Tue Oct 28, 2003

All Things Bright and Easterbrook

Following up on yesterday’s great “spiritual plane debate,” I see via Atrios and Carl Zimmer that Gregg Easterbrook may subscribe to the theory of Intelligent Design. Originating with William Paley, this is the view that, as Easterbrook puts it, “organic biology [sic] is so phenomenally complex that it is illogical to assume that life created itself. There must have been some force providing guidance.”

One is tempted to reply that anyone who believes in Intelligent Design clearly has never given birth or had impacted wisdom teeth removed. The ID crowd have thought of this problem. Easterbrook again: “Unlike creationism, intelligent-design theory acknowledges that the universe is immensely old and that all living things are descended from earlier forms.” Of course, if life just needed an initial push from God (if it couldn’t have “created itself”) and then descended with modification, we are left wondering what has happened to the “Intelligent Design” part of the theory—it’s not doing any work anymore. These guys love to have things both ways. Sadly, if you want the nice stuff you need to put up with the nasty bits, too.

Funnily enough, in his column Easterbrook says that ID is “now being argued out in the nation’s top universities.” Would these be the same “top universities” that we learned yesterday were places where people are “laughed out of the room” for their “irrational religious sensibilities”? Of course not. Though the have the same names as real universities, these “top schools” exist only in Gregg Easterbrook’s imagination, to be called forth at a moment’s notice to illustrate some point about the relationship between science and religion whose truth has already been determined in advance by what Carl Zimmer calls Easterbrook’s “own personal neat-o-meter.”

Debate about religion is alive and well at Universities—but intelligent design theory isn’t in the ascendancy in Biology departments and theists are not laughed out of rooms in philosophy departments. Come to think of it, I’d like to meet the last person who tried to laugh Alvin Plantinga, or either Bob or Marilyn Adams out of a room, but they’re probably in therapy somewhere.