Monday, November 21, 2005

To Hell With Proof

I’ve been thinking a lot about God lately.

This has been quite a change for me, because for quite some time (some would say too long), I hadn’t been thinking of Him much at all. A lot of folks would say that none of us do.

Anyway, due to some events that have turned my life somewhat upside down, the urge suddenly came upon me to think quite a bit about Him, and I have to say it has been a watershed event.

Before these events, I think that the most directly I thought of God was in following the ongoing debate about intelligent design. This issue has always appeared to me to be smack at the crossroads of theology and science (the two surely do intersect, no?), and I’ve always been a bit frustrated that the die-hard scientists who hold a white-knuckle grip on evolution don’t loosen up a bit and appreciate what it is that the intelligent design theorists are trying to do (I mean the genuine theorists, not those with the political agenda) – that is, in my humble perception, to add why (not necessarily Who) to the study of how.

And so I was particularly intrigued when I learned last week that the Vatican’s chief astronomer averred that intelligent design was not science and does not belong in the science classroom.

Vatican’s chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."
In a June article in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet, Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

This is the notion that has occurred to me time and again as I witness the monotonous back and forth of the “yes it is, no it isn’t” argument. As the saying goes, what’s in a definition?

It seems to me quite lovely that scientists in the ID community are engaged in this profound and fascinating quest for proof of the existence of God. Who could argue with that? Just because there is a lack of proof that God’s hand is evident, that does not render the ID proponent’s argument sophistry – it just makes it profoundly difficult to prove.

It seems to me that the elusiveness of the proof of His existence is indeed one of the great geniuses of His creation. If His existence could be proved empirically, where would the reward be in praising Him? The miracle of His presence is in the very fact that in order to see “proof” of his existence, you must believe in Him. And the proof comes in forms and manners of exceptional intrinsic value, at exceptional times and places.

I place “proof” in quotation marks because, of course, the rules of science do not regard anecdotal evidence as proof until it can be replicated. Hence, the legion of witnessings to the miracles of God account for nothing in the proof department.

So I say to hell with proof (although perhaps not to all that demand it). I have as much proof as I need. I have seen, heard and felt enough during my fifty years of life to declare and avow that I believe in God, in His wisdom, His power and His love.

Henceforth, I place myself among the privileged and proud who call themselves “Anecdote.”

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