Friday, January 13, 2006

The Bishop Is Off Message

While clicking around searching for an NYT news item on Intelligent Design that I procrastinated in blogging earlier this week, I chanced across this column in the west coast Catholic Sentinel. It's by Bishop Robert Vasa, who is otherwise unknown to me. Although I haven't perused his archives, it seems the bishop either hasn't read or isn't buying Christoph Cardinal Schönborn's attempt to reconcile the science / religion chasm that ID has opened.

Like I said, I have no familiarity with Bishop Vasa, so it would be wrong of me to call his column a tissue of misrepresentations regarding the nature of science and of the Pennsylvania judge's ruling in the Dover case. But there are quite a lot of seeming misconceptions in there. Too many to fisk, in fact, so let me just post a couple of pull quotes:
While the theory of evolution is deemed true science, the theory of ID is labeled right-wing fanatical religiosity, which has no place in the public marketplace.

"Deemed"? "Labeled"? "Public marketplace?" There's that little matter of proof, which evolution has mountains and ID has none. And if someone's sensibilities are bruised, what of it? It darkens my day to think that faster than light travel is impossible, for example. Facts are no respecter of feelings.

The truth is that there are many things that we know intuitively as human beings, which cannot be the subject of scientific verification or explained as purely [random chance] or the result of [unintelligent design]. At the same time, it must be granted that it is also possible to misinterpret purely random events or events with purely natural causes as being supernatural. I suspect, trying to imitate the judge’s reasoning, that the conclusion that cuneiform tablets, which seem to contain ancient writings, originate from some kind of ID may not be an acceptable hypothesis. Why should we believe that it took some form of intelligent life to create those tablets? It seems to me that the conclusion that they are the product of some human life form is a leap of faith that is hardly consistent with UD or RC philosophy. If it is possible and scientifically held that simple bacteria developed, as a result of UD and RC, with complex DNA strands that scientists can now unravel and read, then it stands to reason that the same folks must argue that the cuneiform tablets must have had a similar UD and RC origin.
This isn't skepticism; it's rejectionism. It's pure and simple "La-la-la-la-I'm-not-listening-I'm-not-listening-Oh-say-can-you-seeee..." rejectionism!

Bishop Vasa would do better to study up on the Thomist position that Cardinal Schonborn staked out in this matter. It has its own problems, but at least it has a venerable history, and won't make the Bishop look so ridiculous.

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