Friday, 10 October 2014

Is Intelligent Design religion? part 1

Is Intelligent Design religion? part 1

It is difficult to have a conversation around God, religion, creation, evolution or intelligent design (whatever we mean by any of those terms) without stale clichés and slogans being deployed. The 'machine gun' tactic is often used, throwing up to 10 quick fire bold assertions and complex questions in a couple of sentences. The questions can usually be addressed, but one at a time, whereas a well designed and witty slogan can raise 3 or 4 key issues in a dozen syllables.

One of the stalest and cheapest slogans in popular use is 'Intelligent Design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo.' Another is 'Evolution is science, creationism is religion.' There are many others, including the crassly ignorant and irrelevant 'Michael Behe got his ass whipped at Dover.' Incidentally, the real truth about the Dover trial is a lot more interesting than the myth that is usually copied, including the fact that activist Judge John Jones violated the US Constitution by ruling on a matter of religion, but that's another story.

Slogans and clichés may carry some truth, (*) or they may even helpfully simplify a complicatede issue and help us understand something difficult, even if imperfectly. But they can mislead, distract, obfuscate or tramline our thinking and stall exploration. They may also be deliberately used by propagandists in order to mould the opinions and actions of others for their own purposes. Of course both sides in any disagreement can do this, and deny they have done it, even deny it to themselves. Since none of us is neutral, we may both use these tactics and be deceived by them.

Having changed political and religious allegiances more than once, I can look back on stuff I used to accept as self evident and see how I was believing half truths and untruths what 'The System' had primed me to believe, and in some cases I can see how it was done. And I wonder what I currently believe, knowingly or unknowingly, that I will discover in future isn't so-and i must think this because I am certain that I can see others who are in error but don't believe they are, so I must look to my own errors. Anyway, back to the question at the top of the page- Is Intelligent Design religion?

If we are going to address the issue as sceptical, free thinking truth seekers willing to follow the evidence where it leads, even out of our comfort zones, we must begin by assuming that we might be misled, not least by our own preference about what OUGHT to be true. Could we be wrong? Scientists are supposed to ask that all the time. The next step is to define the terms. then we can consider the case on its merits AND consider the opposite case. So before even addressing the question I believe it is fair and necessary to raise the equal and opposite question, is evolutionism religion?

Is evolutionism religion?

Well, is it? The question may at least be put, although as I said above, before we can consider the question we must define our terms or else we are just trying to use a piano to mend a puncture in a bicycle tyre, a futile exercise. Note my use of the term 'evolutionism', which I am aware causes offence to some. I use this term to denote the acceptance of molecules to man evolution over billions of years from Big-Bang derived space dust by impersonal forces, particularly natural selection acting on random mutations (I avoid the term 'belief' here to avoid distraction). I believe this is a fair definition, but when I use it, immediately the objections come flying.

'Evolution is nothing to do with how the cosmos originated or how life began!'

'Evolution is about change over time!'

'Evolution is about changes in gene frequency in a population.'

'Evolution can be clearly seen in plant breeding.'

and, above all

'You don't understand evolution.'

And these objections, all of which I hear often, are only about DEFINITIONS! We are still nowhere near analysing truth claims about any part of the thing itself. See what I mean about how difficult it can be to have a reasoned discussion? To even start one?

Anyhow, I mean to post several short discussions over the next month or so considering the linked questions-Is Intelligent Design religion/ and 'Is evolutionism religion?' 

Feel free to comment, comments here are not moderated or censored, unlike the atheist page I was deleted and blocked from recently without warning for making a critical comment.

(*) As C S Lewis wrote in 'The Last Battle' 

" The enemy made his lie stronger by mixing a good deal of truth with it."

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