I’m reading an interesting book: a series of interviews by Steve Paulson of various bigwigs who talk about the relationship between science and religion. It’s called Atoms & Eden: Conversations on Religion & Science (Oxford University Press, 2010). The interviewees are diverse and interesting: they include Francis Collins, Karen Armstrong, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Simon Conway Morris, Jane Goodall, Robert Wright, Elaine Pagels, John Haught, Daniel Dennett—23 in all, a broad mélange of believers, “strident” atheists, and accommodationists. It’s well worth reading, for there are some surprises (E. O. Wilson, for instance, calls himself a “provisional deist”).
I’ll post any interesting tidbits I find, but here is one, a statement by Francis Collins, NIH director, giving his take on the origins of intelligent design (ID). It’s on pp. 34-35, in response to Paulson’s followup to an earlier statement by Collins: “I think many of the current battles between atheists and fundamentalists have really been started by the scientific community.” Collins says this is a tragedy, and Paulson asks why he says this. Collins’s response is this:
“If you look at the history of the intelligent design movement, you will see that it is a direct response to the claims coming from people like Dawkins. They could not leave this claim unchallenged—that evolution alone can explain all of life’s complexity. It sounded like a Godless outcome.”
Yep, blame it on the militant atheists!
The problem is that Collins is completely wrong, and he should know better. ID was a direct and deliberate strategy of creationists to circumvent court rulings that deemed creationism a religious theory that, according to the U.S. First Amendment, couldn’t be taught in science classes. In response, the faithful cooked up a theory in which God now appeared in a lab coat instead of robes—as an “intelligent designer” of unspecified provenance. He might be a space alien!
The IDers didn’t fool anyone. And, if you look at The Wedge Document” (pdf here), a manifesto drafted in 1998 as the master plan for the “godless” ruse of ID, you’ll see that it’s blatantly motivated by faith.
It also contains no mention of Dawkins, and was written seven years before The God Delusion came out.
ID was not a direct response to Dawkins or any other atheists. It was a direct response to courtroom defeats and the fear that creeping materialism would displace religion in America. Anybody who’s studied this issue even cursorily knows that.
But Collins, like many accommodationists, wants to argue that loudmouthed atheists are responsible for the truculence of creationists. If we’d only shut up, creationism would go away.
The evidence, which Collins ignores, says otherwise.