I am just about through all 170 of the exams that I had to grade at the close of this semester and am looking forward to more time to spend on some writing projects and preparation for the fall semester. I am writing a piece on the compatibility of notions of substantive neutrality and nonendorsement with the law's treatment of facially secular government speech that impinges in some way upon the audience's religious perspectives and an essay on the First Amendment issues raised by the aggressive use of the judicial canons and recusal standards in judicial elections.
But I also have to rework my Law & Theology seminar. One of the subjects that I treated last time was competing legal and theological reconciliations of the supposed conflict between religion and science. One way to go at this is the current controversy over Intelligent Design and, on that topic, I recently read an interesting review by Joseph Bessette in the wonderful Claremont Review of Books.
One of the things that intrigues me about the ID controversy is the tendency of both sides to treat it as something that it is not. If there is something to ID, it does not prove the God of Scripture. It may be consistent with that God but then, so is neo-Darwinian evolution. It certainly makes it likelier that such a God exists, but She may not look much like the God we apprehend through faith. The prominent atheist Anthony Flew who has, on scientific grounds, come to believe in some type of God does not, for example, believe in an afterlife.
Indeed, according to Bessette, prominent ID theorist Michael Behe - who argues that random mutation and natural selection, although it occurs, has insufficient explanatory power to account for the complexity of life - certainly believes in a superintending intelligence (God). But he prefers to argue that the element that is missing from the neo-Darwinian model, i.e., the extra something that must exist to arrive at the complexity that we see, is not necessarily the tinkering in history of this God. He suggests that "intelligent design is quite compatible with the view that the universe operates by unbroken natural law, with the design of life perhaps packed into its initial set-up."
If this is accurate (I have Behe's latest book but haven't gotten to it yet), then Behe does little more that critique the neo-Darwinian synthesis. He says that it's true (at least in it more modest and documented claims) but it is insufficient to explain the development of life. To use the (somewhat incomplete) example that many of us heard in high school biology, it may be that there is no number of chimpanzees banging on a typewriter that will produce Hamlet.
I can't say whether this is true or not, but its not really religion.
For the same reason, I am not moved by the charge from the other side that ID is some form of "creation science." Maybe some of it is, but there seems to be much more that is not. There is, I suppose, a category question here. Bessette also reviews recent books by astronomist Owen Gingerich and biologist Francis Collins (again I bought it, but have not yet read it) who seem to believe that science rather strongly points to design, but are adamantly opposed to calling that inference itself "science." (Collins also criticizes the notion of irreducible complexity which is part, but not all of, Behe's case.) Presumably, Collins and Gingerich would argue that atheist evangelicals like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker also transcend the boundaries of science.
My own view has always been that inferring some design or other organizing is missing from the neo-Darwinian evolution is almost certainly science. One is arguing - from scientific evidence - that the posited mechanism for the origin and evolution of life is inadequate. At least at this point, further speculation about what that something is may be what belongs in the realm of philosophy or religion.