Wednesday, September 28, 2011

INTELLIGENT DESIGN AND SCIENCE...december, 2005(edited sept.29, 2006)

Call me paranoid but I think what is called 'intelligent design' is being promoted by sources that place little value on science or its historical development in Western Civilization. Evolution from its beginning has been viewed as a threat to the literal interpretation of the Biblical story of creation. I place a very high and personal value on the Bible, and believe that it is always at risk of being misused-especially when its symbolic language is taken literally, or interpreted as historical fact. I maintain such use of the Bible violates the very nature of ancient writings such as the first chapters of Genesis.
Many people are familiar with the Scopes "monkey trial" that took place in Tennessee in the 1920's, which is portrayed in the movie Inherit The Wind. This event disturbed some Bible believers by making humans seem (to them) too much like animals, and bringing into question such religious doctrines as the "fall of humankind," which are often literalized and historicized from the Bible stories. I think such ideas are what many 'literal' Bible believers have a deep need to keep in tact, even after all that has been learned about the nature of the Bible in the past 100 years.

To believe there is an "intelligent design" behind evolution is a philosophical or religious idea, not a scientific one; and that should be made clear wherever this discussion(which I think is totally appropriate in literature, philosophy or religion classes) comes up in public school teaching. It is a belief not,like Evolution is, a scientific model from which to experiment. Evolutionary theory does not claim ultimate truth and changes with new learning. But it is a model, a very successful one, from which to productively do scientific experimentation. Such use of the Theory of Evolution has been the major model used in research that has made possible the great progress in Medical science and the richer understanding we now have of life processes. There is no real scientific experimentation that flows from 'intelligent design' that I can even imagine. It raises no questions as science must continually do to be science. 'Intelligent Design' makes a faith claim and that's  where it ends.  It does not attempt to lead to any new and clearer  truth nor does it ask questions which is the the fundamental  nature of science. 

Where evolution is taught it is common and understandable for the question to surface of whether the universe is all by chance or by design. A competent science teacher might respond, "We don't know, but scientifically it makes no difference. Major religions and philosophies  have various ways to explain ultimate origins but in science we restrict ourselves to doing the work of science using this time-proven successful model called Evolution. It, unlike religion or philosophy,  has been the basis of much scientific progress for 150 years."
One Of The General Ideas Of  Evolution Theory

I think that it is wrong for groups to come seeking public support with a hidden agenda. And I suspect that 'intelligent design' promoters are doing just that. I've heard this discussed on radio programs (I actually called into two of them only to be cut short.) and find it disturbing that the real public importance and value of Evolution rarely even surfaces. I view such a powerful and enduring spark of creative thinking, like evolutionary theory, as evidence of God's wisdom dwelling in humanity. The story of how Charles Darwin, a believer in God, came to visualize this amazing pattern that has been so productive in furthering human understanding of the natural world is a powerful testimony, I believe, to God at work. Yet, many Biblical literalists have taken it as a threat to their particular faith structure. I find that very sad. It seems to be a kind of willful ignorance of modern information. The promotion of 'intelligent design' comes across to me not as an interest in science at all but an interest in promoting a particular form of the Biblical faith (however important it may be to some) onto the whole public via the public schools. Very few working scientists seem to be saying much in this debate. They may either think it is laughable (I might also if I did not see it as a rather serious threat to scientific learning in America's public education) or perhaps they are too busy doing real science. 
Both faith and science are extremely important, and, I believe, God-given functions of the human mind and heart. Science, by its nature, thrives and progresses from a deep desire to know more than is now known. Popular forms of religious faith, by their nature, derive meaning and security in what they trust and are not driven to find out more truth. Scientific thinking is a more recently evolved (if you will) capacity of human beings who were previously at the mercy of the faith function, which was often dominated by what we now view as untrue prejudices and superstitions. This does not call us to cast out the faith function but to see faith and science clearly as two different ways of being and of progressing as humans. We need both. But to fail to keep this distinction is to take a step backward in human development that was very hard won. To think of 'intelligent design' as something to compare or to balance out 'evolutionary theory' is a tragic educational mixing of apples and oranges.

Some religious people view nature as evidence for their belief in a creator God(of their particular religion). That is fine and understandable. However, some people's belief in God does not rest on that, at least not in any primary way. If my faith rested on a literal interpretation of the Genesis story, evolution would scare me also, as it did in my early adult life. And I fought diligently, as many still do, to discredit it. Science, on the other hand, wants to approach nature as a mystery that will give up some of her secrets (via the scientific method) to human understanding. This has often helped humans to control aspects of nature in ways that assist and benefit human(such as modern medicine) and other life on the planet.

If either view in this debate comes to the public without acknowledging what its assumptions and agendas are, then it is guilty of deceit and should be ashamed. I think this discussion is very healthy for the American public and I hope it will be taken seriously enough that more people can get a truer perspective of the nature of both faith and science. I'm confident that a more complete truth will present a way to see how these two important human functions can intersect each other without misrepresenting or doing harm to the legitimate reality of either. Jim Hibbett

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