 percent of Americans believe that humans were created pretty much in their current form about 10,000 years ago. So, given this huge number of people and the antiscientific sentiment it represents, it is puzzling that by far the most vocal criticism of BioLogos has come from people who purport to serve the advancement of the scientific view.

America is in a quandary that could have very significant consequences for the future of science and thereby for the future of technology in this country. BioLogos was created to try to help people of faith see that science does not have it wrong. We do this as people of faith ourselves. We coordinate efforts to end this dichotomy between science and faith, even — and especially — evangelical faith.

Why is it that a group concerned about the advancement of scientific ideals is our most vocal opponent? We support science, including the science of evolutionary biology. We think this incongruity implies that for them the issue is not the preservation of science in our fragile world. For them, the issue is that they want to use scientific data to justify their own political and philosophical ends. They are trying to present science as claiming something it does not claim to justify their nontheistic view of the world. They want to rid the world of philosophies grounded in theism. It is clear from their writing that they have taken no time to carefully study the host of philosophers who are theists or the elegant theology of some of the world’s finest minds.

For starters, I recommend that their followers read Alister McGrath’s The Twilight of Atheism. In one of our recent blogs, guest writers Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, who are agnostics themselves and authors of the book, Unscientific America, show heartfelt concern about the misuse of science by these individuals. In the future, we hope that many followers of the new atheists will come to care enough about science that they too will work for harmony and not discord.

So Dr. Collins has moved on to other important endeavors, but the question of what to do about this gulf between science and faith has not disappeared. The answer is not to stamp out the faith element from this world as some people are bent on doing. That will not work. The answer is, however, to protect faith, to nurture it, to inform it and to edify it. The BioLogos vision, which is shared by many people, will live on much longer than any of us, and it will certainly not fade just because our dear friend Francis is involved in another important activity.

The vision lives on. We will work to provide Christian schools and homeschooling networks with material that is both scientifically sound and theologically sensitive. It will be done by working with church leaders and the many other Christians who already care deeply about this issue. Eventually, many others will come to understand the strength of the scientific data, and they will be shown why the basic tenets of their faith are preserved and, indeed, enriched. We will offer workshops, courses, book clubs and conferences. Our blog and web site will remain active, and we will sponsor the development of more books and other media that help us appreciate the awe and wonder of creation.

The BioLogos Foundation, built by Dr. Collins and fueled initially by his energy and enthusiasm, has now been set in motion and is moving rapidly down the track. He may be moving in a different direction now, but BioLogos has too much momentum and too many supporters for it to slow down as we move toward the looming vision of bringing harmony to the findings of science and the life of faith.

Darrel Falk is a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and executive director of The BioLogos Foundation.

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Kathryn

posted August 7, 2009 at 1:48 pm


My warmest congratulations to Collins on his confirmation! I am confident that Darrel Falk and Karl Giberson will continue to be excellent and capable leaders of BioLogos in his absence. May God bless and sustain their work.



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Major_Ray

posted August 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm


I have long thought that science and my belief in creation were not in conflict. I ended my science career after gathering all the data I needed to work on my “biomatrixgenesis” theory for life. Because of BIAS and bigotry in modern science research, I created my own non-profit organization to seek the truth about our existence. With this approach, I am using design, science, and theology to prove my theory and identify the genesis molecule. In all honesty, I am not impressed with the manipulation of the elements by man to prove that God does not exist…… using His brain.



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Beaglelady

posted August 7, 2009 at 11:11 pm


Yes, congratulations, Dr. Collins. Your appointment is richly deserved. We’ll be praying for you!



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Your Name

posted August 8, 2009 at 10:15 am


Yes, there is a philosophical aspect to science, and it involves, in part, leaving theology at the lab or classroom door (of a science class.)
Why?
Because science should not be tainted by religious bias, lest amongst other things, research be built upon and pursued from a theological tenet. Once people want to speculate about implications of science to their worldview it is a horse of a different colour. Science and what is discovered via science can shed light on areas which previously were occluded. Science is not or at least should not be a religion, but a method. Science can enlighten religion about the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the universe and our world. Religion and humanistic philosophy can and should shape the ethical constraints within which scientific research is conducted and how resultant technologies are applied or not.
Science and religion co-exist. They can and should complement in human societies, with the proviso that in terms of the method of science, religious tenets cannot be axiomatic. Hence a scientist may be religious, he just should avoid making his religious tenets into axioms in the lab.



