Mung, a theistic evolutionist who disagrees with some of his kind

Mung: What I Believe

I am neither YEC nor OEC, so don’t really know of a label I can give you.

I accept that the universe is old, that the earth is old. No problem with dating as provided by the latest science.

I am a theist and a Christian. I am not a deist. I am not a naturalist. I reject the idea of “nature acting alone.”

I believe the universe is created and sustained by God I believe the same of all living beings. I accept common descent or descent with modification as the best explanation for the history of life on earth, but reject the idea that this happens without God (by a random undirected process).

I’ve not identified myself as a theistic evolutionist because I find myself in disagreement with theistic evolutionist authors.

So the best description I can offer is “intelligent design” proponent.

BioLogos: What We Believe

  1. We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means through which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.
  2. We believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature. Properly interpreted, Scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.
  3. We believe that all people have sinned against God and are in need of salvation.
  4. We believe in the historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. We believe in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved and reconciled to God.
  5. We believe that God is directly involved in the lives of people today through acts of redemption, personal transformation, and answers to prayer.
  6. We believe that God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as “natural laws.” Yet we also affirm that God works outside of natural law in supernatural events, including the miracles described in Scripture. In both natural and supernatural ways, God continues to be directly involved in creation and in human history.
  7. We believe that the methods of science are an important and reliable means to investigate and describe the world God has made. In this, we stand with a long tradition of Christians for whom Christian faith and science are mutually hospitable. Therefore, we reject ideologies such as Materialism and Scientism that claim science is the sole source of knowledge and truth, that science has debunked God and religion, or that the physical world constitutes the whole of reality.
  8. We believe that God created the universe, the earth, and all life over billions of years. God continues to sustain the existence and functioning of the natural world, and the cosmos continues to declare the glory of God. Therefore, we reject ideologies such as Deism that claim the universe is self-sustaining, that God is no longer active in the natural world, or that God is not active in human history.
  9. We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes. Therefore, we reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.
  10. We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.
  11. We believe that conversations among Christians about controversial issues of science and faith can and must be conducted with humility, grace, honesty, and compassion as a visible sign of the Spirit’s presence in Christ’s body, the Church.

Tom English: What I Believe About Mung

Mung undoubtedly quibbles over some of the stated beliefs of BioLogos, because he is a quibbler. But he out-and-out rejects only point 11. He would find himself in agreement with some theistic evolutionist authors, were he to read more of them. (I suggest he start with the later writings of George Frederick Wright.)

Mung is much closer to theistic evolutionists in his beliefs about science than he is to most “intelligent design” proponents. He out-and-out rejects young-earth creationism. But most grass-roots proponents of “intelligent design” are young-earth creationists.

Mung aligns himself with “intelligent design” as a sociopolitical movement. He manifests as a sociopolitical activist when he characterizes evolution that “happens without God” as “a random undirected process.” Mung knows that natural selection is predominately nonrandom. Indeed, he takes offense if you suggest that he doesn’t know. But he always reverts to the standard propaganda, designed to inflame Christians who genuinely are ignorant of evolutionary theory.

85 thoughts on “Mung, a theistic evolutionist who disagrees with some of his kind

  1. “But he always reverts to the standard propaganda, designed to inflame Christians who genuinely are ignorant of evolutionary theory.” – And he’s fine with ID leaders peddling things they know are not true. But… Objective Morality!

  2. Mung: Liar*

    Really? Should I revise my position to “sufficiently fine fine with ID leaders peddling things they know are not true that he makes no effort to remedy their falsehoods”?

  3. Mung: Liar*

    For it to be a lie Richard is required to know it to be false. For my own part, I don’t know it to be false, so I’d have been inclined to make the same comment.

    I believe that when it is stated so clearly, of course you will object. Who the hell would own up to being fine with peddling misinformation?

    But in practice (as in what your behavior happens to be), you inadvertently end up actually being fine with ID proponents peddling things known to be untrue. Case in point: Stephen Meyers latest screed. It’s full of falsehoods and yet you’ve defended it on multiple occasions.

