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Michael Shermer’s Science Fiction, Part II

John G. West

As Jonathan Witt noted in an earlier post, Michael Shermer in his Los Angeles Times opinion piece pretty much made up the comments he attributes to Stephen Meyer in a recent debate. But that’s only one example of the science fiction in Shermer’s essay. Here are some others.
Consider Shermer’s mangled description of intelligent design (ID):

According to intelligent-design theory, life is too complex to have evolved by natural forces. Therefore life must have been created by a supernatural force — an intelligent designer.

In reality, ID does not claim that life is simply “too complex to have evolved by natural forces.” It proposes instead that some features of the living world are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause. As I pointed out in an earlier post:

the underlying argument for design in biology is not that certain things are too complex to be produced by the Darwinian mechanism, but that in our experience of the real world, intelligent causes supply the best explanation for certain kinds of structures. From our own experience, we readily observe that certain kinds of complex and information-rich systems are typically produced by intelligent causes. When we see Mt. Rushmore, for example, we know that an intelligent cause is sufficient to explain its existence, while an unintelligent process of wind and soil erosion probably isn’t. Based on our own extensive experience of the natural world, intelligent design argues that certain features of the natural world are best explained as the products of intelligent causation.

Nor does ID claim that life must have been created by a “supernatural force.” Whether the intelligent cause detected by design theory is inside or outside of nature is outside the scope of ID as a scientific theory. Design theorists have been very clear on these points, even if Shermer chooses to ignore their comments.

Shermer strays even further from reality in his description of what ID proponents advocate as a matter of public policy:

ID theorists argue that… IDT should be given equal time alongside evolutionary theory in public school science classes. Nine states have recently proposed legislation that would require just that.

Most leading ID theorists are affiliated with Discovery Institute, and Discovery Institute does NOT claim that ID should be given “equal time alongside evolutionary theory in public school science classes.” Indeed, Discovery opposes efforts to require the teaching of ID, although the Institute also doesn’t think teachers should be forbidden from discussing the topic. As for Shermer’s assertion that “Nine states have recently proposed legislation that would require” equal time for ID in science classes, that is simply preposterous. Shermer has lived too long inside the Darwinist spin machine. The vast majority of legislative proposals deal with the freedom to teach scientific criticisms of Darwinism, not the teaching of intelligent design.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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