Jerry Coyne, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, reviews two books by theistic evolutionists in The New Republic:
It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board. With his usual flair, the physicist Richard Feynman characterized this difference: “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” With religion, there is just no way to know if you are fooling yourself.
[. . .]
This disharmony is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government, and our schoolchildren exposed to real science instead of creationism. Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict. But their main evidence–the existence of religious scientists–is wearing thin as scientists grow ever more vociferous about their lack of faith. Now Darwin Year is upon us, and we can expect more books like those by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson. Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.
As Coyne acknowledges, Miller is always devastating in his critique of intelligent design. On the other hand, I have always found him to be devastatingly inept whenever he is asked about his own theistic evolutionist views (which turn out to be, as Coyne shows in his review, a paler shade of ID), his defences of which are about as convincing as, say, Alister McGrath’s wet-tissue-grade apologetics. (I admit this is unfair, as I am only going by Miller’s on-air appearances where the topic has been raised; I haven’t read his books, and it is possible he does a better job there.) The only reason Miller (who rejects deism and pantheism) keeps it up, Coyne argues, is that if he didn’t, he would have to abandon his Christian beliefs. Coyne’s final point about the fundamental disconnect between theism and science being the scientific community’s “dirty little secret” was illustrated in two recent interviews with Miller, on the American Freethought and Declaring Independence podcasts, where I felt the hosts were a little reticent to draw too much attention to the elephant in the room.
It is very tempting to use theistic evolutionists like Miller as examples of Christians who accept evolution, in order to reach out to creationists whose fingers are otherwise firmly planted in their ears. I myself have done this recently in exchanges with a 15-year-old creationist blogger. But let’s face it: this is rank dishonesty (not to mention fallacious), commensurate with the Lying For Jesus I have so often highlighted and condemned in Christians. If empirical science is indeed incompatible with theism, what is the point of pretending that it isn’t?