biologos draws a theological line in the sand

January 15, 2011

If you follow some of the major movers and shakers in the science and atheist blogging world, you’re probably well aware that those working for religious groups that claim to investigate religious claims scientifically, have to sign various statements of faith which actually commit them to the exact opposite, a slavish devotion to just one book and unquestioning acceptance of very broad, vague, and unproven religious assumptions. Francis Collins’ pet project, funded by Templeton cash and insisting that it’s trying to reconcile faith and science, turns out to subscribe to one such statement as well. Jerry Coyne has the details, but the part that struck at me was this blurb advocating what I can only describe as jamming your fingers in your ears and yelling really loud the minute anyone starts trying to explain something complex and abstract about the human condition…

[And] in contrast to scientism, we deny that the material world constitutes the whole of reality and that science is our only path to truth. For all its fruitfulness, science is not an all-inclusive source of knowledge; scientism fails to recognize its limitations in fully understanding reality, including such matters as beauty, history, love, justice, friendship, and indeed science itself.

To give you a little context, this paragraph comes after a hiss at atheists who dare say that you have to prove a world beyond this one before you start making big claims about it. So rather than actually, you know, provide a few lines of evidence past rhetorical games, BioLogos simply marks off areas of research and exploration for itself and declares them to be off limits to science, as if by that declaration they’ve done something other than show their intellectual impotence in the matter. This is just like their previous mewing about how science was so easy and simple compared to the vastly more complicated fields of philosophy and aesthetics. And the followers of this muddled, buzzword-laden theology which has to resort to marking its territory in science just to find a relevant question to answer in the most non-committal and obscure way possible, are just thrilled for an organization which claims to pursue the truth and yet wants its members to agree to a set of beliefs they’re not allowed to question. How much of an honest exploration of anything can you achieve with that?

But then again, for numerous followers of religious dogmas, this forced adhrenece to a belief with a complete lack of any evidence for it and obeying a rule which takes away one’s inability to question this belief is seen as the highest for of devotion. Funny thing is that between two different religions, this devotion is typically decried as simple-minded obstinacy, so one faith’s most devoted and dedicated members are another’s simpletons who follow a false God. We have hundreds of different religions and people worship hundreds of different and mutually exclusive deities. How does BioLogos plan to reconcile all their beliefs and ideas with science? Well they’re not. They’re only interested in affirming their own Christianity and launching petty insults at atheists and scientists veiled in vague and polysyllabic language to make this childish sniping seem dignified.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    … an organization which claims to pursue the truth and yet wants its members to agree to a set of beliefs they’re not allowed to question.

    The propounded beliefs are thoroughly ridiculous – too much so for me to have followed the links Coyne provides – but where does it say that members of BioLogos/Templeton/whatever are not allowed to question them?

    According to a commenter chez Coyne, the BL blatheration is described as “After much dialogue, the following statement emerged, which represents a summary of the discussion, as no attempt was made to develop a binding consensus statement.” As intellectually bankrupt as they are, the Collins Crew has yet to reach the totalitarian depths of the Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, World Vision, or even the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

  • Greg Fish

    “where does it say that members of BioLogos/Templeton/whatever are not allowed to question them?”

    None of these statements of faith ever really say that you’re not allowed to question any of their tenets, even the AiG one, but the very fact that you’re supposed to agree to them is already a problem. On top of that, let’s find one atheist member of BioLogos, or let’s find a Muslim or Judaic scholar who joined the BL crew. I’ve come up empty. Compare that to any secular university or research institution. None of them make their members sign any statement of belief or philosophy and you can find everyone from Evangelicals who deny evolution, to atheists who spend all their free time posting about their views on the latest fundamentalist chain e-mail on AtheistNexus or ThinkAtheist.

    You’re right, BioLogos is one of the most relaxed apologetics think tanks out there and they’re not as militant about “the infallibility of the Bible” as most others, a fact that quite a few of their followers often lament in the comments. However, they do seem to have absolutely no desire to question anything that comes from the Christian worldview and their primary mission is trying to box in what answers scientists are allowed to provide in the religious debates they host, all the restrictions, funny enough, falling right into the bylines of the declaration they provided on their site.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … relaxed apologetics think tanks …

    There’s got to be a word for a compound oxymoron; whatever it is, that phrase is a perfect example.

    … they do seem to have absolutely no desire to question anything that comes from the Christian worldview …

    No inklings of any attempt at dissent can be seen in the discussion summary, sfaict.

    … their primary mission is trying to box in what answers scientists are allowed to provide …

    Exactly why the accommodationist strategy is a recipe for failure.