Cornell Professor Emeritus Richard A. Baer has an opinion piece in the Cornell Daily Sun that is right on target in several areas but completely lost when it comes to freedom of scientific inquiry and intelligent design. Baer rightly points out instances where staunch Darwinists such as Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins have clearly crossed out of the realm of science and into philosophy by making dogmatically materialistic statements such as Sagan’s famous line that “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Baer explains that in his experience:
A far more serious problem at Cornell and at most universities is the many illegal border crossings that go on in the opposite direction: claims made by scientists, speaking as scientists, that are really theological, philosophical or ethical claims, rather than scientific ones.
And Baer also correctly identifies the tendency, so prevalent in academia, to try and highjack science to support moral and political views:
During my 30-plus years at Cornell, I’ve frequently witnessed social scientists using the design and content of courses and public lectures to press on students and colleagues various doctrines that could not be justified by their social science as such but rested on normative religious and philosophical judgments. Examples are multiculturalism; moral relativism; non-traditional views of marriage, divorce, family, male/female roles, sexual morality, homosexuality; etc. These are big-time illegal border crossings, but sadly, Cornell’s academic culture shows little interest in curbing them. Instead, faculty self-righteously condemn high school science teachers and state boards of education for the slightest tendency to traffic in the opposite direction.
Strangely, Baer doesn’t seem to understand that his own bias against intelligent design is just as dogmatic and just as wrong. While he condemns scientists and socials scientists for their close-mindedness, he too has the same problem.
Although it certainly is appropriate for the Arts College faculty to discuss why including ID in high school science courses is improper, this concern is highly selective and perhaps a bit hypocritical.
He even recognizes that this is hypocritical, but yet at the same time endorses this position because as he points out several times “I do not think intelligent design (“ID”) qualifies as legitimate science.”
So, what does Baer consider legitimate science?
Modern science is “naturalistic”: it deliberately ignores moral, religious and aesthetic aspects of reality and studies the world as if nothing exists but physical phenomena. However, this is a methodological, not a metaphysical naturalism; it is adopted for the limited objectives of science, not as a total world view.
That statement applies equally to intelligent design and scientists whose research deals with what they view as evidence for intelligent design — the immense amounts of complex code in DNA, the numerous molecular machines in cells, the amazing fine tuning of the laws of physics. All of these are things that can be researched and studied as physical phenomena. Intelligent design theory ignores “religious and aesthetic aspects of reality and studies the world as if nothing exists but physical phenomena.” Intelligent design is also adopted by its proponents “for the limited objectives of science, not as a total world view.” Baer should keep that in mind when he next advocates the inclusion in Cornell’s curriculum of a class that denigrates ID while opposing any class that considers it openly and objectively and allows for supportive views of the theory to be put forth.