According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Differences Between "Intelligent Design" and "Evolutionary Creationism" - Part 2




Reviewing “Darwin’s Doubt”: Robert C. Bishop - The Extended Synthesis, Part 1
http://biologos.org/blog/the-grand-synthesis-reviewing-darwins-doubt-robert-bishop-part-1

by Robert C. Bishop
September 1, 2014

Today's entry was written by Robert C. Bishop. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: As the next installment of our Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt series,
we present part one of Robert Bishop’s four-part review of the book.
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Probably no one has done more to popularize the argument for Intelligent Design (ID) in recent years than Stephen Meyer. In his books, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design and Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, Meyer has given what I think is the strongest argument for ID to be found anywhere. Both of these books are clearly written and nicely illustrated. I believe readers will come away with a thorough understanding of Meyer’s views.

As a Christian, I’m convinced that the universe is a creation of God and, hence, designed. Indeed, the universe appears finely tuned as a life affirming creation. So Meyer and I share a lot in common on these points. As a philosopher and historian of science, I’m also very interested in everything science, particularly intersections between evolutionary biology, philosophy, and theology. Therefore, I was very interested in reading Darwin’s Doubt.

Meyer’s latest book takes its point of departure from what’s often called the Cambrian explosion. This is the “rapid” diversification and proliferation of the major animal body plans taking place in the Ediacaran and Cambrian periods (following Meyer, I will refer to these periods together as “the Cambrian”). Meyer’s treatment of paleontology has already been discussed last week in Ralph Stearley’s review. In this series of posts I will critically examine some features of Darwin’s Doubt that are of interest from the perspective of history and philosophy of science and the case he builds for Intelligent Design. I’ll start with how Meyer frames the current status of neo-Darwinian evolution. In subsequent posts, I will examine two important rhetorical strategies in Meyer’s argumentation and assess his design inference.

Neo-Darwinian Evolution under Attack

The scene is set in the prologue, where Meyer paints a picture of neo-Darwinian evolution as being under attack in the biology literature because it cannot explain macroevolution. Neo-Darwinian evolution (microevolution for Meyer) is a term often used to refer to random genetic variations plus natural selection, whereas macroevolution is the origin of new organs or body plans. According to him, a “host of distinguished biologists have explained in recent technical papers” that:

(i) microevolution cannot give rise to macroevolution, and

(ii) “an increasing number of evolutionary biologists have noted [that] natural selection explains ‘only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest’” (p. x).

There is a sense in which Meyer is right that the adequacy of strict neo-Darwinian evolution (as he defines it) to produce macroevolution has been discussed in the biology literature. The impression he communicates to the reader is that scientists increasingly recognize this inadequacy and are searching for alternatives to neo-Darwinian evolution to “solve the problem.” Meyer argues that ID is the best available alternative. But the picture of the literature he paints leaves the reader with a mis-impression of the kind of revolutionary synthesis that seems to be shaping up in evolutionary biology.

To see this, let’s start with the quotation Meyer uses to great rhetorical effect, that natural selection explains “only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest.” This quote comes from a paper by Gilbert et al. (1996) [1]and certainly sounds as if natural selection is ineffective for explaining macroevolution. In their 1996 paper, Gilbert et al. recount the history of the rise of population genetics as the dominant understanding of evolution. As part of this story, embryology and macroevolution were displaced by or reduced to changes in gene frequencies as early forms of gene-centrism took over in evolutionary biology. That is, focusing on only the genetic underpinnings for change within a species was a hallmark of much early evolutionary theory. The history is fascinating, but the actual story these authors tell is different (and also much more interesting) than the impression Meyer gives.

Consider the passage from which Meyer cites the quote:

The Modern Synthesis is a remarkable achievement. However, starting in the 1970s, many biologists began questioning its adequacy in explaining evolution. Genetics might be adequate for explaining microevolution, but microevolutionary changes in gene frequency were not seen as able to turn a reptile into a mammal or convert a fish into an amphibian. Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest. As Goodwin (1995) points out, “the origin of species–Darwin’s problem–remains unsolved.” This reexamination of the Modern Synthesis has led to three greatre-discoveries in modern biology. These are the simultaneous rediscoveries of macroevolution, homology, and the morphogenic field. A new synthesis is emerging from these three areas, and this developmentally oriented synthesis may soon be able to explain macroevolutionary as well as microevolutionary processes. The first condition for their rediscovery came from scientists such as R. B. Goldschmidt and C. H. Waddington, who saw that all changes important in evolution are alterations to development. (1996, p. 361, emphasis added)

The story that these biologists and historians of biology tell narrates a fairly typical episode in the course of theory development in the sciences–evolutionary biology in this case. Often when developing a new scientific theory, other relevant disciplines can be ignored or even dismissed if it’s thought that the new theory can replace those disciplines. This is what happened in evolutionary biology, where the field of genetics pushed aside embryology, developmental biology, and related disciplines. Sometimes scientists discover that a theory, such as population genetics, cannot replace the fields of study it initially displaced. Gilbert et al. tell the story of how embryology, developmental biology, and other fields have had to be brought back into evolution.

