Re: [pcp-discuss:] Fwd: "Intelligent Design" lobby Congress against Darwinism

From: John J. Kineman (jjk@NGDC.NOAA.GOV)
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 19:20:47 BST

  • Next message: Cliff Joslyn: "Re: [pcp-discuss:] Fwd: "Intelligent Design""

    I don't find anything "sickening" in these statements themselves. Perhaps
    is more behind them that is bothersome, or in how they are interpreted and
    by politicians and religiious pundits. But the concept of intelligence in
    nature is really inescapable for the biologist who is serioiusly interested in
    the subject. The use of such ideas to proove concepts of God is really
    irrelevant - that is a completely different use of the ideas than a scientific
    use. One does not have to alter the concepts in order to use them for
    purposes. Also, if this is an open-minded forum, I think it is not a good idea
    to resort to the playground sort of likes and dislikes, who's in and who's
    etc. - pejorative terms like "sickening" "ridiculous" etc. That's actually
    political approach - the ulgly politics of science. It is better to restrict
    ourselves to rational arguments.

    At 02:32 PM 6/2/00 +0200, you wrote:
    >An example of how on-going misunderstanding of evolutionary theory
    >can find its ways to the highest political levels. Frightening, when
    >I think about it. Although Europeans sometimes can be more
    >antiscientific in their reactions than Americans (e.g. against
    >genetic manipulation), at least in this respect we don't have the
    >problem. Even the pope has accepted the theory of evolution...
    >Although I don't worry too much about the long term survival of
    >"Intelligent Design" theory (since it doesn't explain anything and
    >doesn't make any predictions it is intrinsically less useful as a
    >scientific model than any of its rivals, whether Darwinism,
    >self-organization or any other variant), the idea is appealing enough
    >to non-scientists that it may have a large impact on society and
    >culture at large. It is part of our duty in Principia Cybernetica to
    >propose an alternative philosophy that is sufficiently deep and
    >elegant to convince non-scientists.
    >To: <>
    >Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 22:40:50 -0400
    >Subject: "Intelligent Design" lobby Congress against Darwinism
    >Complexity is being invoked at a Congressional hearing to discredit
    >   I think that complex systems scientists have a civic duty to enter into
    >  debate.  Some excerpts from the report, below:
    >"Behe and Meyer emphasized two keystones of ID [Intelligent Design] theory:
    >(1) that an intelligent designer is the only way to explain irreducibly
    >complex natural systems, which defy explanation by Darwinian processes; and
    >(2) that information is a third fundamental entity separate from matter and
    >energy, and information can only come from a mind. ...
    >Both Behe and Meyer repeatedly noted that scientists have been
    >enormously surprised by the complexity they find in nature -- whereas
    >Darwinism may have worked within the limited scope of 19th-century
    >scientific understanding, it cannot handle the much greater complexity
    >that scientist now recognize...
    >Asked if there was a critical mass yet of Intelligent Design supporters among
    >scientists at universities, Johnson stated that you do not convince the
    >priesthood but generationally replace them. "
    >Forwarded message:
    >Date: Wed, 17 May 00 12:24:59 EDT
    >To: evoldir@evol.biology.McMaster.CA (Evoldir)
    >Subject:  intelligent design goes to Congress
    >Hi all,
    >I thought this one was sickening enough to be widely publicized. Is the
    >Society for the Study of Evolution going to do something about it?
    >Massimo Pigliucci
    >This courtesy of David Wald at Caltech
    >ASLA 00-12 Evolution Opponents Hold Congressional Briefing
    >On May 10th, a House Judiciary Committee hearing room was the site of a
    >three-hour briefing on paleontology, biology, and cosmology. Although
    >presentations were at times quite technical, the speakers were not there to
    >discuss the latest research in these fields. They were on Capitol Hill to
    >promote intelligent design (ID) theory, to debunk Darwinian evolutionary
    >theory, and to expose the negative social impact of Darwinism. Entitled
    >"Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design and its Implications for Public
    >Policy and Education," the briefing was sponsored by the Discovery
    >a Seattle-based think tank
    (<>, and its Center for
    >Renewal of Science and Culture. The afternoon briefing was preceded by a
    >private luncheon in the U.S. Capitol for Members of Congress and was
    >by an evening reception.
    >Until now, the creation-evolution debate has primarily been active at the
    >state and local level, but this event may represent the start of a new
    >to involve Congress in efforts to oppose the teaching of evolution. Whether
    >by chance or by design, the briefing took place as the Senate entered its
    >second week of debate on overhauling federal K-12 education programs. Both
    >houses are expected to work throughout the summer on reauthorization of the
    >Elementary and Secondary Education Act. More information on that subject is
