Springtime for Darwin

By JAMES PARKER  |  May 7, 2008

And it’s a strange God they have, too. He’s a theological curiosity: an Omnipotence reduced to a state of vagrancy, riding like a boxcar bum in the spaces left untenanted by Reason. This is the problem with being an advocate of intelligent design. As a Christian, you’re committed to the belief that God is active in His creation, always and everywhere. As an IDer, on the other hand, you’re obliged to exile Him to its semi-explicable fringes. Bad religion, indeed. But hey, that’s politics. Whatever it takes to get the Almighty into the science curriculum. “The primary difference between ID and creationism,” says Giberson, “is that ID is aggressively political, even to the point where they don’t want to articulate exactly what they think, because some of them think the Earth is 10,000 years old, some of them think it’s 5 billion years old, and they all want to kind of pretend they’re part of the same movement. But if that movement ever did get control of science in the public schools, they would have to quarrel and separate at that point, and go at each other.”

Giberson, however, will not dismiss the IDers out of hand. “Scientifically, there’s really been no movement in intelligent design since the 19th century,” he says. “I mean, as science, it ends there. But that’s not to say that it hasn’t played a very positive role in highlighting certain things that I think are important to talk about. Darwinism is taught in the public schools in the same way that Newtonian mechanics is taught: as a tidy and complete theory where everything fits. But in fact Darwinism is rich with things that we don’t understand, with mysteries, with things that look contradictory and so on, and if we were able to talk in a more civil way about this, it would actually be very helpful.”

If you’re a creationist — and polls suggest that roughly 100 million Americans are, or think they are — you just can’t say “evolution” without saying “Lucifer.” It was he, after all, and not his peon Darwin, who was the primary architect of evolutionary theory. “Now if Satan (or Lucifer) is going to believe that God isn’t really the Creator,” wrote Henry Morris, author of The Genesis Flood, in his 1989 book The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict, “then he has to have some other explanation. That’s why I have to say that Satan was the first evolutionist. Evolutionists ridicule me for saying that, but again, I can think of no better explanation for how this worldwide, age-long lie came to be, than through the father of liars, who is the devil.”

But not all religious people feel that way. In fact, let’s be bold and say that most religious people resoundingly don’t feel that way. As Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, points out in Expelled, the “big secret” is that mainstream Protestants and Catholics are “fine with evolution.” Pope Pius XII, in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, allowed that, while there can be no question of the evolution of souls — which are “immediately created by God” — the evolution of bodies appears to have been proved. And Chesterton himself noted 40 years earlier that, “if evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is sting-less for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly.”

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