Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bravura Commentary On The ID/Evolution Debate

James Bowman in The New Criterion.


“I must say that Mr. McVay flatters us beyond our desserts.” The spelling mistake, which is presumably owing to a transcription error by the Post’s reporter, Michael Powell, makes the irony fall a little flat, but the self-righteousness still shines through. The spokesman, Eugenie Scott, was defending her organization against charges that it had conducted a smear campaign against a Smithsonian scientist, Richard Sternberg, who had been responsible for the publication of an article making the case for “Intelligent Design” in a journal he edited called Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Though a highly regarded evolutionary biologist himself, Dr. Sternberg had effectively been driven from his post by the virulence of the reaction from “the scientific community.” Dr. Scott, denying any wrongdoing, was essentially saying that Dr. Sternberg only got his own just deserts. “If this was a corporation, and an employee did something that really embarrassed the administration, really blew it, how long do you think that person would be employed?”

About Intelligent Design—which basically acknowledges the existence of evolutionary processes in their broad outlines while questioning the Darwinian account of them and purporting to find in them evidence of divine ordering and direction—I confess that I am rather a skeptic myself. I have been an unthinking, blind-faith Darwinist since tenth-grade biology and always inclined, like other expensively educated people, to look down my nose at socially unevolved anti-Darwinists as at best monomaniac autodidacts and at worst what Al Gore once called “the extra-chromosome right.”


[C]ontrarian that I am, I don’t seem to be able to keep myself from sympathy for those who find themselves in the bull’s eye of the media culture, no matter how unsympathetic I might otherwise find them—and from growing more and more sympathetic to them the more they are hated and reviled. The Intelligent Design people are thus beginning to look to me a bit like President George W. Bush, who has been so viciously and so unfairly execrated for so long by the sort of right-thinking media-and-entertainment types who consider Maureen Dowd a wit that I now regularly have to stifle the urge to cry him up as the greatest president since Lincoln. And he, I started out thinking, was at least a decent sort of guy. Lately I have had to clasp to my bosom such relatively unlovely media-butts as Karl Rove and Tom DeLay, men of whom I might in other circumstances be inclined to be rather critical. But I tell myself that I can’t go so very wrong by continuing to love those whom the media hate and hate those whom the media love.


As we noticed in the media’s coverage of Pope John Paul II’s funeral and the election of his successor last spring (see “Marketplace Morality” in The New Criterion of May 2005), what the Church has believed for centuries—sometimes even what has been believed semper, ubique, ab omnibus—is now regularly regarded as “extremist” in the media. Thus, too, I find my rash urge to leap to the defense of the Intelligent Design people unembarrassed by the necessity to read up on evolutionary biology on account of the vitriol of the Darwinian attacks. It is quite enough, it seems, for me to say that I wish to keep an open mind on the matter in order to get myself branded as “anti-science” along with Dr. Sternberg and the author of the offending article, Stephen C. Meyer, who is director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Funny, but almost the only thing besides veneration for Darwin that I remember from tenth-grade biology is that open-mindedness was once thought to be the quintessence of science and precisely what distinguished it from religion. Presumably the ever-onward march of progress and liberalization has rendered that notion obsolete as well. The next thing you know, they will be promulgating a Darwinian version of the Nicene Creed to be recited by young scientists every day as they don their lab coats and fire up their Bunsen burners.

In a sense, of course, they are right. Religion is anti-science insofar as its raison d’être is to answer a quite different set of questions from the scientific ones. Science looks at the world and asks: how does it work? Religion looks at the world and asks: what is it for? Confusion arises because, historically, religion has dabbled in answers to the scientific question as well as its own, just as science has occasionally dabbled in attempts to answer the religious one. Though each seems to me to be outside its own area of competence when it does so, going out of area is to some extent inevitable. On the one side, the idea of a Creator God is central to religion, and it is not always easy to keep questions of what we were created for separate from those concerning the mechanisms by which we came to be. It is almost impossible, in fact, for tool-making animals not to think of Creation without some such mental pictures as Genesis provides of the Creator at work, setting things in motion. On the other side, once religion and religious assumptions have been cast aside, what succeeds them is almost invariably some form of sentimentality—desert gives way to dessert—which finds it equally impossible not to suppose that the purpose of human life is to be nice and helpful to everybody. Or at any rate everybody who is not self-condemned to contumely and derision (or worse) by his stubborn adherence to an obsolete system of belief in a Creator God.

