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Bruce Chapman responds to NYTimes

Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute, responds here to Laurie Goodstein’s piece “Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker” (blogged here). Note his point that “none of the critics quoted in your article supported the theory in the past” — Goodstein gave the impression that these critics had once been sympathetic to ID and then had become disillusioned. No, they were never on board.

December 10, 2005
Questioning Evolution
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/10/opinion/l10design.html?emc=eta1&pagewanted=print

To the Editor:

Contrary to “Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker” (Week in Review, Dec. 4), more scientists than ever support intelligent design and criticize Darwinism. A recent European conference on intelligent design – held in Prague and ignored by The Times – attracted 700 attendees, and featured leading scientists from Britain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as the United States.

At home, recent articles in The Wall Street Journal and Knight Ridder papers have described intelligent-design scientists at major universities (including Iowa State, the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia). One National Public Radio story alone featured 18 intelligent-design scientists, though most “would not speak on the record for fear of losing their jobs.” There is far more support, indeed, than appears on the surface.

Meanwhile, the number of scientists who have signed Discovery Institute’s “Dissent From Darwin” list has now passed 470.

Yes, there is strong, organized opposition to intelligent design, but that is nothing new. To my knowledge, none of the critics quoted in your article supported the theory in the past. So their opposition now is hardly a surprise.

Bruce Chapman
President, Discovery Institute
Seattle, Dec. 5, 2005

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27 Responses to Bruce Chapman responds to NYTimes

  1. “Some participants were Christian missionaries and their families. Most were scientists and lay people from the Czech Republic and neighboring countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland. Some came from much farther away, among them people interested in setting up organizations to promote ID in their homelands.”

    Jonathan Witt quoted in
    from: http://www.idthefuture.com/200.....ccess.html

    However according to http://www.radio.cz/en/article/72035, there was almost no interest from
    czech scientists. So maybe those 700 people were mostly “Czech laypeople and some unprominent czech scientists, and laypeople and unprominent scientists from neighboring countries” ?

    It will be interesting to see the detailed breakdown of the figures when the organisers publish them.

  2. Bruce Chapman responds to NYTimes

    Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute, responds here to Laurie Goodstein’s piece “Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker.” Read more.

  3. Wow steve_h!

    You seem to be saying that Dr. Witt’s article claimed something it never claimed.
    Then you denigrate the claim. That’s not a slam on Dr. Witt; that’s a slam on your prejudice.

    It only makes a difference whether the scientists were prominent or unprominent or whether from Czech or from neighboring countries IF you are an elitist snob who judges people by “who they know” rather than “what they know”.

    I can just see your report on the first Copernican Conference on Planetary Motion, circa 1514: “No Bishops from Rome.”

    G. Jennings

  4. The scientist quoted in the article obviously had an attitude problem…he’s one of those that said to heck with those who attended, in his mind they’re not real scientists and they’re not practicing real science. He even says that there’s absolutely no scientific theory to challenge darwinian evolution…many theories that challenge it, but none of them are science.

    That’s a big problem- who defines science? Why is a group allowed to proclaim they’re practicing the real science and others aren’t? That’s called dogma, and that’s religion not science. When one scientist attacks another for not being a real scientist, he’s doing the same thing you do with religion- believers think that others of different religions are wrong, thus not truly following the true God. Science, in these cases, is no different.

  5. G Jennings,

    What is it that I seem to be saying that Dr Witt said but didn’t?

    I have no idea who attended, It just seems to me that the statement was worded in a way that was open to interpretation. Like saying “between one and two thousand scientists” (between 0001 and 2000 scientists). Is it your opinion that the conference was widely attended by scientists from relevant scientific fields? Perhaps you could share those figures with me so I don’t have to wait for the organisors to publish them.

    Prof Dembski remarked that “NY Times ignored the conference” which I took as some sort of slur on their impartiality. When I search in Google for “Prague Intelligent Design Conference” (without quotes), I get precious little from any independant news source – Only apologetics and ID sites, Pandas Thumb and the link I gave. Doubtless future scientests will look back to this and claim it as a major event in their lives but I’m not going to hold my breath.

