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Signs of Intelligence?

What the neo-Darwinists don't understand about theories of Intelligent Design.

12:00 AM, Jul 13, 2005 • By ISAAC CONSTANTINE
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(Of course, had Orr attempted to unpack the precise implications of John Paul's admission, he would have had to conclude one of two possibilities: the Pope was either claiming that Darwin's theory was "true" down to the last detail, which would suggest that God, or the "miraculous," has no agency at all in human development; or, on the other hand, the Pope might have been acknowledging the obvious, confirmed truths surrounding evolution's insights--man was not created in his present form all at once, the fossil record stretches back more than 10,000 years, etc.--while leaving room to disagree with radical atheistic interpretations of Darwin, or with Darwin himself on specifics. This is just one instance where Orr ignores nuance and distorts logic for polemical convenience.)

It may be the case that evolution's founding fathers had no deliberate pact with atheism, but if the two are still unrelated why does the Atheist Alliance ("the only national democratic atheist organization in the United States" according to their website) partake in the annual celebration of "Darwin Day"? Why does the National Secular Society of Great Britain feature the face of Charles Darwin as part of a series of "Hero's of Atheism" coffee mugs and why was the father of evolution voted the overwhelming favorite hero by the organizations members?

And those groups are just the riff-raff. Respected intellectuals often make the same association--people like Oxford's Richard Dawkins, for instance, the biologist and "great popularizer" of evolution whom Orr mentions. In an interview on beliefnet.com, Dawkins explains "why the world would be better off without religion." Dawkins compares religion to a computer virus; claims never to have met a "genuinely intelligent" person who was religious; and equates baptism with child abuse. The eminent British biologist envisions a "paradise on earth . . . ruled by enlightened rationality" and free of religion. Without religion, he reasons, there would be "a much better chance of no more war." "Obviously," he continues, "nothing like 9/11 [would happen], because that's clearly motivated by religion"; in the absence of religion "there would be less hatred, because a lot of the hatred in the world is sectarian hatred." If people lived "according to rationalism," says Dawkins, "There would be less waste of time. People would concentrate on really worthwhile things, instead of wasting time on religion, astrology, crystal-gazing, fortune-telling, things like that."

Dawkins, of course, would build his atheist "paradise" on the incorruptible moral foundations of science and art, as though Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong Il had never reigned. But that's the world according to one of Darwinism's central figures today. Is this the stuff of science and enlightened rationalism?

ORR'S IDEAS on evolution and religion, though less caustic and vulgar than Dawkins's, are no more scientific. His New Yorker essay is evasive enough that it's hard to pin down his atheism, but in the end he can't resist weighing in on divine influence. In dismissing the ideas of William A. Dembski, a mathematician and leading theorist of intelligent design, Orr argues the following:

Organisms aren't trying to match any "independently given pattern": evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn't trying to get anywhere . . . Despite all the loose talk about design and machines, organisms aren't striving to realize some engineer's blueprint; they're striving (if they can be said to strive at all) only to have more offspring than the next fellow.

All this coming from someone who in the same essay denies that Darwinism and atheism go hand in hand--whether or not they "should." And why should they? Well, according to Orr, evolutionary biology provides evidence that life evolved on its own with no purpose but survival. Specifically he points to the fact that species of fish and crustaceans found in dark caves often have degenerate eyes, or "eyes that begin to form only to be covered by skin" which he deems "crazy contraptions that no intelligent agent would design."