Sunday, May 16, 2004

Where Was I... On Thursday I started fisking this article posted at the site Canadian Christianity. I would like to pick up now where I left off.

While ID has had its greatest impact in the U.S., Canadian evangelicals are becoming increasingly aware of its significance.

Ed Neeland, associate professor of chemistry at Okanagan University in Kelowna, expresses exasperation toward die-hard evolutionists who refuse to consider the design alternative. He compares them to detectives whose preconceived notions blind them to clear evidence. Even as they view a body that has been tied up and shot in the back, they are already convinced that the gunshot somehow caused itself.

“They will say that we don't understand how ropes can self-cut to length and self-knot . . . or how a bullet could be created without intelligent design and fired... But if you give us enough time, we will solve these problems.” At what point, Neeland asks, “do you face the obvious and admit that the death was designed?”

Evolutionists are sometimes accused of being too dismissive of ID claims. I find it far more common that ID folks refuse to take seriously the criticisms leveled at them. I think it's fair to say that Dr. Neeland could not produce even a single evolutionist who holds the view he describes. Design, not evolution, is the preconceived notion here. Considering the manifest falseness of ID arguments, it's incredible that scientists are willing to engage them to the extent that they are.

“I think there's an increasing skepticism that's got the Darwinist community thoroughly alarmed,” says Mark Hartwig, editor of Focus on the Family's Teachers in Focus magazine. “The reaction to the ID movement's success has been shrill, and marked by denial, intimidation and ad hominem [attacks].”

More of the same. Mostly, the response to ID theory by scientists has been to show, in meticulous detail, that ID's present a caricatured view of modern science. For example, in response to Behe's claims that evolution can not account for so-called “irreducibly complex” biological systems, scientists have shown both that the logic of his argument is wrong and that the technical literature contains numerous papers of precisely the sort he says does not exist. Behe has replied by folding his arms and shaking his head. Of course, Hartwig does not get paid to care about such things. He gets paid to parrot religious propaganda.

ID proponents believe they have struck a nerve in the body of evolutionary theory. Indeed, some observers believe that ID concepts have done more to discredit Darwinism -- and provide an alternative to it -- than most traditional creationist arguments.

Some creationists forcefully disagree. “The average Canadian has never heard of ID,” says David Herbert, chairman of the London, Ontario-based Citizens Concerned about Education and Origins. He believes it is more effective to challenge the thinking of high school teachers by offering presentations that examine the underlying philosophical assumptions of both evolution and creationism. ID, he maintains, “is seen as an elitist, ivory tower thing. How much of it is filtering down into school boards and textbooks? I don't think it's made any impact in Canada. And I don't think it will.”

While I would hate to agree with a creationist about anything, I hope Mr. Herbert is right about this. On the other hand, it seems to me that ID's spend an inordinate amount of time discussing underlying philosophical assumptions. It's not clear what Herbert wants to do differently.

“ID is just plain bad science,” asserts Denis Lamoureux, an assistant professor of science and religion at St. Joseph's College in Alberta, who considers himself an “evolutionary creationist.” An evangelical Christian, he has debated proponents of ID, such as Phillip Johnson. “I have known -- and have been friends with -- the main leaders since 1994, and I have yet to see a theory of origins outlined. If they are going to inspire a scientific revolution and usher in 'theistic science,' then they need to present a theory . . . ID anti-evolutionism is theologically motivated.”

I met Lamoureux at the Darwin, Design and Democracy III conference held in Kansas City two years ago. This was a pro-ID conference. Lamoureux served as one-fourth of a debate panel defending evolution. He was excellent. His discussions of science were very good. But even more impressive was his eloquence when discussing his faith. Any time I find myself buying the line that Christians have to water down their faith to accept evolution, I just think about him. His faith is far more sincere and far more deserving of respect than the brain-dead know-nothingism of the fundamentalists.

Ken Ham, president of Answers In Genesis, an organization which promotes the idea that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, believes that ID proponents are only “adding some kind of intelligence to evolution, but it's still a secular viewpoint. They're not giving evidence of who the designer is. Speaking philosophically, their creator has to be an ogre, whose creation is full of mistakes, death and disease.” ID advocates, he concludes, are ”doomed to failure because they have no biblical perspective.“

I also met Ham once at a young-Earth creationism conference in Wichita, Kansas. I parked near the door for that one, just in case I needed to make a quick escape. After his barn-burner of a talk, a number of people ran up on stage to ask him questions (except for me, all were Ham supporters). When it got to be my turn, I launched into an explanation of basic information theory that was so lucid and engaging I even impressed myself. I explained, firmly but politely, why every major point he had just made was laughably wrong. Ham, mustering all of his scientific ammunition, called me arrogant and moved on to the next person. I guess I didn't reach him. On the other hand, as I walked away I ended up having a small crowd form around me, asking me to explain further some of the things I had just said. So maybe I did some good.

Only a lunatic like Ham could think ID is a secular viewpoint. He doesn't seem to understand that the superficial modesty of ID proponents is strictly a tactic for having ID pass constitutional muster. He can rest assured that the primary ID defenders (Johnson, Wells, and Dembski come to mind) are just as insane as he is.

Ham's assertion “is a gross misrepresentation of ID,” contends Kirk Durston, national director of the Ontario-based New Scholars Society, a Campus Crusade for Christ ministry made up of faculty members from Canadian universities. “I know many people involved in the ID movement who are young-earth creationists.”

Glad we got that straightened out.

Not all creationists dislike ID, and some welcome its contribution to the battle against evolution. Ian Taylor is a Kingston, Ontario-based author who produces the internationally broadcast Creation Moments radio series. He believes ID “has had great impact in stirring the minds of people towards alternatives to godless evolution.”

ID appeals to Christians who are uncomfortable with a literalist reading of Genesis. Believers who have stood in the middle ground of the debate, uncomfortable with both traditional creationism and the claims of Darwinism may feel that they can finally be a part of the creation/evolution debate, specifically because of the Intelligent Design movement.

I think this is a good summary of what ID is really all about. It's a way of making evolution-denial seem intellectually respectable, and that is all.

The article goes on from here. I will address the remainder of it in a future post.