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Top News: Smoking Causes Cancer; Unrest in the Middle East; 7000 Scientists Support Darwin

Casey Luskin

A press release has reported that over 7000 people (over half of which are scientists with Ph.D.s) have signed an online petition rejecting ID. Elsewhere, equally newsworthy reports tell us that there is unrest in the Middle East, and smoking causes cancer. Oh yeah, and according to Al Jazeera, Europe apparently still doesn’t support George Bush. Incredible? Think again.

Seriously, no one denies that Darwin’s theory is the majority view. What’s the big deal about this press release? The issue is whether the Darwinists are right to make appeals to authority to argue that evolution should be taught one-sidedly in schools. It is for this reason that Discovery has made it clear that a growing number of legitimate, highly-credentialed scientists (many of whom are on the science faculties of major universities) are expressing scientific doubts about Darwin. Darwinists try to insist that there are no such people, but our growing list refutes their claim.

Darwinists also try to amass their lists because they think that sheer numbers are better ways to win policy arguments than actually dealing with the evidence. Discovery does not list scientists because we think such lists should be used as a sheer force-of-numbers argument. Rather, we think these lists help rebut an argument-from-authority that some Darwinists use in the public debate. The lists also show that there are objections to Darwinism based upon science, and not religion. The most effective way to rebut the Darwinist argument from authority and shift the discussion back to the reality of the scientific evidence is to show that there are significant numbers of scientists who are skeptical of evolution for scientific reasons.

There are a few other things wrong with the press release as well:

1) It implies that Discovery is trying to force ID into classrooms.
The petition purported to protest

“Discovery Institute’s ongoing efforts to include Intelligent Design content in public school science classes”

This is odd, given that Discovery has opposed the mandatory inclusion of intelligent design in the classroom. This reminds me of the 38 Nobel Laureates who hastily penned a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education telling them not to do something they weren’t even doing [i.e. include ID in the curriculum].

In any case, the petition seems a bit unnecessary given that Discovery’s position has been that school boards should not mandate ID in schools, but should merely require students to learn about scientific criticisms of Neo-Darwinism:

“[A] recent news report seemed to suggest that the Center for Science & Culture endorses the adoption of textbook supplements teaching about the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID), which simply holds that certain aspects of the universe and living things can best be explained as the result of an intelligent cause rather than merely material and purposeless processes like natural selection. Any such suggestion is incorrect.

“‘Locally elected school boards usually have broad discretion in curricular matters, and we would not presume to tell them what they must do,’ added Cooper. ‘Nonetheless, our policy approach in favor of exposing students to the leading scientific criticisms of Darwin’s theory remains clear.'”

Pennsylvania School District Considers Supplemental Textbook Supportive of Intelligent Design; October 6, 2004

This policy has been consistently reiterated in a December 14, 2004 statement, in a Sept 28, 2005 Op-Ed, and also in other locations. So this press release seems to get its facts wrong. Rather, Discovery focuses its efforts regarding ID into getting scientific research published which supports design.

2) The press release implies that Discovery’s list of 400+ scientists has something to do with ID.
The press release states:

“I organized this project as a response to the Discovery Institute’s four-year petition initiative which gathered only 400 scientist signatures opposing evolution and promoting Intelligent Design as a scientific theory”

Yet Discovery’s dissent from Darwin statement says nothing about ID theory. The signers of the statement merely affirm the following:

“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.”

Again, Discovery Institute’s statement by scientists focuses on skepticism toward the mechanism of neo-Darwinism, not support for intelligent design.

3) The news release implies that intelligent design postulates a supernatural entity, and thus rejects only a straw-man version of design.
Approvingly quoting a politically charged statement by Lehigh University biology professors, the release says:

“‘Intelligent Design’ is not a scientific theory, but rather a loosely veiled attempt to explain natural phenomena by invoking the concept of a supernatural entity.”

This clearly shows that the 7000 who reject ID did so based upon a misunderstanding of ID, because they wrongly thought that ID postulates a supernatural entity. Again, this is just like the Nobel Laureates, where I commented:

According to these critics, ID isn’t science because it investigates the unobservable [or as here, untestable] supernatural. But as those who actually read the writings of ID proponents already know, ID theory does not identify the designer because to do so would go beyond the realm of testable science. ID theory thus limits its claims to those which can be established via the scientific method: it limits its claims to detecting the action of intelligence–something which we have observed, and the effects of which we understand quite well. It does not get into metaphysical speculation about the nature or identity of the designer, because to do so would go beyond science. So the reality is that ID theory purposefully avoids the very mistake these Nobel Laureates attribute to it.

So this petition only rejects a straw man version of ID. The mass enlistment of scientists rejecting ID can only be blamed upon the Darwinist Misinformation Train, where people reject ID because it has been misrepresented to them as a non-empirically based theory of the supernatural.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.