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Krauthammer, ID and Creationism

Dover distinguished itself this Election Day by throwing out all eight members of its school board who tried to impose "intelligent design" -- today's tarted-up version of creationism -- on the biology curriculum. Pat Robertson then called the wrath of God down upon the good people of Dover for voting "God out of your city." Meanwhile, in Kansas, the school board did a reverse Dover, mandating the teaching of skepticism about evolution and forcing intelligent design into the statewide biology curriculum.

Let's be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological "theory" whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God. It is a "theory" that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, "I think I'll make me a lemur today." A "theory" that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the "strong force" that holds the atom together? ~Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

In spite of the fact that Krauthammer manages somehow to confuse ID theorists with creationists (or, really, with "creation scientists"), even though they have little in common, ID theorists should be very worried when even someone such as Krauthammer can explain very succinctly why they are dead wrong in trying to push ID on science students.

It is important to note, to correct the false impression Krauthammer gives, that ID theorists accept the theory of evolution by and large, whereas those conventionally called creationists, especially those who believe in "creation science" (one can easily be a creationist theologically without buying into this nonsense), are willing to take the scientific method seriously only insofar as it can be used to validate an extremely literalistic account of the creation and salvation history since then and they are firmly opposed to granting the theory of evolution any merit whatever. ID theorists are, I think, genuinely embarrassed by "creation science" and have attempted, however foolishly, to thwart the materialist monopoly in science, so to speak, by making a metaphysical Designer part of the story. But, as we have seen with the aged Prof. Flew in Britain, their Designer is a world away from the Lord God described in Genesis. For their part, literal creationists would be hard put to tolerate what they would probably consider the ID theorists' watered-down quasi-theism. Nonetheless, both ID theory and "creation science" suffer from a muddling of categories and mistaking empirical evidence for a kind of dogmatic authority.

Contrary to what I assume Krauthammer must think of such people, they all exhibit an exceedingly modern obsession with the empirical as the only evidence that truly validates any claim. Creation science simply sidesteps evidence it doesn't like, whereas ID theory asserts things to explain what has so far not be explained, but both operate on the assumption that the study of the natural world cannot make sense without God or a Designer and so they must find tangible proof of God's work.

Truth is one, but that does not mean that we always apprehend spiritual knowledge in precisely the same way that we gain knowledge of the physical world or that it is to be judged in the same way as empirical perceptions. Literal creationists believe fideistically in a literal six-day creation as a matter of necessity--if it is not true, then Scripture is not true, according to an impoverished exegetical method--and so set about trying to prove it empirically, even though the only reason (one might suppose) that anyone knows about the creation at all (most of which, after all, took place before there were any people) is through revelation and faith in God who reveals Himself.

Following Dostoevsky's understanding of faith and evidence, I would argue that, theoretically, if there were evidence proving literal creationism right God would hide it from us to preserve our free will and voluntary faith. Evidence compels belief in a way that is detrimental to the free witness of faith. If literal creationists could ever "prove" their case, the very fides that made their enterprise possible would be forever subjected to absurd empirical testing.

Real Christians confess that the Resurrection was a true, physical event where the Incarnate Word returned from the dead in the flesh, and the Apostle tells us that our faith is vain if this is not true, but following the Ascension there ceased to be any way to "prove" it empirically. That is not a curse, but a blessing, as the Lord told St. Thomas. ID theorists and "creation scientists" might both relent from their futile crusades in this spirit, knowing that even if they did provide evidence to confirm their views in a way acceptable to secular, modern man the latter would still not accept the logical consequences of that evidence, just as secular, modern man today ignores the overwhelming rationality and truth of the Faith even as he mocks and belittles Truth Himself.

Those concerned to vindicate the truths of Scripture and the existence of God would do better to take on the materialists and skeptics in the fields where they are doing the most damage, namely philosophy and theology, as no scientific theories can ever truly damage or undermine the truths of the Faith. Only the misguided and perverse speculations of men who misuse the evidence that nature discloses can do such damage. If we were to return to an epistemology that did not privilege sensory perception and empiricism as the only means to knowledge, we would probably have far fewer half-baked attempts to prove the unproveable and invest irrefutable metaphysical claims with the name of science.

As distasteful as it is to ever be in agreement with Krauthammer, it is hard not to grant that he is making the same sensible argument that the Rev. Coyne and I, and I suspect many, many other thinking people, have made. That his article is saturated with the thinly-veiled anti-Christian bigotry that is his trademark whenever social or religious questions come up should not distract us from acknowledging that on this particular point he has made a cogent argument.

Daniel Larison | November 18, 2005



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