A check-in with BioLogos


Over at BioLogos, some smart people are twisting themselves into semantic knots around the argument that there is some sort of god. But no matter how smart they may be, there are just so many ways one can spin-doctor and dissimulate about a subject without an object. So BioLogos keeps spending money to put out the same arguments about a super stealthy god that cannot be detected.


I suppose I’m allowed to discuss BioLogos under this topic without being told I’m derailing the discussion…

I don’t agree that God is “a subject without an object”, but I do agree with this:

This was always the key point of disagreement between BioLogos and ID-evolutionists like Behe. BioLogos openly confesses to belief in God as the creator of the world, but has always insisted that God’s role in the world is scientifically undetectable. So God created the world but left not even the tiniest scientifically detectable evidence that he had done so. Behe’s great sin against science, according to BioLogos, is that he thinks science provides some evidence for an intelligence behind life. If Behe would drop that position, and say that God’s involvement in evolution is purely a theological addition coming entirely “from the eyes of faith,” then doubtless BioLogos would accept him as an evolutionary creationist along with Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

The other scientific disagreements between Behe and BioLogos are secondary. His criticism of Darwinian mechanisms riled Dennis Venema and one or two others there who were committed to the “consensus” account of evolutionary mechanism, but even criticisms regarding mechanism could easily have been tolerated by the non-biologists at BioLogos, who did not have professional investments in the small details of evolutionary mechanism, e.g., astronomers like Deb Haarsma; it was Behe’s belief that nature provided evidence for intelligent planning that could not be tolerated, under BioLogos’s conception of “science.” At BioLogos, you can believe that God somehow, in some mysterious, incomprehensible way, guided or planned evolution, but you can’t believe that his guidance or planning could ever be shown, by any present or future empirical evidence. Faith and the science of life, Logos and Bios, must be kept in separate compartments of the mind.

The organization would more properly be called Bios / Logos, reflecting its compartmentalist epistemological assumptions, than BioLogos, which suggests intellectual integration. Ironically, Behe’s position could be seen as closer in spirit to the fused form of the term than the position of most members of the BioLogos organization.


What Behe thinks isn’t science, and who are you to be so arrogant as to know what someone else truly thinks?

Of course Behe’s belief isn’t science! Beliefs aren’t science, even when they are beliefs about evidence.

1) You don’t know what Behe believes.
2) Behe has money from the DI.
3) If a real scientist believes that evidence is out there somewhere, a real scientist gathers that evidence. He doesn’t write books aimed at laypeople.
4) If Behe believed in the evidence, he’d cite the evidence instead of repeatedly misrepresenting it.
5) If Behe made honest errors, he should issue corrections. He doesn’t.

So, unlike you, I don’t pretend to be a mind reader, but Behe’s actions (and inactions, and testimony under oath) scream to me that on some level, Behe doesn’t believe that there is evidence.

Scientists use evidence, not belief. They use the scientific method to produce more evidence.

But shifting to people who don’t misrepresent the evidence and actively produce new evidence, how’s the Nick Lane book going?

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It isn’t what he thinks. It’s the lack of scientific merit in Behe’s arguments that BioLogos has a problem with.

What is wrong with criticizing bad science?


The majority of leaders and guest columnists at BioLogos have always been against the idea that design is detectable. Many times they have said that science cannot deal with questions of purpose and value and meaning, and they class design under purpose. (Even though design does not refer to “purpose” in their sense.) And many of them have theological objections to the idea of detecting design, because many of them are fideists. So aside from any particular criticisms they have of Behe’s biological arguments, they are against the ID project in broad terms, both methodological and theological. But they’re fine with a God who is behind evolution in a completely indetectable way, such that it’s impossible to tell the difference between a world in which God is involved in evolution and a world with no God at all.

The phrase:

is very appropriate.

Nothing’s wrong with criticizing bad science. But it doesn’t justify advocating bad theology – which for years BioLogos did, arousing the ire of myself, Jon Garvey, and many others who defended traditional orthodoxy regarding God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. Jon started Hump of the Camel to show that a defense of evolution need not require sacrificing traditional orthodoxy.

Anyhow, the BioLogos Forum is no longer a place where serious evolution/creation discussion takes place. Maybe BioLogos is doing some other things (sponsoring projects or running conferences) that have some value, but the Forum is pretty much intellectually dead.

That’s false. They have rejected the claims that design has been detected because the claims are based on bad logic and bad science.


No, it’s not. I’ve corresponded for years with the leaders of BioLogos, the ASA, etc. I’ve had lengthy debates and discussions, both private and public, with many of the leaders. I was reading BioLogos columns long before you made your first appearance on these sites. Most of them (I don’t say all) don’t like the idea of detectable design, for exactly the reasons I gave. And I already acknowledged your point –

as a correct one (they do think the particular arguments are invalid), but it’s correct in addition to my point, not against it. I already explained this to you above.

