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Seattle Times Looks at CSC’s Role in Debate Over Evolution

The Seattle Times has turned its eye to the CSC, sensing a chance to localize the story on the national debate over how to teach evolution.

It was good to see that reporter Linda Shaw included several things that are often left out or misreported: Specifically I was happy to see that she reported Steve Meyer’s credentials (which rarely happens), portrayed him personally in a positive light, her tone was not histrionic or conspiratorial, she referenced our dissent list, she acknowledged that Darwinists see the Cambrian explosion as a problem (also rarely reported) and distinguished us from young-earth creationists.

The biggest problem I have with the story is that she inaccurately defines the theory of intelligent design. She simply uses the definition that design critics like to use. For them it’s a straw man they put up so they can easily tear it down.

“an opportunity for the Discovery Institute to promote its notion of intelligent design, the controversial idea that parts of life are so complex, they must have been designed by some intelligent agent.”

Never mind the demeaning way she describes it as a “notion” — this definition is just flat out inaccurate. Her description — one commonly used by the ACLU and other such Darwinian groups — treats the theory of intelligent design as if it were an argument from ignorance. Things are so complex, they must have been designed, or so they posit. In actuality, it is a positive and robust scientific theory based on what we do know, that examines the natural world for empirical evidence of design.

Senior Fellow William Dembski put it this way in The Design Revolution:

“As a theory of biological origins and development, intelligent design’s central claim is that only intelligent causes adequately explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable. To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well defined methods that, based on observable features of the world, can reliably distinguish intelligent causes from undirected natural causes.”

Shaw moves quickly to what is currently the hot topic of focus: what should be taught in high school biology classes? She explains how the state of Ohio has successfully handled this hot potato of an issue.

Instead, leaders of the institute’s Center for Science and Culture decided on what they consider a compromise. Forget intelligent design, they argued, with its theological implications. Just require teachers to discuss evidence that refutes Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, as well as what supports it.

Actually to be clear, what CSC Fellows advocated in Ohio was not our compromising on our own position – our position has always been that it’s better to teach all about evolution, rather than to mandate the teaching of alternative theories. Our position was a compromise for the people in Ohio, not for CSC. What the CSC suggested was a compromise between the two positions under debate in Ohio leading into 2002.

And as the following excerpts demonstrate, Shaw does a better job than many reporters in conveying our position on key battles such as Dover, Pennsylvania, Cobb Co., Georgia, and the underreported successes of Ohio’s state board of education.

Ohio got it right, [Meyer] says, when its state Board of Education voted in 2002 to require students to learn that scientists “continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”

The School Board in Dover, Pa., however, got it wrong, Meyer said, when it required instruction in intelligent design. (The matter is now in court.) Intelligent design isn’t established enough yet for that, Meyer says.

[Meyer] also criticizes the Georgia school board that put stickers on biology textbooks with a surgeon-general-like warning that evolution is “a theory not a fact.” The stickers were a “dumb idea,” he says bluntly. (A Georgia court ruled they were illegal, and the case is under appeal.)

And she does distinguish design proponents from creationists: “He says he’s no creationist. He doesn’t, for example, believe in a literal reading of the Bible, which would mean the Earth is about 6,000 years old. He doesn’t dispute that natural selection played a role in evolution, he just doesn’t think it explains everything.”

What is most laughable is the quote from the NCSE’s Eugenie Scott:

“They harp and harp on natural selection, as if natural selection is the only thing that evolutionary biologists deal with,” says Scott. “Who knows whether natural selection explains the Cambrian body plans. … So what?”

So what? So what? The natural selection mechanism of Darwinsm is THE controversial point in the biological sciences debate. If it can’t explain things, then Darwinian evolution has nothing left to it.

The article finally wraps up by noting that Kansas is currently reviewing its state science standards and has scheduled a public hearing of expert scientists to debate the scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution.

“Kansas Citizens for Science, however, has urged a boycott of the hearings, saying the proposals have been ‘rejected by the science community at large.’”

Of course that is more spin and hyperbole from the Darwinists. Not all Darwin supporters will bury their heads in the sand and ignore the impending sand storm about to blow them away. In fact, the editor of The Scientist, Richard Gallagher — hardly a creationist right-winger — has said that the dialogue needs to go forward and that the debate should be welcomed by all scientists.

He says that Darwinian defenders have two choices: they can either be afraid or they can “accept the challenge and rise to it, even to relish it. That’s the approach I would urge.” Why has he broken ranks and decided to endorse a “teach the controversy” approach? He has the faith that many Darwinists often seem to lack; he believes that the theory he supports will win out in the end.

At the level of the students who are, after all, the principles in all this, the study of different explanations for the diversity of life on Earth will make science class more compelling. … The evolution-intelligent design debate will fire the interest of bright kids who will see through the paper-thin arguments being set out to discredit evolution.

Apparently he is not as afraid as some others to debate the issues.

Robert Crowther, II

Robert Crowther holds a BA in Journalism with an emphasis in public affairs and 20 years experience as a journalist, publisher, and brand marketing and media relations specialist. From 1994-2000 he was the Director of Public and Media Relations for Discovery Institute overseeing most aspects of communications for each of the Institute's major programs. In addition to handling public and media relations he managed the Institute's first three books to press, Justice Matters by Roberta Katz, Speaking of George Gilder edited by Frank Gregorsky, and The End of Money by Richard Rahn.