I just read an anecdote about the visit of an intelligent design advocate’s son to Disneyland. It creeped me out.
Not only because I feel sorry that this boy’s critical thinking ability is being squashed, but also because the story reveals how Christian fundamentalists want to usurp science, and indeed the whole American culture, for their own ends.
Yesterday I wrote on my HinesSight weblog about how intelligent designers are out to Christianize America. This morning I read a few more chapters in the book that my post was based on, “Signs of Intelligence.”
Actually, it should have been called “Signs of Dumbness,” because the intelligent design movement (which is thinly disguised creationism) is notably bereft of solid facts or defensible logic. It’s based on blind faith. That’s acceptable in religion; it isn’t in science.
Here’s a briefer version of the anecdote told by John Mark Reynolds in his chapter “Getting God a Pass: Science, Theology, and the Consideration of Intelligent Design.” (Click on the link to read the entire disturbing piece).
Reynolds and his wife took their young son, Ian, to Disneyland. He wandered away in a store and they spent twenty minutes looking for him. After finding him sitting with some Disneyland cast members, Ian’s parents talked to him about the episode. Here’s where John Reynolds’ story started to sound really creepy to me.
Hope [his mother] said, “Well, Ian, we are so thankful to God for bringing you back to us. Mommy and Daddy prayed and Jesus heard us.”
Ian looked at his mother with the slightly bemused look usually reserved for the mentally disabled. “Mom,” he said with care, “Stop it. You are ruining the story.”
Hope was shocked. “What do you mean, Ian?”
Mr. Ian replied, “God had nothing to do with the story. The story is about me.”
“But Ian,” she replied in vain, “God is everywhere.”
Our four-year-old rolled his eyes and explained, “Mom, to get into Disneyland you must have a pass. God does not have a pass to Disneyland.”
Those Christians involved in the boycott of Disney might be tempted to agree with my son’s statement. In the end, however, all Christians have to agree that while God may not have a pass to Disneyland, he is certainly there. It is understandable when a small child makes such a mistake. After all, superficially God had nothing to do with his “rescue.” Because of his simple view of causation, God was not necessary to explain the events in the park that day.
Reynolds then goes on to say that what’s excusable in a child isn’t excusable in adults, who should know better. He castigates Christian scientists, theologians, and philosophers who consider “that the addition of theism to science ruins the story.” (Non-Christians who feel the same way aren’t similarly singled out for blame, probably because Reynolds views them as immature spiritual children who can’t be held responsible for their lack of understanding.)
As this story indicates, what Reynolds and his fellow true believers in intelligent design want is that Christian religion becomes the backdrop of every aspect of American life, scientific or otherwise. They desire a return to the not-so-good-old-days of the Middle Ages, when the Church and culture were essentially indistinguishable. Reynolds writes:
The issue, when carefully understood, is not whether Genesis should be interpreted literally. It is whether science or theology will be considered the paramount source of knowledge in the culture.
Reynolds doesn’t want science and theology. That is too accommodating, too liberal, too open-minded for Christian fundamentalists. He says that the attempt to make nature and revelation coequal domains of knowledge “has been a disaster.” So he concludes that it’s got to be Christian theology that rules the cultural roost. Take the fundie way or take the highway (to secular Europe, I suppose).
We believe that such things—incarnation and resurrection—happened in space and time. This is not just theological speculation, but something we know.
No, it isn’t, Mr. Reynolds. You don’t know it. You believe it. What you know is very different from what you believe.
Your son, Ian, knew that he was found because his parents looked for him, and Disneyland staff took care of him until this happened. He was clearly right. You believe that your praying to Jesus caused Ian to be found. There’s no evidence of that. It’s just something you feel. Almost certainly you’re wrong.
Just like you, Mr. Reynolds, are almost certainly wrong about intelligent design being superior to the theory of evolution as an explanation for how living beings came to be as they are. In each case—finding your son and finding the cause for the origin of species—your religiosity causes you to add meaningless extra conjecture to what is plain and evident.
Yes, it is possible that Jesus answers prayers and God designs creatures. It also is possible that fairies keep the sun shining and gnomes are responsible for maintaining gravity in good working order. But science has prospered by following the principle of Occam’s Razor: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.
Religion, on the other hand, prospers by doing just the opposite: adding on concepts such as “God,” “grace,” “divine will”, and so on to what otherwise would be simple (or, simpler) explanations of events.
This is a free country. People can believe whatever they want about how the cosmos works. However, they don’t have the right to impose their unfounded subjective beliefs onto others. And that’s just what the creepy goal of the intelligent design movement is: to substitute Christian theology for well-founded objective scientific facts.
In the end, laughter is an apt response to this ridiculousness. Check out this cartoon: “Intelligent Design, Coming Soon to a School Near You.” This cartoon is good too.