Side Comments on Greg Cootsona

(Daniel Deen) #1

IBE = Inference to Best Explanation

And it looks like you are talking my question in response to Josh.

Yes, thank you and i’ll need to think about it some more.

Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair
(Greg Cootsona) #2

(Although I hadn’t seen the acronym before, I could have figured out IBE!)

(Gary Fugle) #3

Sorry for the delay. Both family and work pulled me off grid for the day. I will eagerly respond to your comments in the morning.

(Greg Cootsona) #4

At this point (12:30 pm Pacific on 8/9), I believe my replies are up to date, but if I’ve missed something, please ask again!

Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

@fuglega thanks for continuing the dialogue. This is clarified a large gap between us. I think we are both pursuing “peace,” but I also wonder if we are pursuing different types of peace. It seems we define “peace” in different ways. That is why, at first glance, it seems…

I can see why it seems this way, but your last message articulates a definition of peace that is very different than mine. Once gain, my goal is to understand you, to be understood by you. So this is merely an attempt to build that understanding.

I’m going to take an attempt at articulating what I see you saying, and why I cannot agree with it. Of course, if I misunderstood you, just set me straight.

What Type of Peace?

This gets to the heart of our differences. You are minimizing these difference, as if they are not large, but I understand this as the distinction between taking up arms versus seeking peace.

My primary goal is peace that does not depend on agreement, that can rise in the midst of disagreement. Disagreement on important things, in fact, is what makes clear that peace is real, and not counterfeit. It is actually in diversity (including theological diversity) that the Kingdom of God is more clear. That is the type of peace I am pursuing. This peace is the resolution I seek, not agreement.

You say resolution, but it seems you mean is “agreement.” From what comes next, it almost seems you are defining “resolution” as “agreement with you.” That is no different than the “peace” Ken Ham and Dawkins are pursuing. Each one just have different answers to which everyone is supposed to agree to bring us to peace.

What you call “resolution”, it seems to me, is not achievable, and becomes a rational for very damaging behavior. I say that generally speaking here, but there is a specific example in what you write here. I’ll get to that soon.

Questions or Answers?

It seems you and I have a different relationship with questions and answers. It seems you are pushing a particular answer, and use questions as way to dismiss new ideas. I do not have the answers, but I’m drawn to the questions.

First of all, I see you are passionate about your personal understand of Scripture. I won’t quote you fully, but you offer a length exposition of your position, where go so far as to use an argument from ignorance by using the term: “ad hoc.”

Everything we do not understand seems “ad hoc.” Using that term here is just advertising that you do not understand the reasoning of others. For what it is worth, I can agree that this seems to be the case. Instead of using a derogatory term like ‘ad hoc’, I prefer to respond with questions. With the right questions, I might come to understand the internal logic behind another person’s understanding, be enriched by it, and perhaps even understand how to correct its errors.

I know you think you have a clear defeater for the de novo creation of Adam, by comparing it to the creation of animals. It is ironic you do not even see the non-sequitur in the logic.

Your reading embeds within it several strong assumptions of the text. Perhaps your interpretation is correct, but certainly not because science leads you there. I affirm evolutionary science, but it does not follow that Genesis 2:19 must be read metaphorically.

Your argument, it seems, depends on using rhetoric from science to artificially constrain interpretive options. I am very concerned about this. It is, in fact, exactly what I oppose. Even when you ask question, I am concerned…

Do you really care to engage those questions or are they just being used for rhetorical effect? Why would you insert a strawman claim that God did this in order to hide it from science? If you care about those questions, there are answers. I’m not going to give them here, because it is not clear if you are wanting to understand how an answer might be formed. The real reason I’m bringing this up is to highlight the conflict in our values. I am interested in deeply engaging the questions themselves, not pushing for a specific answer.

Different Responses to Disagreement?

I have a great deal of difficulty with this paragraph. Honestly, I have a strong emotional reaction against it, but I will write factually here. First, read what Keller says in that video:

  1. You describe this statement by Keller as evidence against Keller’s “biblical faithfulness.” What gives any of us have the right to impose our interpretation over another Christian’s honest understanding of Scripture?

  2. This “inconsistency” is not a real inconsistency, but based on a misunderstanding of science that you are endorsing. Why would we treat perceived inconsistency, which is ultimately false, a reason to revise our honest understanding of scripture?

  3. You say you are “frustrated” with Christians who affirm de novo creation to be faithful to Scripture. Why would be be “frustrated” with Christian leaders honestly confessing their understanding of scripture, and obediently following God?

This paragraphs reveals a vast gap between our values. I do not think I have the right to tell Keller to violate his conscience. Even if Keller is wrong, he was choosing between the authority of science and Scripture, and I commend him for choosing the greater thing. I’m have the deepest respect for leaders of integrity like this. Far from frustrated, I hope I also would obediently follow Jesus.

