In “Intelligent Design: Atheists to the Rescue” (First Things, Nov 29, 2011), Howard Kainz discusses the impact of two recent books by atheists, Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin got wrong (fed up with the Darwin tenure drag on biology) and Bradley Monton’s Seeking God in Science (suspicious of unhinged attacks on ID).
In these times, it feels amazing that a Christian publication would even notice actual events in this area: Intelligent atheists are jumping off the materialists’ ship to nowhere, in favor of a traditional universe in which doubt can legitimately exist. Most Christian publications are still handicapped with the ballast from a past when it looked like materialism was winning, and the best they can do is tread water while making nice. This welcome departure at First Things may not last. A new editorial director may soon announce that Fast Backward is the only way to go, because the advertisers understand fast backward very well – from long experience.
Here’s the problem: Why be an atheist if you live in a multiverse where everything is true somewhere. Atheism is true, and so is every kind of God or god. And your brain is famously shaped only for fitness, not for truth, so you never really had an authentic point to make. Many who love the intellectual life count such a prize not worthy the win – and look elsewhere for an interpretation of life that makes the world safe for atheism.
Meanwhile, resident First Things ID critic, Stephen Barr, responds to the news with complaints about, well, trivia:
I find this article distressing from a number of points of view.
David Klinghoffer perhaps explains it best at Evolution News & Views:
Right in the comments thread under the article, Barr criticized not only what Kainz said but the way he said it, nitpicking his prose for being “almost unintelligible in places” (it seemed clear enough to us). Professor Barr even assumed the role of copy editor, complaining that, in one sentence, Kainz should not have said “pointed out” but rather “argued” or “maintained.” It was a strange comment for Barr to leave. Colleagues and collaborators on a journal don’t normally throw fits at each other in public this way.
No. They don’t. There is a debt to the past to be paid here.
At one time, for a prominent scientist to claim that he believes in God – Francis Collins comes to mind – was an immense thing. It hardly mattered what else he believed in or didn’t. Barr is clearly from that age.
Today, many don’t even think about the issues that way. They see the looming (or towering) scandals in current consensus science and think: I may not know the right answer, but I know this isn’t it. For now, that’s a flag to rally under, especially when some would trace for us the limits of permissible dissent.