Rolling Stone on the Dover Trial
From Rolling Stone comes this snarky take, by Matt Taibbi, on the Dover trial. The article is well worth reading, but I take issue with certain things as well.
Muise was part of the legal team donated to the defense by a group bearing the impressively pretentious name of the Thomas More Law Center, a sort of Christian version of the ACLU. The group considers itself the vanguard of the anti-Darwinist movement -- its understated slogan is “The Sword and Shield of People of Faith.”
The lawyer had come to Harrisburg with these fellow knights-errant of the anti-evolution movement to defend one of the very stupidest concepts ever to get a hearing in an American courtroom: an alternative to evolution called Intelligent Design.
The theory, called “ID” for short, posits that life on earth was simply too complex to be explained by the random and undirected natural processes described in Darwin's theories. The chief innovation of ID was that it did not call God by the name “God” but instead referred vaguely to an “intelligent designer.”
The essence of its scientific claims was that biology was just too intense, dude, to be an accident. A local columnist mocked the theory as resembling a teenage stoner looking at the back of his hand and being too amazed to deal.
Well, it doesn't get much better than that.
But I didn't care for this part:
But Muise wasn't here to win. He was here to make a point, and he made it when he started asking Alters about statements made by certain prominent scientists.
“Dr. Alters,” he said, “were you aware that Professor Steven Weinberg once said that 'I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive to religious belief, and I'm all for that!'”
“An unfortunate remark,” said Alters, shaking his head and squirming. The look on his face said, “Can we move on?”
But Muise didn't: He rattled off more quotes from prominent scientists, including one from Gould (“Before Darwin, we thought that a benevolent God had created us”) -- who, Muise noted with obvious pleasure, had once written a foreword to one of Alters' books. Alters shrugged it off, calmly sticking to his contention that evolution was not an indictment of religion.
As Alters gave his denials, Muise turned to the gallery and, for the first time that afternoon, evinced a small smile. That smile spoke volumes. It said, “At least my clients know when they're full of shit. But these eggheads . . .”
Muise had a point. His defendants and their ID theory had come under attack for an obvious reason: Just because you say in a court of law that you're not creationists doesn't make it true.
Now Muise got to say the same thing to those superior-sounding intellectuals who flew into God's country and insisted, under oath, that they weren't enemies of religion. You can yell it at us till you're blue in the face, the lawyer seemed to be saying, but we who really believe know better.
There's rather a lot wrong with that excerpt. First, Muise's clients do not know they are full of shit. They think they are wise and learned and well-informed.
More importantly, it is certainly true that some people draw anti-theistic conclusions from science. I am one of those people. But it is not evolution in particular that leads to atheism. It is a willingness to accept science as a route to reliable knowledge that does that. Science does not make it logically impossible that God exists, but it certainly makes Him seem superfluous.
But it is equally true that a great many people do not agree with me on that point. There are rather a lot of people who find their faith strengthened by their understanding of modern science. Two such people are Ken Miller and John Haught, both of whom testified at the Dover trial. For some reason Taibbi didn't mention them.
Anyway, go read the whole thing. I think there are places where Taibbi is more interested in being clever than being right, but he has a lot of interesting things to say as well.