- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pamela R. Winnick was labeled a fanatic and a member of the “religious right” five years ago when she published an article about a scientist skeptical of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In fact, Ms.Winnick says, she is a nonreligious Jewish Democrat. But the outcry against her article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caused her to question the claims made on behalf of science.

“The scientific community cannot bear being challenged, even when they are patently wrong. They have come to see themselves as gods, and they don’t like anyone challenging them,” she said last week at the Discovery Institute, discussing her new book, “A Jealous God: Science’s Crusade Against Religion.”

The Pittsburgh journalist said she expects to receive plenty of hate mail as a result of her new book, just as she did five years ago, after reporting on a lecture by Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe.

Mr. Behe, author of “Darwin’s Black Box,” is a leading advocate ofintelligent-design theory, which holds that life forms are too complicated to have arisen by accidents of evolution. When Ms. Winnick reported on his lecture at Lehigh, she says, she received phone calls and e-mails from readers who went so far as to compare her to Afghanistan’s notorious Taliban regime.

“There was so much hysteria about it, I realized there was something going on,” she said. “I realized that there are a number of fanatics out there on the science side.”

Such fanaticism is one reason journalists are hesitant to cover intelligent design, said Salvador Cordova, a 2001 graduate of George Mason University who co-founded GMU’s Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness (IDEA) student organization.

“It’s a volatile issue because it threatens to overturn very cherished and deeply held philosophic and scientific views,” Mr. Cordova said.

For her book, Ms. Winnick researched several issues in which science and religion clash, such as intelligent design, embryonic stem-cell research and cloning. She found that professors in favor of intelligent design were denied tenure, supporters of adult stem-cell research were not invited to conferences hosted by their peers, and that anyone, whether a journalist or scientist, who challenged the ethicality of embryonic stem-cell research was labeled a religious fanatic.

As an aside, Ms. Winnick said Darwinism should be taught in schools, because any deviation would result in a lawsuit and detract from the business of teaching, and she supports funding embryonic stem-cell research for cures of diseases, but encourages skepticism toward giving science absolute leeway in conducting the research.

“My objections to the scientific community have nothing to do with religion. They have to do with the status that scientists are accorded in our society,” Ms. Winnick said. “In many ways, they deserve a lot of status. … It doesn’t mean they deserve unquestioned status.”

Some scientists, Ms. Winnick said, claim to have the constitutional right to conduct their research no matter how controversial, a right that would preclude any regulations.

“If there’s no way to regulate them, they can be engaged in work that most of us would find morally objectionable,” she said.

The Constitution protects the freedom of religious expression and limits governmental support of religion, but allows for science and government to be partners, such as through institutions like the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, said Ira Lupu, professor of law at George Washington University Law School in the District.

“There is nothing in the Constitution that expresses any concern about scientific freedom and power,” Mr. Lupu said, adding that science and religion “can criticize each other, and the Constitution protects all that criticism.”

At the same time, some scientists are arrogantly dismissive and disrespectful about the creationist viewpoint, Mr. Lupu said. These scientists lump the intelligent-design movement with the creationist perspective, he said.

This devaluing of the Judeo-Christian tradition gives scientists more freedom to conduct experiments, said David Ford, a Maryland resident and participant in the Talk.Origins online newsgroup that follows the debate over evolution. Without a God, he said, everything becomes permissible.

“We need the intelligent-design arguments to disprove their claim there is no God; it’s a first step,” Mr. Ford said. “The intelligent-design hypothesis is a step on the road of proving the God of theism and erecting a moral code humans should follow.”

Science and religion are two different and unique ways of understanding reality, said Young-Chan Ro, chairman of the GMU department of philosophy and religious studies.

“We all need the analytical process to investigate things. However, we should not neglect the fact humans have ways of comprehending or understanding reality other than the scientific method,” Mr. Ro said, adding that there is a reality bigger than scientific or rational thinking can comprehend.

“Science should not play God and define scientific truth as the only truth. On the other hand, the religious studies shouldn’t simply dismiss science because science has its own functions,” he said.

The religious community and a few left-wing groups, including some women’s groups who speak against the use of women’s eggs for cloning, have challenged the scientific community’s research endeavors, Ms. Winnick said. In response, the scientific community views these groups as competitors, she said.

“The religious community often does stand in their way, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I’m trying to show to people outside the religious community the reasons they should get alarmed at the power the scientific community wields in this country.”

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