Conformity allowed, not intelligence

ID blogger and fellow BioLogos commentator Bilbo has linked to a blog by a chap calling himself Scootie Royale, defending the Ben Stein film Expelled. The Bilbo/Scootie link appears to have little to do with ID and everything to do with the fact that they are both 9/11 Truthers. This subject (which hardly registers with me at all) is the main subject of Scootie’s blog, and his interest in ID only seems to have developed as a side issue. Maybe he read Bilbo’s blog.

What interests me is that his in-depth review of the film comes from much the same place as my review of the reviews of Signature of the Cell. A little work on Google shows that, like me, Scootie is a West Country Brit with no experience of the whole science-religion thing in the USA. Like me he became interested in his subject because of the degree of venomous criticism poured out on it, which led him to suspect it couldn’t possibly be that bad. And like my reading of Meyer’s book, when he actually got round to viewing Expelled he realised the criticisms were wantonly ill-informed, not to say misleading. The blog is a good piece. You should read it. It’s good that there’s still some critical thinking going on among English students.

Yesterday I watched the film as well. I’d not intended to, because all the negative comment had made me fairly certain that it was just an assemblage of bad journalistic polemic, actually weakening the credibility of Intelligent Design. I found that it was indeed polemic, but justifiably and transparently so. Once more, having no baggage to carry about the Director, I find Ben Stein to be an independent thinker with whom I’d disagree on many issues, but who goes where he believes the evidence leads. Whether I’d have taken the documentary as deeply into the issue of the Holocaust I doubt. But then, I’m not Jewish, and rather less provoked by evolutionists’ transparently naive denials of Darwinism’s historic underpinning of the Eugenics Movement. So see the film, too.

My main observation is addressed to myself. By now I ought to be wise enough to assess people’s reactions in this debate through the filter of understanding their world-view commitments. And yet time and again I assume I’m being told facts when I’m being sold spin. It happened back in 1998, when on someone’s recommendation, I read Behe’s Black Box and though it made some important points. Then I saw a review in the Christian Medical Fellowship magazine, Double Helix, which denounced the book as anti-scientific and a sop to creationists. Here was an Evangelical reviewer, who’d likely kept more up to date on the science than I’d been able to, so I ate humble pie and downgraded my opinion of Behe accordingly.

Years later I am more familiar with the mindsets typically found amongst theistic evolutionists and ID persons, and have read a lot more of the science. And I’m firmly convinced that accusations of lying, malice, ignorance of science or theological standpoint on either side are pretty irrelevant. It all boils down to divergence of world-view. That polarisation is clearly seen between a Richard Dawkins and a Ken Ham, but rather muddied when Christian self-identity is shared by those who disagree.

Because I have a world-view myself, of which I am, necessarily, only indistinctly aware, it would be pernicious to attempt to pick apart the features distinguishing other people’s. But I can, at least, see the factors that have influenced mine. Brought up in a skeptical household, converted to “mainstream” British Evangelical Christianity as a teenager, by inclination artistic but trained in science and correspondingly suspicious of woolly thinking… My world-view is a unique, though socially and culturally constrained, amalgam of all those things and more. I naturally seek out those of like mind. Your own experience will be comparable.

Under those circumstances, it’s hard to see how one can ever get to the truth in controversial matters. You’re almost bound simply to vote for your world-view party. But one key factor is to be aware of, and to guard against, what is common to most world-views – the desire to conform to the consensus of those who share them.

Or as someone (me, actually) once said, “It is more blessed to be average than right.”

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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2 Responses to Conformity allowed, not intelligence

  1. Cal says:

    As an American who grew out of a Conservative, essentially faithless (nominal) household, coming to Christ flipped my world-view on its head. I had my eyes opened and I learned to search for Truth rather than propaganda that fits my world view. American imperial? This lynch pin rediscovered history for me (as an avid lover) as I now no longer was bound to a propaganda machine, and it took time for the Spirit of the Lord to lead me out of it.

    World-views can be quite frightful and we’re all still stuck in them but what the leading of Jesus does is make it boundary-less and the Truth shall always set us continually free. Whatever be right exactly in this debate on origins, the Truth shall set us free and we should always be responding to it rather than being a propagandist as Creationists and Evolitionists may be. I suppose the -ism is what makes one a party man. I can disown creationism and evolutionism, while believing in evolution and creation.

    Some ideas 🙂

  2. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Cal – somebody once said that the only acceptable “isms” for Christians are evangelism and baptism.

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