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Theological Notebook: Notes from Yesterday's Panel Discussion on (or Not on) Intelligent Design

There was a hard-working undergraduate at the panel discussion yesterday that I met named Miguel Crespo, a Theology-Anthropology double-major, who took a fast-typing set of notes on his laptop. In talking with him and a Biology undergraduate named – oops. Catherine? Christine? Cheryl? – afterwards, I was gifted with his promise to send me a copy, which I post now, in case they might have some useful references.  Again, as I pointed out yesterday, the first two speakers seemed to think that the Intelligent Design issue was simply Creationism repackaged – as, certainly, Creationists have seized upon that language and repackaged it – and therefore missed the philosophical questions that are being posed regarding the competency of the hard sciences, which I think is the real issue being posed. 

Intelligent Design and Natural Selection

Intelligent Design argues: There exist natural systems which cannot be explained due to natural causes

 Mr. Scott Idleman, Professor of Law
    o This topic is public because it has entered the realm of public school education
    o The legal perspective
    o Establishment of religion within the public schools is illegal
    o Neutrality
        • Early on the courts made it the chief concern in the Establishment Clause
        • EC remains neutral in aiding one religion over another
        • It is not a self defining concept, it is a relative concept
        • Neutrality as a concept of equality brings on opposing opinions for what that means
        • In the funding context like school vouchers, neutrality tends to mean equality
        • On the other hand in matters of religious symbolism, neutrality means the opposite and the government does not get involved
        • Separation of Church and State is a funding related doctrine: Keeping public money from religious institutions
        • Religious and Government disharmony
        • What is not in establishment clause
                • Good science or bad science being taught is not the government's concern
                • Bad science choices were motivated out of a religious purpose it’s not that it was judged from the perspective of erroneous science or poorly taught science
        • The Establishment Clause has anywhere from 3 to 5 or 6 doctrines
                • Everything depends on context when interpreting the law using the Establishment Clause
        • The “Lemon Test” has three parts
            o Purpose
                    • All three prongs must be upheld to become a law
                    • Think about intelligent design from the perspective of these three parts
                    • The court is saying is if a statue is religiously based it will strike the law down (controversial)
                    • Does the law exclude the religious?
            o Effect
                    • “The Plastic Reindeer” rule
            o Entanglement
    • Dover, Michigan High School case
            • The practical question can intelligent design be a part of a school curriculum and still survive the Lemon Test?
                    o It may be taught outside of science classes maybe as philosophy
                    o You can teach about religion and the influence of religion but not as religion as potential truths or indoctrinate the students

Dr. James Courtright, Professor of Biology
        o Background: Raised in southern Kansas
                • Raised close to the bible belt and was taught evolution in high school
                • Evolution was taught with a disclaimer so as to not offend the religious
        o Go to: file://E:/ori/Natural.HTM
        o Evidence for Evolutionary Theory
                • Evolution is not being challenged, what is in question here is Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection
                • 3 billion base pairs of DNA are all shared with other animals
                        • The order of genes and their identity
                        • Blocks of genes have been kept together and this shows that independent creation of each doesn’t hold water
                • New forms of life are continually generated
                • Hocks genes setup basic patterns
                • Variation equals diversity equals repeating algorithym
                • Unity of type?
                • Fossil record shows increasing organismal complexity with time
        o The Clergy Letter Project – Know about this
        o Of Pandas and People –  read this as Creationist text using "ID" language
        o URL’s
                        • Intelligent Design supporters are stealthy about who and where they are so as to make their way into school boards and influence decisions
        o “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”  Isaac Newton
                • It doesn’t say that scientists don’t respect the cosmos and its mysteries

Dr. Jame Schaefer, Professor of Theology
        o She specializes in the relationship between Theology and Natural Sciences
        o For Christian data we turn to Scripture and the Church
        o Our task as theologians is to view things from a religious lens
        o Three persons in one God: The Trinity is the creator
        o Our limitations as theologians: We do not interpret scientific data
        o We don’t function outside of our disciplines
                • Scientists are about science
                • Theologians are about theology
        o Some scientific findings influence our theological discourse
        o Over time world views change and at times radically
                • Geocentrism has changed
                • Humans as the center of creation has changed because of Darwin
        o Scientific reductionism… this is naturalism
        o Intelligent Design is an effort by concerned Christians to reduce naturalism and scientific naturalism
        o “God as a superfluous writer on top of a self contained account of the natural world.”  (paraphrase)
        o Irreducibly complex systems or complex specified…
        o Are there some systems that are unexplainable by Natural Selection?  ID proponents
        o ID is not a scientific endeavor and does not fall within the realm of science
                • It is not testable
                        • This is key
        o There is more to reality than what can be measured and explained by science!
        o ID is a quasi theological endeavor
                • A kind of natural theology
        o Is God the retired architect?  The God of deism
        o She has several problems with Intelligent Design
                • ID is not a fertile theory for theological discourse, it is a dead end!
                • ID attempts to prove God’s existence when it is a matter of faith!
                • ID demeans and narrows God; it reduced God to a cause among causes!
                • ID notion of God compromises who God is as faithful
                • ID squelches the quest for knowledge and the quest for truth
                • ID is dangerous for theological ethics
        o We need to think about God more deeply
        o Lets start with faith in God as the purposeful creator of the Universe and the sustainer of that creation
                • This goes much deeper than any laws of physics can ever dive into
                • Creatio Continua
                • Creatio apalata[???]: God calling to us
        o God is 14 billion years patient
Tags: cultural, legal, marquette, philosophical, scientific, theological notebook

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