DOBBS: New York, Kansas, and several other states are considering controversial proposals that would change the way our children learn about the creation of human beings, the earth and our universe. A relatively new theory, called intelligent design, suggests that Darwin’s theory of evolution can’t explain the existence of every life form on earth. Those who support intelligent design believe a higher being must have played some role. Now, proponents of intelligent design want evolution to be challenged in our classrooms.
Bill Tucker reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to make it clear from the outset that I support mainstream science.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is evolution’s lone defender before the Kansas Board of Education, a board considering changes to the way science is taught in Kansas. The lawyer is alone because the scientists who believe in evolution boycotted the hearings. The reason?
PEDRO IRIGONERGARAY, ATTORNEY: You cannot argue science with individuals that are arguing non-scientific ideas. That’s the problem. You cannot debate that. It would be, in essence a waste of time. You can’t do it.
TUCKER: Intelligent design, despite being supported by some scientists, is dismissed by others as looking and feeling more like a religious doctrine. Proponents of intelligent design see themselves as simply critical of evolutionary theory and more accommodating to the idea of the presence of a force, a guiding force, they don’t understand.
BRIAN SANDAFUR, INTELLIGENT DESIGN NETWORK: An intelligent design is not necessarily at odds with evolution per se. Evolution and evolutionary processes certainly explain quite a lot. But there’s quite a lot that they don’t explain either. So intelligent design is perfectly willing to accept evolutionary explanations where they are actually supported by the data.
TUCKER: The hearings have been characterized as the Scopes Trials turned on its head. It was 80 years ago this months, and depicted in the film “Inherit the Wind,” that high schoolteacher John Scopes was tried and convicted in Tennessee for illegally teaching evolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that was the title of Darwin’s book.
TUCKER: But nowhere in the suggested changes to the science curriculum in Kansas are the words intelligent design, creationism or God. CONNIE MORRIS, KANSAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: Intelligent design doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re debating. I know that lots of people want to make it true that we’re trying to insert intelligent design or, heaven forbid, creationism in the standards, but that’s not what we’re doing. Nowhere near that. We’re not trying to insert religion whatsoever.
TUCKER: The language of the changes call for a more critical look at evolution, institutionalizes skepticism, which some would argue is a hallmark of the scientific process.
TUCKER: The problem is, to have a dialogue, there has to be a shared language. But evolutionists are quick to dismiss the intelligent design argument as modern day creationism. And the intelligent design advocates accuse evolutionist of being simply afraid to admit that the evolutionary theory doesn’t explain anything.
So, Lou, perhaps you can get the dialogue started here on the show this evening.
DOBBS: Well, we’re sure going to try. We’ll be talking with three proponents of each of those elements — that is evolution, creationism and intelligent design. But first we want to hear from you on this important issue. Which theory do you think should be taught in our schools — creationism, evolution, intelligent design or all of the above? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We’ll have the results here. And perhaps, if you needed help in making up your mind in responding to that question, we have some interesting people to debate the issues.
Michael Ruse is philosophy of science professor at Florida State University. He says only evolution should be taught in our schools.
Jonathan Wells, a molecular biologist, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. He says teachers and students should be allowed to discuss the theory of intelligent design in their classrooms.
And John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, who says evolution is wrong and unscientific.
Gentlemen, thanks for being here.
Michael, let me begin with you. At this point the Kansas Board is really trying to say we want to be able to criticize and effectively debate evolution. What is your response to their mission?
RUSE: Well, if they just want to have a look at science critically, then I’ve got no problems with that. I take it that one’s going to do that with everything. But why are they focusing on evolution as something which needs special treatment? What I think is that hey are trying, as it were, under the radar, to bring in at least intelligent design if not outright fundamentalist, outright creationism that Mr. Morris subscribes to. I mean, either they’re trying to do something new or they’re not. If they’re not, why are they bothering? If they are, then come clean and tell us really what’s going to happen in Kansas schools start September?
DOBBS: John Morris, your reaction?
JOHN MORRIS, INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH: You know, it’s interesting to hear Mr. Ruse say that we’re trying to get creation in the schools. Actually the Institute for Creation Research, where I am, does not try to get creation in the schools. The courts have ruled that the Bible, religion doesn’t belong in the schools, however much it should have been, but they ruled that way. We don’t try to get it in.
What I would like to see is all the facts in and the facts that don’t support evolution, we need to stop censoring them out and give our students the chance to make up their own minds.
DOBBS: What kind of fact comes to mind that doesn’t support evolution in your judgment?
MORRIS: One of the standard arguments for evolution is the idea that in the mother’s womb, the human embryo goes through the various stages. It remembers its evolutionary history. This is in almost all the textbooks, but this is demonstrably wrong, and we’re not teaching our kids that this is an outdated theory.
