Wednesday, December 21, 2005

With The Entrails Of The Last Priest

(Title of this post is from this historical quote). As we all know, Darwinists really have nothing against religion. The salamanders on their cars are just a good-natured tribute to their Christian friends. Some pretty good quotes in this piece illustrate how Darwinists use their minds with a refreshing ideology-free objectivity, completely lacking in those theocratic ID'ists:

Tuesday's ruling by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, disparaging intelligent design as a religion-based and therefore false science, raises an important question: If ID is bogus because many of its theorists have religious beliefs to which the controversial critique of Darwinism lends support, then what should we say about Darwinism itself? After all, many proponents of Darwinian evolution have philosophical beliefs to which Darwin lends support.

"We conclude that the religious nature of Intelligent Design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," wrote Judge John E. Jones III in his decision, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which rules that disparaging Darwin's theory in biology class is unconstitutional. Is it really true that only Darwinism, in contrast to ID, represents a disinterested search for the truth, unmotivated by ideology?

Judge Jones was especially impressed by the testimony of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Professor Forrest has definite beliefs about religion, evident from the fact that she serves on the board of directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, which is "an affiliate of American Atheists, and [a] member of the Atheist Alliance International," according to the group's website. Of course, she's entitled to believe what she likes, but it's worth noting.

Religion and Smallpox

Other leading Darwinian advocates not only reject religion but profess disgust for it and frankly admit a wish to see it suppressed. Lately I've been collecting published thoughts on religion from pro-Darwin partisans. Professional scholars, they have remarkable things to say especially about Christianity. Let these disinterested seekers of the truth speak for themselves.

My favorite is Tufts University's Daniel C. Dennett. In his highly regarded Darwin's Dangerous Idea, he tells why it might be necessary to confine conservative Christians in zoos. It's because Bible-believing Baptists, in particular, may tolerate "the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world." In other words, they may doubt Darwin. This cannot stand! "Safety demands that religion be put in cages," explains Dennett, "when absolutely necessary....The message is clear: those who will not accommodate, who will not temper, who insist on keeping only the purest and wildest strains of their heritage alive, we will be obliged, reluctantly, to cage or disarm, and we will do our best to disable the memes they fight for."

In an essay, "Is Science a Religion?", Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins is frank enough. Perhaps the leading figure on the Darwin side, he forthrightly states that "faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate." He equates God with an "imaginary friend" and baptism with child abuse. In his book The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, Dawkins observed that Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

There is Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, of the University of Texas, who defended Darwinism before the Texas State Board of Education in 2003. In accepting an award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation,Weinberg didn't hide his own feelings about how science must deliver the fatal blow to religious faith: "I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I'm all for that! One of the things that in fact has driven me in my life, is the feeling that this is one of the great social functions of science — to free people from superstition." When Weinberg's idea of science triumphs, then "this progression of priests and ministers and rabbis and ulamas and imams and bonzes and bodhisattvas will come to an end, [and] we'll see no more of them. I hope that this is something to which science can contribute and if it is, then I think it may be the most important contribution that we can make."

There is University of Minnesota biologist P. Z. Myers, a prominent combatant in the Darwin wars being fought in an archipelago of websites. He links his own site (recently plugged in the prestigious journal Nature) to a "humorous" web film depicting Jesus' flagellation and crucifixion, a speeded-up version of Mel Gibson's Passion, to the accompaniment of the Benny Hill theme music "Yakety Sax," complete with cartoonish sound effects. "Never let it be said that I lack a sense of reverence or an appreciation of Christian mythology," commented this teacher at a state university. In another blog posting, Myers daydreamed about having a time machine that would allow him to go back and eliminate the Biblical patriarch Abraham. Some might argue for using the machine to assassinate other notorious figures of history, but not Myers: "I wouldn't do anything as trivial as using it to take out Hitler."


I've already reported on NRO about the views expressed by Darwinist staff scientists at the Smithsonian Institution. The nation's museum was roiled last year when the editor of a Smithsonian-affiliated biology journal published a peer-reviewed article favoring intelligent design. His fellow staffers composed emails venting their fury. One e-mailer, figuring the editor must be an ID advocate and therefore (obviously!) a fundamentalist Christian (he is neither), allowed that, "Scientists have been perfectly willing to let these people alone in their churches." Another museum scientist noted how, after "spending 4.5 years in the Bible Belt," he knew all about Christians. He reminisced about the "fun we had" when "my son refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the 'under dog' [meaning 'under God'] part."


