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University of Virginia Magazine airs Luskin and Cordova’s letters, somewhat abbreviated


[update: I just added the original text of Casey Luskin’s letter in addition to mine ]

In my post, UVa faculty alarmed by ID’s presence on their campus, I wrote about my concerns that another witch hunt was in the making.

I would like to thank the University of Virginia Magazine for publishing an abbreviated version of the letters to the editor which Casey and I wrote. The ID debate has dominated the last two issues in that section of the magazine.

The published version of the letters (including several by highly articulate pro-ID UVa alumni) can be found at: Origins of Life Revisited.

Here is the unabbreviated text of Casey’s letter:

Dear Editor,

The letter in UVA Magazine against intelligent design (ID) signed by 49 UVA biology faculty is revealing: not only do they oppose ID due to a false characterization of the theory, but they repeat false claims that there are no pro-ID peer-reviewed science publications.

Firstly, the faculty wrongly define ID as saying “the less we know, the greater is the support for supernatural explanations.” In reality, ID limits its claims to what can be learned from the empirical data. ID therefore only appeals to intelligent causes and does not try to address unscientific religious questions about whether the designing intelligence was supernatural. ID is also not an “argument from ignorance.” Rather, design is inferred based upon what we know about the powers of intelligent causes, and detecting in nature informational patterns known to only come from intelligence. As microbiologist Scott Minnich and philosopher of science Stephen Meyer observe, “[i]n all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role the origin of the system.”

Finally, the letter asserts that “no peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of ID have ever been published in any major scientific journal.” Yet in 2004, Meyer published a peer-reviewed paper in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington arguing that design best explains the rapid “explosion” of biological information in the Cambrian period.

When 49 UVA biologists oppose ID because they believe false claims about a lack of peer-reviewed pro-ID publications, and misunderstand it as an argument from ignorance that appeals to the supernatural, then it is clear that much opposition to ID is based upon self-replicating misinformation. Why do they feel so threatened that a UVA Magazine article mentioned a small pro-ID student club? Thomas Kuhn understood why, and he’s smiling from his grave.

Casey Luskin,
President Emeritus, IDEA Center

Here is the text of the un-abbreviated original version of my letter:

I was mentioned in the article ‘Ultimate Questions’ which sparked the recent flurry of letters to the editor over intelligent design (ID). I hope to set the record straight about what the issues really are.

Nobel prize-winning scientist Charles Townes said, “Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real.” Another Nobel prize winning scientist, Richard Smalley, wrote, “Evolution has just been dealt its death blow…[after studying the origin of life] with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred.”

If world-renowned scientists can accept ID, why should there be such a fuss about pro-ID students at UVa? Acceptance of ID is not a hindrance to the pursuit of science. If that were the case, there would have been no great scientists in the past like Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Pasteur, Mendel, and Plank or Nobel laureates (like Townes and Smalley) in the present.

Pro-ID students with majors in scientific disciplines (like biology) graduated from UVa this past spring. Several pro-ID science professors teach at UVa. 1/3 of the freshman biology majors at schools like Iowa State accept ID, and over 1/3 of American medical doctors prefer ID over evolution. In light of this, should there be such a fuss over pro-ID students and faculty at UVa or any other university? I think not.

Much talk has been raised about ID in the grade schools and colleges. But that is not even the real issue. The real issue is epitomized by the work of world-class physicists like John Barrow. Barrow’s mathematical derivations of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics imply that the source of universe (and thus all life) is a super-intelligence. Whether Barrow and other ID-sympathetic scientists are ultimately correct is the real issue. Everything else pales in comparison.

Salvador Cordova, IDEA Center affiliate

UVa is Paul Gross’s school. He co-authored Creationism’s Trojan Horse with Barbara Forrest. I am concerned for the pro-ID scientists, faculty and students at his school.

I mentioned John Barrow in the article. For readers new to our weblog, I explained a little about Barrow here: Peer-Reviewed Stealth ID Classic : The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1987) Regarding Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, I wrote something here: Nobel Laureate given standing ovation after slamming Darwinism during a graduation ceremony scordova
The irony is that the UVa Faculty would be giving the founder of UVa grief for his views:
when we take a view of the universe; ... the movements of the heavenly bodies so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces; the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere; animal and vegetable bodies, whether an insect, man or mammoth; it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a Fabricator of all things from matter and motion" "[the creation indicates a] first cause, possessing intelligence and power, power in the production, and intelligence in the design [ and in the]... constant preservation of the system." HT Robert F. Baldwin, UVa Alum
[Psst. Sal: PlankPlanck (For future reference.)] j
UVa grads are rather articulate, aren't they. My favorite was Robert F. Baldwin Jr. quoting Jefferson, "For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." How profound! If Id be error, feel free to combat it with reason and evidence. I, for one, am fully willing to abandon the theory when I see the evidence. I am uninterested in abandoning the theory because Dawkins is a bully. Sal, you have taken a very public opinion for a student. As we have seen in other threads, you have taken on a huge political challenge. All I can say is, well, I'm rutin' for yea! bFast
Kairos, The better thing for Darwin's bulldogs would be to ignore ID proponents. They have been, in effect, showering us with free publicity. Even the bad press has sparked enough interest that people want to hear what ID proponents have to say. Half the US are creationists, but they need to learn what ID is as well. The publicity has only increased friendliness toward ID in the creationist community (no small demographic of 50%) and raised awareness in the most critical demographic group, namely, (about 35%) the Theistic Evolutionists (TE). It is interesting to note, the overwhelming majority of major ID proponents were Theistic Evolutionists at one time (I myself was a TE). The reason I sense trouble between the TE's and the militant Darwinists is that I think militant Darwinists are worried they may lose their strongest ally to IDers, especially the young TE's. Nobel Laureate Charles Townes for example is a proto-typical ID-friendly TE, imho. There could be many Richard Smalley's and Charles Townes among the young emerging scientists. Finally, I encourage the readers to read all the letters sent to the editor. The editor must have been quite impressed with the articulate writing by several pro-ID UVa alumni! Salvador scordova
Sal, have you been aware of any reaction about by Darwin's bulldogs? Do they simply ignore some sort of statements or perhaps do they think better not to give them ads? kairos

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