Tuesday, September 05, 2006


United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Ken Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, expert witness in the Dover intelligent design trial, and a practicing Catholic has written a commentary in The Guardian about speculation surrounding the Pope's meeting this past weekend that reportedly was to discuss intelligent design:

The Discovery Institute, writes Miller, "is abuzz with speculation that the Catholic Church is about to take an ID-friendly position rejecting Darwinian evolution.

I won't venture a prediction on what the Holy Father will ultimately decide, but it should be pointed out that the Church's real problems are not with evolution itself, but with nihilistic philosophies that enlist evolution to claim that existence is without meaning or purpose. Such claims are rightly regarded as antithetical to Christian values - but they also go well beyond evolutionary science itself.

The most effective way to address these anti-religious views wouldn't be to throw the baby out with the bathwater by rejecting evolution, as ID would have us do, but to break the false connection between these philosophies and evolution itself.

RSR thinks Miller's conflation of nihilism -- a doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated -- with garden variety secular humanism is unworthy of him. Nevertheless, we agree that when evolution is taught to high school students in public schools it should be free of any connection to a particular philosophy or religion.

By all means, let's stick to the evidence.

The science standards rejected by the Christian fundamentalists who control the Kansas Board of Education did that, by the way. It was the board's insistence on attacking Darwin that ended up injecting religion -- creationist and intelligent design inspired criticisms of evolution -- into the standards in the first place.

Why the swipe at "nihilist" skeptics who are working with Catholics, mainstream Protestants, Jews, and other people of faith to defend evolution? We don't know. Perhaps Miller is irritated at Dawkins. Perhaps it's a knock against non-believers who themselves unwisely conflate all religious belief with fundamentalist Christianity.

In any case, believers and non-believers need to work together against the religious right. Our goal must be to unite with our friends and divide our enemies to ensure that secular institutions are defended against attacks by the religious right. Unnecessary name calling makes that more difficult.

Miller is speaking at KU this Thursday. Maybe we'll ask him about it.


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