Predictable as Clockwork, the New York Times Misses The News In Reporting On Scientists Dissenting From Darwinism

Robert L. Crowther, II

The New York Times today reported on the growing number of scientists who are skeptical of Darwinian evolution. Yet the Times has quite predictably, maybe even purposefully, missed the point of the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism List. Because reporters and editors at the Times apparently can’t accept the fact that scientists, for scientific reasons, have doubts about Darwinian evolution, they immediately assert that it must be religion that is motivating the growing number of Dissenters. They still don’t get that it is the science that is driving this debate.
Here are some other points missed by the Times article, which was written by science writer Ken Chang:

First, the original purpose of our dissent list was not to prove that Darwin critics are in the majority in the scientific community, but to rebut bogus claims by Darwinists that no reputable scientists are skeptical of Darwinism. During the hoopla surrounding PBS’s “Evolution” series in 2001, Darwinists insisted there were no scientists at all who disagreed with Darwin. We proved them wrong by producing a list of 100 scientific dissenters, many of them with Ph.D.s from top research universities. Now our list has surpassed 500 and continues to add new signers nearly every day. Darwinists can carp all they want, but they cannot make these scientific dissenters disappear.
Second, it’s apparent from the diversity of scientific fields represented by our dissent list that Darwinian biologists are having an increasingly tough time convincing scientists from other disciplines of the veracity of their theory. They are having trouble persuading chemists, physicists, engineers and others that natural selection and random mutation are actually capable of generating the highly-ordered complexity we see throughout the natural world.
Third, engineers and other scientists have realized that the primary problems facing modern evolutionary theory are engineering problems. How do you build the complex machines found in the cell? How do you engineer the exquisite technology found in the DNA strand? The Times’ mistakenly asserts that no biologists are working on these very issues–but indeed they are. Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho and Michael Behe at Lehigh University, to name two. Amazingly, Times’ science writer Ken Chang himself reported last summer about Dr. Doug Axe’s lab work and research on aspects directly related to this debate. And there are other researchers, though they are hesitant to step forward because of the attacks that will be leveled at them.
More and more, modern biology is encountering questions of engineering and design. Engineers recognize this, as do physicists, chemists and a growing number of biologists themselves, as evidenced by their increasing dominance of our list. Speaking of which, the Times’ got that wrong as well.
Chang reports:

And even the petition’s sponsor, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, says that only a quarter of the signers are biologists, whose field is most directly concerned with evolution.

Actually, there are 154 biologists on the list (not 128 as the Times’ claims), which represents 30% of the signers. This may seem like quibbling, but it is the stubborn unwillingness to deal with the facts as they are that keeps the Times’ reporters from being able to objectively report about intelligent design. They also seem unable to correctly define the theory. According to Chang, intelligent design is

the proposition that life is so complex that it is best explained as the design of an intelligent being

It’s amazing that after all of the hours Chang spent with scientists in Seattle last summer, and the time he’s spent working on this latest story, that he still can’t understand what intelligent design is. He leaves out half of the theory, making his definition inaccurate.
It isn’t up to Ken Chang, or any other Darwinist, to define intelligent design theory. That’s for intelligent design scientists to do. According to the theory of intelligent design, certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause. It is this crucial point that Chang (and the rest of the New York Times’ science writers) refuses to report.
He focuses instead on the fact that design theorists do not think an undirected process such as natural selection can explain the complex molecular machines in cells, or the digital information embedded in DNA. Yet the main part of Discovery Institute’s scientific research program seeks evidence of design in nature, and we argue that such evidence points to intelligent design, based on our historical knowledge of cause and effect. Intelligent design theorists argue in favor of design theory based on the recognition of these very things like the digital information in DNA and the molecular machines in cells. They do so because invariably we know from experience that complex systems possessing such features always arise from intelligent causes. Chang’s definition is a strawman that doesn’t really say what the theory is.
But in reporting on the growing dissent from Darwinism this is irrelevant. Scientists who sign the list are not proclaiming their support for intelligent design–as evolutionary biologist Stanley Salthe made quite clear. What they are saying is that the unresolved issues challenging Darwinian evolution need to be dealt with publicly and not glossed over, denied and otherwise hidden away. There is a controversy among scientists about Darwinian evolution and the Dissent list is a living testament to that.

Robert Crowther

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.