Dembski: Darwinism not 'theologically neutral'
Editor's note: To read a second story Baptist Press has posted on this issue, visit http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37901
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Darwinism and Christianity, even when generously defined, exhibit tensions that are so serious that Darwinism cannot be rightly regarded as theologically neutral, William Dembski wrote in the "Southern Baptist Voices" series hosted by The BioLogos Foundation.
The series, at BioLogos.org, includes essays from seven Southern Baptist seminary professors as well as responses to each from BioLogos representatives.
Dembski, research professor of philosophy and director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted in his essay "Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?" that while all Christians embrace Christ, not all reject Charles Darwin's views about the origin of humans.
"So the question becomes whether Christians can embrace both Darwin and Christ with integrity, giving each his due without slighting the other," Dembski wrote in the second Southern Baptist essay in the series. "This is the real question underlying Darwinism's presumed theological neutrality."
Dembski, a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, set forth four non-negotiables of Christianity: God created the world out of nothing, the world reflects God's glory, humans alone are made in the image of God and God raised Jesus from the dead.
Four non-negotiables of Darwinism, Dembski wrote, are that all organisms are related to a common ancestor, biological adaptations can be attributed to natural selection, humans are continuous with other animals and the physical world operates by unbroken natural law.
Dembski, who in August will transition to a position as a research fellow with the Discovery Institute in Seattle, explained the tensions that exist between the non-negotiables of Christianity and the non-negotiables of Darwinism.
"God might, as a master of stealth, wipe away all fingerprints of his activity," Dembski wrote. "He might be guiding evolution in ways that to us look like chance (e.g., random variation) and necessity (e.g., natural selection). But if so, how could we know?
"... Darwinism doesn't so much say that God doesn't exist as that God need not exist."
Dembski went on to write, "The world, as a matter of general revelation, testifies to the divine glory, and failure by humans to acknowledge this fact results not from a dearth of evidence but from human wickedness, which willfully suppresses the truth of God's revelation in creation (Romans 1:20)."
Darrel Falk, president of The BioLogos Foundation, wrote a response to Dembski's essay, saying at the outset it is important to note that "Darwininsm" is a contested and ideologically charged term. Falk does not consider his view Darwinian, though he concedes that it is perceived that way by some.
Falk believes God created all living organisms, including humans, through the evolutionary process, and the laws of nature are "simply a description of God's ongoing and non-ceasing activity in the universe."
"So consistent is that activity that it can be described mathematically through scientific analysis," Falk wrote. "If God ceased to be active, however, then not only would the matter of this universe no longer function in a way which enables a mathematical description of gravity, matter itself would cease to exist."
Humans tend to expect that for something as special as creation of new species, God's supernatural activity would have been required, Falk wrote.
But he added, "We should not assume with certainty that God would choose to use supernatural flurries of activity if his ongoing regular activity -- that prescribed through natural laws -- would accomplish the same end, albeit over a longer period of time," Falk wrote. "For all we know, God may prefer slowness, even though we seem to be inclined to think that faster is better."
The natural activity of God, Falk believes, is not less divine than the supernatural activity of God.
"This does not mean that I think no supernatural activity occurred in life's history; I just don't see why it would be 'odd' if God chose to create life's diversity through his natural activity," Falk wrote.
What makes humans exceptional, he wrote, "has less to do with biology than with the fact that God chose to enter into a unique relationship with humankind." Just as with the people of Israel among the nations, Falk wrote, humans' special identity rests with God's choice to give them His name.
"In the way that matters most, we are not continuous with animals," Falk wrote. "For philosophical and theological reasons, Darwin did not recognize this. Darwin, I believe, was wrong. I, like Dembski and like Southern Baptists in general, am not a Darwinist."
Dembski replied to Falk in an essay posted at evolutionnews.org, a Discovery Institute website, concluding, "I found it refreshing that Falk would distance himself and BioLogos from strict Darwinism, which Falk rightly sees as spanning not only the 'Origin of Species' but also the far more theologically contentious 'Descent of Man.'"
"Ultimately, our main source of disagreement is scientific: What properly counts as scientific inquiry? Can [Intelligent Design] legitimately qualify as science? Is the evidence for a purely naturalistic form of evolution so compelling that thinking Christians must adopt it?," Dembski wrote. "I hope to see further exploration of such questions at BioLogos." (for the full text, go to www.evolutionnews.org/2012/05/is_darwinism_th059411.html).
Subsequent essays in the Southern Baptist Voices series will be posted at BioLogos.org throughout the summer.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).