The Chicago Tribune has an article up about a new IDEA (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness) club at Cornell University, where the president recently delivered a scathing critique of intelligent design in his annual address to the school. The article includes many misconceptions and falsehoods, beginning with the first premise uttered by the new chapter’s founder:
The national spotlight recently has focused on school boards in Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere that are grappling with calls for including intelligent design, a concept critical of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, in science curricula. But a significant new front in this cultural conflict is opening in the halls of American higher education, spearheaded by science students skeptical of evolution and intrigued by intelligent design.
One of them is Hannah Maxson. A math and chemistry major at Cornell University, she founded an Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club here this fall.
“In my opinion, both intelligent design and Darwinian evolution are science. Both have philosophical implications. Intelligent design implies the universe is somewhat directed. Darwinian evolution implies a naturalistic worldview,” Maxson, 21, said.
Ms. Maxson gets it wrong from her first premise. Evolution does not imply a naturalistic worldview any more than the germ theory of disease or heliocentrism or any other scientific theory. All scientific theories are “naturalistic” in precisely the same sense, as a matter of methodology only. And that methodology is shared by all scientists, including those who are otherwise religiously inclined. This conflation of methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism has become the primary PR tactic of the ID movement – tie evolution to atheism and most people will reject it without having any understanding of it whatsoever. At the same time, of course, they pretend that ID is not at all a religious idea, yet their own behavior contradicts that. Interesting fact: one of the basic rules for setting up an IDEA club chapter such as the one at Cornell, and this is required in order to use the name “IDEA Club”, is that only Christians are allowed to be officers in such a club. I think that speaks volumes.
The other absurd statement in the article comes from the usually reasonable Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center:
That kind of tolerance is too rare, said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.
“I think many of the scientific organizations have felt they had to demonize ID in order to win the argument. I think by ruling out ID in science journals and science discussions, they have given the impression that they are not willing to listen and really engage the other side,” Haynes said.
This is a straw man. No one has ruled out ID in science journals or science discussions. ID advocates are every bit as free as anyone else to develop their theories, propose ways to test them, and submit the results of their research to their fellow scientists through journals or at scientific conferences. They aren’t prevented from doing so, they just don’t do it, and the principle reason they don’t do it is because they don’t have an actual theory from which such tests and such research could be derived. Nearly 10 years after the infamous “Wedge document” appeared, whose 1st phase was “scientific research, writing and publication”, not a single bit of research has been produced to support ID, and by the admission of their own leading lights, there still is no ID theory to focus such research (Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute admitted that quite plainly last fall).
Of the other leading lights of the ID movement, Bill Dembski says that he has become “blase`” about submitting his work to scientific journals and doesn’t bother because he can get a faster turnaround and more public attention (and royalties) by writing popular books. And at the Dover trial a few weeks ago, when Michael Behe was asked on the stand if his ideas about irreducible complexity were testable, he replied yes. When asked if he had any intention of doing the research to perform those tests, he said it wasn’t his responsibility to do so but the responsibility of his opponents to disprove him. So the inescapable fact is that, rather than having ID “ruled out” of sience journals and science discussions, ID advocates have chosen not to go through the very same process by which every other idea in the history of science has gone through in order to be established as valid. After 10 years and a thousand excuses, one can be forgiven for believing that this is because they know, at least subconsciously, that their ideas won’t withstand the scrutiny of an educated public. Hence, the relentless focus on getting into public schools in front of students who are not capable of evaluating the veracity of their claims.