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Dean of Harvard Medical School endorses pro-ID book, medical professors revolt against Darwin

In addition to the engineers, physicists, chemists, and mathematicians who dissent from Darwin, anywhere from 33% to 60% of medical doctors dissent from Darwin (see Nearly Two-Thirds of Doctors Skeptical of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, HCD Research Poll, also check out PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS WHO DISSENT FROM DARWINISM).

Pro-ID sympathies are reflected by the fact a moderately pro-ID book received an endorsement by the Dean of Harvard’s medical school, Dr. Joseph Martin.

The book, Finding God in the Questions, by Dr. Timothy Johnson (Harvard professor and ABC News journalist), is an NY Times best-seller (mention of the book at Uncommon Descent was made earlier here). This adds to the number of pro-ID books on best seller lists (like Ann Coulter’s Godless).

Martin writes of Johnson and his pro-ID book (on the back cover):

Dr. Tim Johnson, minister and physician, brilliantly analyzes his struggle with religious belief when juxtaposed to emerging scientific discoveries.

Make no mistake, Johnson’s book is an evangelistic book, but what is noteworthy is unlike the recent moves of the Episcopal Church in rejecting ID, Johnson appeals to the science of ID to support his theological conclusions. At a time when theological arguments (such as “God only works through Darwinism”) are being used to pre-empt scientific arguments (such as ID), Johnson’s book boldly comes out and uses modestly pro-ID arguments as part of his argument for faith!

(Note: theology should never be used to argue against science, but there is nothing wrong however in using scientific arguments to support theology, see: Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology by William Dembski.)

Johnson believes Natural Selection has a role in the evolution of life, but he is not convinced it can be the entire explanation, and is clearly open to Michael Behe’s arguments. Johnson relies heavily on the works of Michael Denton (who was influential in persuading Behe to become a pro-IDer). Here are some quotes from Johnson’s book:

Doubt doesn’t have to tear down belief, however; it can purify it….

When we encounter an object of everyday life, whether a painting or airplane, we automatically assume that it was made or “created” by a human mind—or a committee of human minds. We know that such objects don’t just appear by chance from an unplanned gathering of bits and pieces of substance that happen to join and organize into a recognized and functioning object. Our whole life experience has conditioned us to assume that things exist because somebody created them.

But even if our immediate instinct as a child is to feel or believe that some kind of mind was ultimately responsible for this cosmos of ours, we can soon be argued into thinking that maybe the whole thing did indeed happen by accident, so to speak. Why is it that we would never accept that argument for the simplest of objects, yet we are so quick to assent to the proposition that the most remarkable “object” of all [the universe] is the product of chance?
…
And for me the most convincing argument that the universe has been “designed” is the extraordinary way it is calibrated to allow for the genesis and continuation of life itself
…
In conclusion, I do believe there are “footprints” of an intelligence in our universe that expresses itself in the mind-boggling complexity and “coincidences” of our cosmos and in the very nature of what it means to be human…

And Johnson goes on to give the following as suggested readings (ah yes, good material for the next generation of doctors!):

…Michael J. Denton’s Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe. As the title indicates, Denton focuses on the world of biology and biochemistry as a source of evidence for intelligent design

For further reading directly from the leading proponents of the ID movement I suggest Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe, The Creation Hypothesis edited by J. P. Moreland, Signs of Intelligence edited by William Dembski and James Kushiner, and The Design Revolution by William Debmski.

Johnson would be considered moderately pro-ID in as much as he accepts design for the universe and seems somewhat undecided of Darwinism’s role in biological evolution.

However some physicians are more forthright in their anti-Darwinian views. For example, Raul Leguizamon, M. D., Pathologist, and a professor of medicine at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara Mexico was recently quoted as saying

Dissent from Darwinism Goes Global

I signed the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism statement, because I am absolutely convinced of the lack of true scientific evidence in favour of Darwinian dogma

Nobody in the biological sciences, medicine included, needs Darwinism at all

Darwinism is certainly needed, however, in order to pose as a philosopher, since it is primarily a worldview. And an awful one, as Bernard Shaw used to say. The hold it has in academic circles is not at all due to the empirical evidence that allegedly supports it, but to its philosophical presuppositions and implications, the political correctness of the Darwinian paradigm and the intellectual inertia of academia in general.

Further, Michael R. Egnor, professor of Neurosurgery at S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook has published a letter in the Journal of Clinical Investigation

Some Medical Journals Do Publish Pro-Intelligent Design Letters

The essay by Attie et al (‘Defending science education against design: a call to action’) is an odd ‘call to action’. Scientists generally consider a ‘call to action’ to be a call for more vigorous discussion and research. Dr Attie’s ‘call to action’ is a call for censorship.

