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Evolution:  So Many Scientists, So Few Einsteins

Week of October 10, 2005


            “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.  Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

            OK class, the statement above was signed by:  a) Pope Benedict XVI; b) the Southern Baptist Convention; c) the American Civil Liberties Union, or; d) over 400 prominent scientists from around the world.

            You know it can’t be the ACLU, and anyone who’s read a newspaper or flipped on a TV has heard all scientists are hardcore evolutionists.  The Pope’s been busy settling into the new job so that leaves the Baptists.

            Sound the buzzer; the answer is d), over 400 scientists from nearly every field, with doctorates from, and/or positions with, institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, MIT, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Princeton.  (Click here to view the full list.) 

            The list was first assembled by the Discovery Institute – unabashed supporters of intelligent design theory – in response to a statement in a 2001 PBS series called “Evolution,” which claimed that no scientist disagrees with Darwin’s theory of evolution.  The claim might generously be called uninformed, but my magnanimity is pretty much worn out on this topic. 

            Whatever PBS was thinking, popular misconceptions about the science surrounding evolution have caused no small mischief and more than a few lawsuits.  The latest of these is playing out in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the ACLU is suing to overturn a local school board policy requiring students be informed of intelligent design theory, the idea that life is too complex to have developed without a guiding force.

            The ACLU and other God-phobes see intelligent design as creationism in disguise, a Trojan horse for Christian theology.  In fact some have used it that way, and shame on them.  If they mean Christian creationism they should say so, but the greater shame goes to those in the scientific community who allow their biases to override their alleged objectivity.

            If I sound a little touchy it’s because the few columns I’ve written on evolution, perhaps two or three in eight years, brought insults and name-calling from so-called impartial scientists.  In one exchange I essentially begged a retired biology to professor to defend the basic flaws in Darwin’s theory and related notions of how life originated.  How, I asked, might inert elements spring to life with the instantaneous abilities to eat or otherwise absorb energy, and reproduce, both fairly complicated processes?  How could sight develop in stages?  What good are the various tissues, nerves, and brain processes necessary for vision without each other?  Are we to believe it all popped into existence at once as one impossibly lucky mutation?

            The reply was a series of slurs about my background, education, intellectual honesty, and shamelessness.  Completely lost was the fact that science and religion, properly practiced, seek the same thing:  Truth.  I have no idea why a truly dedicated scientist would waste time defending a falsity any more than a devout worshiper would wish to serve a god who doesn’t exist.  Shouldn’t both want truth, wherever it leads?

            Albert Einstein had no problem reconciling the two, saying “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”  He is also reputed to have said “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old you don’t understand it yourself,” which may explain the unvarying refusal to directly address my questions by the scientists who wrote to disagree with past columns.

            The Dover trial is scheduled to begin September 26; a group of 85 scientists filed a friends-of-the-court brief urging the judge to consider the science supporting intelligent design.  Whatever he ultimately decides, I suggest that truth is as noble a pursuit for the courts as it is for science and faith.






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© 2005 Brent Morrison