Opponents of "intelligent design" are naturally quite cock-a-hoop about their victory in the Dover, Pa., school board case. The board had proposed to have a short statement read in classes on evolution, saying that evolution was a theory rather than an established fact, and that students should be aware that there was an alternative theory, which asserted that certain steps in the development of species were too complex to have occurred purely by accident, but implied instead the existence of an intelligent design.
Just who or what the "intelligent designer" was, the theory leaves open. But one obvious possibility is God, and that has roused the defenders of purely random evolution to protest that religion is being smuggled into a class that ought to be confined strictly to "science" -- that is to say, to exclusively materialistic, non-religious explanations of reality.
They therefore hauled the school board into court, and the judge turned out to be entirely on the side of the evolutionists. He not only agreed that the offending statement and all other references to intelligent design must be banned from classes on evolution, but threw in a series of gratuitous slaps at the school board, which was defeated in a subsequent election and replaced by one favored by the evolutionists.
So all's quiet in Dover, Pa. But one can't help being a little surprised at the sheer savagery of the evolutionists' attack on intelligent design -- which has been duplicated in every other forum where the subject has been discussed. What's all the shooting about? One thinks of scientists as calm, intelligent people, perhaps wearing white smocks, who take on questions to which we don't know the answers, think about them carefully, and test various explanations experimentally until they come up with one that solves the problem. One would suppose they might actually welcome such an intriguing new theory as intelligent design, and get a kick out of assessing its merits. If it proved true, that would (presumably) represent progress. If it didn't -- well, in due course it would die of disregard.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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