Intelligent Design Defended from the Floor of the US House of Representatives


INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT A SCIENCE (House of Representatives - June 14, 2000)

[Page: H4480] GPO's PDF

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Souder) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Speaker, on June 1, I received a letter that was written by seven members of the biology department and one professor of psychology from Baylor University in response to my co-hosting a recent conference on intelligent design, the theory that an intelligent agency can be detected in nature, sponsored by the Discovery Institute.

The professors denounced intelligent design as pseudo science and advocated what is bluntly called the materialistic approach to science.

Mr. Speaker, I am appalled that any university seeking to discover truth, yet alone a university that is a Baptist Christian school, could make the kinds of statements that are contained in this letter. Is there position on teaching about materialistic science so weak that it cannot withstand scrutiny and debate?

Intelligent design theory is upheld by the same kind of data and analysis as any other theory to determine whether an event is caused by natural or intelligent causes; just as a detective relies on evidence to decide whether a death was natural or murder, and an insurance company relies on evidence to decide whether a fire is an accident or arson. A scientist looking at, say, the structure of a DNA molecule goes through exactly the same reasoning to decide whether the DNA code is the result of natural causes or an intelligent agent.

Today, qualified scientists are reaching the conclusion that design theory makes better sense of the data. Influential new books are coming out by scientists like molecular biologist Behe, Darwin's Black Box, the Free Press, and mathematician William Dembski, The Design Interference, Cambridge University Press, which point out the problems with Darwinian evolution and highlight evidence for intelligent design in the university.

The tone of the letter I received seems to suggest that my congressional colleagues and I were unsuspecting honorary co-hosts in a conference on intelligent design. That is not the case. My good friend, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution has considered holding a congressional hearing on the bias and viewpoint discrimination in science and science education. Ideological bias has no place in science and many of us in Congress do not want the government to be party to it.

The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Canady) approached several people, including the Discovery Institute, about plans for such a hearing. The people at Discovery suggested that instead we allow them merely to put on a modest informational briefing on intelligent design. That is exactly what happened, and we regarded the result as very valuable.

Nevertheless, many of us continue to be concerned about the unreasoning viewpoint discrimination in science. This letter dismisses those who do not share the philosophy of science favored by the authors as frauds. It is ironic, however, that the authors do not ever actually get around to answering the substantive arguments put forward by people at the Discovery Institute. The authors support a philosophy of science they call materialistic science. The key phrase in the letter is that we cannot consider God's role in the natural phenomenon we observe. Yet this assumption is merely asserted without any argument.

How can the authors of this letter be so confident that God plays no role in the observable world? Once we acknowledge that God exists, as these professors presumably do since they teach as a Christian university, there is no logical way to rule out the possibility that God may actually do something within the universe He created.

In addition, the philosophy of science the authors talk about is just that, a philosophy. It is not itself science, even according to the definition of science put forward by the authors themselves. They state, for example, that all observations must be explained through empirical observations. I am not sure what that means but I do know this: This statement itself is not verifiable by observation or by methods of scientific inquiry. It is rather a philosophical statement.

If they prefer it to the alternative that they suppose it advanced by the Discovery Institute folks, then the preference itself cannot be based on science. It is a difference of philosophy, but they are biologists not philosophers. They have no special authority in philosophy, even the philosophy of science.

Even more egregiously, they say that God cannot be proved or disproved. Now there is a philosophical statement for you. Of course many philosophers agree with it, but there are philosophers of stature who disagree with it, too. Why should the philosophical viewpoint of a group of biologists enjoy privileged status?

And then there was Darwinism. This letter treats Darwinism as a straightforwardly scientific position despite the criticism advanced by many responsible, informed people that Darwinism itself rests not on demonstrable facts but rather on controversial philosophical premises. In other words, serious people make a case against Darwinism, precisely the case that Baylor's biologists themselves are trying to make against intelligent design.

Yet the Baylor biologists simply ignore these criticisms. One senses here not a defense of science but rather an effort to protect, by political means, a privileged philosophical viewpoint against a serious challenge.

