May 14, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Media Continues to Denounce ID, Crown Darwin

The news media and journals continue to publish one-sided statements against intelligent design (ID) – even though scientific evidence continues to support design on many fronts (see 05/11/2010, 05/07/2010, 05/06/2010 from just this past week).  Sometimes, in other venues, the kind of rhetoric employed would be characterized as hate speech.  These statements are usually printed without any opportunity for rebuttal.  Often the perpetrators make religious arguments rather than presenting scientific evidence for their claims.  Some of them even say ID is bad theology, and that religious institutions should ally with Darwinism against ID.  At the same time, they typically will never say anything critical of Darwinian evolution.  ID proponents are stuck with having to respond to these charges in their own websites and publications.  Here are some recent examples.

  1. John Avise in PNAS1 wrote a paper labeling ID as “religious creationism” but then used religious arguments in a science journal to attack it: i.e., “God wouldn’t make the world this way” –

    Intelligent design (ID)—the latest incarnation of religious creationism—posits that complex biological features did not accrue gradually via natural evolutionary forces but, instead, were crafted ex nihilo by a cognitive agent.  Yet, many complex biological traits are gratuitously complicated, function poorly, and debilitate their bearers.  Furthermore, such dysfunctional traits abound not only in the phenotypes but inside the genomes of eukaryotic species.  Here, I highlight several outlandish features of the human genome that defy notions of ID by a caring cognitive agent.  These range from de novo mutational glitches that collectively kill or maim countless individuals (including embryos and fetuses) to pervasive architectural flaws (including pseudogenes, parasitic mobile elements, and needlessly baroque regulatory pathways) that are endogenous in every human genome.  Gross imperfection at the molecular level presents a conundrum for the traditional paradigms of natural theology as well as for recent assertions of ID, but it is consistent with the notion of nonsentient contrivance by evolutionary forces.  In this important philosophical sense, the science of evolutionary genetics should rightly be viewed as an ally (not an adversary) of mainstream religions because it helps the latter to escape the profound theological enigmas posed by notions of ID.

    This paper was part of a lengthy series called the Sackler Colloquium, “In the Light of Evolution IV,” that was completely one-sided for Darwinism.  Not a single pro-ID position was invited, even though there is a long tradition of theological, philosophical and scientific positions answering the types of arguments Avise presented.  David Tyler presented a rebuttal to Avise’s position on the ID blog Access Research Network.

  2. Michael Zimmerman leapt for joy at Avise’s paper in the Huffington Post, saying, “In case you had any doubt, the last nail was just placed in the coffin of intelligent design (ID).  And, in case you had any doubt, that last nail joins many others that have been in place for quite some time.”  His article was entitled, “Intelligent Design: Scientifically and Religiously Bankrupt.”  Zimmerman is the activist behind the Clergy Letter Project, trying to get religious leaders to sign a statement in support of Darwinian evolution.  Robert Crowther compared his arguments to the Hindenberg on Evolution News & Views.
  3. Michael Ruse called ID an “oxymoron” and a “mountain of waffle resting on analogy” in The Guardian.  “Neither scientists nor believers should touch it,” he said.  Responding to Steve Fuller in The Guardian (a philosopher who has given ID a fair shake; see Uncommon Descent), Ruse called ID “very bad theology.”  Jay Richards wondered on Evolution News & Views why Ruse, a science philosopher and historian, thinks he is an expert on theology.  Casey Luskin also responded on Evolution News & Views, joking, “I love watching atheists try to tell religious people what they should believe about God.”
  4. Joshua Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) wrote for Science Blogs that ID and creationism is kind of like – believe it or not – postmodernism and Marxism.  This is a strange charge, considering that most proponents of ID or creationism would be adamantly opposed to both of those ideologies.  Robert Crowther on Evolution News & Views tried to straighten the picture right side up again.
  5. Francisco Ayala is a former Dominican priest turned evolutionary biologist.  One might think a person with religious roots would have a soft spot in his heart for thoughts of design in the world, but Ayala has been among the most harsh in his rhetoric against ID, calling ID an “atrocity” that is “disastrous to religion” among other things.  He even accused supporters of ID in the Discovery Institute of not really believing what they are saying.  He made these remarks recently in Spain (see Uncommon Descent for translation).  This set off a series of responses by ID supporters (see response on Uncommon Descent and Barry Arrington on Uncommon Descent).
        Back in March, Ayala wrote a book review critical of Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell for BioLogos, the website of theistic evolutionist Francis Collins.  Ayala used the argument for dysteleology and suffering to call ID a form of “blasphemy” for attributing the human genome to the design of God.  David Klinghoffer complained on Evolution News & Views that Ayala apparently didn’t even bother to read Meyer’s book.  Klinghoffer later in March took Ayala again to task on ENV, and with him, Darrell Falk for allowing a slipshod review by a staunch evolutionist on the BioLogos website.
        Meanwhile, Francisco Ayala was welcomed by the National Academy of Sciences’ Sackler Colloquium, “In the Light of Evolution IV,” to present his opinions on the evolution of morality by Darwinian natural selection.  In his paper in PNAS,2 Ayala’s first sentence paid homage to Darwin’s Descent of Man (1871).  After dismissing theological explanations for morality, including those of Aquinas and Paley, he gave Darwin the pride of place.  He explained morality in purely mechanistic terms: as an “exaptation,” or unplanned consequence of natural selection for intelligence, that turned out to be advantageous.  In other words, morality is an impersonal, unplanned accident.  He gave the same explanation for human rationality.  It appears that Ayala repudiates any role for divine involvement for any of the unique features of the human psyche in any way, shape, or form; yet this is the man that BioLogos welcomed as a “a moderating influence in the science/religion dialog.”  Ayala also received this year’s Templeton Prize for progress in “affirming life’s spiritual dimension” – an honor once awarded to Billy Graham, Alexander Solzhenitzen, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright and Mother Theresa (see comment on CMI).

