In a variety of different locations around the web, I've encountered ads for a film that's coming out early next year. The film in question is a documentary/expose (exposentary? docuse?) entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
." It stars Ben Stein, a former speechwriter for the Nixon administration and a comedian. Two great tastes that taste great together! You've got to love a career arc that goes from working with Caspar Weinberger
in the White House to starring alongside Hillary Duff in Wendy Meets Casper
. It's a classic of the genre, really it is.
Obviously, I haven't seen this film, but the commercials
Stein has made hawking it are pretty telling. The narrative arc of the film appears from all pre-release press to be a slam on the oppression academe inflicts on Intelligent Design proponents, with Ben starring in the alternate-universe Michael Moore Noble Truthteller role.
The challenge here is that the point of the film appears to be to assail the scientific community for refusing to allow advocates of intelligent design to articulate their position. Here's the rub, and the issue that overarches the entire ID movement. If what Stein reveals is that scientists who are also persons of faith are being systematically driven from the scientific community, then I think he's got a valid point. But the signs don't point to that. It just ain't what he's doing.
Instead, he appears to be trying to argue that religious resistance to evolutionary theory should be permitted in the scientific community. Through the eyes of my faith, I see in our vast and infinitely complex universe evidence of God's work. I believe that the processes of evolution, through which life both adapts itself to creation and increases in depth and complexity, are non-random in purpose. But as I've posted before, I believe that from faith, not as a testable hypothesis that is provable or disprovable based on empirical evidence.
I'm not even sure how you'd operationalize intelligent design in a scientific framework. At best, it seems to be a God-of-the-Gaps approach, which means that you're just plugging God in to places where existing data or theory doesn't provide a viable alternative. At worst, you'd have folks measuring scientific phenomena like this:
How's your TA in ID342 going to grade that? "I'm afraid I'm going to have to mark you down for your answer on that ion flux equation. Jesus should be squared."
Further, I hold that the mingling of these two arenas is not just dangerous to science.
It's dangerous to faith itself. Why? Well, lets take a look at the witness of Scripture, why don't we?
Christians affirm that God is the Creator of the Universe, whose creative power underlies all things. (Ps. 104) But while we make that assertion, the way that we understand creation's expression of God's glory isn't like the speech and words that comprise human language. (Ps. 19:1-4). It is a wordless word, a voiceless voice, a peculiar paradox that isn't comprehended in the same way as other things. God does not act in ways that are easily grasped or empirically discerned. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Ascertaining the specific mechanics of God's actions in particular events is beyond us (Job 36:14-17...and pretty much the whole dang book of Job after that.)
In claiming that we can prove the presence of a designer, we are making a similar demand for empirical proof as the demands of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. Show yourself! Prove to us that you're divine! (Ps 78:17-20; Ps. 106:14) Such an effort is little more than putting God to the test...and if you listen to Jesus at all, that's kind of a theological and spiritual no no. (Matt. 4:5-7)
If God's design is empirically provable, then faith--our act of trust and hope in the gracious promises of God--is no longer necessary. Further, the Protestant Reformers argued that the purpose and intent of Scripture was to open our eyes to how God acts, because the witness of creation itself was too obscure. If the underlying presumption of ID is correct, you can be done with your Bible, as well.
Embracing ID as a theological perspective is entirely comprehensible. It gives meaning and purpose to the ultimately value-neutral findings of science. But if we understand intelligent design as science, then not only have we corrupted science, but we've eliminated faith and abrogated the need for scripture.
Thanks a bunch, Ben.