    >on the AGI website at
    >*** Creationist and Congressional Heavy Hitters ***
    >The briefing featured a number of the leading lights in the ID movement,
    >including Lehigh University biology professor Michael Behe, author of
    >"Darwin's Black Box;" Whitworth College philosophy professor Stephen Meyer,
    >who directs the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture and is a
    >ARCO geophysicist; Discovery Institute Fellow Nancy Pearcey, co-author with
    >Chuck Colson of "How Now Shall We Live?;" and Berkeley law professor Phillip
    >Johnson, author of "Darwin on Trial." Behe and Meyer spoke first, focusing
    >a scientific explanation of ID theory and discussion of the weaknesses of
    >Darwinian theory. The second two speakers, Pearcey and Johnson, focused on
    >social and political implications of the competing worldviews represented by
    >these two theories.
    >Approximately 50 people attended the briefing, including a handful of
    >congressional staff and several Members of Congress. The chairman of the
    >House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Rep. Charles Canady
    >provided the room. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) made remarks comparing the
    >current Kansas social controversy over evolution to the one spawned by
    >abolitionist John Brown. More significant was the appearance of Rep. Tom
    >Petri (R-WI), who warmly introduced several of the speakers. Petri is slated
    >to become chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in
    >January, replacing retiring chairman Bill Goodling (R-PA). Other
    >congressional co-hosts listed on the press release included House Science
    >Committee members Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and
    >Education Committee member Mark Souder (R-IN).
    >*** Empirical Evidence for Design ***
    >Despite the presence of congressional heavy hitters, Johnson disavowed any
    >intention of playing the Washington power game (something he accused
    >scientists of doing) and emphasized that he and his colleagues were there
    >only to open minds which had been kept closed by an elite scientific
    >priesthood. All of the speakers emphasized that this was a debate among
    >scientists, not between science and religion. They stressed that the idea of
    >design is entirely empirical, that we recognize it all the time in everyday
    >life and can make the conclusion of design based wholly on the physical
    >evidence. However, they also recognized that intelligent design theory has
    >theistic implications.
    >Unlike some other creationists, ID supporters accept deep time and indeed
    >argue that the cosmological big bang is evidence for the existence of
    >something beyond nature. Like other creationists, however, they argue that
    >the diversity and complexity of life could not have come about through
    >undirected processes of natural selection.
    >Behe and Meyer emphasized two keystones of ID theory: (1) that an
    >intelligent designer is the only way to explain irreducibly complex natural
    >systems, which defy explanation by Darwinian processes; and (2) that
    >information is a third fundamental entity separate from matter and energy,
    >and information can only come from a mind. Meyer used this second concept to
    >link ID theory to the new knowledge-based economy where value comes from
    >information not material resources. Nearly all the speakers cited a quote by
    >Bill Gates equating DNA with extremely complex computer code.
    >The speakers portrayed ID theory as the logical outcome of the advancement
    >of science. Both Behe and Meyer repeatedly noted that scientists have been
    >enormously surprised by the complexity they find in nature -- whereas
    >Darwinism may have worked within the limited scope of 19th-century
    >understanding, it cannot handle the much greater complexity that scientist
    >now recognize.
    >*** Confronting the Darwinian Worldview ***
    >Nancy Pearcey spoke on the worldview implications of Darwinism, noting that
    >many people apply Darwinism to every walk of life. She cited the book A
    >Natural History of Rape, which portrayed rape as an evolutionary adaptation
    >strategy rather than a pathology. She found this example helpful in spelling
    >out the logical consequences of Darwinism. The key battleground is
    >which in the hands of Darwinists is no longer a search for truth. Instead,
    >ideas are now merely problem-solving tools.
    >Pearcey asked what this means for religion, answering that for the
    >Darwinists, god becomes merely an idea that appears in the human mind. For
    >Darwinists, religion must give way to a new science-based cosmic myth with
    >the power to bind humans together in a new world order. She then asked what
    >this means for morality and argued that people were right to be concerned
    >that all the above would undercut morality. She cited a recent popular song
    >urging that "you and me, baby, ain't nothing but mammals so let's do it like
    >they do on the Discovery Channel."
    >Pearcey went on to explain that the US legal system is based on moral
    >principles and that the only way to have ultimate moral grounding for law is
    >to have an unjudged judge, an uncreated creator. Nothing else can take his