At the same time that supporters of intelligent design are struggling to get a fair hearing in the media against an onslaught of what they consider misrepresentation, ridicule and repudiation of their views without opportunity for rebuttal, Darwinists get free rein to pronounce evolution as simply obvious.  Claims of evidence for evolution are often exaggerated and presented uncritically, without opposing viewpoints, often accompanied by triumphal headlines that proclaim Darwinism has been overwhelmingly confirmed.  A good example of this occurred this week when Douglas Theobald, author of a pro-Darwin book, announced in Nature that a formal test confirmed Darwin’s theory of universal common ancestry.3  Mike Steel and David Penny quickly praised this “strong quantitative support” for Darwin’s theory in the same issue of Nature,4  “Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Theobald’s work,” they said, “is not the conclusion – common ancestry is the default view in science.  But a formal test of evolution itself requires considerable ingenuity.”  So Theobald got praise for his ingenuity in devising a test of evolution, because ingenuity is required to test a default view – a very strange situation in science, one might think.
    But since Charles Darwin’s name was prominent and paramount in both papers, the popular press was soon on board, too.  PhysOrg announced “First large-scale test confirms Darwin’s theory of universal common ancestry,” without so much stopping to wonder why it took 150 years for the first such test.  National Geographic went overboard, though.  It’s headline, “All Species Evolved From Single Cell, Study Finds,” was accompanied by a large photo of a herpetologist looking face-to-face at a snake, as if to evoke an Adamic curse on anyone who would deny this knowledge of good and evil.  Then the subtitle quoted Theobald’s opinion about his opponents, the creationists, who, naturally, were given no opportunity to respond: “Creationism called ‘absolutely horrible hypothesis’—statistically speaking.”

1.  John Avise, “Footprints of nonsentient design inside the human genome,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, print May 5, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914609107.
2.  Francisco Ayala, “The difference of being human: Morality,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print May 5, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914616107.
3.  Douglas Theobald, “A formal test of the theory of universal common ancestry,” Nature 465, pp 219�222, 13 May 2010, doi:10.1038/nature09014.
4.  Mike Steel and David Penny, “Origins of life: Common ancestry put to the test,” Nature 465, pp 168�169, 13 May 2010, doi:10.1038/465168a.

No comments are really necessary here; the articles speak for themselves.  If anyone thinks this situation is fair, or desirable in scientific or intellectual circles, or represents the way an enlightened free marketplace of ideas is supposed to operate, that person needs a serious deprogramming session.  This is Malice in Blunderland, where up is down, in is out, the mobsters are running the city, and the inmates are running the asylum.

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