Nature Rallies Troops Against I.D. to the Defense of Science
“President Bush’s endorsement of ‘intelligent design’ has sparked a national debate in which scientists are well positioned to prevail,” editorialized Nature this week,1 with the a rallying-cry title, “Keeping religion out of science class.” This editorial, along with a news item by Virginia Gewin, “Scientists attack Bush over intelligent design,”2 was prompted by President Bush’s off-the-cuff remarks last week that students should be allowed to hear alternative views to evolution (see 08/02/2005 entry). Both articles reiterated common themes of those opposing the intelligent design (ID) movement: ID is not science, ID is religiously motivated, ID is “creationism” in disguise, all scientists reject ID and creationism, and ID is not just anti-evolution but anti-science and anti-reason. The editorial went beyond these oft-stated arguments. It challenged the scientific to rise up and fight this “attack on science” with the encouragement, “The fight will go on – but science and reason can ultimately win.”
1Editorial, “Keeping religion out of science class,” Nature 436, 753 (11 August 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436753a.
2Virginia Gewin, “Scientists attack Bush over intelligent design,” Nature 436, 761 (11 August 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436761a.
Noticeably absent from this pep talk was any defense of Darwinism and evolutionary theory in general. Big Science and the Darwin Party seem to know that it would be a losing fight to prop up Charlie’s decaying corpse before the public, so they are sticking to what they feel will be a winning strategy for maintaining their power. Since “science” is a sacred cow in our society, they assume all the Untouchable masses will genuflect before it, even if it is just a stuffed cow. So the strategy is to portray ID promoters as beefeaters who want to slay the bovine, and to play the role of Savior of the Sacred Cow. Knowing that the masses will rally to a fight, even if they don’t understand the cause of it, they portray their mission in terms of holy war: we must protect the Sacred Cow from those evil beefeaters.
This is so silly. On the Dennis Prager radio talk show today, Dr. Rodney Stark (social sciences professor at Baylor University), author of a new book For the Glory of God, claimed that college students have been fed a bill of goods about the church, science, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment and the alleged war of science vs. religion. With evident chagrin in his voice, he stressed that the true social history of science was not that way at all. He said that every serious academic knows that Christianity gave birth to modern science (see online book), and that many great scientists were deeply religious individuals who were motivated to do science for the glory of God. The either-or fallacy of science vs. religion is a myth. Several times he emphasized that this is beyond dispute by historians and professors; he said that most of his fellow academics in the historical and social sciences gave his book, which documented this fact, favorable reviews. Why, then, does Nature and all the anti-ID crowd get so unglued when anyone hints that there really might be a Designer?
Nature came into existence right as Darwinism was on the ascendency in Britain, for the purpose of promoting the new anti-religious, naturalistic world view (a largely politically-leftist, anti-establishment, Victorian-progressive fad). We call to the witness stand an eminent scientist of that same period whose actual achievements in science (not just speculations) easily outshone those of Darwin, Lyell, and Huxley combined. When James Clerk Maxwell heard President John Tyndall promoting the new materialism and Darwinism to the British Association in 1874, the eminent scientist erstwhile poet took up his poison pen to satirize the folly of the materialistic, evolutionary position and the self-refuting belief that minds could emerge from matter in motion. His trenchant words speak for themselves. They should be carved in stone at the entrance to Nature’s corporate offices:
British Association, Notes of the President’s Address
In the very beginnings of science, the parsons, who managed things then,
Being handy with hammer and chisel, made gods in the likeness of men;
Till Commerce arose, and at length some men of exceptional power
Supplanted both demons and gods by the atoms, which last to this hour.
Yet they did not abolish the gods, but they sent them well out of the way,
With the rarest of nectar to drink, and blue fields of nothing to sway.
From nothing comes nothing, they told us, nought happens by chance, but by fate;
There is nothing but atoms and void, all else is mere whims out of date!
Then why should a man curry favour with beings who cannot exist,
To compass some petty promotion in nebulous kingdoms of mist?
But not by the rays of the sun, nor the glittering shafts of the day,
Must the fear of the gods be dispelled, but by words, and their wonderful play.
So treading a path all untrod, the poet-philosopher sings
Of the seeds of the mighty world—the first-beginnings of things;
How freely he scatters his atoms before the beginning of years;
How he clothes them with force as a garment, those small incompressible spheres!
Nor yet does he leave them hard-hearted—he dowers them with love and with hate,
Like spherical small British Asses in infinitesimal state;
Till just as that living Plato, whom foreigners nickname Plateau,
Drops oil in his whisky-and-water (for foreigners sweeten it so),
Each drop keeps apart from the other, enclosed in a flexible skin,
Till touched by the gentle emotion evolved by the prick of a pin:
Thus in atoms a simple collision excites a sensational thrill,
Evolved through all sorts of emotion, as sense, understanding, and will;
(For by laying their heads all together, the atoms, as councillors do,
May combine to express an opinion to every one of them new).
There is nobody here, I should say, has felt true indignation at all,
Till an indignation meeting is held in the Ulster Hall;
Then gathers the wave of emotion, then noble feelings arise,
Till you all pass a resolution which takes every man by surprise.
Thus the pure elementary atom, the unit of mass and of thought,
By force of mere juxtaposition to life and sensation is brought;
So, down through untold generations, transmission of structureless germs
Enables our race to inherit the thoughts of beasts, fishes, and worms.
We honour our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers too;
But how shall we honour the vista of ancestors now in our view?
First, then, let us honour the atom, so lively, so wise, and so small;
The atomists next let us praise, Epicurus, Lucretius, and all;
Let us damn with faint praise Bishop Butler, in whom many atoms combined
To form that remarkable structure, it pleased him to call—his mind.
Last, praise we the noble body to which, for the time, we belong,
Ere yet the swift whirl of the atoms has hurried us, ruthless, along,
The British Association—like Leviathan worshipped by Hobbes,
The incarnation of wisdom, built up of our witless nobs,
Which will carry on endless discussions, when I, and probably you,
Have melted in infinite azure—in English, till all is blue.
James Clerk Maxwell, 1874
But on second thought, this kind of biting satire might be over their heads; they might even find it supportive of their position. Would the corporate Nature-alists realize that the joke was on them?