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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Huh? Frank Beckwith, of all people, attacked by conspirazoid prof Barbara Forrest?

Here's an interesting example of the way that any non-materialist draws fire from materialist atheists.

Baylor prof Frank Beckwith had a big tenure fight a while back, possibly connected with his view that it is not unconstitutional to teach that the universe is intelligently designed in an American school setting and that there is something wrong with killing our kids and then wondering who is going to work to pay our pensions.

And - while Beckwith does not endorse the ID view, and has often attacked it and its proponents - he was recently savaged at considerable length by conspirazoon Barbara Forrest (author of The Trojan Horse).

David DeWolf, a Catholic and one of the evil Discovery Institute types, who currently star as the villains in a local potboiler, offered me some thoughts on the difficulties that Catholics like Beckwith and he may face.

It took me a while to get to his comments, so I wrote back advising him that there is no shortage of dump bears from hell here either.

But here are his thoughts:
Speaking as a Roman Catholic, I would say that to the extent there is a lesson from the Galileo affair (and historians know how distorted the contemporary understanding of that business is), many Catholics, sadly, even those in positions of authority, have gotten it just backwards. Those who want to avoid another Galileo affair should be slow to identify the Church or the Faith with a particular scientific theory. After all, today's scientific confidence can be tomorrow's embarrassment.

But that's not what many prominent Roman Catholics have been doing. Instead, what we see today is an *embrace* of "evolution" -- even of Charles Darwin -- as though that theory had been proven and the Church wants to show it's on the side of the winner.

One might say it would be foolish to declare ID the winner in the debate, although Catholics (certainly those in the Thomist tradition) are already on record as affirming design and teleology. Why some Thomists want to draw such a sharp distinction between teleology as a philosophical matter and the evidence of teleology in biological structure is a mystery to me (I gather it is a mystery to Mike Behe, as well).

There is a danger in identifying only *some* events as displaying teleology, suggesting that God is in direct control of some things, but on sabbatical (so to speak) with respect to, say, an apparently random pile of rocks at the bottom of a hillside. As with most things, I repair to Scripture for assistance: the Gospels repeatedly refer to various events in Jesus' life as being a fulfillment of prophecy. To point out, say, that none of Jesus' bones were broken during the crucifixion, is not to suggest that only the events specifically identified as a fulfillment of prophecy were planned, while the rest of Jesus' life just sort of happened. But there is a reason for pointing out that certain events support a logical inference of design, and these are significant precisely because the question of design in history, in the universe, is very much in dispute. Therefore, it baffles me that, rather than embracing ID as a plausible account of biology (plausible, but far from being what the Darwinians claim about evolution -- more firmly established than the law of gravity), many otherwise loyal Churchmen run for the exit door as if the place were on fire. Sure, there are ways to distort ID to turn it in a bad theological direction. But there's nothing that I can detect that should make a Roman Catholic any less enthusiastic about ID than any other variety of Christian.
It's never been any kind of a mystery to me. Many terrified Christians feel they need to accommodate atheism, and that means selling out Christians who come up with reasons why atheism might not be true, as opposed to finding ways to somehow sneak out to holler for Jesus while letting atheists rule.

(Note: Some people believe in conspiracies, and some don't. My own experience as a hack inclines me to the latter, skeptical view. Few can resist the self-importance of spilling their guts to an obliging hack. So the conspiracies that really exist are small, highly focused, and often involve people [think 9-11] who get themselves killed. Didn't the 20th jihadi start to spill? Could be torture? I'd never torture the fellow myself, because if you just lock up people like him up for a while, they start to spill to a polite and friendly interview officer - usually through a desire for importance and meaning in life.)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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