Monday, May 18, 2009

Atheists Intrigued by Design

It's difficult for many people, including people in the media, to grasp the idea that intelligent design is not a theory held solely by theists. To be sure, most of its adherents are theists of one sort or another, but there are also a number of atheists who find themselves charmed by the idea that intelligence is somehow responsible for the universe. One example is the philosopher Bradley Monton author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. Mike Gene talks about an exchange Monton had with another atheist philosopher in which Monton says this:

...atheist-minded philosophers are unhappy with how some intelligent design opponents seem more focused on emotion and rhetoric than argument - they expect better of people (especially philosophers) who are engaging in this debate. For example, I recently got an email from a philosopher of science at a top philosophy program, which read in part:

"I'm also an atheist who thinks that the arguments for ID are far more interesting than philosophers tend to appreciate. I think it's lamentable that the climate now is such that you can't seriously discuss such things without attracting ill will from well-meaning opponents of the religious right.... Writing a book like yours is a brave thing to do and it might make the world a better place."

Gene goes on to discuss the constraints scientists are placing upon themselves in their writing and research in order to avoid giving credence to intelligent design. It's a fascinating post.

Part of the reason why, perhaps, so many think that ID is a religious hypothesis is that they don't understand what a religious claim is. To be religious a claim about reality must go beyond existential assertions about what exists ultimately and assert certain obligations toward that ultimate reality (i.e. worship, devotion, fealty, etc). In other words, the claim that God exists is a metaphysical claim as is the Darwinian claim that whether He exists or not, God is irrelevant to the diversification of life. Both of these claims have religious implications but neither of them is itself a religious assertion.

Philosopher Roy Clouser in his book The Myth of Religious Neutrality puts it differently. He says that what all religions share in common, the core that makes them "religious," is that they all hold that there is something ultimate which depends upon nothing else for its existence and upon which all else depends. According to this definition every thinking person has a religion. For most atheists the religion is materialism, the belief that matter is the self-existent primal source of all that is. For many others it's theism, the belief that the ultimately real is an intelligent, personal mind.

So, here's the point: either ID is not religious because it imposes no duties toward the Designer upon anyone, or, if Clouser's definition be accepted, it's no more religious than is its rival, materialistic Darwinism. Either way, the claim that ID doesn't belong in public school classrooms because it's religious (there may be other legitimate reasons for excluding it, though I can't think of any) is a canard that few who think about the issue in an unbiased fashion will find tenable.

Thanks to Bradford at Telic Thoughts for the links.


Macho Men

The American Thinker's George Joyce recounts for us an incident on a recent edition of the NPR show "Wait, Wait ...Don't Tell Me":

On Thursday evening's NPR quiz show "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me" senior Obama advisor David Axelrod made reference to Miss California Carrie Prejean as a dog. Politico is reporting that when Axelrod was asked on the show if he had helped the Obama's choose their recently acquired dog Axelrod replied:

"I was only called in for the final three, and one was Miss California."

When a senior advisor to the President of the United States refers to a courageous, twenty-one year old Christian woman as a dog it's a sign that conservatives have finally found a crack in the Obama administration's armor. Axelrod's remark is also an indication of the off-the-charts sense of superiority that characterizes many of those on Obama's staff.

How much longer will this country be able to endure the utter contempt these progressives have for traditional American values? When will conservatives begin to stand up for this young woman and the values she is defending?

I second Joyce's questions and raise him a couple: How is Axelrod's calling a 22 year-old college student a "dog" any more acceptable than Don Imus calling the Rutgers girls basketball team "nappy-headed 'hos"? For that matter, why doesn't Axelrod call his boss a dog? Prejean's views on gay marriage, the ostensible trigger for the abuse she has received from the left, are precisely those of Barack Obama, at least they are if Obama was telling the truth when he announced his views on the subject.

Why do people on the left (e.g. Bill Maher) feel compelled to insult a young woman who merely gave an honest answer to a question from a judge in a beauty pageant? Is it because she stumbled a bit in her delivery? Is it because her answer is what the majority of people in this country believe about marriage? Is it because she's a Christian and nevertheless posed for some less than Christian photos? Or is it just that she's a Christian, period?

Maybe it's because Axelrod, Maher, Keith Olbermann, Perez Hilton, Michael Musto, et al are arrogant, adolescent bullies who, like prebuscent middle school boys huddling in the lavatory, think it's cool to insult and laugh at people who're better than they are. It's amusing to consider that these heroic, stalwart specimens of left-wing masculinity would never do to, say, a Muslim man what they're eager to do to a gentle Christian college girl.

But perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps these macho tough guys have indeed scoffed at the beliefs of Muslims who hold to much more extreme views on gay marriage than does Carrie Prejean. Perhaps they've courageously laughed with public derision at Islamic law and the Muslim belief in the Prophet. Perhaps they've roundly ridiculed the Muslim's belief that Allah regards homosexual behavior as an abomination worthy of public execution.

Or maybe not. Maybe their courage only extends to mocking harmless young women. It is, after all, much easier to beat up on a co-ed beauty pageant contestant than to take on grown men who are likely to exact a steep price for their insolence.

Anyway, here's the last question: When is the National Organization for Women going to step in and defend this woman from the rhetorical assault these "men" are waging against her?

Okay, you're right. That's a silly question.