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More on War

Paul J. Griffith’s analogy of the “just war” with the procedure for licensing drivers confuses agents and their actions (see “Who Wants War? An Exchange,” April). Licensing implies that the state has a “presumption against drivers” (agents), not a “presumption against driving” (actions). Once a driver is licensed, the state has no presumption either for or against the act of driving as such. A particular act of driving must be judged on its individual merits: Driving your sick child to the hospital is good; driving home after a dozen beers at the Red Lion is bad.

Just war theory refers to both agents and actions. With respect to agents, it provides “licensing” requirements that determine whether an agent has the authority to prosecute war. This constitutes a presumption against agents, not a presumption against any particular act of war. With respect to actions, the theory gives criteria that must be met if war is to be conducted in a just manner. But just as requirements for prudent driving do not constitute a presumption against driving, neither do requirements for a just war constitute a presumption against war. We have a duty to drive our sick child to the hospital (a “presumption for driving,” one might say) a well as a duty to drive safely. The Christian has a duty to pursue justice, and this may mean on occasion that a legitimate authority has a duty to pursue a just war. George Weigel is correct in sniffing out that the “presumption against war” is really a means of smuggling in pacifist assumptions, specifically the notion that no war is ever really just.

David Tye
Danvers, Massachusetts

I side with George Weigel in his exchange with Paul J. Griffiths, but I think most of Weigel’s opponents fail to understand what he means when he denies that there is a “presumption against violence.” These opponents think Weigel is denying the traditional criterion of last resort: If a cause is just, then authorities must not go to war immediately, but determine if there are other reasonable means for accomplishing the same goal. Perhaps it is the vague similarity of this criterion to a “presumption against violence” that has made it so easy for that concept to be smuggled into just war thinking.

The “presumption against violence” is a way of thinking about war based on the proportionalist method of ethical reasoning. As James Turner Johnson pointed out in “Just War, As It Was and Is” (FT, January), the concept originated with the Quaker James Childress’s claim that war is a prima facie evil. In Catholic proportionalist terms, this means that while war is itself evil, it can be justified in some cases based on circumstances and consequences. As Johnson points out, this line of reasoning finds its way into the American bishops’ The Challenge of Peace .

As Weigel has observed repeatedly, this way of thinking about war is foreign to the Catholic tradition, no doubt because proportionalist reasoning is foreign to that tradition. “War” in itself is not a specific enough act to be judged good or evil. It must be specified whether it is a just war or an unjust war. A just war is morally good, while an unjust war is evil”war itself is not a premoral evil that can be overridden by other considerations that make it good. This is a fundamental point of moral theology.

In his critique of proportionalist modes of thinking, Germain Grisez points out that proportionalism has no place for what he calls existential goods”goods that are self-determining choices. Grisez gives the example of marriage: In proportionalist reasoning, the choice of commitment to each other is not a good in itself, but rather is a good only insofar as the spouses find value in it; otherwise, it becomes a “failed marriage.”

Justice is among the existential goods listed by Grisez. This might explain the phenomenon that Weigel describes: the eclipse of the ius ad bellum criteria by the ius in bello criteria. From a proportionalist perspective, the legitimate reasons why a nation might go to war make no sense. Therefore the “presumption against violence” becomes a de facto pacifism. Just war analysis becomes simply listing the possible or actual destructive effects of a war, as if this were the last word.

Weigel and other defenders of the just war tradition must be clearer in what they are defending and what they are rejecting. Otherwise they will not overcome the muddled thinking that passes for just war analysis.

Matthew Shadle
Dayton, Ohio

In his exchange with George Weigel about just war theory, Paul J. Griffiths argues for the presumption against war by noting that every conditional ius to do a thing restricts the agent in that it presumes that, except in certain circumstances, the agent is not to do that thing. This is of course true, but if this is all the presumption against war means, it is nothing remarkable. As Griffiths argues for it, the presumption against war means simply that competent authority has the ius ad bellum only under certain conditions and not otherwise. Indeed. But no just war theorist ever doubted that.

The partisans of this debate are nevertheless convinced that they disagree, though it is not clear to me just where. In the recent exchange, Griffiths did not succeed in arguing anything with which George Weigel or James Turner Johnson need disagree.

