A New Generation Wants a Better Way


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from The Real Story of the Hunt and Meyer Exchange:

Most of the key players in the ID movement are on the way out, even if ID as a movement sticks around. This is true for both ID, YEC, EC, OEC, and New Atheism. Yes there is exceptions. Most, however, are from another generation.

@patrick was salient on this recently…

There is a new generation of scholars rising that wants to find another way. For those that have been in the center of this mess for the last 10 to 30 years, helps us find that better way too. We could use the humble guidance of leaders that can show us how to do better then they. If that is not a shared goal, maybe they can give us space to grow…


Biologos: People To Ponder
ID Interest in Peaceful Science
A Mechanical Engineer Finds Peaceful Science
(Edward Robinson) #2

This is true also of many of the leaders of EC/TE. In North America, Francisco Ayala (who if not exactly an EC/TE allowed himself to be implicitly represented as one by BioLogos for its first 5 years or so of operation) is 84 years old; Howard Van Till (who was certainly a leading ASA-TE, though whether he is still a Christian today has been questioned) is 80 years old; George Murphy is 76; Darrel Falk is 72; Robert Russell is 71 or 72; Kenneth Miller is 70. Francis Collins is 68 (and can’t speak for TE/EC anyway until he gives up his government job), Ted Davis is 64 or 65, Denis Lamoureux is 64, and Keith Miller about 62. Karl Giberson is 61. I don’t know how old Deb Haarsma is, but she may be over 60. Several of these, such as Murphy, Falk, and Giberson, no longer have university teaching positions, and some of them, like Ken Miller, seem not to have published peer-reviewed scientific literature for 20 years or more.

Over in Britain the situation for TE/EC leaders is the same: Oliver Barclay died in 2013 at age 94; John Polkinghorne is 88; Denis Alexander is 73; Simon Conway Morris is verging on 67.

On average the ID leaders are younger than the older generation of TE/EC leaders. Only Phillip Johnson (who never claimed to be a scientist), Jonathan Wells and Michael Denton are in their 70s. Berlinski is in his 70s, but doesn’t call himself an ID proponent, but merely an interested friend of ID. Of the rest, Behe is the oldest at 66, and still has his faculty position. Hunter is about 61, Meyer and Nelson are about 60, Dembski about 58. I think West is in his 50s. Minnich is about 64, I think, and Snoke about the same. I believe that Snoke and Minnich, like Behe, still hold faculty positions at secular universities.

While some ID leaders are on their way out, I don’t think that ID is on the way out; rather, it’s now in Phase II, where it is trying to go beyond its original insights (Behe, Dembski, etc.) into more sophisticated scientific work (Gauger, Ewert, Marks, etc.). On the other hand, I see EC/TE, at least of the BioLogos and ASA variety, as on its way out, because its posture is primarily defensive and reactive. ID might fail as a research program, but at least it is trying to produce a research program; TE/EC of the BioLogos and ASA variety seems to have no research program, but merely a variety of strategies for trying to win churchgoing Christians over to the acceptance of evolution. It mostly falls under the popularization of science rather than original scientific research, and the popularization of theology rather than the study of foundational theological texts.

Of course, not all people who are called EC/TE would fall under this negative description; I think Peaceful Science is going to attract people who don’t, and that will be a great step forward in the theology/science conversation. Ancient rage against the likes of Henry Morris and Duane Gish, which has so long been the animating motive of American TE/EC, needs to be left behind for constructive conversation to begin.


The Real Story of the Hunt and Meyer Exchange
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

100% true. I should have included them on the list.


(Daniel Deen) #4

I can’t speak as to who is on the way out or on the way in, but I can only hope that next generation approaches the problems differently than have been done in the past. Perhaps this the idealistic philosopher in me…

Yep, it was a blast. My crew was mid-program and exhausted. But I enjoyed our time and know others appreciated it as well.


(Arthur Hunt) #5

About those questions:

  1. No. I sort of hoped that maybe someone from Biola might be interested in this network but this hasn’t come to pass. No worries, though. We are all pretty busy.

  2. My main contact was Jason Tresser. He was a marvelous and gracious host, and helped me greatly by getting very helpful feedback from students.

  3. I don’t know.


(Daniel Ang) #6

I think you’re being too hard on Biologos. Historically, ID tried to market itself as a legitimate scientific alternative in the secular arena, so it has a burden of proof to create its own research program. In contrast, my perception was that Biologos was only meant to be an advocacy organization dedicated to communicating science to Christians and emphasizing that it doesn’t conflict with faith. Most scientifically active TE/ECs are too busy to have a dedicated TE/EC research program - the majority of them are doing “normal research programs”, such as directing the NIH in the case of Collins.

Secondly, even if Biologos was founded on theologically naive foundations, the reality is that evangelical Christian scientists have had to come to terms between science and faith for a long time, way before sophisticated theologians started poking around and snickering at their simple theology. A lot of these scientists felt moved to share their personal story with others. Is there something wrong with that?

To put it bluntly, Collins’ The Language of God played a HUGE role in my formation as a Christian and aspiring scientist. Without that book I would not be a professing Christian and physics graduate student at Harvard right now, period. (Fortunately as a teenager I was not theologically sophisticated enough as you to realize that Collins’ theology was not top-notch.) I understand that sometimes TE/EC leaders can sound naive, arrogant, and stubborn, but can’t we appreciate that they have done some good?

Gauger and Marks are about the same age as the older people you mentioned. It’s unfair to characterize TE/EC leaders as older - Biologos, for example, has Venema, Sethupathy, and Josh before he left. I would also imagine that most young Christian scientists would prefer to lay low and pursue a normal research career first until they obtain a permanent, tenured position. I see potential future leaders of TE/EC in graduate Christian fellowships around my campus everyday. They will find the time to defend TE/EC when they are ready.


(Edward Robinson) #7

No, nothing at all. My objections have been against only some of the science/theology arguments made by certain people at BioLogos. But they are water under the bridge; we need to have our own discussions here. The group of people here is quite interesting, and I see the potential of a much better way forward.

On the age question, yes, you are right, there are younger BioLogos folks as well. My point was basically that much of the animus expressed in TE/EC writing, whether on BioLogos or in the ASA, relates to the fact that there was a whole generation of Christian scientists who were deeply involved in the quarrels over Creation Science (Henry Morris and Duane Gish, etc.) in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the later leaders of TE/EC were actually originally YECs and made the most dramatic religious and scientific conversion of their lives over the course of that intra-evangelical struggle. By the time ID came along in the mid-1990s, there was already a core of pro-evolution ECs, mostly members of the ASA, on guard against anything that even slightly reminded them of Gish or Morris. I named many of them. But of course, new ECs who are younger have come along.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

I totally agree @eddie. It seems in view to bring to surface a new order to the conversation here. You, and others, have much to add to it. Perhaps the language here can be refined, but this seems like a good recent timeline…

I hope we can live up to this, and I agree. Rather than defining us against others, we want to build constructively a new type of conversation, that does not depend on agreement…


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

There are young leaders in every movement @dga471. Most of the important faces are much older than Venema, Sethupathy, and myself. Venema, also, is reduced in importance now, and Praveen is not engaged in the conversation. I’m no longer with BioLogos.

They still have some younger people who are doing good things, even if they are not prominent. However the agenda is set largely by people over 55 or even 60. Not that this is a problem. Many of them have been very kind and hopeful for a new way forward.

It is just that we are facing a changing of the guard in the coming decade. Some of them will help a better way arise. Others will oppose it. Though, there will be a changing of the guard.