One of the debates that has been the most frustrating to me personally has been the debate about Evolution and Intelligent Design. It is not because I am an expert and know what I am talking about and I am frustrated that other people are so wrong in where they are coming from. In fact, I am anything but an expert. The personal frustration has been that I have seen this debate become a major stumbling block to people having faith in God. From the perspective of someone who is not an expert on this debate, it seems like the more the ID folks try to make sure God doesn’t get defined out of science, the more many scientists become determined to do just that.
I am saddened and concerned by the degree of hostility that seems to exist among people on different sides of this issue.
J. Scott Turner has written a very interesting article in the June 12, 2007 issue of Christian Century that helped me clarify some of what was bouncing around in my head. (Unfortunately, I cannot find a link to this article on the CC website, but I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine, I found it to be worth the read.)
Turner writes as a scientist who seems to be a bit confused as to why so many other scientists are approaching this issue from a rather unscientific perspective. The article caught my attention because I began reading expecting it to basically tear a hole in the Intelligent Design argument. But, rather than really discussing the arguments between ID and Evolution in much of any detail, he actually talks about what is at stake when these arguments become so heated, and when they are settled not in labs or in academic publications, but through litigation and in courtrooms.
Turner writes that from his perspective ID is at bat with two strikes already against it:
It seems less than sporting, then, to call the pitch while it’s still in the air, which is precisely what many of my colleagues insist on doing, sometimes quite vehemently. This, to me, is the most problematic thing about the controversy: it’s not ID that keeps me awake at nights, but the tactics and attitudes of certain colleagues who really should know better. In Pogo’s immortal words, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Turner ends the article by essentially arguing that if ID is really such bad science, scientists ought to be able to demonstrate that through the work that they do. They should not resort to making it illegal to teach ID or resort to creating straw men that distract normal people who don’t know the subtleties of the discussion (like me) from the actual areas where research is coming to different conclusions.
In discussing a recent court case in Dover, PA, Turner concludes:
Many of my scientific colleagues were involved in this case. One would hope that they would have taken a stance of principled neutrality, offering a robust defense of academic freedom tempered with the sober recognition that freedom means that sometimes people wil think, speak and even teach things one disagrees with. Instead, my colleagues took sides; many were actively involved as advocates for the plaintiffs, and they were cheered on by many more from the sidelines. Although there was general jubilation at the ruling, I think the joy will be short-lived, for we have affirmed the principle that a federal judge, not scientists or teachers, can dictate what is and what is not science, and what may or may not be taught in a classroom. Forgive me if I do not feel more free.
I don’t know about you, but that made me think. Could it be that both sides are coming at this from the wrong perspective? It does seem odd to place the responsibility for what can be taught in schools in the hands of a judge.