I respect honest exiles from science, even the honest belief of Young Earth Creationists like Kurt Wise. In many ways, you sound much like Dawkins, as he writes here about Wise:

I find that terribly sad…the Kurt Wise story is just plain pathetic, pathetic and contemptible. The wound, to his career and his life’s happiness, was self-inflicted, so unnecessary, so easy to escape…I am hostile to religion because of what it did to Kurt Wise. And if it did that to a Harvard educated geologist, just think what it can do to others less gifted and less well armed.

A theistic evolutionist, in the way I used to be, would quickly join Dawkins in this lament. Just like Dawkins, I would be saddened. Perhaps my view of Scripture and science might have saved Wise from this pathetic fate. He is a cautionary tale, a rallying cry more forcefully join the Creation War on behalf of my own view of origins.

This misses the point. Entirely.

Wise is like the man who sold all he had to purchase a field with a hidden treasure. As the missionary Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Even if he is wrong about evolution, Kurt Wise rightly confesses that“Jesus is greater than all science offers.” His exile proclaims this with boldness, integrity, and without regret.

In all this, Kurt Wise is a confessing scientist too. He rightly declares the truth.

I am a scientist. I love science, and see nothing here that threatens my faith. However, I also found something greater than science. Wise and Keller understand this too. This is why they are might even disagree with science at times. I respect this greatly, as it demonstrates they are choosing the better thing.

I am honored to call them family, but you are “frustrated.”

Mutually Incompatible Goals…

For me, a core value is honesty. Truthfulness is an end itself, but it produces something even more valuable: trust. This is a value that @Jordan and I seem to understand together, and it is also why I respect @Cootsona so much for including the genealogical Adam in his book:

This is even what you call our “major disagreement”, which appears to me to be about truthfulness and trustworthiness:

To be clear, you are writing here that you think that being upfront about material scientific facts is a “hindrance” to your larger goals. I understand this as an argument to withhold accurate and relevant science in service of a theological agenda. It matters not to me how “civilly” or “politely” such a strategy is executed. It is not trustworthy. No one should trust this. I certainly do not. If this really is your strategy, when pastors and theologians find out you’ve knowledgeably misrepresented the science, they will not trust you either.

@fuglega you don’t have to personally affirm de novo creation, or agree with Keller. What ever our personal theological positions, however, we must be honest. It is imperative the Church is served by scientists that are carefully giving an honest account of science, free of theological agenda, so they know who they can trust.

The reason we are in conflict is because just about everyone is driven by agendas rather than serving with honestly. You are right that this is a major disagreement. This difference is why I say you are pursing a different type of peace than I, and our goals are in direct and irreconcilable conflict. As you clarify in the end:

I do not see this as a new and vibrant perspective. This seems like advocating your preferred answer. This seems indistinguishable from all the advocacy groups that populate the landscape right now. It has been tried before. For decades, maybe even a century.

An Invitation…

Just to clarify, I’m explaining how that post comes off, and it is always possible I misunderstood you. If so, can you please explain what I missed? How did I fail to understand you? Help me get it right.

Any where in this message, if I am asking you something here, it is a genuine invitation to conversation. I hope you can engage those questions so I can better understand your value system. It does not appear we will agree…

Your best case is exactly what I have seen for decades. It seems like a recipe for unending conflict. I see nothing new here, except some idiosyncratic particulars of your answer. What did I miss? What exactly is new and vibrant about this? It is seems like the same as always.

I want to find another way. I choose to lay down arms. I choose to seek a peace that depends not on agreement. I choose to find common ground in grand questions, rather than my personal answer. I choose to be honest.

Why not come try another way with us? Why not lay down arms and seek a Greater Peace?

Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair
Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair
(Gary Fugle) #6

Thanks for your response, Josh.

You have done a very good job here articulating the peace that you are pursuing. Thank you for that.

Although my heart is with you in principle, I’m thinking you should use a different word than “peace.” What I think I hear you saying, in essence, is that we have peace if everyone believes what they want under one big tent. I get the fair-minded tenor of that, but is there really “peace” between a young-earth creationist and an evolutionary creationist? Instead, there is strong tension and disagreement, with each believing the other is doing damage to the church. I absolutely do NOT believe that this diversity makes the Kingdom of God more clear, quite the contrary. I’m guessing this is the major difference in our perspectives. So, I have a stronger push toward changing each others minds. As I’ve commented before, my constant pursuit is respect, but the tension that remains between mutually exclusive viewpoints is not “peace” by normal use of the term. I’m feeling like we have dialogued on this topic enough, and I wish you success in the approach you have chosen.