Perhaps those like Weigel have the following in mind: Justice ordains that, under certain circumstances, competent authority should make war and, under other circumstances, should not. Perhaps those like Griffiths believe justice ordains that under certain circumstances competent authority may make war and under other circumstances may not. The negatives “may not” and “should not” come to the same thing morally. But the affirmatives, “may” and “should,” work very differently. It is in the “may” that a negative “presumption” may be located. If justice says to the agent, “You may under certain conditions make war,” the permissive mode means either that when those conditions are satisfied the agent’s actual choice then occurs in a morally indeterminate freedom”which no Augustinian can suppose”or that even when the initial conditions are satisfied the agent has further moral thinking to do. The restraint thereby imposed is the “presumption.”

It would seem that the “may/may not” version is open to a rather severe logical objection. Besides an initial restriction, “under certain circumstances you may not make war,” there is a second one, “and in other circumstances where you may, you should consider.” An infinite regress opens, usually regarded as a bad sign. It may also be noted that the regress will prevent competent authority from ever coming to an actual decision to make war”or is that the real presumption?

I am not the expert that Johnson and others are. But pending contrary evidence from documents unknown to me, I will further venture that the should/should-not set of mandates is the historic just war doctrine.

Robert W. Jenson
Princeton, New Jersey

Paul J. Griffiths replies:

My thanks to those who responded to this discussion. I was trying only to make a modest logical point, which is well summarized (and endorsed) by Robert Jenson. I agree with him that the point is nothing remarkable. Truths are often like that, but are nevertheless worth restating from time to time, especially when others speak loudly in ways that appear to deny them.

David Tye’s claim that I confuse agents and actions is itself confused. If a certain action can only properly be performed by a particular agent, then constraints upon the agent must also and necessarily be constraints upon the action.

To Matthew Shadle, who raises an important point, I can say only that if “war” means “lethal violence by a state against citizens of other states,” then it is of course a prima facie evil, a privatio boni . To deny this status to war, so construed, is to descend into sub-Christian thought. Both bellum and mors are results of the fall. Does Shadle really think otherwise? The mention of proportionalism is a red herring. Everything here hinges upon how an action is described, and I commend to him consideration of the distinction between formal and material construals of morally significant actions.

The most interesting point in these letters is Jenson’s distinction between “may” and “should.” My initial inclination, unlike his, is to say that when the ius ad bellum conditions are met, the proper conclusion is that a state may (not should) go to war. This doesn’t, I think, entail an infinite regress. The facts relevant to determining whether the “may” becomes a “should” are always local and thus in principle not susceptible to formal schematization. Perhaps it’s like this: If certain conditions are met, I may marry some particular woman. But it doesn’t follow from the fact that they’re met that I should marry her. So, mutatis mutandis , for the ius ad bellum . Jenson’s point, however, bears more thought.

Interesting though this debate is, I’d like to commend to all parties (me included) serious thought about the semantics and syntax of pax within the Christian account of things. Pax is neither only nor principally the absence of bellum , and discussion of pax should frame, order, and control talk about bellum . If this fundamental fact were taken more seriously than bellicose Christians typically do, just war talk would be transformed in the right direction.

George Weigel replies:

I hope this exchange and the correspondence it provoked has clarified some aspects of the debate over the so-called “presumption against war””a debate which, if I may be frank, I find increasingly tiresome, if necessary. To make my own position clear, one last time, permit me to make four points, none of which can be developed or defended here:

1. Every serious Christian prefers that there not be war rather than that there be war, if means other than war are available and efficacious in resolving a conflict or defending justice, order, and freedom. This is, I hope, a “presumption against war” with which we all can agree.

2. It is, however, emphatically not what the presumption-against-war school teaches, which is that thinking about the possibly justifiable use of armed force begins with a prima facie duty of beneficence that must be overridden. I claim, and I stand with James Turner Johnson on this, that just war thinking begins somewhere else. It begins with a broader moral conception of politics: a theory of peace, a theory of governance, a theory of political action. It begins, in other words, with duly-constituted public authority’s moral responsibility to defend those for whom it asserts responsibility. This starting point links the possibility of proportionate and discriminate armed force to worthy political ends (the peace of order, justice, security, and freedom)”a linkage the presumption-against school tends to weaken.

3. The case for this understanding of where just war thinking really begins can be demonstrated historically (this is where it always began, prior to James Childress) and theologically (this is where it must begin, within its own theo-logic).

4. The presumption-against school’s success in selling this mistaken notion has tended to reinforce functional pacifism in the Catholic Church and in liberal Protestant communions, thus rendering them less-than-helpful participants in the public debate, especially in the new circumstances posed by the war against terrorism.