    Richard isn’t wrong and isn’t lying. You are.

  4. Mung: That’s the nicest thing Tom’s had to say about me in a while.

    Thanks Tom.

    I refer family and friends to BioLogos without compunction. I actually do regard it as a good thing that you’ve come out and described yourself as theistic evolutionists describe themselves.

    What prevents a theistic evolutionist from being an “intelligent design” proponent?

  5. Rumraket: But in practice (as in what your behavior happens to be), you inadvertently end up actually being fine with ID proponents peddling things known to be untrue. Case in point: Stephen Meyers latest screed. It’s full of falsehoods and yet you’ve defended it on multiple occasions.

    What’s been on my mind is Mung’s use of TSZ to promote Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory Still in Crisis. From what he says now of his own beliefs (quoted in the OP), he disagrees strongly with Denton. But Mung never told us that. He was playing the good little soldier, and sticking to the ID movement’s big tent strategy.

    (If Mung does not know that authors at Evolution News and Views often disagree with one another, but never point out their disagreements, then I’ve given him way too much credit. For instance, Dembski told us that “evolutionary search” really does search for targets. But Meyer and Axe have both gone out of their ways to explain that “evolutionary search” actually does not search.)

  6. As long as one understands how evolution works, I have no interest in whether they think there is a guiding hand behind it all.

    We cannot see the hand or distinguish it from random, but if it comforts people to believe in it, I don’t care.

    Jerry Coyne frequently rants about strict determinism. I see no point in believing things that make no difference.

    It would interest me to read a non angry, non confrontational discussion of what distinguishes mung’s position from the various versions of front loading, deism, etc. is there a difference between mung’s position and gpuccio’s?

  7. is there a difference between mung’s position and gpuccio’s?

    Gpuccio doesn’t have his balls in Barry’s purse.

  8. but reject the idea that this happens without God (by a random undirected process).

    Presumably then in Lenski’s experement, Mung can point to specific events that god made happen that otherwise would not have happened in a random undirected process?

    Or is the very act of pointing stealing theistic concepts too?

  9. petrushka: is there a difference between mung’s position and gpuccio’s?

    gpuicco seems to have a genuine interest in science.

    Mung, you know what the ID position is – that design can be detected in life. Do you claim that ID has demonstrated design in life? If so, where? If not, why are you an ID supporter?

  10. Patrick:
    Moved one comment to Guano.Adding asterisks to personal insults doesn’t get around the rules.

    Absolutely right. There’s an important moral there about the asterisk ploy.

  11. I think IDists ignore what I call the Shubin effect.

    Evolution is not just a bunch of assertions about the history and processes of life.

    Evolutionary thinking alters our expectations of what will be found by research, and our expectations of how populations will change and adapt. This is especially true of fast reproducing populations — bacteria and viruses. Rather important since human bodies are — at the DNA level — largely bacterial.

    I have my own kind of crank conjectures. I think evolutionary analogies could and should inform our understanding of personal learning and societal evolution.

  12. Richardthughes: Should I revise my position to “sufficiently fine fine with ID leaders peddling things they know are not true that he makes no effort to remedy their falsehoods”?

    Consider posting your rule-breaking posts in Noyau.

    Not that Patrick would ever admit that your post violated his latest decree that one ought to address the idea, not the person. A decree which he then promptly forgot.

  13. petrushka: …is there a difference between mung’s position and gpuccio’s?

    Probably not. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen gpuccio lay out his position in a similar manner to my post.

  14. Tom English: For instance, Dembski told us that “evolutionary search” really does search for targets. But Meyer and Axe have both gone out of their ways to explain that “evolutionary search” actually does not search.

    This is something I am not aware of and I would welcome hearing more.

  15. Tom English: What prevents a theistic evolutionist from being an “intelligent design” proponent?

    Fear of ridicule? Who knows.

