Evolution may favor religious diversity, but the tail does not wag the fish.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Flawed Methodology at the Genesis

Parents Seek to Block Teaching of 'Intelligent Design' (WPOST)
"An expected month-long trial opened Monday in federal court in Harrisburg, as 11 parents from Dover township seek to block their school board's demand that biology teachers read a four-paragraph statement to students casting doubt on Darwin's theory of evolution."
I must confess that the original name for this blog was in response to this creeping intellectual malaise around creationism-intelligent design vs. evolution(ism) and darwin(ism). There were several aspects that bothered me and began to irritate me further by the continued handling and shaping of this issue in the media reporting process.

Generally, the writing usually devolves into a simplistic dualism between religion and science. Scientists working in a secular context seeking objectivity are portrayed as godless. People of faith wanting their religious fervor and relationship to God to be respected appear anti-science, anti-modern, or mystically on the fringe of society.

This Washington Post piece goes well with this NYT piece, which appeared on the same day. NYT took the approach of beginning and ending their piece through the POV of Dover, PA resident, Sheree Hied, described as "a mother of five who believes that God created the earth and its creatures [who] was grateful when her school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about 'alternatives' to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design." A photo of Ms. Hied and her family praying at the table also accompanies the article.

Both NYT and WPOST present the opposing sides. Those against intelligent design want to debunk it as a viable scientific alternative, but more importantly want to prevent religion from entiring the public school curriculum. The foil to being potrayed as godless. Those in favor of intelligent design want to argue that this is simply an exercise of protected free speech.

There are two things that are irksome. First, as previously mentioned, the dichotomy of science and religion is obviously simplistic and false. Many religious people do pursue lives of scientific research and practice. There is no necessary contradiction between faith and reason. In fact, making a reasonable account of the hope within us, is part of what people of faith ought to do. Second, I worry that what is missing in this process is the cultural understanding that members of our modern society, religious and not, have come to acknowledge.

The argument for free speech on behalf of intelligent design supporters here is only half-baked. It implies that godless scientists are also against consitutional rights. But what has failed to be addressed here is that the manner in which scientific theories gain acceptance is through proper peer research and review, not by a school board voting for a PSA/infomercial to promote a book.
The point of the scientific process isn't to prove the role for God in the world any more than Darwin's theory has replaced our ongoing religious lives. My humble suggestion for those who truly see and experience how meaningful values exist in their lives, as they seem to do around this particular issue, is not to simply take sides, but to earnestly understand the discipline and limits of science, and, to use my own Catholic language, to understand our relationship with God and God at work in the world sacramentally.


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