Here We Go Again
The ‘Darwinist Inquisition’ Starts Another Round
September 30, 2005
It’s happening again: another scientist, another academic institution, another attempt to stifle freedom of thought. The “Darwinist inquisition,” as a Discovery Institute press release calls it, is as predictable as it is relentless.
This time the setting is Iowa State University. One hundred twenty professors there have signed a statement denouncing the study of intelligent design and calling on all faculty members to reject it. The statement reads, in part, “We, the undersigned faculty members at Iowa State University, reject all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor. . . . Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science.”
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this thing is getting out of control. To begin with, the reasoning of the Iowa State professors is, frankly, some of the weakest I’ve ever seen. They give three reasons for rejecting intelligent design. The first is what they call “the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer”—which, even if that were true, would prove nothing. If certain features were chosen arbitrarily for study, how does that prove that no other features showed evidence of design? The number two reason given is “unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer.” That is a dubious claim; most serious intelligent design theorists have made very few conclusions about any such “wishes and desires.”
But the third reason is my favorite: They say it is “an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism.” Now this gets to the heart of the matter. The statement goes so far as to claim, “Methodological naturalism, the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events, is the foundation of the sciences.” I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a scientist, but I thought that the heart of the sciences was the study of natural phenomena to gather knowledge of the universe. I thought we were supposed to start without any foregone conclusions about the supernatural at all, that is, if we wanted to be truly scientific.
It seems to me that the intelligent design theorists aren’t the ones trying to inject religion and philosophy into the debate—the Darwinists are, starting out with predetermined conclusions.
But it gets even better than that. The Iowa State fracas started because one astronomy professor there, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, has attracted attention with a book on intelligent design. It’s a little odd to accuse Gonzalez of being unscientific; he’s a widely published scientist whose work has made the cover of Scientific American. But that’s exactly what’s happening. And here’s the kicker: Gonzalez barely mentions intelligent design in the classroom. He wants to wait until the theory has more solid support among scientists. All he’s doing is researching and writing about it.
Now the lesson here for all of us is very clear: Don’t be intimidated when confronting school boards or biology teachers about teaching intelligent design. All we are asking is that science pursue all the evidence. That’s fair enough. But that’s what drives them into a frenzy, as we see in Iowa.
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Lisa Livermore, “Intelligent design: Students ponder faith and science,” Des Moines Register,
14 September 2005
“Thought Police Try to Stifle Academic Freedom at Iowa State University, Says Discovery Institute,” press release, Discovery Institute,
1 September 2005
Reid Forgrave, “A universal debate,” Des Moines Register,
31 August 2005
Jamie Schuman, “120 Professors at Iowa State U. Sign Statement Criticizing Intelligent-Design Theory,” Chronicle of Higher Education. (Reprinted August 26 by “Uncommon Descent.”)
Lisa Livermore, “‘Intelligent design’ faces ISU opposition,” Des Moines Register,
26 August 2005
Read the text of the ISU professors’ statement here.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 050525, “What’s the Big Secret?: Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania.”
Visit BreakPoint’s research page on intelligent design and evolution.