Dennis Venema on God and Intelligent Design

In a current BioLogos discussion, Dennis Venema writes this:

“I see evolution as God’s design for creating life, plate tectonics as his design for making continents, gravity as his design for making solar systems, and so on. I just don’t think the place to look for design is where “natural” explanations have not yet been worked out. I think it’s all designed.”

This is most interesting. It is nearly exactly the view set forth in Michael Denton’s Nature’s Destiny (1998). This book has been known to Dennis, and to all BioLogos columnists and management, for nearly two decades, yet not one of them has had a good thing to say about it. In fact, they have mostly ignored it, and even when it has been brought up by commenters on the BioLogos site the BioLogos elite have not discussed its ideas. Yet now, out of the blue, Dennis is endorsing an identical or similar view.

What is interesting is that, just after endorsing a view virtually identical to Denton’s, Dennis goes on to write:

“I used to hold the ID view. But I no longer find ID arguments convincing.”

But of course, Denton’s 1998 book is a sustained “ID argument” — an evidence-based case that a super-intelligence designed not only life but the entire cosmic, chemical and biological evolutionary processes. Denton uses the word “design” freely in the book, and emphatically in the conclusion. So what does Venema mean when he says that he doesn’t find ID arguments convincing? Apparently he finds Denton’s arguments (or arguments like them, made by others) convincing. The two things don’t add up.

The answer, I think, is this: Venema has long held a view that ID is inherently tied to an idea of “intervention.” He has voiced this view regarding Behe’s version of ID. In one discussion where he did this, I pointed out to him (I don’t remember the place at the moment, but if I find it later I will update this article with the link to the BioLogos page) that Behe had himself very clearly stated that ID did not automatically entail supernatural intervention, and provided him with a direct quotation from Behe himself, addressing that precise question on the Discovery website. Venema admitted that he had not seen that statement of Behe’s before, and bowed to the quotation. But I didn’t think, even then, that he was convinced by Behe’s statement; I had the impression that he was acquiescing momentarily in order not to seem to be churlishly denying Behe’s own statement about what he believed. And sure enough, now he is writing as if he had never seen the Behe quotation, and as if we had never had that discussion; he is back to insisting that ID requires “intervention” or “miracles” and some sort of failure of scientific explanation.

I wonder how Venema, and the folks at BioLogos, expect to have a good-faith discussion with the ID people, if they keep insisting that their conception of what ID is, is what ID is, instead of listening to the ID people themselves (like Denton, Behe, Sternberg and others) and taking them at their word for what they believe. The consistent theoretical position of ID (regardless of what individual ID proponents might choose to argue when speaking as Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, or anything else) has been that ID is about design detection, not miracle detection, and that ID is consistent with accounts of origin involving natural causes without recourse to miracles.

If Venema wants to say that he disagrees with Stephen Meyer’s version of ID, or Paul Nelson’s version of ID, etc., on the grounds that those particular individuals seem to him to explicitly tie ID to miraculous interventions, that would be fine. But he keeps speaking of “ID” generically, and then imposing his own inaccurate conception of ID theory on the entire ID movement.

Of course, he is not the only one at BioLogos to do this. I had several long discussions with Brad Kramer, where I chided him for imposing a similar definition of ID upon BioLogos readers. (Brad had previously admitted that the very first person who introduced him to ID — I think he said it was an evangelical high school teacher of his [in any case it was someone unauthorized to speak for ID], had told him that ID was a form of interventionist creationism; he still seems to have trouble getting that early notion out of his head.) And of course Karl Giberson and Francis Collins routinely maintained this same erroneous characterization of ID. They were corrected on it many times, but would never retract; textual evidence from ID writers made no difference to them. They were sure they could read ID writers’ minds; they were sure that the ID writers were really talking about miracles and interventions. And since they knew what ID people were thinking, they felt justifying in completely ignoring what ID people wrote. (It didn’t help that even back when Francis Collins [before his NIH appointment] was free to speak openly about such subjects, he refused to share a stage with and debate any ID proponent. Had he accepted ID invitations to debate, he would have found that he was mischaracterizing ID. But like that “hear no evil” monkey in the statue, he had his ears stopped.)

