Well, last week pinch-hitting for Phil, I said this:
It is simply irrefutable that the BioLogos project is deeply entrenched in obliterating what's described in my fifth point, and in engaging in activities covered by my fourth point. This is their chief aim -- as it is the aim of every cult, post-orthodoxy, which finds itself wanting to appease some other authority apart from or above Scripture. This assertion requires more than just saying it is so. Look for my exposition of this in the near future.And here we are, a week later, so let's begin.
One of the very helpful things about the BioLogos site is that it is well-constructed. You know: it's easy to find what you're looking for, and also to identify what they think is their most important stuff. For example, you can find right at the top of their site a navigation bar with the tab "The Questions" clearly labelled.
It's quite a list of questions -- good questions as they say. And it's good, for example, that they don't exactly eliminate the the possibility of miracles. In fact, I rather like it that they call miracles "rare" because, of course, this is PyroManiacs and we are what we are.
The problem is that by "rare", they don't mean what common cessationists mean by "rare": they actually mean, "even some of what the Bible identifies as acts of God are probably not actually 'miracles' but are in fact acts which science can explain better than the writers of the books in the Bible."
Before I go there, let's step back a second. I used strong words last week to underscore my exit from Evangel over this issue, and I stand by all of it. I will in fact be spending most of the rest of this year spelling out what I mean by it all by demonstrating it from the BioLogos site -- an activity which will not convert one soul to the Gospel and in that respect be an almost-useless activity from an evangelistic standpoint. But while the saving of the lost is a critical issue, protecting the saved is another, and that's the goal here.
But to do that properly, it's right to treat the statements of BioLogos' contributors fairly -- so while I'm convinced they're headed down the wide and easy road, they do say some things worth considering and putting into the virtual library for our own education.
So for example, you can find this on the page answering the question, "Can scientific and scriptural truth be reconciled?"
Truth is an increasingly complex notion. Postmodern epistemology challenges the very possibility of even obtaining truth, with some philosophers going so far as to say that there is no such thing as truth to be obtained. Very few scientists, however, accept this pessimistic view. Their experience with the regularity of the laws of nature, and the remarkable predictability of natural phenomena on the basis of these laws, has instilled in them a deep intuition that the truth is out there. A truly postmodern scientist is very hard to find.The last sentence is especially droll and instructive as this is the ultimate argument against post-modern skepticism: nobody walks around as if they are the only measure of truth when they actually need something from someone else. Nobody.
BioLogos affirms that truth is indeed something that can be discovered, but acknowledges that human desires and limitations must always be taken into consideration when evaluating particular truth claims. BioLogos also contends that many of the recent pessimistic views of truth are contrived and inconsistent with human experience. Most human beings have enough confidence in the scientific truth to fly in planes or have surgeries. [ephasis added]
The problem is foreshadowed, though, in the underlined parts of the intro statement -- and notice it: scientists aren't postmodern because of their experience.
Just mull that over for a minute before I go on. I'l wait here.
Let's assume for a second that they were simply trying to write what they meant there in popular rather than technical terms, so the implications of experience being the measure of value and truth are actually accidental and not intentional or philosophical.
Here's where they end up in this essay -- and honestly, it's amazing:
Science: Intrinsic Error and Built-In Self CorrectionNow, this is again a seemingly-reasonable view of science, right? The scientific method, replication of results, elimination of bias and so on -- all very Modern in the Enlightenment sense to be sure. But I find two pieces of this puzzle troubling:
Error is intrinsic to all human activity, including science; human technology is imperfect; and human comprehension is incomplete. All these factors contribute to a limited understanding of ultimate, absolute truth.
Nonetheless, science is self correcting. Scientific findings are constantly tested, updated and peer reviewed. Inaccuracies are corrected when new discoveries and experiments bring the truth to light more fully. This does not mean that the truth has changed. Rather the tools used to find the truth revealed their limitations due to flawed technology, inadequate understanding or misinterpretation of data. As these tools improve, science leads us closer and closer to the truth.
