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Bruce Chapman and John West: Are the Darwinists afraid to debate us?

We want a discussion of ideas

07:37 AM CDT on Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nowhere is the free exchange of ideas supposed to be more robust or uninhibited than on college campuses.

Thus, it is disheartening that certain professors and even some journalists are seeking to prevent scientists and philosophers who support the theory of intelligent design from explaining their views at the Darwin v. Design conference on the Southern Methodist University campus Friday and Saturday.

At the conference, scholars will present empirical data from biology, biochemistry, physics, mathematics and related fields that provide strong evidence that features of living things and the universe are the products of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as the neo-Darwinian mechanism of natural selection acting on random (chance) mutations.

Unfortunately, would-be censors are trying to get the conference banned from campus by ludicrously comparing intelligent design proponents to faith healers or even Holocaust deniers.

Faith healers and Holocaust deniers are not on the faculties of reputable universities. Scientists who support intelligent design are.

These scientists include biochemist and author Michael Behe at Lehigh University (who will be speaking at the SMU conference), microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University, whose research has been featured in Scientific American and who co-authored a book describing the evidence for design of the cosmos that has been praised even by some leading evolutionists.

Scholars who support intelligent design are making their arguments in books put out by academic publishers such as Cambridge University Press and Michigan State University Press and in technical articles published in peer-reviewed science and philosophy of science journals.

If the evidence for design can be presented in such forums, what is so frightening about allowing it to be heard at SMU?

Proponents of Darwin's theory typically insist that the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that no rational person can challenge it, but they equivocate on the meaning of "evolution." Intelligent design does not challenge the idea that evolution occurs, rather the claim that the development of the intricate and highly functional features in nature is the result of a blind and undirected process that cannot select for future function.

Contrary to the bravado of Darwinists, there is considerable empirical evidence of the insufficiency of the Darwinian mechanism. Research published by protein scientist Douglas Axe in the Journal of Molecular Biology shows just how astonishingly rare certain working protein sequences are, casting severe doubts that a Darwinian process of chance mutations could generate them. In the words of Dr. Axe, the rarity of these working protein sequences among all the possible combinations is "less than one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion."

Various science professors at SMU have called on their university to ban our conference, and more recently some of them have declared that they "have a duty as practitioners of science to speak out" against intelligent design.

But if they truly believe that they have a duty to "speak out," why not speak out by engaging intelligent design scholars in a serious discussion?

We invited the chairs of SMU's departments of biology, geological sciences and anthropology to send representatives to the first night of our conference so they can present their objections and even interrogate intelligent design scholars with their toughest questions.

As we were writing this, the anthropology department declined due to a scheduling conflict, but the other departments have not responded. Unfortunately, this behavior is all too common among defenders of Darwinian theory. They publicly disparage intelligent design (often showing through their comments that they know very little about what it actually proposes), but they refuse to engage in genuine dialogue.

What a different approach from that modeled by Darwin himself, who humbly and patiently responded to objections to his theory and who frankly acknowledged that "a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

What are today's Darwinists so afraid of?

Bruce Chapman is the president of Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank, and John West is the associate director of the institute's Center for Science & Culture. They can be e-mailed at cscinfo@discovery.org.

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