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Open Letter by Samuel Chen on Dover

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In 2002, Samuel Chen, then a high school sophomore in Pennyslvania, invited Michael Behe to speak at his high school (the event is described here under the title “Darwin’s Dictatorship”). Chen has since graduated and is now a college student at Baylor. Here are his thoughts about the ongoing ID trial Kitzmiller v. Dover — it’s the vitality of younger scholars like him that is going in the end to win the day for ID:

Intelligent Design, Education, and Liberty: What is Going on in Dover?

Dear Friends,

As many of you are now aware, the issue of intelligent design and evolution has continued to escalate in various settings across the United States of America. State legislators have proposed bills and heard testimonies while school districts and state school boards have changed science standards. The debate is currently being spotlighted in Dover Area School District in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The trial has continued for four weeks and as the fifth and final week begins, I, being both a student and a resident of Pennsylvania, can no longer stay silent. Adults and even self-declared “experts” surround the debate with scientific jargon and legal lingo, while arguing as to the constitutionality of presenting intelligent design in the public school science classroom.

We have heard, over and over again, that Darwinian evolutionary theory is a “theory” in the “scientific form of the word.” (Basically, evolution is a fact). Opponents of intelligent design theory has labeled ID as “anti-scientific,” a “pseudoscience,” and “religious.” However, aside from the jargon and beyond the war of words, we see a new dimension, a clearer image, to the debate in the Dover Area School District.

Dr. Kenneth Miller, Ph.D. of Brown University wrote in an open letter:

The scientific case for evolution is, indeed, overwhelming, and at the trial I gave several hours of detailed testimony documenting that fact. You are, of course, welcome to claim that there is “not a shred” of evidence for evolution. But had you been present in the courtroom, I suspect you would not make that statement.

Dr. Robert T. Pennock, Ph.D. of Michigan State University testified that (from the York Daily Record):

Intelligent design proponents’ ultimate goal is to create a revolution in science, taking it back to the days when epilepsy was believed to have been caused by divine possession and gravity was thought to be the result of “spooky action at a distance.”

Others, including Dr. Barbra Forrest, Ph.D. of Southeast Louisiana University and Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education are offering their testimonies against the “intelligent design statement” of the Dover Area School District.

Steven Stough, both a parent suing the Dover Area School District and one of the witnesses in the trial, said that his daughter would probably leave the classroom when the intelligent design statement was read. He added, “She’s harmed by that because she’s no longer part of the accepted school community.”

What exactly is the matter being debated? Why is it that the plaintiffs claim the defendants’ intelligent design statement creates “irreparable harm?” Why does there exist such an antagonism against even allowing students to hear the name of an idea?

The issue at hand is not whether or not intelligent design theory is permitted to be taught in public school science classes. Dover Area School District did not teach intelligent design, but merely made mention of it. They similarly did not teach the gaps in evolution, but merely made mention of it.

The antagonism has resulted from the mere mention of the idea that intelligent design exists and that flaws in evolutionary theory exist. The eight families suing the Dover Area School District have convinced too many people that the mere mention of the terminology “intelligent design” means that religion is being taught as fact in schools. Such an assertion is not only wrong, but absurd.

This creates a crisis in not only Dover Area School District, but in public science classes across the nation. Under the false alarm of religion, and especially fundamentalist Christianity, science teachers across America have begun to declare and teach evolution as a scientific fact. As the National Science Teachers Association states, “There is no longer a debate among scientists about whether evolution has taken place. There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place.” This does not lead to a solid and honest science education. Rather, this leads to a form of academic tyranny that is unthinkable in even communist nations, such as the People’s Republic of China.

While a student at Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, I was the president of a student organization think tank called “Third Eye Open.” When we decided to address the issue of evolution and intelligent design, we suffered the dictatorship that has gripped this topic. Facing lawsuits and threats, among other harassment, I soon experienced the iron fist by which evolutionists rule academia. To read the full story of my quest to host a conference on evolution and intelligent design, please see the articles in either the American Family Association Journal or in Liberty Magazine.

Of course, Dr. Kenneth Miller would argue that had I been in the courtroom to hear his testimony, I would overcome my stupidity and subscribe to evolution. And Dr. Robert Pennock would argue that proponents of intelligent design, such as myself, are trying to take science back to the days when epilepsy was believed to have been caused by divine possession and gravity was thought to be the result of “spooky action at a distance.” The parents suing Dover Area School District would probably tell me that my bigoted attitude concerning evolution and intelligent design are causing their children “irreparable harm.” Yet, none of them have experienced the horrid truth behind the debate, as I have.

