I’ve always been a big fan of Steve Case. As head of the committee appointed to draft the science standards for the state of Kansas, he’s been at the center of an often blistering battle, but I’ve never seen him anything but calm and friendly. Whatever smears are aimed at him personally, he’s risen above it and addressed his commentary to the broader community, drawing people in rather than pushing them away. Even when his hard work is shredded by ideologues on the state Board of Education, he keeps his cool.
His Op-Ed in today’s KC Star does the same thing, pointing out how ID divides us, when science ought to bring us together:
Proponents of intelligent design, with great gnashing of teeth and colorful language, have created a great deal of smoke. Scientists and the public have been taken by surprise by the sophistication of the marketing tactics used and are often lost in this cloud, somewhat unsure of what to think.
One thing is clear: The scientific community has not embraced the explanation of design because it is quite clear that on the basis of the evidence, it is just wrong. Beyond the clarity that design is not science, the smoke is hiding an attack on the religious faith and beliefs of many people. Framed as “science” and using pseudoscientific language, teaching intelligent design camouflages an ugly underlying theology. …
Irreducible complexity implies that God resides in the “gaps” of our knowledge. Science students who are introduced to the idea that God is only present in what we don’t understand, i.e. the mysteries of the universe, are left with difficult issues to resolve. …
Intelligent design attempts to describe God in the very limited language of science, putting the understanding of God into a very small box. For most people of faith, God is far bigger then this very small box. Intelligent design proponents call those who believe in God and still find science a compelling explanation of the natural world, “worse than atheists.”
The DI feels compelled to respond.
he argues that scientists have tested ID against the evidence and shown it to be wrong. Without skipping a beat, he goes on to state that ID is not science — presumably because it can’t be tested against the evidence. So like many Darwinists, Case claims that ID is untestable — and it has been tested and proven wrong. Breathtaking.
I love this about IDolators. They see this sort of argument as really strong: If ID is false, that must mean it’s scientific, so we should teach it even though it’s false.
Here’s the problem. Even if we falsify every instance where someone claims we can test ID, every supposedly irreducible circumstance, that wouldn’t mean that ID doesn’t exist in some grand sense. No one is proposing that the IDol can only produce irreducible things, after all. Nor is anyone proposing that the IDol couldn’t be some trickster God who makes everything exactly as it would be if ID were not true.
So we can’t falsify ID in any broad sense. We can just say that ID is not necessary.
Most religions and theologians have adopted a stance that science and religion address different issues. Evolution may be God’s way of doing things, as are gravity, string theory and electromagnetics. But they don’t claim that this theology can be scientifically tested. It’s a theological claim that is beyond scientific falsification, and therefore beyond scientific proof.
Most religious people are basically OK with that. Johnny Wells, who has explained that he got his PhD in order to further the Reverend Moon’s war on Darwin, is not:
Case criticizes ID (which claims that evidence points to design in some features of the natural world) for allegedly attacking the religious faith of many people. Presumably, he’s referring to the ‘religious’ faith of atheists, since most Christians, Jews, Muslims, deists, and even Hindus (among others) find intelligent design compatible with their faith. On the other hand, prominent ID critics such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett regularly appeal to Darwinism to attack the religious faith of billions of people, yet Case doesn’t appear to regard that as grounds for criticizing modern evolutionary theory.
I suppose it’s worth noting that the parenthetical originally said that ID “says nothing at all about God, and claims only that evidence points to design in some features of the natural world.” Guess the idea that ID was atheistic bothered someone.
Most theists, pantheists and deists do think that God had some role in the unfolding of history. But that isn’t what IDC claims. They claim that the actions of God are subject to scientific testing, that (as Case put it) “God resides in the ‘gaps’ of our knowledge.” Most religious people reject that idea, as they reject the idea that God created everything with the appearance that it had evolved by natural means. Most theists believe in a God of truthfulness, a God whose works, including the natural world, reflect truth.
That isn’t the God that you get from ID. ID gives a pitiful weakling, a God who can give a jumpstart or pull you out of a ditch, but can’t do much else. That’s decidedly not what most religious people believe in. Maybe it’s what Wells and the Moonies think, but they shouldn’t presume to speak for others.
And this is the fundamental religious problem with ID. The limits it places on its “designer” are so great as to make it an infringement on people’s religious freedom. Evolution, by restricting itself to the natural world and natural hypotheses, doesn’t rule anything out theologically.