Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Concession to the Complicated?

The April 2006 edition of First Things has an excellent article about Intelligent Design entitled, “Darwin in Dover, PA.” The article got me thinking about the whole question of evolution.

Frankly, I have never been very concerned with evolution and its supposed challenge to God. If I was interested in breeding cattle, I might be very interested in what genetic adaptations make for healthier and stronger animals. In contrast, I am more interested in God’s relationship with creation and our relationships with each other. As a result, Genesis speaks more to me than biology textbooks.

People must realize that there are several questions and categories of questions surrounding the issue of evolution. First, there is the obvious question of science. How well does evolution explain past evidence and predict future natural behavior? Beyond this question, there are cultural, political, and ethical questions. In a society that values the separation of church and state, what do we teach our children? Is it morally responsible for a community to dictate what should be taught to their children? What community standards are immoral to pass on to the next generation? Finally, there are theological questions. What is the role that the Scriptures play in our faith? What is truth? Are nature and revelation in conflict? If so, which takes precedence?

None of these complex questions will be answered with a simple blog entry. Nonetheless, perhaps I can suggest some ground rules. First, Darwin is a straw man. Evolutionary biology has changed a lot since the time of the HMS Beagle. Critics must be honest about who and what they criticize. Second, critics of evolution should not be dismissed out of hand. Many who cling to the science of evolution would be appalled to find themselves in the same camp as promoters of racism and eugenics. Most critics of evolution that I know are not concerned with microbiology but rather with macro things--human relationships, the place of humanity in the created order, and the integrity of the biblical text.

Personally, I must agree that natural selection makes sense. Those whose genetics allow for better adaptation have better chances for survival. Likewise, I accept the concept of class as a helpful sociological tool. I also believe that greed and lust are great motivators. However, I am unwilling to reduce all human behavior to one source a la Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, or Sigmund Freud. Can evolutionary biology really explain altruism? Can it explain the music of Bach or Mozart? Can it explain Jesus Christ? Every pained explanation attempted falls short. I firmly believe that there is more to life than the material. Life is just a bit more complicated.

Intelligent design suggests that God is in the details. Where natural science is unable to explain, God is there. Maybe, but is ID science? The First Things article suggests “no.” Instead ID is rightly understood as metaphysics. As a compromise, the article asks why not require a philosophy class be taught to high school students including metaphysics. Students could be exposed to Aquinas, Aristotle, and Pascal as well as the skeptical Hume. Such a class would probably meet constitutional muster, and it would prepare students for living in a world where faith is taken seriously. Perhaps, such a class would be a concession that the world is a bit more complicated than some people suggest.

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