The Tripwire in April 2017

@AJRoberts , please read the few short posts above, if you get the chance, before Friday’s call with Josh; it’s very important and personal and contextual information. Might help explain a thing or two; by his own admission, he changed his mind about the evidence’s meaning due to @Agauger 's arguments and observations. It’s galling to be pigeon-holed by stereotypes; but Joshua seeks to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead. That’s extremely admirable, and he’s been more than willing to pay the price for being different.

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Thank you for summarizing the events. It is reassuring to know that my memories were not inaccurate.

I considered sharing more of my reactions, then and now, but I think that many of my observations would be more appropriate to private conversation, especially considering that I don’t want unintentionally to create any stumbling blocks or risk being unfair towards Biologos. I’ll just say that what I observed (in part) that Easter season on that forum was some sort of breakdown in communication on the part of a few that seemed to overlook the merits of clarification and even constructive criticism—and that there was perhaps too much P.R. concern on the part of management. (Personally, I think Biologos would have more impact if it was a broader tent and sought larger engagement.)

Yes, the various “origins ministries” do each tend to take the position of “We must look out for our position because nobody else is going to protect it.” But I felt that Biologos had and still has the opportunity to rise above being just another faction or school of thought. They could be a true open forum and still accomplish their mission, even though I realize that that would require a lot of wisdom and effort to do well. Yet, consider the alternatives. The forums at Answers in Genesis, for example, are very strictly policed and dutifully censored when anybody deviates from Ken Ham’s party line. As a result, it is mostly just an echo chamber where only the most obnoxious anti-theists and anti-religionists are allowed a degree of free speech. That serves AIG’s polarizing purposes and reinforces their “atheists and evolutionists are evil” theme. Meanwhile, thoughtfully sincere Christians of various non-YEC persuasions, or even someone with an intelligent but embarrassing question, gets deleted from AIG’s webpages within twenty minutes. It is all engineered to encourage their false dichotomies. Very little is ever learned there about why other Christ-followers happen to hold different positions from that of AIG.

Thank you also for the informative links to lectures and videos. Do you happen to know if any of those
lectures are available in audio-only format? I ask because for those of us who are on high-cost satellite links or low-bandwidth Internet in remote areas, videos can be expensive and/or use up our monthly allocation quickly. (Obviously, some videos display important data charts and PowerPoint presentations, but there’s a high data transmission cost to be paid for 45 minutes of a “talking head” at a podium when the audio would be sufficient.)

As I watched the aforementioned events play out last year, I thought about how I’ve had audiences and students who seemed to struggle with fully appreciating the differences between the following:

(1) “I know of nothing in science which rules out position X.”

(2) “I know of nothing in the Bible which rules out position X.”

(3) “I personally hold to position X because it is the superior position and most in harmony with what I know of the scientific evidence and the scripture evidence.”

Some audiences have been prone to automatically leap from #1 and/or #2 and assume that Professor AWM is declaring position X as the only correct position. That drives me nuts! I have to be overly repetitive to get them to see that my lecture point is about the reasonableness of position X and that presenting it in a positive way doesn’t mean that I’m recruiting them to join position X.

On the other hand, some students do indeed understand the differences but express frustration that I often refuse to tell them (a) my personal position, and/or (b) what position they should hold. I explain to them that I’m presenting the evidence and the pros and cons of the various positions so that they can weigh the merits for themselves. Accordingly, I am far more likely to spend a lot more time and energy explaining #1 and #2 than #3.

I guess it is human nature to want someone else to do the hard work and then reduce it all to just “Believe position X.”

Of course, if an issue is controversial and someone is emotionally invested in the topic and an impassioned personal position, they can be prone to thinking that they are hearing advocacy (and even aggressive recruitment) for position X even when that is not at all the case. Projection can happen. Projection does happen.

I was absolutely delighted last year when I started reading about your genealogical Adam ideas. For the past decade or so I had been kicking around related ideas but mostly from a theological-exegetical position (with my modest levels of scientific grasp thrown in)----and your genealogical Adam discussions leap-frogged me by miles. I had concluded long ago that even though the Bible treats HAADAM as the first Imago Dei creature, other “humanoid” tribes leap out of the Genesis text in several passages. But the main idea I lacked for a good synthesis was supplied by your discussion of how the MRCA of all humans who are alive today was far more recent than I had ever considered. I’d never dreamed of that! (I hadn’t grasped enough of the mathematics of it to appreciate such a possibility before you laid it out on the table.)