In digging into this matter further, it turns out that an international conference related to this topic, the Nature of Nature, was held recently at Baylor University. It was hosted by the Polanyi Center at Baylor and sponsored by the Discovery Institute and the John Templeton Foundation. A number of world-class scientists participated in the event, and contrary to the assertions made in this letter, advocates of intelligent design, as well as materialism, presented their ideas publicly. The authors of this letter have been part of an intense effort to close down that center, which was founded in part to explore these issues.

I would like to insert the rest of this statement in the Record, as well as the letter from the professors at Baylor University.

I would like to reference the words of the Israeli statesman, Shimon Peres: He said, "Science and lies cannot coexist. You don't have a scientific lie, and you cannot lie scienifically. Science is basically the search of truth--known, unknown, discovered, undiscovered--and a system that does not permit the search for truth cannot be a scientific system. Then again, science must operate in freedom. You cannot have free research in a society that doesn't enjoy freedom. . . . So in a strange way, science carries with it a color of transparency, of openness, which is the beginning of democracy . . ."

Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences made a recent speech where he said "Scientists, as practitioners, teach important values. These include honesty, an eagerness for new ideas, the sharing of knowledge for public benefit, and a respect for evidence that requires verification by others. These 'behaviors of science' make science a catalyst for democracy. Science and democracy promote similar freedoms. Science and democracy accommodate, and are strengthened by, dissent. Science's requirement of proof resembles democracy's system of justice. Democracy is buttressed by science's values. And science is nurtured by democracy's principles."

There seems to be a tension between science as democratic, welcoming new ideas and dissent--and science as a lobby group, seeking to impose its viewpoint upon others. As the Congress, it might be wise for us to question whether the legitimate authority of science over scientific matters is being misused by persons who wish to identify science with a philosophy they prefer. Does the scientific community really welcome new ideas and dissent, or does it merely pay lip service to them while imposing a materialist orthodoxy?

Only a small percentage of Americans think the universe and life can be explained adequately in purely materialistic terms. Even fewer think real debate on the issue ought to be publicly suppressed.

I ask my colleagues to join with me in putting aside unfounded fears to explore the evidence and truthfulness of the theories that are being presented by those on both sides of this debate. I want to thank Philip Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley, Robert * * * of Princeton University, and others in drafting this response.

Baylor University, June 1, 2000.


[Page: H4481] GPO's PDF

Dear Congressman Souder, We became aware of a meeting on May 10, 2000 that you and other legislators attended with members of the Discovery Institute from their website. According to the website, the main topics of the meeting involved the scientific case for design, the influence of the Darwinian and materialistic worldview on public policy, and how intelligent design will affect education. As citizens concerned with science education, we wish to give you the perspective of mainstream scientists and science teachers.

[Page: H4482] GPO's PDF

INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT SCIENCE
It is an old philosophical argument that has been dressed up as science. We and other mainstream scientists refer to it as intelligent design creationism. Some have referred to it as "creeping creationism"' due to the methods used by its proponents to sneak creation science into the classroom. The hypothesis of intelligent design is that living creatures are too complex to have arisen by random chance alone. However, we have yet to see any scientific, empirical data to support this hypothesis. Some of the proponents use statistics to show the improbability that living creatures have arisen by random chance, but this does not say that living things could not have arisen through such means. The members of the Discovery Institute stress that the idea of design is entirely empirical. If this is true, then their data should be presented to the scientific community. If mainstream scientists deem the data as evidence for design, then your office will be flooded with messages from professional scientists asking for more funding for design research. However, as the supporters of intelligent design have never openly presented their data, we have to conclude that either there is none or that it does not provide evidence for design.

