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"Intellectually Confused" Journalist Calls on Southern Methodist University to Censor Intelligent Design (ID) Supporters

In an over-the-top op-ed in today's Dallas Morning News, journalist Lee Cullum attacks the upcoming "Darwin v. Design" conference at Southern Methodist University (SMU) as "intellectually confused," complains that ID proponents "refuse to understand who and what they are," and asserts that Southern Methodist University "needs to rethink its policy regarded future use of its facilities" in order to prevent intelligent design proponents from expressing their views on the SMU campus in the future.

However, if anyone is "intellectually confused," it is poor Ms. Cullum, whose article displays her own breathtaking ignorance of both intelligent design and the principles of a free society.

It is clear from her op-ed that Ms. Cullum is almost completely ignorant of the real views of intelligent design proponents. Rather than attack intelligent design for what it actually proposes, all she can do is present a straw-man version of the theory:

Those who favor intelligent design seek to prove that evolution is impossible because the complexity of human systems is beyond the capacity of the Darwinian process to accomplish. Hence, humankind must have been created by a supreme designer.
Here are just some of the errors in Ms. Cullum's description of ID:

(1) Contrary to Ms. Cullum, ID proponents do not claim that ID proves that "evolution is impossible." In fact, ID is perfectly compatible with many types of evolution, as ID proponents have pointed out repeatedly.

(2) Contrary to Ms. Cullum, ID is not based simply on "complexity," but on what mathematician William Dembski has called "specified complexity," complexity that is highly-functional and highly-ordered for a certain purpose. And, yes, there is a lot of empirical evidence that the unguided Darwinian process of natural selection and random mutations cannot generate this kind of highly-functional complexity.

(3) Contrary to Ms. Cullum, ID is not just based on the "complexity of human systems," but on the specified complexity found throughout the biological world, and on the fine-tuning of the physical constants that allow the universe itself to exist. (Note: Even some prominent evolutionists who reject intelligent design in biology seem persuaded by the evidence for design in cosmology.)

(4) Contrary to Ms. Cullum, ID does not claim that the biological evidence for design proves that "humankind must have been created by a supreme designer," only that it provides strong empirical evidence that the development of life was the product of an intelligent process rather than an undirected process of chance and necessity like natural selection and random mutations. Intelligent design is certainly friendly to theism, but it does not claim that the facts of biology in and of themselves prove there is a "supreme designer."

As a matter of constitutional law, Ms. Cullum is correct that Southern Methodist University--unlike a state university--would not violate the First Amendment by denying the use of its facilities to ID proponents. But contrary to Ms. Cullum, such a denial certainly would be a blow against the principles of a free society. It is amazing how shallow the support for free and open debate is among some journalists. They are all for the right of those they agree with to air their views freely. But they seem to have no problem with the suppression of viewpoints with which they disagree.

Ms. Cullum attempts to justify excluding ID proponents from SMU's campus by comparing ID supporters to faith-healers and Holocaust deniers. You know that someone has run out of rational arguments when the person has to resort to such smears. Last time I checked, faith-healers weren't on the faculty of major medical schools, nor were Holocaust deniers on the faculty of history departments at reputable universities. Yet scientists and philosophers who support intelligent design are on the faculties of many American universities, and they hold Ph.D.s from mainstream graduate programs in such disciplines as biology, biochemistry, physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Moreover, the arguments for ID are being made in books, monographs, and technical articles published by mainstream academic presses and peer-reviewed journals.

Ms. Cullum presents the best argument for why this upcoming conference needs to take place. It is precisely because of the astounding ignorance of people like Ms. Cullum that scientists and scholars supportive of intelligent design need to have the right to speak for themselves about the evidence for their view. Ms. Culum should attend the conference. She might learn something.