Saturday, October 8, 2005

Denying the Obvious

I had occasion the other night to spend the evening with a very bright group of people (my presence in the group was something of an anomaly) discussing issues related to the Intelligent Design controversy. One participant, a Darwinian and geneticist, objected to a question from another participant by replying that she doesn't talk about design in biology because to do so is unscientific.

It would have been rude to have interrupted the conversation, which didn't really involve me, but I was tempted. I wanted to say that there's nothing unscientific about noting design in living things; almost every biologist does it (except her, apparently), and the fact that living things are designed all the way down to the molecular level is not denied by anyone and is not in dispute. What's in dispute is the cause of the design.

Darwinians insist that the design evident to anyone who has ever studied sixth grade life science is the product solely of blind, unguided processes like mutation and natural selection. Intelligent Design theorists, on the other hand, wish to affirm that blind processes alone are inadequate mechanisms for engineering the degree of complexity and information we see in the biosphere. They argue that some degree of intelligent input is required to satisfactorily explain it.

Evolutionists must really be running scared if they're so afraid of handing their opponents a rhetorical advantage that they refuse to acknowledge the obvious fact that the natural world is full of designed structures and systems. Materialistic evolutionists seem to be nervous about using the word design because they don't wish to encourage the general public to think along those lines. The concern may be that the public might draw the conclusion that, given a choice between explaining complex design in terms of coincidence and blind luck and explaining it in terms of intention and purpose, the former suffers grievously in the comparison.

Speaking of ID, the reader might be interested in this column by Jeff Jacoby on why Intelligent Design is a legitimate topic for discusion in science classes. He gets it.

The Religion Test

E.J. Dionne writing at Tech Central Station, detects a whiff of hypocrisy among those conservatives who thought it outrageous that senate liberals were hinting that John Roberts' religion might disqualify him from a seat on the Supreme Court but who are encouraging support for Harriet Miers on the basis that she's an evangelical Christian.

Dionne approvingly cites Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters blog:

"The push by more enthusiastic Miers supporters to consider her religious outlook smacks of a bit of hypocrisy," Morrissey wrote. "After all, we argued the exact opposite when it came to John Roberts and William Pryor when they appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.... Conservatives claimed that using religion as a reason for rejection violated the Constitution and any notion of religious freedom. Does that really change if we base our support on the same grounds?"

The answer to this last question is "Why would it not?" That a particular trait should not be allowed to count against someone is no reason to believe that the trait shouldn't count in his or her favor. A candidate for the presidency, for example, should not be disqualified because he holds religious beliefs similar to those held by a large swath of Americans, but he certainly may be seen as a more suitable candidate because he does. Similarly, a woman should not be disqualified on the basis of her gender from serving in public office, but her gender may help make her an attractive candidate for such an office.

This seems like such simple logic that although we're not surprised that it escaped Dionne, we are surprised that Morrissey doesn't see it.

The only question that should be raised by the religious beliefs of a candidate for the Supreme Court is whether those beliefs will prejudice his or her reading of the constitution. That she is a devout Christian suggests to many people that the answer Miers would give to that question is "no." Her faith imposes upon her an obligation to maintain the highest standards of judicial integrity and to live by the oath she will take to uphold the constitution. Knowing that she feels so obligated, both to her conscience and to her God, should be a source of comfort to those who must decide upon her suitability to serve.

Smelly Little Orthodoxies

Academic freedom at the University of Idaho is in serious peril. The totalitarian thought police have ascended all the way to the office of the presidency and anyone who abridges the accepted orthodoxies will be disciplined.

Were this not so serious it would be funny. University professors are free to do and say virtually anything in their classrooms no matter how irrelevant to the curriculum as long as it is either anti-American, anti-Christian, or pro-gay. Whether it's salacious, lubricious, banal, or just plain stupid doesn't matter - it's speech consonant, we are told, with the university's responsibility to challenge students to question the "smelly little orthodoxies" of our time. But if a professor decides to challenge his students to consider the possibility that Darwin had things wrong, he'll be out on his ear. Evidently, some dogmas are more sacred than others.