    Josh, who were the scientists who are being overlooked or denigrated as non-scientists? Which fields do they come from? What are those scientific theories and how do we test them? What decides who is a scientists and who isn’t is not a person but a question: “Do they follow the ‘scientific method’?”
    (Look it up).

  6. Go to any anti-ID site, PT for example…in the view of most there, including scientists themselves, anyone who doesn’t agree with their interpretations and automatically pegged as not true scientists who aren’t really practicing science. The attacks are neverending from these sites and scientists and professors on one side of this issue. PZ, PT, Scott, many others…they often come up and say anyone who supports ID isn’t a real scientist and isn’t practicing science.

    It’s dogma to preach that only YOUR way is the right way and anyone else isn’t really a scientist and they’re not doing true science, because the science disagrees with your own science. No one gets to decide what is true science and what isn’t, just as no one gets to proclaim a list of people who ARE true scientists and who aren’t.

  7. steve h wrote: “However according to http://www.radio.cz/en/article/72035, there was almost no interest from
    czech scientists. So maybe those 700 people were mostly “Czech laypeople and some unprominent czech scientists, and laypeople and unprominent scientists from neighboring countries” ?

    It will be interesting to see the detailed breakdown of the figures when the organisers publish them.”

    Yes, this will be interesting. Perhaps a detailed list of names and employers can be drawn up so that those scientists can be blocked from achieving tenure, be fired, ostracized by their colleagues and otherwise intimidated. For as we have seen, this is how science is advanced in free societies.

  8. I don’t see why it matters who supported the forum and who didn’t. Science has never been a popularity contest. That’s what I was talking about…the attitude of contempt for those lowly psuedo-scientists who dare make any negative statements about NDE theory or even say a friendly word about the work of ANY IDer or an idea by any IDer.

  9. steve_h wrote: Prof Dembski remarked that “‘NY Times ignored the conference’ which I took as some sort of slur on their impartiality.”

    The NY Times is not impartial. Their own public editor said as much in this piece http://www.dennisprager.com/liberalpaper.html. He was not addressing ID, but his point is that the Times is politically liberal, and this tends to be a liberal/conservative issue. I quote: “And if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of these [controversial issues], you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.”

  10. steve_h is no longer with this blog. –WmAD

  11. It is generally foolish to answer a naysayer more than once.
    But, as my previous posts here prove, I’m seldom prudent.

    steve_h
    First,
    Here is what Dr. Witt wrote about attendance:
    http://www.idthefuture.com/200.....ccess.html
    ….
    “Some 700 people from 18 nations gathered in Prague (Czech Republic) for a conference on “Darwin and Design” Saturday, October 22.”
    ….
    “Some participants were Christian missionaries and their families. Most were scientists and lay people from the Czech Republic and neighboring countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland. Some came from much farther away, among them people interested in setting up organizations to promote ID in their homelands.”
    ….
    That’s it. It MAKES NO CLAIM WHATEVER about how many “scientists” vs. “lay people” there are, how many are from Czech vs. Germany vs. any other country.
    YOU made as assumption about the composition of the attendees and sort of denigrated the conference based on YOUR assumption.
    Dr. Witt merely wrote that SOME were scientists and SOME were lay people. Big whoop!

    Second.
    To balance the report from Radio Prague, which you must admit, was less than “fair and balanced” since they interviewed NO ONE from the conference, I would like to offer this report from the Associated Press which did interview Czechs on BOTH sides.
    http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/34122.html

    Let everyone draw their OWN conclusions from the amazing quotes from two interviews by the Associated Press:
    ….
    Vaclav Paces, chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences, called the conference “useless.” “The fact that we cannot yet explain the origin of life on Earth does not mean that there is (a) God who created it,” Paces was quoted as telling the Czech news agency CTK.

    Pavel Kabrt, a Czech who served on the committee that organized the event, said the capital of the ex-communist country–now a highly secular republic–was a fitting backdrop for the debate. “Communism is gone, but its main pillar, Darwin’s theory, is still here … the evolution theory is taught as dogma here starting in nursery school,” said Kabrt, an electrician who lectures on intelligent design at Czech high schools.
    ….
    There is your “prominent” vs. your “unprominent”, steve_h. One spewed dogma, but guess what, it was NOT the electrician.