    >place. All else can be challenged in a grand "says who?" She pointed to
    >arguments made by Michael Sandel of Harvard in his book Democracy's
    >Discontent in which modern society is portrayed as a struggle between those
    >who think morality is up for grabs and those who view it as given.
    >*** Creation Myths and Priesthoods ***
    >Phillip Johnson explained that Darwinism is not so much a scientific theory
    >as a creation story. Every culture has a creation story jealously guarded by
    >a priesthood. The triumph of Darwinism is the replacement of one priesthood
    >-- the clergy -- with another of scientists and intellectuals, a process now
    >complete in Europe but still being contested in the US. According to
    >the Darwinian creation story finds its essential support in certain
    >philosophical rules, the main one being that natural selection has enormous
    >creative power from bacteria to redwood trees to people. He called it a
    >marvelous story but asked what it has been seen to do? Change the size of
    >some finch beaks in the Galapagos Islands? He argued that it has never been
    >seen to create anything.
    >Johnson argued that the scientific priesthood has banished god from
    >allowable discussion, leaving Darwinism as the only game in town.
    >design cannot be considered because it includes an unevolved intelligence.
    >For the scientists, it is an offensive thought crime to suggest something
    >other than Darwinism. Johnson quotes from an ABA Journal article that "to
    >consider ID in biology would be as blasphemous as Satan worship in church."
    >curious repeated theme among the speakers was their surprise at the
    >receptivity in official Chinese media to ID theory. The point was then made
    >that in China one can question Darwinism but not the government, whereas in
    >the US one can question the government but not Darwinism.
    >Johnson argued that in order to have an open discussion about the logic of
    >Darwinism, the question needed to be redefined in order to get beyond the
    >stereotype of biblical literalists; a genuine intellectual issue needed to
    >articulated. As Johnson sees it, the problem is that there are two
    >definitions of science in our culture: (1) science is unbiased empirical
    >testing and observations that follow the evidence wherever it leads without
    >prejudice; and (2) science is applied materialist philosophy which, like
    >Marxism or Freudianism, is willing to impose its authority.
    >In Johnson's view, scientists get public support because they wrap
    >themselves in the first definition. Supporters of ID theory need to flush
    >the scientists true colors by identifying situations where their philosophy
    >of materialism says one thing but the evidence tells a different story. Once
    >that is on the table, then the scientists' game is over.
    >*** What About Religion? ***
    >All four speakers were exceedingly cautious in responding to questions
    >about how ID theory relates to religion. Meyer emphasized that the issue is
    >about two different scientific theories with large implications for theistic
    >and naturalistic worldviews. When asked if he was being too tentative about
    >ID theory not being a proof of god, Meyer replied that using the principle
    >uniformitarianism -- that the present is the key to past -- naturalism is
    >insufficient, and a designer is thus needed. Johnson added that we cannot
    >conclude from scientific inquiry whether the intelligent designer is indeed
    >the God of the Bible. The speakers repeatedly emphasized that ID theory is a
    >big tent that includes Jews and agnostics but all united by the belief that
    >there is objective truth.
    >Asked if there was a critical mass yet of ID supporters among scientists at
    >universities, Johnson stated that you do not convince the priesthood but
    >generationally replace them. He argued that demographics are on ID's side --
    >polls show skepticism about Darwinism so the public at large is sympathetic
    >but has been disabled by the stereotypes and mind games of the scientific
    >elite. The people need to be empowered and that is what is happening with
    >Internet and talk radio, which takes away control from the scientific
    >gatekeepers. Johnson's stated objective was to get thousands of young people
    >in the classroom asking questions of dogmatic professors, and he said that
    >is already happening.
    >AGU's position statement on the teaching of evolution can be found on AGU's
    >Science & Policy web page at
    >Contributed by David Applegate, Director, AGI Government Affairs Program
    >Questions or comments about ASLA? Need to change your e-mail address?
    >For information about this discussion group visit
    >Francis Heylighen           <> -- Center "Leo Apostel"
    >Free University of Brussels, Krijgskundestr. 33, 1160 Brussels,  Belgium
    >tel +32-2-6442677; fax +32-2-6440744;
    >Posting to from Francis Heylighen <>
    John J. Kineman, Physical Scientist/Ecologist
    National Geophysical Data Center
    325 Broadway E/GC1 (Rm 1B158)
    Boulder, Colorado 80303 USA
    (303) 497-6900 (phone)
    (303) 497-6513 (fax) (email)
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    Posting to from "John J. Kineman" <>

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