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The slides: https://www.asa3.org/slides/ASA2017Swamidass2.pdf, and the audio:

@AllenWitmerMiller, this talk is also significant. It is the first scientific talk I gave on the Genealogical Adam, at the ASA conference June 2017, just a week before I was kicked off BioLogos voices.

So the story of this talk is interesting. I decided to wave the red cape at the bull at this talk, to suss out if there were any legitimate objections before I put my neck on the line. So I intentionally wrote the title and abstract to evoke Young Earth Creationism: The title of the talk:

The Recent Common Ancestry of All Humanity about 6,000 Years Ago

ASA Annual Meeting 2017,

Theological objections to evolution commonly center on Adam and Eve. The scientific account and the traditional biblical account seem to be irreconcilable. However, we might share a common ancestor as recently as 3,000 years ago. Consequently, all humans in recorded history might share common ancestry with a historical Adam and Eve as recently as 6,000 years ago.

This surprising result makes sense only once several key terms are precisely defined: mitochondria Eve, Y-chromosome Adam, common ancestry, and sole progenitorship.

Our aim here is to explain this seminal study, and explore its implications for the dialogue of faith and science. From this clear starting point, we see the genetic data is entirely consistent with a very a recent historical Adam and Eve who are ancestors of us all, but not our sole[-genetic] progenitors.

In light of this result, we urge caution in overstating the scientific evidence against a historical Adam and Eve. Nothing in science rules out that they were real people in our recent history who stood at the headwaters of the human race.

So, what happened at the talk? Well, I was the last talk in the session. And people started filling in from other sessions. It was standing room only, in a room filled primarily with Theistic Evolutionists and a few Old Earth Creationists. The entire room, honestly, the entire room was the bull charging at the cape.

I gave the talk with just 6 slides, 10 minutes of lecture, and 20 minutes of questions. It was a minimalist talk. Not one sustainable or legitimate scientific objection arose. It was remarkable, however, how many theological objections arose to a purely scientific point. Listen to the talk, and you’ll see. I’m really glad it was recorded. Anyone up for transcribing it? =)

At the end of the talk, about half the room was convinced I was right. The other half was totally confused. This, by the way, is when @sygarte was first convinced. When people get it, its like this amazing euphoria of seeing something beautiful in plain site. A totally counter intuitive but real feature of the world. @sygarte is a population geneticist, but had missed it.

It was really at the end of this talk that I knew:

  1. I really was right on the science.
  2. That this might be closest to a paradigm shift I’d ever been.
  3. I was, in the end, going to win.

It is really at that point that my “killer” instinct kicked in, and started writing the PSCF article. And you heard that right. A week later, they kicked me off the BioLogos Voices program. And a week after that Dennis Venema called a Genealogical Adam racist in print (see: http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2017/10/06/the-racist-adam/).

It was a surreal time.

You are very kind @Patrick. That week was one of the last weeks I had a phone call with my father. He gave me the exact advice you are giving me right now. I was so hurt and injured. Bewildered. The science was amazing, but I could not figure out why I was being so callously attacked. At the time, I had so much respect for BioLogos, and could not imagine being the public square in conflict with them. It was terrifying.

My Dad, however, told me exactly as did you. Do not hold any thing against them. But you do not need them. They need you. Just be faithful in your work, and do not be vindictive. Serve the common good. Do not be afraid. I remember that phone call distinctly. It brought me to tears. My wife was so angry about this too, and kept telling me the same thing.

Honestly @Patrick, you really remind me of my father. Not just this comment, but others too. Thank you.

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This website can make the conversion for you, https://y2mate.com/youtube/dS16yem65v4

For this video, for example,

You should be able to access it here:

A post was merged into an existing topic: BioLogos Dislikes the Messiness of Science?