Dr. Attie assembles a philosopher, an historian, a lawyer, and a couple of politicians to coauthor an essay encouraging scientists to lobby for laws that censor criticism of Darwinism in schools. They assert that if you don’t accept Darwinism as an adequate explanation for biological complexity, you’re ‘anti-science’.

The authors’ preference for censorship, rather than debate, is understandable. Poorly thought-out arguments don’t hold up well in open debate. They devote a paragraph to testing (and claiming to refute) Mike Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity. The first sentence of their next paragraph is “ID makes no testable predictions.” They propose a law that mandates that public school students be taught material that ‘describes only natural processes’. That rules out the Big Bang, black holes, multiverses, and much of modern cosmology. Emergence of the universe ex- nihilo, physics in singularities, and the existence of countless other universes are by definition not ‘natural processes’. Censor quantum mechanics as well. There’s nothing ‘natural’ about Schrodinger’s cat!

The authors’ policies, if taken seriously, would exclude many of the most important advances in 20th century physics. The most interesting and fruitful science challenges dogma, and the most entrenched dogma in modern biology is Darwinism.

The authors express concern that discussion of Darwinism and intelligent design will cripple science education. Yet the United States leads the western world in science and in skepticism about Darwinism. The current American debate about the origin of biological complexity is clear evidence that free inquiry is quite compatible with leadership in science.

Science thrives in an atmosphere of free inquiry. Teach the controversy!

Hear hear, professor Egnor!

Notes:

My minor reservation with Timothy Johnson’s suggested reading list is he refers to Robert Pennock’s book, Intelligent Design Creationism as a reference for a balanced exchange (yikes!). Bill Dembski asserts Pennock conducted himself with less than common standards of ethics and integrity in writing the book, Intelligent Design Creationism. See STATEMENT BY WILLIAM A. DEMBSKI ON THE PUBLICATION OF ROBERT PENNOCK’S NEW BOOK WITH MIT PRESS.

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9 Responses to Dean of Harvard Medical School endorses pro-ID book, medical professors revolt against Darwin

  1. Sal,

    The Stanford Medical Magazine’s summer issue is all about evolution and maybe some or all of their topics might be useful for everyone to analyze in future posts. The link is

    http://mednews.stanford.edu/stanmed/2006summer/

    None support an ID position and many of the articles associate criticism of evolution with creationism

  2. Jerry,

    Thank you for the comment and the link.

    I noticed this interesting fact which even the magazine admits in the midst of it’s promotion of Darwinism:

    You won’t find evolution in any U.S. medical school’s course catalog.

    Salvador

  3. 3
    LowenheimSkolem

    This may be a tad off topic, but the mention of Pennock’s book reminded me of something I had wanted to mention.

    It seems to me that Pennock (along with Barbara Forrest and a number of the other folks publishing in the burgeoning field of ID criticism) is basically an opportunist.

    Although Pennock and Forrest are academic philosophers, neither of them have published more than a handful of articles on matters outside of the Evolution debate, and I had never heard of either of them until they published these books (to much fanfare, I might add). Take a look at thier online C.V.s if you’re curious. There are grad students in my department with better credentials than Forrest! Anyhow, it looks to me like they’ve made careers out of “standing up for naturalisim.”

    I don’t want this to sound totally mean spirited, but I really suspect there are some ulterior motives here. Two unheard of philosophers from mediocre departments all of a sudden have books being trumpeted by Scientific American and published by MIT? Of course neither author is saying anything profound, rather, they seem to be saying exactly what much of the academic establishment wants to hear. Not only that, but they’re doing it in a sketchy, decietful way.

    Also, notice the difference in tone when someone like Micahel Ruse comments on these issues. An established, well respected philosopher like Ruse doesn’t need to impress the powers that be, toe the party line, or resort to distortion to make a his point go down easy. It’s not that I’m in love with Ruse either, but he provides a nice contrast.

  4. This may be a tad off topic, but the mention of Pennock’s book reminded me of something I had wanted to mention.

    That is all right because I feel that you made a highly informative point, and this thread might be one of the few places you would have an opportunity to inform the readers at Uncommon Descent about Pennock and Forrest.

    It is disconcerting, given the facts that you point out, that because of MIT’s reputation, someone like Harvard Medical Professor Timothy Johnson would be duped into thinking Pennock’s book should be on the recommended reading list. I think Ruse and Debmski’s Debating Design is far more even handed.

    Thank you, also for visiting our humble weblog.

    Salvador

  5. “There are grad students in my department with better credentials than Forrest! Anyhow, it looks to me like they’ve made careers out of ‘standing up for naturalisim.’

