Thursday, August 25, 2005

Keating on tolerance


A man with two advanced degrees in evolutionary biology, Richard Sternberg
edits a tiny-circulation journal called the "Proceedings of the Biological
Society of Washington." It is partly under the auspices of the Smithsonian

In the journal Sternberg published a peer-reviewed article arguing in
favor of what is called the "intelligent design" theory, which holds that
Darwinism is unable to account for the development of complex biological
structures and that this defect points to the intervention of a designer.

According to "The Washington Post," "within hours of publication, senior
scientists at the Smithsonian Institution ... lashed out at Sternberg as a
shoddy scientist and a closet Bible thumper."

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel investigated the ensuing brouhaha and
concluded that "retaliation [against Sternberg] came in many forms ...
misinformation was disseminated through the Smithsonian Institution and to
outside sources."

What intrigues me more than the merits or demerits of the scientific and
philosophical arguments is the overheated reaction from Sternberg's former
colleagues. Some of them went so far as to make up stories about him, such
as claiming that he had studied for the Orthodox priesthood or was a
closet creationist who believed the Earth was no more than 10,000 years
old. In short, they underwent meltdown.

You don't see this kind of fevered reaction in theology. When a heterodox
Catholic comes out with a book denying the Real Presence or Mary's
virginity or the teaching against contraception, the response by the
orthodox side is measured: "Here is where you are wrong, and this is why
you should change your tune."

No defender of traditional Catholic teachings has felt the need to make up
stories about Richard McBrien or Matthew Fox or Rosemary Radford Ruether.
It has been enough to address their arguments.

Most Americans think science is cooly rational while religion is a thing
of the emotions. They expect scientists to work through disagreements
calmly, and they expect religious folk throw anathemas at one another.
Sometimes anathemas are thrown (see John MacArthur), and often scientists
disagree amicably.

But when it comes to a reassessment of a dogmatic principle in science,
such as Darwinism, anything goes. And one thing that goes out the window
is civility.

Until next time,


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?