As for the remaining parts of your post, I am very disappointed in your lack of understanding of what I have communicated and your simplistic and sweeping dismissals of my carefully articulated arguments. Where I wrote ad hoc, it is exactly what I meant (“done for a particular purpose only”), and it has nothing to do with me not understanding your argument. (You wrote, "Everything we do not understand seems “ad hoc.”) You offensively claim that I’m “not even aware” that I am using a non-sequitur in logic, when my argument is not that at all. Do you actually think I’m invited into dialogue with you when you state such a thing? You write “I affirm evolutionary science, but it does not follow that Genesis 2:19 must be read metaphorically” without providing any rationale for how it could mean anything else. And you dismiss my legitimate and crucial point that if God made Adam “de novo” that he did indeed hide it from us rather than clearly expose it in biology or in Scripture. This is not a “strawman claim” or used for “rhetorical effect.”

You went on to the topic of Tim Keller’s comments. I gave my careful and honest assessment of what Keller said and why I disagreed with it. But then you write, “What gives any of us (let alone you specifically) the right to impose our interpretation over another Christian’s honest understanding of Scripture?” Where in the world is that coming from? I am not trying to “imposed” anything on anyone; that is just offensive. And I have every right to be concerned that Keller appears to be using reliance on specific interpretations of Scripture that seem inconsistent to me. So what? Why come back at me with just telling me it’s “perceived inconsistency, which is ultimately false” without even explaining why you think that’s the case. Finally, you question my “values” because of my disagreement with Keller on Adam. You have no idea how much I respect Keller for his enormous impact on the church, for his evangelistic outreach, and even his contributions to promoting acceptance of evolutionary creation.

I could continue through your post, but it is getting late here and I have made my point. You speak a lot about peace, and you end your comments with "Why not come try another way with us? Why not lay down arms and seek a Greater Peace? Your comments were anything but peaceful and hardly the way to build discussion. In fact, I am finished.

I sincerely hope for good things to come from your work and I appreciate the many contributions you have made so far.

In Jesus,


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #7

It seems the good part of about this is that we are clarifying our differences. In the interest of mending fences, I’ll try and clarify a few points, primarily to understand you better, and makes sense of this exchange.

There certainly is not peace between BioLogos and AIG.

I, however, have found peace with young earth creationists, even though I affirm evolutionary science. That is a reality have tasted. It is good sort of peace.

This is a real difference in our values. I do think diversity is important. You do not. I strongly believe in tolerating differences, not ending them all. I wonder if this is the core difference that explains most the conflict in this exchange.

I agree. We are choosing different paths. I wish you the best on your path too. As I said in the beginning, we are quite far from each other here, as we are pursuing different types of peace.

If you saw the possibility I see there, it would make sense why it was a non-sequitor. Not seeing that possibility, I can see why saying that would seem dissmissive and offensive. My sincere apologies.

I’m sorry this offended you. I can see why that is. It seems you have a fixed understanding of what that passage means. I just read it differently than you. I am okay with that difference. I really am. I am happy to explain where I am coming from on it if you like. Though it seems that might be for another day.

My friend, I do not understand this objection. Nothing in the science tells that God “hid” Adam from us. If you care to understand where I’m coming from I can explain. This, however, is reading into my position claims that are not there. Once again, I’m not sure if you really are asking for dialogue or not. If so, I am happy to explain. If you feel the need explain more, I will gladly listen.

Okay. I retract that wording. Once again, I am sorry for the offense. What I see is that Keller is honestly attempting to read Scripture. He comes to an interpretation you disagree with, and you say he is clinging to an unbiblical position. I see him doing the best to follow Scripture as he understands it. You see him as taking an unbiblical position because of your own reading of Scripture. From your perspective, Keller needs to be corrected. From mine, he should be affirmed.

I see why you don’t like the term “impose.” I wonder if this just another example of that same difference in values.

I suppose this just comes back to the same. I am not trying to convince everyone to “resolve” to single position on this. You are. So you are going to find issue with difference here. I will not. That is all this is, it seems.

I thought that was clear. His position is not in conflict with science. He thinks it was, because of a perceived inconsistency. That inconsistency between science and his position is ultimately false. That is the whole point of the work we did in Genealogical Adam. I thought it was clear in that case, but especially given the early part of the note, I can see why it was confusing.

We both respect Keller.

I’m just referencing our difference in values again. You are trying to bring him over to your point of view. I’m just fine with him as he is, with his current position.

Thanks Gary for being part of this conversation.

This exchange clarified we have very different values. Clearly my proposal is not the type of peace you are looking for. I’m sorry. Sometimes we are going to have different paths. In light of the large gap in our values, I really appreciate the last statement you make.

That is very big of you. Thank you.

I truly am sorry about how this ended. I do believe you have been very civil and polite to me. I can see how some of the things I’ve said have been difficult. I’m sorry for some of my phrasing here too. In the end, it seems we approach this with very different values. I’m sorry I’m not able to go along with yours. Nonetheless, you are always welcome here.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

@Cootsona and @fuglega, after some though, I’m moving this part of the exchange to the side comments so that we can resolve this in time outside the limelight of the main thread. I hope that is okay, and this seemed the best way to respect the real differences that were revealed in this exchange without artificially ending the conversation when the main thread ends.