Dunford, Darwinism, and the Paranoid Style

Michael Egnor

The voices in Mike Dunford’s head have been awfully worried lately. Dunford, a zoology graduate student from Hawaii who ‘”studies evolution,” put up a bizarre post on Panda’s Thumb recently. Dunford is convinced that there are conspiracies going on.
He began his post with lucidity, sensibly acknowledging the truth of Denyse O’Leary’s observation that intelligent design theory is not creationism. Intelligent design is the theory that some aspects of living things are more reasonably explained as the product of intelligent design rather than as the product of random variation. It’s a scientific inference, open to evidence, and it might be right or wrong. Creationism is the belief in the literal truth of the Bible, particularly in the Book of Genesis. It’s a religious inference, and creationists believe it cannot be wrong. Dunford acknowledges the honesty of creationists (as if that were in dispute), but then denies the honesty of those of us who support intelligent design theory. Dunford writes:

Their mission is to destroy good science education for every child in the public schools of America, and they can’t do that if they are obviously driven by religious motives. That’s why you see them conceal the theological basis for their beliefs…

Our “mission is to destroy good science education for every child in the public schools of America”? Dunford’s assertion is…well… paranoid. Most intelligent design advocates are teachers — science professors in universities — and it’s fair to say that most are parents with children in the public schools. We have a huge stake in good science education, and we believe that the problems with Darwin’s theory should be openly and honestly discussed in public schools. The overwhelming majority of Americans support open discussion of Darwin’s theory in schools — are they out to “destroy good science education for every child in the public schools in America” as well? It’s Darwinists like Dunford who sue in federal court to silence candid discussion of science in biology classes, and in the process threaten to bankrupt school districts in which parents have the temerity to even question the evolutionary dogma that’s taught in their schools to their children.
Given that 80% of Americans reject the strict Darwinist interpretation of human origins, the current system of “good science education” fails by the Darwinists’ own standards. Dunford and his colleagues in the evolutionary-thought-police have enjoyed a federally enforced monopoly on biology education for 50 years. It’s a federal crime to question Darwin’s theory in a public school. Yet they have convinced less than 20% of their students of the validity of their science. What would we say about the didactic skills of physics teachers who, after 50 years of a monopoly on classroom instruction, only got 20% of students to accept Newton’s second law? What an irony; Darwinists are lecturing us about “good science education”! I doubt that teachers who explicitly taught intelligent design for 50 years could have been as effective as the Darwinists have been at discrediting Darwin’s theory.
Dunford then goes on to call those of us who support intelligent design dishonest about our faith (!):

The Intelligent Design folks, on the other hand, loudly declare that they are indifferent to religion every chance that they get…
The two-faced nature of the Intelligent Design movement has not gone unnoticed – and it’s not just the scientific community that’s turned off by the “plausible denial” tactics…Personally, I’d suggest that watering down your beliefs in public for “tactical reasons” is more of a moral flaw than a philosophical one.

So, in Dunford’s paranoid world, I.D. scientists are not only out to “destroy good science education for every child in the public schools of America,” but we’re liars about our faith as well. What arrogance. Contrary to Dunford’s slander, we’re quite honest about our faith, and we’re not the least bit indifferent about it. We represent a broad spectrum of belief — Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and even several agnostics. Many of us are devout, but very few of us are fundamentalists. We’re much less likely to hold fundamentalist religious views than the American public (nearly half of whom — educated by Dunsford’s Darwinist colleagues in public schools — are young earth creationists). On the other hand, Darwinists are almost all atheists, and are on the fringe of American religious belief. It’s ironic that Darwinist metaphysical dogma skews their science in a way analogous to the caricature of Christian fundamentalists that they deride.
In reply to Dunford’s allegation that I lie about my faith: I deeply resent that assertion. I’m a faithful Catholic, I’m devoted to Christ and to the Church, and I attend Mass daily if I can. My faith in God is of central importance in my life. I recognize that much of God’s work is beyond my ability to discern or to understand, and there’s no a priori reason that I would expect to be able to discern it in biology.
Neither am I dishonest about my scientific beliefs. I believe that the scientific evidence clearly supports the inference that some aspects of living things (e.g. the genetic code, intracellular molecular nanotechnology) are best explained scientifically as the products of intelligent design. The only way that my religious beliefs influence my scientific beliefs is that as a Christian, I accept the possibility of intelligent design if that’s what the scientific evidence suggests. Unlike atheists, I don’t restrict scientific explanations to strict materialistic causes if the evidence suggests otherwise. I’m not a fundamentalist, of either the creationist or the Darwinist stipe. Contra Dunford, I don’t lie about my religious beliefs and I don’t lie about my scientific beliefs. I follow the evidence. The origin of my support for intelligent design isn’t furtive or complicated. There’s clear evidence for design in biology.
Dunford’s paranoid style is increasingly a staple of Darwinist rhetoric. They don’t have the evidence to support their theory, so all they can do is accuse those of us who question dogmatic Darwinism of conspiring to “destroy good science education for every child in the public schools of America” and of lying about our faith. Much of Darwinist rhetoric isn’t scientific at all; it’s ad hominem attacks and conspiracy mongering.
Darwinists will do anything to avoid debating the science.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.