I’m steeling myself for a stint on a committee that’s bound and determined to tackle all sorts of important stuff. The docket is fizzy with pertinent issues like stem cell research, suicide, intelligent design, poverty relief, and the environment.
Just guessing, but the majority will say aye for some practical use of fetal stuff: can’t let it go to waste, what with the possibility of medical breakthroughs around every corner, like the revivalist optimism during those halcyon days in the South Korean labs. We will come out being against suicide in general, although our sensitive report will strongly recommend (as all recommendations are customarily made) that we should adopt a “pastoral” stance in bad situations like this. Poverty will be opposed, as it is important to hold regular votes against it. Hands will be rung, officiously, about the environment. I’m sure we’ll get around to saying something warm and fuzzy about the ordination of women, and how we should be nice to the homosexuals.
I expect these things, having served on consternation committees before. Everyone has their pedigrees plastered on the role call, and each represents her/his various professional and academic strata. We all have our friends and counterparts in the NCC, and simply must show the snuffness that we’re up to. After all, it’s the über-sophisticated Episcopalians who occupy the ecclesiological GQ-spot to which we immigrants aspire. They have position statements: shouldn’t we?
But there is one surprise on the agenda: intelligent design. I’m a tad mystified as to it’s cropping up as an ethical and social issue. One could say that it is a philosophical issue, or even – in the Western sloppy sense of the word – a “theological” issue. But “ethical,” or “social”?
I keep forgetting, in my passive-aggressive way, that I have the good luck to sit on a “progressive” committee, and groups of this sort never let a silly thing like a mandate put a damper on the expansion of self-definition, the evolution of self-awareness and the ever-increasing need for the increase of next year’s operating budget.
So we will argue about Intelligent Design: some of the lines have been drawn, already. I don’t relish the fight, because it is hard to screw up the motivation for something as milk-toasty and Deistic as ID. That is precisely my opening question to the Anti-ID folk: the theory is hardly anything new, and it hardly constitutes anything remotely religious, let alone Christian.
But the preliminary remarks reveal a certainty that Intelligent Design presents an assault on evolution. And that is certainly a horrible awful thing. Evolution must be protected at all costs if it is going to survive. As a concept, it may not be the fittest.
Take a step back and look at the view. An ecclesial group, with a hierarchical mandate, is going to seriously consider an official censure of, or at least the waggling of the schoolmarm’s finger at, Intelligent Design and all its proponents, for the strange purpose of defending evolutionary theory.
I understand the frightful urgency of evolutionary defense in places that do not like the Church or religion or anything that smacks of conservatism. Evolution is an important dogma in the intellectual industry of de-deification. Modern and post-modern myths must be smithed, and the forge is Darwin’s fantastic system. If you want to turn down that annoying godspeak knob, one must construct a self-starting, self-developing cosmogony without any frisson of logos or telos.
That makes sense, though it gripes me that no one has yet noticed that science is simply one form of alchemy that seems, for now, like it works … or that evolution is philosophically indistinguishable from those jolly old notions about spontaneous generation (you know, like rats somehow showing up from the coalescing of garbage).
Here are my questions, then, about the defense of evolution:
1. Even if a scientist believes the most offensive, fundamentalistic view of the Creation account in Genesis, is it possible for him to practice science? to be scientific?
2. Why is it important for humans to believe that they developed from the other life forms? Is it possible for man to care for his environment without believing that he was produced by it?
3. Is it possible for a Christian to believe in Creation as opposed to evolution, and still get a job in academia? Is it possible for him to keep his friends, and disagree with Darwin? Is it possible that evolution is this age’s Arianism, or Gnosticism?
4. Could it be that the only valid ethical issue, here, is whether it is possible at all for a Christian to adopt an evolutionary position and remain, intellectually, within the Orthodox mind of the Church? Is it possible that we have not reflected enough on the full implications of evolutionary dogma? Could it be that any element of trans-species evolution militates against the Gospel?
That the Gospel is the sole radical, and that Darwin and friends comprise, simply, a reactionary bourgeois movement that seeks to suppress the revolution of Christ?