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A Timeless Argument about Creation

A Timeless Argument about Creation

Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin.

by

Have you heard about Flying Spaghetti Monsterism? FSM is a four-month-old "religion" founded on the belief that the universe was created by an invisible flying clump of spaghetti and meatballs. This blob of pasta, FSM's "followers" say, uses its "noodly appendage" to play an ongoing role in human affairs. For example, it tampers with carbon-dating tests to make the planet seem older than it is, so that any evidence of evolution is actually the work of the spaghetti monster.

FSM was concocted in June by Bobby Henderson, a recent college graduate with a degree in physics. When the Kansas Board of Education took up the question of teaching intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, Henderson wrote an open letter (posted at www.venganza.org) demanding equal classroom time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism as well.

As religious spoofs go, it wasn't exactly Monty Python's "Life of Brian," but it was good for a chuckle or two. No doubt that was all the reaction that Henderson was expecting. If so, he underestimated the eagerness of many Darwinists to paint supporters of intelligent design as either moronic Bible Belters or conniving religious fanatics. Henderson's "religion" became a cult hit, promoted on other websites and covered with relish in the press. The Washington Post reprinted Henderson's letter verbatim. A New York Times story was headlined, "But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?"

At least Henderson couched his disdain for intelligent design in humor. Other Darwinists, many steeped in ideological antipathy to religion, resort to insult and invective.

"It is absolutely safe to say," the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, a leading Darwinist, has written, "that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane." Liz Craig, a member of the board of Kansas Citizens for Science, summarized her public-relations strategy in February: "Portray them" -- intelligent design advocates -- "in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc."

Ironically, Charles Darwin himself acknowledged that there could be reasonable challenges to his theory of natural selection -- including challenges from religious quarters. According to the sociologist and historian Rodney Stark, when "The Origin of Species" first appeared in 1859, the Bishop of Oxford published a review in which he acknowledged that natural selection was the source of variations within species, but rejected Darwin's claim that evolution could account for the appearance of different species in the first place. Darwin read the review with interest, acknowledging in a letter to a friend that "the bishop makes a very telling case against me."

How things have changed. When John Scopes went on trial in Tennessee in 1925, religious fundamentalists fought to keep evolution out of the classroom because it was at odds with a literal reading of the Biblical creation story. Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom, because that would be at odds with a strictly materialist view of the world. Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin. In both cases, the dominant attitude is authoritarian and closed-minded -- the opposite of the liberal spirit of inquiry on which good science depends.

As always, those who challenge the reigning orthodoxy face repercussions. In April, the science journal Nature interviewed Caroline Crocker, a molecular microbiologist at George Mason University. Because "she mentioned intelligent design while teaching her second-year cell-biology course... she has been barred by her department from teaching both evolution and intelligent design." Other skeptics of Darwinism choose to keep silent. When Nature approached another researcher, he refused to speak for fear of hurting his chance to get tenure.

If intelligent design proponents were peddling Biblical creationism, the hostility aimed at them would make sense. But they aren't. Unlike creationism, which denied the earth's ancient age or that biological forms could evolve over time, intelligent design makes use of generally accepted scientific data and agrees that falsification, not revelation, is the acid test of scientific validity.

In truth, intelligent design isn't a scientific theory but a restatement of a timeless argument: that the regularity and laws of the natural world imply a higher intelligence -- God, most people would say -- responsible for its design. Intelligent design doesn't argue that evidence of design ends all questions or disproves Darwin. It doesn't make a religious claim. It does say that when such evidence appears, researchers should take it into account, and that the weaknesses in Darwinian theory should be acknowledged as forthrightly as the strengths. That isn't primitivism or Bible-thumping or flying spaghetti. It's science.

Published: October 8, 2005


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Visitor Comments: 23

(23) duane bass, December 8, 2007 9:40 AM

politically correct humor

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the 'beginning.'"
"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies God.
"Well, " says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of You and breathe life into it, thus creating man."
"Well, that's interesting. Show Me."
So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.
"Oh no, no, no..." interrupts God,
"get your own dirt."

(22) Anonymous, November 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Darwinism or intelligent design or both?

I don't deny the possibilty that evolution might be part of the creative process of our creator or that Darwinism might not even prove the conversion of one species to another. But, I do know that I would and will always prefer a world that excludes Darwin, if necessary, over a world that denies the existence of God. I can live without Darwin. Nobody can survive for long without God.

