Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Revolution, Gun Control, the Sound of Soul

As the Kansas State Board of Education has hearings on the teaching of evolution versus creationism in public schools, Slate's William Saletan has a commentary that--I can't believe I'm saying this--makes Intelligent Design Theory sound not all together kooky:

Two years later, in a bioethics journal, [lawyer-geologist John] Calvert and an [Intelligent Design Network] colleague, biochemist William Harris, summarized the differences between Biblical creationism and ID. "Creation science seeks to validate a literal interpretation of creation as contained in the book of Genesis," they explained. "An ID proponent recognizes that ID theory may be disproved by new evidence. ID is like a large tent under which many religious and nonreligious origins theories may find a home. ID proposes nothing more than that life and its diversity were the product of an intelligence with power to manipulate matter and energy."

. . . .

Essentially, ID proponents are gambling that they can concede evolutionist earth science without conceding evolutionist life science. But they can't. They already acknowledge microevolution—mutation and natural selection within a species. Once you accept conventional fossil dating and four billion years of life, the sequential kinship of species loses its implausibility. You can't fall back on the Bible; you've already admitted it can't always be taken literally. All you're left with is an assortment of gaps in evolutionary theory—how did DNA emerge, what happened between this and that fossil—and the vague default assumption that an "intelligence" might fill in those gaps. Calvert and Harris call this assumption a big tent. But guess what happens to a tent without poles.

Perversely, evolutionists refuse to facilitate this collapse. They prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond "natural explanations." But have you read the definition Calvert and Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Abstract creationism can't qualify for such scrutiny. Substantive creationism can't survive it. Or if it can, it should.

Link. Saletan's thesis is that these creationists are different from creationists of the past because they're not turning a blind eye to science and saying "if it's in the Bible, it must be true, no matter what contradictory proof you have." Rather, ID theorists believe in the scientific method but are starting from the assumption that God Created the universe through design and are skeptical, but not fanatically dismissive, of evolution. Eventually, Saletan argues, ID theorists will accept the overwhelming scientific evidence of macroevolution.

Personally? you ask. I don't really think God, whatever if anything the term means for you, belongs in the study or practice of science. "Teach the controversy," say religious right-wing politicians of evolution versus creationism in schools. To me, the controversy could be taught in a history classroom, but not a science classroom. Physical science and life science are about lots of things, but God and political controversy--not so much. That said, I don't see anything inherently incongruous between the theses "God is Creator of the universe" and "the universe, including life as we know it, changes and got to where it is today through evolution." But that's one guy's opinion.

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Blogger The GraveDigger said...

There is so much to say on this topic - but I'll tell you what they said in Human Biology at Stanford.
"I know that some of you may be having a personal conflict [with studying evolution] and your religion. Please come see me at my office hours - I can direct you to some reading if you are interested. I just want to say, however, that for me, I've always thought of it as two different questions. It's the difference between the how and the why."
-Bill Durham, author of Coevolution, a focus on the interaction between biological and cultural evolution in humans

12:12 PM  

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