- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The intelligent-design debate

In reading David Limbaugh’s Tuesday Commentary column, “Intelligent design stirrings,” it occurs to me that there is a more fundamental issue at stake in the ongoing educational debate. The arguments on both sides too often get caught up in the tit-for-tat accusations of “Darwinism is a flawed theory” and “Intelligent Design is not scientific.” When the argument is framed this way, it is not surprising that it gets subsumed into the overwrought blue-state-vs.-red-state culture war. However, stating the argument that way ignores the fundamental nature of science itself.

Science can be defined as a system of knowledge described in theories accountable to the rigors of physical evidence and experiment. Thus, to deride Darwinism as “just a theory” is nonsensical. Just because Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity required some tweaking by Einstein does not mean it was wrong to teach it as the dominant theory. Darwinism may not be a perfect theory, but its long-proven utility should establish it as the leading theory until it is superseded.

Likewise, it is dangerous to dismiss Intelligent Design or any other theory without a just trial. Any truly scientific theory could only be strengthened by healthy skepticism. Darwinism has prevailed for nearly 150 years, so surely the greater burden of proof is with the challenger. Mr. Limbaugh says 400-plus skeptical scientists “have signed onto a list of those expressing skepticism ‘of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.’ ” Whether those scientists have formulated a theory that will surpass Darwinism will be decided in due time by the scientific community. Meanwhile, the young minds of our country should be taught Darwinism, that it is not above criticism, and that it remains the most influential theory to date.

Circumventing the scientific process for political expediency will not only harm our aspiring biologists; it will cloud the very nature of science in the minds of students. At a time when scientific advancement in an increasingly competitive world market is critical to prosperity, it is unwise to take the advancement of theories out of the hands of scientists and put it into those of politicians.

CHRIS HAVER

Arlington

As David Limbaugh notes, Darwinists who fear the teaching of Intelligent Design side by side with evolution are unsettled by President Bush’s endorsement of, to coin a phrase, academic freedom, fearing “God’s ‘foot in the door’ ” of our secular schools.

Perhaps those who say of Intelligent Design that it is merely redesigned creationism stripped of religious content can explain why we scan the heavens in search of signal patterns that indicate other intelligence at the same time that we look at the structure of DNA, genes and the human cell and think all of this could happen randomly, without Intelligent Design, merely as he result of some chemical shake-and-bake.

Sir Fred Hoyle argued that life could not have arisen on Earth by accident. Even if the entire universe had consisted of primordial soup, he concluded, accident would not have led to the creation of life.

Darwin himself acknowledged that gaps in the fossil record could eventually undermine his theory of common descent. Indeed, a century and a half of fossil collecting since Darwin has made it clear that fossil species tend to appear suddenly and persist unchanged for long periods of time before going extinct.

Evolution itself is just a theory, not unlike the theory that said the Earth was flat, a theory based on the idea that a tornado going through a junkyard could assemble a 747. It requires more faith than any “creationist” belief.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

Suzanne Fields claims that “Intelligent design and the theory of evolution belong to separate spheres of theoretical thought: one is substantiated by faith, the other by scientific evidence” (“Designing an intelligent debate,” Op-Ed, Monday).

Nothing could be further from the truth, scientifically speaking. Ask yourself the critical question: How many times has one species been observed to evolve into a new species?

For all the tens of thousands of generations of fruit flies, and the hundreds of millions of generations of streptococci that have been observed for tracking hereditary characteristics, one thing has been proved over and over — try as they might, at the end of the day they’re still just fruit flies, and they’re still just streptococci. If ever someone observed (a critical part of the scientific method) a new species evolving from an existing one, you would know it immediately, and that person would win the Nobel Prize, hands down. What we do observe is these species tapping into the wealth of previously unused information in their vast DNA libraries in response to killing tools, until that information resource proves unequal to the pressure and the line goes sterile.

The evidence for both theories is nowhere near the category of truly “scientific” evidence — we have simply lost the meaning of the word by allowing mere speculation to infect and degenerate our understanding of the term. We need to spend some time in a laboratory watching real science in order to learn how to distinguish it from pseudoscience, secular superstition and mere propaganda.

LANCE ACREE

Severna Park

In the discussion about Intelligent Design and Darwinian evolution, one has to distinguish between hypotheses explaining the creation of the universe and theories explaining the development of the universe after creation. No scientific theory adequately deals with the creation of the universe. It is not likely a scientific theory will ever be capable of explaining the creation of the universe because we have no access to all the factors that necessarily played a decisive role in it.

Consequently, the discussion boils down to the following question: Does God interfere with evolution on a molecular level? Scientifically, there is no evidence for mutations that are not random. Philosophically/theologically we have to ask ourselves whether God created a universe that needs constant adjustment (as in ID) or whether He created a universe that develops by itself toward the desired state. Given that God is not only almighty, but also perfect, the latter seems much more likely. In fact, assuming the first lessens the glory of God.

THOMAS MOHR

Medical University of Vienna

Austria

Curbing asbestos litigation

Your August 8th editorial “The asbestos mess” correctly points out that baseless asbestos lawsuits have created a problem that needs to be dealt with, and that the “trust fund” approach being pushed in the Senate has many problems. However, the editorial claims that “the House has yet to consider the issue,” and though the House has not yet voted on this issue, it has cosidered the issue at length.

The House is considering the issue, and has an approach that solves many of the concerns you raise about the Senate’s “trust fund” proposal. In April, Reps. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, andJeff Flake, Arizona Republican, along with 59 co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 1957, the Asbestos Compensation Fairness Act. This legislation curbs junk asbestos lawsuits by requiring that claimants meet medical standards, based primarily on the American Medical Association’s Guides for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, as well as elements of standards recently approved by the American Bar Association.

Establishing medical criteria will allow the courts to prioritize cases and ensure that real victims receive full compensation while stopping frivolous lawsuits from those who have not been harmed.

When compared with the Senate’s proposal to remove the right to due process from litigants and create a massive $140 billion “trust fund” government program — including $7 billion reserved for trial lawyers, paid for with a gigantic new tax on businesses and consumers — the House’s medical criteria approach seems the sensible course of action.

MAX PAPPAS

Director of Policy

FreedomWorks

Washington

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