Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stopping By a Bookstore On the Way to Work: The Birth of the Intelligent Design Movement

Here is a very interesting and brief history of the intelligent design movement. The article dates to March 2002, but I thought I would link to it since I suspect that many of my readers have never seen it. It is also timely and relevant given the tendency of many to equate the intelligent design movement with the creation science movement, and the tendency to lump all critics of evolution into one homogenous mass, which I discussed here and here.

Commenting on the book The Mystery of Life's Origin, he notes:
Their argument was not entirely novel; Henry Morris and A. E. Wilder-Smith had anticipated parts of it already. What was noteworthy, however, about this book is that the authors, while themselves Christians, attempted to argue against biogenesis not from biblical authority but exclusively on scientific grounds.

Here is another excerpt, about how the law professor Phillip Johnson happened to get interested in this issue:
During the 1987–88 academic year, Johnson left Boalt Hall to become a visiting professor at University College in London, where he found himself in an academician’s heaven. He headed into his office three days a week and traveled with his wife the rest of the time. The route to his London office took him past a scientific bookstore, wherein he encountered Richard Dawkins’ polemic The Blind Watchmaker. Johnson concluded that Dawkins’ argument was carried by the same kind of brilliant rhetorical devices that gifted lawyers employ to overcome insufficient evidence. With ample time to devote to reading whatever caught his fancy, Johnson began devouring other popular scientific accounts of evolution by Denton, Stephen Jay Gould, and John Maynard Smith. As Johnson recounts it, he told his wife one evening that “I think I understand the problem with this whole field. But, fortunately, I’m too sensible to take it up professionally or to write about it. I’d be ridiculed. They would say, ‘You’re not a scientist, you’re a law professor.’ It would be something once you got started with it, you’d be involved in a lifelong, never-ending battle.” Johnson, however, found the temptation irresistible. He began writing the next day.

For more on the challenges to macroevolution based on science and not faith, go here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Telic Thoughts On Richard Dawkins and His Wonderful Plan For Your Children

Don't miss the posts at Telic Thoughts on Richard Dawkins' views of religious teaching of children by parents as "child abuse," and his views on what the government role should be in preventing that. Mike Gene provided this quote from Dawkins' book, The God Delusion:
'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.' The adage is true as long as you don't really believe the words. But if your whole upbringing, and everything you have ever been told by parents, teachers and priests, has led you to believe, really believe, utterly and completely, that sinners burn in hell (or some other obnoxious article of doctrine such as that a woman is the property of her husband), it is entirely plausible that words could have a more long-lasting and damaging effect than deeds. I am persuaded that the phrase 'child abuse' is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell. (page 318)

As a result of the attention drawn to his statements and actions by the Telic Thoughts blog, Dawkins apparently has expressed regret (repented? recanted?) over signing a petition that endorses preventing parents from teaching their children about religion. However, as far as I can see, he has not taken back his statements in his book (and elsewhere) that "the phrase 'child abuse' is no exaggeration when used to describe" religious instruction in certain of the historic Christian doctrines.

So is Dawkins against government protection of children from child abuse? It seems that he needs to clarify which forms of "child abuse" merit government intervention and which do not. Or perhaps he could come up with a different, and less inflamatory, description. It would also be enlightening to know which other religious doctrines rise to the level of child abuse.