Thursday, August 16, 2007

Christians need lots of evolution, or…

An alternative title might be: Why Jonathan Wells deserves some credit.

Recently, talking with someone who considered me safe, I heard, for the first time in a while, the dreaded and supposed evolution showstopper: what good is half and eye? This person was not scientific, but the question, as it always does, came with the tone of voice and facial expression that indicated that no response was required (it is, in a sense, a legitimate though trivial rhetorical question: what good is half an eye?) and that nothing but a knowing nod was expected from me.

Later, that somehow got me thinking about Jonathan Wells's career.

Most of you know Jonathan Wells as one of ID's fab four.

Wells describes finding his life's mission this way:

"One of the things that Father advised us to do at UTS was to pray to seek God's plan for our lives."

That part sounds most excellent, unless you know that Father means Sun Myung Moon and UTS means the Unification Theological Seminary.

Now, Wells's religion is irrelevant in terms of the correctness of ID. If I said: "ID is wrong because Wells is a Moonie," that would be an ad homimen attack. But that doesn't mean it is ad hominem to comment, stand-alone, about Wells's church—that's not ad hominem. At worst it can be viewed as garden-variety insult.

Sun Myung Moon is a heretic, a tax-evader, a false prophet and, even worse, a false Christ. Barring a last minute conversion, he'll rot for all eternity, and one can make a scriptural case that a special punishment is reserved for false prophets—and if not the mother of false prophets he is certainly near the top of the family tree.

So Wells prays to God for a plan, at the behest of a heretic. Strange world.

Okay, I got that off my chest.

What was that revealed plan, according to Wells? He put it this way:

"To defend and articulate Unification theology especially in relation to Darwinian evolution."

Well, okay. I have, in principle, no problem with that. If he is big into the Moonie thingy, then at least he is demonstrating the power of his convictions. If his beloved Unification theology is at odds with evolution, then who can argue with him dedicating his life to defending it?

So we have his plan in theory—but what about the implementation? Well, Sun Myung Moon paid for Wells to get a Ph.D. at Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology. Wells explains:

"Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."

To me, this seems a vomitous attitude for one to hold when starting Ph.D. program in the sciences. For me, it would have ruined all the fun of graduate school. Yet underneath the ugliness there is the germ of a good idea. Wells charging off to "destroy" and "engage in battle" as a soldier in the army of a criminal and an apostate lunatic is certainly hideous enough—but the method has some merit.

That is, if you really want to defeat evolution there is only one way: learn more about it than anyone else. All the Christians who (a) think evolution is very bad and (b) as a consequence something that should be avoided lest it pollutes young minds, well they are taking the wrong approach. They should follow Jonathan Wells's unwitting example and encourage their scientifically minded youth to obtain Ph.D.s.

But that is as far as they should follow the example of Jonathan Wells. Because a Ph.D. combined with an odious attitude and purely confrontational motives leads, it would appear, not to fighting the fight the honorable way—in the lab—but in the dishonorable way—in the arena of public opinion and public policy. Wells took a good approach and promptly bastardized it.

So while we should send our kids to the university to study biology—we should not fill their heads with warfare metaphors. We should say: go study, and then go into the lab, not the courtroom. Write papers, not popularizations (at least, not only popularizations.) God is not a God of confusion. If your research helps to overturn evolution, so be it. If it helps to confirm evolution, so be it. Studying creation can never be bad. Science can never present a sustainable challenge to our faith—but our methods and attitudes, if they are as ugly and as mean-spirited as those of Jonathan Wells, can damage our reputation.

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