Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Intelligent Intention

You may or may not be aware of the "Intelligent Design" debate. This website give a clear presentation of both sides of the issue.

Today Diogenes Allen (my blog co-star) suggested that using term "design" may be forcing the issue. Better perhaps is thinking about intelligent direction or intention as a way of understanding the complex processes of life. Perhaps that could help break the stalemate, but it's unlikely.

Of course creationism (i.e. young earth) is wrong, but many people are eager to claim that Intelligent Design advocates like Dembski and Behe are wrong as well. And though I'm unqualified to comment on their science, one thing the I.D. camp is right about in my estimation is this: Hegemony makes bad science. Owen Gingerich himself said that he holds to Darwinism as a tentative theory, and no more than that. (But what would an old professor at some school in Boston know anyway?)

Behe and Dembski at their best seem to be reminding people of the simple fact that Darwinism isn't one.

"Stop investigating Darwin or you'll lose your job - it's settled," I.D. advocates it seems are being told. Sounds a lot to me like someone telling Max Planck to stop looking into "physics" because Isaac Newton (whose tree may look familiar) had it all settled. Planck, more responsible than Einstein for our modern breakthroughs, was actually so advised at the start of his career.

Furthermore, if folks of religious persuasion broke through an established ethos to make new developments... it certainly wouldn't be the first time. When James Clerk Maxwell was trying to account scientifically for field theory, it was his belief in the Incarnation that led to him to conjecture that a God who so dynamically engaged his universe could not possibly have created it in a static way. Propelled by this conviction, the Newtonian ice began to crack well before Planck came along.

Following Gingerich, I have no problem subscribing to Darwinism as a tentative theory. It compromises my faith about as much as knowing how many hours it took to paint Starry Night would compromise my belief in the existence of Vincent Van Gogh. But if new evidence presents itself, I see no problem in shifting my tentative perspective.

But considering many saw in Darwinism the chance to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, I can understand why some are not nearly so detached.