Saturday, April 26, 2014


Klinghoffer's Designer

In the category of "As If We Didn't Know Already" comes this little missive from David Klinghoffer.

Klinghoffer is grousing about Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, with what Klinghoffer describes as "a sensible moderate conservative perspective" and Gerson's column entitled " The strange tension between theology and science."

Gerson was writing about the Associated Press-GfK poll that found that Americans doubt certain scientific ideas, including the Big Bang, the age of the Earth, anthropogenic climate change and, Klinghoffer's pet peeve, evolution. Here's Klinghoffer's kvetch:
Gerson seems implicitly to wrap up "evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change" in a big bundle, all equally factual and unworthy of further questioning. However, there's a huge difference between, on one hand, the first and last items in that list -- if by "evolution" you mean Darwinian theory as to the mechanism underlying evolutionary change -- and the second and third items, on the other.
After the obligatory trotting out of Lynn Margulis as a "doubter" of neo-Darwinism (heck, why not Larry Moran?) who, of course, does not doubt that there is a naturalistic explanation of evolution.

But then Klinghoffer gets down to the real business of ID and the Discoveryless Institute:
Gerson also seems to think that no scientific notion could be a legitimate source of "tension" with faith. He writes about the Big Bang, observing that
the idea of a universe that began in a flash that flung stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies across the vast canvas of space is, to put it mildly, compatible with Jewish and Christian belief: "Let there be light."
Of course he's right, which is why some scientists have resisted the Big Bang: along with cosmic fine-tuning, it does appear to confirm a theistic view.
The "resistance" to the Big Bang was short and yielded to the overwhelming empiric evidence ... something that the IDers refuse to supply for their own "theory." Cosmic fine-tuning is, in fact, a metaphysical claim because, with only one example of a universe, we cannot possibly "know" what the probabilities of "hitting" the particular mix of basic forces within our own universe are, anymore than we can know what the probabilities of dealing a particular poker hand is from a deck with an unknown number of cards.
But to think that no assertion from science can challenge religion is to make your faith basically fatuous. If it so forgiving, so content-free, as to accommodate any statement whatsoever about the universe, about reality, valid or invalid, so long as the statement comes from a scientist, I don't see that as a formula for a religion that's worthy of consideration.

For example, the idea that biology gives no indication of purpose or creativity on God's or anyone else's part would seem to be, from the perspective of traditional Judaism or Christianity, a bridge too far. If Darwinism were right about that, it would surely undercut my own Jewish faith.
I like that handwave in the direction of the Constitution, "on God's or anyone else's part." As if positing Satan, or Odin or a Deist First Mover as "the Designer" would be any less a bridge too far for "traditional Judaism or Christianity"!

But I wonder if Klinghoffer ever thinks about the reverse of his formulation ... if your faith makes you deny science, isn't it already fatuous?

Anyway, Klinghoffer's ultimate complaint is that journalists like Gerson "simply haven't taken the time to study the details of the Darwin controversy" ... which, of course, is just like a journalist not bothering to study the homeopathic "controversy" with science-based medicine ... as propounded by a homeopath!

I suspect Gerson is aware of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board and why should he revisit the dishonesty that is ID? On one side we have a small group of alleged scientists motivated by their concern for their "traditional" faiths and on the other we have some 98% of scientists made up of a diverse group with different philosophies, including theists like Ken Miller, Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala, who reject the notion that ID is science.

Now, it is true that, within the scientific community, there are more atheists and fewer "traditional" believers than in the population at large. But whose fault is that when the "traditional" believers drill into their children's heads that to accept the power of science to know the workings of the natural world is atheism and materialism? It is not that science, or the methodological naturalism that powers it, is inherently atheistic, it is that the "traditional" theists have made it a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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Once again, I am moved to observe that there is no objection to naturalist science investigating and explaining the birth of a baby. Far more personal a matter than what happened to us as a group, millions of years ago.
As you note, the identity of the "Intelligent Designer(s)" ought to be so much a matter of concern - well, why are there no are demands that ID be open about who did it? If it is so worrisome that it was just the same sort of natural event that we know to happen, and have come to deal with - why is it not worrisome about what sort of supernatural agency was involved?

there is no objection to naturalist science investigating and explaining the birth of a baby

I tried to explain this to a friend who is (somewhat paradoxically) a YEC and a strong Pro-Choice advocate. We have a perfectly "naturalistic" explanation of how human beings get born. No one ... well, no one in the ID camp ... is claiming that God ... er ... the Designer ... is individually designing babes in the womb. Naturalism more than adequately explains the "birds and the bees." But, at some point, my friend believes that a "soul" is injected into that baby, in a manner we cannot comprehend. What's the problem, then, with a naturalistic explanation of how species, including ours, came to be by materialistic means with some ineffable supernatural component being injected somewhere along the way? Unfortunately, I don't think the argument worked.
Intelligent Design: The Undiscovered Theory.

In Genesis, "Let there be light" comes after
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void;"

Not really a reference to the Big Bang, then. If it had said "In the beginning God created light" that would have been more impressive.
I like to think Genesis was the poetic version. In reality it was more like "Somebody switch on the lights! I'm trying to work here!"
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