An Immoral Godless Pseudoscience

I am posting today about a dangerous teaching that is passing itself off as science, when in fact it is an anti-religious philosophy that has the potential to undermine the moral foundations of our society.

I am referring, of course, to Intelligent Design.

Let me begin with the many ways in which it is antithetical to Biblical morality, before moving on to address the ways in which it is opposed to key American values as well. We may as well begin with the ten commandments. The first two commandments warn against the worship of other gods and the making of idols. The intelligent design movement is guilty of breaking both of these.

Very few Christians are tempted to make golden calves and bow before them. There is a general agreement that the idols that tempt us most today are wealth, fame, power, and other such things that can take God’s place in our lives. This is in keeping with other Biblical teachings, such as that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But most proponents of Intelligent Design proclaim an alternative message, that evolution is the root of all evil. This is not surprising. So many in our society seek a justification for greed, and both Christianity and science often get hijacked to this end. Christianity is regularly hijacked to distract and comfort Americans with regard to their most common sin. But to build a multi-million dollar museum promoting ideas that are neither scientific nor scriptural, when so many in our world face a daily struggle to find enough food and clean drinking water to survive, is not merely un-Christian. It is antithetical to every Biblical principle of morality.

Indeed, to jump to another commandment for a moment, proponents of Intelligent Design are complicit in murder in several ways. By taking funds away that could (if people were emphasizing what the Bible says) be used to help the needy, they cause the deaths of many hungry people. Second, by opposing science, which has helped prevent and treat countless diseases, they are causing the deaths of still more people. If we added to this anger, which is identified in the Sermon on the Mount as a form of murder, we could find still more evidence on their blogs and in other contexts.

Returning to the second commandment, proponents of Intelligent Design also commit idolatry by suggesting that only their narrow, impoverished view of a Designer is an adequate view of God. That God could work through natural causes (as the Bible often says God did), that God could (to use the famous pool table analogy) pot all the balls in one shot rather than needing to do each individually, is adamantly denied. Replacing the God about whom St. Augustine said “If you understand it, it isn’t God” with their flawed human reasoning is certainly a form of idolatry as well.

More than this, some proponents of Intelligent Design actually mock the Biblical creation stories. Denyse O’Leary, in a recent blog entry, made fun of people who believe that “mud-to-mind” is compatible with their faith. Genesis 2 says precisely that, that God made human beings from ‘dirt’. Unless you believe God literally has hands and did a lot of molding, squeezing, bending and pressing, then the question of how God did so remains open. But O’Leary shows the same disdain for the Bible that she does for science and for polite and informative discourse.

Returning to the ten commandments, the recent Dover trial showed clear evidence of how they are willing to bear false witness and take God’s name in vain in order to do so. They also presumably covet the status evolution has as a reputable scientific theory, but are unwilling to do all the hard work evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, geneticists and other mainstream scientists did which led to evolution having that status.

This leads me to conclude with their opposition to a key American value. Intelligent Design is opposed to the American ethic of hard work. Scientists have worked hard to contribute to our knowledge and our well-being, our health and our standard of living and our comfort. Instead of being appreciated, they are denigrated, by people who do no such hard work themselves and make no such contribution to our society. Hard workers do not deserve to be demonized and denigrated by those who covet their position in this way.

If you are a Christian, take a good hard look at Intelligent Design and ask “What Would Jesus Do?” Can you imagine Jesus being here today and going around talking about Intelligent Design?
It is appalling that so many American Christians support a movement that is, in general, characterized by principles that are opposed to those of both Christianity and America.

  • Rupert de Bear

    Hi James, I’m not an American, but I’m a bit puzzled. It seems to me obvious that creation has an intelligent designer, so many silly little things have to fall into place (like water expanding below 4 degrees C) for life as we know it to evolve. Yet you talk about “Intelligent Design” as a movement that seems rather like what I hear about as “Creation Science” which seems like a load of nonsense seeking to explain away all evidence that the earth is older than c.4000 years… What is going on?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    You’re certainly not the only one puzzled by this topic – so am I! Here in the U.S., there is a movement that has formed under the umbrella of ‘Intelligent Design’. Most accept an older earth that young-earth creationists would. Apart from that, the only thing that seems to be new is the move from focusing on apparently “irreducibly complex” features of organisms to those sorts of structures in cells on a molecular level.It all gets confusing, since some genuinely think of ‘intelligent design’ as something to do with front-loading the universe and physical constants, while others think it has to do with the cell but allow for evolution, and still others view it as a compromise to get a first step towards young-earth creationism into places where the full-fledged version couldn’t hope to go.I am not opposed to anyone speaking about ‘design’ in the sense that the universe seems to be meaningful, purposeful, life-friendly, etc. But what the ‘intelligent design’ movement we have here is maintaining is that unless something is scientifically inexplicably – i.e. unless there is a gap in what can be scientifically explained – then God was not involved. Once one has said that, of course, one feels obliged to then view advancing scientific knowledge as a threat to faith. I think there is a difference between talking about God in cosmology and in biology, precisely because one has clear limits to what we can ever hope to know, while it is not obvious that that is so in the case of the other. Here’s what I said on that subject not too long ago.People of faith have in the past based much on the expectation that science would leave certain things in explicable. The results for faith were disastrous. Why there are people today who seem to have learned nothing from history and want to go down the same road, I cannot fathom. And so I, like you, am puzzled!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04496087495904724449 Macht

