Lawsuits over Intelligent Design and Evolution Pose a Democratic Dilemma
Royal, Robert, National Catholic Reporter
Democratic politics are good for many things, but they are not good for determining truth. Truth, real truth, floats like an elusive many-hued goddess beyond crude partisan grasp. Politics does better with practical alternatives, with workable compromises, than with theoretical foundations. And for that reason alone, the recent lawsuits about teaching evolution and intelligent design in public schools, and the disputes to which they have given rise, are just about the worst possible ways to argue out the truth about religion and science. Yet there is an accommodation needed here, and let us pray a wise one emerges.
All Christians, all Jews, all religious persons of any kind who accept a creator God--in this country 90 percent of Americans--hold as their deepest belief the idea that there is something besides matter and that, however defined, it is more important than the universe it created. Insofar as I understand the current controversy over teaching "intelligent design," advocates have no very clear idea of what intelligent design means, except that it denies materialism. I expect that in court they will lose because good lawyers will simply demonstrate that such beliefs have no place in science.
The lawyers are right, up to a point, but not in the way they think. Modern science arose by carefully detaching itself from moral values and teleology. Science, we were all taught, is disinterested and value-free and only claims to deal with empirical, not metaphysical, philosophical or ethical questions. In the past, theologians and philosophers mistakenly tried to control realms where they had neither expertise nor authority so the scientists have been well within their rights to mark out their own territory outside ethics and metaphysics.
The problem now, however, is that the border violations are more frequent in the other direction. Few of us will object to scientists, including Darwinians, publicizing scientific studies. It is when they want to tell us that these have religiously authoritative consequences--and that is precisely what Richard Dawkins and a whole raft of Neo-Darwinians believe--that the rest of us have to remind them that they've stepped outside their self-defined competence and are acting like inquisitors of old.
Let us state this without equivocation: Darwinian evolution of whatever form, whether true or false, simply has no relevance whatever to the question of God's existence unless you believe in something like a very rigid, literal reading of the Bible or that evolution necessarily entails philosophical notions of a purposeless and meaningless universe. …