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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Intelligent Design and Common Descent

The Panda's Thumb is an important anti-Intelligent Design blog. In a post, dated January 31st, they present evidence that some leading IDers are willing to accept the idea of common descent of different species.

The post provides links to publications of ID believers. Stephen C. Meyer is, indeed, an important ID theorist. He is one of the main experts consulted by Lee Strobel, in his Case for a Creator. He is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute. On Jan 29th, the Dallas Morning News published an op-ed piece by Meyer, in which he said, among other things:

The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin's idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.

Wow! There Meyer gets to the heart of the matter. The most serious problem with the teaching of evolution is the non-scientific claim that there is no purpose in the universe, or, in other words, that there is no God. This claim seldom, if ever, appears in textbooks, and some science teachers who do not love ID do not support this claim, but some outspoken scientists, and others, have made this claim, and, of course, Christians (and presumably others) must oppose it. It is a religious claim, and has no place in science classes or science teaching.

ID is not a monolithic organization slavishly addicted to a party line, so there are certainly persons who support ID who would disagree strongly with Meyer on this point, and do not believe that, say, whales and polar bears have a common ancestor.

Meyer also says something perhaps even more interesting:
Since intelligent design is a new theory, I oppose requiring students to learn about it with curriculum mandates. Nevertheless . . . teachers should be free (on a voluntary basis) to tell their students about new theories, provided these theories are based (as intelligent design is) on scientific evidence.

There are certainly many ID supporters who would disagree with the first sentence in the quote above. The recent court case in Pennsylvania, and some other court cases, have been over this very issue, namely mandating teaching about ID in public school science (and sometimes other) classes.

I do not agree with Meyer on all points. I'm not sure that the last clause of the previous quote is correct. But I do agree with him on two things: the central issue is not the age of the earth, or common descent, but purpose, and the teaching of ID should not be mandated in the public schools.

Because of the importance of this subject, and of Meyer's article, and the likelihood that the Dallas Morning News has a policy of removal of articles within a short period, I am posting this now, and will let it be my post for February 1st. I expect to post the next version of Sunspots on February 2nd, the day after the publication of the Christian Carnival for the week, which is a departure from my usual practice.

The article has also been posted by the Discovery Institute, as far as I can tell, without change. It will probably be available on-line there longer than from the newspaper.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Julana said...

The world is so full of a number of things. . .
I don't know how to keep up with them all. :-)
At least there is a dialogue, going. The voice of ID is being heard, which is more than could be said, a few years back.