« Religion and Happiness, continued... | Main | Help! I'm a Book Writer Trapped in a Blog's Body »

December 23, 2005

Judge Jones' decision, continued

Back to the problematic quote in Judge John E. Jones laudable decision against requiring mention of "intelligent design" in the Dover public schools: "The theory of evolution…in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."

Hasn't religion surrendered a whole lot if its god no longer creates the species, let alone moves the stars and planets?

"The fact that orthodox Christians so eagerly grasp the vagrant straws floating by shows that they are now content with the very smallest fragments of all that once they were positive was true" -- Clarence Darrow

Might these hazier, more abstract, less necessary views of god -- views that might be compatible with evolution and the rest of modern science -- qualify as vagrant straws, small fragments of once grand religious truths?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at December 23, 2005 11:52 PM


Slate ran an article earlier this year that basically argued "let the IDers go; they can make these sweeping concessions if they want; they're sinking their own ship without any help from us". I think this is fine except that in cases like Kansas they were actually really messing up science education, and in cases like Dover they were blatantly pushing a particular religion, lying about it flagrantly, trying to discredit solid science even though by their own admission this sort of discussion belonged at home and not as an announcement in a science class, and finally they recommended the textbook Pandas, which I'm pretty convinced by reviews should not be read by anyone (it is misleading, cut-and-paste reworked from a text promoting a particular religion, and a waste of time).

In my view, the "straws" that seem to be left are the concept of an all-powerful god who might have created the laws and matter that make up our universe, but is now irrelevant to its day-to-day affairs. I can see why this would bother people; I was recently reading Stephen Crane's "Ship of the World" and realized, "hey, this is essentially what I (could) believe". But I don't think it's necessary to take so negative a view as Crane's. For one thing, god could be spending his time making sure the laws that govern the universe are upheld. AFAIK nothing in science predicts that those particular laws should be so.

Posted by: Peter at December 24, 2005 8:03 PM

Rejoinder: in light of the first paragraph I posted above, it seems to me that the real problem with the ID movement is that intellectually it makes all the concessions, but politically it demands concessions from everyone else.

Posted by: Peter at December 24, 2005 8:08 PM

I'm happy when I discover blogs that are part of the reality-based community. As for the debate over ID\creationism, I have to say that I'm glad the conservative, church-going judge in Dover PA decided against the former schoolboard and their anti-science stance. However, the problem lies with the society at large. It's amazing to me that in the 21st century, the majority of Americans don't believe in evolution! There's so much widespread ignorance, that even the ACLU advises not to make this a fight between science and religion because, as Strosser put it, we'll lose. But, at the very base of this is the question, what science is. The scientific method is one thing, inquiry and open to revision! Extreneous propositions, or un-scientific theories simply cannot be part of science. People need to believe in something because they cannot deal with the truth & facts. They're happy substituting reality with something that feels good to them. Also, they think in small frames, with everything that falls outside is readily discarded without evaluation. The philosopher I. Kant observed that many people are used to having things done for them since they are little kids. Thinking and decisions are often hard. Religion gives them explanations and hope. Kant said that many people never mature intellectually. I think that's true. I try to teach my students to think, to re-examine, to be inquisitive, but even if they're in college now supposedly to learn and use their minds, many of them are not up to the task.

Posted by: Andros at December 24, 2005 11:21 PM

If it is now to be nothing more than a god who created the laws of the universe and then -- what? -- retired to Florida, will it soon be nothing more than a god who created the principles that led to the creation of the laws of the universe? Doesn't this god seem to be in retreat? Maybe he is compatible with evolution, but in this severely debilitated state what ontological need does he still manage to fill?

In fairness, however, this sophisticated, if wispy, god does seem to require considerable use of the mind to puzzle out -- more, I would think, than "God the father" or God the mover of planets and creator of species.

Posted by: mitch at December 25, 2005 12:15 AM

"Hasn't religion surrendered a whole lot if its god no longer creates the species, let alone moves the stars and planets?"

I think a popular argument right now for people who think about these things and keep their religion is that he does so passively.

Posted by: NoahSD at December 26, 2005 11:25 PM

"Doesn't this god seem to be in retreat"

Not exactly; it's dogmatic, organized religions that are in retreat. Whether god retreats with them depends on where your loyalties lie.

Posted by: Peter at December 28, 2005 5:25 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)