Hence the odium theologicum of the scientific attacks on religious belief even where it doesn’t seek to trespass on scientific territory. When The New York Times did a surprisingly—though obviously not whole-heartedly—sympathetic series of articles on Intelligent Design in August, you couldn’t help noticing this in the comments of some of the scientists quoted. Professor Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from the University of Texas, said, “I think one of the great historical contributions of science is to weaken the hold of religion. That’s a good thing.” Another Nobel laureate and the co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, says that “one of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural.” Why are such scientists enthusiastic cheerleaders for the pointlessness of the natural machine that so fascinates them, and for the non-existence of anything outside it which might give it meaning? Well, it’s hard to believe, but I think it’s because, brainiacs though they obviously are in every other way, theologically they are on the level of the late John Lennon. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” wrote the ex-Beatle,

It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today …

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace …

It’s really the most basic logical mistake, um, imaginable. Because people have quite often cited religion as a reason for killing other people—and the other people for killing them—if you take religion away from them they won’t kill each other anymore. Put so baldly, the proposition could only be believed by a child, but scientists very often are child-like—as, of course, Lennon was. They are also often deficient in historical knowledge and may have missed the last century when the great atheistic faiths of Communism and Nazism killed far more people than religion had ever managed to do in a comparable period of time. It’s not religion which leads to violence but violence which leads to religion—as well as to honor and glory and hopes of a better world among other attempts to explain to ourselves why we do the brutal things we so often do. Violence and brutality are constants of the human condition, and the more violent and brutal they are the more powerfully are we driven to magnificence in the sorts of pretexts we use to justify them. But the fact that religion, or anything else, may be used to excuse violence tells us nothing at all about the validity of the religion concerned. Truly is it written that “by their fruits ye shall know them,” for throughout Christian history, at any rate, those most conspicuous for their beliefs have been not the violent ones but the holy ones.


One of the latest bits of evidence seized upon by the anti-theocratic crusaders has been the claim by a former Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Shaath, in a BBC documentary that he heard President Bush say that God told him to attack Iraq. Though denied by Bush’s spokesmen and by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who was also present on the occasion when the remark was allegedly made, that didn’t prevent it from being catnip to the likes of Mark Lawson of The Guardian, who wrote:

Throughout his five years in office, Bush has sustained a simple old Sunday-school world view in which external evil threatens American interests and is then met by force which believes it has God on its side. The fact that the perceived aggressors (Bin Laden, Saddam) also feel divinely justified is no more of an obstacle to this belief system than it has been for the religious throughout history.

Hurricane Katrina, though, severely challenges this exegesis. What can a president of such simple religious faith have made of the devastation of America by what insurance policies call an act of God? Whereas even an event as terrible as 9/11 could be sustaining and confirmational for someone of Bush’s apparent Manichean convictions, a sudden drowning of the chosen invites only agonized study of the Book of Job. This affront to Bush’s relationship with God may explain his public bewilderment during the weather crisis.

Well, maybe. Maybe. But it is just worth pointing out the historical illiteracy involved in referring to Christian belief of any kind as amounting to “Manichean convictions.” Manicheanism, it will be remembered, was a heresy the discrediting of which in the early Christian centuries was one of the defining moments in the evolution—you should pardon the expression—of Christian belief, though it has never been entirely vanquished. Among its tenets, the principal and long-remembered one (half-remembered even by Mr. Lawson) divided all creation into light and dark, good and evil, a division which, in turn, pre-supposed the existence of not one but two gods, one having created the good while the other created the evil. If that’s Manicheanism, does it sound to you more like Christianity as we know it today, even in some hypothetically “theocratic” version, or the media consensus that all the world’s ills derive from George W. Bush?

Meanwhile, in the land of The Guardian, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding has called for the banning of the English national flag, which is the cross of St. George, on the grounds that its having been carried into battle by Crusaders in the eleventh century makes it offensive to Muslims. As our own Mark Steyn wrote in the Daily Telegraph

Why is George W. Bush’s utterly unremarkable evangelical Christianity so self-evidently risible but complaints from British Muslims hung up over the 11th century are perfectly reasonable and something we should seek to accommodate? Where is the secular Left’s “insensitivity” when you need it? No doubt the bien pensants will still be hooting at born-again Texans on the day the House of Lords gives a second reading to the Sharia Bill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Program on the emergence of civilization.

"14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.
None from the sub-Saharan African continent. "
And disfavor.

They point out Africans’ failed attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it's applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

The roots of racism are not of this earth.

Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals.

The North American continent had none. Now 99% of that population is gone.

AIDS in Africa.

Organizational Heirarchy
Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

1. MUCK - perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as "god"
2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management
3. Evil/disfavored aliens - runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere

Terrestrial management:

4. Chinese/egyptians - this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
5. Romans - they answer to the egyptians
6. Mafia - the real-world 20th century interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
7. Jews, corporation, women, politician - Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

Movies foreshadowing catastrophy
1985 James Bond View to a Kill 1989 San Francisco Loma Prieta earthquake.