After reading much on both sides of the debate, I have concluded, as an inquiring student, that evolution is not sufficient enough to explain certain aspects of our current universe. Intelligent design has emerged as the better explanation for the origin of the universe.

However, personal opinions do not matter in this case, the truth does. The truth in this case is that if mentioning intelligent design becomes banned from schools, then evolution is left to be taught as a fact in public schools. In this situation, students will be denied a good, honest, science education and students will continually be persecuted in their science classes for asking questions and doing research concerning evolution and intelligent design. Is this what we consider education in America?

And so I plead with you, get involved so that more students will not have to go through what I had to, simply because I had a question. Write to your local newspaper and express your views to them. Call your state representative and state senator and tell them that they need to support intelligent design and academic freedom in our schools today. Call your congressperson and senator (in Washington, D.C.) and tell them that they need to take a stand for freedom and not the tyranny of evolution. Together we can make a difference and bring liberty back to our schools. However, we need your voice, so please speak out now, before it is too late.

Thank you for your concern and your help on this issue. It is greatly appreciated. For updates on the trial proceedings in Dover Area School District or for other information on intelligent design, please visit my website at http://www.buddy4u.com/view/?x=safe&u=SC4978. Also, for updated commentaries on intelligent design and evolution, please visit my weblog site at http://www.doubtingdarwin.blogspot.com. Feel free to navigate the links on both sites as well.

I ask that you forward this email to all those that you know. The more people who read this letter, the more people we can get involved. It is important that the people know the truth behind the evolution and intelligent design debate. Thank you again. I wish you the best and if I could ever be of any assistance to you, please feel free to contact me.


Samuel S. Chen

Samuel S. Chen
Research Associate, IDURC
Member, IDEA Center
One Bear Place #81674
Waco, Texas 76798-1674

