Welcome to a New Blog by Our Darwin-Lobbying Friends at the NCSE; but First a Question
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has launched a new blog, called the "Science League of America," with the stated goal of "Defending the Teaching of Evolution & Climate Science." In a post titled "Fear, Denial, Acceptance," geologist Steven Newton, who's also the NCSE's Programs and Policy Director, writes about how climate scientists are having a hard time overcoming the public's "denial" of the "facts" about climate change:
It is hard for many scientists to understand why so many citizens resist understanding the reality of climate change. If you're a scientist and want to know more about a particular scientific topic, you grab a score of the most recent peer-reviewed publications on the issue. You read a stack of papers, you read a stack of books. In this world of verifiable information, if a claim has solid data to back it up, if results are reproducible by independent researchers, if double-blind studies return the same result over and over -- then you can start to form conclusions (though always holding those conclusions as tentative, subject to new research). The implications of these conclusions should not affect your comprehension of the conclusions. If the implications of climate change may be frightening or demoralizing, that doesn't undermine the validity of the science, any more than the horrors of Hiroshima undermine the physics of the atomic bomb.
My purpose here is not to decry what may or may not be valid science where climate change is concerned. Rather, I want to highlight and pose a question regarding the last part of that passage, about holding conclusions tentatively and not letting the implications affect your evaluation of the science. It's a fine proposal. However if the principles Newton lays out are applicable to all of science, then what happens when the focus shifts to evolutionary biology and intelligent design? Consider the following reformulation of what he says:
The implications of the conclusions should not affect your comprehension of the conclusions. If the implications of intelligent design may be frightening or demoralizing, that doesn't undermine the validity of the science, any more than the horrors of Hiroshima undermine the physics of the atomic bomb.
One main thrust of the case against ID has long been that ID isn't science precisely because (so say the critics) it implies God, and we can't allow that "divine foot in the door." Leaving aside for the moment that ID as a scientific program does not invoke any supernatural cause, if we fairly apply Newton's principle across the board, then so what if it were true (though it isn't) that ID implies a source of supernatural causation at work in biology? Plenty of people might find such an implication "frightening or demoralizing," but surely their emotions are immaterial to a fair consideration of the evidence.
Of course, Newton and his colleagues at the NCSE would argue that the relevant scientific evidence demands a conclusion in favor of Darwinian theory and against ID. But that's true only if you accept the arbitrary proscription against anything other than undirected causes at work in life's development. If design is ruled out by fiat, then that indeed strengthens the case for Darwinism. If design is not ruled out beforehand, it's a different story.
Over the past several years, evolutionary biologists have failed miserably in seeking to provide a Darwinian explanation for the complex, specified information (CSI) found everywhere throughout biological systems. Given that and other considerations, a reasonable conclusion is that intelligence is, in fact, required to account for CSI. But that is the very "frightening and demoralizing" conclusion against which ID's critics rail. Seemingly, when it comes to anything that might challenge Darwinian orthodoxy, such as ID, the scientific principle Newton outlines in his blog post doesn't apply.