In a recent column in USA Today biologist E.O. Wilson writes that evolution is a fact and there's no point in denying it. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is untestable and it's pointless to try to make it into a science:
Modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are supported by so much interlocking evidence as to rank as virtual laws of nature. The first is that all biological elements and processes are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. The second principle is that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection.
Although as many as half of Americans choose not to believe it, evolution, including the origin of species, is an undeniable fact. Furthermore, the evidence supporting the principle of natural selection has improved year by year, and it is accepted with virtual unanimity by the biologists who have put it to the test.
Scientists are not opposed to the search for intelligent design, only to the claim that it is supported by scientific evidence. To think otherwise is to misunderstand the culture of science. Discoveries and the testing of discoveries are the currency of science; they are our silver and gold.
If positive and repeatable evidence were adduced for an intelligent force that created and guided the evolution of life, it would deservedly rank as one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time. I doubt that there is a researcher alive who would not race to make such a breakthrough if the minimum criteria of science could be met.
Wilson here commits a common mistake in this debate. He assumes that ID is something which requires its own evidence, as though the evidence for design is somehow qualitatively other than the facts that can be found in any cosmology or biochemistry text. The evidence for ID is the evidence that is discovered by the scientist every day in his laboratory. That evidence belongs to everyone, not just the researchers who glean it, and the evidence is mountainous.
To suggest that the current dispute is about evidence is to misunderstand things entirely. The dispute is over how best to interpret evidence that scientists have been accumulating now for centuries. The crucial question is not which side has the most evidence but whether what we have discovered about life and the cosmos should be seen as the product of chance accident and serendipidity or whether it should be seen as the product of intention and purpose. Complaints about the lack of evidence for a designer are red herrings in this controversy.
He goes on to write that:
Biology is biology, conservative Christianity is conservative Christianity. The two world views - science-based explanations and faith-based religions - cannot be reconciled.
What then are we to do? Put the differences aside, I say. Meet on common ground where we can find it. An excellent example taking form is the cooperation between science and religion, the two most powerful forces in the world, to protect Earth's vanishing natural habitats and species - in other words, the Creation, however we believe it came into existence.
Oops. Where does this come from? If religion, the realm of values, should stay out of science, and vice versa, how does a scientist make a value judgment such as that we ought to save the earth's natural habitats? A Christian can certainly conclude this from the mandate we have to be stewards of the earth, but how does a scientist who, qua scientist, can say nothing of values and morals and scriptural mandates, arrive at this conclusion, much less take it for granted.
Wilson finds that he can't live consistently by the principles he espouses, and so from time to time he, and other scientists, slip off their lab coats, enter the metaphysician's study, and think no one will notice. That's fine in their personal lives but it is disingenuous of them to use their authority as scientists to pontificate on values while at the same time they try to hold up a wall of separation between the realm of facts (science) and the realm of values (religion, philosophy).
Wilson wrote a wonderful book on ants. Anything he tells me about ant behavior I will certainly accept on his authority. But as a philosopher ... well, he's a great entomologist.