Bush and the Cause of Life

I found Hadley Arkes’ recent essay interesting and informative (see “Bush’s Second Chance,” April). But while I oppose homosexual “marriage,” I am also opposed to amending the American Constitution for the purpose of defining marriage. I disagree with Arkes’ assessment of President Bush as “a good, sympathetic man.” If that were true, he would not be reluctant to make the pro-life argument in public or bring about real change. His may be “the most pro-life administration that has ever been assembled,” but that isn’t saying much.

I hope that if Bush continues to refuse to make the pro-life argument in public or bring about real change, as I suspect he will, Arkes and FIRST THINGS will support the Constitution Party’s candidates in 2008. We are not reluctant to make the pro-life case, and we agree that pro-life initiatives need not emanate from Congress.

Joe Eldred
Central Valley, New York

I’m surprised that Hadley Arkes is surprised that President Bush has been unwilling to expend political capital on behalf of the pro-life cause. In Texas, he preferred to govern by compromise and coalition-building. In Washington, we have seen this in his letting Senator Edward Kennedy write an education bill and in his acquiescing in Senator John McCain’s campaign finance reform legislation, to name but two breaks with conservative principles. In last year’s primary in Pennsylvania, Bush and the party establishment supported pro-abortion incumbent Senator Arlen Specter over pro-life Representative Patrick Toomey. Specter now chairs the judiciary committee.

If the Democrats’ cultural enthusiasms make them the “Evil Party,” the Republicans are the “Stupid Party.” Their leaders seem to lack the brains, the courage, and the convictions to make an effective change. If Democrats are the enemy in the culture wars, Republicans are often false friends. The choice for pro-lifers seems to be between losing in slow-motion under the “Stupid Party” or losing in fast-forward under the “Evil Party.” Both may occur.

The “Stupid Party” might find a way to lose Congress and the presidency by 2008, perhaps by losing the peace in Iraq. President Hillary Clinton could then pack the federal courts with liberals. After the next fanatic murders of abortionists, she might find a way to use the Patriot Act to have the more ardent pro-lifers shipped to Guantanamo Bay as terrorists. Thus, to paraphrase Orwell, the future might be a Birkenstock stomping on an aborted fetus”forever?

Evan M. Duncan
Alexandria, Virginia

Weber’s Iron Cage

In “Max Weber Goes Global” (April), Michael Novak argues that Max Weber’s iron cage of capitalism can be avoided by a properly Catholic “delight in the goodness of creation.” Although this analysis is at times compelling, the article overestimates capitalism’s ability to cultivate full human flourishing.

Novak correctly restates Weber’s thesis in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that the “psychological tensions” of Calvinism allowed the northern European nations to succeed economically by instilling in the population a perceived “duty to increase their store and better their condition.” Although this thesis has been maligned for misunderstanding the nature of Protestant Reformation theology, Novak argues that Weber is largely correct in identifying a connection between economic success and the religious and moral qualities of economic agents.

Weber saw in capitalism the potential to enslave, to trap its practitioners in an iron cage of endless asceticism and laborious struggle. For Novak this is not a problem of capitalism itself, but merely an artifact of its religious support system. It was the Protestant Reformation’s propensity for “inner loneliness,” born of an absolutely sovereign God, that led to a capitalism of duty, scarcity, and self-denial. A better understanding of the Catholic contribution to capitalism would do away with the iron cage, because Catholics “delight in the goodness of creation,” Novak concludes.

The problem with Novak’s assessment is his uncritical acceptance of the thin conception of human fulfillment that underwrites capitalism. Capitalism posits no moral end for the person. It holds no conception of the good life other than a life spent acquiring things and taking delight in them. But the Catholic tradition holds that human perfection lies in loving God, and the means to this goal include freedom from concupiscence and the death of the will. The love of God, the source and sustainer of all things, is the only love that never fails to fulfill us. Capitalism, particularly American-style consumerism, tends to obscure this Christian truth.

Kevin P. Lee
Ave Maria School of Law
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Michael Novak replies:

While I cannot agree with every part of Kevin P. Lee’s summation of my argument, he is quite right on his main point”that capitalism posits no moral end for the human person. (To be sure, this is also an advantage; it is a system open to many persons who have quite contrary conceptions of the best life for the human person.)

