Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Is my blog an ID blog?

My blog has taken on a decidedly Intelligent Design slant.

I don't know how long it will last. When I started this blog I was somewhat adamant about staying away from science. The first two years of posts are almost exclusively theological. To be honest, I find theology more interesting than Intelligent Design. At the moment, however, I think championing cosmological ID is my most effective ministry.

(I will, however, finish posting my Sunday School lectures on Church History. And there will still be a sprinkling of theological posts.)

My adversaries, if that is the correct term, are both the scientist/atheists and Christian fundamentalists. Both make the same, erroneous assumption: Christianity and science are incompatible. While this is an understandable error for an atheist, it is completely illogical for a believer, because the scientific laws come from God—Christianity and science must be compatible.

Sadly, the most insidious approach, in my opinion, comes from fundamentalists who actually believe science is at war with the bible, but pretend otherwise. How do they accomplish this misdirection? By using "bad" science instead of real science. I am referring to the so-called creation scientists who try to use "science" to disprove science. They accomplish this with bizarre Rube Goldberg theories including (but by no means limited to) postulating that independent radiometric dating methods are not just wrong, but they somehow conspire to give the same wrong answer.

The bottom line is that they postulate a God who is tricking us. He has created a universe that not only has apparent age but also false memories of its birth. Remnant heat (at just the right temperature) from a big bang that never occurred; arriving light which details exploding supernovae that never actually existed.

There is not a single iota of evidence in the bible that God decreed the scientific method and planted fake evidence to test the faith of believers.

I have posted this (in a slightly different form) before, but I think it bears repeating:
  1. When the bible and science disagree, the bible is always right.

  2. When Christians and science disagree, science is usually right.

The first point is really just to create a contrast with the second. The bible and nature, the study of the latter being the chief concern of science, are both from God. The bible and correct science will never disagree. A good example is the steady-state theory of the universe, which posited (in various forms) that the universe always has been and always will be. This is clearly at odds with the bible's clear teaching (interpretation independent) that God created the universe ex nihilo. Something had to give—and what gave was science. The steady-state theory was jettisoned in the face of compelling and biblically compatible evidence that there was a creation event: the big bang.

The second point is where the problem lies as far as fundamentalists are concerned. Christians are not infallible in their biblical exegesis. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old, not six thousand. If all the science that gives us that answer is wrong, then nothing that we have built that uses that science should function. It always amazes me that someone would use a computer, with semiconductor components designed using quantum mechanics, to write an essay claiming that the same quantum mechanics fails in radiometric dating.

If you think the bible teaches that the earth is six thousand years old I have news for you. Science is not wrong. The bible is not wrong. You are wrong. You have (correctly) assumed biblical inerrancy, but have overlaid an incorrect literalist hermeneutic on Genesis 1.

How do I know this? Why am I so confident that I am right and you are wrong? Because our intellect, our curiosity, and our planet's superior observability are gifts from God, not snares to test our faith. The simplest explanation for the supposed incompatibility places the blame squarely on you: you are interpreting God's inerrant bible incorrectly.

As for the other group of adversaries, the atheist/scientists, I had my eyes opened in the last year or so. Having spent all my adult life among physicists, I never, not once, encountered one who was antagonistic toward Christianity. But as I started to read the evolution blogs I discovered that biologists, at least those who blog, are a particularly nasty breed who write, quite often, with irrelevant invective.

The evolutionist bloggers reflect rather poorly, I suspect, on actual scientists in the life science disciplines. They write like arrogant bullies, using locker-room language to dismiss anyone who doesn't agree. They claim to be scientists but they don't publish any science. In short they are, in fact, our best friends and their own worst enemies—their strident fundamentalism is a boon to our cause. No reasonable person would want to be associated with them.

Here are some of the common ways in which the evolution blogs are duplicitous:
  • They love to state that the Catholic Church, from the pope on down, is OK with evolution. They omit the fact Rome places a big caveat on her approval: evolution is acceptable, as long as it does not exclude divine causality and does not oppose Genesis. While no atheist evolutionist is willing to accept the restriction of divine causality, they are happy to trot out, when it suits them, the Catholic Church, as a paragon of progressive thinking in matters of science, especially when compared to conservative Protestant mouth-breathing rubes. But they never, ever mention the conditions Rome places on her flock. And of course, they are not so kind to Rome if the subject of abortion or gay marriage or female clergy arises. And sometimes, displaying their true colors, they are just downright repulsive.

