Friday, May 29, 2009

Francis Collins, the Discovery Institute, good news from Amanda Gefter, and time for an extreme Christian cage fight

Excellent news from the New Scientist, in Amanda Gefter's column Christians battle each other over evolution.

It seems the much loved Seattle based Discovery Institute, font of all things wise in the area of intelligent design, has just launched a website, Faith and Evolution.

Curiously the clip currently featured on the site starts with some views from the street that shout the joys of evolution, but presumably that's cunning reverse marketing, designed to scare the faithful flock away from these dumb satanists towards the joys of intelligent design.

Below the fancy clip with the sombre voice, the real target stands revealed, and that's Francis Collins:

Is Francis Collins Right about Evolution?
By Jonathan Wells

Francis Collins feels that intelligent design poses a serious problem to Christian belief because it rejects Darwinian evolution, which he feels is supported by overwhelming evidence. But the only evidence Collins cites for Darwin’s mechanism of variation and selection is microevolution—minor changes within existing species. And the principal evidence he cites for Darwin’s claim of common ancestry is DNA sequences that he says have no function—though genome researchers are discovering that many of them do have functions.

Collins’s defense of Darwinian theory turns out to be largely an argument from ignorance that must retreat as we learn more about the genome—in effect, a Darwin of the gaps.

The site has been cranked up as a rebuttal to Collins's own recently established site for the BioLogos Foundation, which pushes both a strong Christian and a strong evolutionary line. It's all for peace and harmony:

BioLogos represents the harmony of science and faith. It addresses the central themes of science and religion and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life. To communicate this message to the general public and add to the ongoing dialog, The BioLogos Foundation created

Funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the Web site is a reliable source of scholarly thought on contemporary issues in science and faith that highlights the compatibility of modern science with traditional Christian beliefs. features responses to a myriad of questions received by Collins, author of The Language of God, Karl Giberson, author of Saving Darwin, and Darrel Falk, author of Coming to Peace With Science since the publication of their books.

Collins, who was recently named a rock star of science, in an advertising campaign launched in GQ that also featured Joe Perry, lead guitarist of Aerosmith - a campaign designed to make science rock as a career choice for the next generation and "to raise their platinum voices in demand for future research funding". (You can catch a pdf of the campaign here).

The Discovery Institute really hammer away at Collins:

According to noted biologist Richard Dawkins, Darwinian evolution makes it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. According to Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, evolution is perfectly compatible with his Christian faith. Who is right? And why does it matter? This website is designed to help you find out. Here you will find articles, debates, video and audio, discussion questions, and other free resources as you explore the issues surrounding faith and evolution. This site is designed to be especially helpful for pastors, lay leaders, Sunday School teachers, and students. 

Are you starting to reel a little and think only in America?

Gefter doesn't have much sympathy for either side - for Discovery Institute pretending that intelligent design is science, while also wondering how Collins' crusade to sell interested observers on "theistic evolution" will work out. And she gets a little anxious about science getting caught in the cross fire:

The Discovery Institute has now made it crystal clear that they have no interest in reconciling science and religion – instead, they want their brand of religion to replace science. Which makes it all the more concerning when their new website includes resources and curricula for high-school biology classes, and promotes the pseudoscientific documentary film "Expelled" as part of their campaign to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of "academic freedom".

I guess she has a point - dumb political science under Stalin put real science back a generation, and if fundamentalists have their way, then America will suddenly discover the reality of dumb science in their own backyard.

But when Christians get into this kind of slanging match, I think science benefits by just standing by, with a bemused look. Instead of listening to another round of Christian baiting by the likes of a Richard Dawkins, this kind of feudin' and fussin' and name callin' gets personal as members ostensibly of the same religion, and sharing the same god, hunker down for verbal combat, video wars, and intertubes campaigns.

But why stop there, when it could all be sorted so easily. Just get a representative from the Discovery Institute and put them up against Collins in an Xtreme cage fight, no holds barred, with the last man breathing the winner. It might even be better if there was a tag team match, with the WEC involved, so it could be staged in one of their fancy octagonal rings. 

Either god will step in and support his old testament team, or the evolutionary Christians - toughened by survival of the fittest thinking, and also with god on their side - will kill off that branch of backward theology.

Talk about win win, and no need to muddy the waters with any actual science.

Sing it for us Mariah:

Do you know where you're going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?

Do you get what you're hoping for?
When you look behind you there's no open door
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?

Well yes, I do, I'm hoping for a rumble in the jungle, a thriller in Manilla, a chiller diller showdown between the true believers ... and the true believers. Ring that bell ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


We have just added your latest post "Francis Collins, the Discovery Institute, good news from Amanda Gefter, and time for an extreme Christian cage fight" to our Directory of Science . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory and get a huge base of visitors to your website.

Warm Regards Team