The evolving clash of Darwinists and doubters

Here is an interesting article about the ongoing debate between Darwinists and advocates of so-called Intelligent Design. I have not done any reading to speak of about this debate, so I was surprised to see that some of the advocates of Intelligent Design actually have academic credentials in the field of biology. How could that be? If Darwinism is a proven fact, as I have heard so many claim, how could there be any credentialed biologists who are skeptical of evolution, the theory that all current species are descended from a single, common ancestor? Are all those guys religious nuts like me? These were the most puzzling paragraphs in the article for me:

Although the vast majority of scientists accept evolution, the Discovery Institute, a research center in Seattle that has emerged as a clearinghouse for the intelligent design movement, said that 404 scientists, including 70 biologists, had signed a petition declaring that they were skeptical of Darwinism.Nonetheless, many scientists regard intelligent design as little more than creationism. Despite its use of scientific language, they say, the approach offers only philosophical objections to evolution, not any positive evidence for the intervention of a designer.

Is truth determined by debate? Does the outcome of a poll determine what is and is not fact? If evolution is a scientific “fact,” how could there be any credentialed biologists who advocate Intelligent Design, let alone dozens or perhaps even hundreds? Are there any credentialed geographers who still advocate for a flat earth, or physicists who dispute the Law of Gravity or the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy? How could this controversy even exist if evolution was a proven, scientific “fact” instead of a theory? Or have evolution advocates been overstating their case in the heat of the debate?

I haven’t read Darwin’s Black Box which appears to be the bible of the Intelligent Design movement. And I don’t intend to either. I’m just not that interested in the outcome of this controversy. As long as I can, I will cling to the testimony of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie on doctrinal and scriptural grounds. Why? Because I have a testimony of them by that same witness I received of the Book of Mormon, the prophethood of Joseph Smith, and the Sonship of Jesus Christ. So I am a highly biased observer of this ideological conflict.

But I don’t see how that makes me any different from all of these scientists who see fulfillment of Darwinism in every scrap of evidence, and ignore any possibility that there might be another way of looking at the same data. It is clear to me that on both sides of this debate, those involved are looking only for evidence that will support their own argument. And such selective evidence gathering is hardly conducive to an honest search for the truth.

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5 Responses to The evolving clash of Darwinists and doubters

  1. John,

    It does make you a certain kind of evolutionist, yes. I would probably call you a micro-evolutionist. From here I could ask you, what caused dogs to evolve from wolves, if not Darwinian natural selection? If this is your mechanism, that makes you a Darwinian of sorts as well. Of course I should ask what evidence makes you think that these things have occurred? The evolution of wolves into dogs isn’t much bigger of a jump than cro-magnon into modern humans.

    The issue of “missing pieces” (nobody really talks about the missing link anymore) in the evolutionary theory is exactly where I think the Darwinists and IDers speak past one another. The IDers such as yourself are saying that we don’t know enough yet so we shouldn’t be so cocky. The Darwinists are saying that while we don’t know a lot, we do know a lot about some issues and IDers need to finally acknowledge these issues. These issues include the age of the earth, the common descent of species, the descend of man from other species. The evidence for these propositions is simply overwhelming and there is no longer any scientific reason to doubt them. One can talk about “Intelligent Design” until the cows come home without ever addressing these three issues.

    In other words, the exact points which Christians find most offensive are the very points which are most firmly established. This is why its almost impossible to accept any part of evolution without accepting these points as well.

  2. Jared says:

    John,

    I’ve kicked this topic around a bit on my blog–feel free to check it out. On my sidebar I have an essay explaining my objection to intelligent design. I also have links to book reviews I’ve done (eg. Darwin’s Black Box and Defeating Darwinism.) Various posts deal with it also.

    Hopefully you’ll get a sense of my thinking on the matter.

    As you noted earlier, scientists will often say they don’t know. But ending it there gives you nothing to work with. Also, remeber to distinguish between methodological naturalism and philosphical naturalism.

  3. I think that all domestic dogs are descended from wolves. Does that make me an evolutionist? I think that all human beings alive today, the short pigmies in Africa and the tall Watutsi, the dark Zulu and the white Norwegians, are descended from Adam and Eve. Does that make me an evolutionist?

    Hey! Maybe I am an evolutionist too.

    But I can’t help thinking there is something wrong with both sides of the discussion. Some very important data seems to be missing. Maybe I’ll just have to wait to find out what really happened.

    Clark, you asked “those who reject is replace it with what?” Why does it have to be replaced by anything until we know more? Maybe “I don’t know” would be the appropriate position for everyone to take, scientists and religionists alike.

  4. There are other issues which must be addressed as well:

    1) “biology” covers an awful lot of ground. Those 70 biologists could have never studied a single bit of evolution.

    2) Out of the tens of thousands of professors in united states alone they could only find 400 which would endorse their extraordinarily vague statement? How is that impressive at all?

    3) Intelligent Design could mean any number of things. For instance, Behe accepts the common ancestry of all life, including humans, because the evidence is simply too overwhelming. And yet he is the god father of ID. If humans did descend from hominids, and I guarantee that they couldn’t come up with even a dozen biologists to go along with that, then who cares about the rest of the argument from the religionists stand point. Why is it that creationists only argue for the points which accomplish nothing by way of establishing what they themselves claim. The earth is very old. Species have a common ancestory. Humans are no exception. Until the IDer’s say anything at all about these things maybe they should be a bit more humble.

    BTW, did you actual statment that was signed by these people? It has become obvious that ID is just a version of creationism which has been watered down in its affirmative claims in order to gain more acceptance. The problem is that since they aren’t really claiming any thing, they aren’t really saying much either, at least not much that says anything about the important matters that they are really upset about.

    Darwinism is not synonymous with evoluton. It is merely a theoretical mechanism for it. Evolution is a fact, the importance of Darwinian natural selection is not. People can scream and yell all they want at darwinism, but this doesn’t say anything at all about the over whelming evidence which supports evolution in general and human ancestry in particular. All of those signatures are simply saying the modern evolution has some work to do, a statement which no biologist disagrees with. The only difference of opinion is how much work is needed.

    The clash between darwinists and IDer’s is indeed evolving because both sides are evolving. Darwinism is evolving as more and more supporting evidence comes in and slight modifications must be made in order to accomodate it. This evolution has little to do with their critics. The argument of the creationists is evolving as well. Their argument must constantly be modified in that since their argument are almost entirely based on ignorance, as this ignorance continues to disappear, creative new arguments must be marshalled. Thus Darwinism evolves in response to the evidence. ID evolves in response to Darwinism. This is why evolutionists think that ID should be taught in schools…. as a social phenomenon, not a biological one.

  5. Clark Goble says:

    I think, John, that unless you look at the specific arguments, you will see things the way you are. You have to go through the science. I’d merely suggest that while it is true you can find “scientists” who reject Darwinism, one should look to what percentage of the whole they make up. If 95% of scientists accept Darwinism, isn’t that significant?

    Further, one must ask, those who reject it replace it with what? And why?

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