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Nallasivam Palanisamy

posted August 10, 2009 at 8:05 pm


Dear Dr. Collins,
Congratulations on your new appointment as the Director of NIH. Everyone is looking forward to see your leadership in setting priorities for spending the NIH funds in appropriate areas of research to bring new discoveries to understand the genetic basis of many diseases.
Further your visionary leadership qualities will continue to inspire many young scientists to undertake challenging research projects.
my best wishes
Nallasivam Palaniamy



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ZHANG Xian-Ning

posted August 11, 2009 at 4:27 am


Congratulations,Dr. Collins!!!GOD is always with you,because you are his beloved chosen servant.
Welcome to beautiful West Lake Hangzhou China with your family again!
Truly,
Your Chinese Brother from Department of Biochemistry and Genetics Zhejiang University School of Medicine



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Matti K.

posted August 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm


Judging from the points 1-3, you seem to say that science and religion never intersect. Then, why BioLogos?



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James O.

posted August 17, 2009 at 9:50 am


“1. Even if it turns out that our sense of right and wrong emerges through natural selection and other natural processes that can be explained through science–and I personally suspect this will be the case — it does not in any way imply the absence of a personal God. The Creator, after all, may well function through natural selection in some manner that the scientific process is not equipped to detect.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Falk, this kind of reasoning can be used to ALSO prove that belief in Thor and Science is ‘compatible’. For example:
“Even if it turns out that LIGHTENING is caused by ionization and other natural processes that can be explained through science–and I personally suspect this will be the case — it does not in any way imply the absence of a THOR. The Thunder-Bolt Creator, after all, may well function through static electricity in some manner that the scientific process is not equipped to detect.”
Just replace LIGHTENING and THOR with any previously inexplicable natural phenomenon and any mythical deity respectively – and you will see that, using this logic, you will be able to argue for the compatibility of science with a belief in anything.



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Your Name

posted August 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm


While I am proud of Dr. Collins appointment to head NIH, I am not the least enthused by the BioLogos program. I have been engaged in this discussion for over 30 years. I have had numerous discussions with theistic evolutionists over the years and still do not comprehend the logic and compatibility of this position. As a student of evolution as an undergarduate at the University of Illinois and as a graduate student at the University of North Texas, I know that evolution is defined as being with out goal or purpose. If the God of the scriptures is truly sovereign, then everything is with purpose. If God used undirected evolutionary processes as His means to create the biological world, then what do we make of Romans 1:20? The evidence of science is totally compatible with materialsim as well as pantheism. If so, how can we be without excuse as to the knowledge of God through Creation? I can only conclude that most theistic evolutionists do not understand evolution or the character of God or both. respectfully, Raymond G Bohlin President Probe Ministries



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The BioLogos Foundation

posted August 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm


Dear Mr. Bohlin,
This is an interesting theological question of great importance to us all, so thanks for asking it. There is no scientific basis for saying that evolution is without goal or purpose. True, science is unable to discern purpose, but that says nothing about whether purpose exists. Having said that, I would like to emphasize that, there is no good theological reason to believe that God has purpose for every single trajectory in the history of life. God wills freedom in creation just like God wills freedom within our own lives. Much harm has been caused by this misconception…please see my paper in “Darwin, Creation and the Fall” edited by R.J. Berry et al, 2009 IVPress.
Sincerely,
Darrel Falk



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Darrel Falk

posted August 17, 2009 at 8:04 pm


Matti K. said:
Judging from the points 1-3, you seem to say that science and religion never intersect. Then, why BioLogos?
Matti K, They do intersect. Science informs faith. Check out some great theologians like Jurgen Moltmann to see just how deeply theology is shaped by science. Does faith inform science though? Absolutely… we look at the scientific data differently, when we see the universe as having purpose, as having been created!!!



