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Where's the Dialogue? Alas, Colleague of Francis Collins at "Biologos" Doesn't Offer Any

When talking with friendly journalists, theistic evolution proponent Francis Collins typically insists that he wants to initiate a "dialogue" about faith and evolution.

But Collins and his colleagues at the Biologos Foundation seem curiously averse to engaging in real dialogue.

A case in point is a cranky blog entry posted this week by theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson, Francis Collins' colleague at Biologos. Giberson, whom I debated at Biola University a few months ago, denounces Discovery Institute's new Faith and Evolution website as "slick, well-resourced, rhetorically clever, profoundly misleading, and almost completely devoid of any real science." Whew! Giberson's own post might be charitably described as "almost completely devoid of any real substance." Giberson goes on to claim:

At BioLogos, we present solid evidence in favor of evolution... We do not simply offer anti-design arguments and assume that we win by default. At Faith+Evolution, they produce no evidence for their position, nor do they even describe the "design model" they supposedly all embrace; all they present are arguments against evolution, with the supposed inference that "design" wins if evolution is defeated. In the final analysis, the site is little more than a exercise in rhetoric--how can we frame what looks like a compelling argument for a position that we can't even articulate to ourselves.

I wonder how much of the Faith and Evolution site Giberson actually read. Our website certainly presents the scientific challenges to modern Darwinian theory--the sort of information you won't find on Giberson's Biologos site. But, contrary to Giberson, the Faith and Evolution site also presents the positive evidence for intelligent design. If you doubt this, go to the site's topic page about intelligent design. There you can read this summary of the scientific evidence supporting design, along with links to additional articles that provide a more detailed discussion (links to some of these articles can also be found here). As for a thoughtful presentation of the overall evidence and logic of the theory of intelligent design, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer's 33-page scholarly article is a great place to start. Unlike the completely one-sided Biologos site, Faith and Evolution also highlights articles by those with different views: just look at the Debates section.

Giberson's broadside against Faith and Evolution is a remarkable example of projection. Giberson attacks a website with which he disagrees as "profoundly misleading, and almost completely devoid of any real science," when it's his own article that makes patently false claims with no evidence to back them up. Giberson's basic approach is to insinuate that intelligent design proponents are insincere or disingenuous (hence our "slick" and "profoundly misleading" website). But Giberson never bothers to respond to the actual arguments offered throughout our website. To borrow a metaphor from our critics, this is intellectual exchange "in a cheap tuxedo." It has the appearance of debate without its substance.

All in all, this is a strange way to do "dialogue": Smear the integrity of the other party, rather than respond to his or her arguments. For myself, I don't doubt that Giberson sincerely believes that the evidence supports Darwinian theory, or that he sincerely thinks that intelligent design is wrong. But it would be nice if he would return the favor and treat intelligent design proponents as sincere. In a good dialogue, both parties typically at least assume the good faith of each other and try to respond with arguments based on evidence, not specious attacks on motives.

Maybe Giberson and his colleagues hope that intelligent design proponents will disappear so they don't have to engage them. But that's not going to happen. The debate over design in nature has been one of the great debates in Western civilization reaching back as far as Plato, and it's not about to go away. The accumulated evidence for intelligent design supplied by discoveries in physics, cosmology, astronomy, chemistry, biology, mathematics and related fields is simply too great.

Interestingly, the folks at Biologos essentially acknowledge the evidence for design in physics and astronomy. They just want to build a wall between those disciplines and biology: Outside of biology, reasonable people are allowed to discuss the evidence for design; inside biology, it's verboten. The Biologos position might be called "designer lite." But there is no good reason why evidence for design cannot be considered in whatever area it is found. When one discovers the same fine-tuning inside the cell that one finds in the universe as a whole, why shouldn't one be able to draw the same inference? More to the point, why shouldn't reasonable people be able to discuss the evidence for design in biology without having their motives questioned? Are the proponents of theistic evolution at Biologos so insecure that they don't want to allow an open discussion that includes anyone who disagrees with them?