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Theory in Crisis? Circling the Wagons

Photo credit: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, via Flickr.

Editor’s note: We are delighted to present a series by biologist Jonathan Wells asking, “Is Darwinism a Theory in Crisis?” This is the fourth post in the series, which is adapted from the recent book, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and FaithFind the full series here.

Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn compared scientific revolutions to political revolutions. Like a political revolution, a scientific revolution typically divides people “into competing camps or parties, one seeking to defend the old institutional constellation, the others seeking to institute some new ones.”1 The camp defending the old paradigm uses every means at its disposal, including all of its professional societies and publications, to resist the challenger. Since the mid 20th century, established paradigms have also controlled enormous funding from foundations and taxpayers, and thus jobs in educational and research institutions. With careers at stake, things can get ugly.

And Things Have Gotten Ugly

In the late 1990s, in Burlington, Washington, high school biology teacher Roger DeHart taught evolution as required. But he also shared with his students a few articles from mainstream science publications that questioned some aspects of neo-Darwinian theory. Militant Darwinists intimidated the local school board with threats of a lawsuit, so DeHart was reassigned to another subject and his biology class was turned over to a physical education instructor. In 2002, DeHart left his career as a public high school teacher and eventually moved with his wife and children to another country.2

In 2003, Dr. Nancy Bryson was head of the Division of Science and Mathematics at the Mississippi University for Women. After she presented an honors forum titled “Critical Thinking on Evolution,” a senior biology professor read to the audience a previously prepared statement calling her presentation “religion masquerading as science” and accusing her of being unqualified to talk about evolution. The next day, Dr. Bryson was informed that her contract as division head would not be renewed. She subsequently had to find work elsewhere.3

In 2004, biologist Caroline Crocker was a visiting professor at George Mason University. While covering a required section on evolution, she gave one lecture on evidentiary problems with Darwin’s theory and briefly mentioned the controversy over intelligent design. At the end of the lecture, she told students to “think about it for yourself.” For this reason, Crocker’s contract was not renewed.4

OK, Then Don’t Think About It for Yourself

In 2005, biology teacher Bryan Leonard was about to get his PhD in science education from Ohio State University. His dissertation, which was a quantitative study about how a group of students reacted to the critical analysis of evolution, had already been approved by his committee. At the last minute, however, three pro-Darwin professors (who admitted they had not read Leonard’s dissertation) lodged a complaint against him. The complaint alleged that he had engaged in unethical behavior by implying to students that there were weaknesses in neo-Darwinism. As a result, the university blocked Leonard’s PhD.5

David Coppedge began working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California in 1996. For nine years he served as the team lead system administrator for the ambitious Cassini mission to Saturn. Then he was reprimanded and demoted for privately giving DVDs about intelligent design to co-workers who requested them. In 2011, he was let go.6

Internationally renowned paleontologist Günter Bechly directed the 2009 Darwin Day exhibit at State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany. The exhibit was strongly pro-Darwin, but it included a critique of intelligent design that featured some books by intelligent design advocates. After reading some of the pro-ID books, Bechly concluded that Darwinists had been misrepresenting intelligent design. He gradually changed his views and publicly declared his support for ID in 2015. After that, Bechly reported, the museum told him he was “no longer welcome, and that it would be appreciated if I would decide to quit.” He was eventually forced to resign.7

Controlled by the Paradigm

As Kuhn pointed out, mainstream scientific journals (like scientific societies) are also largely controlled by the dominant paradigm. For this reason, articles about intelligent design, or even articles on other subjects that have been written by known advocates of intelligent design, have rarely been published in mainstream journals.

Some years ago, I submitted an article on cell biology to a prominent scientific journal. The article did not mention intelligent design. After I made some recommended changes, my article passed peer review, and the editor emailed to tell me he wanted to publish it. He had just one final question: Was I “the Jonathan Wells of intelligent design fame?” (His words exactly.) I answered that I was. Afterward he sent the article to yet another reader, whose “review” didn’t really deal with its contents but sounded like an angry rant from a pro-Darwin blog. The editor then informed me he had decided not to publish my article.8

In this same scientific journal in 2020, biochemist Dave Speijer justified the prejudice against intelligent design. He recommended that Internet searches hosted by tech giants explicitly discriminate against intelligent design; if the tech giants resist, the government should “make them,” he wrote. In particular, Speijer recommended “mandatory color-coded banners warning of consistent factual errors or unscientific content, masquerading as science.”9

Next, “Theory in Crisis? Some Cautionary Words.”


  1. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed., 93.
  2. Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2006), 143-144.
  3. Jim Brown and Ed Vitagliano, “Professor Dumped over Evolution Beliefs,” Agape Press (March 11, 2003). http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/professordumped031203.htm (accessed August 22, 2020).
  4. Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism, 190-191.
  5. “Outside Professors Derail Dissertation,” Free Science, https://freescience.today/story/bryan-leonard/ (accessed August 22, 2020).
  6. “Demoted, Terminated,” Free Science, https://freescience.today/story/david-coppedge/ (accessed August 22, 2020).
  7. “Marginalized, Shown the Door,” Free Science, https://freescience.today/story/gunter-bechly/ (accessed August 22, 2020).
  8. Michael Egnor, “What Scientists Know,” Evolution News and Science Today (May 28, 2020). https://evolutionnews.org/2020/05/what-scientists-know/ (accessed August 22, 2020).
  9. David Speijer, “Bad Faith Reasoning, Predictable Chaos, and the Truth,” BioEssays 42 (June 2020), 2000040.