Pharyngula

What is going on here? I read Mitt Romney’s comments on evolution on TPM Cafe and was surprised at how many people think it was a positive development.

Is this a first? Mitt Romney isn’t pandering to religious right voters or flip-flopping on an issue important to them in this interview, in which he reveals that he opposes the teaching of intelligent design:

“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.”

He was asked: Is that intelligent design?

“I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

While governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney opposed the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.

“In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”

How about that?

Read the comments over there. People are calling it “startling”, “intelligent”, and that it’s brave of him to accept a basic tenet of biology. What the hell are they talking about?

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”.

Don’t let me down, Panda’s Thumb … oops, they’ve let me down. Steve Reuland admits that it’s political pablum, but that it’s “essentially pro-science”.

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. Here, for example:

I believe in an old earth, a long evolution, I’m fine with common descent, etc.

I believe in the evolution of life the same way I believe in the evolution of computers. It’s obvious both evolved in a stepwise fashion from simple beginnings but just as obvious is that neither could have happened absent contrivance.

Shall we call DaveScot “pro-science” now?

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.

He was asked: Is that intelligent design?

“I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

What have you got there? Teleology, an intelligent agent guiding the process, and an implicit idea that humans are the goal. It’s not science. It’s the antithesis of the biological view of evolution. The disingenuous disavowal of intelligent design by name is there to cloak an acceptance of design in substance.

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.

Try to imagine the next big court case to get ID out of the schools.

The lawyer says, “Mr Matzke (you know Nick will be there, right?), you’ve brilliantly dissected this textbook the Discovery Institute is using, and shown that despite the absence of any overt mention of god or religion, it’s antecedents are derived from the creationist movement, and its authors are all strongly religious and have made statements outside the context of this particular book that strongly imply intent to promote religion. We should not be fooled by the absence of obvious religious advocacy in the book itself, but recognize instead its duplicitous nature and the bad faith arguments of its proponents?”

Nick will humbly reply, “Yes, sir.”

And the DI lawyer will then say, “But half your witnesses are “theistic” evolutionists, and proud of it. They say openly that they believe a God, the Christian God, not even an ambiguous supernatural force, was involved in the creation of human beings. They write books about DNA as the “language of God”. They lecture with considerable force that science and religion are compatible, and more, that science strengthens their faith in the Christian God. Proponents of the evolution position blithely call these people who insert a god into their explanations of origins ‘pro-science’. Your side ignores or even derides scientists who insist on purely natural explanations of our evolution, and promotes those who use religion to sell science to the public.”

“I’m baffled. On what basis are you arguing that this case involves a violation of the separation of church and state when I can scarcely tell the two of you apart, and when it’s your side that more openly embraces religious ideas—when the Intelligent Design proponents show a history of nominally moving away from their religious roots, while your side shows a history of increasing recruitment of church leaders, theologians, and lay advocates of god-involvement in science?”

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.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich
    May 12, 2007

    So, the question is:

    What exactly is “Theistic Evolution” Supposed to Fix?

    Scientifically it doesn’t fix anything, just like intelligent design. It just allows people continue to retain a “nebulous” God belief; you know, the God belief that Dawkins is accused of not addressing in TGD; that Stegner can’t fit into his hypothesis. The God Belief that works like Jello – just because you can’t nail it to the wall doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The God Belief that God can be whatever we want it to be because it is not definable in a way that humans can comprehend.

    A commenter on my blog said “You can’t define God away just because there are so many disagreements about religion. People have different tastes in music, and you can’t use that to prove that music doesn’t exist!”

    In truth I would rather have a candidate who is an Old Earth Creationist because at least they can state their foolishness coherently rather that continuing to re-define their concept of God so it doesn’t conflict with science.

    So, yes, I would like to know what the difference is between conventional ID’s God and the theistic evolution God; and how it would help me understand the universe in any meaningful way. It just makes people feel better about being intellectual religionists.

  2. #2 Norman Doering
    May 12, 2007

    Just because Mitt Romney “believes in evolution” doesn’t mean he knows anything about evolution. There is no argument for why he thinks evolution beats other explanations. He admits that he is not sure what is meant by intelligent design:

    “I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

    If he doesn’t understand ID, then is he really going to understand Darwin’s ideas much less Dawkins and Gould? What he might understand is that there is a fossil record and a huge genetic similarity between chimp and human DNA… the kind of stuff you see on the Discovery Channel.

    If you really questioned him on the science I’d bet his knowledge would be discovered to be incredibly shallow.

  3. #3 Scott Hatfield
    May 13, 2007

    Caledonian writes: “It’s a simple matter of applying logic to the generally-accepted definitions of the terms used and deriving conclusions with necessarily follow from them.”

    No, it’s an unchallenged assertion that the logic that you refer to necessarily applies to all that exists, a semantic trick that you have reified to the point of caricature. But ‘the universe is queerer than we can suppose’, and so there is no reliable basis for asserting that logic guarantees an absolutely certain conclusion in such matters. Dawkins expresses this, and more, with characteristic eloquence here:

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/98

    The old Scot also pens: “The real question is this: why am I smart enough to immediately recognize that logic rules out the traditional concepts of deity, yet dumb enough to argue with people like you? I suppose intellect is no guarantee of wisdom.”

    I guess a lot of us could be Exhibit A for that last proposition, but I’m curious: who on this thread, exactly, has been arguing for any concept of deity, traditional or otherwise? And, out of curiousity, why did you add the qualifier ‘traditional’. It seems uncharacteristic for one whose science-fu is usually so strong!

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