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Religious Liberty Alert!

Noodly appendageNJ.com reports that a New Jersey man was denied the right to wear a religious head covering for his driver's license photo. Specifically, he wanted to wear the Holy Colander.What? "As a Pastafarian, I believe the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," Williams said. "The strainer is a showing of my devoutness to the religion."As the photo above makes clear, Pastafarianism is something of a spoof of religion. (Myself, while I am not a Pastafarian, I love the quirky silliness of that tradition. You can learn more about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster here, if you want to.)Yup, goofy. But as with all inspired parody, there's a serious point underneath.

The church itself was formed in 2005 in response to the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to permit the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas Schools. Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to the Board in the name of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, arguing that there are many versions of intelligent design, and that his is equally deserving of consideration in Kansas Schools. He wrote:

I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Since then, combating attempts to sneak creationism into science classrooms has been a special part of the charism of Pastafarians. As Henderson said: "I don't have a problem with religion. What I have a problem with is religion posing as science."But Williams raises another serious question in a truly Pastafarian way. Speaking to Davy James of the South Brunswick Patch, he explains:

"What we deem as different or embarrassing is different from what another individual deems as different or embarrassing, in terms of religious practices,....Had it been a turban or a head scarf, or something from a mainstream religion, then it would've been fine. I guess since they hadn't heard of the religion, that's why they opposed it. But that's not really acceptable to me. They're not in a position to discriminate against religions that are mainstream, or not mainstream, just because they may not have heard about it."

So, religious liberty--if it applies to one, it applies to all. In fact, in 2011, an Austrian Pastafarian successfully sued for the right to wear a colander for his driver license photo.Fortunately, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster does not have teachings regarding contraception or mandated coverage for such. For what it's worth, they do believe that pirates were the original Pastafarians, and that "global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s."

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The serious questions here are a) how do we define a "religion?" and b) who are "we" who do the defining? It sometimes seems that the ultimate defining authority is the IRS, when it is called on either to grant or to withhold tax exemption (I suppose the Pastafarians haven't quite got to that point yet, but they may well). I would not allow the guy to wear a colander for fear that in a society largely run by lawyers, it might prove to be evidence that the P-farians are worthy of such tax exemption.Nor would I want to eat spaghetti drained through this particular colander, unless I were convinced that the guy had just washed his hair, and said hair had been declared, by a disinterested and non-partisan expert authority, to be free of foreign objects, particularly clams, or meat and cheese.

This reminded me of a past interview with Richard Dawkins titled The Flying Spaghetti Monster. He said ..."Well, yes. I think there's something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that's dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you're taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die -- anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed -- that clearly is evil. And people don't have to justify it because it's their faith. They don't have to say, "Well, here's a very good reason for this." All they need to say is, "That's what my faith says." And we're all expected to back off and respect that. Whether or not we're actually faithful ourselves, we've been brought up to respect faith and to regard it as something that should not be challenged. And that can have extremely evil consequences. The consequences it's had historically -- the Crusades, the Inquisition, right up to the present time where you have suicide bombers and people flying planes into skyscrapers in New York -- all in the name of faith."I think in a lot of ways, he's right.

Quite the caricature of religious faith. As for the Pastafarians, I think that science simply cannot answer every question and yes, at the risk of being maligned, evolution does have some theoretical and scientific problems once you start drilling down. I am not saying that intelligent design is the answer to those. I am saying that all so called scientific "facts" can and should be subject to rational critique. As for people flying airplanes into skyscrapers in New York, this was not done solely in the name of faith, but in the name of attacking the United States for its policies. bin Laden in an interview stated:

"Your situation with Muslims in Palestine is shameful--if there is any shame left in America. Houses were demolished over the heads of children. Also, by the testimony of relief workers in Iraq, the American-led sanctions resulted in the death of more than one million Iraqi children. All of this is done in the name of American interests. We believe that the biggest thieves in the world and the terrorists are the Americans. The only way for us to fend off these assaults is to use similar means..."American history does not distinguish between civilians and military, not even women and children. They are the ones who used bombs against Nagasaki. Can these bombs distinguish between infants and military? America does not have a religion that will prevent it from destroying all people."

