Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Uncommon Descent and Common Decency

I have been deeply in discussion with the ID theorists on Uncommon Descent. See here, here, here, and here. I have endeavored to keep things as cordial and decent as possible, although a commentator who calls himself KairosFocus on the last link proved to be a bit touchy at first. He has done a lot of work on thermodynamics issues and has some worthy points to grapple with; a subject on which I breezed in confidently and presumed to pronounce. Moreover, given that like other ID theorists his name has been kicked around, this is understandable.

What I do find difficult to handle is the lack of detachment one finds on both sides of the creation/evolution debate, with emotions running high and insults filling the web pages. The reasons for this I think are clear: The atheists have strongly identified themselves with evolution because uncomfortable and tricky questions about the primary ontology of the cosmos (which so easily lead on to God) can then be at least deferred if not cleared off the table altogether. The ID theists on the other hand, with their concept of the direct intervention of what they evasively call ‘intelligence’, are being both affectively non-committal and in-yer-face at the same to time (and of course everyone knows what they are really talking about). They have effectively dragged God off the philosophical back shelf into the foreground and spotlight of scientific polemic, thus challenging many atheists in their own preferred field: and they don’t like it! Sometimes the ID theorists look like chickens running around with targets on their backs! You’ve got to hand it to them; they are courageous!

I don’t particularly want to make enemies of reasonable, fair and intelligent proponents on either side of the debate, but I suppose that’s just too much to ask. Both sides are looking for someone to shoot at and if you have an intermediate position like mine you have to do some pretty nifty diplomatic footwork to miss the bullets from either side.

As a theist I don’t find myself loosing sleep or getting uptight about whatever side of the reasoned argument is prevailing. With no particular vested interest it makes me a pretty cool customer. I personally regard that as a good thing: emotions can cloud one’s judgment and self-awareness. And yet on the other hand, like fuel, it is emotion that keeps one flying high.

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