  12. I apologize if this posts twice.
    I read the report of the Prague conference from Radio Prague, and found it to be less than “fair and balanced” since they interviewed NO ONE from the conference!!!!

    I easily found a more balanced article from the Associated Press at http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/34122.html

    The AP article interviewed Czechs on BOTH sides of the issue. Let everyone draw their OWN conclusions from the amazing quotes from the interviews by the Associated Press.

    G. Jennings
    ….
    Vaclav Paces, chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences, called the conference “useless.” “The fact that we cannot yet explain the origin of life on Earth does not mean that there is (a) God who created it,” Paces was quoted as telling the Czech news agency CTK.

    Pavel Kabrt, a Czech who served on the committee that organized the event, said the capital of the ex-communist country–now a highly secular republic–was a fitting backdrop for the debate. “Communism is gone, but its main pillar, Darwin’s theory, is still here … the evolution theory is taught as dogma here starting in nursery school,” said Kabrt, an electrician who lectures on intelligent design at Czech high schools.
    ….
    There is your “prominent” vs. your “unprominent”. One spewed ONLY dogma, but it was NOT the electrician.

  13. RIP steve_h!

  14. The AP article on the conference appears to have been ignored by every major metropolitan newspaper in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the extremely biased liberal New York Times, but in this case they were far from alone. I was hard pressed to find just two mentions of the conference in MSM newspapers – the Chicago Tribune and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

  15. In the Associated Press article, Pavel Kabrt says:
    “Communism is gone, but its main pillar, Darwin’s theory, is still here … the evolution theory is taught as dogma here starting in nursery school.”

    It continues to amaze me how often ID supporters try to smear evolution by claiming that it promotes something they personally despise.

    The hilarious thing is that these folks cite wanton, robber-baron-style dog-eat-dog capitalism as evidence of evolution’s pernicious influence almost as often as they point to communism. Two more dissimilar systems are hard to imagine. What do they have in common? Evil.

    As some of the posters on this blog will tell you, “If it’s evil or disreputable, it’s Darwinian!” (You know who you are).

    Soon we will hear that evolutionary theory has been linked to alcoholism, onanism, recidivism, schism, and aneurysms.

  16. “…capital of the ex-communist country–now a highly secular republic–was a fitting backdrop for the debate.”

    “…said Kabrt, an electrician who lectures on intelligent design at Czech high schools.”

    Don’t the Czechs realize that they are on the slippery slope to theocracy? They’ve got electricians talking to kids about ID in government schools!

  17. Testing… I’ve been having trouble posting to this particular thread.

  18. It continues to amaze me how often some ID supporters smear evolution by blaming it for things they personally despise.

    The funny thing is that even though they often link evolutionary theory with communism, as Kabrt does, they will just as often cite wanton, robber-baron style dog-eat-dog capitalism as evidence for evolution’s pernicious influence. Two more dissimilar systems are hard to imagine. What do they have in common? A reputation for evil.

    As these folks will tell you, “If it’s evil and disreputable, it’s Darwinian!” This is almost a tautology for them.

    Soon we’ll be hearing that evolutionary theory leads to alcoholism, onanism, recidivism, television, and aneurysms.

  19. Why is that so bad, if it’s true. Marx himself said:

    “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis of struggle in history.”

    Communism owes its very existence to Darwinism, no doubt.

  20. Keiths,

    By “wanton, robber-baron style dog-eat-dog capitalism” I assume you mean capitalism raised to the level of an ideology. Capitalism as a limited theory of economics is at worst harmless and usually beneficial. When it is elevated to an all-embracing theory of man, as Marxism is, then it becomes a problem.

    What Marxism and this sort of capitalism have in common is that they both reduce man to a purely physical creature whose happiness consists solely in the satisfaction of certain material needs. The inevitable result is a utilitarian morality that justifies the exploitation of some people for the greater material satisfaction of society as a whole. In communism, it’s the people who toil and die in labor camps that are exploited for the benefit of the “people”, in ideological capitalism, it’s the poor and disenfranchised who are exploited in the name of the “economy.” It’s obvious how a theory of evolution that claims to find man’s origins in purely material forces can be used to buttress either ideology.

    You are right that evolution has a “reputation for evil”, but that may be because it is the materialist explanation of choice for those looking for a theory of man that justifies exploiting him.

