Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revival meeting

In AlterNet's Monkey Trial or Kangaroo Court? this passage really struck me:
The language of the testimony was largely academic, but the tone was at times reminiscent of an old-time revival meeting. Conversion experiences were the rule.

This was how witness James Barham, "independent scholar" and Ph.D. candidate at Notre Dame, introduced his testimony: "I was a convinced atheist Darwinist for 20 years. Slowly, it dawned on me that my interest in the spiritual side of humanity could not be reconciled with my study of science."

Jill Gonzales-Bravo: "At Kansas State University I learned quickly that anyone who believed differently [from evolution through natural selection] was not a true intellectual. I became part of the liberal movement and went into the Peace Corps. But I had children and my worldview changed." She came to see that "evolution takes from students the belief that they are here for a purpose."

John Sanford: "Most of my career I was an atheistic evolutionist. Then I became a theistic evolutionist and finally a biblical Christian. My belief in evolution had been based solely on authority. To the atheist, there is no alternative hypothesis."

John Calvert talks about his spiritual searching too, a search that took him from atheism to his unusual form of Christianity via Rand's Objectivism. I expect that Bill Harris had a similar experience, though I can't remember where I saw that. Salvador Cordoba, in a fawning profile in Nature, says that he turned to ID because he needed scientific certainty that some missionary friends were not endangering themselves for nothing.

This isn't about science, it's about justifying the works of God to Man. As such, it belongs in the science class no more than Milton belongs in a science course, or as a history textbook.

This may have no legal bearing, but it would be sociologically fascinating to trace these conversion experiences. I'd bet that if you gave prominent ID supporters truth serum, they'd all describe some similar event. Some moment when their faith in the world was challenged, and ID gave them a coherent worldview.

I'd also bet that no scientist you interviewed could describe any single event which made them scientists. It's not a worldview in the same way.

IDC is a way of turning science into something new. It's an attempt at changing what science means. If it succeeds, science will be less like science and more like religion. Is that good?