Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Losing Her Religion?

Good ol' Cornelia Dean wrote the latest article in The New York Times' series on evolution and intelligent design. Strangely lacking was Cornelia's Creed, which appeared so ritually in her previous articles. Has she lost faith in it? Could she not find a way to work it in? Did the macro on her computer fail? Was it something I said? Makes me a little wistful, I must say.

In any case, she writes about scientists and their belief in God or lack thereof. What is truly remarkable is that she does not include any comments from proponents of intelligent design, but she feels quite comfortable judging them:
Although they embrace religious faith, these scientists also embrace science as it has been defined for centuries. That is, they look to the natural world for explanations of what happens in the natural world and they recognize that scientific ideas must be provisional - capable of being overturned by evidence from experimentation and observation. This belief in science sets them apart from those who endorse creationism or its doctrinal cousin, intelligent design, both of which depend on the existence of a supernatural force.

The last sentence is, of course, absolutely false. Proponents of intelligent design believe very much in science "as it has been defined for centuries." They just do not accept Rigid Materialism, which has appeared over the last century. They look for natural explanations, but they remain open to other explanations. They do not dogmatically insist that there must be a naturalistic explanation for every historical event. Intelligent design does not "depend" on the existence of a supernatural force. It finds evidence for intelligent design, supernatural or otherwise, in the facts. This paragraph more than any other shows how biased and agenda driven her article is. How can she, with a straight face, make such a statement without asking a single proponent of intelligent design how his or her faith interfaces with science? How can someone who has researched the movement as much as she has still be so ignorant of its proponents' positions? Perhaps there is some evidence of design here?

The article functions mainly as a chance to praise the Christian scientists that Dean likes- the "good Christians" like Francis Collins, as opposed to the "bad Christians" over there at the Discovery Institute (which actually has fellows of many different philosophical and religious persuasions). We don't dislike all Christian scientists, just those kind of Christian scientists. One can almost hear her saying, "some of my best friends are Christians."

I note as well that she does not explore how scientists' atheism affects how they do science. She only includes quotes by Dawkins and Weinberg about other scientists and their beliefs, as if atheism somehow gives you a neutral perch from which you can uniquely judge your neighbor. Does atheism bias your evaluation of the evidence? How does Dawkins' rabid atheism affect his ability to consider fairly the purported evidence for intelligent design? I look at such questions in this post.

The article does include this insightful comment:
One panelist, Dr. Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said scientists, like other people, were guided by their own human purposes, meaning and values. The idea that fact can be separated from values and meaning "jibes poorly with what we know of the history of science," Dr. Efron said.

Amen, brother Noah.

The curious reader would do better reading the sidebar in the recent Time magazine, which allowed four people, with various worldviews, to explain their perspectives in their own words. My discussion of Michael Behe's views, with links, can be found here.

If you missed the link at the beginning, you can find an explanation of what Cornelia's Creed is, the magic words of assurance that religiously appear in all of her most recent articles on evolution, and the religion she seems to have lost, here.


At August 23, 2005 5:51 PM, Blogger Hatless in Hattiesburg said...

It is an exercise in futility to look for some "intelligent design" behind Ms. Dean's article. The words on that page were merely random splotches of primordial ink which coalesced on the paper after a "big bang" at the printer.


Keep up the good work!

At August 29, 2005 5:45 PM, Blogger David said...

Hattie: may I amend your comment for use in an upcoming post? And if I may, how do you want me to credit your contribution? It's a nice twist on the "dictionary/explosion in a printing factory" line that I've not heard before.

At August 30, 2005 8:00 PM, Blogger Hatless in Hattiesburg said...

Glad you liked it! You can use it however you want, I'd just appreciate a link, which can be just as it appears in these comments.

At September 26, 2005 11:33 PM, Anonymous John said...

I enjoyed your analysis of Cornelia's article... it is evident that she has an ideological axe to grind...

Good point regarding the absence of consideration of how a scientist's atheism can bias his/her ways of doing science (or what he/she considers to be science)...



Post a Comment

<< Home