I have long thought Michael Denton’s thought was a sort of bridge between TE/EC and ID, a sort of blending of evolutionary and design accounts of origins. I have always hoped that there might be a rational discussion of design in nature, using Denton as a platform for discussion; my thought was that Denton’s pro-evolutionary and naturalistic account of evolutionary development would make TE/EC folks feel secure enough that they would listen to his arguments for design. But that has not come to pass.

There have been only two attempts along this line by people affiliated with BioLogos. Darrel Falk — after he retired from BioLogos, not while he was there — wrote a positive Amazon review of Denton’s 2016 book (not the 1998 volume referred to above, but there is some overlap in the ideas), and that was promising; but then, after a very short time, Falk pulled the review down — with no explanation. Had he turned against Denton’s new book? Nobody knew. And Sy Garte, who has some sympathy with BioLogos, but sees some value in some ID discussions, said some good things about Denton’s work on BioLogos — but as far as I can tell, Sy is currently not in the good graces of BioLogos, or at least not as highly regarded there as he used to be, and there hasn’t been anything nice said about Denton for quite a while there now. And in fact, I don’t recall Dennis Venema, or Kathryn Applegate, or Deb Haarsma, or anyone else chiming in under Sy’s review to agree that among the ID folks, Denton was the most promising. Further, I myself posted a news item on Darrel’s Amazon review right on the BioLogos site, and there was no support under my item from Dennis, Kathryn, or Deb, either for Darrel’s positive review or Denton’s book. It’s as if Denton is a dirty word around there.

I have my suspicions about the reason for the “silent treatment” of Denton. Denton’s 1986 book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, was very influential upon the early ID movement, and, while not actually anti-evolution (as Denton clarifies in his third book, commenting on the first one) was very much anti-Darwinian, and BioLogos from its earliest days has championed the neo-Darwinian, gene-focused interpretation of evolution, a la Dobzhansky and Ayala. So even when Denton’s book came out clearly in favor not only of evolution, but even of naturalistic evolution (albeit teleological-naturalistic, not chance-naturalistic), I don’t think the BioLogos folks (except Sy, of course) were able to rise above themselves and forgive Denton (a) for giving aid and comfort to ID by his first book; (b) for wounding the intellectual amour propre of neo-Darwinians. Of course, I can’t prove that this is the thinking behind the cold shoulder given to Denton, but it fits all the known facts of the professional and camp allegiances of the majority of BioLogos personnel, past and present. In any case, if I’m wrong, there is nothing at all to stop Dennis, Kathryn and Deb from signing up here and explaining to me how I’ve totally misread their systematic snub of Denton’s writings. I’m willing to retract the above speculation if a better explanation is offered by them.

In any case, we have a situation where at least one version of ID thinking — the Denton version — is endorsed, at least in general terms, by Dennis Venema. I wonder where this might lead? Time will tell.

Edward Robinson

About Edward Robinson

Edward Robinson (Eddie) started his university career on a science scholarship, but ended up as a philosopher/theologian researching the relationship between religion and natural science. He has published several books and articles on religion/science topics in both mainstream academic outlets and denominational and popular periodicals. He has also taught courses in various departments in several universities.
This entry was posted in Creation, Science, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Dennis Venema on God and Intelligent Design

  1. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    The longer I live, the more difficult I find it to understand (modern) theistic evolution as an aggressively held position against all things designed, including natural theology or whatever.

    Leaving aside irrelevant, but pervasive, arguments like “ID is really after theocracy” or “I can smell a YEC a mile off”, the dispute seems to be about the inability to “detect” God’s hand of design in a sea of “natural” causes.

    I’ve discussed the nebulous, and thoroughly culturally enshrined, meaning of “natural” here repeatedly. But let’s allow, for arguments’s sake, that there is a true distinction between “natural” and “divinely mediated” causes.

    Dennis seems to be saying (like many other ECs) that the question is all about that nasty word “detection”: the issue is reduced to being unable to distinguish formally what might be natural causes from what might be divine causes, rather than denying that God could be a cause. He believes in God’s design, but would only believe it scientific if the evidence were good enough.

    If that be so, then then the implication is this: since the two alleged causes are apparently usually indistinguishable, the only way he can assert natural causes in any instance is by an assumption or convention – that is to say, methodological naturalism, by which explanations always default to the natural.

    It is really not legitimate then to plead that “so far, we’ve found natural causes for everything”, because on a different convention, let’s call it methodological theism, you’d have found divine causes for everything, and be unable to detect natural causation except on some exceptional evidence. And it’s especially hollow when:
    (a) “Chance” is allowed as a natural explanation without acknowledging that it means “of unknown cause”, not “of unknown natural cause” and,
    (b) Possible future natural explanations are allowed as natural explanations (“We don’t know how life arose, but we may one day and it will probably be natural” – “irreducible complexity isn’t an argument for design because one day a natural explanation may be found” – which is like saying one can’t believe in the resurrection because one day science may be able to explain it).

    • drnmud says:

      Jon,

      “The longer I live, the more difficult I find it to understand (modern) theistic evolution as an aggressively held position against all things designed, including natural theology or whatever.”

      The longer I live, the more difficult I find it to understand why the meaning of Genesis is still argued, thousands of years on.

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        I will venture the rather safe answer that people still argue about the meaning of Genesis because they — or at least some of them — believe that Genesis contains a divinely-inspired teaching. Is that not your own position? If not, I have been misunderstanding the aim of all your comments on this site so far.

        • Ian Thompson says:

          Exactly. We take Genesis to be (in some way) to have divine truths in it, but we do not yet see them properly. Perhaps (perhaps!?), we have read the text in another non-literal manner?

          Perhaps (e.g.) the days of creation represent days of creation of a religious person. Perhaps (e.g.) Adam represents a church group: one that was corrupted by wanting to be as god. Perhaps the flood represents a flood of lies and fallacies from which many died inside, but a few floated above it. Perhaps only later (e.g. from Abram) do we have actual history.

          You may not agree with all of these, or any, but the basic puzzle of Genesis is as just described. We are still missing something.

        • drnmud says:

          Edward,

          “I will venture the rather safe answer that people still argue about the meaning of Genesis because they — or at least some of them — believe that Genesis contains a divinely-inspired teaching. Is that not your own position?”

          Yes, that is my position right now.
          If Genesis is divinely-inspired teaching, if it’s divine revelation, the more difficult I find it to understand why Christians haven’t settled on what was divinely-revealed, thousands of years on.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            I think the answer to that question lies in the way that Genesis was written. Its meaning isn’t always plain and obvious; therefore, different readers interpret it differently; hence, the endless disputes. Everyone thinks it is important to get the meaning of Genesis right, which explains the passion on all sides; but there isn’t enough evidence to force an interpretation one way or the other, in many cases.

            Does the Adam and Eve story of Genesis 2 merely restate the creation of man with a more homely focus? Or does Genesis 2 relate a different and separate creation from the creation related in Genesis 1? God could have chosen to have Genesis 1 and 2 written so that no confusion on this point could be possible; but he chose instead to give us the text that we have. Again, were animals created before woman (Genesis 2), or both man and woman created after all the animals (Genesis 1)? God could have inspired Moses (or whoever) to write in such a way that people wouldn’t be agonizing over this question today. But apparently the elimination of ambiguity or difficulty was not high on God’s agenda.

            Of course, this applies not only to Genesis but to all of the Bible. In extreme cases, e.g., the book of Revelation, you have hundreds of incompatible interpretations of what the prophecies and images mean. But even in less obscure texts, even in the Gospels, there are often things to disagree about, because the meaning isn’t plain. Why does Jesus seem to say both that He and the Father are one and that the Father is greater than He? In such varying statements lie the seeds of endless disputes over the Trinity. Surely God could have forestalled all theological bickering by eliminating statements of one sort from the text, and retaining statements only of the other sort. But apparently eliminating the possibility of later theological bickering was not high on God’s agenda when he inspired the Gospel writers.

            If the Bible had been written by Strunk and White, or by Thomas Hobbes, or by George Orwell, the meaning would have been so plain that no dispute would be possible. But apparently it pleased God to reveal things in compact, multi-faceted pieces of writing where much needs to be filled in by the reader — even at the risk of inviting clashing interpretations.

            Perhaps revelation through an ambiguous Bible was God’s means of creating theologians. 🙂

            • drnmud says:

              “[Genesis’] meaning isn’t always plain and obvious; therefore, different readers interpret it differently; hence, the endless disputes. Everyone thinks it is important to get the meaning of Genesis right, which explains the passion on all sides…
              apparently the elimination of ambiguity or difficulty was not high on God’s agenda.
              Of course, this applies not only to Genesis but to all of the Bible…hundreds of incompatible interpretations…
              even in the Gospels, there are often things to disagree about…
              the seeds of endless disputes …
              apparently eliminating the possibility of later theological bickering was not high on God’s agenda when he inspired the Gospel writers.
              … apparently it pleased God to reveal things…inviting clashing interpretations.
              Perhaps revelation through an ambiguous Bible was God’s means of creating theologians.”

              Yes, the way you say it, the Bible doesn’t sound like much good on its own.
              But it does sound like a full employment policy for theologians of all different stripes.

              Sometimes I wonder if all of the above is why the Gospels never have Jesus saying ‘Write this down.’ He only says ‘Preach.’

    • swamidass says:

      Jon,

      I cannot speak for Dennis. However my issue with ID is not lack of evidence, but insistence that science itself recognize divine design, even to the point of pushing bad arguments.

      We do recognize design, but science is blind to divine design. It is just too limited an effort to see. There is no way to certainly distinguish, for example, between randomness, unknown mechanism and choice. Science is limited.

      ID seems like a man looking for keys under a street lamp because this where the light is. Never mind that the keys were lost elsewhere. Science is here so this is where we look.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        We’ll probably never agree on this Joshua, but I’ll be happy to do so when scientists across the board (and not just enlightened souls like you) realise how much they dabble their own feet in philosophical, metaphysical and theological arguments in the name of “science”.

        It’s the pot calling the kettle black, except that the pot of mainstream science is a whole lot bigger and more powerful than the kettle of Intelligent Design. One can get away with less rigour in sticking to a strict definition of science if one controls the organs of science and the mainstream media.

        To refer back to Eddie’s OP, though, Dennis’s own words on the BioLogos thread show that your legitimate limits to science are widely used simply as tools to exclude others, rather than being held consistently. Dennis said that he’d accept design in nature if the evidence were good enough (echoing the same argument on another thread by the atheist T-aquaticus). In this, as Paul Nelson pointed out, he was shifting ground from a methodological principle (we shall ignore the role of God in this to remain scientific) to an evidential one (we would accept the role of God in this if the evidence were better).

        Dennis’s reply was:

        Scientists, in my experience, are always open to revising things – “rules”, laws”, whatever, based on evidence. YMMV.

        So he now makes methodological naturalism not a convention of science, but an evidence-based finding of science, which further evidence may overturn. Now, there’s a term for the idea that science can even determine the philosophy or methodology by which you conduct science – that term is “scientism”.

        • swamidass says:

          And I would agree with you that Venema is in error. Bringing scientists over to my rhetoric, where many are already, will be easier than the alternate.

      • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

        Thanks for your comment, Joshua. I know it was addressed to Jon, but it concerns the subject of my column, so I will venture an additional remark (beyond Jon’s remarks, with which I agree).