  • They love to point out that IDers are, universally, theists (except for a few token ID atheists). At the same time they deny that evolutionists are biased toward atheism. So at least in the (reasonable) model that you are either an evolutionist or an IDer, they are willing to proclaim a mathematically impossible position. The truth is, if IDers are biased toward theism, then evolutionists are biased toward atheism. And in fact, it is not easily discerned whether the cause is theists drifting toward ID, or atheists toward evolution.

  • They like to argue, when it suits them, that there are many examples of speciation (macro-evolution.) And they like to argue, when it suits them, that the concept of species is ill-defined and possibly an anachronism.

  • They like to argue that it is unfair for IDers to talk of design while setting aside, as irrelevant, the attributes of the designer. Yet it is more than fair, they claim, to talk about evolution while setting aside the troublesome question of how life began in the first place.

  • They like to argue that ID is not science because it doesn't publish in peer-reviewed journals. (And when it does, it doesn't count; and ironically some of the greatest criticisms on this front comes from bloggers who claim to be scientists but have no continuous record of peer-reviewed publications of their own.) At the same time, they argue ID should not be published in peer reviewed journals because it is not science. And they proclaim a myth of a "level playing field."

  • They formed a grandly named National Center for Science Education, which is nothing of the sort. Go there and look for something on new methods of teaching physics or chemistry. It should be there unless the organization is engaging in false advertising.

  • They use the term creationist in inconsistent ways. By the usual reckoning, I am not a creationist, but I often get called that. Fair enough; if creationist implies a belief that God created the universe, then I am proud to bear the title. However, they never use the term when they put pro-evolution Christians on display. They never say you can be a creationist and evolutionist, only that you can be a Christian (usually a Catholic) and an evolutionist. They never call their biggest prize, Brown Professor Ken Miller, a creationist. But in the sense they call me a creationist, all Christians, including Ken Miller, are creationists. In the broad way they want to use creationist, it applies to their trophy adherents just as well.

  • They tend to be very libertarian: The government should not interfere with reproductive rights. The government should not prevent gays from getting married. However when it comes to education, they are totalitarian. The Federal government must use all power at its disposal to intervene in school districts and ensure that local communities do not create their own curricula. And they are willing to label parents who raise their children as Christians as child abusers and Christians (IDers) as Taliban.

  • With no scientific achievements of their own, they characterize Nobel Laurates as babblers and scientific frauds if they happen to question evolutionist dogma.

Strangely enough, in spite of what I've just written, I never engage in the evolution debate. I even believe that evolution, as the currently best theory, should be what is taught in the classroom. And I do not think that biological ID should be part of the science curriculum.

I do, however, think that a biology teacher should be allowed (but not required) to mention ID. One result of all the legal battles the evolutionists are waging against ID is a severe restriction on the ability of teachers to follow rabbit trails. Teachers going outside the curriculum, in any course, even when it is clear that it is just their opinion they're spouting, is incredibly valuable. I argued with teachers all the time and was better off for the experience. It won't be long (if it is not already here) until a teacher who mentions ID gets fired. School should not be like this. Students have discernment, and it is beneficial that they learn to evaluate the teacher's beliefs. What the evolutionists are creating is a sterile, unexciting, formulaic classroom where the teacher had better consult and attorney before deviating a micron from state-imposed lesson plan.

Of course I have always harbored a bias when it comes to the sciences: physics rules the day. Compared to physics, biology is kind of wimpy, if you ask me. Physics makes grand predictions: There should be anti-matter, look here to find it. Mercury's orbit should precess, look here to find it. Carbon must have an unknown energy level, go look and you'll find it.

Evolution makes no such gutsy predictions. Is there life on Mars? No prediction. If there is life on Mars, will it be microbes or something more complex? No prediction—there is just the sense that whatever is found will be accommodated into the framework.

Evolution is exceedingly weak in the falsification front. When that subject is brought up, there are two particularly annoying responses: (1) evolution is so well established that it has progressed beyond the falsification stage or (2) sure you can falsify evolution, just find evidence of a miracle such as pre-Cambrian human remains. (The latter is akin to claiming gravity is falsifiable, just wait to see if the Reverend Al Sharpton floats off into space in mid diatribe.)

The bottom line is that evolution is just not that important and not that big of a deal. YECs like to use the analogy that evolution is like a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a 747. That analogy misses the boat: the amazing fact would not be that the 747 was assembled, the real miracle would be that all the components of a 747 just happened to be there. Likewise, evolution is not the big deal, the fact that we have galaxies and stars and planets and at least one of them is habitable is far more astounding. I wish the battle were being fought on the cosmological front rather than on the tiny battlefield known as evolution.

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