DOBBS: Jonathan Wells, intelligent design. How would you come down on this issue?
JONATHAN WELLS, MOLECULAR BIOLOGIST: Well, I would not advocate teaching intelligent design or not advocate requiring it in science classrooms. And certainly this is not what’s happening in Kansas. I just came from testifying there as a biologist, and what I testified was that there are certain areas in the evidence where the more we learn, the less Darwinian evolution looks like the true explanation. And I think students need to hear that.
Michael Ruse, what’s your reaction?
RUSE: Well, let’s sort of pick up first on Jonathan Wells’ point.
RUSE: He sort of equivocated or he moved from evolution to Darwinism. Now, evolution is the idea that all organisms are descended from one or a few original ancestors. Darwinism is the mechanism. Darwinism is certainly accepted I would say by at least 90 percent of active evolutionists in America today.
Is he actually challenging the fact of evolution? I know that Mr. Morris would. Is Jonathan Wells saying it’s okay to teach evolution in the schools? Where he’s worried is teaching Darwinism? Is he saying we should teach evolution? Let’s have some discussions — DOBBS: Why don’t you ask him?
RUSE: — about Darwinism.
DOBBS: Jonathan Wells, which is it that you’re saying?
WELLS: Well, evolution is a very broad term. For some people, it simply means change over time. I don’t know anybody who disagrees with that meaning of evolution. So I try to be more precise. When I say Darwinian evolution, I’m referring to Darwin’s theory, which he called descent with modification. The first element of that is, as Michael points, out descent of living organisms from common ancestors. The second element is the mechanisms of modification. I think the evidence poses serious problems for both aspects of Darwin’s theory.
RUSE: So, in other words, what you’re saying is we shouldn’t teach that the Earth is 4 1/2 billion years old, that life came about 3 1/2 billion years, that humans have been around for a million years or something like that – that that’s part of evolution as you understand it, and you wouldn’t have that taught without a great deal of hostility or debate or criticism in schools. Is that your bottom- line position?
WELLS: Michael, you’re bringing in something I didn’t even talk about. I didn’t bring up the age issue.
RUSE: I know I am because you didn’t talk about it, because you knew that I’d pin you down if you did.
WELLS: I have no problem with that issue. I have no problem teaching students about that. What I’m saying is that students should also know —
RUSE: So you’ve got no problem teaching students —
WELLS: Michael, let me answer your question. I think that students need to know that the evidence for this common ancestry thesis and for the mechanism of evolution, the evidence is serious wanting. And students need to know the truth about the evidence.
DOBBS: All right, gentlemen, we’re going to continue this discussion, this debate in just a moment. We’ll have much more with our distinguished panel here. But first a reminder to vote in our poll tonight. We’d like to know which theory you think should be taught in schools — creationism, evolution, intelligent design, all of the above. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We’ll be back with the gentlemen in just a few minutes.
And coming up at the top of the hour on CNN “ANDERSON COOPER 360” joining us now for a preview. Anderson Cooper. Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Lou. Thanks very much. Yeah, in about 12 minutes, we’re following a developing story — a retaining wall on one of New York’s busiest roadway has collapsed, burying it in a massive pile of dirt and stone. Searchers are digging through the rubble right now as we speak to see if anyone is trapped underneath. We’ve got teams on the way there. We’re going to bring you the latest.
Also tonight, an exclusive interview with one of the pilots who brought the Cessna in yesterday. He’ll talk about how close he came to pulling the trigger on that plane. That and a lot more coming up at 7:00 Eastern time. Lou.
DOBBS: Looking forward to it. Thanks, Anderson.
Still ahead we’ll continue our discussion on evolution creationism, intelligent design. Stay with us.
DOBBS: John Morris, you have listened to Jonathan and Michael basically conflict on this issue with some interesting turns. But you believe in creationism and actually believe that there are scientific failings within evolution, and certainly Darwinism, that should make room for creationism. Why?
MORRIS: I do believe that there are failings in evolution. The fact is that these things can vary horizontally within — within limits, but to go from one basic category to another, that’s never been observed by science, and it’s contrary to genetic laws, and it’s the faith of evolution. That’s what I think is the issue. We have a faith of evolution being taught in our public schools as — masquerading as science.
DOBBS: Masquerading as science — Michael, I have the funny feeling that you are not going to…
RUSE: Well, we have a — I mean, you know, let’s face up to it. We have a faith in arithmetic, too. You know, I’m pretty committed to two plus two equals four. We’ve got a faith in (INAUDIBLE)
MORRIS: Now, Michael, you know that’s not a valid comparison.
