Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution To Evolve is Human, To Create Divine?
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (2007, TV) Dir: Gary Johnstone, Joseph McMaster
I suppose it's appropriate that Darwin's theory has itself been under evolution since its publication in 1859. This is just good science; anyone who follows the introduction of a new theory knows that scientists are the hardest on each other when it comes to poking holes in a hypothesis.
Sometimes I think the very existence of creationists in what I like to think of as a predominantly rational world may actually poke a bit of a hole in the idea of natural selection. But then, maybe the tenacity and stubbornness shown by creationists is an evolutionary trait as desirable in its way as the opposing thumb.
The tenacity certainly comes out clearly in the documentary "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." You probably know more about the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial" dramatized in the play and film "Inherit the Wind" than about the far more recent and relevant 2005 case in Dover, Pennsylvania. I certainly did.
No one following the recent U.S. primaries this spring could have failed to note the preoccupation with religion in Pennsylvania. Nowhere is the "great divide" between the right and the left more evident. People define themselves here by their beliefs and their associations, and passions run high on both sides.
It was here that a school board member in Dover, with the stated intent to make his county a better place, proposed that intelligent design be taught alongside evolution, in the interests of fairness. A text was suggested, "Of Pandas and People," which could help students understand that the theory of evolution was just that, a theory, and that there were other schools of thought.
What followed culminated in a six-week trial in which the parents of several students in Dover took the school board to court over the introduction of something that seemed like a very thinly disguised attempt to bring religion into the classroom in the form of "Creationism minus God."
On trial was the concept of what makes something science, and what constitutes the religious slant that the Founding Fathers specifically barred from entry into law.
Representing the plaintiffs were lawyers of the ACLU. They dismantled the common claim of creationists that evolution is largely unproven and in question. One of the major counter-arguments to Darwin's theory is that there are large holes in the fossil record where natural selection states there should be evolutionary links, something the ACLU team was able to discredit entirely. Many of these "missing" links are no longer missing at all. Scientists, by digging at the right strata representing the time they expected to find transitional creatures, have been rewarded again and again with exactly the fossils they hoped to find.
Possibly the most potent argument brought forward was the idea in science that a theory actually carries more weight than a fact. A theory, they said, is a body of facts - any of which might be true or not true - built up over a period of time and surviving stringent testing.
So evolution stands up, when new evidence or new technology comes to bear, in a way that few theories have.
The defendant case, in response, claimed a very lax definition of science in order to have so-called intelligent design considered as such, and found itself forced to accept that, by its own definition, astrology was as valid a science as what they were trying to prove.
The Republican judge, elected by Bush, was nonetheless convinced and offered a decision that barred the teaching of intelligent design permanently in Dover, on constitutional grounds.
I admit, at the midpoint of the program, I began to believe that the judge would hide his decision behind the constitutionality of the separation of church and state, and manage to completely avoid ruling on whether or not intelligent design was at all valid.
But the decision went as far as the ACLU could have dreamed, and I'm sure further than they expected. In essence, the judge said that intelligent design was indistinguishable from creationism except in name, and that to teach it would be a violation of the Constitution. But he went farther, and stated that intelligent design was in no way scientific, and as such had no place in a science classroom.
What was striking, though, was the absolute insistence of the proponents of ID that they were only trying to make the world a better place. It still stuns me when I hear this, from the mouths of people who actually perjured themselves on the stand during this very trial, in this case by denying knowledge of who had donated a number of ID texts to the high school in Dover.
The kind of double-think that allows a person to claim to be a good Christian while willfully breaking several of the Ten Commandments - in this case "Thou Shalt Not Lie" was prominent - remains a source of great perplexity for me. I cannot possibly see any goodness, for example, in justifying the suspension of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" so that it ceases to be a crime against God to murder a doctor who performs abortions.
But good old Pat Robertson probably puts it best into perspective with his dire warning to Dover after the decision: "Don't be surprised if there's a disaster... because you've turned your back on God."
A God like that I don't want anywhere near a school, or me, thanks very much.