Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Design On Evolution

The Panda's Thumb has a good roundup on the Kitzmiller v DASD election fallout, especially this development. All of the pro-ID school board members got voted out. TPT also came up with a funny bit from the trial:
At close, Pat Gillen remarked to Judge Jones, “Your honor, by my reckoning we have been here 40 days. That seems an auspicious number.” Jones replied, “So it seems, but it was not designed!” At which point the courtroom burst out in applause.

First Things in the past has given its prestigious pages over to Intelligent Design boosters, such as Michael Behe. In the October issue, theorectical physicists Stephen Barr is given space to present a not-quite-opposing view, The Design of Evolution.

The paleontologist Charles Officer, who was a lone holdout against the asteroid impact theory of dinosaur extinction popularized by physicist Luis Alvarez, groused about the pecking order among the sciences. Physicists like Alvarez dealt with the very stuff of existence, while rock-hound paleontologists were just glorified stamp-collectors, in this view. Reading Dr. Barr's article, I didn't detect any overt condescension like that towards biologists fighting off the ID threat, but I did note a determined avoidance of a certain elephant in the room: Intelligent Design is not science. If it were science, scientists would already be pursuing it, and school boards wouldn't have to be sued into including it in the curriculum.

The first part of the article deals with a startling attack on evolution earlier this year from the archbishop of Vienna. This was a turnabout from recent Catholic attitudes towards science, and it came as a shock, and incited the latent anti-Catholic bigotry of the mainstream press. Dr. Barr points out the church's quite commonsensical attitude to evolution in recent decades:

The crucial doctrinal point was that the human soul, being spiritual, could not be the result of any merely material process: biological evolution any more than sexual reproduction. The soul must be conferred on each person by a special creative act of God. And so the Church is required to reject atheistic and materialistic philosophies of evolution, which deny the existence of a Creator or His providential governance of the world. As long as evolutionary theory confined itself to properly biological questions, however, it was considered benign.

Dr. Barr goes on to fault the archibishop for using words like "unguided" and "random" in a theological sense, in attacking evolution, (or "neo-Darwinism", as he calls it). He makes a persuasive case that the archbishop's outburst is erroneous, and is against the prevailing Catholic teaching on the subject. But he finally gives entirely too much respect to the major ID proponents, granting them the scientific nature of their claims. This is unfortunate, and tends to undermine the theological analogies he floated earlier.

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on evolution mentioned by Dr. Barr can be seen here at New Advent.

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