    Is it simply not possible that a theistic evolutionist be an intelligent design proponent? Is there a logical contradiction between the two positions? I’d really like to know.

  16. Mung: Consider posting your rule-breaking posts in Noyau.

    Not that Patrick would ever admit that your post violated his latest decree that one ought to address the idea, not the person. A decree which he then promptly forgot.

    I’ve replied to this in Moderation Issues.

  17. Mung: Is it simply not possible that a theistic evolutionist be an intelligent design proponent? Is there a logical contradiction between the two positions? I’d really like to know.

    I’ve written and deleted a response. The burden is on you, not me, to lay out the beliefs of intelligent design proponents. Talk of “logical contradiction” is silly when you have not committed to any propositions.

  18. Patrick: Please follow Lizzie’s simple rules.

    Even Patrick and I can agree on some things.

    His even-handedness as a moderator though isn’t one of them.

  19. Tom English: I’ve written and deleted a response. The burden is on you, not me, to lay out the beliefs of intelligent design proponents. Talk of “logical contradiction” is silly when you have not committed to any propositions.

    There’s no rule that says you can’t create an OP just to vent. I’ve certainly done so.

    I was hoping for better from you.

  20. Tom English: If Mung does not know that authors at Evolution News and Views often disagree with one another, but never point out their disagreements, then I’ve given him way too much credit. For instance, Dembski told us that “evolutionary search” really does search for targets. But Meyer and Axe have both gone out of their ways to explain that “evolutionary search” actually does not search.

    Got links? It was an honest request, even if you chose to not take it that way.

  21. Mung: Is it simply not possible that a theistic evolutionist be an intelligent design proponent? Is there a logical contradiction between the two positions? I’d really like to know.

    From what I’ve read, the main objection that theistic intelligent design proponents have toward theistic evolutionism is that the former are committed to a version of evidentialism that the latter reject.

    The theistic intelligent design proponent wants to say that there is verifiable, objectively available empirical evidence of intelligent design in nature. The theistic evolutionist allows that everything in nature occurs in accord with divine intentions but denies that the effects of those intentions can be read off from our best explanations of specific natural phenomena.

    This can seen as a question of — if you like — the epistemology of theology. One can, in an important sense, see all things in light of divine grace and providence — but that won’t get you published in Cell.

    Put badly*, the debate between theistic evolutionists and atheistic evolutionists is metaphysical, whereas the debate** between intelligent design proponents and evolutionists is scientific.

    * I say “put badly” because there are good reasons — in fact, reasons I would consider decisive — for rejecting the distinction between science and metaphysics. I would rather put it as a distinction between scientific metaphysics and theological metaphysics. Needless to say, I endorse the former, because I consider science to be epistemically superior to other forms of knowledge with regard to objective reality. But of course there are many forms of knowledge that matter to us as human beings with practical and aesthetic needs and interests that are not scientific but which are often far more important, at least in the short-term. If you like, here’s a slogan for my view: “man cannot live by truth alone.”

    ** properly construed, however, this is not a scientific debate but a cultural-political meta-debate — a debate about whether there is a debate. I do not consider intelligent design to be a good scientific theory.

  22. Mung: There’s no rule that says you can’t create an OP just to vent. I’ve certainly done so.

    Ah, the freedoms you enjoy here, Mung.

  23. Mung: There’s no rule that says you can’t create an OP just to vent. I’ve certainly done so.

    I was hoping for better from you.

    Mung: Got links? It was an honest request, even if you chose to not take it that way.

    \rightarrow ( You evidently do grasp the significance of parentheses, having taken the trouble to exclude the ones that enclose the text of mine you quoted. I have linked to the ENV posts of Axe and Meyer in a draft of a TSZ post, “Evolutionary Equilibration Is Not Search.” We can discuss them when they are germane to the main topic. ) \leftarrow

    Your beliefs about evolution are compatible with those of BioLogos. The Discovery Institute made a bugaboo of theistic evolutionism only after some prominent theistic evolutionists opposed “intelligent design” as promulgated by the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

    It was not science that persuaded you to “reject the idea that [descent with modification] happens without God.” It was not science that convinced you that the purposiveness of evolution could be established empirically. Perhaps it was this that convinced you that science ought to be something other than what it is:

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    A theistic evolutionist might, or might not, read the verse as many ID proponents have.