They go on to say that, “The homologies of process within morphogenic fields provide some of the best evidence for evolution–just as skeletal and organ homologies did earlier. Thus, the evidence for evolution is stronger than ever (p. 368, emphasis added). Moreover, they continue, natural selection “is merely a filter for unsuccessful morphologies generated by development” (p. 368). By “merely,” they mean that variations due to development are the main drivers of evolution, but natural selection ensures that developmental and other forms of genetic variations are filtered for what makes for sustainable ways of life for organisms. The overall picture of evolution is still one of variations filtered by natural selection. However, the sources of the most relevant variations, so they argue, are in developmental processes. The thrust of Gilbert et al., then, is a synthesis between neo-Darwinian and developmental biology. The synthesis these authors point to is much more developmentally-oriented, and that is revolutionary with respect to the old neo-Darwinian paradigm. But the emerging synthesis doesn’t leave genetic variations and natural selection out. Instead, developmental biology mediates between the functional biology of gene expression, cells, and anatomy, on the one hand, and the changes in gene frequencies of evolutionary biology, on the other (1996, p. 362). At the end of their article, Gilbert et al. write,

In declaring the morphogenetic field to be a major module of developmental and evolutionary change, we are, of course, setting it up as an alternative to the solely genetic model of evolution and development. This, however, is not to be seen as antagonistic to the principle that genes are important in evolution or development. This is not in any way denied. But just as the genes make the cells and the cells form the body, so the gene products first need to interact to create morphogenetic fields in order to have their effects. Changes in these fields then change the ways that animals develop. (p. 368, emphasis added)

Genes are what they are and do what they do largely due to their developmental context. That is, changes in the body or the environment throughout an organism’s lifetime can alter how genes are expressed, and these changes in gene expression sometimes affect fitness and thus evolution. The more accurate picture of the evolutionary and developmental biology literatures, according to Gilbert et al., is that evolutionary development and epigenetics along with other sources of genetic variation and natural selection are being forged into a new synthesis giving us insight into how both microevolution and macroevolution happen.

Another author Meyer cites in his critique of neo-Darwinian evolution, Wallace Arthur[2], a zoologist specializing in developmental biology, shares a similar vision as Gilbert, et al. Arthur actually argues against using any microevolution/macroevolution distinction for driving a wedge between genetic changes and the origin of higher taxa (Arthur 1997, chs. 2 and 8). Indeed, Arthur doesn’t see neo-Darwinian evolution and developmental biology as opposed to each other in contrast to the picture Meyer paints. Instead, he sees a kind of extended synthesis between the two branches of evolutionary study taking place:

True, neo-Darwinism has, to its detriment, been distinctly ‘non-developmental’. Yet there are parts of the theory which, when cast in a more developmental light, may have considerable explanatory power... essentially what I am proposing here is that Evolutionary Developmental Biology has the potential to form a bridge between population genetic processes and systematic patterns; and thus to help unify evolutionary biology in general. (p. 13-14)

Wallace thinks that developmental biology is contributing to neo-Darwinian evolution’s “missing developmental component” (p. 18).

Gilbert, et al., and Wallace are not alone. Many evolutionary and developmental biologists are pursuing an extended synthesis involving population genetics, developmental biology, epigenetics, and other recent developments.[3] Yet Meyer presents their published research as offering an alternative to or replacement for neo-Darwinian evolution. It is true that some biologists, such as Jerry Coyne, dispute the importance of the contributions of evolutionary developmental biology and epigenetics, and continue to champion a fairly strict, gene-centric neo-Darwinian theory. But for every Coyne there is a Sean Carroll working out the kind of synthesis Gilbert et al. and Wallace are describing. It’s important to understand the difference between picturing the biology literature as working towards a new synthesis versus a literature that is developing mutually exclusive alternatives. Perhaps Meyers misreads the developing revolution as being one of several ideas competing to be the new paradigm, rather than as an emerging extended synthesis. The former picture is the basis for Meyer’s divide-and-conquer and question-shift strategies. I will discuss these in the next post.

  1. Scott F. Gilbert, John M. Opitz, and Rudolf A. Raff, “Resynthesizing Evolutionary and Developmental Biology,” Developmental Biology 173 (1996): 357-372.
  2. Wallace Arthur, The Origins of Animal Body Plans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1997).
  3. For a good overview of the breadth and depth of this synthesis, see Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd B. Müller, eds., Evolution: The Extended Synthesis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (2010). I should note that it’s not clear what the final form of this synthesis will look like though an exciting outline has emerged.
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Robert C. Bishop is the John and Madeline McIntyre Endowed Professor of Philosophy and History of Science and an associate professor of physics and philosophy at Wheaton College in Illinois. He received his master’s degree in physics and doctorate in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin. Bishop's research involves history and philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. Bishop is the author of The Philosophy of the Social Science and co-editor of Between Chance and Choice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Determinism.



