I met John Rennie, the chief editor at Scientific American, back in 2002 at the American Museum of Natural History when Mike Behe and I debated Ken Miller and Rob Pennock. Following that debate, Rennie turned SCIAM increasingly against ID. With no more than a bachelor’s degree, Rennie expatiates on the nature of science and why ID doesn’t fit the bill. Here’s a clip from his recent review of Ben Stein’s EXPELLED (note that this passage is taken from the Google cache — he apparently has since modified the review at SCIAM):
It speaks to their anti-intellectualism and fundamental misunderstanding of science that for the makers of Expelled (and ID advocates more generally) the answer “we don’t know yet” is a badge of shame. “We don’t know yet” is what defines the fruitful frontier for science; it is what directs scientists’ curiosity and motivates them to spend years on research. Research starts where knowledge and certainty drop off. It’s one of the many ironies of Expelled that Ben Stein says he wants this movie to free people to ask questions about science, but the ID theories he defends would close off inquiry with nonanswers.
Rennie’s comment here illustrates the very intolerance for freedom of inquiry and expression that Ben Stein unmasks in his film. Rennie hardly offers a profound insight when he remarks that science attempts to push back the frontiers of ignorance. The larger point he misses is this: precisely where scientists are ignorant, they are in no position to legislate what form the answers to open scientific questions may take. And yet, legislate intelligent design out of existence is precisely what Rennie does.
In EXPELLED, Stein interviews atheistic scientist after atheistic scientist, and they all admit that they haven’t a clue how life arose. There is no materialistic theory of life’s origin, and anyone who suggests otherwise is bluffing. To assert that life arose by purely material forces is therefore an article of speculative faith. Stein is on the side of freedom of inquiry and expression in asking for intelligent design to have a place at the table. Materialistic approaches to life’s origin have failed. In Rennie’s words, they constitute “nonanswers.”
Given this abysmal track-record of “unintelligent evolution,” it is the height of arrogance for Rennie to exclude intelligent design from scientific discussion. In elucidating the problem of life’s origin, intelligent design promises to do far better than Rennie’s atheistic approach to science, and certainly can’t do worse.