“Because ID is established in scientific ignorance, it cannot last. It is passing even now.”
• Paul Wallace
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In an article on the Huffington Post, Paul Wallace has stated his agreement with those who declare that the Intelligent Design movement is dead. But rather than list and explain the scientific reasons for this position, Wallace instead goes back to fundamental principles, giving readers a history lesson that speaks to the relationship between faith and science.
He takes us back to the 1600’s when Johannes Kepler was working on his theories of astronomy. One day, he came across a new star that had appeared, and in his 1606 work, De stella nova, he sought to understand how such an event could have happened. As he considered various possibilities, Kepler set forth the possibility that God had created the star in a special act of divine intervention.
He began to consider special creation: a deliberate, separate act of God unconnected with any other natural event, direct and special tinkering by the divine hand. But in the end he withdrew from that conclusion, writing “before we come to [special] creation, which puts an end to all discussion, I think we should try everything else.”
Why did Kepler reject supernatural creation as an explanation? Not because he had a small view of God, or was predisposed against divine intervention in the universe. He did not view creation as a closed system in which God could not tinker. Rather, it was because he held a conviction that God had created a comprehensible universe and made human beings in his image who were capable of discovering creation’s design. He believed there must be an explanation, though he could not name it at the time.
As Wallace notes, Kepler’s fundamental axiom was: The universe has been designed; therefore it must be comprehensible.
He contrasts this with the work of Michael Behe and other purveyors of Intelligent Design. When examining the complexity of the bacterial flagellum, Behe came to the conclusion that it was irreducibly complex, and therefore must have been specially designed.
As Wallace observes, Behe turned Kepler’s fundamental axiom on its head: The universe is incomprehensible; therefore it must have been designed.
In other words, Behe and the other proponents of ID have chosen an approach that puts an end to further inquiry and discussion by inserting a special act of God at a point where we do not yet have understanding.
Wallace points out how contrary this is to the spirit of Kepler and other scientists for whom the rationality of the created universe prompted never-ending curiosity and perseverance in the scientific enterprise.
Looking upon the new star in September 1604, could Kepler have envisioned stellar evolution, mass-transfer binary stars, and explosive carbon fusion? No, and so he remained silent. His humility, his belief in the richness of creation, and his expansive faith allowed him to admit ignorance while leaving the door of causal science wide open.
ID denies its proponents that freedom. Having opted to close the door on science, they steal from themselves the opportunity to see nature more deeply. In so doing they dig in their heels, refusing to be drawn, Kepler-style, closer to the creator God they all believe in. This is the great irony of ID.
Out of reverence for God, people of faith and science will reject any approach to comprehending the natural world that closes the door on further inquiry and discovery. Learning more about creation can only increase our appreciation for the infinite wisdom of our Creator. As we grow in our understanding, it will certainly pose challenges with regard to treasured interpretations and “certainties” that we have embraced in the past. It will require diligence, patience, generosity, and trust to work through the questions that will be raised. We must not bow to fear as our ruling principle or merely substitute God as a convenient answer when none is immediately at hand. Ignorance is no crime, and saying, “I don’t know yet, and maybe I never will” is not something from which to shrink. But to keep learning and trying to learn is a way of loving God.
As Paul Wallace reminds us:
Kepler reminds us that religious people do not need to shrink from science and its naturalistic methods, because they more than others have a rich tradition in which to locate these things, a context that allows them to take science seriously but not too seriously, and a strong bulwark against the lull of materialism.