I want here to resume the conversation with Chris Falter (and others) regarding whether, and why, some TE/EC leaders might have chosen to withhold certain beliefs they have about direct divine action in creation.
Since the conversation began as an off-topic wandering on the Cornelius Hunter-protein thread, I think it is best to start fresh. Those who want the previous posts can find them at:
Starting this discussion afresh will not only enable us to remove the clutter and achieve more focus on a single topic; it will also (hopefully) enable Chris and myself to find more common ground, even if we end up disagreeing on a few points.
Chris’s last comments, because the discussion was closed, had to be posted as an edit to his earlier comments. Readers may have a hard time finding the post with the edits, buried way up in the comments, so I will reproduce them below, before responding to them.
But before I do that, let me restate my thesis (conjecture, inference, etc.), and the drift of the discussion so far:
1-- I had stated as a fact that at least some ASA and BioLogos TEs privately believe that God directly and supernaturally created the first life, and/or that God “intervened in” or “tinkered with” or “guided” the evolutionary process at some points after that. My source for this was (a) one leading EC/TE person who actually told me this was his view; (b) his information – based on decades of familiarity with all the leading players – that quite a few others had the same view, but for the most part kept it private.
2-- I offered an inference regarding why some (I did not say a majority) TE/EC leaders were hesistant to say out loud (i.e., in public venues where everyone from every camp could see their statements) that they believed that the creation of life and/or evolution were not wholly due to natural processes, but involved direct divine action.
3-- My inference was that some of the silent TE/EC leaders were very concerned that such a belief would appear “unscientific” to their secular scientific peers. That is, I suggested that they were worried that their secular scientific peers would censure them, mock them, or show other signs of professional and intellectual dis-esteem toward them as scientists. [Note: It was not part of my inference that they feared job loss or actual persecution of any kind.] So, for example, their secular peers might say they were “backsliding” toward non-scientific views such as creationism, by settling for a compromise view of some natural and some supernatural causes for origins. The EC/TE leaders in question would have observed that when they defended an old earth, universal common descent, Darwinian mechanisms, etc., they met with praise from their non-religious colleagues, for upholding “good science” or “consensus science,” and for differing from Creationists and ID people. They would also be aware, however, that by inserting any direct divine activity, any special divine action, into their account of origins, they would displease a large number of secular biologists whom they had previously pleased. It follows that they would have a strong motive – the motive of maintaining the respect of their scientific colleagues – for withholding their private belief in special divine action.
4-- Chris Falter objected to my inference (and also to some of the words I used to express it, but more on that later), and provided an alternate inference. His hypothesis (which as far as I can see, he did not say he got from direct conversation with any TE/EC proponent, but was like mine wholly his own inference) was that such TE/EC folks as I described (whose existence he at first appeared to me to deny, but upon discussion appeared to me to acknowledge) were not motivated by lack of courage, of fear of disapproval from secular scientists, etc., but by concern for their own Christian communities – how their statement of their own beliefs might be understood, and how that understanding might end up being detrimental to Christian faith, or to Christians in science, or both. [Chris can correct me if I am misinterpreting him; I am trying here to be entirely fair to his intentions.] He called this concern “prudence”, and he said that in his view it was “prudence” rather than fear that motivated such silent TE/EC leaders.
5-- In my response so far, I disputed the logic of the “prudence” argument; i.e., I said that if that was the motivation of the Christian leaders we are speaking of, they were/are misguided, because in fact open statements of their belief in direct divine action would help rather than harm matters, and in fact would be likely to make some evangelicals who are “on the fence” regarding evolution more open to evolution. Knowing that they could accept an old earth, and common descent, plus believe that God created the first life by a miracle, or that God “tinkered” with evolution somewhat along the way, such evangelicals would be less suspicious that accepting evolution was buying into a wholly materialistic account of origins in which God seemed to have little or nothing to do.
6-- My response so far has failed to deal with a point Chris raised in his most recent rebuttal, i.e., that even if I think that the “prudence” argument is a bad reason for silence, it does not follow that TE/EC scientists who use it are insincere; it could still be their real motivation, rather than fear, as I imputed to them. And I am going to concede to Chris that this is right: whether or not someone is sincere is a separate question from whether or not someone is reasoning well from his premises. So yes, my rebuttal to the prudence argument does not establish that Chris is wrong about the motivation of the scientists in question.
That is where the general discussion sits at the minute. I want now to re-post Chris’s latest round of objections, and answer them in some detail, but before doing so, I want to give Chris a chance to read this and see if he agrees that I have correctly reported the main ideas here.
I will respond to Chris’s concern about some of my expressions, as well, but again, I first want to make sure that we are on the same page regarding the general state of the discussion.
I have tried to write this in an even tone, and without polemics. I hope that this comes across. I will now await Chris’s response. Others too, may respond, but I may not respond to them for a while, until I have heard from Chris.