(21) Gregory Koshkin, October 24, 2005 12:00 AM

creation argument is a waste of time; lets look to historical evidence instead

Events like the American Revolution or Caesar's battles are NOT questioned historical events. Why? Because masses witnessed them, and all these masses transmitted the same unanimous version of the event. The same can be said of Judaism, the only religion which lays claim to national revelation, i.e. Mount Sinai Event. Lets not waste time on proving Creationism or Evolution. Instead, lets look back at a unique historical event that took place 3300 years ago. This historical event brings with it ethics and responsibilities man must observe. Proving/disproving creationism/evolution shouldnt waste too much time. We have proof of G-d via history, no faith needed. G-d may have created the world in 6 days or 150000000000 years. Either way, we can look back at an event that cannot be disproved by any rational train of thought and from there on, we are obligated to perfect ourselves.

(20) Michael Makovi, October 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Another thing about non-evolutionist scientists

Adding to what Joe said about the fact that scientists must believe in evolution:

Suppose a Jew says, "I know that the Torah says that pig is kosher, but I just disagree with that ONE point of Torah. Everything else, I agree with". He is technically an apostate. Why? It's not that kashrut is in and of itself so important, but it's that he has, by questioning that one law, opposed the the entire infrastructure, because he is questioning G-d's right to rule.

Similar, if a scientist opposes evolution on faith, he has opposed the basis of science, which is the scientific method: if a hypothesis (idea) fits the evidence, it is a theory. Evolution fits this, so according to the scientific method, evolution is fact until proven wrong. So if he opposes evolution on his personal belief, he has undermined and questioned the whole basis of science. Of course, if he questions evidence on the grounds that it doesn't fit evidence, he is okay (just as I can question a Torah law on the grounds that the verse has been misinterpreted), as long as he doesn't espouse something as fact that doesn't fit the scientific method.

(19) Joe, October 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Please remember we hold it as an article of faith that Hashem has no hand.

A theory is not a choice. It is a deduction based on evidence, and opinions (mine, yours, anyone's) are utterly meaningless. The only thing that matters is the observation and consistent analysis of nature. If you do not like nature, and natural laws, do not blame scientists. We just work here. You should take your complaints to the Boss. Do you really think that the laws of nature were made up by man? Who made things this way? This is not a game of trying to make people compromise. If you want to say that Hashem made the world this way, no scientist could prove you wrong. I said that myself, but that also does not help with understanding *physical* realities.

Please remember we hold it as an article of faith that Hashem has no hand. What that means, in this context, is that it will *never* be possible to do an experiment on our incoporeal G-d. What that also means is that any statement about God is automatically not a candidate for a theory. That's it. Game over. Pigs will never be kosher, and 2+2 will never sum to 5, for exactly the same reason. The assertion does not, and *can not* fit the required definition.

This is where I wish to vent some frustration. A Jew hopefully would not go to a rabbi and offer opinions about about a difficult passage of Talmud if he had never studied Talmud. He hopefully wouldn't lecture a rabbi about changing the Torah to suit his opinions *and* without even having tried to understand Torah. Where do lay people get the chutzpa to comment about science? Opinions are like bottoms, everyone has one, but that does not make an opinion into a theory, or all views equally valid.

Now to adress some other points raised. We do see species evolving into others. Consider anti-biotic resistant bacteria strains. That's evolution in action baby, and it is happening in our lifetime. You also better hope that kids get good science education and learn to deal with them, because they are very good at killing people.

Further, scientists do tend to like the embryonic gill argument. Why? because it hearkens to genes that are still with us from our earliest ancestors.

Some here also seem to be under the impression that it is possible to be a scientist and not accept the facts of evolution. I deduce this from the implied distinction made by saying Darwinists and Evolutionists. Well sorry, all scientists fit that category. Anyone who denies the essential validity of a theory (without physical evidence no less!) is called a non-scientist, in much the same way that anyone who denies that Hashem is in charge, is a non-rabbi.

As to the first replicator, we do not know how that happened. Truth. But that does not invalidate the theory. Consider a murder mystery. A police officer looking at a corpse, that had been shot 12 times in the back, does not need to know the engaging chemistry that made the bullets fly, to know that there was a murder. How the first replicator happened is an ongoing and open question. We do not know the answer, but we have a very good idea about what happened later.

Another quick vent of frustration. If there are frum Jews out there who want to throw their lots in with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, that is on your watch, but please try not to do it publicly. Jews have a reputation for being intelligent and well educated. You are bringing the Tribe down.

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