Britain and the United States have historically not been fair in their dealings with those whose lands they stole.Religious faith, in my view, can at least temper our violent impulses and help us to act in a more just manner. The older I get, the more I see, the less I am convinced of the "natural" goodness of humanity and the more I see the need for grace. Like any good, it can be distorted but religion is not the problem, we are. As the cartoon Pogo so aptly stated, we have me the enemy and he is us.

Re: Nicholas Clifford: "The serious questions here are a) how do we define a religion? and b) who are we who do the defining? It sometimes seems that the ultimate defining authority is the IRS, when it is called on either to grant or to withhold tax exemption..." Well, but suppose the religion doesn't need an IRS ruling. Can it still be a religion? Suppose, for example, the leader of the religion gets the money to pay its taxes from the mouth of a fish he catches and otherwise lives like the lilies of the field or a fox without a den. Can that religion be a religion in the United States? If it can, upon what basis? If it can't, can its religion come under attack from an administration we don't particularly care for? But if it can, doesn't religious liberty, as Lisa Fullam suggests, apply to it? So Pastafarians shouldn't have to pay for insurance to cover anything they don't want covered. Or?Thank you, Lisa. I'll be up all night with this one.

Sorry this is so long, but it's just a sketch of various arguments going back to the 19th century which still are extremely important today: the arguments among English speaking philosophers about "intelligent design" and "creationism" (which is not the same thing).Creationism is the *religious belief* that God created the world in the manner described in Genesis, in just 7 days. Creationists say that science is wrong. This, of course, upsets the Darwinists, who point to the ascent of man from brutes, a theory based on tons of empirical evidence. Then there is the theory of "intelligent design", which concerns not just biological science but also the apparent order of the cosmos taken as a whole. It is based on the argument of a 19th century Englishman who says that if there is cosmic order ther must be a Cosmic Orderer, God. Tnere are those who think that "intelligent design" is primarily a scientific argument, AND that the argument is valid. There are many, many more (mostly scientists) who think it is a pseudo-scientific argument without empirical evidence to back it up.Some say intelligent design is just warmed over creationism. Others say ID is not creationism at all because it does not rely on religious premises at all, unlike creationism. Some grant that ID is not creationism but say that it is still bad science, that the evidence does not justify the conclusion that there is a Cosmic Orderer.For some time there have been arguments going on among English-speaking philosophers as to whether or not the "argument from intelligent design" is the same argument offered by Thomas Aquinas, which is often called "the teleological argument". Some Thomists (and a few others, if I"m not mistaken) say that ID is *not* the same argument that Thomas himself puts forth. Intelligent design concerns the order and final cause of the universe taken as a whole, but that is not what Thomas' argument is about. His argument is about the final causes of all of the individuals in creation *taken by individually*. It is not about one big grand design.The philosophical plot thickened a great deal recently when Thomas Nagel, the highly respected American atheist philosopher, criticized the Darwinists in his newest book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly Wrong". Wikipedia sums up his position nicely: Nagel's position is that principles of an entirely different kind may account for the emergence of life, and in particular conscious life, and that those principles may be teleological, rather than materialist or mechanistic. He stresses that his argument is not a religious one (he is an atheist), and that it is not based on the theory of intelligent design (ID), though he also writes that ID proponents such as Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, and David Berlinski do not deserve the scorn with which their ideas have been met by the overwhelming majority of the scientific establishment.[3]The philosophers mentioned in that paragraph are members of the Discovery Institute which, if I'm not mistaken, is supported by some religiously conservative philanthropists. Many philosophers and scientists dismiss them out of hand because of it. However, the ID people do *not* include religious premises in their arguments, but they do combine both science and philosophy. (That is the crux of this whole matter, I think -- the relevance of philosophy.) I agree with Nagel. They have gotten a bad rap for no good philosophical reason. I recommend Edward Feser on this topic. (Unfortunately, he's a political conservative:-) He's a Thomist (and unfortunately a political conservative, but that's irrelevant here.) Try his little "Thomas Aquinas". It's the best simple explanation of Aquinas/Aristotle know of. Feser's blog has more of his extremely clear explanations about various topics, including ID and Thomas' argument, as well as a lot recently about Nagel. Check it out at: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/

My conclusion: There is no reason to teach creationism in the public schools. It is not science. There might be good reason to teach some of the intelligent design arguments -- those which combine scientific findings and non-religious philosophy. But that will happen only when the scientists truly open themselves to criticism. Not bloody likely to happen any time soon. But Nagel has forced a crack in their armor.

