Bad theology

My principle objection to the so-called “Intelligent Design” movement is the damage it does to science, but religious people like the Rev. George Coyne have correctly pointed out that it’s damaging religion as well:

Coyne said the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity that insists on the literal truth of the Bible “is a plague in our midst,” obscuring the deeper marvel of creation.

“The intelligent design movement belittles God,” he told reporters before the event. “It makes God a designer, an engineer. The God of religious faith is a god of love. He did not design me.”

Coyne stressed that on matters of religion and faith, science is “absolutely neutral.” Other speakers echoed that, saying that science and religion operate in separate realms. Where religion is based in faith and concerned with the creation or moral meaning of life, science concerns itself with seeking testable, verifiable explanations for the processes of the natural world.

You have to wonder about the impulse to pick fights you know you can’t win, the apparently central thesis of fundamentalism. All the better to play the victim, I suppose.

On the science front, the discovery of Tiktaalik roseae supplies another missing link between fish and land animals:

Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land.

In two reports today in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago say they have uncovered several well-preserved skeletons of the fossil fish in sediments of former streambeds in the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole.

The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

Tiktaalik sounds like my Sailfin Blenny, Bubba, who perches on rocks resting on his pectoral (front) fins and acts more like a dog than a fish.

Sailfin Blenny

6 thoughts on “Bad theology”

  1. “The intelligent design movement belittles God,” he told reporters before the event. “It makes God a designer, an engineer. The God of religious faith is a god of love. He did not design me.”

    That’s a complete non-sequitur from “god of love” to “did not design me”, as if the two are somehow mystically incompatible for unstated (unstatable?) reasons.

    I agree that ID is Purest Bunk, but that’s a terrible argument against it, theologically or otherwise.

    (And theologically, ID is more satisfyingly compatible with Genesis 1:27 than his posited God-guided evolution… at least that’s what I’m assuming his alternative is, given that that seems to be the other allowable doctrinal position of the Catholic Church on the matter. I’m not aware of the Church denouncing the idea of God simply creating man directly.

    But then, I’m an atheist anyway.)

  2. I think the distinction the Rev. is making is like the difference between a father’s love for his children, an unconditional love, and a wife’s love for her husband, one that’s premised on the ongoing right to tinker. A loving God is not a meddling God, and that has all sorts of implications for the doctrine of Free Will and all that other religious stuff. It makes perfect sense to me.

  3. Wait…what does God being a God of love have to do with not supporting intelligent design? So if God loves, he doesn’t design? I don’t see the correlation. If he loves us, then he designs things well…and that He has done!

  4. There’s very little evidence that whoever or whatever designed us did a good job. If he/she/it had, I doubt that I’d be wearing glasses, taking Claritin, struggling with lower back pain and sciatica or peeing Morse code. You’ve got to do better than that if you want to plug a designer into this random universe.

  5. I used to keep saltwater aquaria, and one of my favorite denizens was a blenny I had caught near Beer Can Island at the north end of Longboat Key. I eventually had him trained to swim into my hand to be fed. He would accept being petted, and I could even remove him from the tank for thirty seconds or so at a time without getting upset. So I could ask visitors, Here, want to pet my fish?

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