RUSE: Of course it’s a valid comparison.
DOBBS: Let me give you all three an example of something and sort of help me out, because it’s one of those things, when we talk about the origins of life itself, the big bang theory, or whether we’re talking about Genesis — in the beginning, there was what? Stephen Hawking says, big bang. Other physicists would say that things just were. Genesis says that God created what is.
How do you sort out the science and the faith in either of those two views, because it seems that faith is required in all views regarding the beginning of life, whether scientific, so-called, or whether religious. Michael?
RUSE: Well, if you are asking me, I think it’s perfectly possible for somebody to be a Christian and to accept the science as well. I mean, I think that one could certainly believe…
MORRIS: Michael, I would rather you say evolution and not science. Many Christians are scientists.
RUSE: No, not when I’m talking about science. Yes, I also think that one could…
MORRIS: Well, to equate evolution and science is incorrect.
RUSE: No, yes, — look, it’s up to god. If god wants to do it through evolution, that’s god’s business, not yours or mine or Jonathan Wells’ business. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s our job to find out.
MORRIS: I suspect the only way evolution could happen is if god did it.
RUSE: No, I think that you people are being deliberately anti- Christian, anti-religious. You are made in the image of god, then you’re supposed to use your reason fearlessly to find out about god’s creation. And I think that you two are just too scared to do that.
RUSE: You know, I think…
: I fine it odd that you are accusing us of being anti- Christian. I have at least a dozen (INAUDIBLE) books.
RUSE: Like, well…
DOBBS: You have at least what? I’m sorry.
WELLS: I have a dozen biology textbooks at home that explicitly use evolution, misuse evolution, as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity, and so on.
DOBBS: Let me ask the three of you one question — I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, because the Kansas Board of Education — state Board of Education — in point of fact, there are great politics involved in this, which is sometimes overlooked, seeking first to involve creationism, in the first iteration — the election then shifted and the so-called conservatives in the state board of education moved out and moved back to evolution, in the state panel. And now, with a more conservative board, we’re back to this issue.
To what degree should the vagueries of politics influence what is happening in the curriculum of students in the state of Kansas or anywhere else?
WELLS: (INAUDIBLE) …should at all.
MORRIS: Well, I think I…
WELLS: What I would want to say is…
MORRIS: I think I probably…
DOBBS: Go ahead, Michael. RUSE: OK.
WELLS: I probably know more about what is going on in Kansas than anyone here since I just came from there. In ’99, a conservative Kansas board did not try to insert creationism in the standards. They did some things that angered the evolutionary biology community considerably. And an election changed that, and then recently that changed again.
MORRIS: That’s what I said.
WELLS: But creationism is not on the table here in Kansas.
RUSE: Oh, yes it is. Oh, yes it is.
WELLS: No, it’s not, Michael. Show me where.
RUSE: Intelligent design is
DOBBS: OK, that question isn’t going to work because we’re going to talk across one another, and I’m the only one who gets to talk across folks here, just bear with me.
The fact is, that evolution, Darwinism, is not a fully explained or completely rigorous and defined science that has testable results within it. Like a…
RUSE: Now, who says that? Is that you?
DOBBS: I do. I do. And, if I may finish, Michael. Michael, I said, only I get to talk over anyone.
RUSE: OK, fair enough. Your show.
DOBBS: And, in that degree, if one moves aside from the issue and suggests that creationism be taught within a religious class, within the schools, and one looks at the prospect of intelligent design and evolution, with critical thought — because you say life was 4-and-a-half billion years ago, the planet began 4-and-a-half billion years ago — we continue to change our views scientifically on when what occurred, that is, in terms of missing links within the family tree of life on this planet.
Is there anything wrong with criticizing evolution in your minds? And would that satisfy the — and would that satisfy you, Jonathan and you, John? But, first you, Michael, if you would answer?
RUSE: Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticizing science. I think that you are quite wrong about evolution. I just don’t think that we’re turning up new evidence which is questioning evolution. You can certainly make predictions. One prediction, you are not going to find…
DOBBS: No, no, I’m not going to — we need real succinct answers.
RUSE: (INAUDIBLE)…rabbits found in the… (ph)
DOBBS: I’m sorry, we are out of time. I didn’t say questioning evolution. I said filling in or creating new concerns and questions about elements within evolution in the tree of life.
RUSE: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that as long as it’s not a program for inserting religion…
DOBBS: Guys, we’re out of time.
RUSE: …into the schools.
DOBBS: Gentlemen, we thank you for being here. We’ll have you back if you will have us back. Michael, thank you very much, Jonathan, John, thank you.