Hindsight is 20/20explains why BioLogos does not promote the Warfare Thesis. Davis explains that just because the Warfare Thesis (the claim that Christianity often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances) is wrong doesn’t mean there aren’t real conflicts here and there. Davis points to geocentrism and the young-earth beliefs as examples of legitimate conflicts between religion and science. Davis’ point is that while the overarching model of Warfare between religion and science is flawed, there certainly are particular conflicts. So while we need to clarify the failure of the Warfare Thesis, we must not over compensate. We must not reject any and all conflicts as unreal:
My first goal in writing for BioLogos is to get the history right, in all of its complexity. If we want to overthrow the Warfare Thesis (and all of my work is aimed at doing just that), we can’t be replacing it with an equally inaccurate, sanitized view of things.
It was precisely this error that I fell into when I claimed that BioLogos promotes the Warfare Thesis, according to Davis. Davis says that I have a “Misunderstanding of the History of Science and Religion.” After all, BioLogos’ position today is comparable to Galileo’s position four centuries ago when he advocated heliocentrism.
Davis makes many good points, not the least of which is that the history of the interaction between science and religion is a complicated one. The Warfare Thesis is obviously flawed, but nonetheless there certainly have been, and remain today, areas of conflict. That is an important point that I have made many, many times. It is central to this blog and the recent posts (here, here and here) about BioLogos make this very point. Therefore it is a bit perplexing that Davis can, nonetheless, find what would be a sophomoric mistake:
What he fails to understand—or at least, what he fails to tell his readers—is that we historians continue to think there are some instances of genuine conflict between science and religion
Of course there is genuine conflict between science and religion. But how did Davis miss my telling my readers about it? For instance, one post explains that “Evolution was never about the science, but rather is motivated and justified by, yes, religious beliefs. That is abundantly documented, from Leibniz to Darwin to Coyne.” Another post gives this explanation:
evolutionary thinking is obvious in ancient Epicureanism, but its resurgence in the seventeenth century was almost exclusively the work of Christian thinkers. Descartes, Malebranche, Cudworth, Ray, Burnet, Leibniz and Wolfe are good examples of how widespread was the movement within Christian thought, and of how varied were the arguments for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. These Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans agreed that the world must have arisen by natural causes. The common theme was that the arguments were theological and philosophical (i.e., metaphysical rather than scientific). These mandates for naturalism increased and by the nineteenth century were the received truths for progressives. This was the culture Charles Darwin was born into and his book applied these arguments for naturalism to the problem of the origins of the species. Darwin’s thought—from his early notebooks, to Origins, to his later works and autobiography—was thoroughly metaphysical. God must have created via law not miracle and, ever since Darwin, Christians have embraced this belief just as strongly as the pre Darwin Christians had promoted it. … In fact, from a strictly scientific perspective, a naturalistic origins fares no better than a perpetual motion machine. The clear message of science, then and now, is that the world did not likely arise spontaneously.
If that isn’t conflict between science and religion then what is?
But Davis seeks to defend the BioLogos evolutionists and clear BioLogos of the Warfare Thesis. One way to do this is to label any such criticism as a naïve misunderstanding—a failure to understand genuine conflicts. To identify BioLogos with the Warfare Thesis is to deny the existence of any legitimate conflicts between religion and science, because BioLogos is doing nothing more than pointing those out.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. BioLogos is not merely pointing out some particular, current examples of religious resistance to science. Instead, BioLogos fits precisely into, yes, the Warfare Thesis.
BioLogos advocates the spontaneous origins of the world (i.e., evolution according to chance plus natural law), claims that this evolutionary conviction is a compelling, empirical scientific conclusion, and then accuses skeptical Christians of using their religion to oppose science. This is precisely the argument of the Warfare Thesis. And like earlier Warfare Thesis proponents, they (i) appeal to Galileo, as though that brings some justification and (ii) seek a “harmonization” in which today’s Epicureanism determines the facts, and skepticism is demoted to mere feeling and faith. Where it counts, this is no different than yesterday’s Warfare Thesis.
But in fact evolutionary thought is soaking in religious influence. Theological proofs are what motivate and justify evolutionary thought—they are at its foundation. Evolutionists, from the seventeenth century to today, have made that abundantly clear. And they use the Warfare Thesis claim the high ground of science and blame the other guy for what they do.
It is easy to look back to centuries past and see the error of those who have come before. It is more difficult to see that same error today. But we must if we are to educate ourselves and avoid such recurring errors. As a previous post explained:
So whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionists were clear about their metaphysical assumptions and how those assumptions mandated naturalism, today’s evolutionists obfuscate their message with the Warfare Thesis. They make the same non biblical, theological and philosophical arguments for evolution in their apologetic literature. But then argue that their proofs are scientific, not metaphysical, and claim their skeptics are the ones with the bad science and bad religion.
The Warfare Thesis is not merely something from long ago. It is not a problem from the past that we have now fixed. It is inherent in our modern day Epicureanism, and it won’t go away until we recognize it.