30 January 2008

The real danger in anti-Darwinism is...

Here at Calvin we used to have a super-cool club called SNUH, which sought to discuss and enjoy The Simpsons. I was a guest speaker there twice, but their biggest catch by far was Prof. Tony Campolo, who came to Calvin three years ago, specifically in response to an invitation from the wacky SNUH. I generally like Tony Campolo, mostly because he's good at uncoupling evangelical Christian faith (yay) from American evangelical politics (ick).

But Campolo really stepped in it a week and a half ago, when he put his name on a screed in the Philadelphia Inquirer called "The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism." It's a weird little rant, riddled with red herrings. For example, referring to those (like me) who oppose the teaching of "the intelligent design theory of creation" in public schools, Campolo writes:

Arguing for what they believe is a nonprejudicial science, they contend that children in public schools should be taught Darwin's explanation of how the human race evolved, which they claim is value-free and depends solely on scientific evidence.
Huh? "Value-free?" Who says that? It's a pretty simplistic and unsophisticated view, and while I'm sure quote miners can dig up examples of commentators who say stuff like that, I'm very suspicious of Campolo here. It's not just that he's wrong; his claims about Darwin's racism – and Darwin's alleged influence on (of course) the Nazis – are very nicely dispatched in a piece by Joshua Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas. Rosenau shows just how wrong Campolo is on the facts, and on the moral implications of common descent. (And readers of the Inquirer did some good work, too.)

But there's something else I don't like about the piece. It seems to be crafted as an argument in a case for "the intelligent design theory of creation." Campolo chides young-earth literalists, but links ID to the "suggestion" that "the evolutionary development of life was not the result of natural selection, as Charles Darwin suggested, but was somehow given purposeful direction and, by implication, was guided by God." That's a pretty soft view of ID, and though Campolo has expressed reservations about the ID program elsewhere, it looks to me like he's bought some of its most intellectually damaging claims.

Anyway, check out the Campolo piece, and don't miss Rosenau's excellent work at Thoughts from Kansas. He cites another hero of mine, Mark Noll. Superb.

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