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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Weekend reading on the intelligent design controversy: Columns and articles of note

Major scientist dissed over sympathy for intelligent design

The Wall Street Journal points the finger at profs who encourage students to think about intelligent design, revealing along the way that world-class quantum chemist Fritz Schaefer was dissed by local bonzos on account of his interest in ID:

Some well-respected scientists have fostered the spread of intelligent design. Henry F. Schaefer, director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia, has written or co-authored 1,082 scientific papers and is one of the world's most widely cited chemists by other researchers.

Mr. Schaefer teaches a freshman seminar at Georgia entitled: "Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?" He has spoken on religion and science at many American universities, and gave the "John M. Templeton Lecture" -- funded by the foundation -- at Case Western Reserve in 1992, Montana State in 1999, and Princeton and Carnegie Mellon in 2004. "Those who favor the standard evolutionary model are in a state of panic," he says. "Intelligent design truly terrorizes them."

This past April, the school of science at Duquesne University, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, abruptly canceled its sponsorship of a lecture by Mr. Schaefer in its distinguished scientist series. According to David Seybert, dean of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Mr. Schaefer was invited at the suggestion of a faculty member belonging to a Christian fellowship group on campus. The invitation was withdrawn after several biology professors complained that Mr. Schaefer planned to speak in favor of intelligent design. The school wanted to avoid "legitimizing intelligent design from a scientific perspective," Mr. Seybert said. Faculty members were also concerned that top students might not apply to Duquesne if they thought it endorsed intelligent design. Mr. Schaefer gave his lecture -- entitled "The Big Bang, Stephen Hawking, and God" -- to a packed hall at Duquesne under the auspices of a Christian group instead.

I love it! "Faculty members were also concerned that top students might not apply to Duquesne if they thought it endorsed intelligent design." So top students are supposed to be the kind of people who need protection from scientists like Schaefer, who challenge them, and exposed only to those who don't? No wonder Darwinism is on the way out.

Couldn't be there last April? Here's a lay-friendly lecture by Schaefer on "The Big Bang and God." I'll have more to say about the fallout from this WSJ story later,a s it raised some other interesting issues.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.


What really happened in Kansas

According to Dennis Overbye’s recent article in the New York Times, Kansas redefines science in its recent decision to go with the new standards, according to which evidence, not materialistic philosophy is the basis for science. Actually, says the Discovery Institute; the shoe is on the other foot. The new standards, though controversial with science boffins, are consistent with other states. It is the standards that the boffins support that are unusual:

... unlike any other in the U.S. By defining science first and foremost as "seeking natural explanations," the current standards subtly shift the emphasis in science education from the investigative process to the end result. This shift is out of step with modern science education, which gives priority to the activity of formulating and testing hypotheses. ...

The only other state in the U.S. that explicitly limits science to naturalistic explanations is Massachusetts. In the Massachusetts science standards, however, this limitation comes at the end of a detailed description of the scientific enterprise that begins by defining science more generally as "attempts to give good accounts of the patterns in nature." Only Kansas currently defines science primarily as "seeking natural explanations."

"Natural" explanations are, in the context, a code phrase for naturalistic (materialist) philosophy. And that is the true reason why there was so much controversy in Kansas. Read the Kansas State board of education chair Steve Abrams' defense of Kansas's decision. From his conclusion:

I have repeatedly stated this is not about Biblical creation or Intelligent Design. This is about what constitutes good science standards for the students of the state of Kansas. I would encourage those who believe we are promoting a back door to creation or Intelligent Design to actually do your homework. READ and investigate the Science Curriculum Standards and base your comments on them and not on the misinformation with which critics have been plastering the print media and clogging the airways...

Abrams gives the links to those documents, but I sense - as he does - that that's useless. The boffins and hacks will not read them and will continue to assert that the Kansas standards insert intelligent design (or the supernatural!), even though they don't and can't.

But, in fairness, the boffins and hacks have a good reason for refusing to read and for blindly reasserting incorrect statements: Dumping naturalism as a philosophy creates a context in which evidence rather than naturalism (materialism) rules. In that case, naturalism cannot rule simply by default. And ruling by default everywhere is the only way that the naturalist can ensure that the issues that created the intelligent design controversy cannot be considered by anyone, ever.

Why is this important? You will frequently hear naturalists (materialists) insist that there is absolutely no evidence for intelligent design. After a while you will realize, as I did, that their philosophy defines such evidence out of existence. If it's evidence, it can't be evidence for design. If it's evidence for design, it can't be evidence. All evidence for design must be wrong and can't be published. Guys like Richard Sternberg aren't really being persecuted for allowing a design-friendly article to slip past the net because anyone who ever considered evidence of design, or enabled others to do so, deserves to be punished. Well, that clears that up, right? No? It doesn't? Well, now we understand why there is an intelligent design controversy.

(Note: One reader wanted to know why I have had little to say about the Dover mess. Well, group blogs on the ID controversy, pro and anti, are on the scene. So why would I try covering it from Toronto? Given limited time, I focus on what I know and care about, and I had read and commented privately on the Kansas standards some time ago.)
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

The Pope using the term "intelligent design" to describe the Catholic view of origins, go here.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams attacked by Darwinist, hits back. Will he now cartoon on the subject?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. See also the ruling on tax funds. Note the line that the “free speech” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonbon is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.
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