On those rare occasions that I write a column touching remotely on science, especially if I depart from the conventional wisdom of the greater scientific community, the contemptuous e-mails fill my inbox.
Such was the case a few columns ago when I broached the subject of Intelligent Design (ID) after President Bush indicated his receptiveness to ID theory being taught alongside evolution in the public schools. The hostile e-mailers pointed out what a consummate idiot and criminal trespasser I was for treading on their real estate.
They demanded I stick to law and politics, not because I know much more about them either, but by concentrating on those subjects at least I wouldn't be encroaching on their turf, which is reserved for the gifted. OK, they didn't really say that explicitly, but I divined, via supernatural intuition, that that's precisely what they meant.
The thrust of the e-mails was that ID is not science-based but is purely a matter of faith -- Biblical creationism in disguise. It cannot be tested in a lab (can macroevolution or any historical science be reproduced in a lab?). As such, ID should only be taught in public schools, if at all, under the rubric of philosophy or religion, not science. Besides, it is just one alternative theory. If you teach it, in fairness you must teach all other competing theories.
But not all scientists agree that ID lacks a scientific foundation. In the first place, ID uses science to confute certain tenets of Darwinism. In addition, ID proponents, such as Michael Behe and William Dembski, have developed criteria for testing design inferences.
Behe contends that irreducibly complex features are better explained by design because our knowledge and reason tell us that such features can only be produced by intelligent causes -- putting the lie, by the way, to the claim that ID is just one competing theory. Thus, ID advocates argue that design inference is testable: It could be refuted if someone could empirically demonstrate that unguided natural processes could produce irreducible complexity.
Moreover, ID theory is neither faith-based, nor results-oriented. It is not a concoction of Christians who were already convinced that God created the world but needed a scientific theory around which to wrap their unscientific faith.
It is not the slave of certain preordained conclusions. It examines the evidence and follows it to its logical conclusions, even if those conclusions -- such as that ID is the most plausible explanation for life's origin -- deviate from currently accepted science orthodoxy.
I trust my correspondents will meet these assertions with equal contempt. But many of them are guilty of the primary sin they ascribe to ID proponents. For they begin with an irrebuttable presumption not just that evolution is a valid theory but that the very origins of life are the result of material, not supernatural causes and any inquiry that proceeds apart from this presumption, by definition, is not scientific. After all, God's existence cannot be proved in a laboratory. By the clever use of circular logic, they ensure that ID can never be accepted as scientific.
Anyone who does not initiate his inquiry with the obligatory presumption is, by definition, a heretic, a crackpot and not part of the scientific community no matter how many science-related degrees he may have on his CV. So again, through grossly circular logic, they perpetuate the myth that no scientists believe in ID.
Consider what Harvard chemistry professor David Liu said about Harvard University's plan to spend $1 million annually toward research concerning the origin of life. "My expectation," said Liu, "is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention."
Liu's statement is a tacit admission that Darwinists (used loosely here to include all scientific materialists) have yet to demonstrate the origin of life but nevertheless still fervently hold to their rigid presupposition that only a natural explanation is conceivable. That life began without intelligent causes is thus dutifully accepted without question and merely awaits the inevitable confirming evidence.
So held to their own standards, isn't the Darwinists' presupposition that life began without design unscientific? At the very least it requires as much faith as ID could conceivably require. Darwinists haven't even been able to prove, through empirical testing or otherwise, the evolution of existing species to others by Darwinian mechanisms.
I realize that not all scientists reject the idea of an intelligent creator. Nor am I saying that microevolution and ID are mutually exclusive theories. Natural selection, to a point, is entirely compatible with ID -- and with Biblical creationism, for that matter. It is the Darwinists' unsubstantiated leap that all forms of life began apart from intelligent causes that is incompatible, obviously, with ID.
It is neither ID proponents nor Christians who have created an artificial divide between science and faith but dyed-in-the-wool Darwinists. Many of them -- not all -- have chosen to define science in such a way that excludes the supernatural.
So why not allow ID to be taught in public schools or simply permit the fallacies of Darwinism to be exposed? As the brilliant biologist Jonathan Wells demonstrated in his "Icons of Evolution," much of the evidence Darwinists have offered has been exaggerated, distorted or even faked, including certain basic "facts" routinely included in biology textbooks. Does such "science" qualify as science?
I repeat: Why can't we have an open inquiry?