Duty to speak out against intelligent design


[Note to SMU Physics students:  Glad to have you here!  While you’re here, stick around for a moment.  Check the blog’s list of articles on “intelligent design” or “evolution,” and you’ll see that the issue has moved a good deal since the flap at SMU.  Feel free to leave comments, too.  E.D.]

When sanity strikes public figures and public institutions, sometimes all one can do is sit back in wonder at how the universe runs.

Intelligent design advocates might begin to think that God (or the gods, or the little green men, as the Discovery Institute allows) has stacked the universe against them, at least in Texas. First, in 2003, with the Texas State Board of Education pregnant with 8 creationists among the 15 members, scientists in Texas applied quiet, gentle pressure and got some of the creationists to vote against requiring creationism in biology texts. Last week Lee Cullum, doyon of conservative commentators in Dallas society, alumnus of the late Dallas Herald and occasional opinion writer for the Dallas Morning News wrote a piece questioning whether intelligent design advocates had not overstepped propriety in their use of Southern Methodist University’s good neighborly intentions — a reversal of position for Cullum, and perhaps a bellwether for others with influence in the state. Plus, several of the faculty at SMU protested the pending intelligent design conference scheduled for the campus, though without endorsement from the university.

Discovery Institute spokesmen gave their usual demurrers, claiming that intelligent design advocates have First Amendment rights and accusing critics of being unfair and unholy, but never defending intelligent design itself.

So, I can imagine there were a lot of coffee-burned laps in Seattle (and at least one in Fort Worth) this morning when the Dallas Morning News‘ opinion section unfurled a hard stand against intelligent design, signed by a score of well-respected scientists of various faiths, from the SMU faculty.

They minced no words:

The organization behind the event, the Discovery Institute, is clear in its agenda: It states that what the SMU science faculty believes to be so useful (science) is a danger to conservative Christianity and should be replaced by its mystical world view.

We do not argue against the basic right to believe, worship and express oneself as one desires. [More, including the full text, below the fold.]

We are, however, vehemently opposed to the deliberate deception of presenting politically motivated religious viewpoints as science. It is destructive and antithetical to the usefulness of science, and history has shown that similar politicizations of science have been incredibly destructive to our moral, ethical and material progress.

We have a duty as practitioners of science to speak out against such deceptions, and we have done so.

The piece appeared under the names of three scientists on the faculty: “Dr. John Wise is a faculty member in biological sciences, Dr. Ronald Wetherington is a faculty member in anthropology and Dr. Robert T. Gregory is chair of the geological sciences department.” None is known much outside their area and the university. This isn’t a vanity piece. It is a solid defense of science, as science, done honestly. These are people who could well be hurt by their taking such a stand in a community thought to be leaning the other way. And yet they take their stand fully convinced that they are right, and that a stand must be made.

Here is the full text of the article printed today:

In science, progress depends on experimentation and observation using the scientific method. The evidence and reports are usually heatedly debated and discussed, sometimes for years and even decades. Consensus is reached in a nondemocratic way. If the hypothesis is not supported by the evidence, it is rejected.

If ever a David could bring down a Goliath, science is where it happens again and again. The Earth is, in fact, not flat. The Earth is, in fact, not the center of the universe. And on and on it goes.

Evolution does, in fact, happen and is, in fact, happening. There are fossils of fish with fingers and fossils between land mammals and whales, and between dinosaurs and birds, and, yes, even between those extinct primates that shared our hands and our ability to walk on two feet but showed brains that evolved to be larger and larger until they were as large as ours.

This evidence exists and is as hard as stone. Remarkable new investigations into the DNA of the living species on this planet are showing us many of the changes responsible for the differences between species, explaining what were once some of the great mysteries of biology, and all of it is consistent with evolution. There’s much more available, if you have the courage to look at it.

Can we explain every difference between every species? Do we have a fossil for every transition? Can we answer every question? Of course not. But science is working on it.

In the 150-odd years since Charles Darwin started us thinking about such things, no scientific David has yet been found that can slay Darwin’s Goliath.

But there have been many misrepresentations that make the claim. All of them, from creationism to creation science to intelligent design, have been determined by our best scientists and by our federal courts to be based neither on fact nor science, but on faith and religion.

As the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover decision so clearly states, “Scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

In fact, there are many very religious “evolutionists.” The director of the Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Francis Collins, a leader studying the connections between life in our DNA, is one such religious biologist. A self-proclaimed, devout Christian, he is not conflicted about evolution. You need not be, either.

Some scientists at Southern Methodist University have been labeled “intolerant, close-minded and bigoted” because we have spoken out against the misrepresentation of religious belief as science in our protests of the upcoming intelligent design event scheduled at SMU.

The organization behind the event, the Discovery Institute, is clear in its agenda: It states that what the SMU science faculty believes to be so useful (science) is a danger to conservative Christianity and should be replaced by its mystical world view.

We do not argue against the basic right to believe, worship and express oneself as one desires.

We are, however, vehemently opposed to the deliberate deception of presenting politically motivated religious viewpoints as science. It is destructive and antithetical to the usefulness of science, and history has shown that similar politicizations of science have been incredibly destructive to our moral, ethical and material progress.

