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April 13, 2002

Intelligent Design

At Last, Clearly and Simply, What It's All About

I got this from Phil Johnson. Worth reproducing in full, I thought, in view of the ghastly misrepresentations and misunderstandings I've seen from the US and British media.

Alberta Report
April 1, 2002

In a curious reversal of roles, it's the Darwinists who have become the modern fundamentalists;
By Ted Byfield and Virginia Byfield

The great debate over whether anything besides Darwin's theory of natural selection should be taught in the public schools is now breaking out all over North America, and there is some hope that before it's over the media people covering it may actually discover what it's about. They may discover, that is, that the debate is not between a literal reading of the Book of Genesis and a world that is about 6,000 years old on the one hand, and the combined weight of geophysics, astronomy, geology paleontology and archaeology on the other. They may learn that the age of the earth is not actually in serious question, and that some Christians as early as the third century envisioned a universe of infinite dimension, theorizing that what God created were "seeds of life" which over time he turned into the various species. What is at issue, they may finally realize, is how this happened. Was it by a process of pure accident, with no Designer involved at any stage? Or may the theory also be entertained that sheer accident is not capable of accounting for the complexities now being uncovered? Finally, they may perceive that the two sides in this debate are sharply distinguished. One hews fervidly to a fundamentalist and unshakeable dogmatism, while the other preserves an open mind, recognizing the possibility that the fundamentalists may prove right but insisting that other views must be given a hearing?including in the classroom. But things surely have changed since the days of the Scopes trial. The Darwinists have become the dogmatic fundamentalists, while the advocates of "Intelligent Design" are the champions of the open mind.

Central to the controversy is the definition of science. The fundamentalists say that any theory whatsoever which involves direction from outside nature is automatically disqualified. It would be non-scientific. That is the dogma. Attribute anything to God and you're out. This dogma is not itself scientific, of course. It is theological, in effect proclaiming: we know for a fact that nature is a closed system, and nothing from outside can intervene in it. How do the Darwinian fundamentalists know this? By faith, of course, How else? But just suppose, the Intelligent Design theorists contend, that there was a Designer, and suppose scientific discovery increasingly pointed to this likelihood. "But that implies a God," the new-breed fundamentalists would declare, "so it must be rejected. It's coming to the wrong conclusion. Only conclusions that point away from God can be accepted." In other words, things have come full circle. The religious fundamentalists said, "This or that cannot be so, because it is incompatible with the Bible." Now the new fundamentalists say, "This or that cannot be so, because it is incompatible with our agreed-upon definition of science."

Actually, the debate is already long past the "just suppose" stage. Three developments in the last few years have reawakened the issue in the United States, at school board level. First, Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, in his Darwin on Trial, noted that Darwinists have laboured for 150 years to gather evidence that would scientifically validate "natural selection," and failed. Most of the celebrated "proofs" ?- the spotted moths, the fruit flies, so familiar in prescribed high-school textbooks -- have been discredited. As Mr. Johnson demonstrated, they would certainly not stand up in any court. When he finally managed to get his book published, despite virulent opposition from the scientific establishment (which threatened to deny textbook contracts to any publisher which dared to touch it), Darwin on Trial was an immediate bestseller. Furthermore, it became obvious the establishment had no ready answers for his arguments, or his citations of textbook fakery. There was worse to come, however. Even as scientific fundamentalists frantically formulated an anti-Johnson defence, Pennsylvania biochemist Michael Behe published Darwin's Black Box. Darwin's theory, Dr. Behe pointed out, was based on the premise that what Darwin called "the simple Cell," the basic unit of life, was like a "black box" which could not be opened. But I now it has been opened?and it's not simple either. In fact, it is so complex, says Dr. Behe, that there isn't the least possibility it could have come about by accident. Then came the third?and possibly final?blow. William A. Dembski published his theory of Intelligent Design, which makes a comprehensive case against the Darwinian assumption and against the fundamentalists and their dogmatic definition of science, and offers a coherent alternative.

We review all this for good reason. These arguments will very soon come to Canada and cause contention in Canadian school systems. It behooves us, therefore, to understand the issue. It is not the Science of the Book of Genesis versus the Science of the 21st Century. It is Design versus Accident, and whether science, as such, can legitimately rule out the possibility of God. The public, much of it anyway, already seems to understand this. Can the journalists be far behind?

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