Question for Denyse O’Leary, Phillip Johnson and Casey Luskin

I just posted this comment on one of Denyse O’Leary’s blogs, where, instead of providing her own usual antiscientific tirade, she reproduced one in the form of a dialogue between Phillip Johnson and Casey Luskin. The claim that was being made was that those who say evolution and faith are compatible are falling for a trojan horse scam which will eventually undermine their faith.

Here’s what I wrote to her, and since I would like to those involved in the dialogue reproduced there to hear it too, and since I doubt the comment will actually appear on the blog, I’m reproducing it here, and invite anyone involved in promoting Intelligent Design to respond to it as they see fit, whether here or elsewhere:

Claims to Biblical literalism result in more people losing their faith than evolution ever will. Countless preachers tell the faithful that either the Bible is completely without error, or you may as well throw it away. When they can’t keep denying there are errors, they do what they were told to, and throw it away.

In the same way, people like you cause more people to lose their faith (or to not come to faith) than any Darwinian biologist ever could. You tell people evolution is nonsense and present it as incompatible with faith, and some people who don’t know any better actually believe you. Then when eventually the mountain of evidence finally gets their attention, they lose their faith, because people like you told them that was the only other option.

Do you fear God? If so, do you think you will not be held accountable for putting unnecessary stumbling blocks in the way of the faithful and those who could believe if it weren’t for people like you driving them away from God?

I know this is a harsh way to speak. But their hypocrisy must be challenged. To claim that evolution undermines values and to use dishonesty to combat it is hypocrisy. To combat evolution on the grounds that it destroys faith, while promoting fundamentalism which does at least as good a job, is hypocrisy. That they won’t listen to scientists I can just barely understand, even if disagree with their doing so. But why don’t more Christians notice that these cdesign proponentsists won’t listen to Jesus either?

O’Leary and Behe are perhaps the most culpable: in addition to ignoring Jesus and ignoring scientists, they are also Catholics who ignore what the Pope had to say about evolution.

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  • Smokey

    I think its fundamentally a lack of faith on their part, which comes through in their intellectual cowardice when it comes to doing science.Let’s face it–if they had any faith in ID as science, they would be DOING science instead of blogging. The best-controlled example of this is the fact that Behe and Wells quit testing hypotheses when they latched onto ID.

  • George

    Now, to be fair, it was only the last Pope who accepted evolution. Ratzinger may well have a different opinion. Except wait… aren’t Popes supposed to speak the word of God, who is infallible, and thus be infallible themselves?

  • Carlos

    Papal pronouncements aren’t always infallible; the pope is infallible only when he says he is, and not if he doesn’t. The Church’s current position, if it matters, is that Darwinism is true but that materialism is false. Sounds reasonable enough.As for the ID crowd, I’m reluctant to speculation much on motives — even though it’s fun!But, at risk of having fun, I’ve noticed a few interesting things at Uncommon Descent. Firstly, they would much rather argue theology than science. The recent discussions there have been about whether or not “materialism” is compatible with “objective morality.” Their thinking about these issues is straight out of the 17th century — “atoms can’t be moral! atoms can’t be rational! and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool, a hypocrite, and an idiot!” Secondly, when someone raises objections to Dembski or Behe — or even mentions that objections have been raised — they are treated quite rudely, along the lines of “we’ve dealt with those objections before, so we don’t need to again.” Never mind that new people to the debate are showing up all the time.Thirdly, they are up to the necks in resentment against what they call “materialism.” One can imagine the spittle flying from their lips as they mutter to themselves as they type. Fourthly — and this is what upsets me the most — there’s a growing divide there between “humanists” and “rationalists.” The humanists are those who are interested in living a Christian life, thinking carefully and well about deep moral problems, and using Scripture and tradition as signposts to doing so. The rationalists don’t care nearly as much about the ethics; they care about the metaphysics, about what makes sense in a theoretical standpoint. (And by rationalists, I mean fundamentalists — fundamentalists are extremely rational, within a narrow set of unquestionable assumptions.) In connection with this distinction between rationalists and humanists, I find that when rationalists appeal to academic, they appeal to Christian metaphysicians like Plantinga or Swinburne, but not to Christian ethicists like MacIntyre or Murdoch. The closest they come to Christian ethicists is C.S. Lewis. I’ll confess that the appeal of Lewis is lost on me.This divide struck me recently when I was commenting on some of the differences between Nietzsche and Aristotle. There were two differences that I found particularly interesting. The first is that Nietzsche lacks Aristotle’s teleological cosmology and biology. (I’m asserting that the will to power is non-teleological, though that’s controversial.) The second is that Nietzsche lacks a theory of, or even a pre-theoretical grasp of, society. Other people are not real to him, social institutions and practices can’t show up on his radar, and so he jumps straight from his careful reading of cultural products (e.g. art, religion, philosophy) to biology and physics. Of these two differences, I find the first minor and the second utterly damning. I was surprised to find that no one was interested in the second difference, only the first. It’s as if metaphysics is in the driver’s seat, and everything else is secondary. Apparently the idea of “ethic as first philosophy,” so important to Levinas (and to Pope John Paul II) — and arguably to the Gospel writers as well — doesn’t resonate with them.

