Friday, August 26, 2005

Is Nothing Sacred? The Right Tackles ID

One of the reasons why I despise conservatives is that they take good ideas and mercilessly destroy them. This is the case, as I have argued, with sensible restrictions on abortion rights, and it's recently become the case with the theory of "intelligent design." It pains me that the way that most Americans have come to be acquainted with this theory is through the work of that great scientist, President Bush. Like an icepick it pains me. Before the Bush administration ruined it for everyone, Intelligent Design was a theory advanced by scientists (not Christians!) such as Paul Davies and Roger Penrose, as a deep reflection on the nature of the universe and the purpose and possibility of scientific inquiry. The science of intelligent design, which I cannot emphasize strongly enough is real science, focuses on questions such as the probability of this exact universe coming into existence among all possible universes, the origin and meaning of the laws of physics, the nature of time and eternity, and whether the universe was meant to create and sustain life. Such science is simply the rebirth of classical metaphysics, rejuvenated by the 20th century discoveries of relativity and quantum mechanics and the concomitant displacement of the Newtonian universe. As Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle before him argued, the science of metaphysics is by no means the crass "God in the gaps" trick which Bush and his fellow morons have made it out to be. The created goodness of the world as Aquinas would have it, or its purposiveness according to Aristotle, is not a "first order" phenomenon, i.e., not an explanation for how rocks fall from bridges or how species adapt to fit their environments. Those phenomena can only be explained through observation which leads to an understanding of causes. Rather, metaphysics is a "big picture" science, the science of first (and last) things, which throws everything into the light in which science may discover it. It is trust in the coherence and reliability and essential goodness of things - the trust that the universe was in some sense "expecting us" and that we should feel at home here - that makes science possible, because it keeps questions open. The sense of wonder at the beauty of things is what shapes the scientists' mind, informs his or her methods, enriches that thinker's soul. So that primal awe is the fuel of scientific inquiry - it is the flame which must be kept burning. Intelligent Design theory represents the very best hope for the nascent dialogue between science and religion - which I believe must urgently take place if the western tradition is going to survive. Yet just when this olive branch between science and religion has been extended, along comes the ghoulish specter of the religious right, attempting to prove that everything bad ever said about religion is really true. Now President Bush, with his inimicable style, has probably ruined the science and religion moment for a long, long time. He has at least done incalculable damage to it with his disgusting, reactionary politics and bastard prejudices. Where science and religion are concerned, the right can only gaze on stupidly, not comprehending either one.


ts said...

seems to me that president bush has not become so emotional over the idea of ID as some anti-ID scientists have. his comments don't seem likely to lead to legislation on the matter, so what's the big deal?

weazoe said...

First of all, all cards on the table, I'm not exactly a Bush fan and I don't welcome his contribution. Secondly, he and the entire right-wing have misrepresented ID as being an attack on evolution, which it isn't. William Lane Craig, for instance, has cited evolution as evidence of design. Thirdly, Bush has misunderstood both the science of ID and its application to mean some kind of reductio absurdum per scientific theorizing in general, i.e., everything is just a theory and one is as good as another. This is a misunderstanding of the newly forged partnership between many scientists and religion. In short, the science and religion "moment" has taken about a hundred years (since Einstein) to arrive at the point that it is today, where many scientists are willing to talk about the role that religion and spirituality may play in informing a rational, open-ended, seeking world-view, i.e., a scientific world-view. Now Bush has opened his mouth, ruined my job prospects, and set us all back twenty years.