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Religion Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

The stigmata of "intelligent design"
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 28, 2005, 00:52

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Stigmata: the "spontaneous manifestation of bloody wounds on a person's hands, feet, forehead and back -- similar to the wounds of the crucified Jesus. Those who describe stigmata categorize these experiences as divine or mystical. History tells us that many ecstatics exhibit on hands, feet, side, or brow the marks of the Passion of Christ with corresponding and intense sufferings. These are called visible stigmata. Others only have the sufferings, without any outward marks, and these phenomena are called invisible stigmata."

Problem is, when Yeshua was crucified -- like other people the Romans executed in this manner -- the spikes were not driven into the palms of the hands, but through a small block of wood placed about 2-3 inches below the wrists. Yet stigmatics bleed from the middle of their palms in accord with the false icons and imagery created by the same folks whose theocratic dogma perverted "Christianity" and led to the Dark Ages when knowledge and science were heretical.

Federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled on December 20 that "intelligent design" (ID) could not be taught as science in Dover, Pa.'s public school science and biology classes. His 139-page decision was well argued and solidly based in law and common sense.

Spin it any way you like, ID is motivated by and based on what Judge Jones called "a particular version of Christianity." That "particular version of Christianity" has traditionally advocated "creationism." Today that "particular version of Christianity" is the bedrock of Young Earth Creationism that claims dinosaurs played with human children in Eden and that Mr. and Mrs. Tyrannosaurus rex -- and presumably all the other dinosaurs alive at the time -- were passengers on Noah's ark.

Aside from the fact that T. rex went extinct some 64-plus million years before Noah allegedly lived, according to the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California at Berkley, "Tyrannosaurus rex is known only from western North America. However, an extremely close relative, Tarbosaurus bataar, lived in Mongolia at the same time that T. rex terrorized North America." One has to wonder how Noah trapped and then transported Mr. and Mrs. T. rex et al to his ark in the Middle East . . . from the North American continent he didn't even know existed.

Like misplaced stigmata wounds, intelligent design is misplaced in science and biology classes, although it -- and the stigmata -- would be appropriate topics in religious studies, American Studies, pop culture, and a number of other elective courses, including science fiction classes where other forms of "intervention theories" could be discussed. Those theories use much of -- if not all -- the same "evidence" cited by religion-based intelligent design theory: the so-called "Cambrian Explosion," the rapid evolution of homo sapiens from earlier prototypes, and the biotech advances that come with "irreducible complexity." Would Discovery Institute and ID backers support teaching the "scientific theories" that extraterrestrials were the intelligent designers of life on earth?

The reaction from the Christian Right to Judge Jones's ruling was predictable. Brannon Howse, president and founder of Worldview Weekend, said the ruling was "more federal judicial tyranny."

Ho-hum, more tedious rants about liberal "activist judges." Just to set the record straight, Judge John Jones III is a lifelong Republican, appointed to the bench by President Bush, and has been praised for his integrity and intellect.

The Traditional Values Coalition website posted several "responses" to the Dover decision. The one from Discovery Institute, the primary organization promoting ID, was most noteworthy in its befuddlement. The brief statement was issued by Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

Eighty years ago the ACLU went to court in Tennessee to defend the right of John Scopes to teach his students about evolution. Today, the ACLU is betraying the principle of academic freedom by seeking a government-imposed gag-order on teachers and students that would prevent even voluntary discussions of intelligent design in the science classroom. All Americans who cherish free speech should reject the ACLU's effort to decide the debate over evolution through court orders rather than the free marketplace of ideas.

Eighty years ago the battle was the same: teach science in science class, not one particular religion's beliefs. Dr. West's misappropriated use of "academic freedom" makes the point. Would it be "academic freedom" to teach -- or even introduce -- the Hindu version of creation and evolution in science class? Or would that be deemed "teaching religion as science" and, therefore, a violation of the separation of church and state? Would it be deemed "freedom of speech"? Not likely. What should be taught in science classes are the best scientific theories, that is, those motivated by scientific inquiry not religious beliefs and mythologies.

