Discovery Institute: Eternally Confused

ALAS FOR the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids), they just can’t get any respect. They keep whining that the “Darwinists” are discriminating against their Intelligent Design “theory” (or ID), practicing “viewpoint discrimination,” and denying them the “academic freedom” to present the often mentioned but never seen evidence supporting ID.

They describe ID here:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

It’s science. It’s really science! Oh you materialistic fools, why can’t you see it? Are you blind? The “theory” of Intelligent design tells us that some unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, or maybe on a comet), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.

Pretty good theory, huh? Lots of valuable applications. The pharmaceutical industry is wild about it. So is the biotechnology industry. So is agriculture. This is great stuff! The only problem is, well … ID is a total dud. No research, no experiments, no results. Zilch. (But they still want it in your kid’s school.)

For the moment, they’re taking a different approach — If you don’t agree with their “theory,” then you’re nothing but an atheist! Goofy science argument, right? But read on, because that’s just what’s going on here.

Of all the Discoveroids who promote ID, perhaps their most tireless spokesman is Casey Luskin. He has a new blog article: Leading Theistic Evolutionist Makes Religious Arguments for Evolution.

There’s not much to it, but sometimes the goofiest arguments are the most difficult to rebut because of all the effort required to figure out what in the world is actually being said. (In retrospect, this one wasn’t worth the effort.)

Essentially — you can follow all of his links if you want to — Casey says that many people used to make theistic arguments for evolution, and some still do so today. That’s nice, Casey, but so what? In science, it’s scientific arguments, based on evidence and logic, that are essential.

Then Casey links to an article about George Coyne, a Catholic priest who, until 2006, was director of the Vatican Observatory. Coyne opposes ID (so Casey’s attitude is easily guessed). The article Casey refers to quotes Coyne as saying that although he [Coyne] believes in God, and believes God created the universe, he cannot believe in intelligent design as a scientist.

Okay, so why does Casey call our attention to this? Near the end Casey links to something written by Coyne. Casey says:

Last year, when arguing in favor of neo-Darwinian evolution, Coyne stated that “[i]f we take the results of modern science seriously, it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient…”

Presumably, that quote was Casey’s big zinger. Take that, Coyne — ka-pow! This is in line with the common Discoveroid allegation that “Darwinism” is pretty much the same as atheism.

We used the link Casey provided, and were not surprised to find that Casey quote-mined Coyne — and Casey’s ellipsis won’t save him, because what was omitted is crucial. The full paragraph Casey mined comes from here, God’s chance creation, and it’s this (the portions mined by Casey are in red font):

It is unfortunate that creationism has come to mean some fundamentalistic, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis. Judaeo-Christian faith is radically creationist, but in a totally different sense. It is rooted in a belief that everything depends upon God, or better, all is a gift from God. The universe is not God and it cannot exist independently of God. Neither pantheism nor naturalism is true. But, if we confront what we know of our origins scientifically with religious faith in God the Creator ? if, that is, we take the results of modern science seriously ? it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers. For the believer, science tells us of a God who must be very different from God as seen by them.

That’s a complicated paragraph. Even the punctuation is complicated. Observe that the mined portion Casey used in his article gives you the impression that Coyne denies God’s omnipotence and omniscience, whereas the actual paragraph written by Coyne denies this only “in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers.” Quite a difference.

As for the rest of Coyne’s paragraph, we’re not theologically trained, so we won’t try to explain what Coyne is saying. Roughly, he seems opposed to a fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis. For a better article about Coyne’s views, we recommend this: Vatican Astronomer Discusses the Harmony Between Science and Faith. He’s interesting, even if the Discoveroids don’t like him.

Anyway, Casey seems to feel himself fully qualified to understand and critique Coyne. At the end of his brief blog article, Casey says:

Now then, I must ask, whose view is it that actually “belittles God”?

That’s all there is to Casey’s article. One is left feeling unfulfilled. What is Casey saying? Does even Casey know what Casey is saying? Maybe he’s accusing Coyne of atheism — as if that were relevant in a scientific context. Our best guess is this — Casey senses that Coyne is belittling Casey’s own view of God. That’s probably true, but of what significance is that? We thought the Discoveroids claimed to be about science. Why should anyone care about their second-rate theology?

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One response to “Discovery Institute: Eternally Confused

  1. “Why should anyone care about their second-rate theology?”
    So, there’s first-rate theology? Which one is bafflegab and which is oogy-boogy, again? I always get the two mixed up.