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

From: Francis Heylighen (
Date: Thu Jun 08 2000 - 14:12:37 BST

  • Next message: John J. Kineman: "Re: [pcp-discuss:] Fwd: "Intelligent Design" lobby Congress against Darwinism"

    John Kineman:
    >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.

    Let me first note that John here reacts to a forward by me of a
    forward of a forward by Massimo Pigliucci of an original news
    statement about "Intelligent Design" theorists lobbying congress. It
    was Pigliucci who used the term "sickening". I would not go so far,
    but did use the term "frightening". Let me explain why I find this

    The problem is not with "intelligent design" which simply isn't
    enough of an explanation to be called a scientific theory, although
    some of the related concepts are worth debating, as we have been
    doing in this forum. The problem is the idea that political powers
    (congress) are called upon to intervene in an internal scientific

    Imagine that you have some eccentric theory which you would like to
    spread to as many people possible, but that you don't manage to
    convince your colleagues in the scientific community that your theory
    is valuable. Should you then be able to jump "over their heads" and
    address yourself to a higher authority (the Pope, the President, the
    Prime Minister, ...), who has no expertise in the scientific domain,
    but who has the power to force your colleagues to include your theory
    in the courses they teach? There may be plenty of reasons
    (ideological, political, religious, emotional, ...) why the "higher
    power" may prefer your theory to the scientific orthodoxy, but none
    of those should be allowed to prejudice a normal scientific debate
    among peers.

    Just to show you how dangerous such a political intervention into
    scientific debates can be, let me remind you of two historical cases.
    When in Soviet Russia, the biologist Lysenko proposed a "Lamarckian"
    theory about the inheritance of acquired characteristics, he did not
    convince his colleagues to abandon their orthodox Darwinian view.
    Yet, because his theory fitted better into communist ideology, he did
    manage to convince Stalin, who ordained Soviet biology and
    agricultural technology to be reorganized on Lysenkoist principles.
    The result was a catastrophe for both agricultural production and
    biological science.

    The other classic example is the Catholic Church's intervention to
    suppress the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, which forced Galileo
    to retract his earlier statements, and led to the burning on the
    stake of Giordano Bruno.

    I don't imply that the US congress would take such radical measures.
    But the whole point of the lobbying exercise is clearly to make
    congress intervene in some way, most visibly by reducing the
    importance of Darwinian evolution in the school curricula, and by
    adding "Intelligent Design" or something along those lines to the
    curriculum as a valuable alternative theory. Such an outcome would
    not be that different from Lysenkoism. At least, ID theory hasn't
    yet proposed an alternative way of doing agriculture or medicine as
    far as I know, but with the more radical Creationist alternative, I
    am sure those people have plenty of ideas for reforming medicine
    (more healing by prayer, I'd guess...).


    _________________________________________________________________________ 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 <>

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