At odds with the Bible

The Discovery Institute Media Complaints Department issues a missive about a University of Arizona panel on creationism. Amidst the usual whinging about the failure to include the mainstream scientists and historians who totally support ID, we get Disco. hanger-on David Klinghoffer’s insistence that:

whatever else may be said for or against ID, it’s clearly at odds with a literal reading of the Bible.

This is interesting. Bill Dembski has insisted that ID is simply “the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated,” after all, and Dembski is purported to know something about ID.

I’ll also note that there were audible gasps at a symposium I attended last fall along with NCSE’s Faith Project Director Peter Hess, when Hess stated that ID was “blasphemous.” The Disco. ‘Tute’s Casey Luskin, also present at the symposium, did not approve of that sentiment.

You can now review Hess’s full paper “Creation, Design and Evolution: Can Science Discover or Eliminate God?” at the website of the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy. I think that Peter makes a strong case for ID being blasphemous. I especially enjoy this passage:

If intelligent design theory is correct, it is understandable why Richard Dawkins should describe God as being (among other things) a “sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully). To a theist, of course, such a description of God constitute’s blasphemy, but this is the logical descriptor of the God of “intelligent design,” who ultimately is directly responsible for all the suffering built into a universe with which God interminably tinkers.

I’d quibble with the claim that all theists regard Dawkins’ description as blasphemous, though. I think a fair reading of Job (the earliest of the Biblical books to be written), suggests that this is exactly how the ancient Hebrews saw their deity. It opens, after all, with God capriciously and malevolently allowing intense sufferings to be heaped on Job, as nothing more than a small bet to while away the hours. In a college essay I wrote on Job, I recall trying what I thought was a very sharp maneuver by setting up a dichotomy in the Job could either be explained by an omnibenevolent God or by a capricious and occasionally cruel God. Since, I argued at the time, the ancient Hebrews must have believed the former, I never considered the meaning of Job if God were not omnibenevolent. The class’s professor gently chided me for this oversight, and I think rightly so. Certainly the contemporary theologies of ancient Greece and the rest of the Middle East are populated by capricious gods with all the foibles we see in humans. Why not the monotheistic God, too?

In any event, Peter’s essay is a thoughtful and accessible survey of the theological objections to ID creationism, and the ways that at least some religious groups integrate science and religion. Interested parties take note.


  1. #1 Duae Quartunciae
    April 2, 2010

    I found the introduction to this a bit confusing. You are talking about theological objections to ID. Whatever people might think of theology, this is a perfectly valid point. Dembski is about as good a theologian and he is a biologist.

    But why lead off with a comment on a a “literal” reading of the bible? That’s one particular narrow form of biblical reading which is at odds with nearly all modern theology. So whatever else is wrong with ID (just about everything, as it turns out) there’s nothing contradictory or even particularly surprising about something being “at odds with a literal reading of the Bible”, and yet also being described as the “Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated”.

    And — for what it is worth — I am coming over rather strongly to the view that I would much rather the NCSE does not attempt to take sides between theologians on the proper way to deal with science and religion. Using the word “theology” in the sense of the study of how we can know God, Dawkins also might be called a theologian; the statement “there is no god” is a theological statement in this broad sense, and it’s one I personally endorse. But I think people are correct to observe that the NCSE is a tad inconsistent — or at least highly strained — in their position on religion and science. Although they claim no position, they seem very happy to advocate for Hess’ theology over that of Dawkins, and Dembski. Example. The article How Do I Read the Bible? Let Me Count the Ways. There’s nothing wrong with the article itself. But what the heck is it doing on the NCSE website if they actually have no view on science and religion?

  2. #2 rni.boh
    April 3, 2010

    How exactly is ID clearly at odds with a literal reading of the Bible? I thought ID just said that some aspects of nature are best explained by intelligent agency. So, is the Biblical God not intelligent?

    I wonder if Sal will blog about this at UD.

  3. #3 Pen
    April 3, 2010

    Certainly, the god of the Bible does not come across as particularly intelligent. Maybe Clueless Design, then? Stupidly Terrible Design gives a nice acronym too.

  4. #4 Moopheus
    April 4, 2010

    In addition to malevolent and capricious, I would add Machiavellian and narcissistic. In the story of Moses, hashem says he will manipulate Pharoah so that the Egyptians will have to suffer all ten plagues; he wants to do it to them. Vindictive?

    And of course, the Gnostics accepted this at face value: to them, Yaldaboath was evil, stupid, and blind. But the church in Rome was successful in suppressing them. But they were right.

  5. #5 Matti K.
    April 10, 2010

    I can understand that NCSE wants to frame science in a way that is as palatable as possible for a maximum number of believers.

    But is it really useful to step fully on the religious side and use religious terminology (like “blasphemhy”) in the fight against unscicentific religious views (like ID)? I don’t think that will be a very successful strategy.

    Well, that might be the downside for a science-minded organization having a “faith project”. It is difficult to keep these two “ways of knowing” separate.