THE PROPONENTS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN DO NOT OPERATE AS LEGITIMATE SCIENTISTS
In science, all research must go through some sort of peer review. A scientist requests funds from various agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), which requires the scientists to give a detailed explanation of the research to be conducted. After conducting the research, the scientist then publishes or presents his/her findings in peer reviewed, scientific journals or at meetings sponsored by scientific organizations. In this way, other scientists can critically study the research, how it was conducted, and if its conclusions are correct. Proponents of intelligent design do none of this. Their funding comes from think tanks such as the Discovery Institute which have their own agenda. They do not publish in scientific journals nor present their ideas at meetings sponsored by scientific organizations. Rather, they publish books for the general public which go through no sort of review process except by editors at publishing companies who are often concerned more with the financial gains and less of the scientific merit of the book.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN DOES NOT BELONG IN THE SCIENCE CLASSROOM
Because intelligent design has no scientific, empirical data to support it, we see no reason why it should be allowed into the science classroom. The proponents of intelligent design would say that they should have equal time in the classroom as a competing theory against Darwinism. However, in science, a theory isn't given equal time, it earns equal time. Ideas should be allowed into the science classroom only when they have amassed so much empirical evidence as to gain the support of the scientific community. Intelligent design has not risen to this level.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN COULD HAVE A SERIOUS NEGATIVE IMPACT ON SCIENCE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
Much of the proposed research from intelligent design deals mainly with understanding the personality and limits of the designer. Within the intelligent design paradigm, a possible answer to any scientific question is "That's how the designer wanted it". This does not answer anything at all. How are science teachers to inspire curiosity into the natural world when the answer to every question is "That's just how it is", Also, we fear that future school board administrators would cut funds for science education because the role of science will have shifted from an exploration of the natural world to an exploration into the mind of a supposed designer. This could also have a negative impact on scientific research. Future Congresses with the need to balance budgets may cut funding to the National Science Foundation, Center for Disease Control, or National Institute for Health for the same reason as the school board administrator.

THE MEMBERS OF THE DISCOVERY CENTER ARE MISREPRESENTING MATERIALISTIC SCIENCE
The current philosophy of science states that all observations must be explained through empirical observations. Materialistic science does not say that there is no God. Rather, it says that God, due to His supernatural and divine nature, cannot be proved or disproved, thus we cannot consider His role in the natural phenomena we observe. Therefore, the existence of God is not a question within the realm of science. Many scientists have a strong belief in a divine God and do not see any conflict between this belief and their work as scientists.

MATERIALISTIC SCIENCE HAS GREATLY INCREASED THE AMERICAN PEOPLE'S QUALITY OF LIFE
Considering that materialistic science has been the predominant paradigm of science for about 150 years, let us look at life in America before and after the 1850's. First, all races were certainly not considered as equals. Women were considered inferior to men in every way. Also, the number of cause of death in women was giving birth. The infant mortality rate was equal to any Third World nation today. People died of diseases such as polio, small pox, and influenza. Mentally ill people wee locked up in institutions that resembled the horrors of the Inquisitions. The average life expectancy for people born in the 1850's was in the early sixties. Since the advent of materialistic science we have shown that all the races are much more alike than they are different. Medical health for women has improved to the point that couples rarely worry if the woman and/or child will die during birth. Also, women have become more empowered than any other time in human history. Diseases such as polio and small pox have essentially been wiped out in America. Also, due to improved sanitation and health regulations, typhoid, cholera, and malaria, are unheard of in America today. Mental illness is seen as a treatable, if not curable, disease. Children born in the 1990's could expect to live to be ninety years old.

THE PROPONENTS OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN ARE MAKING AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL AND NOT A SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT
The proponents of intelligent design are trying to use meetings such as the one that you attended to make an emotional plea to the general public about the ills that face our society. They would have us believe that all of our problems in society can be blamed on Darwinism. As a U.S. Legislator, we are certain you are aware of the many problems, great and small, facing America. As any concerned citizen, we watch the news and wonder why is there violence in the schools, why does racism and intolerance persist, and why can't the greatest nation in the world feed and house all of its people? The answer to these questions is neither Darwinian evolution nor materialistic science. Rather materialistic science could be the cure for many of society's problems.

We thank you in advance for considering the above information and for seeking more complete information regarding this important issue affecting the congressional debate regarding science education programs in this country.

Sincerely,

Cliff Hamrick, Biology Department, Baylor University.
Robert Baldridge, Professor of Biology, Baylor University.
Richard Duhrkopf, Associate Professor of Biology, Baylor University.
Lewis Barker, Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Baylor University.
Wendy Sera, Assistant Professor of Biology, Baylor University.
Darrell Vodopich, Associate Professor of Biology, Baylor University.
Sharon Conry, Biology Department, Baylor University.
Cathleen Early, Biology Department, Baylor University.

[TIME: 2310]

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Pease). Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Holt) is recognized for 5 minutes.

(Mr. HOLT addressed the House. His remarks will appear hereafter in the Extensions of Remarks.)