Personal Attacks Against ID Proponents Say More About the Attackers than the Accused
Recently an e-mail correspondent asked whether I recommend Phillip Johnson's book Darwin on Trial, which had a seminal influence in the early days of the intelligent-design movement. The e-mailer said he had heard people saying that Johnson is "dishonest and deceiving," and wanted to know if that was true. Here was my reply:
Though at 20+ years old it's a little outdated now, I do recommend Phillip Johnson's book Darwin on Trial -- it's well-documented and well-written and it is not dishonest or deceiving. In fact, evolutionary paleontologist David Raup said Darwin on Trial was "exemplary" in its arguments (see Tom Woodward's Doubts about Darwin, p. 260).The e-mailer also asked if it was true that intelligent design is "losing credibility in the scientific community and the media." Here was my reply:
With that, please let me give you a little introduction to how this debate works. Evolutionists regularly accuse their critics of being "dishonest," "deceiving," or other similar attacks. It's a primary tactic they use to respond to criticism and intimidate critics into silence. You're not allowed to dissent from their view and be (a) informed, and (b) honest. Many of them can't fathom the possibility that a person on the other side of the debate could be both.
Here's a fact you might ponder: Virtually every single major person who has criticized the Darwinian viewpoint has faced personal attacks on his or her character. It happens to essentially every single person, myself included. So one of two things are true: Either (1) virtually every single critic of Darwinism (of which there are many) is "dishonest" and "deceiving," or (2) evolutionists habitually respond to scientific challenges with personal attacks.
I'm going with option (2). Even scholars with no sympathy for ID have been amazed to observe the nasty and uncivil treatment to which evolutionists subject their critics. (Please see here or here for some discussion of this.) So the fact that Phillip Johnson's character and integrity have been impugned by critics says more about how evolutionists behave than it does about the man Johnson himself.
That's a complex question whose answer also may say more about the media or the "scientific community" than it says about ID.
First, how do you measure an idea's "credibility?" I judge scientific "credibility" based mainly upon whether a claim is supported by the evidence. I don't gauge "credibility" by how many people have signed up for a particular position. That said, there are plenty of highly credible scientists, with PhDs, and at credible institutions, who support ID. On a different but related note, over 800 PhD scientists have signed a list dissenting from Darwinian evolutionary theory at www.dissentfromdarwin.org.
When there's a credible mass of scientific dissent you can't just dismiss because it represents a minority in the scientific field. What we see here is a genuine scientific debate -- a debate whose existence many evolutionists would like to deny. But it does exist, and you have to look at the evidence to decide who is right. Science is decided by the evidence, not by vote-counts.
There are other respects in which ID is clearly gaining, not losing credibility. Last year the ID movement published its 50th peer-reviewed scientific paper. Though the ID research program is steadily progressing forward, pro-ID scientists face discrimination from a small but vocal group of critics in the scientific community.
If you'd like to see an assessment of where the ID movement stands, and how its future is bright, you might enjoy a series of articles I wrote last year:
- How Bright is the Future of Intelligent Design?
- Post-Dover Education Victories for Intelligent Design
- Circumventing the Post-Dover Media Blackout
- It's Time for Some Folks to Get Over Dover
So there is a credible mass of ID-friendly scientists, and they are doing and publishing credible research supporting their views. In reply, ID critics rarely engage ID arguments directly, but prefer to attack ID proponents in personal terms. Meanwhile ID opponents seek to suppress free speech for ID advocates. Meanwhile the scientific debate goes on -- and just by observing how people behave, you can get a sense of which side is more confident about the evidence.
Also, yes, much of the media is biased against ID. But there's friendly media out there too. Neither the existence of unfriendly nor friendly media tells you anything about the scientific merits of ID. It tells you something about the media.