Dr. West's plea to "the free marketplace of ideas" is equally tainted. Is he saying that if enough people buy into an erroneous idea -- say flat earth theory -- then it should be taught as science? Should science be a popularity poll? That would seem to be the purpose of Discovery Institute's campaign.

On the December 23, 2005 edition of his national radio talk show, Rush Limbaugh agreed that ID is simply an attempt to get creationism into the public school curriculum:

I think that the people [pushing intelligent design] -- and I know why they're doing it, but I still think that it's a little bit disingenuous. Let's make no mistake. The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum . . .

Nevertheless, when responding to a caller's question about the Dover decision, Limbaugh intoned the usual "judicial activism" mantra and seemed to suggest that science should indeed be a popularity poll:

I think it's [the Dover decision] another great example of how we need different kinds of judges. . . . You got to understand who we're dealing with here, and they have now structured things such as this: When 95 percent of the people of the country agree with something, 5 percent of the country disagrees, the liberal will say the 5 percent must win because we can't hurt their feelings, we mustn't offend them.

Dr. West argued that "the debate over evolution" should not be decided "through court orders," yet that's exactly what some ID supporters intend. Stephen Crampton is the chief counsel for the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy. Mr. Crampton is somewhat notorious for what could be called hysterical, irrational statements such as the one he made in December 2003 after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that "equality" means "equality," even in relation to civil marriage: "Unless the people of the State of Massachusetts rise up with one voice in opposition to this lawless and socially destructive behavior [same-sex marriage], it will destroy society as we know it."

In a December 20 article posted on the American Family Association website, Mr. Crampton made the following statement in relation to the Dover ID decision:

This case is far from over. It will be appealed. We intend to weigh in with an amicus brief, as will many similar groups around the country. . . . In the final analysis, the stranglehold evolution has on our public schools will not be settled until the Supreme Court addresses the issue.

Dr. West's statement continued with a litany of non sequitur arguments:

Apparently the ACLU has come to believe that some ideas are just too dangerous for students and teachers to discuss. On the one hand, it insists that the First Amendment protects a teacher's right to teach evidence supporting Darwin's theory. On the other hand, it claims that the same First Amendment forbids teachers from discussing dissenting scientific theories. It looks like the ACLU believes that free speech only applies to one side of the evolution debate. This is a blatant double-standard.

Neither the ACLU nor the judge was saying ideas should not be discussed. It's just a matter of the context in which they're discussed. Science should be discussed in science classes and religion in religious studies classes. According to a New York Times editorial, the new Dover school board "is planning to do just that by removing intelligent design from the science curriculum and perhaps placing it in an elective course on comparative religion. That would be a more appropriate venue to learn about what the judge deemed 'a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism and not a scientific theory.'"

Dr. West may believe ID is a "dissenting scientific" theory, but the overwhelming majority of the scientific community does not. Today's "intelligent design" seems little more than a rehash of St. Thomas Aquinas's thirteenth century theological argument that because nature is complex, it must have a designer. Again, a suitable topic for comparative religion and philosophy classes, but not science or biology classes.

Discovery Institute strongly opposes the ACLU's effort to make discussions of intelligent design illegal. At the same time, we disagree with efforts to get the government to require the teaching of intelligent design. Misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District are likely to be politically divisive and hinder a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design among scholars and within the scientific community, points we have made repeatedly since we first learned about the Dover policy in 2004. Furthermore, most teachers currently do not know enough about intelligent design or have sufficient curriculum materials to teach about it accurately and objectively.

