Witness bashes intelligent design
A philosopher of science said the controversial idea rejects science.
Daily Record/Sunday News
Thursday, September 29, 2005
A philosopher of science said Wednesday in U.S. Middle District Court that intelligent design is "a rejection of science."
The long-term strategy of the concept's proponents, said Robert Pennock, a Michigan State University professor of philosophy and science, is not just to get intelligent design into science class, but to change the very definition of science to include the supernatural.
Pennock said the people behind intelligent design are attacking methodological naturalism, the accepted procedures of science that limit observations and hypotheses to the natural world.
It essentially says to scientists, Pennock said, "We can't cheat."
As examples of the movement's intentions, Pennock showed the court a number of articles written by the movement's leaders, including two by William Dembski, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
Discovery has been part of efforts to change wording of Kansas state education standards to be more open to the supernatural in the definition of science.
"The scientific picture of the world championed since the Enlightenment is not wrong, but massively wrong," Dembski wrote in an article titled "Building bridges between science and theology."
In another article, titled "What every theologian should know about creation, evolution and design," Dembski wrote, "In the words of Vladimir Lenin, What is to be done? Design theorists aren't at all bashful about answering this question: The ground rules of science have to be changed."
In the first test case on the concept, Judge John E. Jones III is being asked to rule whether intelligent design amounts to teaching students about God in science class. Plaintiffs' attorneys say it's merely revamped creation science. Dover Area School District attorneys say that it's a legitimate scientific theory and that the four-paragraph statement read to students isn't actually teaching them about it.
In the first three days of testimony, plaintiffs have brought two science experts into the courtroom to discredit the concept and outline what they have characterized as a misinformed attack on evolution.
After the school board voted to include intelligent design in the high school's biology curriculum, 11 parents filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the district.
Dover attorneys also argue that because intelligent design doesn't specifically identify the designer, it's not religiously motivated.
But Pennock pointed to examples where its supporters have named the designer. And he is God.
He cited examples of articles written by Phillip Johnson, known as the father of the intelligent design movement.
In one, Johnson wrote of "theistic realism."
"This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that this reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology," the article said.
Johnson is a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley and author of books including "Darwin on Trial" and "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds."
As a philosopher of science, Pennock said he has closely followed the intelligent design movement from its inception in the late '80s following the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of the teaching of creation science in public school science classes.
In cross-examination by Dover's attorney Patrick Gillen, Pennock also said in some ways, creation science — the idea that life's literal blueprint is the Book of Genesis — is more scientific than intelligent design.
Even though its tenets have all been refuted by the scientific community, creation science puts forth ideas that are testable, such as the idea the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that the geological record was formed by the Great Flood.
But, he said, intelligent design is no more testable than the "matrix hypothesis."
"For all we know, the world may have been created five minutes ago and we've all been implanted with memory chips," Pennock told Gillen.
Quote of the day
"So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, (intelligent design) has no chance (in) Hades." — William Dembski, senior fellow at the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute.
Christy Rehm, an English teacher, remembers hearing Dover Area School Board members talk about teaching creationism in June 2004. Nine months pregnant at the time, Rehm said she went home that night thinking of her students and their differing faiths.
"I thought of how difficult it would be to tell one student, 'We can't express your belief,'" she said. " 'But we can teach yours.' "
Four months later, she sat with her infant daughter at another school board meeting, listening to an argument that had evolved into intelligent design — a concept she believes is still creationism in disguise.
Three of the parents suing the Dover Area School District testified Wednesday about their belief that a four-paragraph statement read in ninth-grade biology class is harmful to them.
Julie Smith said she became concerned after her daughter came home from school and told her that evolution is a lie. Her daughter asked her how she could be a Christian and believe man descended from apes.
Intelligent design, Smith said, "goes against my religious beliefs."
Beth Eveland said not only is it a problem for students learning about science, but it interferes with religious education at home.
To establish their case that the school district has not abandoned its core mission of educating students, attorneys for Dover asked each plaintiff if they thought the school district was still teaching the theory of evolution in accordance with state standards. All the parents agreed.
Richard Thompson, an attorney for Dover, asked Smith how she learned about controversies surrounding the curriculum change, including remarks made by board members about creationism.
"Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers," he advised her.
The latest: Robert Pennock, a philosopher of science at Michigan State University, testified Wednesday to religious references made by leaders of the intelligent design movement.
What's next? Former school board member Casey Brown, who quit the Dover board after its decision to include intelligent design in biology class, is to testify today.
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