[asa] This is a list of Christian scientists

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Wed Oct 10 2007 - 09:13:20 EDT

I've shortened the header deliberately to emphasize the point that matters
most to me about the ASA and this list.

It isn't true that everyone on this list is a Christian, to the best of my
knowledge, but most I think are. It's open in that respect. It's also open
to non-ASA members, something I've questioned myself, and that figure is
pretty large as far as I can see. Certainly no one should ever casually
assume that a given post or contributor represents anything other than one
person's opinion.

I'd known that Wes Elsberry is a Christian, and I'm glad this particular
point got sorted out. I don't see him engaging in the rabid anti-religious
rhetoric of a Dawkins or a PZM, who both seem to think that religious people
are stupid and religion is a terrible thing--though (as I've argued often)
Dawkins is as religious in his own way (he's clearly what the late Steve
Gould or someone one called a "scientific fundamentalist") as the late Jerry
Falwell.

The recent exchange underscores a crucial aspect of this whole origins
controversy. The truth, and seeking it, have been hijacked by the culture
wars -- in which as far as possible I do not participate, though I have on a
few occasions defended friends who've been mugged and I do what I can to
defend the truth itself from being mugged. There are people out there who
seem to relish the warfare itself more than the beliefs they are defending,
and you can easily find them on both "sides" of the ID issue. It is frankly
that aspect of ID itself, more than any other, that has mainly discouraged
me from leaning more in their direction than I already do. It's an
extraordinarily popular movement, in terms of its appeal to ordinary people
at the level of common sense (I am saying this simply as an objective
observation that can be supported from internet "hits" and other data, not
as either applause or concern), and it seems to me that it has been shaped
in turn by the populism of American evangelicalism -- which is at the core
of evangelical religion, both for better and for worse. The movement is
broader than evangelicalism, obviously (looking at the people who have
advanced it), and as an evangelical myself I want to see evangelicals have
wide influence. The problems come when populist politics (in a non-partisan
sense here) try to rise to the level of the ideas that are behind the
popularity of the movement. (Aside for those who don't think that any ID
ideas even merit discussion at an "elite" level: they do. I could fill
several posts with only the names of top scientists and other thinkers who
have explicitly endorsed "design" principles throughout the history of
science, including at least a few Nobel laureates, at least one of whom
explicitly used the very term "intelligent design" before any of the ID
advocates was born).

Those populist politics just won't carry those ideas, frankly, in any
reliable or helpful way. Dancing on the gravestone of "evolution" when the
grave is empty does nothing to advance the conversation at the level needed
to alter opinions among scientists themselves, and without convincing
scientists themselves there won't be any permanent changes in textbooks or
curricula. There might well be better efforts to communicate the logic and
content of mainstream science to ordinary people, including most
evangelicals, and that would IMO be a good thing.

But ID efforts, IMO, would be far better spent on underscoring the limits of
science as an approach to knowledge itself, rather than on constantly
questioning the validity of specific, selected scientific inferences in the
so-called "historical" sciences. That's the context in which design,
including "intelligent design," has typically appeared in the past century
of science, and if there is to be fruitful conversation rather than just
populist rhetoric in the future, that is where the efforts of ID advocates
might best be directed. IMO. But big ships don't turn on dimes.

Ted

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Received on Wed Oct 10 09:17:36 2007

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