« The Unintelligible Academy | Gene Expression Front Page | Runaway Sexual Selection »
December 15, 2004

Worldview vs. Worldview

I read The ID Update once every week. Today:

He also stresses that the debate is NOT between science and religion, but science worldview vs science worldview.

Lawrence Auster doesn't get it, he seems to think that teaching ID in schools is a victory for religion. "Traditionalist Conservatives" like Auster often talk about the "abstracting" tendencies of liberalism, and its implicit (and sometimes explicit) forebear, Protestantism. Jim Kalb has spoken of Christianity's relative orthogonality with the "earthly order" (Kalb is a Roman Catholic convert). Both Mr. Kalb & Mr. Auster often depict Islam as a totalitarian all-encompassing ideology, that is, it is "this worldly" and steps outside the proper bounds of the limits of religious life.

And yet I think this is what the "Intelligent Design" movement is attempting to do, that is, it is, I believe, a revival of the periodic attempt of the Reformation and its descendents to sanctify every aspect of human life (in ID's case, science). Just as some Muslims use the Koran & Hadith as a judge for every one of their actions, some Puritans measured their lives against the Bible in a very literal sense. In the modern world the Luddism of the Amish communities serve as a full expression of this literalism.

One of the figures in the ID movement that outsiders do not often know about is the Reformed Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who is the source of many critiques of Methodological Naturalism. Philip Johnson, the lawyer who spearheaded the revival of an intellectual Christian naturalism, is, like Plantinga, part of the Reformed tradition (Presbyterian). This is of course the same tradition from which the Puritans sprang. The extremist fringe of the Reform movement also is the root of Dominion Theology, the position that the laws of the Bible should be the basis of all American laws. Democracy must eventually go because God, not the people, are the true rulers.

Now, my point in diving into this minutiae is not to suggest that Michael Behe, a Roman Catholic, and the most prominent life scientist in the ID movement is secretly planning a revolution that would bring the United States under radical Protestant rule. The links and intellectual influences are not explicit, rather, the Christian intellectual fringe (that is, self-conscious Christian intellectuals rather than intellectuals who happen to be Christian) express a human tendency to create a unified worldview. "Christian" music is another example of the same phenomena. Yet, one thing to note is that Intelligent Design, Christian Reconstructionism and Christian music tend to be profoundly influenced by the goings on in this world, that is, they have a strong stamp of being Christianized copies of a "non-Christian" original (that is, science, government and pop music). Hyms and other forms of musical expression glorifying God have always existed in the Christian tradition, so the branding of a musical tradition that seems to have arisen in imitation of trends in American culture since 1950 as "Christian music" seems a bit presumptuous. Similarly, a tradition of Natural Theology and metaphysical philosophy has existed within the Christian tradition since its imbibing of Greek thought. Nevertheless, the Intelligent Design movement, with its promise of applying a "Chrtistian" science in laboratories among the stench of beakers and out in the field seems to be a different and modern beast. And of course, St. Augustine's City of God seemed to reiterate the Western understandintg of the ambivalence of God and the secular city, so the attempt of Christian Reconstructionists to reshape society based on the dictates of The Holy Book seem at odds with the mainstream of Western Christianity.

I suspect for many people Intelligent Design is another thumb in the eye of godless atheism. Perhaps, but it is also a wedge in a multi-pronged attack, part of the intellectual battle that has been wracking the Western world since the Reformation.

Posted by razib at 12:34 PM