  24. Tom English: You evidently do grasp the significance of parentheses, having taken the trouble to exclude the ones that enclose the text of mine you quoted.

    You made a claim about me as a person, and what I supposedly know or ought to know, and then gave a specific “for instance.”

    If you don’t like your choice of “for instance” [your words] you can replace it with one you do like, but the one you chose happened to interest me.

    My interest was two-fold:

    1. To educate myself and make myself aware of actual disagreements within ID that are not theological differences. I’ve been lobbying for some time to separate ID from Young Earth Creationism so I am interested in differences of other sorts.

    2. To learn more about alternative positions on evolutionary search. That’s an interest of mine which you are no doubt aware of and which probably prompted that specific “for instance” from you. So yeah, I’d be a bit disappointed if you backed off from it.

  25. Tom English: The Discovery Institute made a bugaboo of theistic evolutionism only after some prominent theistic evolutionists opposed “intelligent design” as promulgated by the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

    I see this all the time over at UD and ask why the authors there take shots at theistic evolution all the time and give a pass to young earth creationism. My claim is that the “evolution” of YECism is just as Godless as the evolution of the theistic evolutionist is purported to be.

    I don’t blame the DI for it’s position when I’ve read books by TE authors, such as Kenneth Miller, that flat out lie about ID.

  26. Kantian Naturalist: I do not consider intelligent design to be a good scientific theory.

    Neither do I. I think it needs some work before it can be considered a good scientific theory. It may get there, it may never get there.

    But I also reject the idea that the best explanation for something must always be backed up by a good scientific theory.

    ETA: I Also reject the view that science itself always and only proceeds by having only good scientific theories.

  27. Mung: I don’t blame the DI for it’s position when I’ve read books by TE authors, such as Kenneth Miller, that flat out lie about ID.

    Does the theistic evolutionist Michael Behe flat-out lie about intelligent design? (You are avoiding explaining why you are not a theistic evolutionist. Perhaps you are more willing to explain why Behe is not a theistic evolutionist.)

    It’s quite something that you insist on being taken as an individual — an ID proponent who rejects YEC, even though the vast majority of ID proponents are YECs — and yet indicate that it’s fine for the ID movement to attack theistic evolution categorically if some theistic evolutionists lie about ID.

    I see in your response to the Discovery Institute a different ethical standard than you apply to individuals. You would never tell me that two wrongs make a right. What’s unethical for an individual is fine for a political collective?

    Kantian Naturalist: I do not consider intelligent design to be a good scientific theory.

    Mung: Neither do I. I think it needs some work before it can be considered a good scientific theory. It may get there, it may never get there.

    I spent four hours browsing the BioLogos forums, late last night. Some of the active participants pointedly allow for the possibility of a scientific demonstration of design. (I saw no one rule out the possibility.) On this particular point, they differ from you only in degree of pessimism.

    Mung: But I also reject the idea that the best explanation for something must always be backed up by a good scientific theory.

    BioLogos Point 7: Therefore, we reject ideologies such as Materialism and Scientism that claim science is the sole source of knowledge and truth…

    Emphasis added.

    Mung: I Also reject the view that science itself always and only proceeds by having only good scientific theories.

    Whose view is that?

    Mung: My claim is that the “evolution” of YECism is just as Godless as the evolution of the theistic evolutionist is purported to be.

    Good for you. I say that sincerely. The next step is to say that you are a theistic evolutionist who does not reject the possibility of working out a science of ID. ETA: It makes no sense to admit the YECs to the Big Tent of ID, but not the theistic evolutionists.

