January 31, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Editorials Lukewarm to ID, but Not as Hot to Darwin

A subtle shift seems to be taking place in media coverage of intelligent-design controversies in school boards across the country.  Darwinists used to be the unchallenged kings of the hill.  Alternatives, whether creationism or intelligent design, were disqualified before they reached the starting gate.  It also used to be “open season” on anti-Darwinists.  No vituperative rhetoric or impugning of motives was too strong for reporters in their treatment of the villains of creationism.  Several recent articles, however, show some cooling of the jets, and a little more attempt at balanced coverage by spokespersons from both sides:

  • A Newsweek article by Jerry Adler began by asking, “How did life, in its infinite complexity, come to be?  A controversial new theory called ‘intelligent design’ asserts a supernatural agent was at work.”  In “Doubting Darwin,” Adler gives good coverage to both sides, though ending with the suggestion that theistic evolution would result in fewer conflicts.
  • Diane Carroll in the Kansas City Star was certainly not partial to the intelligent-design side, but gave its spokespersons substantial coverage.  The main Darwinist objections she cited were in the “hidden agenda” category.
  • David Klinghoffer, writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, decried the branding of Stephen Meyer as a heretic after his ID paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal (see 09/24/2004 entry).  He characterized the uproar not as science vs. religion, but “an instance of one religion persecuting a rival, demanding loyalty from anyone who enters one of its churches–like the National Museum of Natural History.”
  • Josh Kelley in The Arizona Republic actually gave most of his coverage to the intelligent design side, including Walt Brown, a young-earth creationist with a PhD involved in rewriting the state science standards.  Biochemist Michael Behe, who coined the phrase “irreducible complexity,” actually got the last word for a change.

There are, naturally, plenty of the usual rabid anti-creationist articles out there still, like this editorial at the Boston Globe that calls evolution “the bedrock of biology” and warns against those who want to “sneak Genesis into the teaching of science,”  and Time Magazine’s hit piece against ID called “Stealth Attack on Evolution.”  But that’s not news.

Big ships turn slowly.  While none of these articles endorses ID or gives Darwinism the interrogation it deserves, it does hint at a slight temperature change that can have big El Niño consequences later.  At least more and more reporters are listening to ID arguments and not dismissing them out of hand.  Here are some suggestions reporters should consider for their next articles:

  • Design science has an illustrious history.  Most of the great scientists of history were religious people, like Newton, Boyle and Maxwell, who believed the universe was created.  Their religious beliefs didn’t hinder science, but, on the contrary, advanced it.
  • The pure atheistic, naturalistic brand of science is relatively new.  The trend to discount Genesis dates primarily from the 18th century, but the overtly anti-religious, materialistic brand of science was championed by the likes of Huxley and Haeckel in the late 19th century to early 20th century.  These Darwin bulldogs knew nothing of modern genetics and biochemistry.
  • Design is already an accepted part of several sciences, including archaeology, cryptography, information theory, criminology and SETI, yet is not dismissed there as being religiously motivated.  These examples prove that design detection can legitimately be part of scientific investigation, and that design explanations can be valid, without knowing the designer or his/her/its motives (especially in the case of SETI).  They also demonstrate that a design conclusion is not a cop-out, but can be a valid inference based on evidence.
  • The controversies within Darwinism are deep and profound; they cannot merely be characterized as nitpicking about the mechanism while accepting the “fact” of evolution.  Is a fact without a mechanism really a fact at all?
  • The evidence from microbiology has been trending steadily toward a design inference and away from a Darwinian inference.  We know things about genetics that Darwin and all the early evolutionists could not possibly have known.  These and other evidences, like the Cambrian explosion and the anthropic principle, pose new and severe challenges to the belief that life arose without a Designer (see 01/28/2005 entry).

The points above are rarely mentioned in secular news reports about the intelligent design vs. Darwinism controversy.  It’s time to give them more prominence.

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