    I’m not quite sure how an idea (intelligent design) can be “guilty of breaking” 2 commandments. That sounds a lot like, well, when people say evolution is evil.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17131154882107531113 Qalmlea

    “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”(someone had to say it…)

  • Rupert de Bear

    James, thanks that makes it a lot clearer, and also explains a bit the tone of the conversation. Among my students the “American Heresy” that is still popular is plain “Creationism”. Strange how ideas that should be the object of scientific debate become tests of theological conformity!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    A number of blogs such as ERV, Pharyngula and Paralepsis are currently highlighting that Bill Dembski has added theft to the list of sins. I wonder how frequently the accusations I posted here will need to be updated…

  • Anonymous

    Too many people think that arguments against ID can be won by debate, but that’s not the point. ID is simply warmed-up creationism, as shown in the Kitzmiller hearing. It has no scientific basis and its religious basis is simply biblical literalism.The point is that ID/creationism is about power. It is one small group of people trying to control others. It’s not an intellectual, scientific or philosophical movement, it’s an attempt by a minority to gain authority by lying and bullying. Look back to the middle ages and you can see parallels in the struggles between European monarchs and the Catholic church, and then and now between various church groupings.

  • Nigel D

    Thanks, James for a rather well-reasoned and thought-provoking piece (I followed the link you left in the comments at Panda’s Thumb). I don’t agree with all of it (but, hey, that would be boring, right?), but I do agree with your key points. I agree that ID is poor theology, and I agree that ID is not science.I think, having read quite a bit about the ID movement over the last three years, I can shed some light for your readers on what it is and why it doesn’t work.Essentially, ID is “creation science” by stealth. “Creation science” was a movement propagated in the 1960s to the 1980s that claimed that there existed physical evidence that God had made things the way they are. In short, that He had left fingerprints all over His creation. I feel this is bad theology because it limits the power of God. Why could God not work through (to use the present example) Natural Selection to give rise to humans?”Intelligent Design” is a movement that arose from “creation science” very soon after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to teach “creation science” in public school science classes. In essence, it sought to take references to God out of the “creation science” arguments, dress them up in sciency-sounding terminology, and then try to get that taught in schools instead.There are other forms of reconciling faith with science that, to my mind, are far more successful. One of these, for example, is often termed Theistic Evolution. This is the concept that what the scientists have found is right, but that it is all part of God’s scheme (whether by God guiding evolution as it went along, or by him setting everything up at the start to run by itself and still produce what He wanted it to – hey, if you’re omniscient, why not flaunt it?).Anyhow, the core arguments of Intelligent Design are illogical and unscientific.(1) IDists claim that certain structures in biology are too complex to have evolved, so they must have been designed. This is an argument from personal incredulity, which is a logical fallacy – just because one cannot imagine how something might occur, does not mean it could not occur.(2) IDists claim that certain biological systems must have been designed because science currently has no evolutionary explanation. This is the old “God of the gaps” argument (as knowledge increases, the gaps get smaller, so God gets smaller). It is also a logical fallacy (argument from ignorance) because it assumes that because we do not know now, we can never know.(3) IDists attack evolutionary theory using discredited old creation-science arguments, without seeming to realise that even if those arguments were correct (which they aren’t), it would prove nothing about any competing theory of evolution. This is the logical fallacy known as a non-sequitur, which takes the form “if I disprove X, then Y is true”, which is almost never actually the case.Sorry to go on so long, but there’s quite a lot to it.

  • http://www.intelldesign.com The Country Shrink

    James, you sound a whole lot like a fundamentalist in many ways. Going around pointing the sins of others and using it as a tool to make your points. James wrote:”But to build a multi-million dollar museum promoting ideas that are neither scientific nor scriptural, when so many in our world face a daily struggle to find enough food and clean drinking water to survive, is not merely un-Christian. It is antithetical to every Biblical principle of morality.”Not sure what Bible you’re reading here. That’s the old, “clean your plate, there are starving children in Africa argument.” I think you ought to descend from the ivory tower from time to time to get back in touch with the real-world. It seems like you just get an idea and run with it no matter how much sense it makes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    It is not like telling kids to clean their plates. This is the equivalent of throwing out food. It is not simply a less wise use of money, it is a waste.I’m glad sometimes fundamentalists hear what I’m saying when I speak their language…

  • http://www.intelldesign.com The Country Shrink

    James said,”It is not like telling kids to clean their plates. This is the equivalent of throwing out food. It is not simply a less wise use of money, it is a waste.I’m glad sometimes fundamentalists hear what I’m saying when I speak their language…”This is precisely what I am talking about. You just seem to randomly generate an argument without backing it up. Then you try to act like you were actually trying to speak the language of fundamentalists (of which I am not one), when I think you were stating your actual opinions in your post (if you have any other than what suits your needs at the time).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Country Shrink, I think there is probably more behind your comments than I am picking up on, just as I acknowledge that there is much more to be said about this subject than I have in this one particular post. I write each post assuming that those who are interested in what I have to say will take a look at others that have preceded it on the same or related topics.


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