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Unhappy warriors

Grumpy defensiveness over Intelligent Design inroads is showing

Issue: "Beyond hate speech," Aug. 20, 2005

King Solomon knew something about getting to the core of a difficult dispute. In the wonderful little story about the two women, each claiming that the same baby was her own, the wisest man who ever lived understood that the mother who showed the most generosity in the argument was almost certainly the one who was telling the truth.

I couldn't help thinking about that a few days ago when the nation's intelligentsia-including many in the mainstream media-jumped all over President Bush for his casual remarks about the "intelligent design" movement. Did Mr. Bush think, one reporter asked him, that there should be a place in the science curricula of the nation's schools for consideration of the Intelligent Design concept? "Part of education," the president responded affably, "is to expose people to different schools of thought. You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas. The answer is yes. . . . Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about."

I'm not suggesting, mind you, that Mr. Bush's generous spirit constitutes final proof about who is right in the renewed debate about origins. I'm just proposing that the fidgety defensiveness of the Darwinists over the last couple of weeks contrasts in an ugly way with the easy openness of the Intelligent Design folks (see "Mad Scientists").

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Indeed, the grumpy stubbornness of the evolutionary crowd tells you more than you wanted to know about them. "Look!" cries someone with gleeful delight. "Let me show you this snowflake. Look at its incredible design." "Don't want to," comes the sullen and bad-tempered reply.

All apart from the evidence itself, who would you rather spend your time with?

It all reminded me of my first exposure to biochemist Michael Behe's wonderful book, Darwin's Black Box, which has done so much since its first publication in 1996 to popularize the intelligent-design idea. Not the least of the book's attractive qualities is its delightful and refreshing openness-paralleled with its critique of the closed-minded approach of the Darwinists. "Imagine a room," Mr. Behe says, "in which a body lies crushed, flat as a pancake. A dozen detectives crawl around, examining the floor with magnifying glasses for any clue to the identity of the perpetrator. In the middle of the room, next to the body, stands a large gray elephant. The detectives carefully avoid bumping into the pachyderm's legs as they crawl, and never even glance at it. . . . Textbooks say detectives must 'get their man,' so they never consider elephants."

To switch Mr. Behe's context only a bit, let me suggest that a literal trip to the zoo is about all it takes to settle the question: Who is asking you to believe the more preposterous story-the evolutionists or the Intelligent Design proponents?

Or stroll through the glories of a botanical garden. All this happened by chance? Really?

The point right here, though, is not so much to keep rehearsing that particular argument as to note the grouchy refusal of the Darwinists in the first place even to let you past the entry gate to the zoo or the botanical garden. They're quite prepared to deny you a chance even to look at and discuss the evidence.

I feel sorry for all these spoilsports. I can tell from their very dourness that most of them haven't had the fun experience of reading Michael Behe's book. (If you haven't, you must. I still call it one of the most consequential books of our generation.) They missed his colorful introduction to machines in their own digestive tracts that have propellers, universal joints, drive shafts, and bushings. And they missed his chapter titled "Road Kill," where he tells the great story of groundhogs trying to cross the Schuylkill Expressway in northwest Philadelphia.

Contrary to critics of Intelligent Design, neither Michael Behe nor its other proponents are out to prove creationism. In fact, that reticence has turned off some creationists. But not me. I keep watching how much fun the Intelligent Design people are having, and how open and generous they are in their conduct of the continuing debate, and I know almost intuitively which side of this argument I want to be on. And if wise old Solomon were deciding this issue, I think he would have agreed.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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