Chris Clarke brought this strangely twisted article to my attention. It starts out just fine, pointing out that the Intelligent Design assault on science is based on nothing but incredulity, and has the sweeping goal of destroying naturalism—not just one theory in biology, but the whole scientific shebang. The author is against all that, which is good…thanks, Cynthia, we appreciate your support. Now if only she’d just ended it there at the two-thirds mark.
The last third is peculiar. She seems to be less interested in strong science than in strengthening religion, and the reason she’s arguing against ID is purely on the Augustinian principle that backing foolish statements about the natural world makes the religious look foolish.
A more effective way to bolster religious belief than attacking Darwin is to remember that religion addresses questions that are completely beyond the range of science. The meaning of life, the nature of good conduct, the nature of the human soul: Science is not set up to deal with any of these.
Science isn’t set up to deal with the Great Ju-Ju, the lares and penates, or Atlantean spirit-guides, either—because they don’t exist. The religious are free to invent non-existent phenomena all they want, but saying that science doesn’t deal in imaginary nonsense isn’t exactly a flaw.
As for the nature of good conduct, we don’t need religion to support that idea, and I see no reason why non-supernatural processes require metaphysical rationalizations.
This is why religion remains so potent — and, I think, so positive — a force in modern America. It alone provides answers to the hardest questions we all face. In a health crisis, we want help from a doctor who practices medicine in a completely rational and scientific manner. But our prayers that this medicine helps go to a supernatural being, not to the doctor.
Urk. That casual equation of medicine with prayer is simply creepy. In a health crisis, we need help from a doctor; prayer is superfluous and useless. Religion remains potent because so many refuse to acknowledge its impotence.
The essay is about to hit bottom. The author decides to compare Darwin to that other fellow who shares a birthday with him, and starts praising Lincoln’s spirituality.
Lincoln could never have accomplished the great tasks before him, nor inspired others to stay the course through so many defeats, disappointment and death, without recourse to ideas imbued with the deepest spirituality. Whether he declared that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom” or called on his fellow Northerners to press on to victory “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” he clearly saw the unique wisdom and power embodied in the great truths of religion — wisdom certainly different from scientific wisdom, but equally certainly, just as valuable.
This, most of us would agree, is religion at its best: providing spiritual comfort, psychological strength, moral direction and righteous inspiration.
In this realm, evolution — wonderful job that it does in explaining the natural world — cannot compete with religion. In its own “ballpark,” religion, as Lincoln knew, wins every time. It’s only when it strays into the other guy’s stadium that it sets itself up for inevitable loss and disappointment.
Uh-oh. Somebody needs to look up the actual beliefs of Lincoln, rather than just making them up as she goes along.
Lincoln was a deist and freethinker. He paid token deference to religion because he was well aware that he could not win office as a man who rejected Christianity. That puts that last paragraph in a different light: he knew that religion’s “ballpark” was bigotry and intolerance, and that he had to avoid challenging it.
It’s the 21st century. I think it’s about time we started challenging.