Culture War Dispatches

from a Progressive People's Republic

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Not comfortable thinking about science"

Letter to the WSJ:
Lawrence M. Krauss’s valid case for increasing scientific literacy in America (Wall Street Journal, “Science and the Candidates," 12/6/07) would have been more compelling if he had not tried to bring in the debate about evolutionary theory. The ability of a presidential candidate to tackle the technological challenges facing America is unrelated to his views on intelligent design.

Mr. Krauss points out that when avian flu appeared, “no one suggested that ‘intelligent design’… could provide answers.” No one suggested that a rocket scientist or an auto mechanic could provide answers, either. Intelligent design investigates a very specific question: did the complex design observable everywhere around us arise through a series of completely random genetic mutations, as Darwin proposed, or was some form of intelligence necessary to guide the process?

In fact the mutation of viruses like avian flu are studied by intelligent design researchers—but not with the goal of preventing infectious disease that Mr. Krauss is referring to. In his recent book, The Edge of Evolution, Michael Behe makes the case from data on the malaria virus that the power of random mutation to create new forms of life is limited.

Michael Behe seems convincing to a layman. He may be proven wrong. I’m not averse to the idea that evolutionary biology will one day trace how random mutation created a whale from a paramecium. At present though Darwin’s hypothesis is still being tested, and the larger question of the origin of life remains an unsolved mystery. I find this debate about where we came from lively and exciting. When Lawrence Krauss tells us that the debate is over (not unlike global warming alarmists), that intelligent design is believed by people who don’t know that the earth goes around the sun, who are “not comfortable thinking about science,” it comes across as anti-intellectual and close-minded.