Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Muddled thinking among the Darwinists

Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution - New York Times

It's fair to label me a secular humanist, ergo a "Darwinist". As fair as any label anyway. Among my tribe pointing out muddled thinking is a duty, even when the muddler is one of us:
... Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science...

...The essential, but often well-disguised, purpose of intelligent design, is to preserve the myth of a separate, divine creation for humans in the belief that only that can explain who we are. But there is a destructive hubris, a fearful arrogance, in that myth. It sets us apart from nature, except to dominate it. It misses both the grace and the moral depth of knowing that humans have only the same stake, the same right, in the Earth as every other creature that has ever lived here. There is a righteousness - a responsibility - in the deep, ancestral origins we share with all of life.
The writer claims one can both accept the fact of evolution and maintain a 'personal faith in god', but then his next sentences rather severely circumscribe the nature of that deity. In particular it can't be a deity that has a particular 'plan for man' or who 'creates man in his own image'. So the author is suggesting that science and faith can be reconciled, but then he says the reconciliation only works with a particular sort of faith, incompatible with Christ the Divine. That seems like either muddled thinking or (worse) intellectual dishonesty.

This is too absolute for my tastes. Humans are flawed masses of compromise (favors evolution if you ask me -- surely a deity would produce a better product?). There have been great scientists who were staunch catholics, though it is true most seem to tend towards a more abstract and Spinozan view of a deity. Even so, I think I could come up with ways to reconcile a divine Christ with natural selection. Heck, it's not that hard (it helps that I'm agnostic, though the teachings of Christ are so radical as to suggest the miraculous).

On the other hand, it's dishonest to say that science doesn't suggest something about the Designer -- namely that if there is one (or many), She/they/it doesn't much resemble the Yahweh of fundamentalist judeo-islamic-christian teachings.

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