The intelligent design bogeyman

David Limbaugh

8/5/2005 12:00:00 AM - David Limbaugh

Our secular popular culture is throwing a fit over President Bush's endorsement of teaching in public schools the controversies surrounding Darwinian theory.

Note that the president did not recommend that the teaching of Darwinism be banned in public schools, merely that the theory of intelligent design (ID) ought to be taught as well. Bush said, "I think part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

The main players in the ID movement are not even insisting on that much. Discovery Institute, for example, opposes the mandatory teaching of ID in public schools but favors requiring students to be exposed to criticisms of Darwin's theory.

But whether you believe ID theory ought to get equal billing with Darwinian theory, some lesser treatment, or that students should at least be apprised of alleged chinks in the Darwinian armor, what's all the fuss about?

Don't academics purport to champion free and open inquiry? What, then, are they so afraid of regarding the innocuous introduction into the classroom of legitimate questions concerning Darwinism?

Their defensiveness toward challenges to their dogma is inexplicable unless you understand their attitude as springing from a worldview steeped in strong, secular predispositions that must be guarded with a blind religious fervor.

Indeed, it appears many Darwinists are guilty of precisely that of which they accuse ID proponents: having a set of preconceived assumptions that taint their scientific objectivity.

Don't take my word for it. Consider the words of Darwinist Richard Lewontin of Harvard. "Our willingness," confessed Lewontin, "to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to understanding the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for the unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. … materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door."

So is God the real bogeyman for some Darwinists? Is that why they fight to suppress any theory, like ID, they fear might allow God's "foot in the door"?

And, if their science were unassailable, would they so vigorously resist its subjection to academic scrutiny by scientists no longer drinking the Darwin Kool-Aid? It's no secret that scientists who have broken from Darwinian orthodoxy have been ridiculed, suppressed and ostracized by much of the Orwellian scientific establishment.

Many of ID's cynical detractors patronizingly frame this entire debate in terms of a struggle between faith and science. Intelligent Design, they say, is but a thinly disguised argument for Biblical creationism and its proponents threaten to obliterate the "wall of separation" between church and state by cleverly sneaking creationism back into the schools inside the Trojan horse of ID.

But that is simply false. ID is fundamentally science-based. The fact that scientific inquiry leads certain scientists toward a conclusion compatible with the Judeo-Christian worldview -- that intelligent causes were behind the creation of the universe and life -- does not disqualify them as scientists any more than the militant secularism of many Darwinists disqualifies them.

Nor does ID's compatibility with the Judeo-Christian worldview require that it be classified as religious rather than scientific. If ID's theories were faith-based rather than science-based, the secular scientific community would have a stronger case in demanding they not be introduced into science classes.

But no amount of protest and name-calling from the scientific community will change the fact that ID proponents are not pseudo-scientists. You might be surprised to learn that over 400 scientists from all disciplines have signed onto a list of those expressing skepticism "of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." And that list is growing, despite the persecution of some signers since they signed it.

This is most interesting, in light of statements made in PBS's "Evolution" series that no scientists disagreed with Darwinian evolution. I ask you: Which side is playing fast and loose with the facts?

As one recent signatory, the prestigious Russian biologist Vladimir L. Voeikov said, "The ideology and philosophy of neo-Darwinism, which is sold by its adepts as a scientific theoretical foundation of biology, seriously hampers the development of science and hides from students the field's real problems."

A short column is not the place to debate the merits of ID versus Darwinism, but it is an appropriate venue to offer the humble suggestion that the very essence of science -- the search for causes -- militates in favor of exposing students to modern criticisms of Darwinism. Introducing kids to scientific challenges to Darwinism and to the alternative ID theory would vindicate the scientific method and science itself. Opponents should lighten up, and the public should insist on a fair fight.