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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Intelligent Design Post.

Since the decision has come down, I thought I'd chime in.

Three points:

(1) Full disclosure: yes, I'm sympathetic to it. I'm also impressed by the arguments against it by such luminaries as Fr. Edmund Oakes, S.J., and Fr. Stanley Jaki. Not coincidentally, both also deploy their formidable logical and rhetorical firepower against materialism, too.

(2) I have a degree in political science, so I lack the tools to say whether ID is good, bad or, indeed, no science at all.

(3) Science and philosophy are inextricably intertwined. That's the reason these disputes keep popping up, and will keep popping up, all the permanent injunctions by flustered judges notwithstanding. [BTW, the First Commandment of Lawyering is thus: Never, ever piss off the judge (the late, great barrister F.E. Smith excepted). From what I've read, the Dover Board did that in spades. It was a horrid litigation vehicle, and the judge was right to be hacked off about the behavior of many of the defendants.]

I have no problem with the teaching of science, including natural selection and evolution--as long as science acknowledges its limitations and stays within purely scientific boundaries--i.e., what can, and more importantly, cannot, be established by the scientific method.

It is the latter where the scientists, including the invariably blustery spokesbeings at the National Center for Science Education, drop the ball. The battle rages on because Dr. Bunson Honeydew and Beaker keep wandering out of the lab, drawing philosophical conclusions that cannot even be verified by the scientific method, and flatulating endlessly about metaphysics. To whit:

Sir Julian Huxley: "In the Evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural," Huxley wrote. "The earth was not created, it evolved. So did all animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion. Evolutionary man can no longer take refuge from his loneliness in the arms of a divinized father figure."

Richard Dawkins: "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

Michael Shallis: "It is no more heretical to say the Universe displays purpose, as Hoyle has done, than to say that it is pointless, as Steven Weinberg has done. Both statements are metaphysical and outside science. Yet it seems that scientists are permitted by their own colleagues to say metaphysical things about lack of purpose and not the reverse. This suggests to me that science, in allowing this metaphysical notion, sees itself as religion and presumably as an atheistic religion (if you can have such a thing)." [For more proof of this, check out this story about the recent intellectual lynching at the Smithsonian.]

Derek Ager: "I suppose I had better mention the concept of a divine creator, but personally I do not find that particular hypothesis useful and I am tempted to ask about the cosmic accident that created Him (presumably before the 'big bangs' that started the universe). And what did He do before He created the world and mankind?"

And, my personal recent favorite:

Daniel Dennett: Dennett claimed that Darwin had shredded the credibility of religion and was, indeed, the very “destroyer” of God. In the question session, philosophy professor Jeff Jordan made the following observation to Dennett, “If Darwinism is inherently atheistic, as you say, then obviously it can’t be taught in public schools.” “And why is that?” inquired Dennett, incredulous. “Because,” said Jordan, “the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees government neutrality between religion and irreligion.” Dennett, looking as if he’d been sucker-punched, leaned back against the wall, and said, after a few moments of silence, “clever.”

OK, the last one is a bit of a trick--Dennett is not actually a scientist--he's a philosopher. But you sure can't tell, can you? The proper response to every last one of the holders of the atheistic mindset is this: Prove it, professor. Using the scientific method, put up, or shut up.

Of course, they can't prove it--as the Shallis quote helpfully notes, their atheistic conclusions are inherently metaphysical and not susceptible of scientific proof/disproof. But that doesn't keep them from yammering on endlessly about it and muddying the waters.

That's why the backs keep getting up--people keep (wrongfully) using the science to buttress philosophies directly opposed to religion. If the NCSE tried half as hard to keep Dr. Science Who Knows More Than You on a choke chain as it did working itself into its dog-annoying shrieks about ID, it would quickly find itself enjoying something akin the quietude of the Maytag repairman, and, perhaps, not so often finding itself constantly "pushing down the lumps in the water bed," to use the memorable analogy of one of its spokesladies yesterday.

As badly as many religious folks need to take science classes, just as many in the pocket protector crowd need to take a few courses in philosophy and religion. The ignorance is hardly all on one side.

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