Re: The rhetoric of argument

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Mon Sep 09 2002 - 17:52:56 EDT

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    Thank you, Howard, for your commentary on my comments. Your question:

         "Is it possible that the ID movement assigns more value to scientific
    tracking than to theological tracking? Wouldn't that be an irony?"

    prompts some further thoughts about the rhetorical strategy of ID in the
    court of public pleading. ID proponents recognize that before the Ohio
    State School Board or any other board that makes curriculum decisions, they
    must be careful to say, as George Murphy put it, "no one but us scientists
    here!" For, if they display the religious/theological agenda behind their
    arguments for ID and against "naturalistic evolution," they run up against
    court decisions that prohibit religiously based theories in science classes.
    Unless I've overlooked something, they want their views presented in natural
    science courses and would not be content to see them confined to social
    science courses. In a way, they are forced in this respect to "assign more
    value to scientific tracking." They have to convince their public audience,
    and the courts, that what they offer is scientifically respectible and not
    tainted by theological positions like the kind of literalistic Genesis 1
    interpretive presuppositions that underlay YEC.

         Therefore the Christology which Dembski presents in _Intelligent Design:
    The Bridge between Science and Theology_, pp. 205-210 is not likely to be
    presented in the public debate, for it suggests, despite the "bridge"
    language, that all scientific tracking is subordinate to theological
    tracking, in that he argues that "Christ is indispensible to any scientific
    theory" and that "the conceptual soundness of the theory can in the end only
    be located in Christ." And in the chapter following ("The Act of
    Creation"), in which Dembski contrasts a theistic understanding of causation
    with "the naturalist's understanding of causation" (by "naturalist" he
    surely means Dawkins and not Muir), p. 214, he later states, p. 226,
    speaking of idolatry: "Idolatry turns the creation into the ultimate
    reality. We've seen this before. It's called naturalism. No doubt
    contemporary scientific naturalism is a lot more sophisticated than pagan
    fertility cults, but the difference is superficial. Naturalism is idolatry
    by another name."

         Let me add that I am not unsympathetic to Dembski's Christology. There
    are a number of things he says that I agree with; and a cosmic Christology
    lies at the heart of my own creation theology. And I recognize his
    application of a Pauline (Rom. 1) understanding of idolatry to "naturalism,"
    though I reject his inclusive meaning of this key term that lies at the
    heart of the debate within our own Christian circles: it muddies the
    distinction between a Howard Van Till and a Richard Dawkins. The point I am
    making is that if a theology of creation lies at the heart of ID (and I
    think it does, despite the "bridge" argument that Dembski makes in this
    book), then the latter lays itself open to the rhetorical charge of
    deception if it's proponents fail (or refuse) to make this connection clear
    and assert in the public arena that ID makes no claim about the nature of
    the intelligent designer.

    Bob Schneider

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