“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random
mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of
life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory
should be encouraged.”
OK class, the statement above was signed by: a) Pope
Benedict XVI; b) the Southern Baptist Convention; c) the American
Civil Liberties Union, or; d) over 400 prominent scientists from
around the world.
You know it can’t be the ACLU, and anyone who’s read a
newspaper or flipped on a TV has heard all scientists are hardcore
evolutionists. The Pope’s been busy settling into the new job so
that leaves the Baptists.
Sound the buzzer; the answer is d), over 400 scientists
from nearly every field, with doctorates from, and/or positions
with, institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, MIT,
Cornell, Dartmouth, and Princeton. (Click
here to view the full list.)
The list was first assembled by the Discovery Institute
– unabashed supporters of intelligent design theory – in response to
a statement in a 2001 PBS series called “Evolution,” which claimed
that no scientist disagrees with Darwin’s theory of evolution. The
claim might generously be called uninformed, but my magnanimity is
pretty much worn out on this topic.
Whatever PBS was thinking, popular misconceptions about
the science surrounding evolution have caused no small mischief and
more than a few lawsuits. The latest of these is playing out in
Dover, Pennsylvania, where the ACLU is suing to overturn a local
school board policy requiring students be informed of intelligent
design theory, the idea that life is too complex to have developed
without a guiding force.
The ACLU and other God-phobes see intelligent design as
creationism in disguise, a Trojan horse for Christian theology. In
fact some have used it that way, and shame on them. If they mean
Christian creationism they should say so, but the greater shame goes
to those in the scientific community who allow their biases to
override their alleged objectivity.
If I sound a little touchy it’s because the few columns
I’ve written on evolution, perhaps two or three in eight years,
brought insults and name-calling from so-called impartial
scientists. In one exchange I essentially begged a retired biology
to professor to defend the basic flaws in Darwin’s theory and
related notions of how life originated. How, I asked, might inert
elements spring to life with the instantaneous abilities to eat or
otherwise absorb energy, and reproduce, both fairly complicated
processes? How could sight develop in stages? What good are the
various tissues, nerves, and brain processes necessary for vision
without each other? Are we to believe it all popped into existence
at once as one impossibly lucky mutation?
The reply was a series of slurs about my background,
education, intellectual honesty, and shamelessness. Completely lost
was the fact that science and religion, properly practiced, seek the
same thing: Truth. I have no idea why a truly dedicated scientist
would waste time defending a falsity any more than a devout
worshiper would wish to serve a god who doesn’t exist. Shouldn’t
both want truth, wherever it leads?
Albert Einstein had no problem reconciling the two,
saying “Science without religion is lame; religion without science
is blind.” He is also reputed to have said “If you can’t explain it
to a 6-year-old you don’t understand it yourself,” which may explain
the unvarying refusal to directly address my questions by the
scientists who wrote to disagree with past columns.
The Dover trial is scheduled to begin September 26; a
group of 85 scientists filed a friends-of-the-court brief urging the
judge to consider the science supporting intelligent design.
Whatever he ultimately decides, I suggest that truth is as noble a
pursuit for the courts as it is for science and faith.