The recent rash of creationists ‘victories’ in education has gotten me a bit fired up. Maybe it is just the tyranny of langauge. If we call "intelligent design" a theory, we place it on the same level as "thermodynamics" or, heck, "gravity". Lately, I have been reading Harbermas and Wilber. So this post may be a slightly prejudiced by much smarter people than me. Caveat emptor.
Post-modern extremism has created the intellectual condition
(perhaps ultimately for the better) for the rejection of all
truths–everything is relative, there is no legitimate knowledge.
In this context, creationists have a powerful critique that
evolutionist are unequipped (philosophically) to meaningfully
challenge. We, of a "scientific" persuasion, can sigh, raise our
eyebrows and dismiss this challenge as "unscientific". However, as we
can see, with the recent notable trends in public education today, the
creationist (aka intelligent design) view continues to gain ground. It
almost seems inevitable that this debate is going to be reduced to a
highfalutin sort of "my word against your Word".
One problem is that the ‘scientific’ community has taken the
scientific-approach as the only valid approach to knowledge and truth,
and for good reason too. It is grounded on methods and processes that
are transparent and subject to proofs and test. In that way, it is
difficult to argue with science itself. Plus, science delivers. In
modern times, science has been responsible for remarkable human
achievements, science cures diseases, takes mankind to space. Science
promises to fulfill the potential of humanity.
The trouble is that science has been elevated to be the One-True-Way
of achieving our human potential. And as such it risks being
hypocritical. Can a system of thought that champions inquiry and
evidence shut-out other forms of inquiry and evidence that doesn’t fall
neatly into its monological view? How can we say to our students
"explore the world but-only-the-following-things-that-are-deemed-real".
This trap can be (and should be, IMHO) be avoided, but we can’t do it
by simply rejecting the ‘other’.
To be clear, this is not an attack on science per se, but rather, a
critique of way empirical thinkers are going about this debate of
evolution vs. creationism. Evolution is a theory, creationism is an
idea. By elevating creationism to the status of theory, we implicitly
validate the assumptions and truth-making claims behind the idea.
Instead of saying that "your idea is bunk", we should be probably do
two things 1) back-away from the position that empirical science has a
monopoly on all knowledge/truth claims BUT 2) insist that regardless of
the these claims, they should be testable, transparent, and
reproducible. In other words, "proof it". The most important legacy of
scientific/empirical inquiry is the power of its methods; and for
religion to make its case seriously, it needs serious methods.