Imagine you live in Dallas, Texas, where it is generally assumed that one is Christian and that one attends church on Sunday, and Wednesday (so much so that school activities are not scheduled Wednesdays, because everyone is expected to be at church). Imagine that you teach science at a major Christian-affiliated institution in Dallas.
Now imagine that your institution is the site of a major conference extolling the virtues of superstition, specifically against a scientific theory that is the foundation and main supports for much of your work. Do you hunker down and hope no one notices, or do you speak up for science?
20 professors at Southern Methodist University (SMU) signed an article on the opposite-editorial page of the Dallas Morning News, yesterday, calling out intelligent design and its advocates. (I mentioned it in this post, here.) They will most likely take a stand that there is no reason to “debate” intelligent design advocates, since the debate venue is stacked, the debate audience is stacked, and that intelligent design has not paid its dues to be admitted to the college of the sciences.
But I wish they would take a further stand: I wish the Christians among them would call on the advocates of intelligent design to repent, to stop asking people to turn away from science, to stop spreading false stories about science, to stop making false claims. Our nation, the U.S., is held together by a collection of rights protected by a written constitution which includes a defense of any resident’s right to believe in the supernatural, but also includes a ban on the government’s or anyone else’s insisting that others believe that way. In short, our secular, non-theocratic government is what protects the scientists in their views, as if the truth were not enough.
Ironically, however, it is not the scientists who should need that protection. It is the advocates of intelligent design who argue a position that, in my view, conflicts with the teachings of the Methodist Church, with which SMU is affiliated, as stated here:
The universe, known and unknown, is the creation of God and is due the respect we are called to give the earth.
Science and Technology
We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world, although we preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues. We recognize technology as a legitimate use of God’s natural world when such use enhances human life and enables all of God’s children to develop their God-given creative potential without violating our ethical convictions about the relationship of humanity to the natural world.
In acknowledging the important roles of science and technology, however, we also believe that theological understandings of human experience are crucial to a full understanding of the place of humanity in the universe. Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities and seek the kind of participation that will enable humanity to sustain life on earth and, by God’s grace, increase the quality of our common lives together.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House.
Creationism, or any belief contrary to evolution, is not part of the Methodist faith. That critics of evolution are allowed to gather on the campus of SMU is evidence of the tolerance advocated by Methodism, and the respect for a freedom of speech unprotected by the Constitution, on the part of the officials of SMU. It is not the scientists who come heretic to the meeting. Our strong, traditional views against theocracy allow even foolish, non-rational views to be heard.
Blogging Against Theocracy: This is one of several dozen blog postings across the web defending religious freedom against theocracy, over Easter weekend. I picked the logo of the Statue of Liberty, with her torch of freedom replaced by a cross, because it symbolizes to me that dangerous tendency of some, often well-intentioned Christians to argue that the torches of liberty, especially education and free information, should be bent towards religious indoctrination. There is no more powerful image that Liberty putting out and putting down the torch of liberty, and taking up a cross upon which people and ideas were to be put to death. Thanks to Pharyngula and P.Z. Myers for the heads up.