How not to win souls

Every once in a while, I run across something in an email or a website that gets under my skin and won’t get out unless I rant about it… This morning, I received my usual spam from Human Events–somehow I got on their mailing list, probably through some conservative article I wanted to read on the ‘net. Today’s book they were trying to sell me was “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Intelligent Design” by Jonathan Wells. While I’m all for exposing the ways in which proponents of “neo-Darwinism” stretch the evidence to fit an atheistic worldview, I do not think this is the way to do it. The email contained a number of bullet points addressed in Wells’ book:

* How, though Darwin is often credited with citing “overwhelming evidence” for his theory of natural selection, all he actually provided was “one or two imaginary illustrations” of how it might work

So what? Darwin may not have provided many examples, but in the intervening almost 150 years, there are countless.

* Why many of Darwin’s contemporaries regarded the same data he cited as evidence, not of common ancestry, but of common design

* One pro-Darwin science writer who candidly admits that the chain of fossil ancestry is “a completely human invention created after the fact”

And there are countless other “pro-Darwin science writers” who understand that the “chain of fossil ancestry” is one way to fit the data observed. And it is a human thing to fit data to explanations…

* How, despite centuries of artificial breeding and decades of experiments, no one has ever observed one species turn into another (“speciation”)

* Why most alleged instances of “observed” speciation are actually analyses of already existing species that show how speciation might occur — but never that it has

Sorry. Wrong.

* Darwin vs. Darwin: how he conceded that his theory was contradicted by known evidence (or lack thereof), though he hoped later findings would vindicate him — which still hasn’t occurred after 150 years

* How Darwin’s “strongest single class of facts” — the early vertebrate embryos — shows the opposite of what he thought it showed

I don’t know what they’re getting at here.

* The Cambrian Explosion — aka biology’s “Big Bang”: how it contradicts Darwin’s branching “Tree of Life”

The Cambrian Explosion is fascinating and not well understood, and yeah, it probably does contradict Darwin’s overly simplistic view of life. But, I’m withholding judgment on whether it actually contradicts evolutionary theory or not.

* How science textbooks continue to feature “evidence” for Darwinism that has long since been proven fraudulent

This is a huge problem, and on this point, Wells is absolutely right.

* Why the clinical practice of medicine has no use for Darwinism, despite claims that it is impossible to practice medicine without applying its principles.

Huh? Tell that to folks trying to design new antibiotics.

* Evolutionary biologist: “Perhaps it would be easier, and in the long run more productive, to abandon the attempt to force the data . . . into the mold provided by Darwin”

* National Academy of Sciences member: “Darwin’s theory … serves no important role in guiding modern experimental biology. That branch of science simply makes no practical use of Darwin’s theory”

The latter quote is false. I work in modern experimental biology, and quite a few of my experiments are undergirded by evolutionary theory, particularly when I start looking at the same protein in different organisms.

* How Darwin’s theory provided the pseudoscientific foundation for the Nazis’ racial extermination policies.

Absolutely. But just because something is used to justify something evil doesn’t mean it itself is wrong. That’s just poor logic. I guess we should ditch the Bible as well.

* How Haeckel’s famous faked embryo drawings were widely used to promote abortion in late twentieth-century America by convincing people that human embryos were little more than fish.

Another sad story, but another terrible non sequitur.

* How the most common definition of Intelligent Design in the news media is flatly incorrect.

Huh?

* How design can be inferred not only in living things but also in various features of the cosmos, such as gravity

* How the Earth itself seems uniquely designed not only for life, but also for scientific observation

On these points, I think the ID folks may be onto something. But why they can’t admit a God Who might create using evolution is beyond me.

* How Darwin changed the definition of “science” itself to mean providing materialistic explanations for everything.

I don’t think Darwin did this, per se. And they are right to be concerned about materialism.

* How Darwinism is widely used in public education to discredit traditional Christianity and promote atheism.

Yes, because neither most Christians nor most scientists understand theology or philosophy.

* How Darwinists have openly declared that they will destroy the careers of professors and students who criticize them or defend intelligent design — and they’re doing it

And this is a travesty. I have to remain somewhat anonymous for this very reason.

But, the greater travesty is that emails like this one are not serving unity, but rather driving people further and further apart. Are we going to win scientists for Christ by telling them that we don’t believe any of their work? Or should we be engaging them and asking why they insist on empiricism when they have no philosophical basis for doing so? Sophistry abounds on both sides of the aisle in this fight: “ID” proponents often mischaracterize science in order to make a point, and come perilously close to bringing back a “God of the gaps.” Atheistic empiricists (even the word “Darwinian” is utterly hollow) mischaracterize religion and give far too much latitude to science. And, those of us stuck in the middle–scientists who are orthodox Christians–end up cast out by both.

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23 Responses to “How not to win souls”


  1. 1 Jason August 8, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    Speaking from a position of ignorance (hooray for being a philosopher/medievalist!), might I kindly request (if you’ve not done this in the past that I missed somehow) a post from a Catholic scientist’s perspective on evolution? There is a great deal of misinformation about it abounding (somewhat obviously, cf your post) and such a post might be rather illuminating.

  2. 2 Edmund C. August 8, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    Quite busy at present, but if I have a chance, I’ll do that. I think I’ve done more sniping at ID that actually proposing an alternative before…

  3. 3 Bekah August 8, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    As a former protestant escaping the clutches of evangelical fundamentalism, I really appreciate your direction here. I have never fully accepted that evolution and creation are completely incompatible, but I don’t have sufficient education to work out how they might indeed mesh together. There are still many questions, and I still need to track down books you’ve previously recommended. šŸ˜‰ Since my kids are not of an age that I need to teach them in great depth on this subject, I’ve put off delving into it. But I appreciate your willingness to stick your neck out, knowing that you’ve got ‘colleagues’ on all sides waiting to take aim.

  4. 4 Ken August 4, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Jason – have a search for Ken Miller’s articles and videos (Kenneth R. Miller). He is a scientist and author of biology text books. An expert witness in the Dover trial. And an excellent presenter for explaining science.

    Almost forgot – he is Catholic.

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