We have always advised that scientists shouldn’t debate creationists. There really is no scientific debate over the validity of the theory of evolution, Noah’s Flood, the age of the earth, etc. But creationists are forever demanding debates, and assert that scientists’ refusal to oblige them is because of fear. That, of course, is nonsense.
Briefly, our reasons for declining to engage with creationists are: (1) some creationists use dishonorable debate tactics; (2) it’s strategically wrong to participate in such debates because it misleads the public into thinking that there’s some scientific issue worth debating and that creationists are worthy debate opponents; (3) press coverage of such events is often ridiculous because journalists rarely understand what’s going on; and (4) such debates are every bit as absurd as astronomers debating astrologers, astronauts debating moon-landing deniers, and physicians debating witch doctors. Also, (5) creationists’ evolution-denial is entirely religious (shameful claims to the contrary notwithstanding), and science isn’t equipped to deal with theological issues.
Because of the religious nature of creationism, we think it’s appropriate for those denominations that accept science to debate doctrinal issues with their science-denying co-religionists. That’s where the Controversy properly belongs, but such debates almost never occur.
Creationists usually try to operate with a “big tent” strategy, suppressing their differences as they work together (more or less) to defeat evolution and the methodology of the rest of science. As long as they remain focused on their common enemy they can cooperate, or at least support the same legislation. But what was always a shaky coalition is showing signs of some serious fractures.
We’ve been pleased to see a recent outbreak of debates — or at least disagreements — among the various flavors of creationism, and also among religious groups who are pro- and anti-science. We think this is a new development. Some of our previous posts about those squabbles, oldest first, are:
Food Fight with Harun Yahya (Discovery Institute against Islamist Creationists); and Discovery Institute Attacked by ICR (the Institute for Creation Research opposes both theistic evolutionists and Discoveroids’ allegedly non-biblical approach); and Battling Baptists: Young or Old Earth? (a nasty debate about the age of the earth among Southern Baptist scholars); and A House Divided Against Itself (Ken Ham, a young-earther, against old-earth creationists); and Discovery Institute and BioLogos (Discoveroids against theistic evolution — a strangely bitter feud); and Answers in Genesis: Insincere Reality Denial? (Ken Ham against still more old-earth creationists).
Today we have another such dispute to report. At the website Christian Post there’s an article by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, about whom we’ve written before. The first time was when he wrote that evolution and Christianity are not compatible. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be remarkable, but Mohler was disputing something said by a member of BioLogos — a theistic, pro-evolution group of scientists. Thus it was a dispute within the faith about evolution — a newsworthy development.
The Discoveroids stuck their nose into that one (Klinghoffer Butts In), which was odd because they claim to be a secular outfit, and thus (if they stayed on message) it really wasn’t their fight. For unfathomable reasons, the Discoveroids sided with Mohler.
The last time we wrote about Mohler was here: Albert Mohler and the Age of the Universe. His article appeared at the ICR website, and he took the position that the universe is young, as scripture reveals. It was an appropriate article for ICR to publish.
Now we turn to Mohler’s new article in the Christian Post. It’s titled No Pass from Theological Responsibility – The BioLogos Conundrum. As you can see from the title, Mohler is taking aim at the BioLogos theistic evolutionists. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
The BioLogos movement is a straight-forward attempt to persuade evangelical Christians to embrace some form of evolutionary theory. Organized by a group that includes Dr. Francis Collins, now the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the movement seeks to marginalize objections to evolution among conservative Christians.
So here we have Mohler, a young-earth creationist, arguing with his fellow theists over evolution. But this isn’t a squabble among creationists, so why are we interested? Look — there are thousands of events where “preacher says science is bunk,” or where “scientist says preacher is a goof,” and that stuff has been going on for centuries. That dispute is unresolvable and it’s getting childish.
BioLogos is different. They’re already embroiled in debates with the Discoveroids and ICR (and Ken Ham will probably get around to blasting them one of these days). We think their dispute with Mohler is interesting because it’s one of those rare occasions when a spokesman for a science-denying denomination is arguing with a group of science-accepting theists. Let’s see how it goes. Mohler says:
The BioLogos approach to the issue is now clear. They want to discredit evangelical objections to evolution and to convince the evangelical public that an acceptance of evolution is a means of furthering the gospel. They have leveled their guns at the Intelligent Design movement, at young earth creationism, and against virtually all resistance to the embrace of evolution.
That makes BioLogos an extremely important player in The Controversy between evolution and creationism. The pro-science denominations (see the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations supporting evolution) almost never publicly argue with their less informed brethren. Only BioLogos is taking a stand. Let’s read on:
They claim that the embrace of evolution is necessary if evangelicalism is not to be intellectually marginalized in the larger culture. They have warned that a refusal to embrace evolution will doom evangelicalism to the status of an intellectual cult.
They’re correct. That will happen — eventually. But these things take time. We continue:
Furthermore, they have been breathtakingly honest about the theological implications of their arguments. Writers for BioLogos have repeatedly made the case that we must relinquish the inerrancy of the Bible and accept that the biblical writers worked from a defective understanding of the world and its origins. … They have been bold and honest in rejecting the biblical account of the Fall as historical. They have warned that an affirmation of biblical inerrancy has led evangelicalism into an “intellectual cul-de-sac.”
They are motivated, they insist, by a concern that a rejection of evolution puts Christians in a position of intellectual embarrassment. The rejection of evolution places Christians outside the intellectual pale, they assert, leading to the discrediting of the gospel. They believe that intellectuals, especially scientists, will not respect an evangelistic witness to the gospel from one who is intellectually discredited by rejecting evolution.
Fascinating, isn’t it? This is the evolution-creationism debate, but it’s being played out within the faith community — which we’ve always thought was the appropriate setting for such debates. After stating the BioLogos position, Mohler then gives his counter-arguments. Click over there to read it all.
It’s possible that your Curmudgeon is alone in his opinion that this dispute is important. Nevertheless, we think it’s big — very big. This is where the debate belongs — it’s where it has always belonged for the past 100 years. Perhaps some of the pro-science denominations will join in on the side of BioLogos. We think they should.
The science issues are fairly well settled, so the debate about evolution now is entirely a question of theology. Scientists with no stake in Mohler’s dispute should stay out of it. This isn’t their fight. The religious community will work it out. Eventually.
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