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Coming Out for Darwin Doubts or Intelligent Design: How Will It Make Me Look?

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Responding to my post "Status Transactions in the Darwin Debate," a reader with some experience of the evolution controversy writes:

When I first started I was really shocked and disappointed that the primary consideration for most people seemed to be, not which viewpoint is more compatible with the evidence, but which viewpoint is more compatible with the image I want to project. But we are making slow progress despite this.

Yes, exactly. That puts it better than I did. The key consideration for many, including many otherwise thoughtful folks, is if I come out for the Darwin skeptics or for intelligent design, what image of myself will have I have chosen?

That brings to mind a smart comment that mathematician Granville Sewell made in an interview with us, in connection with the release of his book In the Beginning: And Other Essays on Intelligent Design:

Q. You predict that in the future, biology textbooks will describe evolution as a "mysterious 'natural' process" that scientists hope to someday clarify. That would represent a major change in opinion. What could be the tipping point?

A. I have no idea when that will happen, but things are moving much faster in that direction than anyone would have predicted just ten years ago. The tipping point will occur when scientists feel they will be seen as intellectuals for doubting Darwinism rather than seen as intellectuals for promoting it, and not before then.

Never mind scientists, it's amazing that lots of intellectuals, not excepting ones who really ought to know better, are governed by exactly that consideration: How will it make me look? My prediction: The dustup around Thomas Nagel's book Mind and Cosmos will be seen in retrospect as having contributed significantly to the transition, the tipping point, to which Dr. Sewell alludes.

I'm now on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.

Photo credit: Pix from the Field/Flickr.