While Christians this week observe their holiest week, it might be a good time to contemplate whether their religion is a matter of faith.
There is a faction in the spectrum of Christian believers that persist in seeking to have the government mandate that their beliefs are a science.
Labeled at one time as creationism, it's reincarnated as intelligent design, with proponents insisting that it should be included in public school curriculum alongside Darwin's thesis in "On the Origin of Species."
Numerous court decisions have ruled that efforts to introduce Bible-based curricula on a God-created universe amount to an unconstitutional introduction of state-sponsored religion. Still, advocates continue to pursue mandates to add their "theory" of creation to public school curriculum.
Over the past year, legislative proposals have been offered in Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina and Louisiana seeking to require curriculum that challenge the theory of evolution in the interest of critical analysis and academic freedom.
The persistent effort to cast personal faith in God as a science suggests that proponents of intelligent design don't understand what faith is or lack it. Biblical exhortations to faith occurred when Jesus Christ faced disciples who appeal to him to intercede in a storm at sea (Matthew 8:26): "And he saith to them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm."
Over the past century, since Tennessee's Butler Act ban on teaching of evolution as scientific theory was ruled unconstitutional, the effort to inject some other form of Christian belief into science instruction has continued.
It has been a contest of separation of church and state, almost unique to the United States and its Constitution.
Those involved in the church should see it as a separation of faith and scientific theory. To force Christian belief into a science curriculum is to reduce Christianity to a scientific theory that has not been proved.
Intelligent designers claim the theory has been proved, although their hypothesis and proof are a self-fulfilling circular argument. It assumes that complex systems must be designed. The universe is complex, ergo, there must be a designer of the universe.
A counter hypothesis would be that a complex system is a series of anomalies that evolve into patterns occurring as a matter of chance. The universe is a complex system made up of anomalies that have evolved into patterns. Therefore the universe is a matter of chance.
Physicists and cosmologists conduct observations and experiments to test the validity of assumptions about the formation of the universe. To the extent that the evidence of quantum mechanics doesn't align with predictions, even Einstein's general theory of relativity remains theoretical. But a flaw in one theory doesn't prove the validity of another, assuming the Christian God (who also happens to be the Jewish and Islamic God of Abraham) is only theoretical.
Religious belief and science evolved from the same element in the human psyche that needs to explain what we are and what is happening in the world we see. Long before Abraham, tribal shaman were creating versions of gods to explain behavior of plants, animals, Earth's atmosphere, sun, moon and the stars. Forecasts of natural phenomenon were based on observations and those who were more observant of natural cycles were more successful in guiding their tribes.
That is still how science works, even as the technology for observing and analyzing natural phenomena have grown to a high level of sophistication.
It is not how religion works. Faith is a sense of human spirituality that does not rely wholly on empirical observations. It relies on a cognitive element not evident in other animals, but one that is biologically based, according to Marc Hauser, Harvard professor of psychology and biological anthropology ("Moral Minds: How nature designed our universal sense of right and wrong," HarperCollins, 2006).
Hauser says a human's moral sense results from a human's ability "to foresee future rewards" in making decisions about how to behave toward another human being. Religious beliefs are not a deciding factor in moral behavior, Hauser said. Rather, he said, moral decisions are based on the ability of the person to forecast an outcome.
Religion and science also forecast outcomes, but one relies on faith, the other on testable concepts.
University of Chicago ecology professor Jerry Coyne cites elements of scientific inquiry include having testable ideas and relying on evidence in testing a theory (www.edge.org "Must we always cater to the faithful when teaching science?")
The presence of God is not a testable idea, unless the faithful accept that God is only a theory.
Proponents of intelligent design appear to be fearful that individuals cannot exercise faith while they engage in scientific study. Matthew 8:26 offers: "Why are ye fearful, Oh ye of little faith?"
* Edwin Tanji is a former city editor of The Maui News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. "Haku Mo'olelo," "writing stories," is about stories that are being written or have been written. It appears every Friday.