That is why my own conception of a sound social system calls for more than capitalism”in fact for three systems in one: not only an economic system anchored around the ownership of practical insights reached through invention and discovery, but also a political system that protects the rule of law as well as individual and minority rights, and that separates political, legislative, and judicial powers; and also a strong cultural system based on the full flourishing of persons and communities, and rooted in the depths of the human spirit. Capitalism alone could not suffice for a full human vision, nor even for its own integrity and longevity.

In my view, the one fullest vision of human fulfillment, both for individuals and for the whole human community, is the Christian (Catholic) faith. That faith provides the fullest theory of political and personal liberty that I have ever encountered, and also”and this is a newer discovery”the best theory of the free economy. But two thirds of humanity are not currently Christians. So the open-endedness of capitalism, its limitation in one respect, is in other respects a strength to be grateful for.

Indeed, whatever the limitations of capitalism, which are many and real, its strengths should not go underappreciated. Capitalism is the best hope of the poor of the world to be liberated from immemorial poverty. It is, on the material side, the best supplier of support for a rich and complex civil society. And, empirically at least, it appears to be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the successful rooting of democracy. These are not minor social virtues.

The specific complaint Lee lodges against capitalism”that it tends to obscure Christian truth about the love of God, and to implicate us in too many worldly and pleasurable distractions”was lodged just as effectively against mercantilism, feudalism, and every other form of economy in history.

Nonetheless, in a society as free and as rich in human possibilities as the United States and Europe, I don’t think that at the Final Judgment we will be able to plead as a mitigating circumstance that “capitalism made us do it.”

We are, as history goes, remarkably free and remarkably endowed with the means to show our love for God in ways as numerous as the stars of the sky. If we do not do so, the fault lies not in our systems but in ourselves.

Zionism and the Covenant

As a Jew who has converted to Catholicism and traveled extensively in the Middle East, I read Gary A. Anderson’s “How to Think About Zionism” (April) with great interest but was left troubled by what was not mentioned in it.

I believe that whatever plans and promises God has for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel are matters that He will fulfill in his own way and time. Nobody has the right to engage in unjust conduct to force God’s hand. Yet while Anderson is astonished at the dearth of theological consideration regarding the founding of modern Israel, I was astonished at his lack of moral reasoning on the subject.

Nowhere does Anderson explain what right a European colonial power and international organizations had to assign an Arab territory to the control of European Jews. Nowhere does he explain how the territory’s ethnic minority had a right to assert claims of sovereign control against the wishes and sentiments of others in the territory who constituted a decisive majority. Nowhere does he defend the Zionist movement’s trafficking in ideas of population transfer in the late 1930s while it was preparing to accept a partition proposal that it had no intention of obeying. And nowhere does he demonstrate what right the Zionists had to uproot and dispossess a half million innocent non-combatants and wipe scores of villages off the map.

If Anderson believes such conduct is acceptable in light of his theology, then he should make that case as part of his theological evaluation of Zionism. If he does not, then I would suggest that it is a questionable exercise to indulge in interpretive Christian eschatology on the subject.

Robert Barnett
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Gary Anderson’s conclusion that the Old Testament affirms the right of return to Zion as part of God’s providential design, warranting Christian support of Zionism on theological grounds, conflicts with the fundamental natural law precept of the right to liberty. According to General John Bagot Glubb’s Peace in the Holy Land , at the time the League of Nations adopted the Palestine Mandate in 1922, 93 percent of Palestinians were Arabs. When Palestine was partitioned in 1947, two-thirds of the population was Arab. Six percent of the land of Palestine belonged to Jews, but the partition plan gave fifty-four percent of the land to the new State of Israel. No plebiscite was ever held, and native Palestinians were not represented in the 1947 United Nations debate on partition.

I have no answers to the enduring Palestine and Israel problem, but the cause of peace in the Middle East and Muslim-Christian amity is not served by putting a theological gloss on an act of nineteenth-century-style colonialism. If the natural law foundations enshrined in our Declaration of Independence are indeed universal, the injustice done to the Palestinian Arabs should at least be acknowledged by leaders of the Christian West.

Charles T. Duvall
Gaithersburg, Maryland

In printing Gary Anderson’s “How to Think About Zionism,” FIRST THINGS consulted an Old Testament scholar about twentieth-century history. Oddly entertaining. Anderson says that Zionism has a (uniquely) theological significance. Zionism presents a theological challenge to the Jews (at least the minority of religious ones), to Christians (even though only a minority of them perceive it), to Muslims”to all mankind, in fact, for it “is miraculous” that Israel “has lasted two millennia without a homeland or any sort of native rule.” Thirty thousand years of Native American history may be ignored.

