Sunday, January 15, 2006

Intelligent Design

Debates about whether Intelligent Design should be taught in schools are at a near-fever pitch, it would seem, at least from my limited perspective. The debate is of little interest to me as it is presented. On scientific grounds, I have long disbelieved in the origin of species by natural selection, that is, Darwinism. On the other hand, as best as I can tell, Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory in the strict sense. You can't design an experiment that would prove that God either did or did not design something. That is a philosophical question, and one quite coherent and capable of good arguments on either side.

I try to use the full expression 'origin of species by natural selection' because the general gist of evolution is observably true. Human beings have been breeding animals to give them specific traits for a long time. Horses are what they are today because they have evolved. Oddly, there was intelligent design behind this evolution, but that doesn't trump the argument that mutations or variations in early animals made them more desirable for human use, and those who had the desirable traits survived and produced more progeny.

However, in all of this time, men have not succeeded in turning a horse into another species.

I was convinced of the falsity of Darwin's conclusions, ironically, by a proselytizing Darwinist, my college natural science prof who, at the end of almost every explanation of some point or other, would tack on the conclusion that no creator was needed to produce this. Somehow, all the evidence appeared to me to point in the other direction. This was significant for me because before that I had assumed that Darwinism was more or less proven. Perhaps someday I will chronicle all the ways in which my secular Great Books education led me to the monastery, but this would be a significant chapter for certain.

In this same course, I attended a symposium on human evolution at the Field Museum which turned out to be an eye-opening introduction to the politics of science. Again, I found myself in agreement with the un-PC minority that professed agnosticism over human origins rather than go along with the popular contention that there had been an 'Eve' somewhere in Africa from whom all of us derive. But there is a lot of pressure, especially for the professionals, to side with the majority.

An unfortunate problem in coming down on the wrong side of Darwin is that almost anyone to whom I would attempt to explain this would start biting their nails and thinking that I was going to ask them to believe that Genesis 1&2 are literally true. In this case, as I hinted above, I suspect that ID is not a whole lot better that creationism, simply because in both cases, the proponents don't seem to me to be scientific. Rather, the tempation is to adopt a philosophical conclusion that you want to reach and then start collecting evidence supporting your position (in fact, Darwinists do this all the time, too). I'm all for arguments on behalf of God's guiding hand in the world--in theology and philosophy courses, not in science courses. God, by definition, stands outside of scientific verification (or debunking, for that matter). That's OK--lots of things I care about do, like the experience of prayer, music or friendship. Christianity, particularly since the ground-breaking work of Thomas Aquinas, has given us the helpful distinction between empirical science and theology. If we are faithful, they will never contradict, so there is no reason to fear for faith when scientists do their thing.

There is reason to fear for one's morals, but that debate will wait for another day.

I wish you peace in Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior! Let us serve Him well in holiness.

1 comment:

detectivetom said...

Very nice piece, Father. I enjoyed it much.


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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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