Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why Conservative Christians Should Oppose Intelligent Design

Conservative parents of America, picture the following scenario. Your school district, led by various evangelical groups, has recently led a successful campaign to include the teaching of Intelligent Design in the public schools. The intent of those politicized right wingers was to use the ID argument to challenge the exclusive teaching of Darwinian evolution. Ultimately, they wanted to have the entire topic of evolution removed from the science classrooms. ID, with its false logic, appealed to the significant numbers in the community who could not grasp the extraordinarily complex processes that led to the universe and life. In time, the evangelicals believed, evolution would die from the shear audacity of its conclusions.

However, the new policy led to changes that most in the community had not considered. Intelligent Design argued that plain, common sense logic proved the existence of their God. Their arguments were simple and the implications of their arguments seemed apparent to the proponents of this "theory," as they called it. What happened in the biology class had stunned many parents because the teacher, once she was required to introduce Intelligent Design as legitiomate science, had to point out to the students that there was absolutely nothing in the data to support ID as a scientific theory. While questions about the specifics of some of the evolutionary processes remained unresolved, the theory proposed by Charles Darwin in his The Origin of Species in 1859 met all the requirements of a scientific theory.

After demonstrating the specious nature of the ID "theory," the good science teacher had then shown the studets how ID also failed to meet a single requirement of the scientific method established and accepted for hundreds of years. One step at a time, the teacher showed that ID missed the mark completely. The well informed science teacher could then explain the basic rules of logic and easily convince all but the most ideologically rigid students that the entire foundation and implementation of ID failed on every level. Its apparent logic was as specious as its science. The parents stood back in horror but still had not a clue how much more would come from their change in the science curriculum.

Since Intelligent Design had been deemed a legitimate area of scientific inquiry, the history teachers could include it in their discussions of the history of science or the history of social movements in the United States. If the school had classes in psychology, the instructor could discuss the psychological origins of religion and could legally include psychological theories that regarded the religious impulse as as response to fear and the human incapacity to face the meaninglessness of the life of an individual in the almost infinite universe. The school's sociology teacher could discuss the history of mass delusions and the ways in which those driven to power used religion and the fear of hell to manipulate the masses. How people like Hitler and Osama Bin Laden could use religion to advance totalitarian ideology. If the history teacher was good he also talked to his students about the intellectual history of their culture and discussed the merits of the various schools of thought. The world history teacher who had opposed the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the curriculum because he thought it represented a particular religion's world view rather than a viable scientific theory decided to make a point to the parents on the perils of injecting matters of faith into the classroom.

As the history class began its study of the rise of the world's great religions, the teacher walked to the lectern and began with the following statement, "Class, the entire premise of the Christian religion is absurd on its face. By examining it with the basic tools of logic, I will show you that the only possible logical inference one can make regarding Christianity is that the story makes no sense and requires not faith but wilful ignorance to be accepted by any thoughtful person--regardless of one's faith in a God. This teacher had put a great deal of thought into how he would make his presentation, being careful to limit his remarks to the issues of logic and reason rather than the faith of his students. As had been true throughout the history of America, the faith of an individual could not be challenged on the basis of whether or not it made sense. Matters of faith, by definition, do not have to be reasonable or logical. Intelligent Design, because it is a "scientific theory" does have to be logical and once the topic of religion has been introduced into the schools, any facet of it can be discussed.

Because Christianity is based on what the faithful call the Old and New Testaments, the teacher began the lesson in the book of Genesis but presented his case as a narrative on the basic arguments that provide the foundations of Christian theology. One by one he showed them how illogical the various parts of Christian theology were. Under the old curriculum, the teachers could not have done much of this because it would have infringed on the privacy of his students as well as it being an infringement of the 1st Amendment rights of the student. But, the entire argument about including Intelligent Design in the curriculum was based on what its supporters called logic. They looked at the creation and said that it was not "logical" to argue that it all happened by chance and evolution. Since they said that was illogical, they proposed that a creator god was the only reasonable explanation. So, with IDs inclusion in the curriculum the door is opened wide to challenge the "logic" of Christianity.

The whole ID argument goes against one of the most fundamental beliefs of all Christians and one of the most repeated statements of Jesus about the nature of god. That fundamental belief was that god and salvation were matters of faith---not science. One example lies in what Jesus is reported to have said to Thomas who asked to see the scars. Jesus said that those who believed without seeing---without physical evidence--were blessed in their faith. Those who value their faith and those who do not want their children's teachers to have the right to challenge their beliefs should unite to oppose Intelligent Design. They should realize how much of a threat to what they want their children to believe it is. Religion is a private matter, it is based on faith and it cannot and should not be held up to the demands of science and logic. It is not what you want.

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