Following up on President Bush’s remarks about teaching evolution earlier this week, The Lehrer Newshour tackled the subject of intelligent design this evening with a debate between CSC Fellow biochemist Dr. Michael Behe, and Case Western physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss.
The clear advantage of the Newshour over most news programs is that it can devote the time necessary to truly discuss an issue in-depth. This segment showed that it helps to have enough time to really get anywhere with the debate over evolution beyond the six second soundbites normally allowed.
I think that Jeffrey Brown did a good job of moderating the discussion. Really the Newshour’s only mistake came early on when Brown reported that:
This summer, the Kansas State Board of Education drafted a report that proposes adding intelligent design to its new teaching standards.
Seeing as how Newshour reporters spoke at length with CSC policy point man Dr. John West it is surprising that they made such a gaffe. Almost all other major news agencies have clearly reported that in Kansas the issue is not whether to included intelligent design, but whether or not to allow teachers to present scientific information which challenges neo-Darwinism. The Kansas State Board of Education has made this very clear.
The debate itself went much as these debates do – the Darwinist, in this case Krauss, claimed that intelligent design was nothing more than a clever marketing scheme, and Behe defended design theory with concrete examples and evidence.
Krauss: What [Bush has] done is give credence to a concept that’s really been proposed by a very small group of people that doesn’t appear in the scientific literature.
It’s really quite marginal to — it’s part of a very successful marketing and public relations campaign by a well-financed group, the Discovery Institute, of which Dr. Behe is a member.
Behe: In the past 50 years, the progress of science itself has discovered that the very foundation, the molecular foundation of life is enormously sophisticated and elegant. There are molecular machines, there are little trucks and buses and outboard motors that shuttle supplies around the cell. And the term “molecular machine” is used routinely in biology. Biology is just filled with terms that imply design.
Krauss at times seemed to almost be making Behe’s points for him. The rest of the time he refused to address the specific points that Behe raises, the instances of design for which there are no evolutionary explanations. Instead he talks about studies of how many times the phrase “intelligent design” is used in scientific literature. (Not surprisingly it isn’t used very often since most scientists don’t want to suffer the fate of journal editor Richard Sternberg.)
Rather than address the merits of Dr. Behe’s – and other intelligent design scientists – arguments Krauss attacks Discovery Institute on absolutely false grounds.
Krauss: I have to say that if you actually look at the literature of groups like the Discovery Institute, it’s very clear. … It’s very clear that the attack is not on evolution, it’s really an attack on science. The notion that because science doesn’t explicitly mention God, it’s somehow immoral, in fact, that’s in the literature if you read what these people are saying.
This sort of attack is becoming more annoying than it is absurd because it is so obviously false.
Behe does a good job of wrapping up the interview by making the salient point that regardless of such attacks, or the implications that the ID argument may have, it will stand or fall on its scientific merits, much as the big bang theory did.
Behe: The theory of intelligent design is no more an attempt to bring God into the classroom than the Big Bang Theory was. …
Now, many physicists thought that the Big Bang Theory had philosophical and theological implications and they didn’t like it. And as a matter of fact, well into the 20th Century, a number of scientists did not like the Big Bang Theory. As a matter of fact, the prominent science journal Nature ran a curious editorial in the late 1980s with the title “Down with the Big Bang.” It was written by the editor of Nature, a guy named John Maddox, who called the Big Bang Theory philosophically unacceptable and said that it gave aid and comfort to creationists because it seemed to point beyond the universe.
I thought that Behe ended the way he started — strong.