Ann O,You may remember the trial in Dover, PA, in 2005, when the local school board decided to include Intelligent Design in its high school science classes as an alternative explanation. A group of parents sued to prevent it, and the judge ruled in their favor, finding that ID was thinly disguised creationism, not science, and that some of the board members were not entirely honest about their motives. Several of the defense's expert witnesses withdrew without testifying, and Michael Behe was roughed up in cross-examination. The school board, which had been represented by the Thomas More Society and egged on by the Discovery Institute, declined to appeal the ruling. Most of them were voted out of office in the next election, if they had not already resigned. The new board agreed to pay the plaintiffs' legal costs, which amounted to more than one million dollars.Intelligent Design had its day in court and lost badly. It plays upon the fact that science has not answered every question about the natural world. And since that may never happen, the ID folks are sure to be back after enogh people have forgotten their last debacle.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District + many others

John Prior ==Since when is a court trial a better judge of the value of a philosophical-scientific position than the judgments of highly competent philosophers? You have a touching appreciation of the courts.

Ann O,I hope a judge may be thought competetent, until shown to be otherwise, to rule on the testimony presented in his courtroom. When they had their chance, the people who would force ID into public school science classes were shown to be incompetent themselves, and they pursued the matter no further. Maybe they were saving their best arguments for another day. A couple of them were lucky to avoid perjury charges.The idea that scientists are not open to criticism is strange. We have heard before about the monolithic scientific cabal ruthlessly suppressing the truth, but the notion hardly does credit to those who express it.As a practical matter, I think we do well to let courts decide these cases, with philosophers able to testify if either side calls them.

About the Dawkins quotation above: "I think theres something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence." Well, yes, in a sense, of course he's right. But surely one of the lessons of the twentieth century is that what might be even more evil than believing in something in the absence of evidence, is believing in something because of evidence as you read it. For instance: look at the links between popular Darwinism and its knock-offs, and racism. Science tells us, does it not, that Jews are inferior people? Wouldn't the world thus be a better place if they were eliminated? Science tells us that Africans, Indians and such, are inferior people, thus justifying the massacres of King Leopold's henchpeople in the Congo (just to mention one of numerous examples, and without even looking at what happened in the US). look at the links between Marx and Darwin, and science as it is seen or imagined. Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history, said Engels at Marx's funeral in 1883. And as religious believers seek to help along the work of the Lord and his law, secular believers seek to help along the work of science and its laws. The Nazis, Stalinists and Maoists did it, and, even putting aside the casualties of war, tens upon tens of innocent millions died as a result (most of them between about 1930 and 1960). look at the history of eugenics. Just as the horse or pigeon-breeder can improve the strains by selective breeding, so we in this country (and many others) for some decades sought to improve our native strains by controlling the breeding of lesser peoples. The horse and pigeon breeders seek animals that are faster and stronger; we seek people that are more like us, whoever "us" happens to denote (in the US usually "old stock" WASPs). Just as believers should study their history and come to terms with the reality that (for instance) Torquemada was a Christian, as were those who slaughtered the French Huguenots, or those who let the Irish famine happen, etc., so thinkers like Dawkins have to recognize the terrible crimes carried out by believers, in the name of science. It's not good enough to say that their science was "bad," or "wrong," or, as some do, that communism or naziism was a kind of "religion." That's begging the question, and it certainly won't bring back the victims of the Holocaust or the 36 million victims of Mao's great famine. Perhaps Dawkins addresses such questions -- I don't know.

