October 28, 2005


This is a fight the Designers have to lose (Mary Wakefield, The Spectator, October 29th, 2005)

For nearly a month now, the teachers and parents of pupils at Dover high school have been in court arguing whether it's proper to teach children that Darwinism is deficient and put the case for a creator, or "Intelligent Designer" of the universe. Yes, say the teachers: Darwin's theory is full of holes, the children should be told. The parents say No. For them, the idea of an Intelligent Designer is tantamount to creationism and they're suing the school for violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

Dover is a very small place. I've been there: one drug store, a bar and a meeting room with frosted glass windows for the Loyal Order of the Moose, but what happens there will affect the whole of America. It's a landmark case, the first legal test of the increasingly popular Intelligent Design or ID movement.

If the teachers lose, the ID lobby will fade away. If they win, it will mean a walk-on part for God in science classes nationwide. And although I'm all for God and church-going children, in the Dover case, I'm rooting for Darwin because a victory for Intelligent Design will, I'm quite sure, be disastrous for everybody, Christians and atheists alike. [...]

And here's why it seems to me that if the ID proponents win in Dover, they will at the same time shoot themselves in the foot. If you've squeezed your Intelligent Designer into the gap in the fossil record, what happens when the scientists close the gap?

Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University has just given evidence in court on behalf of the Dover parents. "Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed," he said. Professor Miller is a Christian, but he sees that far from defending God against the secular Darwinists, the supporters of Intelligent Design are more likely to disprove Him altogether.

Good point. I mean, what if the Darwinists ever come up with proof that speciation actually happened?

Posted by Peter Burnet at October 28, 2005 6:58 AM

Prof. Miller really, really misses the point of this whole debate...

Posted by: b at October 28, 2005 11:39 AM

Prof. Miller isn't wrong. However, he is unduly pessimistic. Clearly if Christianity makes scientific claims, it's logically possible for science to disprove them, thus discrediting (at least one version of) Christianity. But if, as I believe, Christianity is right, AND it makes scientific claims, then science may eventually prove Christianity right and secularism wrong. Wouldn't that be progress?

It's quite odd to be a Christian and yet fear that science will conflict with Christianity.

Posted by: pj at October 28, 2005 1:27 PM

pj: Except that the root of the debate is over interpretation. The ideal would be if some agreement could be reached that "small" changes happen, and that's that. Some can believe they are random, some can believe it is directly the work of God, some can believe they are random but guided by God, etc. But Science would view that as unilateral disarmament, so it will never happen. Inexplicably, Science refuses to accept that it holds a losing hand...

Posted by: b at October 28, 2005 1:49 PM

Arguments by either side as to the utility of their respective positions are misplaced. Who, other than a Marxist, for whom truth means less than nothing, should evaluate a statement by the consequences of its acceptance, rather than by its conformity to objective reality?

The testimony of scientific experts in this or any other case shouild be limited to matters of reasonable scientific certainty. Can the expert express such an opinion to that requisite degree of certainty as to a material question.

Here the scientific question should be limited to whether ID theory is a plausible explanation of the data. We should go back to the exact language offered by the school district on ID, which seems to be no more than a tautologous statement on its existence as an alternate theory explaining biology.

What should not be considered is the Marxist analysis, that I.D. should be banned from school texts because some disfavored classes, i.e., the religious, favor it.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 28, 2005 2:35 PM

The I.D.ers that I've read and heard seem to be saying this:

After 150 years of fossil-hunting and scientific research, Darwin's theory has just not held up. "Natural selection" is a good explanation for variations within a species but not for much else. When we look at structures like the bacterial flagellum or the astoundingly intricate process by which proteins are manufactured in the cell, it is impossible to believe that they could have come about through random forces. They looked designed. Unfortunately, such a statement runs counter to Darwinist orthodoxy. Darwinists want exclusive right to determine what is "scientific" and what is not. As scientists, we want to follow the evidence where it leads. We don't want to be hobbled by a failed theory. If a statement like "It looks designed" has metaphysical implications, then so be it. We don't care.

This seems modest and reasonable. I think it would be up to religious folk to restrain themselves and not start going around saying that the statement "Gee, this looks designed" equals "Science has proved God exists."

Posted by: L. Rogers at October 29, 2005 11:33 AM

Actually, the ID claim is, "At this point in time, I don't understand how this could have happened by natural selection, therefore God did it."

Posted by: Josh at November 3, 2005 12:47 PM