The two BioLogos threads I mentioned here attracted some attention at Uncommon Descent. There seemed some consensus amongst even those who disagree on detail that Darrel Falk and other BioLogos people are somewhat less than forthcoming on just how they relate God’s creative input to outcomes in the “natural” order.
Another opportunity to tease this out comes from Ted Davis’ new series on BioLogos. I’m beginning to like him already – be speaks his mind, and it contains a great deal of sense. I made a small contribution to this thread yesterday. Darrel Falk, replying to “Y Y”, who suggested BioLogos should be more sympathetic to ID, is clearly speaking ex cathedra when he says:
All of us at BioLogos believe in intelligent design.
He then goes on to differentiate this presumably official position from the possibility of design as a scientific hypothesis, prefering to see only:
signposts for the work of God all over the place.
I then posted a request for a clear BioLogos definition of design for comparison with ID’s concept, referencing Francisco Ayala’s angry denunciation of the attribution of “egregious design errors” to God as “blasphemy” in his noview of Stephen Meyer’s book, and various authors’ dismissal of the idea of God as a “mere” designer. I offered my old OED’s definitions of design as mental plan, purpose, end in view, adaptation of means to end for a starter for discussion.
Darrel’s reply unequivocally accepted that definition – which would appear to offer a complete rapprochement with ID, or at least id. But he is then quick to exclude an “engineering” concept of design, denying God’s (a) planning of individual varieties of bacterial flagellum (the good stuff) and (b) his orchestration of the “amazingly intricate” details of viral activity (the bad stuff). You may ask what God’s role is, then, in the biological mental plan, purpose, end in view, adaptation of means to end.
Darrel’s reply is that “the process is God’s process”, but that God is not manipulating the detail. That’s delightfully vague, when you think about it. “Britain is Queen Elizabeth’s nation” could parallel it, in which case the mental plan and purpose would be simply to be a figurehead. But the most natural understand would be something like the “design” of the man who invented Association Football, who need never have played, or even watched a game in his life. His purpose or end was to make a good game for others to play, but he would have absolutely no input into the result of the next World Cup.
Or, given that classical evolutionary theory depends on variations random with regard to fitness, we could be talking about the man who designed the roulette wheel, or dice: his aim then was to design a process whose outcomes cannot be foreseen or planned at all. That idea of “intelligent design”, as the design of a random number generator, seems a long way from what classical theism has always understood.
Fortunately Falk gives a clarifying example: his own family environment. The upbringing of children requires planning, purpose and so on, but the outcomes cannot be engineered. He applies this analogy to a creation given constrained freedom to “make itself.” In my reply to Darrel I pointed out that the uncertainty of family outcomes is only because children, like us, are autonomous, conscious and morally accountable. I asked him whether the non-human creation could correctly be said to have any of those qualities, the prerequisites of any kind of freedom.
I also mentioned that in the true parallel with his example, the family of the Trinity, the outcomes were very far from uncertain – the Son mirrors his Father to the extent that, “I and the Father are one”, “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” “I always do my Father’s will” and so on. It is that very identity to his Father that makes Christ God in visible form, allowing us to know God. In other words, we cannot predict how our children will turn out because both they, and we as parents, are sinful and limited. So far I have received no reply to this, and do not expect to as Darrel has answered points made by others after my last response.
I will add here that I also responded to a later post of Ted’s, in which he expresses sympathy for Owen Gingerich’s proposal that God might act in nature by influencing quantum events “along certain beneficial lines”. I asked how one might distinguish (scientifically or theologically) lines so influenced from lines left to themselves – in other words, how it meshes with Darrel’s stated concept of “design”. Unfortunately I don’t expect a reply as Ted had already given notice of leaving the discussion.
So can we conclude anything from this brief exchange? In the first place we can put a very big question mark over Darrel Falk’s use of Scripture. In support of his contention that God allows creation freedom to “make itself”, and then rejoices in whatever results, he cites Psalms 104, 8, 19 and 139. I would urge you to read these now. Given that the hypothesis he opposes is that God gets involved in planning the details of creation, to which of the two viewpoints do these Scriptures actually lend weight?
We cannot actually conclude what Darrel, speaking representatively of BioLogos here, actually means by the created order having “freedom” – is the inanimate world conscious, or what? We cannot actually conclude whether God is the man who only designs the dice, or something more. We cannot even venture an opinion on how God implemented the design of the dice – maybe that is part of the very detail he leaves to creation itself? We are, in fact, left with a good, straightforward, dictionary definition of design with a very problematic and muddled application – does anyone in your world really think of “design” at all in the conduct of child rearing?
We know none of these things because, as in two prevous threads, the explanations were no longer forthcoming from BioLogos when such questions were raised. The line suddenly went dead. Disagreement, incommunication, or evasiveness? It begins to look uncomfortably like the last to me.