I'm a rather disinterested party in the whole intelligent design versus evolution debate so I don't follow it as much as I should. But there is something so bizarre about the federal judge in Pennsylvania's ruling yesterday, and attendant coverage, that I feel forced to comment. I think we could write on various aspects of this story for weeks to come, but here's a start. The ruling basically says that intelligent design is religion-based and therefore false science. Why is it that people have such an easy time seeing into the hearts of intelligent design proponents and discovering nefarious religious motivations but never question the religious motivations of evolution proponents? I think I used to be more sympathetic to the view that evolutionists were religiously-disinterested scientists before I spent a portion of last year reading the excited claims of secular humanists, and others, around the fin de siecle that evolution would triumph over Christianity. That's a theological statement, to put it mildly.
For instance, Open Court, a "fortnightly journal" around from the 1880s through 1930s (of which I read much too much) was devoted to science and a leading proponent of evolution that constantly attacked Christianity. The fact is that evolution's proponents makes theological statements. The belief that natural events have natural causes is a theological belief. The idea that the origin of the species and the origin of the universe has a natural cause is inherently atheistic. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught in the science classroom. But neither let us deny that religious belief swirls all around here.
David Klinghoffer over at National Review raises the question well:
"We conclude that the religious nature of Intelligent Design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," wrote Judge John E. Jones III in his decision, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which rules that disparaging Darwin's theory in biology class is unconstitutional. Is it really true that only Darwinism, in contrast to ID, represents a disinterested search for the truth, unmotivated by ideology?
Judge Jones was especially impressed by the testimony of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Professor Forrest has definite beliefs about religion, evident from the fact that she serves on the board of directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, which is "an affiliate of American Atheists, and [a] member of the Atheist Alliance International," according to the group's website. Of course, she's entitled to believe what she likes, but it's worth noting.
Klinghoffer goes on to mention other prominent evolution prononents: Daniel C. Dennit (wants Christians put in zoos), Richard Dawkins ("faith is one of the world's greatest evils"), Steven Weinberg ("science is corrosive of religion"), P.Z. Myers (believes Abraham is worse than Hitler), and on and on and on.
Would not debates about the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory be better waged if everyone admitted that evolutionists have very serious theological beliefs, such as those mentioned by Klinghoffer? Then, as members of a civilized society, we could ask ourselves whether -- and which parts of -- evolutionary theory have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt and whether intelligent design provides a reasonable alternative to fit the scientific data.