Does this delegitimize Darwinism as science? Obviously not — no more than ID is delegitimized by the fact that many Christians, Jews, and Muslims are attracted to its interpretation of nature's evidence. Of course, some avowed agnostics also doubt Darwin (e.g. evolutionary biologist Stanley Salthe, molecular biologist Michael Denton, and mathematician David Berlinski who says his only religious principle is "to have a good time all the time"). But there is irony in the way the media generally follow Barbara Forrest's line in portraying ID as a "Trojan Horse" for theism. It would be equally accurate to call Darwin a trojan horse for atheism.

I have no doubt that Darwinists can separate their ideology from their scientific judgment. But not ID'ists, who are self-evidently blinded by their metaphysical assumptions about reality.


Anonymous said...

Even if it is sardonic, at least you acknowledge that ID is religiously motivated. The argument that evolution requires or implies atheism is old, tired, and thoroughly discredited. Just ask the Pope.

Even that article's list of supposedly atheist evolution critics fails: Stanley Salthe's home page is full of social science ramblings about how Darwinian evolution is morally bankrupt (which seems to be his primary reason for rejecting it), which is closely related to the religious reasons to reject evolution. Michael Denton's more recent book (Nature's Destiny) is, depending on how you interpret his view of "fine-tuning" in the universe, either plain evolution or theism dressed up. David Berlinski does not profess any religious beliefs in his writings -- but this seems more due to dedicating his pen to unfounded insults, strawmen and ad hominem arguments than due to any belief in a non-theistic intelligent designer.

Matteo said...

If by "religiously motivated" you mean "only religiously motivated", I acknowledge no such thing. I've already told you in other comments that the ID/evolution question had zero to do with my religious conversion. I like science. I happen to think that the theory of Darwinism (natural selection of random variation), is a scientific travesty, which is, in fact, mainly backed by (anti)religious motivation. If the theory could actually be demonstrated in an honest way that didn't require metaphysical naturalism to accept the wild extrapolations, I'd have no trouble accepting it, nor would it have an impact on my faith.

Anyway, I'm about to head out for Christmas travels, so I won't be able to debate any of this (not that such a debate would be very fruitful. In general, I know where you stand, you know where I stand, and neither of us is changing the other's mind about anything).

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

By "religiously motivated" I meant that an honest belief in ID generally aligns with a pre-existing belief in a creator deity, and is most often a way to buttress that belief.

Atheist (and, I suspect, non-Christian in general) ID advocates are curiously hard to find. If you look at the three people named as atheist evolution critics, none of them argue for ID. The closest is Denton's uptake of the strong anthropic principle (in his view, the universe's parameters are optimized to prefer life).

What will it take to honestly demonstrate evolution to you? I assume that what you object to is the idea that the action of natural selection on random variations can produce the complex and varied life we see within appropriate time scales.

If you want a theological treatment, John F. Haught is a professor of theology at Georgetown who specializes in reconciling evolution with religion (presumably with a strong emphasis on Catholicism). Wikipedia lists several books by him.

But let us take one analysis of the timescale of evolution; namely, that of Behe & Snoke, published 2004 in Protein Science. You can follow a longer analysis in Behe's cross examination during the Dover ID trial.

Behe & Snoke claim that the fixation via evolution of a particular feature would take 10**8 (one hundred million) generations in a population of 10**9 (one billion) individuals. Those more familiar with biology have done analyses that suggest these numbers are too conservative by orders of magnitude, but I will set that aside and work with Behe's and Snoke's assumptions.

Many bacterial generations are between 15 minutes and several hours; Behe cited 10,000 generations in two years, which would put 10**8 generations at 20,000 years. A pound of soil contains upwards of 10**12 single-celled organisms; other media are similar. Given these numbers and Behe's conservative assumptions, we can expect one thousand similar protein evolutions, due to that one mechanism, every 20,000 years. In each pound of soil. (A single person's skin also holds on the order of 10**12 bacteria.)

Rather than helping argue for ID, their analysis seems to support the position that evolution can produce a huge amount of variety on short time scales and in small environments.