Debate keeps evolving on life’s origins evolution

Why is there such a visceral negative reaction to scientists who explore alternatives to evolution? Shaunti Feldhahn, a right-leaning columnist, writes the commentary this week, and Andrea Sarvady, a left-leaning columnist, responds.

Shaunti Feldhahn

Ben Stein’s controversial new movie, “Expelled,” explores the strange, extreme bias against any scientist daring to mention the obvious holes in Darwinian macroevolutionary theory.

Darwin’s theory was published 149 years ago, and has been the primary origin-of-life theory since the 1930s. Since then, evidence to support macroevolution (one species mutating to a different species) has advanced only marginally, while evidence questioning it has exploded. Advances in genetics, cellular biology, chemistry and many other fields have been seized to map human DNA and create wonder drugs. Yet they also raise questions about Darwinian macroevolution – questions that no scientist can follow up without being “expelled” from the respected ranks of the scientific community. It’s absolutely absurd.

Why the knee-jerk reaction when scientists even mention problems with the theory, such as that genetic mutation usually harms organisms instead of building complexity? Using direct observation and hypothesis – a tool of the scientific method – it looks like the scientific community is fearful of alternatives that might (its members think) muddle science and religion.

Remember, Galileo’s heretical observation that the Earth revolved around the sun eventually separated science from both philosophy and religion. Science required a willingness to change one’s views based on observation instead of blind allegiance to authority or accepted beliefs. For that willingness, Galileo was ostracized, forced to recant, and no longer allowed to teach or publish.

Sounds oddly familiar. “Expelled” highlights scientists who have had their freedom of speech and scientific inquiry violated and have been harassed, fired or blacklisted. In a phone interview, Caroline Crocker explained that she regularly taught evolutionary theory at George Mason University, but then made one mention of its contradictions and of the intelligent design theory as one potential solution. She was immediately removed from teaching and later fired.

A cellular biologist, Crocker sees DNA complexity that “doesn’t seem feasible from random mutation. I don’t know if ID (intelligent design) is right or evolution is right. We are not at a place to say it is right. As scientists, we need to be able to explore.”

The scientific community has apparently adopted Darwinian macroevolution not as a simple scientific theory that they’re willing to examine, adapt and change, but as a philosophy of life that is just as fiercely protected as the beliefs in Galileo’s day.

Andrea Sarvady

You’ve just entered the lab of critical thinking. Let’s start by putting this week’s question under a microscope. See any reality mutations?

There’s simply not a visceral negative reaction to scientists exploring alternatives to anything – why, that’s what scientists do. Contrarian by nature and unwilling to settle for guesswork, they’re portrayed only as peer-obsessed cowards when non-scientists don’t like the answers they’re getting.

Do intelligent design proponents really think that the thousands of geologists digging their lives away wouldn’t be thrilled to discover mammal fossils down in the age of fishes? Darwin would spin in his grave, but so what? Scientists want to be right. For this reason, they study intelligent design tirelessly. Too bad that the evidence for it just isn’t there.

Speaking of things that aren’t there – blacklist fever at George Mason University, where Caroline Crocker was supposedly terminated immediately for merely mentioning intelligent design. A quick check with university spokesperson Daniel Walsch reveals that Crocker finished out the term of her contract and simply wasn’t rehired in the fall, a common occurrence with non-tenured professors. Now we have Crocker and company getting their martyr party started in the movie “Expelled,” a docu-dagger aimed straight at secular science.

Mutations in reality like intelligent design are truly harming science curriculum and scientists all over the country. Intelligent design shows a great deal of respect for a spiritual creator, as do many scientists who find religion and evolution to be quite compatible. Yet respect for scientists themselves is on the wane; intelligent design advocates willfully tear down anyone resisting their pre-ordained conclusion.

Here’s “Expelled’s” Ben Stein, explaining to Christianity Today magazine why those rats in lab coats don’t earn his respect:

“It’s not as if science has covered itself with glory, morally, in my time. Scientists were the people in Germany telling Hitler that it was a good idea to kill all the Jews.”

Really, Ben? You’re going to exploit the Holocaust to prove a theory that simply sounds better to you than a century of evidence building? Fortunately, most Americans are on the side of both God and good science, unwilling to let their faith in one shake their faith in the other.

Wow. There’s a highly evolved organism for you.

Andrea Sarvady (ASarvad@gmail.com) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling, and a married mother of three. Shaunti Feldhahn (scfeldhahn@yahoo.com) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two children. Contact them at 4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111.