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Major Report from PJ Media — Erasing Bechly from Wikipedia Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Günter Bechly

We’ve devoted significant energy to documenting the treatment of a notable paleontologist, Günter Bechly, by masked editors at Wikipedia. After he came out for intelligent design, they erased him for it — for holding disfavored ideas on evolution, as even Darwinists are starting to agree. But deleting him from the online encyclopedia is only the latest punishment visited on Dr. Bechly for his views.

In a major report at PJ Media, commentator Tyler O’Neil recounts the Wiki erasure but also delves back a little way to tell what happened to Bechly at the museum where he worked when he initially wrote about his interest in ID.

The German paleontologist told his story in a six-minute video. As museum curator at the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History, Bechly organized a 2009 exhibition to honor Charles Darwin. He set up a scale with books against evolution on one side and Darwin’s The Origin of Species on the other. The scale showed Darwin outweighing the other books, but Bechly later decided to read Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe, and found it scientifically convincing.

In the video, Bechly recalled reaching out to ID theorists, and finding them intellectually curious and scientifically sound. His journey to faith began with doubts about evolution, but those doubts later cost him.

“We encouraged him not to come out publicly because we knew what would happen,” [John] West, the Discovery Institute vice president, told PJ Media.

Bechly publicly announced his sympathy for ID in 2015, and the retaliation proved instantaneous. First, he met with strange smiles, icy faces, and gossip. His applications to acquire new fossil material were suddenly blocked. A position he relied on, his amber preparator, was proposed to go unfilled after the last employee retired.

The Stuttgart museum moved Bechly’s amber collection away from his office. He was directed to resign from a position with a research-funding group. The paleontologist recalled being told that he was “a big threat to the credibility and reputation of the museum,” and so he was “no longer welcome, and that it would be appreciated if I would decide to quit.”

The museum deleted Bechly’s webpages, dismissed him as the head of a major exhibition he had conceived and designed, and was forced to report to a colleague with no experience in his area. When he asked if he was being accused of any misconduct, the museum had to admit that his seventeen years of work at the museum was exemplary.

The museum did not fire Bechly, but it effectively forced him out. As in the case of Wikipedia, the paleontologist ran up against evolutionist orthodoxy, and was struck down for it.

But isn’t ID just a “pseudoscience rehash of creationism”? O’Neil continues:

Evolutionists often dismiss Intelligent Design as being less than science, and [John] West responded to this criticism. He noted that the co-founder of the theory of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace (no believer in God), wrote a book arguing for Intelligent Design, claiming that some kind of mind better explains the development of characteristics that go beyond survival value.

For more on Wallace and his fascinating intellectual journey as a pioneering design proponent, see here.

On a conceptual level, West noted that “Darwin designed his entire idea on the refutation of design, in an attempt to show design can be mimicked by a non- intelligent process.” Even suggesting this position means “you’re admitting that scientific evidence can help with the question of whether things are designed or not.”

Go over to PJ Media and read the whole article. It’s quite comprehensive and hits many of the points about ID, the scientific evidence, and Darwinists’ refusal to listen that we frequently touch on here.

Exchange with a Reporter

Meanwhile, reporter Omer Benjakob at Haaretz — Israel’s secular, liberal equivalent of the New York Times — has been tweeting thoughtful replies to my post yesterday commending his article there on the Bechly erasure situation. Mr. Benjakob rejected the claim of Wikipedia editors that they deleted Dr. Bechly for a suddenly realized lack of “notability.” Benjakob doesn’t want there to be any misunderstanding, though, and notes that he “proudly identifies as Darwinist.” No doubt, from a career perspective, that is very prudent of him.

He now writes:

I’m not sure what Bechly, who shared his ample record of research and other accomplishments with the editors, could have done differently in “communicating w Wikipedia.” But leave that aside. Benjakob seems to be saying that he would favor keeping the entry for Bechly as a historical marker, like a tombstone, memorializing an idea that passed from the scene.

Not so fast. It remains to be seen whether the design hypothesis will emerge victorious in the scientific debate. But certainly, the cracks in the foundation of Darwinism are showing. We’ve noted before the meeting last year at the Royal Society in London, the world’s oldest and most august scientific organization, at which the opening speaker, Austrian evolutionary theorist Gerd B. Müller, conceded that “current evolutionary theory…largely avoids the question of how the complex organizations of organismal structure, physiology, development or behavior…actually arise in evolution.”

We pointed out: “But how stuff ‘actually arises’ is precisely what most people think of when they think of ‘evolution.’”

The context there was a discussion among professionals at an institution than which none could be more “mainstream.” The Royal Society was once presided over by Isaac Newton.

Of course, the scientists on hand were careful to cloak doubts about traditional Darwinian theory in technical language, in case anyone was listening (and we were). Stephen Meyer translates a lot of that into more comprehensible terms in Darwin’s Doubt.

Why do Darwinists like those at the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Ball State University, and elsewhere silence and intimidate scientists who candidly discuss problems with Darwinism, and the competing evidence of design? Why is even an atheist philosopher like Thomas Nagel at New York University branded as a “heretic” for explaining, as he put it in the subtitle of a book, “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False”?

Of special interest to an Israeli reporter might be this interview with a biochemist in Israel about lipids as “designed objects.” The professor, a researcher at “one of Israel’s institutes of higher education,” found it necessary to speak anonymously, since “those who dislike his views have targeted him in the past.” So in Israel, just as in the United States and Germany, a scientist is afraid to discuss the merits of intelligent design.

Football players, as I pointed out recently, have a lot more freedom to share their controversial views than scientists do. The story of Günter Bechly and Wikipedia offers just the barest hint of how the scientific “consensus,” a stultifying orthodoxy, is maintained. I offer this rich subject to Mr. Benjakob for his consideration as a journalist.

Photo: Günter Bechly, from “A German Scientist Speaks Out about Intelligent Design,” via Discovery Institute.