  28. Mung @ UD:

    We all know, or should know, that things that must be created and sustained in their existence should hardly be called natural.

    Another fine example of the mistake that FMM and WJM make over and over. And they wonder why only the already converted are impressed.

  29. OMagain:
    Mung @ UD:

    We all know, or should know, that things that must be created and sustained in their existence should hardly be called natural.

    Another fine example of the mistake that FMM and WJM make over and over. And they wonder why only the already converted are impressed.

    The fruits of incest.

  30. Tom English: The fruits of incest.

    Then it’s good that fifth, and William and I contribute something new to the gene pool here at TSZ. Or did we arrive on the scene too late?

  31. Tom English: I’ve never supposed that Mung@TSZ is the gaseous little turd floating in the Christublican scum.

    Good for you then, because I am not a Republican. And it’s nice to have a true southern redneck here to explain the benefits of inbreeding. Stuff like that keeps me coming back to TSZ.

  32. Tom English: Does the theistic evolutionist Michael Behe flat-out lie about intelligent design?

    You tell me. On what basis do you claim that Behe is a theistic evolutionist and what evidence do you have to suggest that he lied about ID?

    I keep reading all these allegations from you which could utterly destroy my confidence in the main players of ID but see nothing in the way of actual evidence.

  33. Tom English: You are avoiding explaining why you are not a theistic evolutionist.

    I didn’t realize I’d been asked that question. Does the BioLogos site define what it means to be a theistic evolutionist?

    Tom English: You are avoiding explaining why you are not a theistic evolutionist.

    I am a theistic evolutionist. I just choose not to use that as a label. It invites too much room for misunderstanding.

    1.) Creatures on earth are related by descent with modification. [Evolution]

    2.) Creatures on earth could not exist without God and evolution could not occur without God. [Theistic]

    Given that I affirm 1 and 2 why am I not a theistic evolutionist?

  34. Tom, I am not your enemy.

    I am not trying to get the Bible taught in schools as if it were a science text.

    Hell, I’m not even trying to get ID taught in schools as if were science.

  35. We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes. Therefore, we reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.

    sure why not

  36. Mung:

    Tom English: What’s unethical for an individual is fine for a political collective?

    Isn’t that obvious?

    Not at all. How many people does it take to make an immoral action moral?

  37. Mung: And it’s nice to have a true southern redneck here to explain the benefits of inbreeding.

    FMM said he was from the buckle of the Bible Belt. But I wouldn’t peg him as a redneck. The site of my very first home is now part of the Baylor campus. Yee haw.

  38. Mung: Good for you then, because I am not a Republican.

    I said that the scum was Christpublican, not the gaseous little turd floating in the scum. I know some fine folks, including some outstanding researchers in evolutionary computation, who are Republican (and who are very worried about the fate of their party).

    Even if it is just one person who posts as Mung@TSZ and as Mung@UD, the two personae are very different. Personae, not persons, interact in the virtual world. I do not believe there is anyone who converses face-to-face as Mung@TSZ does in cyberspace. So I say to whomever is operating Mung@TSZ, I do not judge you personally by the persona you maintain. But that’s just my persona talking, of course.

  39. Mung: On what basis do you claim that Behe is a theistic evolutionist and what evidence do you have to suggest that he lied about ID?

    You missed my point. Not bothering to question whether theistic evolutionist Ken Miller lied about ID, I pointed to Michael Behe as a theistic evolutionist you would not say lied about ID. All I was driving at was that (1) a theistic evolutionist can propound ID and (2) not all theistic evolutionists lie about ID.

    Some of the main voices at BioLogos regard Behe as a TE. It didn’t occur to me that he fit the description until after I did the OP. Then it was easy to confirm that I was reading BioLogos right.

    Mung: Does the BioLogos site define what it means to be a theistic evolutionist?

    I took it as understood that the BioLogos Foundation is a theistic evolutionist operation, and that “What We Believe” (carefully written, to be sure) gave a good idea of what they regard to be theistic evolutionism.

