Over at HuffPo (who knew?), Karl Giberson, Ph.D, vice president of the Templeton-funded BioLogos Foundation, discusses why intelligent design persists in America. Here are his four explanations:
ID’s coffin is far from being nailed shut. Several things are propping it open:
1) The complex designs of many natural structures that have not yet been explained by science. As long as there are ingenious devices and intricate phenomena in nature (origin of life, anyone?) that we cannot understand, there will be ID arguments.
2) The remarkable, finely-tuned structure of the cosmos in which the laws of physics collaborate to make life possible. Many agnostics have had their faith in unguided materialism shaken by this, most recently Anthony Flew.
3) The widespread belief that God — an intelligent agent — created the universe. The claim that an intelligent God created an unintelligent universe seems peculiar, to say the least.
4) The enthusiastic insistence by the New Atheists that evolution is incompatible with belief in God. Most people think more highly of their religion than their science. Imagine trying to get 100 million Americans to dress up for a science lecture every Sunday morning — and then voluntarily pay for the privilege.
ID’s coffin will remain open — and empty — as least as long as these props remain. Science is working successfully only on the first prop above and is a long way from having explained all the mysteries of nature.
Well, we’re doing the best we can with #1, but of course a major reason for the persistence of creationism is #3. Here’s what the Pew Forum says:
When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.
The major impediment to acceptance of evolution in America is the persistence of faith. It’s not the lack of outreach by scientists—many of us are reaching out (I do it all the time), and, as Carl Zimmer noted, there’s a veritable glut of information about evolution on television, in books, and on the internet. There has never been a time, I think, when there has been so much popular writing on evolution. And yet the statistics on American acceptance of evolution fail to budge.
That’s why winning over the public to evolution will be a long fight, for it involves loosening the grip of religion on our country. We may have to wait for decades. But loosening that grip has ancillary benefits, for it also dispels much of the faith-based irrationality involved in opposing things like global warming, AIDS prevention, assisted suicide, and stem-cell research. Compared to that, the rejection of evolution is small potatoes.
So what is Giberson’s solution? Forget #3—let’s work on #4. Make those shrill New Atheists shut up!:
If the scientific community wants to dislodge ID, they need to start by admitting that their efforts have been an abysmal failure so far. And then they need to turn their considerable analytical skills on the problem of explaining that failure. If they do this, they might discover that enthusiastic pronouncements like “ID is dead” or “science has proven God does not exist” or “religion is stupid” or “creationists are insane” are not effective. They might discover that affirming that the universe is wonderful, despite our bad backs and the nonsense in our genomes, makes it easier for people to accept the bad design in nature.
And above all, they need to decide that it is OK for people to believe in God. For millions of Americans belief in ID is tied to belief in God. Unless people can find a way to separate them — and not be told by agnostic bloggers this is impossible — ID’s coffin will remain empty.
Our efforts have been an “abysmal failure” for one reason: up to now they have involved selling evolution rather than dispelling religion. The New Atheists realize that fighting for evolution while leaving faith alone is doing battle with one hand tied behind their backs.
Giberson is simply wrong to assume that if we suddenly tell people, “Yes, you can be religious and accept evolution, too,” then millions of creationists will suddenly flock to embrace Darwinism. There’s that little matter of 64% of Americans rejecting scientific fact if it contradicts their religious beliefs. That’s data. And it suggests that Giberson’s solution is nonsense.