I just looked once again at Sean Carroll’s short piece from Science Magazine, “God as Genetic Engineer“, which is a review of Michael Behe’s latest book. I had forgotten that he used this analogy. It must have embedded itself in my subconscious, because it came to mind (but without the proper attribution to its immediate source) when I wrote my own comparison of young-earth creationism to Wile E. Coyote, “Creationism’s Cartoon Physics.” The next step, I suppose, will be to create a video game in which the Black Knight and Wile E. Coyote face off against one another.
Several recent interactions with representatives of positions that bear the label “Intelligent Design” have made me more aware of the importance of terminology. Terms like “creationism” can be confusing. If it means someone who believes that the universe is ultimately dependent on God for its existence, then not only the vast majority of Christians but possibly even Buddhists could be included. So also could process theologians who do not think that the creation was brought into existence out of nothing and who, like theistic evolutionists and a wide range of other viewpoints, also embrace the scientific account of the development of life on this planet.
“Intelligent Design” is perhaps an even more confusing label, since it is used by people and movements with a range of different viewpoints. On the one end, there are young earth creationists trying to get around the reputation of and legal decisions about their teachings by adopting a new, and they hope more respectable, terminology. On the other end of the spectrum are those who would say that evolution was “front-loaded” and given direction, but in the laws of physics rather than in multiple interventions into the history of life on Earth. Many even among those who might disagree with the latter viewpoint would not object to it in the way they object to viewpoint elsewhere along the spectrum.
Lots of people assume I’m not a Christian because I am persuaded by the evidence of evolution, and so I want to not make assumptions when I interact with others who bear a particular label. How can we clarify the range of viewpoints without resorting to an even more confusing display of headings and acronyms to make the various important distinctions?