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The Harvard Club in midtown Manhattan—membership limited to Harvard alumni, tenured faculty members, or members of Harvard boards or committees—was the Sept. 30–Oct. 2 venue for an all-expenses paid, invitation-only BioLogos conference designed to “present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.”
BioLogos is spending $513,000 of Templeton funds for meetings in 2013, 2014, and 2015. About 95 pastors, seminary presidents, “Christian thought leaders,” and journalists (including me) listened to this year’s presenters, which included former National Public Radio correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, and Philip Yancey and Andy Crouch of Christianity Today.
One subject for debate: Did Adam actually exist? Molecular biologist Denis Alexander, a member of the BioLogos Advisory Council, said he prefers the view that hominins evolved until about 200,000 years ago, at which time a population of anatomically modern humans began to emerge in Africa. The population contained around 10,000 reproductively active individuals. Alexander said he did not think Adam and Eve were “genetic progenitors of the whole human race,” but “spiritual founders of God's new family.”
Covenant Theological Seminary’s Jack Collins, though, is a fellow of the Discovery Institute, and he spoke in affirmation of a historical Adam. BioLogos takes no official position on the question: President Haarsma told me that when she grew up in an evangelical church, “a historical Adam and Eve were default positions. But now I see other models that are promising.”
Strikingly absent from the conference were leaders of the Intelligent Design movement such as Stephen Meyer or William Dembski. Also missing were young earth or old earth creationists such as Terry Mortenson or Hugh Ross. Haarsma defended their exclusion, saying “public debates often turn into spectacles, and we wanted this meeting to be a place where people could think out loud.” She hopes conference attendees will “bring BioLogos speakers to their churches and seminaries. We see nothing wrong with moving the church toward the position that evolutionary creation is a valid view.”
If BioLogos and Templeton had allowed a wider range of views at the conference, what would Dembski, Mortenson, Ross, and Meyer have said? All four would have affirmed a historical Adam and noted the difficulty of reconciling evolution, the fall, and original sin. Dembski told me Alexander’s explanation is “giving up too much that is essential in the biblical understanding of creation and the fall.”
I came away from the conference wondering why BioLogos excludes its most prominent critics from the dialogue. Doesn’t the scientific method include presenting theories to skeptics so the theories can be confirmed, refuted, or made better?