The ID vs. Darwinism Debate: more silly than ‘pulp fiction’
Chad Phillips’ submission regarding Intelligent Design vs. evolution (May 25, 2005) was disappointing at best. If Phillips is unhappy with the quality of the debate, he wrote nothing to improve it. Phillips criticizes columnists for not including facts and arguments in their commentaries, then fails to include any facts and arguments himself. Then he mudslings about other people’s mudslinging.
Finally, perhaps his most unforgivable charge is that pro-evolution journalists are ‘cornering the market on propaganda.’ Please! Propaganda instead of fair, constructive debate seems to be the order of the day from all sides on all issues. Phillips denounces those who treat Darwinism as ‘sacred dogmas that cannot be questioned,’ yet I am confident that if I were to discuss with him, say, Biblical literalism vs. historical-critical exegesis, I’d find that Phillips has a few ‘sacred dogmas that cannot be questioned’ of his own.
Finally, he attacks ‘liberal’ journalists by mentioning Clarence Page, Ellen Goodman and Frank Rich in particular. Page is a black journalist, Goodman is a pro-feminist woman journalist, and Rich is an openly gay journalist. Is the teaching of evolution really the only issue here that has Phillips steaming? This submission gives me an excuse to present my own thoughts on evolution and Intelligent Design.
The biggest problem facing the promotion of ID is that it’s largely viewed as the Genesis story in disguise. The fact that ID is championed by traditionalist Christians doesn’t help this. Positioned as they are, the proponents of ID find ‘ rightfully, I believe ‘ that the weight of showing that ID is not ‘Genesis-lite’ rests squarely upon their own shoulders.
If the pro-ID people were more intellectually nimble, this argument would be easy to make. When they do indeed start with Genesis and then tweak this and re-word that, their opponents have an easy accusation that ID promotes one particular religious viewpoint at public expense. But the truth is that the notion of divinity in the forces of creation is not specific to Judeo-Christianity. It is also present, although sometimes less explicitly, in Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, Native-American indigenous religions, and even some secular philosophical writings, Aristotle not being the least.
Because the idea of divine creation is part of many worldviews, it is easy to argue that presenting theism and atheism as alternate philosophical positions, to be given equal consideration by the probing individual, ought to be neither an intellectual problem nor a problem in church-state separation. The First Amendment requires that government not promote a particular religion, not that it pretend that the entire arena of religious thought itself does not exist.
But an even more fundamental point is this: Evolution and ID do not need to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be blended together quite well. This was explored over 25 years ago in one of my favorite books, ‘The Road Less Traveled,’ by M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Peck is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He writes as both a scientific thinker and a spiritual thinker. A major theme of his book is the integration of science with religion and spirituality. In the final part, Peck explores the nature of divine grace. Historically, the religious have considered grace to be a beneficent expression of God’s love for humanity. Since Peck defines love as the will to nurture oneself or another to grow spiritually, he suggests that God’s love and God’s will for us to grow toward Him are one and the same. God’s grace to humans is His nurturing of that growth.
Peck then wonders if the very development process of life ‘ evolution ‘ may indeed be further evidence of God’s existence, love and grace. He proposes that evolution is miraculous, specifically because it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics (an argument I personally disagree with, but I won’t go into that here). Still, the notion that the guiding finger of God is in the genetic mutations that produce a more survivable creature instead of a less survivable one is a possibility that any open-minded, theistic-friendly scientist might entertain.
Moreover, pure evolution theory asserts that mutations occur randomly. Yet there are points in the evolutionary phylogenies (i.e., evolutionary developmental histories) of many species where it was required that several mutations occur simultaneously, or near-simultaneously. The likelihood of one particular mutation may be small, and the likelihood of multiple specific mutations occurring together is exponentially smaller still. Yet evolutionary biologists have identified instances in which these clusters of mutations must have occurred, sometimes with odds that have been virtually infinitesimal. When such extremely unlikely occurrences happen again and again, they do invite wonderment about whether an unseen guiding force is at work within the evolutionary process.
Thus, in my mind, the evolution vs. Intelligent Design ‘brou-ha-ha’ is even worse than ‘pulp fiction.’ It is an ugly and unnecessary tempest in a teapot.
First, keep this mostly intellectual debate intellectual, instead of degenerating into emotionalism, political nastiness and propaganda spewing. Ours is a pluralistic world, and both sides need to learn how to co-exist with the other. If certain flavors of Christians would simply advance beyond a need to dictate to all of society their rigid dogma that the Genesis creation story be interpreted literally (when Jesus says, ‘I am the vine, and ye are the branches,’ does any evangelical insist that Jesus was literally a grape vine?), the public arena would integrate evolution into the already overwhelmingly popular conviction that God is the ultimate force that created and creates all things, including all living things, evolution or not.
Similarly, pro-atheistic scientists must surrender an equally ridiculous dogma: that the only scientifically acceptable position is the assumption of atheism. Science does not demonstrate that there is no God; science merely is silent on the issue. And in a world of scientific skepticism, it is just as valid to question the non-existence of God as the existence of God.
Allen J. Lopp lives near Lanesville and is a 2005 graduate of Leadership Harrison County. He is the youngest son of James R. Lopp, whose obituary appears on page A8. Allen’s father and mother put him through Indiana University, Bloomington, in the mid-1970s, where he studied journalism and computer science.