No one is making "discussions of intelligent design illegal." That's an absurd statement. What's being said is that ID is not a scientific theory -- or a theory motivated by scientific inquiry -- and, therefore, should not be taught in public school science classes. Alexander George, professor of philosophy at Amherst College, made the point in a Christian Science Monitor article: "The suspicion that religion is lurking somewhere in intelligent design theory is correct, but its locus is often misidentified. The religion isn't in the claims of intelligent design themselves. Rather, the religion is in the motivation for pushing a poor account of the natural world into the science curriculum."

Dr. West lamented the lack of "curriculum materials to teach about [ID] accurately and objectively." Aside from web resources and articles such as Mark Noll's 'Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield on Science, the Bible, Evolution, and Darwinism,' I've read a few books about ID and by supporters of its underlying religious premise, including Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Ralph O. Muncaster's Dismantling Evolution: Building the Case for Intelligent Design, Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, and Ron Rhodes' The Ten Things You Should Know About the Creation vs. Evolution Debate. All provided vivid lessons in sophistry and demonstrated some remarkable rhetorical skills, but none offered anything even remotely close to the evidence that supports evolution. Indeed, many ultimately relied on the Bible for their "scientific evidence," as did Hugh Ross in his book The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis.

One of the obvious questions raised by Genesis and its version of "intelligent design" is how could two people -- Adam and Eve -- provide enough genetic diversity to populate the planet. Dr. Ross addressed that incestuous problem with this chart:

Moreover, intelligent design cannot be taught "objectively," as Dr. West wants, simply because it is not an objective theory. It's a subjective theory based on faith, a particular religious faith. The only way ID could be taught "objectively" as science would be to redefine "science" as the Kansas State Board of Education recently did. "Science" in Kansas is no longer defined by natural explanations, but includes supernatural and metaphysical explanations, such as "intelligent design."

The Discovery Institute was quick to applaud the Kansas decision and equally quick to point out that the new standards "do not include intelligent design at all." By name, they don't. By message, they certainly do. Similar equivocation echoes in Dr. West's "misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District" statement.

And speaking of equivocation, consider the comments of Sen. Rick Santorum. The Pennsylvania senator is notorious for his homophobia and championing of every cause the Christian Right concocts. Santorum was on the advisory board of the Thomas More Law Center that defended the Dover school board. He resigned after the Dover decision. In a 2002 Washington Times OpEd, Santorum wrote: "intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." But Santorum had gone further, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

Santorum raised the national profile of intelligent design in 2001 by introducing a "teach the controversy" amendment to the No Child Left Behind bill.

The Santorum amendment was approved, 91-8, by the Senate and placed in a legislative history report. It validated the push by some school districts to teach alternatives to evolution. But science groups attacked the amendment and lobbied successfully to keep it out of the final version of the legislation.

The amendment, written with the help of Phillip Johnson, an intelligent-design pioneer and a retired law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, stated that "a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science."

That's exactly what Judge Jones's ruling did: assure that quality science education helps students distinguish science "from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science."

But faced with a difficult reelection campaign, sanctimonious Santorum has changed his tune. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 21 the senator said "I do not believe it [intelligent design] should be required teaching."

The concluding paragraph in Dr. West's statement was appropriate but incomplete:

Rather than require students to learn about intelligent design, what we recommend is that teachers and students study more about Darwinian evolution, not only the evidence that supports the theory, but also scientific criticisms of the theory.

He forgot to encourage teachers and students to learn more about how the current ID controversy is not motivated by science and why, therefore, ID is not a scientific theory or even "scientific" criticism, but simply a "particular version of Christianity" that, in other venues, promotes Young Earth Creationism.

Just as stigmatics' wounds are misplaced, so is intelligent design. Stigmatics' bleeding wounds should be below the wrists, not in the palms. The "theory" of intelligent design should be in religious studies or philosophy classes, not in science or biology classes. Aside from the motivation of intelligent design, a religious studies or philosophy class could also consider the history of the idea of "God" and why men with all too human motives would create a "God" who would "bless" his most ecstatic, passionate believers with the pain and suffering of the stigmata.

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