Evolution, Intelligent Design, et al.

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I’m not going to do a whole separate post about this, but I wanted to link to an article from this weekend’s Washington Post magazine about the whole evolution/intelligent design issue. I have read tons of articles on this topic, and I found this one particularly good and, um, balanced. One caveat: not all who have studied Darwin agree that his writings provided support for the later theory of so-called “social Darwinism.” I have read articles that argue just the opposite — that social Darwinism is a corruption of Darwin’s work. I don’t know enough to profess a belief one way or the other, but I thought I would at least flag that issue.

Anyway, enjoy the article!

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10 Responses to “Evolution, Intelligent Design, et al.”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Wow, what a long article. Don’t let page 5 deceive you, you might be halfway done after the first 4 pages!!! 🙂

    I can see mentioning to kids that some scientists conclude “intelligent design,” but teaching it as science seems a bit odd to me. “Faith” and “Science” are different school subjects. IMHO.

  2. Duane McCrory Says:

    Sandi,

    This was definitely an interesting read, especially all the history of the debate and all. I must say that I’m not well read on the Intelligent Design debate so I don’t have a whole lot to contribute here. I would add, however, that if anything, postmodernism has taught us that no one, not evolutionary theorists or intelligent design theorists, are objective. We all come to the table with assumptions and biases, some open, some hidden, some of which we are probably unaware.

    Al,

    On the faith and science issue you bring up (which is also in the article), I don’t know that intelligent design necessarily falls in the realm of faith, though because it is an argument that is faith-motivated (if you will), it seems people want to put it there. I would suggest that it rather more belongs in the realm of philosophy, if you want to get specific philosophy of religion, but not necessarily just religion. I see it in the realm of the so-called “unmoved mover” or “first cause” sort of philosophical thinking. I hope this makes sense.

    I’d love to see more people here engage this discussion.

  3. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Me too, Duane….

    I can see your point. Philosophy makes sense to me. But not science.

  4. Capt MidKnight Says:

    The idea of “Intelligent Design” is a fairly recent entrant into the 147 year old ongoing tussle between those supporting Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and those opposing it. What makes ID (intelligent design) unusual is that it is put forward by scientists and not theologians. The idea that most people have – and that the scientific community has encouraged – is that all “real” scientists support Evolution, more or less as Darwin proposed it in 1859, and that the opposition to it comes from other “unscientific,” and therefore less enlightened, areas like wild eyed evangelical Christian groups. In fact, there have always been scientists who have questioned some or all of the theory, but to say so in public has usually been professional suicide.

    The first major work in the current field of ID that I ran into was a book called “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” written by Michael Denton in 1986. I think Dr. Denton is still involved with the ID group, but, more recently, the names in the news have been people like Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, and Michael Behe.

    What makes ID different from most other attacks on Evolution is that it comes from the scientific community itself, and I think this explains why scientists that support Evolution have attacked ID so savagely. I think they see it’s proponents as traitors to the scientific brotherhood. Duane is exactly right when he says that no one is completely objective.

    Many in the Christian community have jumped on the ID bandwagon because they see it as supporting their position, but, if you actually read Denton’s book or, more recently, Michael Behe’s book called “Darwin’s Black Box,” it is ultimately frustrating to the believer. Both authors go to great lengths to point out the weaknesses of Darwinism and it’s inability to explain how the world got to be as we see it. They seem, to the believer, to be going down the path that will lead them inevitably to God, but, at the end of their books, they deny any religious affiliations themself and insist that their work is strictly scientific.

    Unfortunately, their denial of religious connections hasn’t helped them much with their scientific colleagues, who continue to insist that no competent scientist could possibly deny Evolution – as the article says, one scientist stated that Evolution is as well established as Gravity . The ID folks have been embraced by several Creationist groups, however, even though the scientific ID people would deny much of what many Creationists believe – young earth, etc. There’s been a couple of court cases lately and other news “sound bites” going around.

    Up until ID came on the scene, much of the Evolution debate had been between scientists who knew little Theology and believed even less, and Theologians whose scientific expertise was limited to changing a light bulb. Predictably, the debates usually consisted of each side talking past the other and then returning to their own constituency and declaring victory. Now that it’s scientist against scientist, it should get interesting, and, hopefully, more informative.

    I’d love to hear if anyone else has read some of the books in question or followed the debate.

    Captain Midknight
    PS apologies for my earlier rambling posts. I’ll try to be more restrained.

  5. Sandi Says:

    The heart of the debate is over the definition of science. ID proponents want to revise the definition of science to include the supernatural. Which would leave it pretty much indistinguishable from religion which is, of course, the intent.

    Yeah, there are some credentialed scientists who are in favor of ID, but most are not biologists. Moreover, while the use of credentialed scientists as the mouthpieces for the theory is new, there is pretty much a direct and unbroken link between creationism and ID. ID was just the new label slapped on the old theory of creationism after Edwards v. Aguillard, in which the Supreme Court in 1987 rejected Louisiana’s “equal time” statute.

    I agree with Duane that ID is philosophy rather than science. Dressing it up in a lab coat, as the saying goes, does not make it science.

