The Department of Biological Sciences of Lehigh University (from whence my grandfather graduated in 1912) took the rather bold step of publicly opposing the concept of intelligent design as articulated by one of its own faculty members, Dr. Michael Behe (author of the opening shot in this debate, the book Darwin’s Black Box.) How times have changed. It used to be that there was enough collegiality in academia that such intramural disputes would stay that way.
But collegiality routinely goes out the window when the subject of evolution and creation gets debated in academia. One of the main impulses for starting my blog was the vicious debate I had ringside seats for in the Spring of 2005 at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a debate detonated by a proposal in the state legislature concerning campus free speech. (That was the subject of my second blog entry.) The evolutionists spare no vitriol on this subject, either with those with the scientific background to debate them or the poor, “general interest” staff members who have the bad taste to express their contrary opinions.
As Behe’s “colleagues” (with friends like that, enemies are unnecessary) remind us, Darwinism and Evolution have been around for a long time. Although confrontations have been plenty (the Scopes Trial, up the road from UTC, is the best known example) it is surprising how little battle has been done compared with the enormity of the subject. The fact remains that, in the U.S., we have the spectacle of a nation where the majority of people believe in a universe that was created, possessing a school system that has uncritically and universally taught Darwinism for many years, and in the midst of this contradiction has been successful in its pursuit of both pure and applied science, with the standard of living to prove it.
Today, however, we are told by the secularists (almost always evolutionists) that we must believe that material causality is all there is, that to believe otherwise is ignorant and will thrust us into a dark age. They have made evolution as a “litmus test” of all that is beautiful and good to them. They have mercilessly attacked creationists as ignorant religious fanatics. And, for good measure, they have the ACLU working tirelessly to remove any religious content of public life, which is obviously a prelude to removing it in private life.
This doesn’t represent a reversal of position for the evolutionists, but it does represent a major change in the way they present themselves and their beliefs to society. Why are they so defensive these days? And why have they so energetically turned their defence to offence? Sorting these questions out shows a lot about where secularists/evolutionists really think of their own position.
There are several factors that have led to the breaking of this “uneasy truce.”
The first is a shift in Protestant Christianity to the prominence of churches which affirm the present reality of the miraculous. (Roman Catholicism and Orthodox churches have done so all along.) Evolutionists never had to fight the whole idea of the miraculous when most Protestant churches were more than happy to do the work for them! Now evolutionists tell us that, if people who do believe in miracles get into the game, they will rely on these miracles for scientific results. This of course is silly. No responsible Christian practitioner of the pure or applied sciences is going to rely on the occurrence of the miraculous for a specific scientific or engineering result. God is as much the author of the laws of nature (as marvellous of a creation as anything) as the miraculous. I believe He expects us to apply these to solve our problems, just as we who are or have been academics expect our students to apply themselves to learn the material set before them, and I think that most Christians in the technical fields are of the same mind.
The second is that secularists in the US are thinking through more thoroughly the implications of their philosophy. Realising how pervasive the influence of Christianity is, they seek to eliminate its influence and by doing so advance themselves and their own agenda. For example, eliminating the Creator eliminates the rights endowed by that Creator, which of course is a statist’s dream come true. This also jeopardises the whole social equity agenda, which is based on the affirmation of the worth of every individual, an affirmation that ultimately can only come from God. As we have noted, liberalism in general has been getting away from this idea; it would rather spend time promoting elitist agendas such as gay rights than fixing really serious inequities in our society.
The third is that the whole idea of “free inquiry” amongst secularists is going by the wayside. One of the key concepts that secularists have used in support of their idea is that their idea is in fact the product of “free inquiry,” where all previous assumptions are thrown out and new things are discovered and science advanced as a consequence. In proposing this they contrast this with the “dogmatism” and “narrow-mindedness” of their opponents. (My own concept of the advance of science can be found in the preface to my master’s thesis.) With the loosening of the concepts of absolutes, “free inquiry” is going places where the secularists don’t really want it to go.
And this leads us to the whole idea of intelligent design. As long as the “New Earth Creationists” reigned supreme, evolutionists could characterise the whole concept of creationism as a primarily religious one. (On the other end of the scale, theistic evolutionists did their secular counterparts a favour, as they relieved them of explaining how everything got here in the first place, something evolutionists by definition have no answer for.) Intelligent design, like it or not, has its genesis in proposing a scientific solution to things that evolution cannot adequately explain.
That decidedly theistic–or at least deistic–solution to a scientific problem has induced one thing in secular evolutionists: panic. That panic is absolute. Today most evolutionists will not even discuss the possibility of any common ground with such people as “Old Earth Creationists,” who share their views on the age of the universe and of many long-term processes therein. They only wish to shove their dogma down our throats, ignoring many of the unappetising consequences, both philosophical and scientific, of their idea. But their offensiveness is only to mask the reality that they are circling the wagons around a dogma that is in serious trouble.
They need to approach this matter with more humility. Evolutionists love to tell us that their theory is experimentally verified, but ultimately they cannot recreate the billions of years of prehistory in their laboratory. (They cannot even turn the lights on there without government funding, which is why they are so defensive about changes in the attitude of the state.) From a scientific standpoint, theories about the origin and course of the universe are ultimately a forensic exercise based on the information we have, information subject to reinterpretation due to supplemental data and new methods of analysis. But humility has never been a characteristic of true modern and post-modern people; it is a Christian virtue, and Christian virtues are the last things secularists want to adopt even if they are better off for it.