Andy Smarick turns-in an interesting essay on Intelligent Design. Surprise ending! Makes some good points and I, like many others, have probably been a little too dismissive of the ID crowd.
But while he makes some provocative points, where I think Smarick slips is that (a) I don’t think the IDers are ultimately seeking to have ID seriously taught through or examined with the scientific method. Doing so creates a perpetual collision between method and faith that continually brings one back to the same impasse. They know that, and Smarick notes that some of the claims wither under scientific scrutiny now yet that’s done little to tamp down the enthusiasm. And, once you peel those away I have trouble seeing the there there anyway. I can understand the IDers desire to get their views on the agenda but they don’t have the evidence to pull it off under the rules of the game today so they’re really seeking to change them (b) Even Smarick then likens ID to caulk for holes in the scientific web of evidence about this issue. But that’s not how the scientific method works. Generating questions is fine, generating answers based on faith is not. (c) There is a real difference between interpretation in literature and the arts (even where distinct methods of interpretation are involved) and science so I don’t think Smarick’s analogy holds (d) Schools can, and I think should, teach about religion but from a comparative point-of-view. Smarick’s exactly right that you can’t understand Western history without understanding the role of religion but that can be taught in a third-person way in public schools. That’s not what most ID’ers are proposing, however. And finally (e) I think we cheapen rather than enhance faith when we try to shoehorn it into secular settings like this anyway.
It’s good that he put the issue out there though because how we discuss these controversial and loaded issues is often as important as the issues themselves.