University of Virginia Magazine Prints Abbreviated Pro-ID Letters
Last summer, 49 scientists (mostly biologists) from the University of Virginia co-authored a letter to University of Virginia (UVa) Magazine arguing that "[n]ot only does evolution clash with religious dogma, but it undermines the significance that some would like to give to the place of humans in the universe." Both Salvador Cordova and I wrote letters responding to their anti-religious mischaracterizations of intelligent design. UVa Magazine has now kindly printed abbreviated versions of our letters. Salvador Cordova has discussed these at UncommonDescent, and we also reprint our original letters below in full:
I was mentioned in the article 'Ultimate Questions' which sparked the recent flurry of letters to the editor over intelligent design (ID). I hope to set the record straight about what the issues really are.
Nobel prize-winning scientist Charles Townes said, "Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real." Another Nobel prize winning scientist, Richard Smalley, wrote, "Evolution has just been dealt its death blow...[after studying the origin of life] with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred."
If world-renowned scientists can accept ID, why should there be such a fuss about pro-ID students at UVa? Acceptance of ID is not a hindrance to the pursuit of science. If that were the case, there would have been no great scientists in the past like Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Pasteur, Mendel, and Plank or Nobel laureates (like Townes and Smalley) in the present.
Pro-ID students with majors in scientific disciplines (like biology) graduated from UVa this past spring. Several pro-ID science professors teach at UVa. 1/3 of the freshman biology majors at schools like Iowa State accept ID, and over 1/3 of American medical doctors prefer ID over evolution. In light of this, should there be such a fuss over pro-ID students and faculty at UVa or any other university? I think not.
Much talk has been raised about ID in the grade schools and colleges. But that is not even the real issue. The real issue is epitomized by the work of world-class physicists like John Barrow. Barrow's mathematical derivations of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics imply that the source of universe (and thus all life) is a super-intelligence. Whether Barrow and other ID-sympathetic scientists are ultimately correct is the real issue. Everything else pales in comparison.
Salvador Cordova, IDEA Center affiliate
The letter in UVA Magazine against intelligent design (ID) signed by 49 UVA biology faculty is revealing: not only do they oppose ID due to a false characterization of the theory, but they repeat false claims that there are no pro-ID peer-reviewed science publications.
Firstly, the faculty wrongly define ID as saying "the less we know, the greater is the support for supernatural explanations." In reality, ID limits its claims to what can be learned from the empirical data. ID therefore only appeals to intelligent causes and does not try to address unscientific religious questions about whether the designing intelligence was supernatural. ID is also not an "argument from ignorance." Rather, design is inferred based upon what we know about the powers of intelligent causes, and detecting in nature informational patterns known to only come from intelligence. As microbiologist Scott Minnich and philosopher of science Stephen Meyer observe, "[i]n all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role the origin of the system."
Finally, the letter asserts that "no peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of ID have ever been published in any major scientific journal." Yet in 2004, Meyer published a peer-reviewed paper in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington arguing that design best explains the rapid "explosion" of biological information in the Cambrian period.
When 49 UVA biologists oppose ID because they believe false claims about a lack of peer-reviewed pro-ID publications, and misunderstand it as an argument from ignorance that appeals to the supernatural, then it is clear that much opposition to ID is based upon self-replicating misinformation. Why do they feel so threatened that a UVA Magazine article mentioned a small pro-ID student club? Thomas Kuhn understood why, and he's smiling from his grave.
President Emeritus, IDEA Center