I’m a little worried. Jason Rosenhouse wrote about this new paper by Peter Hess, the Faith Project Director (I’m already rolling my eyes) of the NCSE, and I learn that the first failing of Intelligent Design creationism is that it is blasphemous.
I am proudly and unapologetically blasphemous, and I encourage other people to join my heretical ranks all the time. If ID is blasphemous, it’s the first element of their program that I can approve of — anything that weakens the grip of faith has got something good going for it. It’s simply not a problem. It can’t even be a problem for a religious program in America — we’re a pluralist society, and everything is blasphemous to someone. The mild-mannered theistic evolutionists think ID is blasphemy, but so does Ken Ham…and Ham also thinks the theistic evolutionists are heretics, apostates, and blaspheming bastards who defile the Holy Word of God. Lutherans are blaspheming Catholics. Baptists blaspheme against the sacred doctrines of Calvin. Every time you pull out a cell phone, you’re insulting the Amish way of life, and Ron Jeremy is glad the Shakers died out. So? We can’t use and absence of blasphemy as a criterion for truth and accuracy. It’s silly to bring it up. And, as Jason points out, the same religious arguments applied against ID are equally valid when aimed at theistic evolutionists.
I’m also troubled by this whole position of Faith Project Director. Peter Hess is almost certainly a nice guy, and he’s on the side of evolution, or he wouldn’t be working at NCSE…but why is the NCSE now actively engaged in the business of promoting Faith Projects, and why do they have a professional Bible thumper to pontificate on hair-splitting matters of dogma? They’re all wrong. Having a theologian on staff to tell us that some of them are more wrong than others on matters sacerdotal, from his position which is just as shaky as everyone else’s, seems to me to be so bad that it falls into the category of not even wrong.
And then there’s the matter of this paper. It is titled, “CREATION, DESIGN AND EVOLUTION: CAN SCIENCE DISCOVER OR ELIMINATE GOD?”, and the answer Hess gives is no: “The scientific quest for the designer behind the veil of nature ultimately fails—science can neither discover nor eliminate God.”
That’s easy, then. God is irrelevant. These guys always seem to use “science” as a word demarcating a very narrow field of endeavor involving white lab coats, test tubes, and strangely colored solutions, but it isn’t. Science is simply a process for examining the world, and anyone can do it, even if you do’t have a lab coat. If something has an effect or influence, you can try to examine it using the tools of science — so when someone announces that gods cannot be detected by observation or experiment, they are saying they don’t matter and don’t do anything, which is exactly what this atheist has been saying all along.
This is the strange thing about the whole argument. When I was on my daily walk today, I was surrounded by a million mysteries: what’s in that house? How was this sidewalk made? What signaling molecules are moving through that tree to trigger new bud formation? What insect was making that odd sound? Why was my left ankle sore this morning? Were there any neutrinos whizzing through me right now? How did that boulder get on that lot? You get the idea. We’re immersed in a piece of the universe and we don’t know a lot about it, but we’re seeing these curious eruptions of natural phenomena all around us, and we can pursue them if we want.
That’s the obnoxious part of religion, and why it’s in conflict with science. Science is the world of Let’s-Find-Out, while religion is always the land of You-Can’t-Know-That. One tries to build fences around sacred domains, the other has great fun knocking them down. Go ahead, pretend that your god is safe and hidden away where scientists can’t poke at him with needles or measure his emanations with widgets that go beep or photograph his spoor and stick it in a chromatograph — we don’t care. The only way he can escape our probes is if he doesn’t exist…so the more you protest that he is absolutely indetectible, the more we nod and say, “Then you’re admitting that he isn’t even vapor.”
Denying god is yet more blasphemy, isn’t it? That’s why I’m in trouble. Of course, claiming that god has no measurable influence in the world is probably also blasphemy, which puts Peter Hess in the theological clink, too.