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Let's Be Intelligent About Darwin

Preserving self-interest and blindly clinging to Darwinism, education and science struggle against intelligent design, a concept that is rapidly gaining credibility over the theory of evolution.

With our twin election campaigns about to begin, Christian-bashing season is upon us again. Consider the faint possibility, however, that when you hear the words "right-wing ideologues," "backwards-leaning bigots," "fringe scientists" operating "on the margins," "uneducated," "illogical," and so on, that in fact, Christian and religious North America is engaged in serious intellectual inquiry, while mainstream academics and scientists are busy closing the gates of academic freedom. I know it's preposterous, but hold it in your mind, as a theory, say.

Darwin should be vigorously argued against on many grounds …

Tuesday, February 10, is the eve of Darwin's 195th birthday and the debate on his seminal work only gathers steam. The New York Academy of Sciences will launch, that night, another salvo in the war against intelligent design by showing a film and holding an indoctrination session (sorry, discussion) afterward. Last year, the National Centre of Science Education held an "activists summit" for science teachers and other educators, looking at strategies on how to kill the opposition to Darwin dead. They have reason to worry.

Intelligent design is a set of complex ideas which grows in power and persuasion every single year. Supported in large part by the Discovery Institute, a think-tank based in Seattle, and by the ever-increasing intellectual power of Christian universities and colleges, successful initiatives to "teach the controversy" gained ground in six states in the past year.

While the education establishment twitters and moans, Zogby International recently found that two-thirds of Ohioans, for instance, supported teaching both Darwin's theory and the scientific evidence against it. Another poll, taken a few months later, produced a similar result. Nationally, 71 percent of Americans supported teaching evidence both for and against Darwin's theory. An even greater majority favoured exposing students to "evidence that points to an intelligent design of life." American parents, apparently, faced with the choice, want both. The science establishment, en masse, swoons. Scripture, after all, is for stupid people, not them. Does that mean they will have to read the Bible?

Furthermore, the purpose of the Discovery Institute is plain. Phillip Johnson, a senior fellow at the Institute, stated last year on a Christian radio talk show that "Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit, so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."

I can only say, right on. Darwin should be vigorously argued against on many grounds, but chief among them is that the reductive materialism that results from it is so unbelievably dreary. Scratch a Darwinist, and you find a depressive. However, that's just me. Not enough to base a change in the way science is taught. Helloooo Environment Minister David Anderson!

Dumbing down is not an answer either. The Georgia Department of Education—faced by 35 Georgia scientists arguing for the academic freedom to teach the controversy (of the 300 in the U.S.)—decided to remove all references to "evolution" in science textbooks, and replace the term with "biological changes over time."

"This is absurd," said Rob Crowther, spokesman for the Discovery Institute. "They need to be presenting the scientific evidence both for and against Darwin's theory. There is growing controversy among scientists about the ability of natural selection or chemistry alone to explain the complexity of life. Ignoring the word evolution won't make the controversy go away."

And these are real scientists too, not fundamentalists who believe the earth is 10,000 years old. In the Discovery Institute's submissions to various boards of education across the U.S., bibliographies of 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles raise significant challenges to the key tenets of Darwinian evolution. Many scientists now question the ability of natural selection to create fundamentally new structures, organisms and body plans. The increasing finds in the fossil records are not turning up the necessary failed experiments. And in 2001, 100 scientists, from institutions such as MIT, Yale and Rice, published a statement questioning the creative power of natural selection.

You can only imagine the scorn from the science establishment. And wonder why. Darwin himself admitted that "a multitude of facts" could be "viewed … from a point of view directly opposite" to his, and viewed by "experienced naturalists." If there are serious questions, and an increasing number of respected academics and scientists are raising them, why object to their public investigation and discussion?

… it means that the current world view, held and vigorously promoted by the keepers of the culture, would crumble.

Benjamin Wiker explains why in Moral Darwinism, How We Became Hedonists. Materialists, claims Wiker, rightly fear the intelligent design revolution because they realize that a moral revolution necessarily follows upon it. If there is an intelligent designer, or God; and the immortal soul exists; and if God mandated a moral code, as is suggested in the foundational works of all religions; then heaven and hell might exist. And the highest value now held, which Wiker claims is ataraxia, or freedom from disturbance, would radically shift to something quite else. Which is that each human possesses an immortal soul, which might well be held to account. This is quite frightening to materialists because it means that the current world view, held and vigorously promoted by the keepers of the culture, would crumble.

Such fun. In the distinctly unfree Dominion, where grim utilitarianism reigns everywhere, intelligent design is no more than a weird blip on the American scholastic landscape, never to pollute our freedom from disturbance. Instead what we have is Anderson fervidly promoting the increasingly discredited science of Kyoto, and refusing to hear the testimony of any scientist opposed to his mad totalitarian desire. According to the Hill Times this week, Environment Canada managers regularly suppress scientific reports of government climate scientists that do not support government policy. And as Tim Ball reports, "Scientists regularly complain of extreme pro-Kyoto bias in the selection of scientific papers and news articles circulated by Natural Resources Canada." The shutting down of public debate in this country is far advanced. Let the Christian bashing begin.

Elizabeth Nickson, a writer and journalist who has been published widely for the past 15 years, is a columnist for National Post. She can be reached at: enickson@nationalpost.com.

Originally published in the National Post, February 6, 2004.



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