Monday, February 06, 2006

State of Nature

Instead of working on PowerPoint slides this morning I spent 20 minutes reading this essay/article from the WaPo on the public discourse concerning evolutionary theory. Now I won't even humor arguments for "intelligent design" as an alternate theory to evolution because it is a waste of time. These two arguments exist in completely separate worlds as evoltuion is studied, discussed, and tested within the paradigm of the Scientific Process whereas "ID" is confined to the unanswered questions of evolutionary theory and underpinned only by speculative anecdotes. I could rant enlessly (and probably nonsensically) about this but I won't.

What struck me most about the article was the portion of it that examined what motivates people to try and shoot down Darwinian thinking. Yes, I think that a great portion of ID's support comes from people and organizations with religious and specifically anti-secularist agendas. (With the remaining fraction being filled with scientifically trained contrarians looking to stir the pot.) But I also believe that people resist evolution because they mistakenly view it as an affront to human existence. That it somehow robs us of what makes humanity special. However as I see it, evolutionary science does no such thing.

Darwin's theories attempt to (successfully, I believe) explain how the natural order as we experience it today, came to be. Within that context alone the world is frightening, cruel, dispassionate and a place where human life would be described by Hobbes as "...nasty, brutish, and short." But that is not the whole story. Darwin's theories merely observe the world through a "biological" lens not a social or anthropolgical one. It is an attempt to explain why we have two hands instead of one or three but not why it is better to befriend your neighbor than to make him your enemy. That is left to the philosophers as it should be.

There is so much room outside of evolutionary science to discuss the need for morality, justice, compassion, and purpose that I fail to see how these concepts could ever be threatened by a culture that rejects the "scientific principles" of intelligent design. If people who support ID wish to bring the merits of Christian or even just humanist principles to the forefront of the public discourse then bring them on. These ideas need to be discussed. But to try and work them in via some scientific loophole is not only disingenous, but it misrepresents the subject altogether.


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