Dynamist Blog


From the front page of the April 15 edition of The Greenville News:

Seventy-eight years after the famous Scopes "monkey trial," Charles Darwin is stirring up trouble again.

Or, depending on your perspective, it's state Sen. Mike Fair who's stirring up the trouble.

The Republican from Greenville, irritated that a study done for the Fordham Foundation gave South Carolina an "A" for how well it teaches evolution, is challenging the premise of Darwin's widely accepted theory. He bases his argument on the fact that no one was there when life began to make a scientific observation about it.

Fair wants science books in South Carolina public schools to have the following statement posted in them: "The cause or causes of life are not scientifically verifiable. Therefore, empirical science cannot provide data about the beginning of life."

His argument is that no one can prove scientifically how life began, which makes the question a matter of faith, or philosophy. Darwin's theory that life evolved slowly over millions of years, he argues, is not science.

The article demonstrates what J-school-style ping-pong objectivity looks like when everybody's viewpoint is truly given equal legitimacy:

"Evolution is a unifying theme throughout science," said Linda Sinclair, state science consultant for the South Carolina Department of Education.

"While there are some scientists who support the idea that it wasn't natural selection and random events that led to humans, it was a creator's design, there's not any evidence to support that," Sinclair said. "And of course all of science rides on evidence."

Even if there's no direct evidence that the complexity of life's inner workings came about by something other than natural selection, a compelling case can be made that some intelligent force was behind it, according to the adherents of Intelligent Design.

Daniel Dix, a math professor at the University of South Carolina, said his studies of the structure of biological molecules lead him to be skeptical that natural selection and random mutation alone can account for the "sophisticated networks" of "complex molecular machines" he sees.

"These just look to me like the kind of things you see when you look in engineering systems," he said.

He is particularly amazed by the molecular "antennas" in the photosynthetic cells of plants, which can be tuned to receive light of different frequencies, and even disassemble and reassemble themselves if they need to be repaired.

Dix said he doesn't see any evidence that such sophisticated systems can "spontaneously arise."

"You start piling implausibility upon implausibility, and after a while the argument gets harder and harder to believe that all this happened without any kind of mind behind it," Dix said.

Dix's conclusion that order implies design goes way beyond biology or theology. You can say the same thing for any other spontaneous order. Perhaps the South Carolina schools should give equal time to conspiracy theories of history and central planning models of the economy. But I wouldn't want to give them any ideas.

Reporter Ron Barnett even conscientiously includes unchallenged "evidence" of the "young earth" belief that the earth is only a few thousand years old, no matter how much evidence to the contrary geology produces:

There's no scientific reason to throw out the biblical account of creation, though, according to Joseph Henson, chairman emeritus of Bob Jones University's division of natural science.

In fact, he points to numerous scientific reasons to doubt Darwin's theory that life evolved over millions of years.

For example, he says pieces of wood that have been dated at 5,000 years old have been found buried under rock that mainstream scientists say is 600 million years old. He says the worldwide flood described in the book of Genesis could have caused in a few months the geological formations that most scientists say took millions of years to form.

That's balance, but I don't know that I'd exactly call it fair.

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