In discussing ID with what I hoped was a reasonable but misinformed person, I explained that ID was simply not science. The person dearly wanted to believe in ID because it would, eventually, lead to my salvation. He didn’t bother to ask about my religious beliefs, merely assuming I was a godless atheist in need of salvation. I may be in need of salvation but I am not atheist, sorry. Of course, he pointed out that Phillip Johnson had written a strong book completely demolishing evolution and David Berlinski and Jonathan Wells had recently completed the destruction of evolution. News to me. Amazing what a couple of non-biologists can do that thousands of biology Ph.D's simply overlooked, somehow.
He also told me in detail why evolution was wrong. Needless
to say his science was incorrect, since it was gleaned from the Isaac Newton of
Information. Now, to change people’s
minds, I usually try not to convince them they’re wrong and I usually try not
to convince them that they’ve been taken in by a scam. People feel “stupid”
when you do either of those things and are more resistant to seeing the point
you’re trying to make. This goes double if religion is involved.
Here’s my basic strategy. The vast majority of people who oppose evolution do so for religious reasons. It is a losing proposition to attack anybody’s religious beliefs if you want to change that person’s mind on evolution. (Yes, I am the master of stating the obvious, but sometimes it need to be said. I learned this as I was arguing my legal cases before judges. Sometimes you have to make your points both often and loud. It frequently doesn’t sink in the first several times, unfortunately)
So, I often explore why that person thinks evolution conflicts with the person’s religious beliefs. Usually, there is no conflict. (Sorry, I can’t help Yong Earth Creationists.) I can usually point to a long list of religious authorities and theologians from Augustine to the Pope that do not find any conflict between evolution and religion or theology in general and people seem to be very willing to talk about these issues as theological concepts not necessarily scientific ones. I keep some of those sources on the left rail and add to the collection as I find more. Often people are very surprised to learn how many theologians deal quite comfortably with evolution.
It suddenly is not the threat to religion that it appears to be. In my
experience, if you can get people to accept that battles over evolution are not surrogates for a war between godless
atheists on one side and religious people on the other you are halfway there. Ultimately, even
YEC’ers must concede that the large majority of their co-religionists do not hold
their views regarding science, so, even for YEC's, it is not fair to characterize the conflict
as one between religion and science. It’s between their interpretation of Genesis
and all others' interpretaiton. "All others" includes the vast majority of Jews, the vast majority of Christians, other religions and agnostic views as well.
Usually those people of good faith initially in favor of Intelligent Design will agree that there is a false dichotomy between science and theology. Once that is agreed upon then we can discuss whether asserting that Intelligent Design is not science is simply an appeal to authority as is often claimed. In my next post, I'll show how poorly understood the Appeal to Authority fallacy really is. Stay tuned.