Monday, August 08, 2005

Think Intelligent Design is the rationality of fools? Think it's the equivalent of believing the Earth is flat? Think it's a terrible idea for students to discuss religious philosophy in high school?

Well, Lileks apparently disagrees—and does a damn good job of explaining himself. Take a look, and learn something similar to the explanation I would give for my joint belief in education and in a guiding, divine hand.

As regards the debate over whether or not such things should be taught in school—I would add something fairly small. Has anyone ever heard of Lamarck? His name is actually Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, and he was a naturalist who first came up with an explanation for change in a species over time. He believed that animals adjust to their environment over their lifetimes, and then pass those changes on to their children.

The famous example explains how giraffes got a long neck to reach up to the highest branches. The first giraffe had a short neck—over his life, he was able to stretch his neck some, and passed on that slightly longer neck to his offspring. The second generation stretched slightly further, and then passed that down...and so on. (Note: This is still environmental selection of a sort, but it differs from Darwin in that, while the environment still selects for certain traits, any creature can develop those traits—it's not that some are born better equiped and pass that along while others die.)

Now, Lamarck we know was wrong. So why did I learn about him in high school? Because we were trying to understand Darwin's Origin of Species based on a comparison and contrasting with other theories. Now, admittedly we did not discuss creationism (come on, I went to a Northeastern private school), or ID. But my teacher did make very certain to communicate that Darwinian evolution is only a theory—that it could be disproven or advanced upon at any time. He acknowledged that there could be other inputs at play that we cannot necessarily understand at the current time. Lamarck was groundbreaking in his day. His conclusions described very well what he was seeing—but were still incorrect. All the same, it's beneficial to look at the theory and use it to understand why Darwin's explanation is better. So could ID not be introduced as a discussion along the same lines?

To be clear:I'm not saying it should be, but what's so threatening about it? In middle school I was taught all sorts of things about Islam—and we discussed it in comparison to other major religions as well as atheism, in a historical context. Did that damage my understanding of history?

Oh, but history and religion are social studies, so they go together, right?

So what I have to ask is: what will we do if one day a scientist does prove that God exists, and that He is guiding the entire field of science? Are we then supposed to turn away and say "no, that's not scientific, God can't be scientific!"?

And what would you say to, oh, say, Descartes? You remember Rene Descartes? You know, the guy who pretty much determined the hallowed Scientific Method that we still use today? And how did he try to apply it? Oh, right! (Among other things) he tried to prove or disprove the existence of God. How unscientific!

I've gone off on a bit of tangent here, so let's bring it back to center.


The simple truth is, there is room to believe in both a creator God and Darwinian evolution. There is also room to bring up this possibility in a science class without it being used as indoctrination (in either direction) or even philosophical discussion. Do I think it's necessary? No, I do not. Do I think our schools should be more accepting of religion generally and provide a forum for discussion of these grand ideas? Absolutely. Do I know how to accomplish that? No way.

But do I think that the discussion should go farther than "'You're flat-earthers!' 'You're going to hell!'"? Undoubtedly. These are serious issues, and the way our children are greeted by will ultimately shapbe who we are as a nation. We can't afford to look at it so simplistically.

Okay, so that wasn't "something small to add." My bad. Read the Lileks piece, though, I implore you.


Kobayashi Maru said...

The reason this is so contentious, I suspect is because secularists have elevated science to the status of religion, in the process elevating academics to the position of priests. They don't just disbelieve in God. They insist that others believe likewise before they are allowed into the discussion of how and why the world works the way it does. They truly believe that their view is "ahead" in some righteous, cosmic sense of "superstition" (aka, religion), thus implying that they own the only measure of what is "good" and "progressive" and "enlightened"... all of which would be fine if they could prove the non-existence of God... which of course they cannot.

Nice catch on the Lileks piece and nice chart on sunspots back in February. I've blogrolled you.

Roberta Swipe said...


You say (and I quote):

"The simple truth is, there is room to believe in both a creator God and Darwinian evolution."

How can this be so when the Bible specifically states that God created the heavens and the earth and everything within them in 6 days and on the seventh day he rested? There is no mention of evolution and it does not say "God created Man by way of many other species who came about through random genetic mutations influenced by a constantly changing environment". Had that been the case, that is the account we would have read in Bible class - the word of God Himself.

I fail to see how you can believe in evolution if you accept the truth of the Good Book.

So which is it?

Yours in the Lord's name,


RFTR said...

Let me answer that with a few questions, Bob:

How long is a day for God?

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve—Adam and Eve had two sons. After God marks Cain, the Bible says that Cain went out into the wilderness and knew his wife. Where'd his wife come from, the creation down the block?

Noah supposedly took two of every species on the planet onto his ark to preserve their bloodlines. There are approximately 900 thousand species of insect alone—about 1.2 million species all-together. (Source here) Excluding his family, that means Noah took over 2.4 million creatures onto his ark. Let's say we cut out the oceans species and call it a round 2 million. Now, scholars (based on Biblical interpretation) generally accept that Noah's ark was 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high. Even if you double that size, where did he fit even the insects?

Ok, enough with the questions. My point here is simple: the Bible is the Word of God, interpreted by man. Had God written it down himself, we might have a clearer picture of things—we also might not.

