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‘Consensus Science’? Please!!

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Alright, here is my second post in a row on the issue of “Intelligent Design.” If you want to know more of what ID is all about, then please read my previous post on the subject, “Intelligent Design is Everyday Science.”

I’m posting this in response to a rather reactionary piece posted to one of my favorite online Mags, National Review Online (NRO). As a matter of fact, it is one of the few publications to which I subscribe — the WSJ and the NY Times being two others.

That said, an article by John Derbyshire, “Teaching Science: The President is wrong on Intelligent Design,” was SO poorly written, that I wanted to at least post my counter-points to Mr. Derbyshire’s arguments. It’s not my purpose to call Mr. Derbyshire names or engage in ad hominem attacks upon him, he is, after all, a real journalist, whereas I’m just a blogger.

An avid blogger to be sure, but a mere blogger none-the-less.

And just to clarify, I’m not trying to be sarcastic in referring to Mr. Derbyshire as a “real journalist.” He is that, and I’ve read many of his articles and agreed with him on many points. But on the issue of Intelligent Design (ID), I must conclude that he is, unfortunately, regurgitating arguments and talking points which he’s acquired from defenders of the Darwinian Faith. And truly, many aspects of Darwinism must be taken on faith, as I will discuss in this post.

So, in his article, when Mr. Derbyshire calls ID a “psuedoscience” and compares it to crackpot theories which are religious or mystical in nature, I can only assume that he knows little of ID theory but has chosen merely to slam it based on comments from those who are earnestly seeking to derail a robust and increasingly popular theory related to the origins of life. But lets exam just Mr. Derbyshire’s arguments and talk to them:

  • Mr. Derbyshire tries to quell the debate over the whether ID should be taught in schools by referring to the need for “Consensus Science” in the classrooms. Consensus science? Sounds to me more like “bureacratic science,” or “democratic science,” if you want to give the whole concept a positive spin. In other words, sounds like institutional thinking to me. When I Googled the term “Consensus Science” I found that nearly the entire first page of returned links were all to articles, speeches, and blog posts from academics and others who were, in no uncertain terms, denouncing this concept altogether. Michael Crichton says this of consensus science:

    I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks.

    Emeritus Professor Garth Paltridge, retired Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, and former Chief Research Scientist of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research says this:

    Consensus is not science. Consensus tends to the politically correct. Consensus is not the sort of thing on which sensible people put their money.

    So, while this concept might sound reasonable on its face, really the concept of consensus science is more of an oxymoron than a school of thought. Ultimately, teaching only consensus science must result in the stagnation of science itself. Science must only rely on facts, not on opinion. Which is why, if there is true science behind ID theory, as I’ve explained, then it can be legitimitely taught in the classroom.

    Ironic that I, a proponent of ID theory, should be reminding Mr. Derbyshire of the way science is supposed to work, don’t you think?

    Nuff said there.

  • Next, Mr. Derbyshire asks the question:

    And what should we teach our kids in biology classes, concerning the development of living things on earth? We should teach them Darwinism, on exactly the same arguments. There is no doubt this is consensus science… It means teaching science unskeptically, as settled fact.

    I won’t argue on the point that Darwinism is the consensus science of our age when it comes to origin of life theories. What I will argue, however, is whether or not all of Darwinian Evolution is based in science.

    The questions I constantly ask and challenge readers to ask as well are along the lines of, why is Darwinism so dogmatically defended by some, even to the point of forcing out all other viewpoints from the debate? Also, why does evolution remain so controversial, even among evolutionary scientists, biologists, geneticists, and the like. In your attempts to answer these quesions, here are a few points to consider:

    1. There must be MORE than merely a critical mass of scientists willing to question a prevailing theory. There must also be a viable alternative theory which better explains certain phenomenon in a measurable way. Can ID Theory do this? Absolutely, but not if it is to be censored like the “round Earth” theory was a thousand years back!
    2. Should darwinism, as Mr. Derbyshire argues, be taught “conservatively [emphasis his], without skepticism or equivocation,” so as not to “confuse young minds”? Well, if it were considered a law, like Gravity, or some other scientific approach which is measurable, sure. But evolution is still a theory for a reason. So, in that light, Mr. Derbyshire’s comment almost sounds as if he’s asking us not to confuse those “young minds” with the facts.

      The fact is, darwinists themselves are at odds over exactly how their theory might be used to explain the origins of life. For example; darwinism cannot now and never could explain the APPEARANCE of life from lifelessness. In addition, as noted author and Berkeley Professor Phil Johnson once said, “Evolution is not controversial because it is entirely true or entirely false, but rather because part is true and part is false.” What did he mean by that? Simply that darwinism elegantly explains how species adapt — called “Microevolution” — but never has proven where and how one species has or could have evolved into an entirely different species — “Macroevolution.”

      Now, evolutionists will tell you without hesitation that their theory is true and right, but if you ask a number of them exactly how it all happened, you’ll get as many different theories and guesses as you will individuals. How can it be “true” and “right” if so many in their own discipline disagree? Evolutionary scientists have had well over a hundred years to gather evidence, yet evolution as a theory is more controversial than ever. Truly, if the proof were there, the world would know it. But it isn’t and we don’t.

