August 4, 2005
“Bush Remarks On ‘Intelligent Design’ Theory Fuel Debate,” read a front-page headline on Wednesday’s Washington Post. President Bush’s hum-drum comment – “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes” – is treated by the Post as a singular event, an outlandish aside worthy of front-page scrutiny and implied criticism of his simple Christian views.
The Post lets an unnamed scientist in the story call Intelligent Design “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” and turns to professional secularist Barry Lynn for his estimate of Bush’s scientific knowledge. Bush, says Lynn, is “irresponsible,” shows a “low level of understanding of science,” and “doesn’t understand that [Intelligent Design]is a religious viewpoint and [evolution] is a scientific viewpoint.”
Acting like a person who hits a car and then strolls up to the accident scene in the guise of an innocent bystander, the Post reports all of this as a controversy about which it has no opinion -- and had no role in stoking. An honest headline on the story would read: “Press Baits Bush on Intelligent Design, Then Fuels Debate over his Response.”
This story, while ludicrously biased, contains a sign of hope: it is a measure of the elite establishment’s fear that the Darwinian grip on culture is slipping. In the elite’s frantic attempt to protect their shrinking scientific turf, they must insist on a “scientific consensus” – the phrase the Washington Post earlier this summer cited to editorialize against the showing of an Intelligent Design documentary at the Smithsonian – that doesn’t exist, and they must treat any deviation from this fictional consensus as evidence of kookery. This politically correct policing of conservative dissent is getting more aggressive because that dissent is spreading rapidly, and to precincts the elite assumed they had tamed
Hence, when a prominent cardinal of the Catholic Church, Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, recently called evolution an “ideology” built on a denial of the most basic scientific fact of all – that nature has an obvious design to it – the elite reported his views as those of an out-of-touch theologian and implied that he should shut his mouth, step aside, and let “scientists” speak. Yet Schonborn was simply renewing the Church’s perennial philosophy of being that holds as a conclusion of reason, not faith, that an unmoved mover is the necessary ground of all creation and that effects cannot be greater than their causes. (Imagine what Thomas Aquinas would say about Darwinian theory.)
Schonborn’s clarification of the Church’s rejection of any theory that considers chance an adequate cause for complexity in nature frightens the elite, as they know that the Catholic Church is the most formidable foe to the Enlightenment’s search for God-less, purely material explanations for the functioning of the universe (which is, contrary to the opportunistic denials of atheism by evolutionists, what random variation and natural selection amount to).
Dissenters inside the Church and opportunists outside it have been working hard to neutralize the Church on the crucial question of evolution. But they will not get away with this, and Schonborn’s dissent marks the beginning of a serious backlash to the Enlightenment liberalism that has been smuggled into Catholicism as “reform.”
As if to alert their liberal readers to a crisis, the Post story placed Bush’s comments in the context of Schonborn’s:
“The president’s latest remarks came less than two months after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna an influential Roman Catholic theologian, said evolution as ‘an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection’ is not true.”Using expert sources to advance their own assertions as usual, the Post declares that
“much of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious – especially Christian – thinking to students. Opponents say that church groups and other interest groups are pursuing political channels instead of first building support through traditional scientific review.”In other words, Intelligent Design scientists haven’t gotten their tickets stamped by Darwinian scientists. This notion that Intelligent Design is a novel and essentially Christian theory would come as a surprise to Aristotle. In his book, The Physics, he addressed an early form of Darwinism, which came through Empedocles, and rejected it as an irrational account of nature.
Aristotle sketched out Empedocles’ theory and then answered it:
“Why should not nature work, not for the sake of something, nor because it is better so, but just as the sky rains, not in order to make the corn grow, but of necessity? What is drawn up must cool, and what has been cooled must become water and descend, the result of this being that the corn grows. Similarly if a man's crop is spoiled on the threshing-floor, the rain did not fall for the sake of this-in order that the crop might be spoiled-but that result just followed. Why then should it not be the same with the parts in nature, e.g. that our teeth should come up of necessity-the front teeth sharp, fitted for tearing, the molars broad and useful for grinding down the food-since they did not arise for this end, but it was merely a coincident result; and so with all other parts in which we suppose that there is purpose? Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come be for an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish, as Empedocles says his 'man-faced ox-progeny' did. Can this passage from Aristotle's Physics be taught in schools? Or would the Post consider it insufficiently scientific? The debate over evolution didn't begin with Bush, Schonborn, or the school of Intelligent Design. The debate goes back to the time of the Greeks, but the elite, in order to preserve a phony “scientific consensus,” is working overtime through the press to make sure that students don't hear it.
Such are the arguments (and others of the kind) which may cause difficulty on this point. Yet it is impossible that this should be the true view. For teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a given way; but of not one of the results of chance or spontaneity is this true. We do not ascribe to chance or mere coincidence the frequency of rain in winter, but frequent rain in summer we do; nor heat in the dog-days, but only if we have it in winter. If then, it is agreed that things are either the result of coincidence or for an end, and these cannot be the result of coincidence or spontaneity, it follows that they must be for an end; and that such things are all due to nature even the champions of the theory which is before us would agree. Therefore action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature.”
George Neumayr is executive editor of The American Spectator
The work of Discovery Institute is made possible by the generosity of its members. Click here to donate.