Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Level-Headed Debate
As you know, from some previous posts, I am big into intellectual honesty.  I think it is okay to "debate" things that someone might not necessarily agree with--as long as it is done in a manner that does not demean, and as long as we are able to admit the limits of our own knowledge and abilities.  I read this conversation today and it warmed me to think that there were people out there having discussions like this.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Slaughter of the Dissidents by Dr. Jerry Bergman

1. True or false:  The reason there are not many highly educated scientists that believe in intelligent design is because the smarter you are the more you realize that evolution is true?

2.  True or false:  Highly educated proponents of Intelligent Design do not have papers published in peer-reviewed journals, nor do they teach at the college level and hold Doctorate degrees?

3.  True or false:  It is impossible to prove Intelligent Design beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore it must be false?

4.  True or false:  It is impossible to prove Darwinism beyond a reasonable doubt, so it must be false?

5.  True or false:  Darwinism has become the new religion of scientists and anyone who dares challenge it shall be ridiculed and asked if they believe the earth is flat? 

Interesting quiz eh?  It may seem like a strange way to start out a book review, but it does illustrate many of the points that Dr. Jerry Bergman is trying to make in his book Slaughter of the Dissidents.  

I greatly appreciated this book because it promotes something that I believe is quite important, and often overlooked--intellectual honesty.  It is not a book that is meant to convince you of either Darwinism or Intelligent Design, but rather, it is a book that documents the attitudes of some who dogmatically defend Darwinism, and the struggles of being a scientist who looks critically at the evidence.

First, let me begin by making clear that of all of the scientist that were scrutinized by their peers in this book, none of them were attempting to TEACH Intelligent Design.  All of the professors and teachers (without exception) were simply encouraging their students to look critically at the information presented on evolution and decide whether there was a scientific basis for question.  Many of the scientists in question never publicly announced a religious belief, and yet others were simply fired or denied their Doctorate degrees based on the religion that they chose to identify themselves with--regardless of what they believed about evolution or science.

Dr. Bergman has done the community a great service by documenting these cases in order to show the mindset of dogmatic Darwin defenders.  In response to question #1 the answer is FALSE.  It is quite apparent that many scientists who doubt Darwin's theories stay "in the closet" in order to maintain their careers and quite possibly, their sanity.  In some institutions, there is a unified push by the science faculty to not award degrees or supply jobs to anyone who is not in total dogmatic agreement with Darwin's theories.  The answer the question #2 is FALSE.  Many of these scientist have produced more peer-reviewed articles than most of their cohorts, yet they do not dare submit an article promoting Intelligent Design because they know that it would be committing career suicide.

The real crux of the argument, however comes down to questions 3 & 4.  This is where the whole idea of intellectual honesty comes in to play.  Of course, both of the answers are FALSE.  However, there is partial truth there.  Neither one can be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.  In that case, it would be logical to call them both "theories" and present them as such, and allow people to draw their own conclusions.  Why would anyone have a problem with this?  Of note again, is the fact that Intelligent Design was never taught in any of the classrooms of the mentioned teachers, the students were are taught evolution and asked to think critically about the issue.  But to answer my own question, (why would anyone have a problem with this?...) it is because Darwinism does have it's problems, and critical thought on the issue would breed many who challenge the scientific religion establishment.  It seems absurd, because whole point of science is to ask questions and find ways to establish answers.

The answer to question #5 is TRUE.  How do I defend this?  Because looking at the cases presented in this book, it would be simple to conclude that freedom of speech does not exist in certain classrooms.  Let me illustrate.  A teacher is told that he may NOT teach his pupils that the incredible complexity of life could possibly indicate a designer, yet an atheist teacher is allowed to teach his students that there is absolutely nothing out there and that there was mostly assuredly not a creator or a God.  And both of these are upheld by the court.  I appreciate the following honest quote from chapter 1 of the book where Kevin H. Wirth describes the context for discrimination that occurs:
"ID is not a conventional religion and thus is not a paradigm in the case of religion.  Rather, it is a point of view based on philosophical and empirical arguments.  The purpose for ID is to provide answers to the same questions for which the evolutionary paradigm is said to provide answers.  That is, the design theory and naturalistic evolution are two conflicting perspectives about the same subject.  Admittedly, if ID arguments are plausible, they do lend support to the metaphysical claim of some conventional religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  However, as Justice Powell wrote in his Edwards concurrence,  "a decision respecting the subject matter to be taught in public schools does not violate the Establishment Clause simply because the materials to be taught happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenants of some or all religions"....if a point of view is religious because it's plausibility lends support to a religion or religious point of view, then we would have to conclude that naturalistic evolution is as much a religion as ID, for it lends support to some non-theistic and anti religious perspectives recognized as religion by the court. " 

The real problem lies with the accusation that all proponents of intelligent design arrive at their conclusions based solely on faith.  Admittedly, many come into learning about such things with some type of presupposition, yet we cannot assume that this clouds the view of every ID scientist out there.  Many started off as either atheists, or scientists who believed in Darwinism and were converted to the other side of the argument after studying the evidence. Intellectual honesty makes an exit when we allow the teaching of one theory while not allowing students to think or speak critically of it.  Page 363 of the book holds this quote from a University of Michigan  law school graduate concerning those who pursue a career in science:

If you gingerly raise scientific question about evolution you will be denounced as a creationist nut, your life will be turned upside down, and your employers will be hounded.  You will probably be fired and certainly have to hire a lawyer.  Now let's take a show of hands: Any Darwin skeptics?  Good.  Evolution has been proved again. 

I do recommend this book for people who fall on both sides of the debate.  I think it helps to dispel the myths and untruths created by the media concerning such issues.  Hopefully, it would give insight to those who would use demeaning criticism (such as in question #5) and create a healthier debate.


You can't rationally decide whether you are on the right road unless you are willing to consider the possibility that you are on the wrong road. ~ Philip Johnson

Now that is honest.

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