Then show me an example of where they have rejected a specific ID argument based solely on theological grounds instead of on scientific grounds.

Theological and/or methodological – you’re not reading carefully. And I never said that the two motives, the one you point out and the one I point out, couldn’t operate in the same person. In fact, I made it clear that they I thought they did. Sometimes a specific ID argument is rejected on what you would call scientific grounds, but the same author, either in the same place or elsewhere, makes a general statement such as, “As a Christian I believe there is design in nature, but I believe it through the eyes of faith, not because of science.” If you haven’t seen statements like that on BioLogos (and in other venues where TE/ECs gather), you have not been following the intra-Christian discussions very closely. I’m not going to spend an hour using search tools on old BioLogos posts to try to prove to you what I know is true. Maybe such statements are less frequent since you started following BioLogos (much later than I did, based on your non-appearances there until more recently), but they were common in the early days. And as it’s the same old used-to-be-creationist-but-now-repentantly-TE crew that runs the place (Applegate, Haarsma, Stump), I have no reason to think the general attitude has changed.

That makes sense if they have yet to see scientific evidence of design. It would seem that the scientific evidence leads, and the theology follows.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s clear from numerous invocations of Barth, Newman, Pascal, etc. that some of them have religious and theological a priori dispositions against design arguments. This is what Jon Garvey and I and several others devoted hundreds of hours trying to show, but they ducked out of the room every time theological texts were introduced and every time they were asked for their sources in the Christian tradition for their claims.

If there were ample scientific evidence for design in nature I am sure those beliefs would be quickly abandoned.

Your implicit preference for epistemologies in which theologies alter themselves to accommodate science, as opposed to epistemologies in which science alters itself to accommodate theology, is noted. I agree with you, however, that BioLogos does share this epistemological preference. And this is only to be expected, given the one-dimensional academic training of the vast majority of BioLogos writers, and the personalistic, fideist understanding of theology that most of them adopt.

Surely not. It’s only to be expected because theology lacks any tools for evaluating the truth or falsity of empirical claims, while science suffers no such disability.


IDcreationism constitutes abandoning scientific epistemology completely–while pretending to be doing science and misrepresenting a lot of important evidence.


That would seem an entirely sensible preference, at least so long as scientism is avoided. And the position you are objecting to clearly does avoid that.

First a pluralist epistemology that takes accounts of the differing competencies and domains of each “way of knowing” hardly seems one-dimensional - especially in comparison to a view that places one such “way” above the others without any such consideration.

Second, this obviously raises the question of whose theology should dominate. You obviously think that yours should be taken over theirs but I very much doubt that you can definitively settle the issue in your favour.

Indeed, if science does not detect design in life, why should it not be rational to prefer a theology that does not expect such detection rather than insisting that science must change to come to the conclusions that other theologies dictate? Is that any different from preferring theologies that do not dictate a Young Earth because science quite clearly shows that the Earth is very old indeed?


Did you ever participate in discussions on the BioLogos Forum? Perhaps you did, and I don’t recall. If you didn’t, you should bear in mind that I and Jon Garvey and many others raised questions about the theology of BioLogos and about how it relates theology to science. Our questions were ducked 90% of the time, and answered in anemic ways the rest of the time.

I have the impression that you are “jumping in” based solely on my comments here and don’t really know the background that my comments presuppose. If that’s the case, perhaps you should excuse yourself from the discussion.

As for whose theology should dominate, the discussions never reached that level of intellectual clarity. What passed for theology on BioLogos was a murky mess. Who could say that BioLogos was wrong, when it wasn’t clear what BioLogos believed (beyond some saccharine platitudes)?

The point Jon and I and others made time and again was that BioLogos was trying to harmonize Christian faith with science, but seemed not too particular about the contents of the Christian faith, as long as harmonization was achieved.

Given that Jon and I have a special interest in theology, perhaps we were permitted to voice criticisms of amateur theologies put forward by geneticists, cell biologists, and physicists.

If you have some special insight into the history of Christian thought, Christian systematics, etc., you are welcome to let us know about it.

So, what passed for theology was theology, then?


Whether that is the view of BioLogos, I cannot say. However, it is beyond serious question that among Behe’s “great sin(s) against science” is that he has spent two decades making bad arguments based on misrepresentation of evidence and using fallacious logic. That is not how science ought to be practiced, as I am quite sure the people at BioLogos agree.

That is to say, the disagreement between Behe and BioLogos is not necessarily ideological. It may be simply a matter of BioLogos defending the truth against Behe’s lies.