Woodward on ID
The New York Times ran this op-ed, by Kenneth Woodward, in Saturday's edition. Woodward arrives in the right place; that ID is a lot of nonsense and evolution poses no threat for a serious religious believer. But mostly it's the usual condescending, creationists-are-just-responding-to-those-mean-old-atheists, silliness. Woodward writes:
For some religious fundamentalists, this may indeed be a way of making room for God in science classes. But for many parents, who are legitimately concerned about what their children are being taught, I suspect that it is a way of countering those proponents of evolution - and particularly of evolutionary biology - who go well beyond science to claim that evolution both manifests and requires a materialistic philosophy that leaves no room for God, the soul or the presence of divine grace in human life.
Woodward suspects wrong. His argument is a common one, but it is never backed up by any evidence. It is amazingly condescending. Those poor fundamentalists hear someone like Richard Dawkins defend atheism, and are so discommoded by the experience that they try to seize the reins of government to promote their religion in science classes. Makes perfect sense.
Heaven forbid we should expect people to actually learn a bit of biology and form their own conclusions about evolution's metaphysical significance.
People like Woodward make these sorts of dopey, facile arguments because the reality of the situation is far too terrible to accept. Opposition to evolution stems almost entirely from ignorance. Almost without exception the people fightng to change the science standards can not give a coherent explanation of what the theory of evolution actually says. The only thing they know about the subject is that someone told them once that evolution contradicts the Bible.
I base this conclusion on several years of attending creationist conferences, talking with the attendees at those conferences, and reading large quantities of creationist literature.
Woodward seems to acknowledge this fact later on, but he quickly lapses back into simple-mindedness:
It is unlikely that parents who want intelligent design taught on equal footing with evolution read books by Drs. Wilson, Rose or Dawkins. Chances are they are among the Americans who are more likely to believe in the Virgin Birth than in evolution. That tendency appalls some people but should surprise no one.
Most Americans, as they go about constructing lives and building families, making choices and exercising free will, do not think of themselves as gene survival machines or as random products of an impersonal process that whispers, in effect, “I am all that is.” And most Christians do accept the Virgin Birth as part of a larger religious narrative that tells them there is a God who created the world - one who cares so passionately about humankind that his only son took human form.
Translation: Most people can't be troubled to learn about the copious evidence for evolution when it's so much easier to believe in comforting fairy tales.
I'm glad Woodward sees through the sham that ID really is. I suspect, though, that if he spent more time actually interacting with hard-core creationists he would be less sanguine about finding rational explanations for their behavior.