ASA obscurantism?
Thu, 27 Feb 97 08:32:00 -0500

George Murphy noted recently that, in many religion-
science circles, ASA is seen as a group of obscurantists.
George pointed to Phil Johnson and his following as
a reason for this; he seems sympathetic with the claim.

I agree with George that many in the religion/science
scene outside of ASA view us as promoting obscurantism.
I don't agree that we do, not even those in ASA who like
what Phil is saying.

What ID people want is a full, open, honest discussion of
the assumptions underlying naturalistic science. IMO,
this is not obscurantism; rather, it would be obscurantism
to avoid just such a discussion. Scientists have such
discussions now and then about the core assumptions of
their disciplines. What makes this one different is that
it is more open than other discussions to what I would
like to think of as "humility theology" in the literal
sense, that is, to the possibility that the truth might
not lie within naturalism. The hard part here, IMO, is
to talk about "gaps" while avoiding the dangers that
come with them. That takes me too far afield for
the present...

THere is another reason, IMO, why ASAers are often seen
by more mainstream people as obscurantists. That is, there
is a reason in addition to the reason that we believe that
truth and scientific truth claims are not always identical.
That is, we believe strongly in a God who is not only
immanent (as liberalism asserts), but also profoundly
transcendent. I've been reading quite a bit of liberal
Protestant stuff from earlier periods lately, and I
must say that a lot of it is hair-raising: unequivocal
identifications of God with the evolutionary process, along
with (hardly surprising) a firm belief in the perfectability
of humankind (their God is obligated to do this, it seems)
through the evolutionary process, and a certain fondness
for eugenics (part of the program of moral improvement).
To be perfectly frank, jettison the last point and I don't
see much difference with many evolutionary theists today:
many are pantheists by another name (panentheism), in spite
of their denials of this very statement. Those of us in
ASA whose God isn't quite so easily identified as the
process of evolution ought to be proud to be obscurantists,
we ought to be proud of holding that the natural order
ain't all there is.

I'd better shut up before I start naming names, which I
really don't want to do...


Ted Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840