While the New England Journal of Medicine recently refused to publish a pro-ID letter-to-the-editor commenting on the Kitzmiller ruling, other medical journals are still clearly open to discussion on these matters.
Michael R. Egnor, professor of Neurosurgery at S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook has published a letter in the Journal of Clinical Investigation entitled Defending Science from Censorship. The letter responds to an anti-ID article published in Journal of Clinical Investigation entitled “Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action,” which had many co-authors, including the notable names Elliot Sober, Ronald Numbers, and Terese Berceau.
The original article by Berceau, Sober, & Numbers et al. is surprising for something published in a scholarly journal: it uses uncommonly inflammatory rhetoric to call the scholarship of design scientists mere religious “tracts.” Does the usage of such language depreciate scholarly value of this article? Moreover, the original article is highly partisan in that it simply recapitulates the “Darwinist metanarrative,” a widely-held though mainly fictional account of intelligent design that has little-to-no basis in reality. The many incorrect and ironic statements in the article will be analyzed in a three-part series of posts here at Evolution News & Views in coming days.
In the mean time, Egnor’s letter: is worth highlighting because it argues that the “call to action” is actually a call to censorship of non-Darwinian views.
To the Editor:
The essay by Attie et al (‘Defending science education against design: a call to action’) is an odd ‘call to action’. Scientists generally consider a ‘call to action’ to be a call for more vigorous discussion and research. Dr Attie’s ‘call to action’ is a call for censorship.
Dr. Attie assembles a philosopher, an historian, a lawyer, and a couple of politicians to coauthor an essay encouraging scientists to lobby for laws that censor criticism of Darwinism in schools. They assert that if you don’t accept Darwinism as an adequate explanation for biological complexity, you’re ‘anti-science’.
The authors’ preference for censorship, rather than debate, is understandable. Poorly thought-out arguments don’t hold up well in open debate. They devote a paragraph to testing (and claiming to refute) Mike Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity. The first sentence of their next paragraph is “ID makes no testable predictions.” They propose a law that mandates that public school students be taught material that ‘describes only natural processes’. That rules out the Big Bang, black holes, multiverses, and much of modern cosmology. Emergence of the universe ex- nihilo, physics in singularities, and the existence of countless other universes are by definition not ‘natural processes’. Censor quantum mechanics as well. There’s nothing ‘natural’ about Schrodinger’s cat!
The authors’ policies, if taken seriously, would exclude many of the most important advances in 20th century physics. The most interesting and fruitful science challenges dogma, and the most entrenched dogma in modern biology is Darwinism.
The authors express concern that discussion of Darwinism and intelligent design will cripple science education. Yet the United States leads the western world in science and in skepticism about Darwinism. The current American debate about the origin of biological complexity is clear evidence that free inquiry is quite compatible with leadership in science.
Science thrives in an atmosphere of free inquiry. Teach the controversy!
Michael Egnor, M.D.
Stay tuned to Evolution News and Views for more commentary on this article in the coming days.