        Ironically, the analogy of the man looking under the street lamp for the keys, which you apply to ID, seems to me to apply not at all to ID, but to all those (whether atheist or EC) who insist on “methodological naturalism”.

        This is clear if you look at the determination of Venema, beaglelady, etc. to consider *only* naturalistic explanations for the origin of the first life. When asked the question, “What was the origin of the first life?” they assume that it was naturalistic, i.e., that it happened when simple molecules sloshed around long enough to accidentally (albeit via several accidental stages, but still overall accidentally) come together into a cell. But why do they assume that? Because that is the only answer their reductionistic, anti-teleological notion of science can deal with. That is, if life did *not* originate in such an accidental sloshing about of molecules, their science will not be able to explain the origin of life. So it is *they* who are looking for an answer under the street lamp, where the light is (the light being “methodological naturalism”); outside the lighted area, their science is helpless. ID folks, on the other hand, have long insisted that the answer to the origin of life *might well be found in the non-lighted area* (where design inferences are allowed) where the methods recommended by Venema and beaglelady cannot be successful. So the ID folks are recommending searching *everywhere* for the answers, whereas the EC folks are saying we should only search in certain places.

        If you want proof of this, all you have to do is read the old BioLogos columns in which Darrel Falk, marshaled Dennis Venema and Francisco Ayala to attack Meyer’s first book (which was not even anti-evolution, but merely anti-accidental-chemical-origin-of-life). The three-way attack on Meyer was aggressive and relentless, in column after column. And yet not one of the attackers (Falk, Venema, Ayala) had any expertise specifically on the question of the origin of life. All of them were geneticists by training. So why were they so eager to rule out Meyer’s inference that intelligence was needed to produce the first life? Answer: because “intelligence” and “design” aren’t within the domain of the street lamp which Falk, Venema and Ayala regard as the *only* legitimate light under which to look for biological origins.

        I don’t think it’s any accident that the BioLogos team has never invited James Tour (a renowned synthetic chemist, reputed to have been on the short list for the Nobel Prize a few years back, and therefore outranking anyone affiliated with BioLogos in scientific excellence) to write a column on the origin of life. Tour raises doubts whether any accidental chemical scenario will ever be adequate. And that’s not what BioLogos wants to hear. They want to hear that a seamless, wholly naturalistic account of origins from Big Bang to man is just around the corner, and that all that is necessary is further research. They want to believe that looking under the street lamp of methodological naturalism is the right way to find out the origin of *everything* — from galaxies to Adam. ID folks are more open-minded; they think it’s at least possible that a seamless naturalistic account of origins will never be found, because it’s possible that more than seamless natural causes were involved.

        And of course, as I pointed out in my column above, even when a ID proponent *does* stay within “methodological naturalism” — as Michael Denton does — BioLogos turns its nose up at such ID proponents, pretending they don’t exist. The main operative motive on BioLogos, as far as I can tell, is “Anything any ID proponent says must be wrong or not worth paying attention to.” That’s hardly the open-minded attitude which scientists like to present to the public as their normal one.

        • swamidass says:

          James Tour is a close friend of mine. I recently wrote about why he is not an ID proponent here http://peacefulscience.org/tour-pascal/. I know for a fact that he was not invited because they do not know who he is.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            Joshua:

            Yes, I know that Tour does not consider himself an ID proponent. I was not claiming him for ID. I was speaking only about his skepticism regarding speculations about the accidental chemical origin of life. He has written and spoken on that subject many times, and I have heard his podcast and read some of his articles on the subject. The point is that people like Venema, who are geneticists and not origin-of-life researchers, seem to see no scientific or intellectual problem at all with an accidental chemical origin of life, whereas Tour, who actually makes complex molecules for a living, sees big problems. One would think that the scientists at BioLogos would be humble enough to learn from a man of Tour’s stature, especially on subjects outside their area of expertise.

