Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Darwin vs. Design

The SMU Daily Campus published a pro-ID opinion. It’s quite excellent.

Response to Professor Wise about Intelligent Design

By: Sarah Levy and Anika Smith, Contributing Writers
Posted: 4/18/07

It is a remarkable thing when your opponents make your points for you, and for that we are grateful for Professor John Wise's response late last week.

Incredibly, Wise paints the faculty at SMU who called for the cancellation of the conference as martyrs for free speech. He wrote that "even scientists have a First Amendment guarantee to the right to express themselves." Who could argue with that? By all means, express yourself - but don't disallow other scientists to do the same and then claim that they are threatening your First Amendment rights.

We wonder whether Professor Wise thinks the First Amendment rights of scientists extend beyond his own cadre of Darwinists to scientists who are proponents of Intelligent Design. If so, he should be concerned when calls for censorship like his own lead to the persecution of professors like Nancy Bryson, who lost her position after teaching criticisms of Darwin's theory that life developed through an undirected process of natural selection and random variations. There are many other documented cases of scientists who lost their jobs because of their views on Darwinism. If First Amendment rights for scientists apply anywhere, they certainly apply here.

Instead of attempting to understand the arguments of his opponents, Wise introduces a red herring, suggesting that we don't have to choose between religion and science. No one was suggesting any such thing. ID starts with the science, not with any religious basis. Ask Dr. Michael Behe, who spoke at this weekend's Darwin vs. Design conference. He was a Catholic when he was a Darwinist and remains a Catholic as a proponent of Intelligent Design. What changed was not his religious belief, but the mounting evidence on the side of ID.

Intelligent Design, like any scientific theory, uses the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion). It begins with observations of the kinds of information produced when intelligent agents act. Design theorists recognize that high levels of specified and complex information is a hallmark indicator that an intelligent agent was at work. Design theorists then hypothesize that if an intelligent agent was at work, we will find high levels of complex and specified information in biology.

Scientists can test for such information, and studies of molecular machines and DNA reveal that they contain high levels of such information and are irreducibly complex. Design theorists thus come to the tentative conclusion that biological structures like the flagellum were designed.

Instead of addressing these scientific arguments, Wise appeals to the authority of consensus views and "the highest courts" of our country. Providing no reasoning to back up his claims, he presents a logical fallacy, an appeal to authority which dodges the real question.

What's more, the authority he cites is nonexistent because the U.S. Supreme Court has never dealt with the teaching of intelligent design. The only time it did strike down a non-evolutionary theory was when it struck down the teaching of "creation science" in 1987. Even intelligent design's harshest critics recognize that "most ID proponents do not embrace the Young Earth Flood Geology, and sudden creation tenets associated with [young earth creationism]." (Eugenie Scott, pg. 128, Evolution vs. Creationism). Moreover, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the teaching of "creation science," it did so because it "embodies the religious belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of humankind." (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 592 (1987).) Because intelligent design does not try to address religious questions about the identity of the designer, this test does not apply to ID.

Instead of giving Intelligent Design a fair hearing, Wise tries to instill the fear of Science into his audience. Amazingly, Wise equates doubting Darwinism with doubting the validity of science itself. This is just silly. Intelligent Design scientists use the scientific method. Ironically enough, design principles have given us many of the marvels Wise cites in his case against ID: intelligent engineering and exploration are responsible for our technological society, not rampant acceptance of Darwinism. No one is denying Professor Wise his right to stand up and speak out. That was obvious from the start, when we invited him and other SMU faculty to join us with their questions and criticisms. Instead of coming to the conference with them, he tried to keep ID off campus. We recognized and supported Professor Wise's right to speak - why didn't he do the same for us?

About the writers:

Sarah Levy is a third-year law student at the Dedman School of Law. She can be reached at

Anika Smith is a recent graduate of Seattle Pacific University. She can be reached at