John Prior --You are assuming that judges are competent to judge the issues in philosophy of nature concerning the Cosmic Orderer question. But unless a judge has some training (or is an autodidact) he or she is not competent to judge philosophical issues any more than a philosopher professor is competent to judge issues in law. True, judges must judge on the competence of expert witnesses, and some judges might do this well. But this assumes that the *experts* are truly competent in the matters at issue. That the experts are not always competent can be seen in the fact that expert witnesses often contradict each other. True, philosophers often contradict each other, but more often than not they do at least *understand* the opposing sides. The same thing cannot always be said of experts or judges when the issues are philosophical. And the same thing is probably true in cases involving other very specialized, abstract, and complex disciplines, e.g., a case involving, say, plagiarism in a textbook on quantum theory. Maybe the judge understands, maybe not.I only read about that case in the newspapers, so I don't know how accurate they were. (I might also note that we are assuming that the reporter(s) were also competent to understand the issue they were reporting on.) But I do think, having read a good deal of what Feser, a recognized expert on the other side, has to say about the issue, that the whole issue of cosmic design is extraordinarily complex and abstract, so not everyone's cup of tea. And he has convinced me that the opponents of ID often don't understand the ID people. From what I myself have read of some of the anti-ID people, they don't particularly *want* to understand their opponents, they just want to defeat them, and they dismiss them on the basis that they (the ID people) are religiously motivated, as if that were relevant. It isn't. I'll say it: the strong anti-intellectual bias in the American culture makes it all too easy for Americans to dismiss the relevance of hard philosophical thinking, especially when the philosophers criticize cherished viewpoints. (See people's reactions to Peter Singer's clear views on vegetarianism.) Sadly, I think it is true to say that for many Americans it is only when they are in the midst of a personal crisis (e.g., should we pull the plug on Mama? or, should I have an abortion?) that they see the relevance of tough philosophical considerations. For the most part in the U. S. philosophy is considered airy-fairy stuff of interest only to absent-minded professors and irrelevant to "the real world" and, therefore, irrelevant to a well-lived life.Too many of the anti-ID people have never studied the classical philosophies which assert the reality of spirit, and they dismiss them because many of the philosophers who affirm the reality of spirit are motivated by religion. But the motives of a philosopher are irrelevant to the soundness of his/her arguments. The anti-ID people don't seem to realize that. Pitiful.Enough of this rant. But they really are frustrating -- totally closed minds.

Nicholas C. --I think the most dangerous thing about typical American scientific educations is that the scientists are not required to study ethics (and its more general philosophical underpinnings) so the scientists just don't think about the possible consequences of their inventions.My mother's best friend in college was a very brilliant physicist, and she was one of those who worked on the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge. My mother was horrified that her friend had done so, and asked her how she could be part of such a project. Her friend replied that though the physicists knew the tremendous power of the bomb they just didn't think about all its consequences in terms of its human destruction. After it was dropped, she said, they too were horrified at the results. In other words, scientists when obsessed with their work can be just as blind as the rest of us.This is another important reason to maintain strong *old-fashioned* curricula in the Humanities, with good portions of philosophy, including ethics, plus a lot of literature and history for learning how people act in the real world. (Yes, that, I think, is the greatest benefit of great fiction -- it teaches us about human nature in situ.) The Humanities are anything but luxury.

Ann O,I don't think a general discussion of the openmindedness and varying abilities of philosophers and scientists, or judges for that matter, will be helpful here. I originally commented on the Kitzmiller trial in Dover, PA. I urge you to read the transcript, which is available online. Then if you still feel that the ID folks were treated unjustly, we probably have an irreconcilable difference and can leave it at that.

Pardon the self-promotion, but I went to bat for Unintelligent Design a few years back: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Debate-Over-Intelligent-Design-Of-....

Thanks for that link, Lisa Fullam. Good article, which could have been expanded with thousands of additional examples of nature working with the materials on hand from moment to moment. It's odd that the "fallen world" people don't seem to like the "fallen arches" argument much.Any old god, I suppose, might have created a static Tinker Toy world: here is an oak tree; here is a lizard; here is a butterfly. But it would take a divine genius to produce a world that takes on its own becoming, constantly remaking itself to draw jerrybuilt order and fragile beauty out of yesterday's superseded wonders.If God desires to be known by faith and love, and not by argument, ours is exactly the sort of world he would have made. Which of course is only an argument and not proof.

As is so very often the case, wonderful stuff here. If the teaching of ID is done to reinforce the obvious importance of questioning, then I agree. But, I believe ID's most ardent supporters are convinced they already have the answer and that its proof is largely scientific in nature. Science, on the other hand, does not claim the ability to prove or disprove either the existence or the nature of God. Science only claims to seek the most reliable tools to find an answer to a question, any question.As for science being unappreciative of the humanities, I suggest giving Roger S. Jones writings on the importance of physics to an appreciation of humanity and vice versa.It seems to me God is not a collection of attributes we can define in order to prove a point. God is quite simply everything, whether a thing we know or do not know. Other than being God, how does one get to a point one can "know" everything?On a more humorous note, doesn't Russell's celestial teapot put the question and the answer to the existence of God quite well? If nothing else, is it not wonderful that someone can express such a profound issue in such a delightful and useful manner as he often did?

Lisa, thank you for your "self-promotion." If I were the IRS, you would have a tax exemption.

John P. --I didn't say that the trial was unjust. I said that, from what I've read, it looks like the anti-ID people don't know the relevant philosophical questions. I looked at the transcript, but it's 21 days long.No, we can't go into the issues here. Much too complex. Some of the arguments have been going on for centuries. Sigh.

Ann O,You're quite right that reading the whole trial transcript would be an onerous task. I apologize for suggesting it, especially since I have not read it all myself. But in 2007, NOVA produced a two-hour program on the trial and the circumstances surrounding it that I think is both fair and engaging. It's athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/intelligent-design-trial.htmlThe Intelligent Design proponents had a chance in Dover to present their case to the nation in the highest-profile setting they may ever have. In what is, I concede, almost certainly more difficult than writing a book or a journal article, they had to face direct challenges and answer hard questions from well-prepared lawyers on the other side.The result was not merely a loss in court but, it seems to me, an embarrassment. But others may (and do) see it differently.

I would not think PBS/Nova could be neutral on such a topic.

"There might be good reason to teach some of the intelligent design arguments those which combine scientific findings and non-religious philosophy. But that will happen only when the scientists truly open themselves to criticism. Not bloody likely to happen any time soon."Scientists are as open as anyone else to criticism, but in our modern specialized culture, like others, they tend to receive criticism more easily from peers. Do bishops accept criticism from SNAP? Car mechanics from bicycle geeks? Maybe there's something to be learned ... But the culture of science is heavily devoted to careful peer review and careful procedures. After a grind from undergrad intro courses to university tenure, there's not much patience for outliers."I think the most dangerous thing about typical American scientific educations is that the scientists are not required to study ethics ..."True of many professions. Clergy untrained in music or art history. Music directors untrained in liturgy. I agree that a more broad education would be useful for any number of professionals. ID belongs in a philosophy class. Creationism in religion. Truth in advertising.

"But the culture of science is heavily devoted to careful peer review and careful procedures."Todd --Well, that's the theory, anyway. The American scientific culture has come under some pretty heavy guns recently, both as to the honesty of some scientists and as to the uncritical thinking of many of them. See the article in The New Yorker of 12-24-13, "Six Ways to Clean Up Science". It begins:"A lot of scientists have been busted recently for making up data and fudging statistics. One case involves a Harvard professor who I once knew and worked with; another a Dutch social psychologist who made up results by the bushel. Medicine, too, has seen a rash of scientific foul play; perhaps most notably, the dubious idea that vaccines could cause autism appears to have been a hoax perpetrated by a scientific cheat. A blog called RetractionWatch publishes depressing notices, almost daily. One recent post mentioned that a peer-review site had been hacked; others detail misconduct in dentistry, cancer research, and neuroscience. And thats just in the last week."http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/cleaning-up-scien... to critical thinking, consider the article in Slate about the misleading use mice in much biological experimentation. Some doctors, including a professor at Johns-Hopkins with more than 500 research papers under his belt, concluded that lab mice are bad subjects for experimentation in human medicine. "His implication was clear: The basic tool of biomedicine [i.e., the mouse}and its workhorse in the production of new drugs and other treatmentshad been transformed into a shoddy, industrial product. Researchers in the United States and abroad were drawing the bulk of their conclusions about the nature of human diseaseand about Nature itselffrom an organism that's as divorced from its natural state as feedlot cattle or oven-stuffer chickens.. . ."This is important for scientists," says Mattson, "but they don't think about it at all."The article goes into use of mice in other areas, e.g., cancer, pain relief, and TB. Some doctors in those fields say other animals, including one particular kind of rat, would be yield surer results, but they are largely ignored. The article considers other alternatives. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_mouse_trap/2011/11/...

Science is a human enterprise, and scientists are human, so all of the failings of humanity are likely to be represented among them. But they have systematic, though still humanly imperfect, ways of exposing and correcting error, and strong incentives to do so.I only wish that politicians and ecclesiastical leaders, as well as many others including me, were as open to criticism and self-correction.

John P.--I agree. My point, however, is that they too sometimes need criticism. They shouldn't be idolized anymore than the clergy should be.

As an eighth grade religion teacher I was able to work with the biology teacher to do the unit on Darwinism as a collaboration between the scientific and religious points of view. (Now that I am no longer with that school I can admit that the religious point of view as taught by me was heavy on concepts from philosophy and the humanities.) The students benefited from an honest discussion and we did our best to leave them with a firm understanding of the ideas of science, evidence, and reasonable doubt. One of the weaknesses that the Discovery Institute has not addressed sufficiently (as far as I know) is that because its views comfortably challenge some aspects of traditional Darwinism its work is used as a reference point and justification for people who do not understand (and do not want to understand) the philosophical underpinnings. The "Kitzmiller" group was made up largely of this brand of Creationist zealots, and they do not do well in arguing a rational point in court. John Prior is making the understandable mistake that the Dover school board members constituted appropriate representatives for what ID is really about. They did not. Neither do the people who claim to base their Adam-and-the-dinosaurs theme park on ID studies. I have my doubts about Intelligent Design theory but at least I am aware of the source of my skepticism: The ID scientists have slept with so many dogs that they are crawling with fleas.Apologies for some long sentences here. Too many semesters of classical Latin.

Judge Jones did not rule on the truth or falsity of Intelligent Design per se. He did not have to. The Supreme Court had already ruled in 1987 that Creationism was religious in nature and therefore that it violated the Establishment Clause to teach it in public schools. Solely on the basis of testimony in the case before him, he ruled that ID was carelessly relabeled Creationism and not science under any normal understanding of that word, and further that the most activist school board members were motivated by a desire to ease Creationism into the curriculum. The board had apparently not even heard of ID until the Thomas More Law Center told them about it.Clearly, the school board members were unqualified to defend ID. But the Discovery Institute claims to be a (or the) leading spokesman for it. The Institute lined up eight supposedly expert witnesses for the case and provided other support. Five of their experts withdrew without explanation, and the three who testified did quite poorly.Maybe ID could have been better served, but the case drew attention worldwide, and no better witnesses came forward to defend it. A judge has to go with what is before him.

"But that will happen only when the scientists truly open themselves to criticism."This same agrgument is repeatedly made by astrologers, homeopaths and fortune tellers the world over. They are all disprectfully rejected as legitimate sciences.Intelligent design is to science as psychic tarot reading is to psychology. No, psychology does not have, and does not pretend to have, all of the answers. That does not mean we have to listen to charlatans and accept tarot readings and "auras" as scientifically valid methods of treating mental illness. Biology also does not pretend to have all the answers but we clearly don't need to inject ID, a sham for creationism, to complete biology.What is is being disputed is the accuracy of biology. This is not a matter for philosphical input. Feser is not a biologist. Without a Ph.D in bilogy he is unquaified to opine on the strengths and weaknesses of biology. He is equally unqualified to opine on current trends in brain surgery, and the pros and cons of non-meltallic disc brakes. Those matters are for highly qualifed medical doctors and car mechancs, respectively.Biology has determined that all life on earth evolved naturally from an initial pool of ancestors billions of years ago and that humans and other primates alive today also descended from a group of common ancestors. There is overwheming uncotrovertable evidence supporting those conclusions. ID rejects both of these facts."Intelligent Design" is a manufactured replacement for creationism promoted by the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is funded in large part by Christian Reconstructionists who are waging a "culture war" against evolution. If you take a look at the views of ID proponents, they are all either youg earth creationists or old earth creationists. Both young earth creationists and old earth creationsits must reject vast swaths of solid science. Feser does not explain how this inevitable rejection of solid science can be philosophically sound. The judge at the Dover trial was asked to decide wheter ID is a sham for creationism. Judges decide "sham" questions on a daily basis. IRS tax dodges, "religiosu tax deductions" "gifts to relatives" "donations" to loan sharks and "charitable contributions" are all examples of sham transactions resolved by courts daily. The judge's expertise exceeds Feser's by a wide margin. As noted, the Dover trial transcript is 21 days long. The details of the science were explored and the scientific weaknesses of ID were repeatedly exposed during trial. The trial included testimony from philosophers. The ID philospoher was wretched. Of course, all of the science cannot be presented in a 21 day trial. What is interesting is that all purported scientific ID research essentailly stoped after teh Dover trial. Science advances by publishing research results "showing your work" to other scientists. This is a self-correcting feature (see "cold fusion") of science that is lacking in philosophy and religion.ID rejects common descent and common ancestry cornerstones of modern bilogy independently verified by a number of scientific fields, instead asserting, "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."So what certain features are we talking about? ID should be able to name about 10 such features. It has not. Evry feature that ID has suggested was "intelligently designed" has been shown to be capable of evolving though natural processes.ID has its own peer review journal. The link is here:http://www.iscid.org/pcid.phpNote the lack of any work after the Dover decision. Similarly, the IDEA student centers in universities are evaporating. The Biologic Institute, allegedly an ID research lab, is not a reserch lab but merely a website. ID is essentially an astroturf operation intended to teach creationism in public schools. As the judge determined, it's a sham.

