There’s a Monk in the Courtroom
The 14th Incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion and Intelligent Design
October 19, 2005
Parents in Dover, Pennsylvania, have sued to block the teaching of intelligent design ordered by the school board. They claim that intelligent design “effectively promotes the Bible’s view of creation.” For them, what’s happening there in Dover and elsewhere is merely an attempt to get “Christian creationism” in through the back door.
Tenzin Gyatso would probably be surprised to learn that he’s promoting “Christian creationism.” It’s true that his new book criticizes what he calls “radical scientific materialism.” And, like Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley professor, he doesn’t hesitate to point out that the materialistic worldview is every bit as metaphysical as a theistic one.
Still, it’s absurd to label Gyatso’s work a stalking horse for “Christian creationism.” After all, if you call him by his proper title, he is the 14th Dalai Lama.
In his new book, The Universe in a Single Atom, the Dalai Lama warns readers about the consequences of seeing people as “the products of pure chance in the random combination of genes.” This materialistic account is “an invitation to nihilism and spiritual poverty.” Correct.
He writes that “the view that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its various particles is . . . as much a metaphysical position as the view that an organizing intelligence created and controls reality.” What’s more, he insists that both “are legitimate interpretations of science.”
If this sounds familiar, it ought to: These are the very arguments that we have made here at “BreakPoint” and that other proponents of intelligent design make. In view of the profound differences between Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity, it simply isn’t credible to dismiss intelligent design as simply “a repackaging of [Christian] creationism.”
The Dalai Lama is not the only one whose writings make comparisons between the Dover trial and the Scopes trial ridiculous. As the New York Times puts it, you would get much the same from Pope Benedict XVI.
The other misrepresentation that can’t withstand scrutiny is the one that depicts advocates of intelligent design as being opposed to scientific inquiry. In this version, what’s happening in Dover, Pennsylvania, is “objective” science pitted against religious dogma.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We welcome scientific inquiry. We want our kids to learn more about evolution, not less. We want them to understand both its strengths and its weaknesses.
What we oppose is the idea that nothing can be taught that challenges the belief that materialism accounts for everything from the beginning to the end. It’s not a scientific claim; it’s a philosophical or metaphysical one. Like the Dalai Lama, we oppose metaphysics being taught under the guise of science.
It is the close-minded academics who are being dogmatic, foreclosing scientific inquiry. They call even the merest mention of scientific evidence suggesting that life couldn’t have arisen as a result of an unplanned, random process as “religion,” and they throw it out.
Now, this debate isn’t about science. It’s about the philosophy of materialism, which insists that it alone answers all of life’s questions. It will countenance no rivals. It will smear its dissenters—even, now, the soft-spoken monk from Tibet.
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George Johnson, “For the Anti-Evolutionists, Hope in High Places,” New York Times,
2 October 2005
BreakPoint Commentary No. 050525, “What’s the Big Secret?: Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania.”
“Evolution and intelligent design: Life is a cup of tea,” The Economist,
6 October 2005
See BreakPoint’s research page on intelligent design and evolution.