Intelligent design creates crises of science and faith AS I SEE IT

Intelligent design creates crises of science and faith AS I SEE IT

By Steven B. Case - Kansas City Star - 9/12/06

Proponents of intelligent design, with great gnashing of teeth and colorful language, have created a great deal of smoke. Scientists and the public have been taken by surprise by the sophistication of the marketing tactics used and are often lost in this cloud, somewhat unsure of what to think.

One thing is clear: The scientific community has not embraced the explanation of design because it is quite clear that on the basis of the evidence, it is just wrong. Beyond the clarity that design is not science, the smoke is hiding an attack on the religious faith and beliefs of many people. Framed as “science” and using pseudoscientific language, teaching intelligent design camouflages an ugly underlying theology.

In his book, Darwin’s Black Box, Michael J. Behe coined a term: “Irreducible Complexity,” which he the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”

Irreducible complexity implies that God resides in the “gaps” of our knowledge. Science students who are introduced to the idea that God is only present in what we don’t understand, i.e. the mysteries of the universe, are left with difficult issues to resolve. If God is found in the mysteries, as their understanding of the natural world grows, then God (the mysteries) gets smaller. Faced with this appalling conflict, many students will reject knowledge. Others have a crisis that causes them to lose their faith and beliefs. This completely contrived conflict should not be going on anywhere in public education.

St. Augustine, one of the most productive Christian intellectuals with lasting impact on Christian theology, western psychology and political philosophy, warned of this very crisis. Augustine unequivocally states that a spiritual authority/leader speaking on matters of science, who relies on his spiritual authority for support of scientific statements, runs the very profound risk of being proven wrong on his science. The risk being that the followers will not only question the science, but question the spiritual teachings as well.

Intelligent design attempts to describe God in the very limited language of science, putting the understanding of God into a very small box. For most people of faith, God is far bigger then this very small box. Intelligent design proponents call those who believe in God and still find science a compelling explanation of the natural world, “worse than atheists.” The manufactured choice of God or evolution advances an intolerant, anti-intellectual and very narrow religious view that is clearly not the position of most people of faith.

Steven B. Case was chairman of the science standards writing committee for the state of Kansas. He lives in Overland Park.