Many Muslims are being used like the Germans and Japanese of WWII::being used to hurt others and envoke condemnation upon their people.

They can affect the weather and Hurricane Katrina was accomplished for many reasons and involves many interests, as anything this historical is::
1. Take heat off Sheenhan/Iraq, protecting profitable war machine/private war contracts
2. Gentrification. New Orleans median home price of $84k is among the lowest in major American cities, certainly among desirable cities.

Our society gives clues to the system in place. We all have heard the saying "He has more money than god." There is also an episode of the Simpsons where god meets Homer and says "I'm too old and rich for this."

This is the system on earth because this is the system everywhere.
god is evil because of money.

I don't want to suggest the upper eschelons are evil and good is the fringe.

But they have made it abundantly clear that doing business with evil (disfavored) won't help people. They say only good would have the ear, since evil is struggling for survival, and therefore only the favored could help.

The clues are there which companies are favored and which are disfavored, market domination being one clue, but they conceal it very hard because it is so crucial.

I offer an example of historical proportions:::

People point to Walmart and cry "anti-union".
Unions enable disfavored people to live satisfactorly without addressing their disfavor. This way their family's problems are never resolved. Without the union they would have to accept the heirarchy, their own inferiority.
Unions serve to empower.
Walmart is anti-union because they are good. They try to help people address and resolve their problems by creating an enviornment where there are fewer hurdles.

Media ridicule and lawsuits are creations to reinforce people's belief that Walmart is evil in a subsegment of the indistry dominated by the middle and lower classes.
Low-cost disfavored Chinese labor is utilized by corporate america to maximize margins. They all do it. Only WalMart gets fingered because they are the ones who help, and those who seek to create confusion in the marketplace want to eliminate the vast middle class who have a real chance and instead stick with a lower classes who may not work otherwise. So they dirty him up while allowing the others to appear clean.

The middle class is being deceived. They are being misled into the unfavored, and subsequently will have no assistance from their purchases with corporate america.

I believe the coining of the term "Uncle Sam" was a clue alluding to just this::Sam Walton and WalMart is one of few saviors of the peasant class.

Amercia is a country of castoffs, rejects. Italy sent its criminals. Malcontents.
Between the thrones, the klans and kindred, they "decided" who they didn't want and acted, creating discontent and/or starvation.
The u.s. is full of disfavored rejects. It is the reason for the myriad of problems not found in European countries. As far as the Rockafellers and other industrialists of the 19th century go, I suspect these aren't their real names. I suspect they were chosen to go and head this new empire.

Royalty is the right way to organize a society. Dictatorships and monarchies are a reflection of the antient's hierarchical organization.
Positions go to those who have favor with the rulers, as opposed to being elected.
Elections bring a false sense of how the world is. Democracy misleads people.
Which is why the disfavored rejects were sent to the shores of America::To keep them on the wrong path.

Jesus Christ is a religious figure of evil. These seperatist churches formed so they could still capture the rest of the white people, keeping them worshipping the wrong god.
And now they do it to people of color, Latinos and Asians, after centuries of preying upon them.

Since Buddism doesn't recongnize a god, the calls are never heard, and Chinese representation is instead selected by the thrones.
It was set up this way. Perhaps dyanstic thrones had a say, but maybe not.
Budda was the Asian's Jesus Christ::: bad for the people. "They came up at the same time for a reason."

Simpson's foreshadowing::Helloween IV special, Flanders is Satan. "Last one you ever suspect."
"You'll see lots of nuns where you're going:::hell!!!" St. Wigham, Helloween VI, missionary work, destroying cultures.
Over and over, the Simpsons was a source of education and enlightenment, a target of ridicule by the system which wishes to conceal its secrets.

Jews maim the body formed in the image of "god", and inflicted circumsision upon all other white people, as well as the evil that is Jesus Christ.
I think about how Jews (were used to) created homosexuality among Slavics, retribution for the Holocaust.
Then I think of the Catholic Church and its troubles.
What connection is here between Jews and the Catholic church???
If it is their sinister motives that’s behind the evil that is Jesus Christ are they being used at all?
Perhaps it is them who are pulling strings.
Their bondage in Egypt proves their disfavor. The Jew leaders decided to prey on the up-and-coming Europeans to try to fix their problems with the ruling elite, a recurring aspect of their pathology.

I believe Islam is the one true religion, and those misled christians who attack "god's" most favored people will pay for it dearly one day.