  • Scott F

    My wife once jokingly (at least I think she was joking) calling me a Fundamentalist Atheist. I had no retort because she was right, as usual.I was 19 years old. My experience was of hearing an Episcopal minister claim that such-and-such a saying could not have been uttered by Jesus. This sent me reeling. “If you can’t place some amount of certainty about the contents of the Bible, how can you be sure what to trust and what NOT to trust?” Now, I have to admit that that was an over-the-top, teenage reaction, but my 25 year journey has not brought me back to the point where I could view scripture as a serious basis for belief. The interesting thing to me is that Fundamentalism is not a brand Christianity. It is an independent mindset. Thus a Fundamentalist who is currently a Christian could easily fall to atheism due to that very Fundamentalism and yet he or she will take it away with him or her. Paul is my favorite example. He was a (small zee) zealot in persecuting Jesus’ followers and a zealot in winning followers for Christ. Paul didn’t change a bit, only his target changed.As a Fundamentalist I would say that you have hit a very useful insight: Literalism is a very dangerous stumbling block to Faith.

  • Anonymous

    Scott:I used to think as you do, but at some point the fundamentalists have a point. If scripture is not true, what exactly do you believe in?I was a liberal Christian for decades, but it seems to me that the best way to understand the Bible is that it is a book written by men that reflects their view of God. I suppose one could still believe in God — but there exists no other independent evidence of his existance.It seems to me if the Bible is not true, then the reason for believing in God disappears. paul

  • James F. McGrath

    Thanks for all the comments. First, let me direct readers to Christopher O’Brien’s post reflecting on and reacting to this one. Thanks Chris!Second, just a quick reply to Paul. For the mystic, Scripture isn’t the basis for belief, or even a requirement. I think that people believe in God, and become atheists, for all sorts of reasons. I am quite sure that, if my reason for believing in God had been ‘the inerrancy of the Bible’, then my discovery that that the Bible doesn’t live up to those claims might well have led me to atheism.

  • Prup (aka Jim Benton)

    First: on Catholics and Evolution. I was raised as a Catholic and attended Catholic Grammar and High Schools, and was always taught that evolution was an acceptable belief. And, since I am 61 years old, I am speaking of a time pre-Vatican II, even pre-Pope John XXIII. (Of course, given Ratzinger, nothing reactionary he proclaimed would surprise me, but since Catholicism has never been ‘inerrantist’ in its position and even accepted the ‘documentary hypothesis’ on the Pentateuch as long ago as 1950, I think even he would find it difficult to support Creationism or ID.)Second: In relation to ID, Christians may support it, but it doesn’t support Christianity in the slightest. The most it could prove is that there was a deistic Creator — I use the term to mean one that does not in anyway interact with its ‘Creation.’Christianity would, even if ID were true, still have to demonstrate thata) the Creator was theistic — that it interacted with its creationb) that the interaction goes on with the inhabitants of Sol II and not with inhabitants of some other world or worlds circling one of suns in the Universe of a ‘billion galaxies each with a billion stars’c) that the Creator has already interacted with us, rather than waiting for us to reach a higher level of development and communication before revealing itself to us.d) that this Creator is identical with the Christian or Abrahamic Godand e) that their interpretation of this interaction is accurate rather than any of the thousand other possible ones.Christianity is a long way from proving any of these steps.More later but this is already getting too long.