Austin Fischer: Innocence, Christian Faith and Evolutionary Biology

From Biologos:


Thanks for the link, Patrick.

Question: for decades, I’ve wondered what atheists really think when they tell Christians that one doesn’t have to choose between Christianity and evolution. Did you read Fischer’s article? Did you find it persuasive?

Hypothetical dialogue, after reading Fischer’s article; the “Christian” in this exchange doesn’t know that his interlocutor is an atheist, btw.

Atheist: It’s possible to be a Christian and accept neo-Darwinian evolution, or any other account of evolution where the causes are all strictly natural.

Christian: Wow, that’s great. I would hate to have to choose between my faith and the best science available. I guess you’re a Christian too, then, right?

Atheist: Um, no. Atheist, actually.

Christian: What? Why?

Atheist: The factual claims of Christianity, such as the resurrection of Jesus or the creation of the world ex nihilo, are false or impossible to verify. Also the Christian worldview is internally inconsistent. Really, religion of any kind ends up being a blight on humanity, despite the occasional good it does.

Christian: [shocked and dismayed] So why did you give me that link to Fischer’s article about how Christianity and evolution were compatible?

Atheist: Oh, that was for YOU. Not me.

See the problem?


Someone needs to inform the atheist that this is not the best science. He needs to catch up.


@pnelson Thanks for engaging. But I think you have set up a false dicotomy of how an 21 century educated American millennial “none” (atheist) and an educated 21 century educated American Christian millennial would interact.

None: It’s possible to live a good and moral life with purpose and meaning without having to accept any of the dogma and doctrine of any religion.

Christian: Wow, that’s great. I would hate to have to change what I believe in as my faith is very important to me.

None Sure you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want too. You don’t have to have an abortion, you don’t have to attend church, you don’t have to have premartial sex. You can live the way you want to and according to what you believe in.

Christian: What? why? I don’t want to sin, live immorally, and go to hell after I die.

None You can set your own morality and live you’re life anyway that you want.

Christian: I am not doing that, And I don’t think you should either!

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I think he is pointing out the whiplash some people get from you @Patrick. :smile:


No. When I was an atheist I did similar things. I wasn’t an atheist because of evolutionary theory. I was an atheist for other reasons. I love science and evolutionary biology and I wanted other people to enjoy it and see how cool it is too. You’re also making your hypothetical atheist anti-theistic. The atheists I run with are no such thing and find theistic belief rational overall


I would never say that – perhaps that’s why I prefer “agnostic” to “atheist”. But here’s the problem. I don’t think “strictly natural” means anything. The term “natural” is not well enough defined for that. Evolution can be said to give a description based on natural events. But I don’t see how to claim that the causes are strictly natural. Our scientific knowledge is always tentative.

The atheists I know (most of the people I interact with at biology meetings, for instance) are decent, even lovable folks who try to be kind to others, pay their taxes, don’t cheat on their spouses, etc.

But neither are they Christians, and when I ask why, usually the answer has something to do with the vastly greater explanatory power of naturalistic science – in particular, with evolution by undirected processes.

So I find it disingenuous to be told by atheists that Christianity and evolution are compatible, when they don’t actually think that is true. Well, not in their own case, anyway.

I’m not accusing Patrick (who helps to keep this board lively and seems a lovable guy) of being disingenuous himself, btw. Just curious why he linked Fischer’s article.


Because he hates biologos and was hoping people would dump on the article


Doesn’t follow. A line of evidence can favor one hypothesis while still being compatible with a competing hypothesis. Paul Draper would be a good person to read on this. He has an argument from evolution for naturalism and makes this very point

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@patrick does not like BioLogos, and I think that is why he linked it :smile:.

At the same time @pnelson, can’t someone believe that Christianity and evolution are not in conflict, and simultaneously reject Christianity for other reasons? Moroever, can they not see value in helping Christians come to terms with evolutionary science, even though they personally aren’t on board with Christianity?

This seems to describe @Dan_Eastwood and @T_aquaticus really well, for example, and it does not seem duplicitous in the slightest to me.


As for @Patrick…he does embody this contradiction:


However, that is why we have “Atheist” in his name tag, and he is also stirring up some controversy for fun. It is a juxtaposition, and I have to admit I really like juxtaposition. It makes everyone think more deeply.

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I would ask them why they deny a theistic worldview because of evidence that at best only weakly favors naturalism

I think that the atheists (or nones) that you interact with at a biology meetings are regular people INTERESTED in Biology.

Assume for the moment that one of three people that you meet aren’t Christians, and most of the general population is really NOT interested in the vast explanatory power of naturalistic science. They really don’t care how their iPhone works, just that it works and how much it costs.

I don’t think atheist are saying the Christianity and evolution are compatible. I think that Christianity and evolution are incompatible.

I am a lovable guy. Most people when they get to know me say that I am (and live) more Christian-like than those they know from Church.

Isn’t the real issue is how Christian, Jews, Muslims, and Nones live together in a secular science based society? Pretty soon Nones are going to be the majority in the Western world. How are YOU going to adapt to that reality?

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In my own case, I do believe that Christianity and evolution are compatible. When I was a Christian (I became an atheist in my early 20’s) I had no problem finding compatibility between them, and I still can’t find any reason why the two would be necessarily incompatible. What I don’t find compatible is Christianity and the approach I take for determining what is true.

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The late Will Provine (Cornell evolutionary biologist and historian) and I were friends right up to his death. Will never adopted the quasi-therapeutic mode of “Let me show you how Christianity and evolution are compatible,” as a kind of mental anesthetic for timorous Christians. (We’ll administer this intellectual Propofol as a first step towards full clarity; lessens the pain on the way to atheism.) Rather, as an atheist, Will told it straight, as did one of my undergraduate mentors, the atheist philosopher of science Adolf Grunbaum, who died in November.

Call me primitive, but I prefer blunt honesty from my conversation partners.

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Well I believe the two are compatible, and have gone to lengths to demonstrate this is true with a fairly literal understanding of Adam and Eve. Do you think I am timorous and offering quasi-therapy or making important contributions? You can’t possibly think I am on the path to atheism, right?

Can you clarify what your complaint actually is? I suppose you approve of what I am doing (I hope) but disapprove of the OP article? Can you map out the difference?

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Once Brad Kramer left Biologos, I found myself with no reason to dislike Biologos. So I no longer dislike anyone at Biologos. I have always liked and admired Francis Collins. I still think that JTF is wasting money funding Biologos which is really rudderless in explaining evolutionary science.

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These are professional societies, with biologist members (Society for Developmental Biology, for instance). I suppose biologists are regular people too. :wink:


You might be interested in Darwin’s own views on the compatibility of Christianity and evolution: