And in other news, dog bites man. Would the NY Times have printed an op-ed allowing a flat-earther to explain why he believes the earth is flat? Because that’s what they did when they ran Brownback’s defense of intelligent design creationism. And there’s nothing original in Brownback’s op-ed either.
First, Brownback makes this declarative statement:
The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.
No, science tests materialist, physical explanations of phenomena against available data. Not even a likelihood fanatic like me thinks that I have some approximation of the ‘truth’ based on the science I do. As to the contradiction, there can be a contradiction: certainly millions of biblically literalist creationists think there is.
Brownback further establishes that he is scientifically illiterate:
Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose.
(an aside: can we please stop referring to religion as ‘faith’? It’s dishonest.)
I don’t see how ‘faith’ supplements the scientific method. Again, the scientific method is a tool for understanding the physical world around us: how it works and why it looks the way it does. It is not a guide to moral behavior–and should not claim to be either.
Then Brownback raises the microevolution/macroevolution canard:
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
When Brownback says he supports the concept of microevolution, what is left unsaid is that he does not believe that macroevolution–the evolution of novel species–occurs (if he actually thinks that species can dramatically change through time or split and diverge, then, erm, that is macroevolution). So did God create every natural ‘kind’, including the 300,000 species of beetles? Or how about this guy:
“How come I’m not in the Creationist Museum?”
No merciful God would design that. Then comes another time-honored creationist dodge–biologists disagree about the particulars of evolutionary theory, so the theories of common descent and natural selection must be wrong:
There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.
Unlike ‘faith’, punctuated equilibrium and gradual evolution can be tested by data. And of course, no intelligent design creationist screed would be complete without the double-barreled action of misunderstanding natural selection and randomness:
Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.
First, even staunch neutralists would acknowledge that many human traits have been shaped by natural selection–which is not a random process. Second, this is really crappy philosophy. Why can’t man have a unique place in the world–including the unique responsibility to safeguard all life–and have also been the product of an unguided process? As Camus wrote in A Fourth Letter to a German Friend:
But I know something in it [the world] has a meaning and that is man, because he is the only creature to insist on having one. This world has at least the truth of man, and our task is to provide its justification against fate itself. And it has no justification but man; hence he must be saved if we want to save the idea we have of life. With your scornful smile you will ask me: what do you mean by saving man? And with all my being I shout to you that mean not mutilating him and yet giving a chance to the justice that man alone can conceive.
How material reality can undermine the elegance, the passion, the humanity of such thoughts escapes me. And I find it glorious and wonderful that a hairless ape, who is a minor offshoot of the primates, could devise such ideals. A materialist origin of humanity is only threatening if your ego and your sense of self-worth require that you are endowed with a special nature–as opposed to earning that status through righteous acts.
Finally, Brownback falls back on the false declarative statement:
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.
Umm, what about this:
OK, that was a cheap shot. But you get the idea–we’re not that different from other primates. I don’t how one proves or disproves that “man was not an accident” (although repeating it over and over is definitely not the way to do it).
The whole piece just shows how ignorant Brownback is about biology and science: science isn’t the data, it’s the process of testing ideas.
an aside: There’s much more wrong with Brownback’s op-ed, but it’s so boring to have to refute the same old creationist bullshit over and over. Check out these fine people for more.