    I don’t want this to sound totally mean spirited, but I really suspect there are some ulterior motives here. Two unheard of philosophers from mediocre departments all of a sudden have books being trumpeted by Scientific American and published by MIT? Of course neither author is saying anything profound, rather, they seem to be saying exactly what much of the academic establishment wants to hear…

    Also, notice the difference in tone when someone like Micahel Ruse comments on these issues. An established, well respected philosopher like Ruse doesn’t need to impress the powers that be, toe the party line, or resort to distortion to make a his point go down easy. It’s not that I’m in love with Ruse either, but he provides a nice contrast…”

    Well said, LowenheimSkolem. We’re listening.

  6. I suggest we do a “fisking” of the article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation which prompted Egnor’s letter to the editors. By the way the Journal editors also contributed to their disdain to ID with their own disingenuous short article. Someday the Darwinist will provide some evidence instead of rhetoric. In case you do not know what a “fisking” is, here is the definition.

    http://www.faqs.org/docs/jargon/F/fisking.html

    Note a fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual. Maybe we could have a contest but no ad hominen comments. It seems the same old tired arguments keep being recycled by these people. Evidence, just once would be a breath of fresh air.

    In case you did not think that ID was political, the editors got their contempt for the Bush administration into the journal article on ID.

  7. “The authors express concern that discussion of Darwinism and intelligent design will cripple science education. Yet the United States leads the western world in science and in skepticism about Darwinism. The current American debate about the origin of biological complexity is clear evidence that free inquiry is quite compatible with leadership in science.”

    I particulary enjoyed these few lines, “USA leads…. science”. and “… free inquiry is quite compatible with leadership in science” We lead due to open competition of ideas, dreams, competition in the market place and freedom to express these without oppression in any area.

    Why one area should be oppressed simply due to possible outcomes is childish and immature on the part of scientist. And it opposes the very doctrine they espouse, “change over time”. Intellectual pursuits in science evolve and clarify over time as observations break new ground. New competition steps up against the old vanguard, to see the dinosaur fall into the tar pit of extinction.

    “Science thrives in an atmosphere of free inquiry.”

    Here, here… let natural selection take place! If this is how new information is formed, then ID is the next phase….

  8. 8

    I am really surprised that I did not know about this 2005 poll before, because I searched hard for such a poll. I guess the problem was that I just searched for polls of scientists and did not search for polls of physicians.

    I think that in these polls of scientific and technological professionals, there is a “bandwagon” or “critical mass” effect — when people see that a fairly large number of their peers are questioning evolution, they are more likely to question evolution themselves. That is certainly true of me — I did not do much thinking about the evolution controversy before I heard about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case.

    Despite the great importance that is attached to scientific and technological professionals’ opinions about evolution (particularly such professionals who work in the field of biology, and physicians fall into that category), these professionals are rarely polled on the subject. Prior to this 2005 poll, the next most recent reliable poll of such professionals that I am aware of is a 2002 poll of scientists in Ohio — see http://www.ncseweb.org/resourc.....5_2002.asp
    In that poll, 90 percent of respondents said that intelligent design is not supported at all by scientific evidence, but because of the “bandwagon” or “critical mass” factors that I mentioned above, this figure is subject to sudden drastic change. In contrast to the infrequent polling of these professionals, the general public has been polled about evolution several times a year. Darwinists of course scoff at the large percentages of the public that question evolution or favor teaching criticism of evolution in the public schools. One would think that the Darwinists would want to counter that public questioning of evolution by sponsoring polls of scientific and technological professionals, but maybe the Darwinists are afraid of what such polls might reveal.

    The letter-signing campaigns conducted by both sides of the evolution controversy are of course no substitute for formal opinion polling. One of the advantages of opinion polls is that peer pressure is absent because these polls are anonymous.

  9. Larry,

    Thank you for the feedback. This affirms the value of Uncommon Descent as a means of getting information out to ID supporters which they may not be aware of. The polls at the college level are being conducted by Darwinists and pro-IDers, with very distrubing (for Darwinists anyway) results:

    See:
    40% of freshman in UCSD’s sixth college reject Darwinism

    UK Guardian: Most of the next generation of medical and science students could well be creationists

    or the informal poll in this article about Tom Ingerbritzen showing 1/3 Iowa State biology freshman are (gasp) creationists

    At Some Colleges,Classes QuestioningEvolution Take Hold

    and this INFORMAL poll taken by yours truly:
    Thoughts on “Intelligent design: Who has designs on your students’ minds?”

    Steve Verhey, a Darwinist, uses the poll numbers to argue the urgency and scope of “the problem”. His numbers are slightly lower, but still significant. Visit his website:

    http://www.cwu.edu/~verheys/

    (I should point out, I fiercly criticized Verhey’s tactics in his “class”. He did not use primary ID literature to argue ID. Icon’s of Evolution is not a book about ID, but he promoted it as if it were giving the students the impression this is what ID is. It is not even a comprehensive anti-Darwinian book, but it focuses on specific icons.)

    It remains to be scene how all this will play out, but I don’t think this can be, on balance, good news for the Darwinists that such measurable numbers are dissenting!

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