Anderson’s interpretation of biblical and modern history is simplistic and his understanding of Catholic theology is sadly lacking. No one can determine from the Hebrew Bible what were the territorial dimensions of the land that the biblical authors claimed God promised them. Anderson reads with innocent literalism what is arguably mythological rhetoric meant to justify facts on the ground by appealing to Providence.

Anderson relies upon only one of the Old Testament’s theologies, the Deuteronomic, according to which losers deserve to lose and winners demonstrate God’s favor here and now, since there is no transcendent life beyond the grave. Health, wealth, and victory reveal God’s blessing and man’s righteousness. But that sort of thinking was demolished by Job and turned upside down by Jesus.

In Romans 9, Paul lists the special promises and gifts God gave the Jews. There is no mention of land. The New Testament shows no interest in land at all, even though nearly all early Christians were Jewish. Jesus never sounded like Joshua, who ordered genocide as necessary to the fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus never sounded like Anderson, either.

The Catholic Church has never acknowledged that modern Israel is an “eschatological event” or even a “true opus Dei , or ‘work of God.’” It has never taught that any historical event (outside ancient biblical Palestine) is an implication contained in God’s final revelation in Jesus. Granted, both Sts. Augustine and Thomas accepted that the scattering of the Jews was a punishment for Jewish sins, but when the Second Vatican Council repudiated that theory in Nostra Aetate , it also excluded giving the obverse meaning to a “return to Zion.”

Karl Rahner thought tribalism had distorted much of Old Testament theology. Jean Danielou, paying heed to Herbert Butterfield, said it best: “Any system . . . which attempts to justify the ways of God to men by the criteria of man’s righteousness is a monstrous absurdity, and obviously doomed to utter failure. Albert Camus was perfectly right, on his own assumptions, to bring in a verdict of guilty when trying the case of God by the principles of purely human justice.”

The same sub-Christian Deuteronomic theology found in all three Abrahamic faiths influenced the Holocaust and has birthed and nourished modern Israel (and both its friends and enemies). It is very sad. What on earth is God doing in Palestine? Begging mankind to buy a cross.

Richard J. Rolwing
Columbus, Ohio

Gary A. Anderson replies:

Robert Barnett must have read my article in a hurry; he missed over half of the argument. I thought I made it perfectly clear that Israel’s conduct in the land is a matter of some significance. One wonders, however, why Barnett does not excoriate Israel’s neighbors for even worse acts of barbarism against Israel and their own native populations. If Barnett were fair-minded he would be similarly”if not more”outraged by this behavior. For had the Arab nations simply accepted the borders of 1948 they would have had everything they are now demanding and more.

Charles T. Duvall anachronistically presumes that there was a large settled and self-identified population that thought of itself as Palestinian and was forced out of the land of Israel by dint of waves of Jewish immigration blessed by colonial European interests. Yet Jews began returning to Palestine under Turkish rule, an era in which the land of Palestine was not densely populated. The dramatic rise in population of both the Arab and Jewish communities in the twentieth century was no doubt nurtured by the sacrifices of many Zionists who made this land fit for modern agriculture. And the rise of a specifically Palestinian identity”no where in evidence in the Ottoman empire”takes place in no small measure because of the impact of Zionism. This point about historical origins does not imply that one is free to ignore that Palestinian identity. Moral obligations must always be calibrated to the events of the present day. Rather, my claim is that the demographic picture of Palestine at the turn of the twentieth century was far more complicated than Duvall would have it.

Richard J. Rolwing’s letter is the most disturbing. What does one say to a man who believes that a central book of the Old Testament”Deuteronomy”is sub-Christian? Marcion’s shadow is never far from a discussion of the Jews. As to Paul and the fact that he does not mention the land in Romans 9, the answer is simple. Paul lived before the devastation of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. The right of the Jews to their land was an inarguable commonplace in his own day.

In regard to his reference to Native Americans, I suggest the following thought experiment: Had the European colonizers of this continent forcibly expelled these tribesmen across the face of Europe would they, several hundred years later, have retained sufficient cultural and religious identity that they would desire to return en masse to their motherland? My own family of Swedish descent, just three generations after its immigration to Minnesota, has lost every vestige of its original cultural moorings. Only diligent genealogical sleuthing can preserve a glimmer of those distant memories. Augustine had it right: The perdurance of the Jews as Jews in spite of their being cast across the globe is nothing short of miraculous.