As another Biologos old timer, I remember the original intention (or job spec) of the web site a bit differently. Francis Collins, whose book, The Language of God, had become an enormous success, wanted to further the conversations he was having with young readers who had left the faith due to their embrace of science, and their feelings that one could not accept both Christianity and scientific accounts of the world simultaneously. Even I, (though not counting as a “young reader”) faced that dilemma when I first began to follow Christ, and Collins’ book helped me through that crisis. The Biologos forum became a major focus for me to both learn how theology and science could interact (even if not always smoothly) and to express my own thoughts and ideas.

I think that in large measure, this kind of outreach to the large number of modern “nones”, students, and people with doubts is still the primary mission of Biologos. I frequently link the web site in replies to folks who ask basic science/faith questions of me on other social media sites.

I also think that Biologos writers and staff are often very honest about not having all the answers to the very tough questions that are asked about TE/EC. And there is no question that Biologos is having an impact, after a period of being largely ignored by the much more popular and newsworthy YEC and ID organizations. The publication of “Theistic Evolution” a 1000 page critique of the Biologos position and to some degree the organization itself, is an indicator of its success, as is from the other side, the apparent obsession with Biologos by Jerry Coyne.

George Brooks (Hi George) asks about the big tent issue in Biologos which is apropos of this thread, and the testimony of Josh. How does one determine the most appropriate size of a tent? I guess it depends on how many people, (and which people) one wants to be able to fit inside. I tend to think (and I believe Jon and Josh might agree) that the TE tent should be quite large; large enough to accomodate all Christians who accept mainstream science, or even cutting edge science that has at least merited peer review. This would clearly include many of the newer evolutionary biological ideas, as well as the genealogical approach to human ancestry pioneered in the Adam discussion by Josh.

Should Biologos consider whether the size of their current tent is too small? I think they do just that on a regular basis. Although I have become too much embroiled in other activities, and dont participate much in the Biologos forum any more (same goes for this one, and Hump), I do occasionally lurk at all of these important sites, and I see a pretty broad range of views expressed. As for Josh’s testimony, I can only say I find it sad, and further confirmation of the well known weakness of all organizations, Christian and otherwise, that they tend to be largely run by human beings, who as we are taught, are far from perfect. Let’s all pray for each other, for understanding and mercy, and for thanks to the living God, who is ultimately the creator of this wonderful internet that allows us to at least speak to each other, if not more.

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Thanks much! I’ve used Youtube-converters before but they either did the full download before converting or they required installation of adware/trackware browser extensions. (The best conversion sites tended to get shut down by Youtube but I see that this Y2Mate is based in Vietnam so this one may last.)

Does anyone know where Biologos’ long-term funding is coming from? I ask because I always wonder (with any organization) if financial survival comes with some strings attached. (The Discovery Institute walks a very tricky path in that regard as they deal with a lot of donors who are much more anti-evolution and even anti-OEC than are various of the D.I. scholars.)

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@sygarte thank you for joining in, and adding your voice. It is always good to see you. I’m thankful for your steady support this last years, especially being the first population geneticist that publicly endorsed what I was saying.

This turns out to be false @sygarte. I urge you get involved. You wrote in Oct, 2017:

And here is where I get to the main point – Biologos. I agree with you that it might be useful for Biologos to host some new discussions on modern evolutionary and biological theory and consider updating some of their basic scientific positions. I am sure @DennisVenema would be happy to lead or at least participate in that, along with many other Biologos associated biologists.
So what is BioLogos' problem with Dr. Swamidass? - Open Forum - The BioLogos Forum

That did not happen. Even though I, and others, have been requesting it for well over a year now. There has been total opposition to recognizing any wrong doing or altering any positions.

It is only the last month that BioLogos has considered changing their official (and false) position on Adam. The only reason they are considering this is because I publicly made it difficult for them: The De Novo Creation of Adam and BioLogos

That is true sometimes, but on Adam. The official position on Adam at BioLogos can be found here, and is cited as such by the staff:

https://biologos.org/common-questions/human-origins/were-adam-and-eve-historical-figures

This is part of the official position on Genesis, which you yourself pointed out as absurdly narrow. Is Genesis real impossibility? | The Hump of the Camel

At this point, BioLogos remains merely one theological voice among many, giving one narrow view of Scripture against a largely static backdrop of science. Nothing has really changed here, nor does it seem likely to change unless people like @sygarte, with great love for the organization, get involved.

