Looking Forward to Darwin Day, Here's a Suggestion for Enterprising Reporters
Charles Darwin's birthday falls on Tuesday, February 12, and we prefer to celebrate the occasion as Academic Freedom Day, when "students everywhere can speak out against censorship and stand up for free speech by defending the right to debate the evidence for and against evolution." Notwithstanding that there's ferment across the country in favor of academic-freedom bills, we're not holding our breath waiting for the media as a whole to follow us in this.
Still, we do kind of look forward to Darwin Day, with a morbid curiosity about how dedicated Darwin defenders in the media will spin it this year. Our Darwin-lobbying friends at the National Center for Science Education do an energetic job of supplying story angles and articulate spokesmen for tamping down free discussion on evolution.
On the question of academic freedom, some people are passionately against the idea of protecting teachers who would expose high-school students to the fact that there's a sophisticated scientific and philosophical debate going on about Darwinian theory. They would rather see these teachers exposed to administrative punishment and rebuke. If that's not illiberal enough, these people are usually also hotly opposed to exposing thoughtful, educated adults to the same controversy. So when the New York Times acknowledged the stir that distinguished NYU philosopher and atheist Thomas Nagel has caused with his book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, that was a step forward. Maybe it even offers a hint of glasnost on the evolution issue.
If I were an editor at the New York Times, I think I'd follow up by assigning a science reporter like Ken Chang or Jennifer Schuessler -- who both evidently follow these questions with interest -- to let Times readers know what the evolution debate is actually about. We have confidence that these readers would be able to maturely evaluate and assimilate the information.
And you know what, the good news for any such enterprising reporter is that ENV's Casey Luskin has actually done a lot of the homework for you already.
Go look at Casey's articles "What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution?" and "Top Five Problems with Current Origin-of-Life Theories." All a journalist would have to do is take a few of the problems with evolutionary and origin-of-life theorizing that Casey identifies and call up some of the guys Ms. Schuessler interviewed for her story about how Darwin-defending scientists and philosophers are ticked off about Nagel's book.
Ask them for their responses to Casey's challenges. The proviso would be that these gents are not allowed to just brush off the subject with the usual dodge about how Darwin skepticism and intelligent design are only barely disguised creationism, taken seriously exclusively by fire-breathing right-wing Born Again Christians, etc. Ask for a real response!
Then turn around and let a scientist or scholar on the intelligent-design side of the argument reply. Perhaps Doug Axe, Ann Gauger or Stephen Meyer. Center for Science & Culture communications director Robert Crowther can set up the interview for you. You'll find Rob's contact info here. There's your Darwin Day story. Easy! It would be kind of like a debate, right there in the New York Times -- the controversy that we're always being told doesn't exist.