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If Intelligent Design Is Based on Science, Why Are We Focusing on the United Methodist Church?

John G. West

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Take action now: Contact United Methodist officials and urge them to overturn their ban on Discovery Institute.

We have recently been highlighting the decision by officials at the United Methodist Church (UMC) to deny Discovery Institute an information table at the UMC’s upcoming General Conference.

Some readers might be wondering why the fuss. If intelligent design is based on science, why should we be concerned about what happens in the United Methodist Church? And why did we want to have an information table at their conference in the first place? Shouldn’t intelligent design proponents restrict themselves to making arguments just to scientists?

Discovery Institute regularly sponsors information tables at a wide array of venues, ranging from universities to community groups to churches. This is one of many ways we get our message out. We’ve never had an information table at a United Methodist event, and since the UMC was meeting in Portland, Oregon, just a few hours away from our offices, we decided we should try.

But why sponsor an information table at a church gathering at all?

Intelligent design is based squarely on the findings of science. But it also has larger implications for our understanding of life. Orthodox Darwinism claims that complex life is the result of an unguided process, creating the impression that “science” somehow substantiates atheism or at least agnosticism.

By contrast, intelligent design shows that complex life is the product of purposeful design, which seems to make science friendly to theism.

We think this harmony between science and faith is something members of the United Methodist Church (and other religious groups) would benefit from knowing about. After all, according to a survey by the Pew Forum, 39 percent of those currently unaffiliated with a religion who grew up as mainline Protestants now believe that “[m]odern science proves religion is superstition,” and 31 percent identify this belief as an “important reason” they became unaffiliated. If leaders of mainline churches like the UMC want to minister more effectively to their members, they really do need resources to show how science doesn’t conflict with belief in God.

Of course, Discovery Institute and its Fellows spend most of their time researching and communicating the growing scientific evidence for intelligent design. Think about books like Darwin’s Black Box, Privileged Planet, Signature in the Cell, and Darwin’s Doubt; or videos like Darwin’s Dilemma, Unlocking the Mystery of Life, Living Waters, and The Information Enigma. But there is nothing wrong with delving into some of the broader implications of the Darwin-versus-design debate, including the relationship between faith and science.

Indeed, pro-Darwin groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have sponsored outreach programs to faith communities. Some years back, the NCSE even developed Sunday School curricula on evolution. If it’s okay for them to address science and faith issues, why not for us?

As for why we have turned the spotlight on the United Methodist Church, the explanation is simple: We don’t like censorship. Like most independent-minded people, we take exception when those in power try to shut off the discussion before it starts, especially when they are using a double standard to do so.

We’re not willing to let others silence us without pushing back. What about you?

Image credit: © 18percentgrey / Dollar Photo Club.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.