Creatio-, er, Intelligent Design

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In Dover School District, just across the Susquehanna from where I live, Intelligent Design has been slipped into the science curriculum in a “camel’s nose in the tent” sort of way. Predictably, it’s been challenged, and defended, and the case is now in court.

Patrick Gillen, a lawyer defending the school district, said the case was about “free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda. Dover’s modest curriculum change embodies the essence of liberal education.”

Who is Patrick Gillen? He works for the Thomas More Law Center, which as taken on the district’s defense for free (ACLU is heading the charge on the other side). Scripps Howard’s stories explain More Law Center as “a non-profit legal firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians;” AP uses similar language: “a public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.”

The More Law Center, on its Web site, goes a good bit further. It describes itself as “a not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. Our purpose is to be the sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square.”

I would think that full quote would be useful in gauging the claim about “not about a religious agenda.” Of course, a person who has a religious agenda is not always necessarily acting in furtherance of that agenda. But the More Law Center seems to have no other purpose than to advocate for Christian causes.

Intelligent design claims geological and biological evidence supports the conclusion that the origin of life on earth, and at least some of its development, was the result of deliberate design by an intelligent agent. ID proponents say evolution by natural selection cannot explain the origin, complexity and diversity of life. ID makes no claims about the identity of the designer, and it couches its arguments in secular terminology.

But the ID movement is associated with some Christian organizations, and many observers see in ID a modified version of William Paley’s early 19th century “argument from design.” Critics call ID “stealth creationism.” The National Academy of Sciences and the National Center for Science Education have described ID as pseudoscience. Some of ID’s supporters advocate teaching ID in school science classes to battle what they perceive as institutionalized atheism among scientists and educators. Opponents say this is merely an end-run around legal protections against establishment of religion.

The phrase “intelligent design,” used in this sense, first was given wide publicity by legal scholar Phillip E. Johnson in his 1991 book “Darwin on Trial.” Johnson’s assertion, and a key tenet of the ID movement, is “theistic realism,” and the rejection of “philosophical naturalism.”

Modern science is religion-blind; it doesn’t denigrate faith, it simply takes no cognizance of faith. It sets out neither to prove nor to disprove theology. Scientists debate and argue but they don’t appeal to God or claim he loves limestone more than clay. There is no one chemistry book for Catholics, another for Hindus, another for Jews.

[In modern times the German and Russian scientific communities temporarily seceded, and for a time there was “German science” and “Soviet science,” but that was forced on them by a warping pressure of authoritarian politics and cults of national or ideological identity.]

The religion-blindness is real, if the science is real. It’s not like scientists simply put God in the next room and do their work aware that He is only a few steps away, so that they always somehow try to sculpt their facts and results into something not inconsistent with His Scripture.

When I see atheist and agnostic and Shinto scientists embrace creationism or Intelligent Design, in any sort of numbers, and defend it as passionately and persistently as The More Law Center does, then I’ll begin to take it seriously. When some biologist or paleontologist who has never even heard of the Bible reads an Intelligent Design text and says, “That fits the facts better than evolution by natural selection, and it explains them more coherently,” then I’ll pay attention.