            When you say, “they do not know who he is”, I’m not sure who you are including in “they”. Perhaps not *everyone* on BioLogos knows who he is, but some of them must, for I myself posted a new topic on Tour on the BioLogos website in April 2016, and as, back then, Brad (and other moderators, sometimes including Jim Stump) were watching every word I posted like a hawk (eager, it seemed to me, to find an excuse for banning me), they cannot have missed either the posting itself or the lengthy discussion between me and others that followed in the comments section. So even if no one at BioLogos had ever before heard of Tour, they certainly would have known of him after my posting, and could have read up more on him afterward.

            In any case, it’s a pretty sad comment on BioLogos if no one there had heard of Tour. All these scientists with Ph.D.s, unaware of the inventor of the nanocar, who was touted as a potential Nobel Prize winner a few years ago? But that’s par for the course. I first heard about Shapiro, not on BioLogos, but on an ID website. I first heard about the Altenberg conference, not on BioLogos, but on an ID website. And I first heard about Tour, not on BioLogos, but on an ID website. It seems that ID people are much quicker to find out about new directions in science than the BioLogos folks are. The BioLogos folks (Falk, Giberson, Applegate, Venema, Haarsma) have always seemed to me to be conventional stick-in-the-muds when it comes to anything imaginative or innovative in science. They would rather man and defend the fortress of “consensus science” than dare to think outside the box, whether about evolution, or climate change, or anything else. That’s how they come across to me, anyway. (Of course, I am not including you in this generalization, since clearly you are trying to think outside the box on some issues. And Sy Garte is also exempt from the charge — but note that he is not exactly in favor at BioLogos these days. People who aren’t right in line with the BioLogos agenda generally aren’t highly regarded there.)

          • swamidass says:

            It is sad that they did not know who he was, but I think it was in 2016 that they found out. From me.

            Jim, however, just contributed to the ID tome against EC, so I’m not sure why they would invite him. He is a phenomenal scientist, and has earned his right to speak. However, he is not aligned with BioLogos.

            Jim and I, however, get along great. Even though I am not ID.

        • swamidass says:

          I would also remind you they endorsed the science behind my defense of De Novo creation of adam. Give them a chance to evolve.

          Despite what both ID and EC scientists like Venema think, science is silent on God’s action.

          • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

            I don’t say that science should speak about “God’s action” in any direct way. But I don’t think there is any good reason why science should be forbidden from considering design (not miracles, design) as a genuine causal factor in biological systems. (Of course, from a conclusion of design one could then go on to discuss the possibility of explaining the design by God’s action, but that would be a separate theological discussion, not directly involving science.)

  2. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    Footnote to my Column Above:

    One of my points was that Dennis Venema was endorsing a Denton-like conception of God’s design, but gave no credit to Denton for it, or showed any respect for Denton’s past work in setting forth that conception. I see now that this has happened again, with another BioLogos-associated writer.

    On a new thread on BioLogos,

    https://discourse.biologos.org/t/blazars-and-gods-caring/36483

    Jonathan Burke objects to Matthew Origer’s claim that there is a lot of “pointless junk” in the cosmos. Burke sets forth a long case for the fine-tuning of the cosmos to produce intelligent life. Of course, this is the argument of Denton’s Nature’s Destiny, but true to form, Burke will not say anything positive about anyone associated with ID, so Denton is not mentioned.

    I’m not of course arguing that Burke actually got his material from Denton and suppressed the fact; rather, I’m arguing that Burke is well aware of Denton’s position, as I have mentioned it countless times on BioLogos in his presence. I’m not demanding that Burke identify Denton as a source, since Denton may not be where he got the ideas, but only that Burke be up-front that he is in fact making Denton-like arguments for design and that Denton’s approach to ID is legitimate. But Hillary Clinton will publicly endorse the policies of Donald Trump before Burke concedes anything to any ID proponent.

