I am often amazed that Intelligent Design as gained such following among certain members of the church. Perhaps because it seems to have the ring of things we do believe. I mean we do believe that God is Intelligent after all, and we do believe that we are here by Design, so Intelligent Design must be right. Right? Wrong. Intelligent Design is an attempt to get fundamentalist Christian creationism taught in the school. Nothing more. It has no value as a science. And everyone but a small handful of creationists comes to the same conclusion: This is not a science. Not even close. It offers no hypotheses. It has no supporting data. It makes no predictions about what one should see genetically, paleontologically, antomically, embryologically or anyway. It is simply the idea that evolution needs jumps to get over something called irreducible complexity, which pretty much means that its main defender, Michael Behe isn’t smart enough to come up with an evolutionary explanation. Or actually, not smart enough to look it up in the literature (and yes this is an ad hominem attack but he deserves it). Turns out all the things he used to illustrate his irreducible complexity already had evolutionary explanations in the literature. Is he a bad researcher or just dishonest? Many have come to the conclusion that he is the latter. This was something that even the judge in the Dover Trial (a case about whether ID should be taught as a science in the Pennsylvania schools) was struck with and commented on in his final ruling—how dishonest the researchers involved with ID were.
There is a great scene in the Chronicles of Narnia where an ape dresses up a donkey with a lion’s skin and calls it Aslan. In the darkness of a stable it looks like it could be Aslan and many are fooled. But it’s not him and the light of day exposes the fraud.
Intelligent Design was very much the same. It gives the appearance of science without any of its substance. Dembski, a fundamentalist Christian mathematician has been one of the architects of this lion-skin–on-a–donkey that tries to add an air of legitimacy to ID by using real math. But his work has been soundly rejected as, well, silly. Much of the ink of this blog has been spilled on the ID and I recommend these posts (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) for more detailed arguments against why it’s not a science. It’s not a conspiracy, as films like Expelled try to suggest, unless it is a conspiracy against shoddy thinking and bad ideas.
And most of all I resent trying to tie the beauty and wonder of Mormon theology with the absolute disaster that is Intelligent Design. We don’t need to hitch our wagon to such ugly ideas to believe in a Creator or believe that we are here for a purpose.
But it brings up a question. What would a Mormon theology that fully embraced evolution look like? In the next few posts I’m going to try to outline what I think are the requirements to have full compatibility. And by compatibility I don’t mean compromise—I mean one that keeps Bruce R. McConkie’s three pillars: Creation, Fall, and Atonement and a view that allows evolution as a science. Both ideas need not be compromised or attenuated.
I’m not going to try to answer what a theology would look like fully formed, but at least outline and sketch what the requirements of such a theology would be (see note at bottom for those concerned about my use of the word theology). Also, there are moves that I think cannot be made until we have more revelation. I’m also going to try to point those out, but I think we must be clear that there are things we just don’t know how to fit together. But by framing those and perhaps by bracketing these things I think we can at least see how full compatibility is a legitimate response that embraces fully both Faith and Science. I expect a lot of debate, but it should be an interesting exercise.
I’m going to start with three Christian apologists for a Darwinism compatible Christianity: Arthur Peacocke (Anglican), John Haught (Catholic), and Hans Kuhn (Catholic). I hope to draw from them a sense of what a move toward Darwinism entails and why and why not their response might work for us. Next I’m going to draw on Henri Bergson (yes really, and no, I have not embraced his élan vital) to look at how to get design and purpose without teleology (e.g., how to get to a designed universe without God having to micro-manage all the details).
At the end of his life as he was dying of cancer evolutionary theologian Arthur Peacocke wrote a few months before he passed away:
Uniquely through all of this the mutual love of my wife and myself has been enriched and deepened in her daily visits and the knowledge that we share the same prayers and the conviction that death will not part us.
. . .
I am only enabled to meet this challenge by my root conviction that God is Love as revealed supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
However the fact remains that death for me is imminent and of this I have no fear because of that belief. This conviction was not available to the non-Christian audience who, according to Bede, we addressed concerning the mystery of life.
[He then quotes Venerable Bede at length but the quote ends with. “Somewhat like this appears the life of man; but of what follows or what went before, we are utterly ignorant.”]
Thanks to the revelation of God through Jesus the Christ we do not share this ignorance. I know that God is waiting for me to be enfolded in love
Death comes to every one and this is my time.
I honestly believe that evolution and our faith both have truths that we need and can embrace together. We don’t need a lion-skin chucked on a donkey. We need Aslan. The real and true.
Note: I’m using the word theology very loosely here. I mean by theology something like the set of our mainstream beliefs and doctrines as commonly understood.