Greyshade, Agreed. I was zeroed in on the second half of your comment (#13: "Or even the origin of life?"). This question clearly involves biology, and if nothing about biology makes sense except in light of evolution, it is in-scope for evolutionary theorists. It has to be. SteveB
SteveB, nice use of quotes. You said: 'And once there, they don’t retract their original claim, but instead blame the questioner for his lack of understanding whose “elementary error” must be corrected by “any competent evolutionist…”.' The error I was referring to was the error that evolution somehow has something to say about the origins of the universe. The error I was referring to is that physics is being confused with biology. That is an elementary error. It does show a lack of understanding. If Chen is going to critique evolution, he should at least actually do that. Claiming that evolution doesn't explain the origins of the universe is daft. It's like saying that the theory of gravity doesn't explain why apples are green. The two theories don't even attempt to explain those things, they are totally unrelated. The word evolution is malleable certainly, but it is not malleable enough to be mistaken for a whole different branch of science. Greyshade
SteveB Chance worshipping evolutionists will fight you tooth & nail back to the first picosecond of the big bang insisting there was no intelligent design involved. They must do this because if they admit the possibility of design at any time in the history of the universe then they've let a divine foot in the door and must admit the possibility at any later point in time. Their whole schtick is dependent on no intelligent design anytime before humans came along. DaveScot
DaveScot, Thanks for the help. I'll keep working on the problem. David crandaddy
Wow; lots to respond to in there… I’m going to try to have some self-control and stay on topic. Greyshade, The word "evolution" is a very malleable one, and I think in many instances for the advocates of the theory, intentionally so. It fairly common for advocates of the theory to make huge, unbounded, unqualified claims about what the theory is capable of explaining. Along these lines, consider Dobzhansky’s "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." (Note that had I been motivated enough, I could have dug up many more such quotations--i.e., what he’s expressing here is not a fringe view). So, "evolution" (broadly understood) does claim to encompass, well--everything about biology. This includes origins of life and this was the point of the Miller-Urey experiments. (the fact that they failed utterly to do so, does not change the fact that this was their aim, as least in part). But then when one questions these claims, or asks that they be substantiated, the same people who claim NOTHING in biology makes sense without evolution, typically retreat to some more narrow position. And once there, they don’t retract their original claim, but instead blame the questioner for his lack of understanding whose "elementary error" must be corrected by "any competent evolutionist..." The competent evolutionist (or at least the honest one) would be consistent in his communication about what the theory is and is not capable of explaining in the first place. -sb SteveB
Dodgingcars I'm an engineer and we tend to see the world in black & white. Ambiguities must be resolved. Bridges collapse and people die because of gray areas. Ergo right and wrong are absolutes. Objectivity rules. I suppose you could call that a narrow view by some tortured defintion of narrow. Liberals tend to see the world subjectively, right and wrong are relative concepts to them. I suppose that could be called a wide view but I'd more inclined to say the wide angle is caused by a lens that won't focus properly. DaveScot
Crandaddy - I took the liberty of posting your message in the wiki intelligent design discussion in the uncommondescent subtopic. I made note it was me, not you, posting it. Still not sure why you can't post to the discussion. I take it after you get the preview message you scroll to the bottom and click the "save page" button? I normally don't bother previewing and if I press the "save page" button on the first pass I don't get the preview warning. I would think that if you've been blocked you'd get a different message. I use IE 6.0 with security level set to "high" so it's probably not browser settings causing your grief. DaveScot
Dave, I'm pro-life, but not for religious beliefs. I actually don't believe the Bible speaks of the issue of when life begins. As far as the War in Iraq -- how is that a Christian or Biblical issue? May I remind you than many Christians throughout the centuries have been pacifists (I'm not) -- And still many others believe in "just war" which they believe require certain restrictions on when Christians should engage in war -- and I can assure you that not all Christians agree that the war in Iraq was a just war. Voting for someone who is pro-choice leaves me no guilt, because 1) that person will generally have little affect on the current law, 2) It's not a major issue for me, because even I can't say when life begins -- I just prefer to err on the side of caution in that regard (err to life). But, while I call myself a liberal, I actually don't like labels much, because I don't easily fit into a label. There aren't a lot of pro-life liberals, for instance, but they do exist. It seems you have a very narrow view of the world and the people that live in it. I don't fit so nicely in your little box. :) If you have more interest in people like me, check out Sojourners (sojo.net) and Jim Wallis. Phillip Yancey, a prominent Evangelical Christian writer writes for Sojourners sometimes and is liberal/progressive Christian. dodgingcars
Unvommon=Uncommon, and authers=authors. Typos bother me. crandaddy
