No True Scotsman
A story from a Scottish newspaper is going around and Internet Darwin activists are, predictably, making hay of it. It's a news item in The Scotsman which states, "Thousands of American school pupils are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real -- in an attempt by religious teachers to disprove Charles Darwin's theory of evolution." A journalist called me to ask how intelligent design would respond to the article's reporting, and I answered, "This isn't an intelligent design argument. No ID book I've ever read makes any argument like this."
Here's the news, such as it is. Apparently some private Christian schools are using wacky textbooks that claim not only that the Loch Ness monster exists, but that its existence is somehow evidence that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, ergo evolution is false. The argument, according to the article, is a young Earth creationist one. I've never paid much attention to such stuff -- my sense is that even if Nessie's existence were someday to be confirmed (something I'm not expecting to happen), then Darwinian evolutionists would find some way to accommodate the data. There's no way that materialists would let their worldview be overturned by a living plesiosaur -- or whatever Nessie is supposed to be.
In any case, I explained to the reporter that ID is different from creationism. Creationism starts with the Bible (or some other religious text) and then tries to draw religious conclusions expressed in scientific-sounding language. ID starts with the scientific evidence and limits its claims to what we can learn through scientific methods. In particular, ID investigates whether we can detect design in nature, using scientific methodology alone.
If you want to be taken seriously, and influence the thinking of evolutionary scientists, it's usually not a good idea to pin your argument on the existence of myths and legends like the Loch Ness monster. ID bases its own arguments on well-established evidence discussed in the scientific literature: modern discoveries like the language-based information-rich code in DNA, complex molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum, or the abrupt appearance of complex animal body plans in the Cambrian explosion. Materialists acknowledge that these features of nature exist, even as they struggle to explain them. This is a strength of ID, in that it embraces empirical discoveries of modern science and finds that they positively point to design.
If you teach in a private school, and want scientifically credible resources written by scientists and scholars with solid and appropriate backgrounds, there's a nice collection of scientific resources that we recommend. Some resources we recommend for private schools include:
- Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism by Stephen C. Meyer, Scott Minnich, Jonathan Moneymaker, Paul Nelson, and Ralph Seelke (Hill House, 2007) Designed for public schools but also used in many private schools, Explore Evolution is a supplementary biology textbook that teaches critical thinking by giving students a thorough understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. The textbook comes with lesson plans, PowerPoint slides, handouts, and a test bank for those who adopt the text in their course. Ideal for high school or early college. For more information: www.exploreevolution.com
- The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems by William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells (Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 2007) This high-level textbook by two leading ID theorists presents the scientific case for intelligent design in biology. Ideal for advanced high school or college use. For more information: www.thedesignoflife.net
- Icons of Evolution Study Guide This study guide serves as an excellent companion to the Icons of Evolution documentary and provides students with activities to critically analyze common lines of evidence used to support evolution. For more information: www.discovery.org/a/2130
- Unlocking the Mystery of Life (Illustra Media) This powerful 67-minute documentary uses stunning graphics to explain the evidence for design from DNA, molecular machines, and cell biology. A number of pro-ID scientists are interviewed. For more information: www.unlockingthemysteryoflife.com
- The Privileged Planet Documentary (Illustra Media) This 60-minute documentary also features an extremely high-quality graphical presentation of the evidence for design of the cosmos from fine-tuning arguments. For more information: www.theprivilegedplanet.com
- Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record (Illustra Media) This documentary uses powerful graphics to present the fossil evidence, for intelligent design and against Darwinian evolution, from the Cambrian explosion. For more information: www.darwinsdilemma.org
- Icons of Evolution Documentary (Coldwater Media) This documentary features biologist Jonathan Wells and discusses problems with many common lines of evidence used to support Darwinian evolution. For more information: www.discovery.org/a/2125
- Where Does the Evidence Lead? (Illustra Media) This video features science clips from the documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life. It is an excellent tool for teachers. For more information: wheredoestheevidencelead.com
- Programming of Life (LaBarge Media) This well-done video makes the case that life is full of information and programming, which cannot arise from a material source. For more information: ProgrammingofLife.com
Photo credit: Wikicommons.