Now, I agree with P.Z. on about 99% of everything in life. But on this one, and on theistic evolution generally, he is way off.
Let’s start with his title: “Mitt Romney, theistic evolutionist…and this is supposed to be a good thing?”
My answer: Yes! This is an unambiguously good thing.
Not the best thing, certainly. The best thing would be for him to denounce God belief as silly and to affirm that scientists have no need of that hypothesis. But this is one of those times where we shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Romney has unambiguously endorsed evolution, has included human beings in the process, and has said clearly that he does not believe that ID has any place in science classes. Those are good positions to hold, and they are not positions calculated to appeal to Republican primary voters. The shameless, calculated position would be that there is a genuine controversy among scientists regarding evolution and that both sides should be presented. That, after all, is the position of our current president. But Romney didn’t say that. So, yes, I give him some credit.
But P.Z. demurs:
OK, so it’s a bunch of political junkies over there. What do they know? But then I read Jason Rosenhouse, who’s “impressed”, calls the statement “downright intelligent”, and thinks “he’s right on this issue”.
Just for the record, I actually said merely that for a Republican his statement was downright intelligent. And the part he’s right about is in accepting evolution and in not wanting ID taught in science classes, not the part about God using evolution to create humans.
I’m sorry, but Romney’s statement is pure calculated bullshit with more acknowledgment of religion than science. It is perfectly in alignment with the strategy of rebranding ID as evolution. Seriously, if you follow the statements of the intelligent design creationists, you’ll find that they say stuff that is just like Romney’s comment — if there’s any difference, it’s that IDists are more reluctant to mention god than Romney was.
No, it is not calculated, and that’s precisely the point. This is not a position likely to endear you to Republican primary voters.
But the bigger issue is that there is a world of difference between theistic evolution and ID. ID folks say idiotic things like, “If a system requires all of its parts to function, then it couldn’t have evolved gradually,” or “With the aid of a back of the envelope probability calculation we can prove the intervention of an intelligent designer in the course of natural history.” They also run around misrepresenting the views of scientists, lying to school boards, and promoting anti-science propaganda to the general public.
Theistic evolutionists don’t do such things. They’re only crime is tacking on some supernatural mumbo-jumbo to a scientific theory that was doing just fine without it. I am all in favor of criticizing them for this, but they are a huge improvement over the ID folks nevertheless.
Look at Romney’s statement carefully. Aw, heck, you don’t even need to look carefully — the superstition jumps out at you.
“I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”
Magic man done it! Seriously, follow the link and watch the movie clip. Intelligent Design creationism is the idea to ape scientific explanations exactly except for … a “thing”, “some kind of force”, that mucks about whenever the creationist doesn’t understand how something could have evolved. Theistic evolution is the same thing.
Go back to the original for links.
No, that is not the idea of Intelligent Design creationism. If we’re talking about the movement spearheaded by the likes of William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Jonathan Wells, then ID is the idea that there are fundamental, insurmountable flaws in purely naturalistic conceptions of evolution, and that these flaws can only be plugged by invoking the action of an unfathomable intelligence.
Theistic evolution, by contrast, does not invoke a magic man every time some evolutionary puzzle is brought to light. TE says that the major claims of modern evolutionary theory are correct, and that scientists are right to approach their problems the way they do. They believe that there is some guiding intelligence behind the whole thing as well, but that this belief is not something that should influence the way science is done. I’m puzzled by P.Z.’s inability to see a difference between these positions.
Myers later gets to the heart of the issue:
I’m not arguing that Romney is particularly bad in this case. He’s not pushing some insane Young Earth Creationist position, and I think if you pushed the candidates in the Democratic field they’d probably say something similar–they’d mumble some platitudes about accepting the scientific consensus and then throw in something about their belief in god, and how god used science to make us. It’s all wrong. What is particularly troubling is how far we’ve sunk that so many on the side of science are willing to ignore the unscientific promotion of an unevidenced supernatural entity and pretend that this is good for us.
I’m not ignoring anything, and I don’t pretend that excessive God belief is good for us. I merely acknowledge that Romney’s view is a considerable improvement over the beliefs of the mainstream of his party. And the sign of how far we’ve sunk is not that many on the science side are willing to give a tip of the hat to a politician who unambiguously accepts evolution and says that ID should not be taught in science classes. Rather, the sign of our descent is the fact that Romney’s milquetoast statement will actually put him at odds with large segments of American voters.
P.Z. goes on like this for several more paragraphs, finally building up to this:
And Nick will say … I have no idea how Nick would reply. I’m sure it will be clever and devastating, and I’m sure it will explain how the statement that “I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation” is pro-science while “I do not believe in the sufficiency of random mutation and natural selection to explain the history of life on earth” is anti-science. I’d like to hear an explanation for how “theistic evolution” is less religious than “intelligent design”.
If he can’t, we’re going to have an interesting time at the next trial. Maybe the gang at the NCSE should rethink their strategy a bit, because the way I see it, any defense that uses separation of church and state as its basis is becoming increasingly untenable.
What a ridiculous straw man! No one is saying that the statement, “I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation,” is a pro-science position. It merely represents a belief held by some people who are, in addition to this belief, pro-science. A more accurate summary of the theistic evolution position is, “I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation, but my religious views have no relevance to the proper practice of science or to the assessment of modern scientific theories.”
As to the other side of the dichotomy, the ID position is a lot more than, “I do not believe in the sufficiency of random mutation and natural selection to explain the history of life.” It is more like, “Not only do I not believe that known naturalistic mechanisms are adequate for explaining the history of life, but also I believe that natural mechanisms will forever be unable to explain certain aspects of natural history and that the only possible way of explaining them is by invoking an awesome supernatural intelligence and that the definition of science needs to be expanded to allow for such explanations.”
Any regular reader of this blog knows I have no sympathy for theistic evolution. I think it’s a misguided and erroneous view of the world, and I think it deserves strong criticism. But to argue that the merely wrong views of the theistic evolutionists should be condemned with the same vigor that we use against the loathsome behavior and totally-contradicted-by-the-facts views of the ID folks strikes me as misguided, to say the least.