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Raymond Bohlin

posted August 18, 2009 at 12:18 am


If there could be purpose in the history of life, how is it detected? If it is not detected using the tools of science, how is it done? I agree to a certain extent that science is clumsy in detecting purpose, but I disagree that it is totally incompetent. I concur with those in the Intelligent Design Movement that specified complexity or irreducible complexity are scientifically discernible. As humans we detect design all the time without necessarily knowing who the designer is or even the meaning. But even a crudely designed machine like Rube Goldberg machines we recognize as designed for a purpose. The entire DNA/protein transcription/translation machinery is designed for the purpose of transmitting information for highly specific purposes in the cell. I know that both you and Collins are intimately familiar with all the details of this machinery and I fail to see why you oppose this common sense approach to science.
Respectfully,
Raymond G Bohlin
President
Probe Ministries
Response from Darrel Falk:
Wonderful question. In order to discern purpose, we need theology. Theology, of course, is grounded in revelation not scientific investigation. As a Christian, I believe that revelation reaches its zenith in the incarnation, God-in-human-form— Jesus of Nazareth. All purpose is centered here. For me as a Christian, I believe that all purpose needs to be viewed through that lens. Using any other lens, without that one in place, has no meaning for me.
Having said all of that, I need to emphasize that I have left the realm of my professional expertise. I am not a philosopher and I am not a theologian. However, I think your question is such an important one that I am going to ask a philosopher and/or theologian to address it. Please watch “Science and the Sacred.” we have guest bloggers on Fridays. One of those upcoming blogs will be on this topic.



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Steven Sullivan

posted August 18, 2009 at 4:43 pm


“It looks designed/irreducibly complex to me, therefore it demonstrates purpose and the existence of a Designer” is not a scientific argument (even if it is made by a scientist). It is, however, the argument of the Intelligent Design movement, which was demonstrably begotten of ‘scientific creationism’ — a manifestation of Christian fundamentalism.
I’m glad at least one of you admits that your belief in purpose rests on ‘revelation’, rather than science. An interesting thing about revelation is that each religions claims them and so many are in conflict. They can’t all be true, and there is no process for figuring out which of them are true. Whereas science is about testing competing claims against evidence, until the best model wins.



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Jim Cooper

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:02 pm


The universe did have a beginning and it did begin with light.
The waters were divided and exist in every galaxy.
The waters did gather on the earth and form seas.
Animal life did come forth from the ocean waters unto the land masses where birds and later whales evolved.
A great diversification of land mammals did occur which produced the modern day cattle and beasts that we see today.
And finally man did evolve in only the most recent geological period, whose dna can be traced all the way back to that one origianl organism that was created quite literally from the clays of the earth.
Coop



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Ray Bohlin

posted August 20, 2009 at 10:37 am


I don’t comprehend your statement that we need theology to discern purpose. If I study all the workings of an automobile,it’s quite easy to discern purpose and intention in it’s design without theology. I hope a future post can clarify this.



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Raymond Bohlin

posted August 20, 2009 at 10:44 am


“a manifestation of Christian fundamentalism.”
Tell that to Antony Flew.



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Jim Cooper

posted August 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm


“It is impossible,I say,for the human mind not to believe that there is,in all this,design,cause and effect,up to an ultimate cause,a Fabricator of all things” — Thomas Jefferson



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James

posted October 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm


How can you look at all the wonders that are in this world and not believe in a divine being?



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Knockgoats

posted November 15, 2009 at 10:07 am


In the three months since the public launch of The BioLogos Foundation, I would have thought the strongest negative reaction would have come from religious conservatives. However, a quick scan of the blogosphere indicates that evangelicals who hold a young earth perspective have been almost silent about BioLogos. – Darrel Falk
That’s easily explained. What churches and their leaders want above all is large congregations – that’s where their money and power comes from. So if BioLogos can prevent people leaving religion altogether, that’s a clear plus, even if said leaders believe thpse people will fry in Hell for accepting scientific findings.
Why is it that a group concerned about the advancement of scientific ideals is our most vocal opponent? We support science, including the science of evolutionary biology. We think this incongruity implies that for them the issue is not the preservation of science in our fragile world. – Darrel Falk
Irrationalism is the enemy of science, and indeed of humanity. You are irrationalists, because there is no rational reason to believe in any god, and conclusive rational reasons to reject Christianity as false. Moreover, your primary loyalty is to this irrational belief system. Therefore, you cannot be trusted.
They want to rid the world of philosophies grounded in theism. It is clear from their writing that they have taken no time to carefully study the host of philosophers who are theists or the elegant theology of some of the world’s finest minds. – Darrel Falk
Ah, the “Courtier’s Reply”.



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