    Anticipating your response, I know that religions have sometimes been used for purposes of exploitation. But to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, why bother with a religious theory that partially justifies exploitation, when you can concoct a natural theory that justifies it entirely?

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  21. There is a case to be made that the evils committed during the 20th century alone, under the banner of Atheistic Materialism, outweigh all prior centuries of religious conflict.

    The atheistic conveniently overlooks this however, yet won’t hesitate to jump on the “war in the name of religion” band-wagon.

  22. taciturnus writes:
    “Capitalism as a limited theory of economics is at worst harmless and usually beneficial. When it is elevated to an all-embracing theory of man, as Marxism is, then it becomes a problem.”

    I generally agree, though I think capitalism can still do harm at sub-ideological levels (in the absence of worker’s rights or welfare, for example). In any case, I think real-life capitalism as it’s practiced in developed nations is preferable to any instance of real-life communism.

    taciturnus continues:
    “What Marxism and this sort of capitalism have in common is that they both reduce man to a purely physical creature whose happiness consists solely in the satisfaction of certain material needs.”

    If by “material” you simply mean non-supernatural, then I agree. If you are referring to material goods, I disagree. Marx recognizes the importance of meaningful work, the absence of which forms the basis for his concept of alienation. A capitalist system implicitly recognizes the importance of supra-material needs when it prices, say, opera tickets exorbitantly.

    taciturnus again:
    “It’s obvious how a theory of evolution that claims to find man’s origins in purely material forces can be used to buttress either ideology [Marxism or ideological capitalism].”

    It’s not obvious to me how a naturalistic theory of evolution can be invoked to support either of these ideologies without committing the is-ought fallacy.

    taciturnus:
    “You are right that evolution has a “reputation for evil”, but that may be because it is the materialist explanation of choice for those looking for a theory of man that justifies exploiting him.”

    Perhaps, but in that case the error is to blame evolution rather than the folks who use it to justify exploitation. Evolution is a purely descriptive theory. It has no normative force on its own.

    taciturnus concludes:
    “why bother with a religious theory that partially justifies exploitation, when you can concoct a natural theory that justifies it entirely?”

    It makes sense to choose the religious theory if it gives you normative support when the natural theory, being purely descriptive, does not. Witness southerners’ use of the Bible to justify the practice of slavery during the Civil War.

  23. Bombadill writes:
    “There is a case to be made that the evils committed during the 20th century alone, under the banner of Atheistic Materialism, outweigh all prior centuries of religious conflict.”

    I’m not so sure about that. In any case it doesn’t reflect negatively on materialism, but rather on those who apply it for unsavory purposes. Like evolution, materialism is a descriptive worldview without normative implications. To use it to justify atrocities is fallacious.

  24. taciturnus

    “You are right that evolution has a “reputation for evil”, but that may be because it is the materialist explanation of choice for those looking for a theory of man that justifies exploiting him.”

    This is quite unlike religion which never exploits anyone and is well known for promoting peace in all societies that embrace it.

    Who do you think you’re kidding, taciturnus? Religions are no better and arguably worse in regard to inspiring the vile qualities in mankind.

  25. keiths

    Isn’t it ironic that western capitalism really took off in the Protestant Reformation?

    First Martin Luther cut off the Catholic church at the knees by convincing the common masses that salvation was available through faith alone. No clerics or rituals required. Just grab that cheap bible made by Gutenberg’s printing press, read it, and get yourself right with Christ. Move along priest, nothing of interest for you here. Next John Calvin comes along and says that God’s blessings can be measured by material possessions and the Protestant Work Ethic is born. Capitalism then flourishes as the former tithes to the church are instead used as capital investment to increase profits, increased profits plowed back into even more capital investment, and the successful businessman with all his material possessions thereby becomes the new most blessed personage instead of the ordained heirarchy of the Catholic church.

    Protestants might not have invented capitalism but they are the ones that made a religion out of it!

  26. keiths
    “Next John Calvin comes along and says that God’s blessings can be measured by material possessions.”
    I’ve read the Institutes. He doesn’t say that.

  27. Red,

    That quote was from DaveScot, not me. I personally don’t know much about what Calvin said beyond the predestination issue.

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