Higgity and DaveScot, Thank you very much for trying to help, but I'm affraid it was in vain. I've tried everything I can think of to get my comment to post, but it won't go up. The same message always shows up in red when I click the "Save page" button: "Remember this is only a preview; changes have not yet been saved." I think that I may have been blocked from participating in the discussion. Anyway, here is what I wanted to post: "I am, in fact, the one who made the 'flattering' remarks about you, FeloniousMonk. I also offered an apology for the rashness of my actions to my fellow bloggers at Unvommon Descent (See comment 52 on your link.), and I offer one to you as well for that and for resorting to unwarranted name-calling without familiarizing myself with Wikipedia. (I'm still very new to contributing here.) That said, my feeling that this article violates the NPOV agreement has not diminished in the least; it reads like a rebuttal of Intelligent Design (ID). The auther(s) use fallacious arguments against ID and its proponents and give a disproportionately large space to its criticisms. I realize that ID is a hotly debated and extremely polarizing subject and that establishing a truely neutral point of view is virtually impossible. Let it be understood that I have no intention of inserting a biased 'pov' into the article. On the contrary, my intention is to remove one and to make it as neutral as is humanly possible. I want to discuss sections of the article I believe to be biased on this talk page, and hopefully we can reach an agreement that pleases us all. Let me begin by offering the suggestion that an 'accuracy disputed' banner be put at the top of the article. At least readers will know that not everyone agrees with the neutrality of the article and will be directed to this page, so they can see what the brouhaha all about. --Crandaddy" Bill, I realize this is off-topic, and I'm sorry. This will be the last time I mention Wikipedia on this thread. David crandaddy
Dodgingcars Interesting - a liberal Democrat and evangelical Christian. I can hardly imagine the cognitive dissonance that must take hold when you pull the lever in a ballot booth for an abortionist. Do you figure that we should have just asked al Qaeda nicely to stop terrorizing western interests? Or how about Saddam & Sons. Mabye we should have said pretty please stop invading your neighbors, stop giving out big financial rewards to parents whose children strap suicide bombs on themselves to blow up Israeli school buses and to stop inciting the Arab world by leading Iraq national assemblies with chants of "Death to America". Oh hold it, we did try asking nicely. Then we turned to diplomacy by other means. DaveScot
DaveScot, dodgingcars, SteveB, on the 'does evolution deal with the origin of life' issue, I'm not sure it does. I believe that is covered by another materialist hypothesis (not yet a theory) - called abiogenesis. I stand to be corrected if this is not the case. Although Darwin's book was called 'On the Origin of Species' I understand that the origin issue, ironically, was not actually addressed by his theories of common descent or natural selection. Back the original article, and Chen's quote: Chen says “I have concluded, as an inquiring student, that evolution is not sufficient enough to explain certain aspects of our current universe. Intelligent design has emerged as the better explanation for the origin of the universe.” I submitted, and dodgingcars has confirmed, that evolution has nothing to say about the origins of the universe. If fact, I would say that this issue is in the realms of physics rather than biology. I suggest that if he wants his commendable enthusiasm to be taken seriously, he should consider changing the statements above. If he is as interested in the 'truth' as he claims, then he should also be interested in presenting an accurate position. Any competent evolutionist could and would point out his elementary error in a heartbeat, and this does not reflect well on him in particular, and does not help the ID movement in general. Greyshade
Dave, I certainly don't want to argue with you and it's your right to do what you will. However, I do think that taking the approach you're taking won't help you, ID, or Uncommondescent. I doubt I know enough about ID to edit pages. I do agree that some of it is definately POV and some of it seems to be untrue. However, if I did decide to edit such a controversial page, I think I would engage in the talk pages and explain why I believe it's not NPOV. And just an FYI -- so you don't lump us all in the same camp. I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm also an Evangelical Christian. I'm also a supporter of ID. Not all anti-ID people are radical liberals, just as not all ID supporters are Christian Right extremists. dodgingcars
Question: "Since when has evolution ever been mooted as an explanation for... the origin of life?" Answer: Since the Miller-Urey experiment (whose aim was to try to show how amino acids--life’s building-blocks--could have formed on the early Earth) was performed in the 50's. SteveB
Greyshade In theory, neodarwinian narrative apologists aren't supposed to be concerned with the origin of life, just its diversification after the fact. Working by that theory I suggested that the first free-living cell, the universal common ancestor to all that followed, might have been an uber-cell with all the irreducible complexity built into it in blueprint (unexpressed) form. This would handily address all the purported inadequecies in rm+ns and, going by the notion that Darwinists aren't concerned with origins, shouldn't be a problem for them. You will find, as did I, that Darwinistas are, every last one of them, lying through their teeth if they claim their theory is unconcerned about the origin of life. They are concerned with promoting a de facto materialist explanation for every molecule in every living thing. DaveScot
Crandaddy All I do is click the edit button in the talk page, type my comments in the edit dialog, and then click the save button. Never uploaded or downloaded any files so I'm at a loss for an answer to your question. Dodgincars & Gump I did a poor job defending myself because I didn't attempt to defend myself. Why should I? Baseless accusastions made by anonymous wiki editors aren't worth the time to address. ID is a political issue already and I didn't make it one. Science isn't done by school boards or federal judges. ID will never get a fair scientific hearing until the political barriers raised by anti-religion whackos are neutralized. If y'all want to try tact and diplomacy, the meek shall inherit the earth and all that happy stuff, to get done what needs to get done that's your business and I'll leave you to it. This jarhead believes in the USMC motto "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out". Take no prisoners. Hoo-rah! DaveScot