"Too many semesters of classical Latin."Me hercule, I didn't think it was possible to have too many!

Dorothy C. ==Thanks for reminding us that creationism (which is not science at all) is not the same as ID theory. I'll just reiterate that there is there is more than one variety of the latter, e..g., some versions of Paley's 19th century "watchmaker" argument for a cosmic orderer, a contemporary one dependent on what is called "the anthropic principle", and Aquinas' "fifth way" which isn't the same as any of the others. What they have in common is appeals to final causality, but that doesn't make them the same argument.I have no position on any of the non-creationist arguments, though creationism is obviously not science or metaphysics or any combination thereof. But I do respect some of the ID people as competent philosophers. Whether or not they answer all the *scientific* objections of the scientists is another matter. I'm not a scientist and don't know. But I do know that some scientists are very unaware of the epistemological and metaphysical issues that philosophers raise with some of their claims. Yes, there can be ignorance on both sides. And I'll just remind everyone that even scientific insights that have been rejected as nonsense, sometimes return in a varied form. Take phrenology, which was originally psedo-science. Its basic insight -- that areas of the brain control various mental functions -- is now back as an integral part of neuroscience.

"John Prior is making the understandable mistake that the Dover school board members constituted appropriate representatives for what ID is really about."A pretty reasonable mistake considering that the Discovery Institute encouraged the lawsuit, assured the school board that it was legal to teach ID, rendered legal advice and offered its Fellows as trial experts on behalf of the school board. The lawsuit arose over the Discovery Institute-sponsored "Of Pandas and Peope" textbook with chapters written by various DI fellows, including Behe.William Dembski offered an expert declaration in support of the school board and Michael Behe testifed at trial as an ID expert on behalf of the school board. Both are Discovery Institute Fellows. In short, ID could not have put on a better case than it did at Dover. The declaraiton and testimony are both online. The most unintentionally humorous aspect of the trial was evidence that an earlier eddition of Pandas contrasted creationsism with evolution stating "creationists think this while evolutionists think that" numerous times throughout the book. A later edition of Pandas had substituted "creationists" with "intelligent design proponents" at all those multiple locations without any other text modifications except one "transitional fossil" where the word "Cdesign proponentsits" appeared. The substitution shows that the only difference between "creationist" and Intelligent design proponent" is a properly operated serach and replace key.http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/cdesign-proponentsists shows the actual text.

Footnote: Here are some quotations about their belief in God or non-belief thereof of some famous scientists. Interesting that Einstein, Planck and Schroedinger are among those who think God in some sense explains the cosmos. From Huffpost yesterday. (Huffpost sems to have gone into Lenten mode.)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-tegmark/angry-atheists_b_2716134.html?...

Well, of course. By the time Einstein, Planck, and Schroedinger were through with the cosmos, only God could explain it.

John P. ==Ha! Or maybe: Hey, you're right!

Catching up on my reading; found this tasty item. Spaghetti? Perhaps this is how proponents of string theory might envision deity... However, this type of savory satire is most often the recipe of uberrationalists who consider all spirituality unsavory. Particularly any description of an anthropomorphic male God. Yet the FSM is depicted with rather prominant meat b@lls. Sigh. Okay, I guess angel hair is out. But they could have honored the divine feminine and/or Gaia with a nice pasta primavera.

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About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).