We have a duty as practitioners of science to speak out against such deceptions, and we have done so.

And, as noted at the newspaper’s website, here are the original signatories to the essay in chronological order of signing, and noting their academic assignment:
John Wise, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
James Waddle, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Richard S. Jones, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Randall J. Scalise, Ph.D., Physics
John Ubelaker, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Dr. rer. nat. Pia D. Vogel, Biological Sciences
Larry Ruben, Ph.D., Chair, Biological Sciences
Ronald Wetherington, Ph.D., Anthropology
Roberto Vega, Ph.D., Physics
Monica Cable, Ph.D., Anthropology
William C. Orr, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Bonnie Jacobs, Ph.D., Geological Sciences
David J. Wilson, Ph.D., Anthropology
Robert Van Kemper, Ph.D., Chair, Anthropology
Thomas Coan, Ph.D., Physics
Victoria S. Lockwood, Ph.D., Anthropology
Louis L. Jacobs, Ph.D., Geological Sciences
Steven B. Vik, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Edward R. Biehl, Ph.D., Chair, Chemistry
Robert T. Gregory, Ph.D., Chair, Geological Sciences
David D. Blackwell, Ph. D., Geological Sciences
Kurt M. Ferguson, Ph.D., Geological Sciences
Ian Richards, Ph.D., Geological Sciences
Neil J. Tabor, Ph.D., Geological Sciences

At some point it should be clear to those who worry about how the powers that control the universe consider the affairs of men, that the idea of intelligent design does, indeed, have a universe stacked against it.

About these ads

4 Responses to Duty to speak out against intelligent design

  1. Lebon says:

    Sir,
    ID is most often and wrongly linked to God and creationism, as opposed to Darwinism and evolutionism. We are there in fact facing an old philosophical problem transposed this time from man to the universe: the difficult and even impossible distinction between what is innate and what is acquired. But the reader of my pages http://controlled-hominization.com/ will perhaps agree that evolutionism is not in contradiction with all forms of ID. As a materialist, I think that the confrontation between both concepts is sterile and that a synthesis is even possible.
    If any great complexity of a feature could not exclude evolutionism, science itself could not reject some forms of ID in the evolution of the universe, at least in some steps of the process. After all, man himself is already a local actor in this evolution, an actor showing little intelligence so far (global warming, life sciences …). He could however be led to play a greater and nobler part if he succeeds to survive long enough (dissemination of life in the cosmos, “terraforming” of planets, planetary and even stellar formation, artificial beings…). The development of this kind of “draft ID” could only be limited by our refusal to do so and by our ability to survive. We would be viewed as gods by our ancestors from the middle Ages, and we would also view our descendants as gods if we could return in a few hundreds or thousands years.
    By his refusal to consider that intelligence could already have played a significant part in the evolution of this universe, man takes in fact for granted that he is the most advanced being. It is in fact just another way for placing himself once again in the middle of everything, as for the Earth before Galileo. This anthropocentric view is not very rational.
    Within the frame of evolutionism, the concept of ID could however be applied to the future man if he manages to survive long enough to be able to play a significant part in the evolution of this solar system, in the galaxy, and why not more. And it could also apply to eventual advanced ET preceding man in this cosmic part, advanced ET who could for instance, thanks to their science, have already played a significant part, even if they were themselves born from random processes.
    Without going back to a controversial God, pure intelligence born from random processes is so far too easily ignored in the evolution of this universe, and I think that this choice has more to do with faith in man’s solitude in the universe than with true science. Even if it appears later that the ID concept has yet never been used by other beings in this universe, what could prevent man from applying it in the future? As with the Big Bang, ID would certainly remain in the field of hypotheses, but science progresses that way, and it would not be scientific to exclude one hypothesis that could be quite credible. ID is too easily discarded and laughed at, somewhat like continental drift not long ago, and a lot of other concepts too.
    Sincerely, Benoit Lebon

    Like

  2. […] Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub History, accuracy and education « Duty to speak out against intelligent design […]

    Like

  3. Ray says:

    Nothing ever changes. We’ve been through this before, right, Yogi? All over again. But how is it that these silly people are so blissfully unaware of what’s going on in other areas where their ID/creationist brethren have tried it all before? Don’t they read the newspapers? Every time it flares up again someone, like the above professors at SMU, makes a very nice statement that sums up the whole situation but it seems to go no farther than the area of the local occurence. Then, in a new area, the whole play is rerun. Kind of like the old “Twilight Zone” episode where the characters feel they’ve done it all before while wondering what that tapping sound is, finally to realize that they’re only characters in a writer’s mind and have to replay the whole thing every time the writer crumples the work and sends it to the wastepaper basket. Or are these people willfully ignorant and genuinely expect different results when they try it for themselves? You know what they say about the definition of insanity.

    Also, when did the Discovery Institute first begin to admit that the issue was the confict between science and conservative Christianity? Previously they went out of their way to avoid such admissions… at least in their public voice.

    Like

Play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,375 other followers

%d bloggers like this: