Francis Collins has created a website devoted to his concept of BioLogos, which, it turn out, is just another word for Theistic Evolution. The website is funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Many of us have difficulty understanding how a personal God can be involved in guiding evolution without violating the laws of physics and chemistry. In other words, how is Theistic Evolution/BioLogos compatible with science? This is a key question since we know that major scientific organizations (AAAS, NAS, NCSE) support the notion that science and religion are compatible. In fact, they explicitly support Francis Collins and Theistic Evolution.
Let's see how science and religion are compatible by looking at Question 14 on the BioLogos website [What role could God have in evolution?].
Divine Action is defined as God’s interaction with creation. Due to the understanding that evolution accounts for the diversity of present life forms, it might appear God played no role in the process of evolution. (See Question 26 about The Complexity of Life.) Clearly this contradicts the central doctrine of creation for many faiths. Christianity, for example, professes a God actively involved in creation. Many faiths share the concept of an interactive God, or theism. The opposing belief — the belief in an uninvolved, disinterested God — is deism.Collins sees this a a major problem. According to him, Christians believe in creation and a strictly scientific explanation of evolution seems incompatible with this belief.
Elsewhere on the website, Collins makes it clear that theism is not deism and his view of Theistic Evolution/BioLogos is not deistic. So how does he solve the problem?
Any God worthy of the name has to be capable of miracles, and each of the great Western religions attributes a number of very special miracles to their conception of God. What can science say about a miracle? Nothing. By definition, the miraculous is beyond explanation, beyond our understanding, beyond science.
Ken Miller in "Finding Darwin's God" p. 239Well, it's not very clear to me. There is some hand-waving and some backhanded suggestions but nothing specific is described. In this sense, the Francis Collins version of Theistic Evolution is similar to that of Ken Miller in Finding Darwin's God. Here's the BioLogos version..
Even before Darwin’s contribution to biology, the scientific revolution in physics marked a tremendous advance in our understanding of the world. Scientists discovered that the world’s behavior could be explained and predicted with great accuracy on the basis of physical laws. Nature, as understood at the time, appeared to reliably follow a set of fundamental rules. For example, the motion of planets could be explained as a necessary result of their obedience to the force of gravity. This understanding of the world lent itself to the belief in a rational, consistent creator.This is the potential area of conflict. If science says that evolution obeys the laws of physics and chemistry then there's no room for an interventionist God without violating those rules. And if your God does that then there's a conflict between science and religion. They are not compatible.
But, as Polkinghorne puts it, these laws might also come across as “a gift from the Greeks.”5 Given a second look, they challenge basic theism. For as much as these laws signify a rational creator, their trustworthiness could also imply God’s absence. After all, if the laws of nature can explain almost any phenomenon, how is God involved? In order to understand how God could take an active role, or how the world could have any inherent freedom, the laws of nature must be somehow open or flexible. The world’s future cannot be entirely determined or predictable from any given moment.
What to do? Miller and Collins, and many other theists, opt for a solution where God can intervene at the quantum level without ever being detected. Thus, nature only appears to obey the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry because God is clever enough to disguise his interventions.
The mechanical worldview of the scientific revolution is now a relic. Modern physics has replaced it with a very different picture of the world. With quantum mechanical uncertainty and the chaotic unpredictability of complex systems, the world is now understood to have a certain freedom in its future development. Of course, the question remains whether this openness is a result of nature’s true intrinsic chanciness or the inevitable limit to humans’ understanding. Either way, one thing is clear: a complete and detailed explanation or prediction for nature’s behavior cannot be provided. This was already a problem for Newtonian mechanics; however, it was assumed that in principle, science might eventually provide a complete explanation of any natural event. Now, though, we see that the laws of nature are such that scientific prediction and explanation are ultimately limited.So this is how to make science and religion compatible. Let's restate it so that everyone can grasp the argument,
It is thus perfectly possible that God might influence the creation in subtle ways that are unrecognizable to scientific observation. In this way, modern science opens the door to divine action without the need for law breaking miracles. Given the impossibility of absolute prediction or explanation, the laws of nature no longer preclude God’s action in the world. Our perception of the world opens once again to the possibility of divine interaction.
Despite the uncertainty and unpredictability of the world, we are not forced to reject the earlier understanding of God’s creation as consistent and reliable. After all, the world still exhibits the same orderly behavior that inspired so many faithful scientists of earlier centuries. Regardless of the irregularity of tiny,quantum mechanical, or complex, chaos theoretical, systems, the sun stills rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, and objects fall to the ground. Nature is reliable enough to reflect God’s faithfulness yet flexible enough to permit God’s involvement.
"... modern science opens the door to divine action without the need for law breaking miracles. Given the impossibility of absolute prediction or explanation, the laws of nature no longer preclude God’s action in the world.."On the surface it seems to work since, by definition, all of God's interventions and guidance are undetectable. Therefore, there can't be any obvious conflict between the purely modern scientific view of evolution and creationism.
Personally, I don't think you can have your cake and eat it too. Once you start attributing events to God's intervention you are conflicting with a strictly materialistic interpretation of those same events. It doesn't matter whether your God is extremely careful to fool scientists into thinking that evolution is natural. The very act of postulating divine intervention in the natural world is not compatible with the scientific way of knowing.
Here's the bottom line, according to Francis Collins.
Our modern understanding of physical laws combined with a proper understanding of God’s relationship to time can be synthesized into a robust theistic worldview. Darrel Falk provides the following perspective:This is how evolution and creationism are compatible. This idea that "God’s spirit guides the progression of life" is the view that major scientific organizations and the NCSE endorse as being compatible with science.
“The Bible tells us that God created, but it does not tell us how, and we need to be careful that we do not force the God of the Universe into one of our human molds. […] What do we learn about the nature of God’s activity from studying the Bible? One thing we learn is that God builds freedom into His creation. […] Just as God builds freedom into our lives today, so freedom may well be a central component of God’s biological world as well. This is not to say that God is not playing a supervisory role in creation in a manner resembling the role God plays in my life and yours. But there is no a priori scriptural reason to assume that the biological world was created one species at a time by the God of the Universe “pushing creation buttons” each time he wanted a new species. […] God’s spirit guides the progression of life. His presence is never far from creation, just as it is never far from the events of my life. Nonetheless God respects my freedom and (I suspect) values freedom in the rest of creation as well.”
[Photo Credit: Francis Collins discusses “The Language of God”]