Morally Healthy Cells

William Hurlbut’s proposal to produce biologically and morally healthy embryonic stem cells by a procedure he calls “altered nuclear transfer” (ANT) is highly questionable (While We’re At It, March).

Biologically, it seems unlikely that one could produce healthy human cells from a growth precisely programmed not to be a human embryo. If the initial biological material is altered to make it impossible to become human, which is the humanizing life-principle in a human conception, what guarantee is there that we have a stable and healthy human growth from which the cells would be derived? If the proposal is not to alter the biological material to the point that we have to question the healthy humanness of the cells, who is to guarantee that the source material is not at least a deformed human embryo or even perhaps a perfectly healthy human embryo whose ability to implant has been destroyed?

The key reality is human conception. If we have done something to the elements involved in the ANT procedure to guarantee that there is no human conception, then there is no guarantee or even likelihood that the cells derived from the growth will be of any value. If we do something less that makes it possible or likely that a human conception would occur (that a human embryo with its spiritual life principle would come into existence), we have cloned a human embryo, which is absolutely prohibited morally.

The Rev. Lawrence A. Kutz
Washington, DC

William Hurlbut of the President’s Council on Bioethics is to be commended for his untiring efforts supporting scientific progress through ethical stem-cell research. While recognizing the need to preserve the inherent dignity of human embryonic life from the moment of conception, he has worked proactively to find alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells. We certainly hope that his concept of “altered nuclear transfer” (ANT) will one day provide a source of fully versatile stem cells without the need for embryo-destructive techniques.

We must be careful, however, that we do not defend his proposal with faulty conclusions. Richard John Neuhaus writes, “In ‘altered nuclear transfer’ what is created never could and never would become a baby and, it therefore follows, is never a human being at any point.” Since when is birth the qualification for entry into the human family? If human life begins at conception, we must ask ourselves whether in ANT a human embryo is ever produced. Does the process of ANT create biological entities that are simply “embryo-like” and devoid of moral import, as Hurlbut suggests, or would it rather create human embryos with partially defective genomes resulting in the untimely deaths of early human beings? Let the scientific and ethical debate continue and the animal studies begin.

Don W. Buckley
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Southern Baptist Convention
Pensacola, Florida

Intelligent Design?

Richard John Neuhaus’ discussion of the teaching of evolution in schools (April) argues that evolution is really just a theory, and there are other theories (intelligent design) with an equal claim to being taught in schools.

On the first point, it is a commonplace among philosophers of science that the fact-theory relation is far too complex to allow a clean cutting apart and labeling of the two. Of course, sometimes one needs to draw a sharp line in a gray area, but it is noticeable that the current pressure on the teaching of evolution is not motivated by such an honest concern for even an approximate distinction between theory and fact. Huge swathes of human knowledge, including most of science and much of history, are “theory” in the sense in which the relevant pressure groups (and Neuhaus, it seems) take the word. Yet no one is urging school boards to attempt a consistent demarcation across the whole curriculum. To single out evolution for such demarcation will mislead the students about its status.

On the second point, the overwhelming majority of scientists oppose the teaching of intelligent design because it is not even a theory, just an infinitely malleable template for stories. To make it science, its proponents must come up with an empirical way to distinguish intelligent design from Darwinian natural selection. I accept Neuhaus’s point that it is wrong to criticize intelligent design proponents for their religious beliefs, but it is clear that something other than scientific zeal is driving their efforts.

Finally, I respect Neuhaus’s basic concern that evolution should not be represented, in schools or elsewhere, as a refutation of the existence of God. It all comes down to what is said about the mutations that provided the genetic variation underlying the observed evolution of life on earth. Simplifying to one sentence: We have no evidence, one way or the other, about the randomness or purposelessness of those mutations, and it is reasonable to ask teachers not to claim that we do.

Mark Alford
Physics Department
Washginton University
St. Louis, Missouri

RJN replies:

Other readers have also suggested that I oversimplified the distinction between theory and fact. They are right. As to whether intelligent design is, in fact, a theory, I leave to its proponents such as Michael Behe and William Dembske, both of whom have written in these pages. Alford’s last sentence gets to the main point I was making. The theory of evolution presented as philosophical materialism or determinism or practical atheism, call it what you will, should not be permitted a monopoly in the classroom. The controversy surrounding intelligent design is challenging that monopoly and that is, all in all, a good thing.