Many Americans are focused on what should be taught in the schools regarding our universe and the Earth – how life as we know it has come to be. This has become a hot-button issue, igniting controversy in Kansas over what should be taught in the public schools and in Pennsylvania, where a high profile trial is taking place over a local school board decision. NEWSWEEK featured Charles Darwin on its cover and the current SMITHSONIAN prints a story on Charles Darwin. The controversy is unlikely to fade soon, in large measure because a new school of thought is gaining increasing acceptance within scientific and academic circles.
Intelligent Design holds that nature shows more “design” than many academics in the sciences, education and philosophy are willing to acknowledge. Neo-Darwinists view changes in life forms as happenstance, dictated as much by changes in environment as serendipity. A PBS television series, Evolution, asserted that “all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution” and that the scientific community was four-square in support of his theories. No doubt many scientists hold firm to their belief in Darwin but it cannot be asserted credibly that there is only one school of thought – evolution – accepted by the scientific profession.
Many scientists are breaking from Darwinian orthodoxy. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, issued “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism” several years ago featuring this statement: “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.” Four hundred scientists now have expressed support for this statement, including Dr. Stanley Salthe, Visiting Scientist in Biological Sciences at Binghamton University and Associate Researcher for the Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies of the University of Copenhagen. Dr. Salthe had specialized in Darwinian evolutionary theory and now criticizes its reductionism, which essentially claims that all changes derive from the effects of competition.
Salthe does not appear to be a conventional conservative thinker. He states: “My opposition to [Darwinian evolutionary theory] is fundamentally to its sole reliance on competition as an explanatory principle (in a background of chance). Aside from being a bit thin in the face of complex systems, it has the disadvantage, in the mythological context of explaining where we come from, of reducing all evolution to the effects of competition.” Salthe considers this to be a “myth” that is morally destructive but “congenial to capitalism.”