Does Obama Support Intelligent Design?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The answer to this question is actually quite obvious-of course he doesn't. Obama has gone out of his way, when asked, to emphasize that he believes in Darwin's theory of evolution. Nevertheless, it's worth considering the particulars of his response, because it typifies the liberal/secular view of the relationship between faith and science. In short, Obama accepts the secular view of epistemology (the study of knowledge) which claims that science is the prime purveyor of knowledge, whereas religion belongs in the realm of personal "faith." Obama recently made this statement in the York Daily Record:
I'm a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there's a difference between science and faith. That doesn't make faith any less important than science. It just means they're two different things. And I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry.
Two points are worth commenting regarding this statement (although much more could be said). First, it's telling that Obama begins his statement by saying, "I am a Christian." This is almost exactly how John Kerry began his remarks in a 2004 presidential debate when asked about abortion. Kerry said, "I am a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy " Joe Biden made a similar remark when recently asked about abortion on Meet the Press.
Why do they begin their comments this way? The answer is simple: to try and get sympathy from religious people, as if religion actually influences their worldview. But read a few more sentences, and it's obvious that Obama's religious views are compartmentalized from what he really believes about the world. He is merely throwing a bone to religious people. This is why Obama says, "There's a difference between science and faith." He means that science-naturalistic science-provides public knowledge, yet religion is a private matter. Francis Schaeffer warned about this "two-story" mentality decades ago. This view of the relationship between science and faith is one of the reasons young people are so willing to compartmentalize their faith from how they actually live.
Second, Obama directly contradicts himself. In one instance, Obama says that religion is merely an act of "faith." Yet at the end of his statement he says that opposition to evolution does not hold up to scientific inquiry. Which is it? Is evolutionary-opposition merely a private matter of faith, or is it based upon empirical claims about the world? If such opposition is merely based upon faith, then Obama (and other secularists) cannot claim that such views have been disproved by science. Why not? Here's why: something can only be described as not holding up to scientific inquiry if it is in principle testable by science. Yet this makes the very point that Obama is trying to deny, namely, that resistance to evolution is based on scientific claims rather than mere "faith." Obama (and secularists) can't have it both ways. Either opposition to evolution is scientific or not. If it is scientific, then it may have a claim on the scientific curriculum. If it's not scientific, then they need to stop making the claim that it doesn't "hold up to scientific inquiry." This is kind of like the critic who says, "ID is not testable. Further, we have tested it and proven that it is false!"
Obama's view of religion and science is similar to the late Harvard paleontologist, Stephen J. Gould. He claimed that science and religion exist in "Non-overlapping Magesterium" (NOMA, for short). In other words, science deals with questions of how whereas religion deals with questions of why. Science answers objective questions, whereas religion answers subjective questions. Science deals with facts; religion deals with values. Religion and science never overlap. The problem with such a view, however, is that religion and science do in fact overlap at certain points. For example, the Bible has always claimed that the universe itself had a beginning (see Genesis 1:1). Science has recently accepted this view. The Bible also claims that Jesus really rose from the dead in history (see 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). In fact, Paul says that if the resurrection never happened, then Christianity is worthless. People may reject the resurrection, but it's inarguable that the resurrection is a real historical question.
The problem with Obama's view (and Gould's) is that it waters down the claims of religion. This is the inevitable consequence of secular thinking. As long as people can claim that intelligent design is merely religion, then it will be relegated to the realm of "faith." This is one of the reasons I recently wrote Understanding Intelligent Design (along with William Dembski), to shatter such myths and equip people to think critically about such important issues.
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