Monday, April 7, 2008

D'Souza on ID's "failure"

Speaking of D'Souza in general (and his comments on ID in particular), here's his most recent essay from on ID...

As a Christian, I believe that the universe and its living creatures are the products of intelligent design. This belief is not merely derived from theology but is also supported by rational considerations. There is enormous intelligence embedded in the laws of nature. The greatest scientists over the past few centuries have worked to decode the intelligence mysteriously imprinted in the workings of nature. Scientific laws, as spelled out by Kepler, Newton, Einstein and others, reveal nature as exquisitely orderly. So who encoded this intelligence in nature?

Since the universe had a beginning, how did it get here? There is no natural explanation, since the universe includes all of nature. It is more than absurd to posit that the universe caused itself. The most reasonable explanation is that our rational universe is the product of some super-rational or omniscient intelligence. An intelligent designer is not the only explanation, but it certainly is the best explanation.

How the creator went about His business of making the universe and its life forms is another question, and this is a question for science to answer to the degree that it can be answered. Darwin's theory of evolution posits that chance, mutation and natural selection largely account for the transitions between one life form and another. Man, as an animal, is also the product of evolution, having descended from the same evolutionary "tree" that produced gorillas and chimpanzees.

Did God order things this way? Certainly if you read the Bible you would never predict Darwin's theory of evolution. But neither from the Scriptural accounts could one predict that the earth goes around the sun. The Bible is not and does not purport to be a science textbook. It takes no position, for example, on the heliocentric theory. Unfortunately, in past centuries, many Christians interpreted a few casual references to the sun "rising" to mean that the earth must be stationary and the sun must revolve around the earth. These interpretations were hasty, to say the least: the Bible is describing sunrise from a human or experiential perspective. Still, these narrow-minded Christians opposed Copernicus and Galileo until they were forced to admit that they were wrong. It wasn't the Bible that was mistaken; it was the foolish certainty of its interpreters that was exposed and discredited.

Today some Christians may be heading down the same path with their embrace of "intelligent design" or ID. This movement is based on the idea that Darwinian evolution is not only flawed but basically fraudulent. ID should not, however, be confused with bible-thumping six-day creationism. It does not regard the earth as 6,000 years old....

ID advocates have sought to convince courts to require that their work be taught alongside Darwinian evolution, yet such efforts have been resoundingly defeated. Why has the ID legal strategy proven to be such a failure, even at the hands of conservative judges? Imagine that a group of advocates challenged Einstein's theories of general and special relativity. Let's say that this group, made up of a law professor, a couple of physicists, several journalists, as well as some divinity school graduates, flatly denies Einstein's proposition that e=mc2.

How would a judge, who is not a physicist, resolve the group's demand for inclusion in the physics classroom? He would summon a wide cross-section of leading physicists. They would inform him that despite unresolved debates about relativity--for example, its unexplained relationship to quantum theory--Einstein's theories are supported by a wide body of data. They enjoy near-unanimous support in the physics community worldwide. There is no alternative scientific theory that comes close to explaining the facts at hand. In such a situation any judge would promptly show the dissenters the door and deny their demand for equal time in the classroom. This is precisely the predicament of the ID movement.

I think D'Souza is correct here-- independent of ID's merits.

So, what to do? D'Souza concludes:

The problem with evolution is not that it is unscientific but that it is routinely taught in textbooks and in the classroom in an atheist way. Textbooks frequently go beyond the scientific evidence to make metaphysical claims about how evolution renders the idea of a Creator superfluous. my book What's So Great About Christianity provides several examples of this.

Most Christians don't care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether Darwin's theories can account for macroevolution or only microevolution. What they care about is that evolution is being used to deny God as the creator. For those who are concerned about this atheism masquerading as science, there is a better way. Instead of trying to get unscientific ID theories included in the classroom, a better strategy would be to get the unscientific atheist propaganda out.


At April 8, 2008 at 8:05 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

D'Souza's analysis of the failure of ID is spot-on. He's also right that evolution is presented as an explanation of the origin of species without mention of God. Part of this is happenstance: there's no need to mention God when you're talking about molecular biology or genetics, etc. But part of this is indeed because (some) evolutionists wish to stress that the "God hypothesis" (in the famous phrase of Laplace) is unnecessary. The truth is of course that evolution is not incompatible with theism—indeed, many scientists see the beauty of evolution and nature as evidence for a Creator. My own faith comes and goes, but I'm inclined to agree with that sentiment.

I should mention I happened across an interesting book: God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, by John F. Haught. I'm only 20 pages into this, but the author says the New Atheists show their ignorance of theology—what they do is conclude that the God of religious fundamentalism is atrocious and illogical, and therefore such a God does not exist. But the author says (Catholic or mainline) theologians have long since abandoned such simplistic understandings of God. In particular, theologians do not require of God that he must be invoked to explain how evolution works. But the New Atheists haven't gotten that message, in that they think God is supposed to be a scientific explanation of life (and therefore theism is obsolete because evolution explains life). I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book, because the author is doing a good job of highlighting the intellectual weakness of the New Atheist authors.

At April 8, 2008 at 9:54 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

One of the ironies in this whole thing is to see smart, scientific people who stumble on such things. The failure-- whether from an unwillingness (dishonesty) or inability (blindness)-- to make basic distinctions between young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and ID'ers is one example.

Another irony is that the debate can be reduced, in a sense, to competing fundamentalisms-- an appalling accusation, I'm sure, for the scientists. But how else can one explain their theology and hermeneutics?


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