Peter Rollins - What We Can Learn from Mark Driscoll re Power and Resistance


Mark Driscoll

Power and Resistance: What we can learn from Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill
http://peterrollins.net/2014/08/power-and-resistance-what-we-can-learn-from-mark-driscoll-and-mars-hill/

by Peter Rollins
August 25, 2014

Previously I’ve written about how ideology doesn’t merely offer us an explicit set of practices that are acceptable and unacceptable, but also an implicit constellation of acceptable ways to do unacceptable practices.

Ideology doesn’t simply police the borders between the law and transgression, but also offers up ways of transgressing what is acceptable to the law. An ideology thus does not only create the distinction between the category of orthodox and heretic (or sacred and profane), but also offers up ways of being a heretic (profane) that are allowed by the authorities (the sacred).

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An interesting example of this can be seen in a recent campaign by the Australian group Love Makes a Way. In protest against the imprisonment of children seeking asylum, various religious leaders in Adelaide engaged in an illegal sit-in at the electoral office of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. For a time this protest was allowed, but eventually the police were called in to remove them.

What we witness here is the slide from an acceptable form of transgressive protest to an unacceptable one.

Initially the act was tolerated. Indeed, if they had simply entered, made a statement, then left this would have been an acceptable transgression allowed by the authorities. It would also have been largely ineffective in making change. But there came a point when the transgression of the protestors was no longer acceptable to the authorities and the police started making arrests.

This wasn’t the first time Love Makes a Way had engaged in such activities. Previously some religious leaders who had been arrested were charged and brought to court. Yet this only caused embarrassment to the Government, for the media covered the story and citizens started to ask difficult questions concerning the unjust policy. In addition, the protestors were acquitted and the Judge commended them for their stance (another serious embarrassment to the Government).

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Of course ideological systems quickly adjust to such acts. Hence, those who place themselves in the camp of resistance need to constantly adjust their strategy. In the above example the police quickly learned that they should quietly release the next batch of protestors rather than put them through the courts.

The point here is that ideological systems operate with a subterranean network of transgressive practices, practices that are needed for the smooth running of the system itself. A Government might, for example, champion human rights, freedom and justice, while implicitly engaging in torture, the creation of Black Hole prisons and imprisonment without recourse to the legal system. These subterranean activities are needed by the system to manage a crisis within that system, but the abusive practices cannot be named.

Effective protest involves bringing these unspoken truths to the surface, confronting the system with its own disavowed truth. This can only happen when dissidents refuse to play into the perverse system of acceptable protest (protest endorsed by the system it attacks) and instead find ways of bringing those things into the light of day. Yet, with each move dissidents make, the system will attempt to compensate, adjust, and normalize. Hence new ways of transgressing the norm must be found.

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This cat-and-mouse game is what we see play out in the events surrounding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill in recent years. As such it offers an instructive example of the relationship between between power and resistance.

Mars Hill, like any ideological system, was able to maintain its equilibrium through a subterranean network of disavowed activities (plagiarism, manipulation of book sales, unfair sacking, totalitarian leadership structures, anonymous outbursts of rage etc.). These activities were, to a greater or lesser extent, known by many members of Mars Hill. But they remained part of the secret pact of the organization.

While Driscoll recently said that he had wished these transgressions were dealt with internally (rather than in the “court of public opinion”) the problem is precisely that these transgressions are generally already known internally (for example, many employees of Mars Hill will have known about how book sales figures were being manipulated and people were being unfairly dismissed). An internal process would then be an impotent gesture that would lead to little more than token changes. For real transformation to happen resistance needs to occur in a way that isn’t endorsed by the system it critiques.

It was only because many who left Mars Hill became increasingly vocal about the abuse, combined with the persistence of individuals like Stephanie Drury, Matthew Paul Turner, and Rachael Held Evans, that the implicit constellation of acceptable transgressions within the Mars Hill edifice (transgressions that enabled it to function), were directly exposed. An exposure that led to the exposure of a fundamentally unjust and oppressive culture.

It’s hard to tell what will happen next, for the system will try hard to adapt. For example Driscoll is currently closely working with the highly skilled conservative PR firm DeMoss. Their job, which they will do well, will be to attempt to re-establish equilibrium within the system via token gestures, minor adjustments and highly orchestrated attempts to appease critics. In contrast, those who have been bringing up the subterranean network of abuses within Mars Hill have few resources at their disposal. Yet regardless of what happens at Mars Hill, what we see playing out is a very clear example of how power and resistance operate.

Politically speaking, this can help us understand the importance of what is currently taking place in Ferguson, MO. What we witness there are protestors who are finding ways to bring to light the systemic racism operating within the political system itself, a resistance that is drawing to the light of day the ubiquitous, normalized violence operating in disavowed ways. Distressingly, when exposing such abuse within a system that controls the police and military, the results will often be brutal, horrifying and deadly. But the world is watching and, if the protestors are successful, change will gradually come.