    Mung: I am a theistic evolutionist. I just choose not to use that as a label. It invites too much room for misunderstanding.

    1.) Creatures on earth are related by descent with modification. [Evolution]

    2.) Creatures on earth could not exist without God and evolution could not occur without God. [Theistic]

    Given that I affirm 1 and 2 why am I not a theistic evolutionist?

    Why are you even posing the question? Reread the title of the post. Some theistic evolutionists claim that there is a viable scientific theory of intelligent design. Other theistic evolutionists deny that there is. But none, to my knowledge, deny that what we regard as nature has changed over time, and that there might yet be a science in which purpose has a place in explanations of what we observe.

    Now, to be fair to you (Mung@TSZ), I will say that the best characterization of Tom in the real world is a term that almost no one understands. In fact, my use of it engendered an amazingly wide range of misunderstandings and negative emotional responses. So I stopped using it. And I genuinely stopped caring, several years ago, whether anyone understands. That, paradoxically, is personal growth for me. A Buddhist term I use, though I’m not Buddhist, is non-attachment. My letting-go happens in spurts. I sense I’m on the verge now. I may disappear from TSZ, or turn into something very different. We shall see.

    (Excuse the humanizing digression, quite silly in cyberspace. You’re seeing an elaborate verbal edifice, not a person.)

    I think that Mung@TSZ would be better understood by the denizens of the Zone if the persona identified as a theistic evolutionist proponent of ID. I believe that would work horribly for Mung@UD. I recommend that the operator of Mung@TSZ take context into account. The operator may not like TSZ as well as UD, but it is clearly the case that the judgments at TSZ are more nuanced than the judgments at UD.

  40. Mung: Tom, I am not your enemy.

    And I am not addressing you as one. You are often very tiresome. I know you have it in your power to be less so. I think you and everyone else at TSZ will get more out of the interactions if you play it straighter with us — as you have in this thread.

    Mung: I am not trying to get the Bible taught in schools as if it were a science text.

    Never thought you were.

    Mung: Hell, I’m not even trying to get ID taught in schools as if were science.

    The post-Dover anti-evolution strategy — maybe not yours personally — is two-pronged. One prong is church education. The other prong is public education. Overall, the idea is to spell out the full religious significance in church, priming kids (and adults) with ready-made “critical thinking” that seems very clever to them, and to get the public schools to repeat the “weaknesses of Darwinian evolution” that some of the students have already heard in church, and require that students be given the opportunity to repeat the “critical thinking” they were taught in church.

    It may well be, Mung, that I know better than you how the “education” goes in many evangelical churches. My brother is a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Moore, OK. (And his Christian practice has had a profound and positive impact on his life.) He played a leading role in presenting The Truth Project, a video series from Focus on the Family, at his church. It is promoted as a mountaintop experience, and was indeed that for him. I watched all thirteen hours of it — the lessons on science, two or three times — after my brother spat up ill-digested bits of Behe at the Thanksgiving table. The response to evolution was obviously coordinated with the “strengths and weakness” and “academic freedom” bills that appear each year in legislatures around the county (we have one of each, every year in Oklahoma, and I thank the Republican leadership for dealing with them as ably as it does). There were various clips from the Discovery Institute in the science lessons.

    You may be a decent guy. You may not have known what is going on in churches. But don’t expect me to be overly impressed by your non-advocacy of public instruction in ID. I’d be more impressed if you pointed out that evolutionary theory gets more complicated the more you learn about it, and that schoolchildren acquire at best a rudimentary and provisional understanding of it. I’d be thrilled if you pointed out that encouraging schoolchildren to criticize what they barely understand is not pedagogically sound. I’d kiss your virtual feet if you acknowledged that you have argued, as I have, about stuff you really did not understand, and that you regret, as I do, having done so.

  41. @ Tom

    I wonder if your brother makes a similar effort in meeting you half-way or can he compartmentalize?

Leave a Reply