Cover Story

2009 Daniel of the Year

"2009 Daniel of the Year" Continued...

Issue: "2009 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 19, 2009

Life for ID Daniels may even grow harder as some Darwinists realize that time is not on their side. As ultrasound machines have undercut abortion, so information revolutions have led more scientists to embrace ID. As Meyer says, "When we encounter a computer program we can always trace it back to a computer programmer. . . . So the discovery of information in DNA points decisively back to an intelligent cause, to a mind, not a material process."

That discovery undermines the current Darwinian empire, which is and will be striking back. Meyer's wife Elaine occasionally asks him, "Is it too late for us to still be farmers?" It looks that way: Meyer is way past the point of no return for a placid academic life. And today's Daniels hang in there, as their predecessor two-and-a-half millennia ago did.
To read Daniel of the Year profiles from previous years, click here.

Going against the stereotype

Owen Gingerich and other Christian critics of ID

By Marvin Olasky

This year atheistic biologist Richard Dawkins refused my offer to schedule a debate in New York between Meyer and himself: Dawkins, who says that Darwinism makes for "intellectually fulfilled atheism," apparently does not want to lose his sense of fulfillment. But theistic evolutionist Francis Collins also attacks ID and is unwilling to enter into a public discussion with Meyer.

Some thoughtful evangelical professors believe the Bible allows for one kind of creature to become another by chance over time. Others compartmentalize: To use Francis Schaeffer's parlance, they put God in the "upper story" for devotional visits but macroevolution in the lower story where it rules their daily work. Some Christians in academia sat at the feet of materialist professors and have never transcended their graduate school training. Some evangelical professors have enough status anxiety already without suffering further indignity by being called anti-scientific.

Socrates in the City, the Christian gathering in Manhattan hosted by Eric Metaxas (see "Mission to Metropolis," Feb. 14), has witnessed attacks on ID by Collins and, last month, by Harvard professor emeritus Owen Gingerich, author of God's Universe (2006). Gingerich noted that today "even high school students study a great deal more about genetics than Darwin ever knew." He said he supports "lower case intelligent design" but opposes ID: He acknowledged that God created the universe but said such a consideration has no place in scientific discourse.

Gingerich takes that position because he defines science as "methodological naturalism": Anything supernatural cannot be part of science, so by definition ID has no place in scientific journals. I asked him why science should be equated only with naturalism: Why can't science be an attempt to find the most likely reasons why reality is as it is? In writing history books I haven't pretended to know exactly why certain events happened, but I've reported likely causes. In looking at the history of the development of life, can't we also assess likelihoods?

Gingerich is not willing to go that far, but Meyer is. He notes the importance of "generating a list of possible hypotheses" and then "progressively eliminating potential but inadequate explanations." In Signature in the Cell Meyer notes "the inability of genetic algorithms, ribozyme engineering, and prebiotic simulations to generate information without intelligence." Since the possibility of undirected materialistic causes producing life in its profusion is virtually nil, and since "conscious, rational intelligent agency . . . now stands as the only cause known to be capable of generating large amounts of specified information starting from a nonliving state," ID is by far the most plausible explanation.

Can science accept the concept of an intelligence beyond nature directing nature? If not, should the definition of science change?

Going against the party line

David Berlinski: A non-Christian ally of ID

By Marvin Olasky

The existence of David Berlinski is a problem for Darwinists who attempt to stigmatize critics by labeling all of them as religious creationists. The 67-year-old secular Jew and agnostic was born to Jewish-German refugees from Nazi Germany who fled to New York City. As a child he experimentally stuck a fork in an electric outlet. He has since shocked students through his teaching at Stanford, Rutgers, and at least eight other colleges and universities. He received his Ph.D. at Princeton University and has written curmudgeonly books such as The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions and Deniable Darwin and Other Essays.

Berlinski, proceeding from a scientific rather than a Christian viewpoint, sees "big holes in Darwinism. It's inadequate as a theory, and I feel very sympathetic, very warm, towards Intelligent Design." He also sympathizes with ID Daniels: "The academic world does not reward any kind of dissent . . . if you dissent from Darwin in any way, the suspicion immediately arises that you're going to be handling snakes next. The hostility toward the American evangelical community in particular and the Christian community in general (the Jewish community plays almost no role in this) is very powerful."

Perhaps because he cannot be typed as "some sort of religious nitwit," secular critics of Darwin sometimes confide in Berlinski: "There is a lot of dissent out there that is unexpressed. When I talk to mathematicians they say, 'We knew this stuff all along but we're not going to open our mouths.' When I talk to biologists, some of the good ones say very candidly, 'Darwin? That's just the party line.'"

Concerning Stephen Meyer's view that Darwin's theory will lose support as we gain more scientific knowledge, Berlinski says, "I think he's completely right. Either the gaps in Darwin's theory will shrink or they will expand, and I think the second is much more likely both in biology and physics." He adds, "We have to maintain a completely open mind, and I see no reason that the insights of Christian theology, Jewish theology, and Islamic theology should be ruled out of court at the very beginning because they're incompatible with a certain idea of what science is really about."

Flossing a lion

Darwin's Origin gets a stealthy evangelistic introduction

By Alisa Harris

Richard Dawkins is suggesting that students rip out part of the latest edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species-the Christian introduction challenging Darwin's theories.

Frustrated that students are getting a "lopsided view of their origins," author and evangelist Ray Comfort realized that On the Origin of Species was in the public domain, which meant he could publish his own edition with his own introduction and distribute it across college and university campuses. He wrote a 54-page introduction challenging Darwin's views and with the help of evangelism organization Living Waters, recruited 1,200 volunteers to distribute 170,000 books at 100 universities.

The introduction starts with Darwin's biography and goes on to talk about the evidence against evolution: DNA as a sophisticated language that could not evolve by chance, the lack of transitional fossil forms, and the "irreducible complexity" of the human body. Comfort also argues that Darwin held racist and sexist views, and he traces Hitler's racism back to Darwin.

Because of Dawkins' suggestion and other talk of book burnings and protests, Living Waters decided to move up the date of distribution-from publicly announced Nov. 19 to Nov. 18. Comfort said a UCLA student protester told him, "You're not supposed to be here today. We're not ready."

Tristan Miller, the president of Bruin Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists at UCLA, said his group planned to hand out counter-fliers, pro-evolution materials, and free T-shirts. As for book burnings, "We would never do anything of the sort," he said. From Miller's perspective, the event was more about evangelism than science.

Comfort doesn't hide his evangelistic purpose, especially since the end of the introduction includes the gospel story and an invitation to accept Christianity. His goal is not only to turn people from evolution but also to bring them to Christianity, he said.

Living Waters will continue to print and distribute its edition across college campuses, but the when and where is secret, Comfort said: "Atheists will be trying to find out what universities we're going to visit and when we're going to visit them, but they have more chance of flossing the teeth of a lion at the L.A. zoo at feeding time than they have of getting that information."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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