Theistic evolution as creationism for academics (part 2)

Biologos, the Templeton-funded brainchild of NIH director Francis Collins, has an article written to defend the fine-tuning argument from the accusation that it is of the God-of-the-gaps form typical of all Creationisms. Their exegesis of the argument begins with the statement, “Unlike a God-of-the-gaps argument, the argument for fine-tuning uses science without divine action to reveal the impeccable precision of our Universe. […] Fine-tuning does not try to draw attention to where science has failed, but rather emphasizes how science has revealed the intricate balance of the universe.” Now reread that passage while substituting the phrase “intelligent design” in place of “fine-tuning” and see how difficult it is to imagine Stephen Meyer writing it.

Their second defense of the argument consists of the claim that it is not meant to prove the existence of God, but only to “add credence to belief in a creator.” However, according to the very first sentence of this article, God-of-the-gaps arguments “use gaps in scientific explanation as indicators, or even proof, of God’s action…” It is unclear to me what meaningful distinction exists here between an observation “indicating” and an observation “lending credence to belief in” something.

The author also illustrates the theological risk of engaging in gap-centric apologetics with the apocryphal story of Laplace’s statement to Napoleon after being questioned about the absence of God from his work on celestial motions: “I had no need of that hypothesis.” Ironically, the next sentence of Biologos’ article informs the reader, “Of course, God can be still be used as a hypothesis for the existence of the universe.” This is true, but only because for the most part, the origin of the universe remains a gap in scientific knowledge. Laplace’s statement still stands: God is unnecessary. The Biologos article fails to distinguish the reasoning behind the argument from fine-tuning from that of the biological design argument. Indeed, fine-tuning is also part of the Discovery Institute’s apologetic arsenal.

The article at Biologos goes on to defend Francis Collins’ argument that human morality suggests a personal God. The author admits that ethologists can explain the general observation of altruism in nature. However, he finds Jesus in what he terms “radical altruism” (those rare events when someone jumps in front of a bus to save a stranger). I won’t dwell on answering the argument that this represents a gap in scientific knowledge, as the purpose of this post has merely been to highlight how Biologos locates God in what they perceive as gaps. Suffice it to say that absent any evidence for a genetic basis to a propensity toward “radical altruism,” it is premature to demand an adaptive explanation for it.

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Filed under Accommodationism, Christianity, Religion, Science

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