The real mistake of ID theorists

“What made Darwinism so important and impactful [sic] was theological and not scientific: it pulled the foundation of moral absolutes out from under every law, action, and relationship. If God is sovereign, his law as given in the Bible is the absolute standard; if God is an uninterested or helpless bystander and pointless random chemical reactions underlie all of life, God’s law is superfluous. The abandonment of absolute standards of morality and behavior eventually transformed the American cultural and legal landscape. Pornography became free speech, with public decency standards marginalized. The destruction of moral absolutes paved the way for welfare programs that held no one accountable for his actions and choices and set out to apply materialist solutions—money—to metaphysical problems of the heart and spirit.”

- Marvin Olasky and John Perry - 'Monkey Business, the True Story of the Scopes Trial'

Here we see directly the mistakes made by the Christian right with regards to evolution. They conflate the agnosticism inherent in the scientific method with philosophical atheism, and pretend that there is no difference between them.

Evolution and science are NOT equatable with atheism. Evolution is a scientific theory ( like the theory of gravity - it is extremely well tested and supported by all the available evidence) for how species change, profligate and occasionally die off over time. Science requires methodological naturalism - that is, it requires that when looking for explanations we confine our search to the natural world and not invoke supernatural forces whenever we run into trouble. If this were not the case, science would never produce results, it would stall out whenever a scientist simply through up their hands and declared 'and then, a miracle happens'.

Atheism in contrast to science is a philosophy, one with only one basic tenet - that there are no supernatural beings. Atheism takes the agnosticim of methodological naturalism a step further - rather than simply ignore potential supernatural causes, atheism is a position that there aren't any supernatural causes at all.

Atheism is certainly consistent with both Science in general and evolution in particular, but they are not intrinsically linked to atheism in any way. Soviet scientists were also often atheists, but as a result of Communist party interference 'Lysenkoism' was considered to be the prefered explanation for species modification over Darwin's theory of 'natural selection' - their atheism may have been consistent with science, but it didn't prevent them from doing science very badly.

Many scientists (and I mean REAL scientists, not uncredited poseurs like Michael Behe or Phillip Johnson) find no difficulty in maintaining their faith while also performing good science based on methodological naturalism. For these people, God is not something disproved by evolution - they have no problem in reconciling the results of science with their faith in a transcendent supreme being. Nor should they. Science will show how the natural world works. That its job. It has no ulterior motive, it is concerned only with what can be repeatedly tested to be true - and it explicitly avoids subjects of transcendent belief which are beyond its powers to test or assess. On matters best suited to religion science is resolutely mute and refuses to take a stand.

What Olansky, Perry, Behe and Johnson seek to do is to return to a 'God of the gaps' theology - an attempt to shore up their faith by tearing down science (and replacing it with 'faith directed science', a paradox if there ever was one) under the mistaken impression that doing so will in some way expose the 'moral decay' of atheism and lead everyone back from science into the arms of the Church.

I respectfully submit that they not only miss their mark (because atheism isn't equatable with moral decay), but they also do great harm to the intellectual foundations (such as there are) for their faith - because like it or not, evolution is fact and the evidence supports it fully - and in a conflict between truth backed by evidence and faith backed by belief, the truth will win every time.

Placing ones faith in opposition to the truth, is no different then stepping in front of a speeding car while uttering a hopeful prayer that God will slow it down.

The car will slow down - but only after it has used the inertia of your body mass as a brake.

1 comment:

Richard said...