As for, I’ve been kicked out. I think @Patrick’s advise is wise for me:

I do hope for reconciliation. I harbor no ill will towards BioLogos. I even wish for their success on my best days. I miss my friendships there, but it appears we have different paths to take.

BioLogos lives or dies based on:

  1. Templeton Foundation money.
  2. The continued public support and scientific reputation of a small handful of legitimate scientists associated with them.

To a much lesser extent, they do have some private donors.

They certainly can think of good reasons. It is conflicts with their theological agenda. They, sadly, are right. It does conflict with their agenda.

Funding comes from mainly from the Templeton Group. I examine Biologos’ Form 990 filings. Biologos as a non-profit 501C corporation and is required to file a certified 990 every year by September 30. In it you will find every major donor to Biologos, who the Board of Directors are and their salaries. Also the salaries and benefits of the officiers and staff. (For example Haarsma salary was $124K and Kramer’s was $54K) Biologos is run as a Templeton research activity researching whether science and faith are compatible. Jerry Coyne and other scientists refuse Templeton grants on legitimate scientific research topics because of Templeton’s funding of the religion/science boundary. Note that Templeton also funds ID initiatives.

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4 posts were split to a new topic: A Few Great Biologists at BioLogos

A post was merged into an existing topic: A Few Great Biologists at BioLogos

@sygarte,

I liked everything you said up until: “… as well as the genealogical approach to human ancestry pioneered in the Adam discussion by Josh.”

Josh is bringing science to religion, not religion to science. Joshua has explicitly pointed out that for professional reasons (and rightly so), he must keep his Science Labors “uninfluenced” by his Peaceful Science pursuits.

This is an incredibly difficult position to explain to people who haven’t had Philosophy 101, or better,
Theology 101.

When Joshua is discussing de novo Adam & Eve, he is not discussing science. He is discussing
religion. And the point of his efforts is for religious people to accommodate just a little more science,
in order to have more successful religious efforts.

It is not (or should not be) "Science needs to accommodate just a little more religion."
This is wrong-headed and nearly perfectly inappropriate in a country with America’s history.

Science must continue to exclude Religion. Always. Except when a Scientist is on his own time, practicing his religion.

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@Patrick

I did not know this!

@swamidass

Right now it conflicts with their theological stance. But I think they will see that they have unnecessarily boxed themselves in.

Your position poses no problem, ultimately, for what their mission statement requires.

Sometimes you say things that can be taken the wrong way (“let me count the ways”!)… and so you might
not see that there really is no conflict. But that’s my interpretation of what is actually written BioLogos policies.

@swamidass

You are the master mind for “peaceful” science… and so you should intuitively understand that attempting
to procure “recognition of wrong doing” is maybe not the most helpful “entry wedge” into discussions with
BioLogos.

I think a better approach is to ignore the insult (for now), lead them to the sweet waters of their own efforts
(namely your work), and let the process unfold. At some point, they will feel contrition enough that they
feel they MUST make things right with you on a personal level.

Am I too dreamy eyed? Perhaps. Perhaps I do not comprehend the depth of rancor that can brew within
the heart of an Aryan/IndoEuropean breast. But, fundamentally, you are far kinder than I am, Joshua. So
I think eventually, it’s all going to work out well.

I knew that Templeton funded Biologos to get it going—but I guess I had just assumed that Templeton would expect Biologos to build eventually its own endowment and a solid donor base over time. Does Templeton commit to the long-term support of an organization like Biologos? Can Biologos operate without diverting significant attention to ongoing fundraising for its survival? (I’m almost envious, if so.)

@swamidass, when I was reading the comments on the webpage you linked above, you wrote:

09/10/2017 at 08:51 pm
I have not addressed this yet, but there is a mainstream scientific case to be made for the fall of nature. I am occupied with “adam”s family-tree now, and will consider his fall at a later time.

Have you expanded on this somewhere?

Without Templeton grants they would not be operational. Can’t pay any salaries without Templeton. Private donations are minuscule.

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5 posts were split to a new topic: The Fall of Nature