Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Evolution Schmevoltion

An article in Sunday’s New York Times talks about a new book by the Dali Lama in which he embraces science. To see a major religious leader take such a position is inspiring. After all, too many religious leaders disparage science. But despite his openness, we shouldn’t get too carried away.

But when it comes to questions about life and its origins, this would-be man of science begins to waver. Though he professes to accept evolutionary theory, he recoils at one of its most basic tenets: that the mutations that provide the raw material for natural selection occur at random. Look deeply enough, he suggests, and the randomness will turn out to be complexity in disguise - "hidden causality," the Buddha's smile.

This sounds familiar (and the NY Times article suggests this also) to arguments for intelligent design. The Daily Show had a week long segment last week called Evolution Schmevolution which basically mocked those who refuse to believe in evolution. Although I didn’t catch the whole segment, one aspect was interesting: Jon Stewart convened a panel of experts to defend evolution, intelligent design, and creationism. Although the creationism expert came off silly, the intelligent design expert wasn’t as scary as I expected. He didn’t deny the merits of evolution. Instead he merely said that there are aspects of the world around us that suggest an intelligent creator. And more than that, he was willing to work within the scientific framework to investigate or prove this.

While I have no problem with the Dali Lama writing a book on science and religion, nor do I have a problem if religious experts want to investigate God’s hand in nature, I have to admit I don’t see the point. Science is about exploring the world around us and trying to understand nature’s law through intense research. Religion on the other hand is about faith that there is something more out there – a belief in something that cannot be proven but only felt. Many people both learn about nature’s laws and also have faith in a God. But why so many feel the need to actually mix the two baffles me. Trying to use science to prove the existence of a higher being – or conversely trying to use your religion to disprove science – ruins both science and religion. But maybe there is a little of doubting Thomas in all of us that wants a little more proof that there is something more out there. But the moral of Thomas' story is that we shouldn't need proof - we should have faith.