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Letters from the Frontline — Vitriol at Its Finest


Here’s a letter in my archives that over the years has aged well. It is vitriol at its finest, and it gives some insight into what critics of ID really think about us. The context is this: A colleague of mine at a major university was holding a seminar on the relation between science and religion and it had just become known around campus that he was an intelligent design supporter. Inadvertently, he emailed a certain professor an invitation to the seminar. This professor wrote back as follows (note that I’ve edited the letter slightly to preserve anonymity). Enjoy!

Dr. _____:

Please remove my name from your e-mail lists. I wish to receive no more of your patronizing invitations. I do not consider you a colleague, in any sense of the word, nor do I consider the work you do a method to facilitate discussion between scientists and philosophers. Rather, your transparent agenda is just the opposite in my view, a thinly veiled attack on the methods and outcomes of science over the last several hundred years. Your work, your personal demeanor, your very presence here, have already polarized local scientists from discussions that, under different circumstances, might have been very productive. From the perspective of many of us, certainly from my perspective, your work might be characterized as simply irrelevant to what we do in contemporary science. Others see your outright antagonism as a threat to our “normal science.” That perspective gives you way too much undeserved credit.

So, harangue whomever you can induce to come to your seminars but please leave me alone. I am not interested in wasting my time nor being bothered with invitations. By the way, what a great job of rewriting the website! The picture in a suit makes all the difference. You are so thoroughly absorbed in your agenda that even when you try you cannot even approach an appearance of objectivity in what you write. Your real agenda just seems to bleed through the rhetoric. Surprisingly, your efforts on campus to promote intelligent design may turn out to be the best “poster child” possible for NOMA [Stephen Jay Gould’s model for the relation between science and religion — Nonoverlapping Magisteria] (If it doesn’t actually drive more to adhere to the war paradigm!). How ironic given that you are trying to build bridges between science and religion? Turns out that we have the optimal “wedge” right here at [snip] University. Well done! And we are paying you for this. Masterful, just masterful! Congratulations.

Now, leave me alone please and erase my name from your archives.


Responding to "eswrite"'s post, I don't think that ID has an obligation to "demonstrate" usefulness as a theory. In its axiomatic structure, it's self-sufficient. But that being said, if, indeed, as I believe, and other IDers believe, that living organisms display in their complexity true intelligent design, then it would only be reasonable to expect that experimental biological sciences can find guidance in ID theory. Coincidently, there's a superb example of that in the current issue of Rivista di Biologia, by Johnathan Wells dealing with centrioles during meiosis. He "sees" in the centriole a 'turbine-like design', and, starting with the assumption that a 'designer' is involved, he begins to explore what 'utility' would be served by having a turbine in its particular location and at that particular time in the life cycle of a cell. Not being a Darwinist, I'm not sure how they might approach the presence of this same structure, but I suspect they would still be interested in what the centriole does, but not focus in quite so much on the 'hydraulic effect' it produces. Dembski has posted the abstract elsewhere, but here's part of it: "Centrioles consist of nine microtubule triplets arranged like the blades of a tiny turbine. Instead of viewing centrioles through the spectacles of molecular reductionism and neo-Darwinism, this hypothesis assumes that they are holistically designed to be turbines. Orthogonally oriented centriolar turbines could generate oscillations in spindle microtubules that resemble the motion produced by a laboratory vortexer." PaV
It appears to me that much of this vitriol--for more examples, click over to news://talk.origins--arises from the long-standing battle lines. Simply put, most hardened evolutionists see ID as a strategy to displace evolution altogether. A looming objection, and one which I can't personally dismiss, says that ID is nothing more than a critique of evolution, rather than a real system of scientific inquiry. Many ID detractors demand scientific usefulness, or more to the point, utility from this new theory. They want to be able to take into the lab and produce something useful, like discovering the next cure for xyz disease. They offer many examples, that though arguable, at least have some semblance of showing how evolution has helped advance scientific inquiry. So why not? Why couldn't ID move beyond the critique stage and offer a line of inquiry? It seems to me that ID should fit nicely, for instance, with ongoing investigations of various genomes. Why not start there? Along with this, it might also be useful to offer ways in which ID can incorporate those parts of evolution ID does not claim to invalidate--adaptation, microevolution, etc. Just like General Relativity did not throw out earlier, validated models, so too, ID should incorporate earlier scientific discoveries. eswrite

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