You see, I believe that God and his actions occur on a plane of understanding that we humans are simply not capable of. So, although He revealed his actions to man, and man wrote them down as best he could—it was inevitable that man would screw up. Some concepts got jumbled, God was forced to use a concept of time to describe his creation of the earth, despite the fact that God most likely operates outside the confines of time—things got mixed up.

We do the best we can to understand God, but the only way we could succeed is if we were His equal. This is obviously impossible, and so all of our attempts are bound to fall short until we are united with Him after death. In the meantime, the Bible is, in my opinion, the best stab we have at God and His plan for humanity—doesn't mean it's one hundred percent accurate.

Any questions?

Anonymous said...

I admire you faith, but I see problems with your argument. The argument, appropriately made, is not against teaching possible philosophical tangents regarding where life came from, and how that might alter our perceptions on life. Indeed, i believe that teaching the beliefs of different religions is necessary to a greater understanding. The real debate is that ID is being taught AS science, IN a science class. Let me clarify: the idea that a creator had a guiding hand in the development of life on earth and ID are not the same thing. The latter is posed as a scientific theory to prove the former. ID argues that because there are small, independent forms of life (or parts thereof, called complex systems) that do not fit into the current evolutionary theory, they must have been created through some intelligent design. Not only does the theory fail, but it jumps to an illogical conclusion. The complexity of our world, at times, may makes me wonder about the possibility of a guiding hand. Lileks poses this thought nicely. The thought that ID contains, if you will, is a good one. ID, however, is more than just the thought of an intelligent design, and there it goes too far. There is room to believe in a creator and evolution, but not in evolution and ID. The idea that If it is evluated on its scientific consistency (and I'm only refering to taking logical steps) it fails.

RFTR said...

I invite the anonymous poster above to reveal his or her name.

Calima Cala said...

Anonymous, you seem to miss the fact that there are two "competing" views of ID floating around. One is a solidly scientific viewpoint, such as that endorsed by Dr. Charles Townes (of UC Berkeley, the inventor of the laser). It enshrines the "good thought" you mentioned in ID, and strips away the extra stuff you complain about.

The other is the version with all the extra baggage.

It's unfortunate that two theories of Intelligent Design are floating around, one that is perfectly compatible with the Theory of Evolution and one that isn't.

Roberta Swipe said...


"So, although He revealed his actions to man, and man wrote them down as best he could—it was inevitable that man would screw up. Some concepts got jumbled, God was forced to use a concept of time to describe his creation of the earth, despite the fact that God most likely operates outside the confines of time—things got mixed up."

Now hold on a darn moment here. Did I read this right? You're saying that an omniscient divinity would have difficulty explaining His word to a creature He had made in his own image? "Some concepts got jumbled" - yeah, sure thing they did, buster. "Thou shalt not kill"...Heck, I'm really having trouble with that one ....could ya run it by me again a little slower?

Seems the only thinking getting jumbled 'round here is that in the poster's brain. You either believe it, or you don't. You're gettin' woolier than a lamb with split ends here, young fella. " For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth."

Yep, there's plenty room for doubting in that.

Praying for you,


RFTR said...

First, do me a favor Bob, and stop praying for me. If I'm going to hell, that's my business, not yours, you arrogant prick. Whatever happened to the sin of vanity? You've got it all figured out, eh? So... what keeps you from being omniscient?

The fact of the matter is, yes, God is omniscient. Man, unfortunately is not. Therefore, there are concepts out there, by definition, that God can understand and man cannot. It's simple logic, and if you can't follow it, well, then I can't help you.

Now, the next step is realizing that man's comprehension of the universe has grown steadily throughout human history. For centuries, even since recorded history began, man had an extremely limited view of the world around him. He believed that the immediate area was the extent of the world.

Next, let's address the Flood directly. These are things God said to Noah, correct? And they are recorded in the bible in the third person, correct? (i.e. not "God said to me," but "God said to Noah.")

So, when God said this, did he do it publicly? No, he really didn't. He told Noah, and Noah alone. So who is the guy that wrote it? Must be a descendant of Noah's, right, since Noah and his family repopulated the Earth?

In other words, that story was recorded by someone who wasn't there. Now, either God told him the story, or he heard it passed down from his ancestors.

If he heard it passed down from his ancestors, then he would have heard about people who could only say that everything they could see had been destroyed by a flood--seems the like the whole world to man of that age.

If God told him, then maybe God only said that he destroyed the whole world. You know, he wanted to put "the fear of God" into this guy and whoever read his book. WAIT! GOD WOULDN'T LIE ABOUT THAT!

Oh really? Who says God wouldn't lie? Where in the Bible does it say that God is always honest? Oh, and by the way, this is the guy that just wiped every species off the face of the earth—literally billions and billions of creatures—according to you. You think He's above a little fib?

My only point in all of this is that you should stop being so certain that you know everything. Life is about experience, and gaining knowledge. If you shut down what you know, and stop thinking about your faith, that's your choice—but don't expect me to do the same.

I have, in my life, doubted that God even exists. And when I started asking the questions, when I started analyzing the myths and dividing it from the truth, I came into a much more spiritual place in my life. I am a devoted Christian—and if I don't stone my brother for wearing clothes of two different weaves (remember, word of God!), you'll have to excuse me.