I never know what I’m going to write that will set people off. I guess I should expect my views on evolution to do that. After all according to the Pew Forum, only 24% of evangelical protestants believe that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth. I guess I’m in the minority on this one.
At least among evangelical protestants. Catholics, Orthodox, and Mainline Protestants are more open to the idea.
According to this Pew Forum article,
The Catholic Church generally accepts evolutionary theory as the scientific explanation for the development of all life. However, this acceptance comes with the understanding that natural selection is a God-directed mechanism of biological development and that man’s soul is the divine creation of God.
Before I get too far, I should point out that none of these views have anything to do with my employer. However, we are a staunchly Christian ecumenical organization, so this discussion is hardly something new for us. Francis Collins talked with us about the scientific problems of Intelligent Design. John Medina, who has presented at Laity Lodge many times, also insists that there is no conflict here.
I’m no scientist, so I can’t debate the details. But I can recommend the work of those two men, especially The Language of God and Brain Rules.
Lately, though, people have suggested in emails to me that I’m being closed-minded about Intelligent Design. It’s true. I’ve been somewhat dismissive of the concept. When scientists I admire dismiss it as chivalrously as Medina and Collins, I tend to trust them.
But, in all fairness, I needed to look into ID a bit more myself. In particular, people were telling me to watch Expelled. And a relative sent me to Randall Niles video site. At least, Randall’s videos are short and free. I had been resisting Expelled for the same reason I don’t see movies by Michael Moore. When a movie is intentionally biased, I’m usually not interested.
Yesterday, I was home sick [cough, cough] and I spent two hours watching Ben Stein wander through the world of Intelligent Design and Evolution. At one point in the film, Stein even pretends to be lost while looking for the Discovery Institute in downtown Seattle as if to emphasize the organization’s smallness in comparison to the ruckus it has caused in the media.
I can’t say that I found the movie terribly convincing. At the risk of being a johnny-come-lately to this discussion, here are three specific problems I had with the film.
- The movie paints too many Intelligent Design professors to be martyrs. One of them is Robert J. Marks formerly of Baylor University, who formed the Evolutionary Informatics Lab with William Dembski. And yet, the presentation is clearly biased. Even the Baptist Standard reported (this week) that the circumstances surrounding Dembski were more complicated than just the issue of Intelligent Design research. (And speaking of the Baptist Standard, their interactive digital publications are pretty cool.)
- It doesn’t address the major problem most scientists have with Intelligent Design. Science by definition is the study of testable hypotheses. If something isn’t testable, it isn’t science. Period. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. It just means it can’t be proven by the scientific method. I don’t understand ID enough to know whether its statistical inquiry into measurable randomness stands up to the scientific method. Sadly, the movie didn’t even address this point. The fact that it avoids the details of the theory was particularly damning in my opinion.
- The movie concludes by connecting the Jewish holocaust (and abortion and planned parenthood) with Darwinism. I don’t think there is a fair cause/effect relationship between Darwinism and Nazis.
Here’s what I do think–any worldview can be stretched to allow us to dehumanize others. The Nazis may have stretched Darwinism to this point, but other groups have done the same with other beliefs.
In fact, this is the point of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. Dawkins attacks all religions as leading to the dehumanization of others. In certain cases, he is right. Christians have dehumanized various groups over the centuries, from Jews (who were said to have been guilty of killing Jesus) to Muslims (who were the targets of several crusades) to “witches” (Salem trials anyone?)
When Ben Stein rejects Darwinism because it led the Nazis to dehumanize the Jews, he is making the same logical mistake that Dawkins makes.
During the credits, I found myself just as puzzled about the whole debate as ever. I just don’t understand why Christians find macro evolution to be a threat to their faith. I’m the first to admit that I don’t fully understand how God can be active in the world and still rely on the apparent randomness of natural selection.
But heck, there are a ton of things I don’t understand about my faith. I don’t understand the Trinity. I don’t really understand the Resurrection. I certainly don’t understand the book of Revelation.
And most of all, I don’t think faith is something that can be tested in a lab. I don’t even want that kind of faith. My beliefs are supernatural. That means they are beyond the natural world. Darwin’s theory in its various forms largely describes the natural world.
I’m not threatened when some people extrapolate the theory beyond the natural world. They are introducing something supernatural of their own when they do so.
- My interview with Dr. John Medina
- My interview with Francis Collins, part one and part two
- David Masci’s interview with Francis Collins for The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
- Darwin: Controversial in Life and Death and related articles in the recent Baptist Standard
- The Debate Over Evolution from The Pew Form on Religion and Public Life (which I found through the Baptist Standard’s interactive magazine)
- Creation Science on the World Wide Web (also a link from The Baptist Standard)