    Of course, Burke is only one more example, and not the most important one. It’s more important that the big guns at BioLogos acknowledge that some ID writings reason legitimately from the facts of nature. But we don’t see that. Rather, we see them, as in the case of Venema, offering an ID-type position without acknowledging that it was in the ID camp, not the BioLogos camp, that this position was first extensively developed and promoted. The unwritten rule seems to be that ID people must not be given credit for anything.

  3. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    Footnote 2 to my Column Above:

    I thank our colleague Merv, who posted a notice of my column on BioLogos.

    So far there has been one response, and (perhaps predictably) it is from George Brooks, who writes:

    I found Eddie’s key statement from his Hump article is this:

    “The consistent theoretical position of ID (regardless of what individual ID proponents might choose to argue when speaking as Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, or anything else) has been that ID is about design detection, not miracle detection, and that ID is consistent with accounts of origin involving natural causes without recourse to miracles.”

    Brooks, as usual, misses the point. The key point of my article is not about miracles — that is only a side point, which I dealt with because TE/EC folks like Dennis Venema have miracles on the brain whenever they discuss ID. The key point of my article is that the position Venema claims to support is actually a position long ago articulated (10 years before BioLogos existed, in fact) by Michael Denton, who in broad terms is in the ID camp. So Venema ends up by endorsing a certain form of intelligent design. He ends up saying that the whole evolutionary process is intelligently designed by God. Presumably that means that, among other things, it was intelligently designed to produce man.

    But Brooks, always anxious to cavil about side points, ignores the main purport of my article. I wonder if he read it, or only skimmed it, looking for potentially offensive statements that he could quote and quarrel over?

    Brooks goes on to write (making use of loud boldface for some words, which I don’t reproduce here):

    The flagellum issue, and all the other issues I.D. supporters argue about is that these events in Evolution would not happen unless God was there to make it happen.

    At no time is the discussion limited purely to “God conceiving of the evolutionary advance”. It literally has to be about something that would not happen if God didn’t make it happen. That, definitionally, is a miracle.

    And if God made something happen that was not a miracle, then it is something that could happen without his participation.

    Of course, Brooks’s argument is not that of the organization which he claims to be representing. BioLogos has constantly criticized the very claim Brooks is making here, i.e., that if there is no miracle involved, then creation took place without God’s participation. BioLogos writers have endlessly asserted that God (in some unspecified way) participates in creation even if no miracles (interventions, violations of natural laws, etc.) were employed. So Brooks doesn’t even know what his own team says on the question he is writing about.

    Of course, such confusion is not surprising. The whole question of miracles, guidance, etc. in both TE/EC and ID has long caused Brooks great intellectual distress and puzzlement. He seems both to want God to be involved in evolution, and to want God not to be involved in evolution. He rejects and hammers away at ID for (allegedly) claiming that God actually does something (like a miracle) to guide evolution, but on the other hand he has argued time and time again on BioLogos that BioLogos affirms that God has “guided” evolution. It doesn’t matter how many times Collins, Venema, Falk, Lamoureux, and others who are or have been involved in BioLogos say directly or implicitly that they reject any “guidance” of God in evolution; Brooks will keep on asserting that this is their position. And this leaves Brooks in the self-contradictory position of asserting that for BioLogos, God “guides” evolution without actually “guiding” it in any normal sense of the English word. God “guides” evolution by leaving it to the vagaries of a Darwinian process which is the opposite of guidance. The typical BioLogos discussion of this subject of God’s role in evolution is muddy enough, but Brooks manages to make it still muddier by putting the word “guidance” in the mouth of BioLogos, against its own clear refusal to accept that term.

    Sigh. I was hoping that Dennis Venema, who is the main subject of the column, might see the notice of the column, and comment on it, at least on BioLogos. But I suppose that is very unlikely. On the other hand, Venema is always complaining that Discovery does not allow critical comments on its website; well, the Hump does! So here is his chance to sign up and comment on what I wrote about his position. We would welcome him here graciously, I believe.

Leave a Reply