Interesting article in Sunday’s New York Times pointing out that despite some political victories, “intelligent design” has made few if any scientific inroads — even at religious colleges.
The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.
“They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.
“From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.
While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution.
“It can function as one of those ambiguous signs in the world that point to an intelligent creator and help support the faith of the faithful, but it just doesn’t have the compelling or explanatory power to have much of an impact on the academy,” said Frank D. Macchia, a professor of Christian theology at Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, Calif., which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the nation’s largest Pentecostal denomination.
At Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical university in Illinois, intelligent design surfaces in the curriculum only as part of an interdisciplinary elective on the origins of life, in which students study evolution and competing theories from theological, scientific and historical perspectives, according to a college spokesperson.
The only university where intelligent design has gained a major institutional foothold is a seminary. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., created a Center for Science and Theology for William A. Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, after he left Baylor, a Baptist university in Texas, amid protests by faculty members opposed to teaching it.
Intelligent design and Mr. Dembski, a philosopher and mathematician, should have been a good fit for Baylor, which says its mission is “advancing the frontiers of knowledge while cultivating a Christian world view.” But Baylor, like many evangelical universities, has many scholars who see no contradiction in believing in God and evolution.
Now can we finally dispose of silly arguments that people who oppose the teaching of ID in science classrooms are simply driven by anti-God prejudice, or that “Darwinism” is the fundamentalist religion of the secular left? Alas, I doubt it.
Unfortunately, the pro-ID side is not the only one to play politics with science. Last week’s New York magazine has a generally interesting item about the new Darwin exhibition at the New York Museum of Natural History, done in Q & A form, which ends with this quip:
You think this’ll change anybody’s mind?
Not anybody who really likes Samuel Alito. But, hell, it can’t hurt to try.
So, political conservatives are knuckle-dragging, ignorant anti-Darwin obscurantists. Never mind that some of the most scathing assaults on the “intelligent design” movement have come from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, George Will and John Derbyshire.
I know it’s supposed to be a joke, but this kind of humor is all too indicative of a certain type of “liberal” mindset which assumes that no educated, intellectually sophisticated person can be right of center politically. It’s smug. It’s obnoxious. It’s wrong. And I’ve run into it a lot.