Thursday, November 03, 2005

Darwin and Catholics

Derb has this post up on The Corner.

There is, to judge from my mailbag, a widespread opinion that adherence to Darwininian biology is ungodly, if not actually atheistic. To the attention of NRO readers holding that opinion, I commend Francisco Ayala.

Ayala is a working biologist who is also an ordained Dominican priest.
He does not only think "Intelligent Design" is flat wrong, he thinks it's blasphemous! There are some notes on his opinions here.

Ayala was raised and educated in General Franco's Spain, the most intensely Christian nation of modern times. In his Catholic schools, he was taught straight Darwinism, without warnings or qualifications. Now he teaches it himself, at UC Irvine. Note how he deals with the doubts of Catholic students (point 11).

Ayala's remarks illustrate an aspect of the I.D. business not much commented on: it is an entirely American phenomenon -- really, an outgrowth of American folk religiosity. You can find a scattered few I.D. followers in other countries, but I.D. is not a public or pedagogic issue anywhere but in the U.S.A. People in other countries are just baffled by it; scientists in other countries just shake their heads sadly. This is not the case with any scientific theory that I am aware of. Real science is international. The presence of a strongly national coloring is, in fact, a pretty good marker of pseudoscience. Compare, for example, the "Soviet science" (Lysenkoism, Marrism, etc.) of Stalin.

There is nothing wrong with folk religiosity, of course. I personally regard it as a strengthening and cohesive force in the national life, and in the conservative movement. I am happy about American folk religiosity, and regard it with cheerful approval. But-- It. Is. Not. Science.
Jonah Goldberg followed up with a link to this.
What, then, is the source of the repeated episodes of active political and social agitation against the assertions of evolutionary science? One apparent answer is that it is the expected product of fundamentalist belief, which rejects the easy compromise of liberal exegesis and insists that every word in Genesis means exactly what it says Days are days, not eons. But there's the rub. A literal reading of Genesis tells us that it took God only three days to make the physical universe as it now exists, yet nuclear physics and astrophysics claim a very old stellar system and provide the instrument for the dating of bits and pieces of the earth and of fossils spanning hundreds of millions of years. So why aren't Kansas schools under extreme pressure to change the curriculum in physical science courses? Why should physicists be allowed to propagate, unopposed, their godless accounts of the evolution of the physical universe? Something more is at stake than a disagreement over the literal truth of biblical metaphors.
It's a long read, but well worth it. Part of it dissects the strange confluence of religion, politics and science which is hurting all three. And it includes the best one-paragraph destruction of ID as a science I've seen yet:
God, the Bible, and religion in general are not mentioned in the doctrine of ID. Rather, it is claimed that an objective examination of the facts of life makes it clear that organisms are too complex to have arisen by a process of the accumulation of naturally selected chance mutations and so must have been purposefully created by an unspecified intelligent designer. An alien from outer space? But the theory of ID is a transparent subterfuge. The problem is that if the living world is too complex to have arisen without an intelligent designer, then where did the intelligent designer come from? After all, she must have been as complex as the things she designed. If not, then we have evolution! Otherwise we must postulate an intelligent designer who designed the intelligent designer who..., back to the original one who must have been around forever. And who might that be? Like the ancient Hebrews the ID designers fear to pronounce Her name lest they be destroyed, but Her initials are clearly YWH.