Religious opposition to “intelligent design”

In a previous post referring to the attack of intelligent design (ID) on society and religion (see Intelligent Design and the Threat to Christianity) I suggested that Christians “too often stand aside as if the conflict is not their problem.” This was a bit unfair. While there is a tendency to see ID as a problem for science rather than religion many Christians do fight back. A worthwhile example is the Clergy Letter Project. This is a open letter signed by American Christian clergy of different denominations rejecting creationism, with specific reference to points raised by intelligent design proponents. Begun in 2004 it currently has 11,130 signatories supporting this statement:

“We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.”

Putting this in context

I am aware that the signatories to this open letter represent Christian leaders rather than rank and file members of Christian churches or self-proclaimed adherents to Christianity and many of the latter may think differently. Creationist ideas, and biblical literalism, may have emotional appeal those Christians who don’t critically consider the available information. In contrast the theological teachings of their church or widely accepted scientific theories often seem counter-intuitive.

Many such Christians may be influenced by the list of scientists maintained by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture – an ID “think tank.” This list, started in 2001, is often touted as demonstrating support amongst scientists for ID. It currently has only 730 signatories. I will discuss the relevance on this list to science in a future post but surely the numbers suggest that more thinking Christians support evolutionary theory than oppose it.

When Christians discuss evolutionary theory they will sometimes refer to the Discovery Institutes’s list as support for ID/creationism (over 700 signatures). If they wish to get into numbers I would like to see them also refer to the Clergy Letter list supporting evolutionary theory and “God’s good gifts (of) human minds capable of critical thought” (over 11,100 signatures).

See also:
Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Ken Miller
Except from Finding Darwins God

Related Articles:
Intelligent Design and the Threat to Christianity
Intelligent design and scientific method
Can religion answer the questions science can’t?
Bringing the supernatural into science
Intelligent design – a war on science
New Zealand supports evolution
Intelligent design at the shopping mall
Intelligent design attacks on Christianity
Isaac Newton and intelligent design
Evolution’s threat to religion?

17 responses to “Religious opposition to “intelligent design”

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  2. Holy crap! This is fantastic! I hate it when people use the argument from popularity and it feels almost dirty to bring up Project Steve when confronting the claims of the Discovery Institute with their list of engineers who don’t like Darwin. In future I’ll be referring people to this new list.

    I believe that, like slavery, the church itself is going to have to play a big part in ending this creationism nonsense and this is a brilliant start.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

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  3. I agree it is a problem for the Church. The only problem for science is that it represents an attack from the outside. There often seems to be an unwillingness by Christians to fight against the reactionary trend typified by ID so I was pleased to come across this example. People like Ken Miller are also doing great work.

    I have been having a look at the motivation behind some of the people on the Discovery list – I think extremely few of the individuals had scientific motives. Almost all are motivated byreligious reasons.

    Will post something on this in the next week.

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  4. For information on the ID nature of C. David Parsons “The Quest for Right” see The Quest for Right.

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  5. Pingback: Over 11,000 American Clergy oppose Intelligent Design « The Frame Problem

  6. Gerhard Eichhorn

    The paper is against creationism and not against intelligent design.
    The “Evolutionism” the paper speaks about can be a christian one (not only random, but God). This it what intelligent design says and intelligent design is right.

    But I didn’t subscribe this paper. Much clergies are not informed well about the radicalism of Darwinism. They think that Darwinism is a theory that can coexist with christian theology. They mix up darwinism and christian evolution theories. The education of american clergy is very low about theology and about (natural) science.

    No! Darwinism is not compatible with catholic theology.

    A catholic clergy

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  7. “Intelligent design” is surely just a particular form of creationism. Some claim recent, but then Rev. Paley’s statements surely can be classified as “intelligent design.”

    It’s interesting that the Dover trial concluded that ID was just a form of creationism (and therefore religion) and therefore could not be legally included in science curricula.

    I realise that Christians are divided about evolutionary theory, and by implication, about science in general. You clearly are on the denial side. But the Clergy Letter Project surely shows that you are by no means representative.

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  8. Ken, I posted your comment on my website. it was held in moderation, and I explain why,

    David

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  9. Truth is not decided by numbers of people who vote for it. If something is true and only one person in the world believes it, that does not render it untrue.

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  10. sonofjames – bit obvious, really. Why state the obvious on this post? Can’t see your point.

    Surely we determine the truth or otherwise of a specific claim using scientific methodology. The Discovery Institute, in contrasts, tries to promote their claims politically. Hence their “Dissenters from Darwinism List” and the political pestering of education boards. The Clergy Letter project is an obvious response to the unscientific claims of the Discovery institute.

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  11. Not all truth can be determined by science was my point. And truth isn’t determined by the existence of large numbers of people thinking something is true, so the fact that 11,130 persons say something is true or not has nothing to do with whether or not it is true.

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  12. sonofjames – those “truths” that science can’t discover for us – how do you propose we should find them?

    Surely if science can’t do it – nothing else will.

    These petitions are not about finding truth – purely showing support or otherwise for a proposition. In this case it demonstrates that many religious leaders reject creationism.

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  13. Sounds like you believe man is the ultimate source of truth, for after all, science is man trying to find out some of the things God has always known. And science keeps changing its mind. It has to do so because as new discoveries are made, missing information becomes apparent. Science still has only a small and very incomplete picture of infinite knowledge.

    By keeping the details of creation’s story completely inside a box – a closed system – evolution effectively rules out the existence of God. God is the ultimate Source of truth, in general revelation (all of creation) and in special revelation (Jesus and the written Word). Science is not above these two sources.

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning – the beginning! – of wisdom.”

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  14. Wrong – sonofjames. Man is not the source of truth – reality is. The scientific process is a way of getting to that – of producing an imperfect (but all the time improving) reflection of reality.

    “God is the ultimate source of truth” – is meaningless babble. Usually hiding attempts to hide truth.

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  15. (By the way, I am Ken also. )

    Seems like the discussion leads now to: how did we get reality? Isn’t saying “reality is the source of truth” the same thing as saying “truth is the source of reality”? Circular. “Moisture is the source of water”. “Fragrance is the source of smell.”

    “Reality” – the quality or state of being real.

    “Truth” – The state of being the case.
    (Definitions from Merriam-Websters)

    Reality is based in…something. Did it just happen at random?

    Meaningless babble? If there is no God, nothing means anything. We are random and have no intrinsic value. My reality is mine, yours is yours. There is no standard. There is no authority. There is no basis or source for ethics or law, other than those who happen to be in charge – for now. Do what you will. Who’s to say it’s wrong?

    For an example of meaningless babble, try this on for size: “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” (Richard Lewontin, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, p. 28).

    Hmmm. Professorship must be hard on common sense.

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  16. No, not the same at all. Reality is that which has objectivecexistence. “Truth”, or more correctly our picture of reality (which is always imperfect) is a reflection of reailty. Our picture of reality exists in our minds and culture . It would not exist without that human consciosness. While reailty exists. It is not dependent on our existence at all.

    Sent from my iPod

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  17. joão batista costa

    Mes felicitations.

    Like

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