More on the Dover Decision

As I wrote earlier, the decision from Dover, PA of federal Judge John E. Jones stating that Intelligent Design (ID) is not science — and therefore cannot be taught in the science curriculum of the Dover Area Public Schools — is a wonderfully written, thoughtful judgment.

Of all his 139 pages of text, the following gets to the heart of the matter, and is representative of the balance and good judgment that runs throughout the judge’s ruling:

“Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the esixtence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.” [emphasis added]

I doubt that religious extremists and those unable to think critically about religion and faith will ever quote this paragraph. Nonetheless, this summation is succinct and correct. It reflects the notion that there are different fields of human inquiry; and that the truths of one field need not conflict with the truths of another. The challenge, however, is to know the truth about Knowledge and Truth.

As I’ve reflected on this so-called “evolution/creation” conflict, I can’t escape what is both a great irony and a great sadness. I share with those who believe in a Creator God the notion that humanity and all of nature are the result of Divine action. Where we part ways, however, is in the logical conclusion that one would come to if one accepted a literal interpretation of Genesis. The biblical literalist’s conclusion does not exhalt the “wholly other,” awe-filled Mystery that is God. Rather, it places limits on the Divine that are equivalent to the limited abilities of the human mind to understand how the great achievement of Creation occurred. In Genesis, humanity is blessed by God and given dominion over the rest of creation (Gen. 1:28). Created in God’s image and likeness, men and women are gifted with intelligence, reason, and the ability to carry out the work that “subduing the earth” would require. Yet, when men and women use such gifts to their full potential, biblical literalists become troubled. For them, they cannot seem to to understand that one can simultanously hold to a Creator God AND use one’s God-given abilities to understand the complexities of the natural world in all its wonder. Perhaps these literalists would do well to remember the maxim of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a 2nd century Father of the Church: The human person fully alive is the glory of God.

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