Greyshade, You are right that evolution doesn't try to answer the origin of the universe question, but it certainly attempts to answer the origin of life question. You and I both know that "evolution" is a broad term and can mean several things. Generally considered under the umbrella of the evolution term is the origin of life. dodgingcars
You see, this is where I am failing to understand... Chen says "I have concluded, as an inquiring student, that evolution is not sufficient enough to explain certain aspects of our current universe. Intelligent design has emerged as the better explanation for the origin of the universe." Since when has evolution ever been mooted as an explanation for the origin of the universe? Or even the origin of life? Greyshade
If you'd like to comment on the Wikipedia talk page, here's how to do it. Find the relevant section you want to edit and click the [edit] button on the right-hand side of the page across from the title of the section. If you are replying to someone, find the appropriate comment and place your comment directly below it. Preferably, type a colon (:) for each comment in your discussion that came before you. So it would look a little bit like this. Sup :Nothing ::Wanna go out for some drinks. :::Sure. ::::While we're at the bar, we'll discuss Intelligent Design. And then sign your name at the end of your comment. - higgity higgity
Dave, Thanks for the heads up on Wikipedia. I had a comment I wanted to upload last night on the relevant discussion section on the talk page, but it wouldn't go up. Are you having the same trouble? I think I may be doing something wrong. What am I supposed to do for the "Source filename" and "Destination filename" categories on the upload page? David crandaddy
Ditto. I agree. (That is, assuming the editors are not modifying his responses.) Gumpngreen
Dave, I'm sorry, but I think you did a poor job of defending yourself on those pages. Just my opinion, of course. Name-calling and other tactics should be avoided (even if some of your opponents are using them). I think you did nothing to defend your actions or those other uncommondescent participants in your/their editing of the Wiki page. I think that if you are going to participate on Wiki and edit articles, then you need to participate in the discussion civilly and make well-reasoned points as to why you think either something should be changed in the article or an explaination for why you already have. It seems that you have made this a political debate, when it didn't need to be one. Again.. just my opinion... dodgingcars
I think the claim of bias is easily established by comparing the page for "evolution" to the page of "intelligent design". --The attacks against ID are given more space than the actual explanation of ID. --The evolution page doesn't even have a Criticism section (and it'd like be deleted by the editors if created). --To the right of the heading for "Intelligent design debate" you'll see several other links. As with the main page, the critiques are often as long as or longer than the available information on the subject matter. --In the evolution page not a single critical statement is allowed nor are any of the problems of the modern synthesis discussed (even from those who think the overall concept is sound but still think the thoery needs to be overhauled). --They include ID in the series for Creationism even though the major proponents of ID clearly say that is not the case. Even the Creationist organizations say ID isn't Creationism... --Advocates of ID always seem to "claim" while the critiques are generally stated in a matter of fact manner. Some of the points in the article could only be due to ignorance...either that or they're purposefully misdirecting the reader by including the critiques and ignoring the responses by ID proponents. Gumpngreen
"However, personal opinions do not matter in this case, the truth does." Amen! Somewhere in all the legal machinations and huffing about intelligent design and evolution, the notion of objective truth has been dusted over. If evolution is objectively true, then Darwinists have nothing to worry about. If I.D. is objectively true, then ID'ers will eventually win the day. One or the other will fail under weight of evidence, not legal opinions. That new-Darwinism has been able to thrive with so little evidence in its favor is a testament to its irrelevance for most of biology, not to its veracity. BTW, "action at a distance" was an empirical description of gravity subscribed to by physicists, not an attribution to divine influence. When Einstein published general relativity, the mechanism for action at a distance became clear (space-time curvature), but the idea is still taught in basic (i.e., without relativity) physics courses. Aquila
From the mouths of freshmen... Samuel Chen, a gutsy Baylor freshman, writes in an open letter that the animosity regarding Intelligent Design among many science teachers "does not lead to a solid and honest science education. Rather, this leads to a form of academic tyranny." (HT:... World Magazine Blog
Dave, how do you post a comment there? I must be a complete spaz, because I can't figure it out. Bombadill
You go, Dave! Give em' a stiff dose of the truth. Those folks are unbelievable. Bombadill
Off topic... sorry. A wiki administrator has accused some of us here of conspiring to wage a POV (point of view) war against wiki. Called us sockpuppets of Dr. Dembski. Tell them what you think. They want to hear from us. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Intelligent_design#Interesting_news_from_the_uncommondescent.com_archives DaveScot
I read this comment ... The truth in this case is that if mentioning intelligent design becomes banned from schools, then evolution is left to be taught as a fact in public schools. In this situation, students will be denied a good, honest, science education and students will continually be persecuted in their science classes for asking questions and doing research concerning evolution and intelligent design. Is this what we consider education in America? ... and was left thinking, "Well YES, that is clearly what some people do want and think education should be". Jason jwrennie
From Orson Scott Card: "Here's a handy rule: Whenever you see scientists voting or signing petitions, there is no actual science going on. It's politics; it's religion; but it is definitely not science. It is anti-science. It's what you do when science is actually saying the opposite of what you want to believe. " jaredl

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