by Denyse O'Leary
Because my prediction that the controversy would get really hot by mid-decade turned out to be correct, after By Design or by Chance? was published, a number of key events occurred that I did not get a chance to record in the book.
In spring 2005, I started a blog called the Post-Darwinist, simply to put up news in the ID controversy, which I will use to update By Design or by Chance? in 2008. Meanwhile, about 150 to 200 people a day use the blog as a searchable archive of ID news. (The search box is at the top left.)
It became obvious that the Internet and the blogosphere are having a tremendous impact on shaping many issues, including the ID controversy. What the blogosphere does best is make it very difficult to keep people from finding things out. Anyone can disseminate an alternative view at practically no cost bar one's time. In the past, the sheer difficulty of acquiring information was often a barrier; today, it isn't.
Now, that means a great deal of twaddle and crankery, to be sure, but it also means access to much expertise from people who were not asked for an opinion by the legacy mainstream media. Consider, for example, pajamagate and photogate, to see what a difference that makes. These experts could easily detect the frauds out there, but before the blogosphere, you could not have been in contact with them.
Today, a thoughtful person who is interested in the ID controversy can be as almost well informed about it as a journalist who covers it as a regular beat. (Almost as well informed? Yes, because I won't tell you rumors I have heard, just news I can verify and preferably link to. Sometimes the rumors pan out, but I try not to bother people with them until they do.)
Here are three controversies I covered at the Post-Darwinist where all parties were guilty of the same offence: accumulating evidence against materialism. The Privileged Planet film, fossil expert Rick Sternberg, and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez all found themselves under the gun for that reason.
And, as I always say at this point, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ID controversy.
Also, in July 2005 a huge controversy ensued when Cardinal Schoenborn said in The New York Times that
Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.
– Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn (New York Times, July 2005)
As I have suggested above, this statement is actually best understood as the Vatican attempting to make its true position clear. But of course so many people have such an interest in muddying the question that you will seldom hear anyone other than Schoenborn express the matter so clearly.
For example, some religion writers have recently warned that the Pope is about to embrace ID theory (and ain't that awful?). Well, dear me, ID theory - meaning Bill Dembski's specified complexity hypothesis or Michael Behe's irreducible complexity hypothesis - just is not something that the Catholic Church would even contemplate supporting in particular, as opposed to the idea of design in general. After two thousand years, the Catholic Church has way bigger fish to fry. It looks as though the Church is going after Darwinism in general, and the ID guys can sort themselves out as they wish.
Now mark what that means. It means that the Church's failure to embrace a specific ID theory proves nothing. But you see how a clever journalist can get a big headline either way, right? And it's all just a misrepresentation, really.
Bluntly, there is no possible way that the Catholic Church can accept Darwinism, but that does not commit it to any competing origins theory. You'd think a point as simple as that would be easy to grasp, but that would be leaving out various parties' obvious emotional involvement in the question.
Go to Part Five.
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).
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