September 10, 2001

Divisive Issues


The British Association was told last week that the long-standing battle between evolution and creation is heating up again, largely because influential Darwinists portray their theory so provocatively. Two London newspapers (The Independent and The Daily Telegraph) reported that Michael Ruse, a noted philosopher of science and ardent Darwinist now at Florida State University, has complained that his task of battling creationists has been made more difficult by the strident atheism of such prominentDarwinists as Oxford Universitys Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Richard Dawkins . These scientific spokesmen, according to Ruse, have put evolution up as a rival religion, portraying Christianity as the refuge for people with flabby brains. In the face of this provocation, creationism has revived under the name of Intelligent Design, and has received substantial academic support. Intelligent Design is being taken seriously by a lot of people, said Ruse.

Ruse is the author of a recent book arguing that Darwinians can be Christians, provided their brand of Christianity is sufficiently naturalistic. Whatever may have been his intention, Ruse has presented the scientific leadership with a potentially divisive issue. Dawkins is unlikely to back away from his frequent anti-religious diatribes, and his supporters are unlikely to repudiate his stand. In the circumstances, leaders of bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences have to pretend that they do not know what is going on. Ruse is making it harder for these leaders to preserve their deniability.

By highlighting the religious agenda of many Darwinists, Ruse has given implicit support to the famous Santorum Amendment to President Bushs Education Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 91-8. The Amendment seeks to promote good education by distinguishing the testable hypotheses of science from the philosophical or religious claims (typically naturalistic or materialist philosophy, that are so often presented with the authority of science. Determined to preserve its power to promote philosophy as science, and unwilling to concede that there is anything controversial about evolution, the scientific elite is resisting the move towards candor in education with all its might. An editorial in the Albuquerque Tribune for September 5, 2001, attacking the Santorum Amendment, concluded that Evolution isn't controversial among scientists, and it isn't just about biology and human origins. It's fundamental to our entire universe and how we see ourselves within it.

The logic is that evolution is of such fundamental importance to our universe and how we see ourselves within it, that the public must not question what scientists say about this subject. Trusting the biologists (like Dawkins) would be more appropriate if evolution were a narrow technical subject of no importance to religion or philosophy.

Its a great opportunity for satirists.

With this installment I am resuming publication of the Wedge Weekly Update, following an interruption due to my stroke on July 13. I thank all those friends, including intellectual adversaries, who sent me their best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery. My condition is much improved.

Phillip Johnson

Copyright 2001 Phillip E. Johnson, Paul Nelson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 9.11.01