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Clueless at the Clergy Letter Project

Michael Zimmerman of the pro-Darwin Clergy Letter Project revisits the old “Science and Religion: At War or Peace?” theme with an article at HuffPost asserting that peace is “breaking out” between the old combatants and anyway, rightly considered, there was never a war between Science and Religion in the first place. He then lays into Discovery Institute in a paragraph the likes of which — well, we’ve read its likes many, many times before. He allows that, of course, there remain pockets of resistance to enlightenment:

Yes, there are religious leaders who proclaim that their religious teachings dictate their scientific beliefs. Fundamentalists who adhere dogmatically to a specific interpretation of ancient texts and demand that those bizarre interpretations be taught in science classes fall into this category.

Who does he mean by this?

Fundamentalists like those at the Discovery Institute who promote a redefinition of science to include the supernatural…fall into this category. But these people and organizations, as loud and as well funded as they are, do not represent the vast majority of religious individuals. When we conflate these two dramatically different groups and assume they have the same motives and intellectual underpinnings, we’re making a huge mistake and missing an opportunity for enhanced understanding.

Now that is a passage of prose rich in grotesque errors and misconceptions. There’s nothing in intelligent design that redefines science — it merely asks that the definition not be reformulated to arbitrarily exclude precisely those explanations of natural phenomena that best fit the data.
For a gentleman who’s professionally committed to activism in the evolution debate, Zimmerman doesn’t seem to have followed the players very carefully at all. Folks at Discovery Institute “proclaim that their religious teachings dictate their scientific beliefs”? We are “fundamentalists who adhere dogmatically to a specific interpretation of ancient texts and demand that those bizarre interpretations be taught in science classes”?
Where? When? Who at DI has every “proclaimed” such a thing? I don’t work with “fundamentalists,” unless Zimmerman wants to use that term simply to designate people he doesn’t like. What “specific interpretation of ancient texts” are involved in observing, as intelligent design does, that nature bears sign of purpose and design? When did anyone at Discovery Institute ever “demand” that even that modest proposition be taught in any public-school classroom? Never. For all the links you need on this, go look at our post from a couple days ago responding to a similar grossly uninformed account from a journalist at New Scientist magazine.
What about Zimmerman’s suggestion that Darwin-doubting views including intelligent design “do not represent the vast majority of religious individuals”? In fact, according to Zogby polling, ID is the view held by the majority of individuals in America, religious or otherwise, period.
But this whole tedious “Science v. Religion” trope misses the point. It does so almost every time a Darwinist tries to address it. The real question of interest isn’t whether religion can live comfortably with science but whether religion can live comfortably with scientific ideas that are in error, fallacious not as religion but as science. On my own Wikipedia bio, a typical moron’s stew of truths and falsehoods, we have this sentence, citing somebody called Larry Yudelson: “Yudelson has responded, in a piece directed at Klinghoffer, that rabbinical Judaism has accepted evolutionary theory for more than a century, and that Judaism has never rejected science.”
What about German racist evolutionary-eugenic “science,” the prestige view in that country hardly more than seventy years ago and that helped inspire the destruction of six million Jews? It was considered “science” at the time. Obviously, whether we’re talking about Judaism or any other faith, to say that a religion embraces “science” must be followed by the question of whether members of the faith seek to distinguish true from false science, or do they simply go along with whatever their culture deems “scientific”? If the latter, it’s not a very smart religion, is it.
You really have to wonder whether folks like Michael Zimmerman give any thought at all to what they write. Among the items of evidence he offers for his thesis, there’s this:

The US National Academy of Sciences, probably the most prestigious scientific honorary organization in the world, published a book in 2008 entitled “Science, Evolution, and Creationism.” The book couldn’t have been any clearer about the conflict between religion and science: “Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.”

But the same organization, the National Academy of Sciences, has a membership composed almost exclusively of atheists and agnostics (65.3% and 29.1% respectively, for a total of 94.4%, as John West noted in Darwin Day in America; the figure is as of 1998). Never mind what the scientists at NAS say in official proclamations intended to sooth the gullible. Their own stated views regarding their beliefs tell you all you need to know about how comfortably current scientific orthodoxy, or certain key tenets of it, can sit alongside traditional faith.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



Clergy Letter ProjectDarwinDiscovery InstituteGod and EvolutionHardcore Christianityintelligent designJay RichardsMichael Zimmerman