  6. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Sandi,
    You have got to remember that before Isaac Newton, gravity was supernatural. No one could tell you how or why the apple fell from the tree. The explanation was that “God did it.” I still believe that God did it. It’s just that now we have a better idea of how he did it. Evolution may tell us part of the story of how God created us, but our current theory of evolution has lots of holes in it that most scientists gloss over. Google “irreducible complexity” or the “Cambrian Explosion” to explore a couple of the holes in evolutionary theory. Evolution does not tell the whole story.

  7. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Since I consider myself a Christian, you would think that I would be inclined to endorse a creationist point of view, and I do, but not as expounded by some of today’s groups.. Back just after the earth cooled, I got a degree in Biology and spent my whole working life in an area where rational thinking and logic were not an option – your life depended on it – so I’m very skeptical of most of what passes today as Creation Science. Unfortunately, most of the groups in the news today that support what they call “Creation Science” are just what Sandi described – philosophy dressed up in a lab coat.

    I’m not sure I agree that there is a direct line from these group to the ID folks, though. Denton and Behe are, in fact, biochemists and deny any religious or philosophical agenda. Their arguments come from their interpretation of finding from within their own disciplines. Whether those interpretations bear the scrutiny of further examination is the question. That is what science is, after all.
    Unfortunately, the questions they raise DO have religious and philosophical ramifications that have led to many Creationist groups coming out in IDs support, even though people like Behe and others probably share almost none of their beliefs. I’ll bet that some of the scientific ID folks wish that the Creationists weren’t so supportive.

    The main problem that the proponents of ID have, in my opinion, is that their interpretation and analysis of the evidence they find in microbiology and biochemistry does, in fact, lead them to the conclusion that there must have been a designer. The fact that they arrived at that point by what they consider scientific means doesn’t change the fact that it is the same point that most theologians come to as well, only by an entirely different rational. It must be very uncomfortable for a scientist to find himself in such company, but that’s where the ID folks wind up, as their scientific opponents are happy to point out.

    The IDers have to find their designer in the random Darwinian world, which, I suspect, will be a tall order. That is where believers and the ID folks part company. The designer we find, ultimately by faith, comes in the form of an entity who exists outside the universe as we know it, but can still act within the universe to communicate with and effect the lives of men. This concept will never be acceptable to “science.” According to the assumptions of science, this is impossible. Because of that , Science, by definition, cannot deal with an entity like that.

    Science, like all other inventions of mankind, has limitations. I’m not one who sees science as “evil” or “anti-Christian.” Science wasn’t handed down on tablets of stone, it has been developed over the centuries, as a way of studying the world rationally and systematically. Although it’s limited in what it can do, I have to admit, as I sit at my new Dell Computer, that it’s got a pretty good track record so far. Given it’s limitations, science has been a spectacular success.

    My problem is with the folks who claim that any explanation that can’t be subjected to scientific testing is, by definition, wrong.

    Capt Midknight

  8. Whitney Says:

    Capt,

    I really appreciate what you have to say (for this and the “obstinate faith” post–thank you). I’m a psychologist. A lot of people don’t consider what we do science (I’m a research psychologist, not a clinician) but I can promise that we adhere to scientific rules of research as harshly as any other. The difference is our subject pool/data sets tend to be fluid, volatile and change by the nanosecond, making interpretations of the phenomena we see very difficult. Nevertheless, I have a tendency to approach non-religious problems with a scientific mind.

    But I don’t think science can explain everything and I don’t want to force it to do so. I’m probably rambling, but science and faith are opposite ends of my spectrum. There is very little faith in science (aside from faith that your researchers are ethical and aren’t cooking the data) and there is very little science in faith/religion. In the ID debate, I’m sure it bugs the IDers to no end that the Christian right has used ID as a stepping stone back to creationism.

    I heard an IDer speak about 6 years ago–before the term “Intelligent Design” was being used full throttle. He was so impressive. He told of all sorts of scientists who would allude to a creator or designer, in that evolution just couldn’t explain too many things, but would scoff at the real idea of God being that creator. Funny, huh?

    Well, I don’t know where I’m going with this comment. Just chiming in. I love science. But I think people who don’t want to think about or accept God’s role in this great universe put too much faith in science. I like to remind my students that theories cannot be proven, just supported by an abundance of evidence. In all reality, when it comes to hard proof, theories can only be disproven.

    Anyway, I bet we give God some good laughs with this debate.

  9. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Whitney,
    I imagine that you take a lot of grief from the folks who consider your profession one of the “soft” sciences. It’s got to be frustrating to have such a moving target!
    One of my favorite correlaries to Murphy’s Law is the one that says
    “It’s imposible to make anything foolproof – because fools are so creative.”
    In your line of work, you probably find that people are endlessly creative in ways to screw up their lives. I have several friends who work in the counseling area, and I wonder how they do it.

    Al,
    I’ll bet you’re running around in shirt sleeves, but they’re forcasting snow here for the next few days.
    Greetings from the Brass Buckle of the Bible Belt.

    Capt.

  10. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I’m wearing long sleeves. Highs in the upper 50s. Sure, there’s sewage in the road, but who said paradise had to be perfect?

    I’m going to ask Juvenal if he wants to add anything. He’s actually read the science books.

    Me, science was my least favorite subject.

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