    3. Mr. Derbyshire identifies evolution as a reputable science, the basis for modern biology and genomics, but I disagree. I think evolutionists have borrowed on the reputation of truly modern and effective sciences in order to bolster their own position. The fact is, sciences such as genetics and biology do not need the theory of evolution to exist. Biology, after all, existed before evolution was proposed and genetics flowed naturally from the development and growth of that field and technology in general. But, as I mention somewhat in my earlier post, genetics also poses a growing challenge to evolution as well, because now we know that even microscopic life on this planet is enormously complex, irreducibly so. Meaning that much of life is so enormously complex and dependent upon a host of internal parts and systems all working in sync with one another that a precursor form is nearly impossible. So, how do evolutionists explain the problem of complexity? They MANIPULATE life in order to show how systems could change, failing to understand that they have just bolstered the claims of Intelligent Design, not blind materialistic forces.
    4. At the very least, lets teach the controversy. Darwinian Evolution is a theory, and MUST be taught as such. If you want to REALLY confuse kids, try teaching philosophy or religion in the science classroom. That is what proponents of evolution want. They don’t want sound, reasoned debate and a realistic look at the science, they want dogmatism.

Two last points; both important:

  • As Steven Levitt, author of “Freakonomics,” tells us, if you want to understand why people are motivated to take certain action, take a close look at the underlying system of rewards. For a huge number of scientists, their research in this field is all funded by large government and private donor grants. We are talking, very likely, tens of billions spent over the past 100+ years for evolutionary research. To see Darwinian Evolution discredited might well mean the loss of jobs and tenure for tens or hundreds of thousands of researchers all over the world. And I’m not exaggerating here. Evolution is THE dominant theory on the origins of life, for it to topple would be devastating to the academic community. With that kind of positive and negative incentive, why would evolutionary scientists WANT to level the playing field? That and the fact that many scientists in this discipline area are either agnostic or athiest in their belief system. To allow a scientific theory to grow which could lend support to an intelligence of any kind beyond our own would be similarly disquieting.
  • Darwinian Evolutionists have been dishonest in the way they define the term “science.” To someone in this camp, science can only be used to explain the blind, materialistic forces we can see and measure in the universe. But science cannot be used to identify and/or measure any kind of intelligence. In redefining science this way, they can then claim that anything at all that tries to disprove evolution is “unscientific.” But here’s the problem with this argument… We have several sciences which exist right now which DO have the ability to detect and scientifically measure intelligent interactions in the natural world. Forensics is one, right? If someone is found lying dead in a pool of blood in their house, what happens? The crime scene investigators are called, of course. They dust for prints, they look for DNA other than that of the victim, they look for “suspicious” marks in the room or on the deceased person’s body, and likely a dozen other things. Why do they do all that? So that they can determine the time of death? No, because they want to know if the person died accidentally, through natural causes, or was murdered. If the body has, for example, 50 stab wounds, with nothing in the room which could have “accidentally” caused the wounds, then the complexity of the injuries leads to the logical and straightforward conclusion that the person was murdered. In the same way, if life on Earth is SO complex that its appearance and growth is statistically impossible, and if the fossil record shows us no conclusive transition forms, — much less the millions of forms which we should already have found both living and dead — and if we see in that same record events such as the Cambrian Explosion, where thousands of new species appeared in a relatively short period of time, then we may have evidence of intelligent design. Certainly, as we look down to the cellular, then genetic levels today, we do NOT have strong evidence of Darwinian Evolution.

And as our knowledge of life grows more sophisticated, the fact is, traditional Darwinian Evolution is becoming gradually less able to so blithely explain the origins of all life on Earth. Not, at least, without of LOT of speculation, storytelling, and conjecture. But all of that, as Mr. Derbyshire so aptly points out, has no place in the science classroom.

Mr. Derbyshire is quick in his article to let us know that we should “not be afraid of science.” I wholeheartedly agree. He should practice what he preaches. 😉

David Flanagan

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  • JR

    David Flanagan: I won’t argue on the point that Darwinism is the consensus science of our age when it comes to origin of life theories.


    How can it be “true” and “right” if so many in their own discipline disagree?


    never mind.

  • Mr. O

    “At the very least, lets teach the controversy. Darwinian Evolution is a theory, and MUST be taught as such. If you want to REALLY confuse kids, try teaching philosophy or religion in the science classroom. That is what proponents of evolution want. They don’t want sound, reasoned debate and a realistic look at the science, they want dogmatism.”

    What a bunch of crap! I just spent the week preparing 8th graders for my State’s standard Science test. You want to know what the first thing we reviewed was? The SCIENTIFIC METHOD! It’s really simple, try and keep up if you can!

    1. Identify your problem
    2. Research
    3. Form a hypothesis
    4. Develop procedures to test your hypothesis
    5. Analyze the data
    6. Draw concludions
    7. Repeat ad nauseum!

    The real “controversy” the ID proponents are asking us to teach is, “do we throw out the SCIENTIFIC METHOD or not?!”

    Next we reviewed electromagnetism. I explained to them that lightning was, “the handy work of ZEUS, casting bolts of electricity down upon us hapless mortals!” Guess what, they told ME that this was not a scientific argument because there was no use of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD! Then we got down to some good old fashioned scientific dogmatism-we conducted actual experiments in class. I had students generating electricity and turning electric current into magnets in no time. Zeus never showed up though. Intelligent Designers-they just aren’t emperical when you need ’em!

  • RogerMDillion

    Once you start teaching evolution in church, then get back to me about ID in schools.

  • Steve

    I know of few churches that discuss evolution or creation in the context of the current debate and of those that do, it seems they are split 50/50 on it. The Christian community is not as monolithic as some evolutionists think it is. But then again, neither is the scientific community. You Yanks sure do make this so black & white when oftentimes things are a bit more complicated…I wonder if it is a direct result of having a two party system…but that’s another topic.

  • Steve

    A consensus generally means a majority, doesn’t mean there can’t be significant disagreement, and it’s obvious that disagreement is on the increase in recent years.

  • huck

    well there’s this and I think it’s relevant:

    Proof of the theory

  • JR


    NOUN: The quality or condition of being in complete agreement or harmony: unanimity, unanimousness.