Building scientific theories resembles map making. A map gathers different kinds of data like longitude and latitude, elevations, waterways and climate to make a coherent representation of reality. The map is not reality itself but a model of reality. Scientific maps of reality, known as theories, need updating in response to new discoveries or improved understanding.
Selfish motivations and scientific error can also play a role in scientific discovery. Self-promoting individuals can push for outcomes that advance their reputation. A desire for particular results or an assumption about the ways things are can result in manipulation of data, whether consciously or unconsciously. Unfortunately, there have been plenty of examples of such contrived data in the history of science. One chronicle of how such distortions were perpetuated can be found in Steven Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, which retells the tragic story of how 19th century science found alleged data to support prevailing prejudices about the relationship between race and intelligence.
While the scientific method standardizes and minimizes the bias and prejudice of an experimenter, random error is intrinsic to instruments of all measurements. No scientific experiment is exactly precise, and error must always be considered. The imperfections of humans and their methods means that scientific conclusions will never be perfect, but they will certainly improve with time as science advances continue to self correct. Although such critiques and qualifications of the veracity of science are important to consider, we must not let them blind us to the enormous successes of science in uncovering the patterns of nature. [emph added]
1. Notice that science has a self-correcting mechanism which is not actually above science epistemologically, but is intrinsic to science specifically because of its method. Let me say frankly that this is what encouraged me to call BioLogos a cult last week: the plain exclamation from them that, while they may be wrong in some way, their human method is how they will be corrected into standards that will improve in such a way that they produce "enormous success". While I concede that I'm pleased with the combustion engine and Lipitor and air conditioning -- huge wins against the natural world to be sure -- this is first of all a post-modern definition of science as it relies on the validity of experience rather than the nature of objective reality, and also seeing epistemology as answering the question, "does it work?"; second of all, it's also somewhat self-involved (big surprise from postmodernism) because it believes that the only real opportunity in these investigations is to succeed.
2. Because it is inherently a naturalistic view of science (that is, it plainly expresses that all causes can be the subject of scientific discovery -- even if there are other explanations for causes), it sells the Bible short.
Here's what it says about the Bible before it gets to the doxology of the Scientific Method:
Borrowing an example from the Rev. John Polkinghorne, there is more than one answer to the question of why the water in a tea kettle boils. The scientific answer might be because the burning gas heats the water. Another acceptable, though nonscientific, answer could be that the water is boiling because I want to make a cup of tea. Both of these answers are true, and both accurately describe the boiling water from different perspectives. The kinds of answers found in the scriptures are generally nonscientific but are always true.Well, thank heavens that the Bible has some kind of historical truth to it -- but notice the stratification of truth: the scientific reason for why water boils is plainly a primary reference for the matter, and the need for the boiler of water for his tea is "another acceptable" answer.
This is not to say the Bible lacks historical, objective or scientific truth. For example, the Bible reports the existence of the Christmas star, and science offers a possible explanation for the star’s origin. The resurrection of Jesus is another example where the Bible is not limited to giving an explanation of why something happened, but it also makes a clear statement about the historical truth of what happened. [emph added]
And also notice: we can believe the historicity of the birth of Jesus because science has generously explained the Star at His birth. The need to believe that this star was the fulfillment of prophecy, and caused pagan astrologers to come and worship the King of the Jews, may be "another acceptable" explanation, but we're not told that. We'll see how these fellows approach the virgin birth when they get to it -- because for heaven's sake, there are causes for such things.
So my first volley here at those championed by Christopher Benson is this: after we look at the affirmations they provide to answer the question, "Can scientific and scriptural truth be reconciled?" the substance of their answer is clear -- science is the basis for substantiating scripture, and we're grateful that the self-correcting nature of science will improve our grasp of what God has said and done.
More next week. Be with Jesus' people in Jesus household on His day this week, and leave your test tubes and oscilloscopes at home. But drive safely.