Fox News, the Associated Press, Time magazine, BBC and the UK’s Daily Telegraph were among the host of international media taking an interest in the Ohio panel discussion, 11 March 2002, which pitted evolutionists against advocates of “intelligent design”.
The meeting was sponsored by the Ohio State Board of Education (OSBE), which is currently revising its science standards and considering whether to include intelligent design in its standards (see Ohio—First US State to Teach “Intelligent Design”?). Because so many people were expected to attend, the location of the meeting was changed to Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, downtown Columbus (Ohio’s capital). Well over 1,000 people showed up to watch the panel discussion.
Along with their favorite old canards, the evolutionists introduced some new arguments, even calling their opponents liars and scoffing at their credentials as scientists. Particularly effective—at least in the audience’s view—was a wisecrack about the skills of a “designer” who did such a poor job creating animals that went extinct. (See Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s extensive answer to the extinction argument in AiG’s response to PBS-TV series Evolution, Episode 3.) The main point of the evolutionists, however, was that intelligent design is not “science” because its supporters “never” get published in peer-reviewed science journals. However, this is demonstrably false, as shown not only by the ID proponents” own publication, but also by the record of AiG staff scientists. It also glosses over the blatant censorship by evolutionary journals—see Do Creationists Publish in Notable Refereed Journals?, and for a recent example, see More nonsense from Professor Plimer1.
The main argument proposed by the intelligent design (ID) side was that true science requires an honest, fair look at opposing viewpoints. These two men were representing the leading “think tank” of ID theory—Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington.
Judi Hahn, education specialist at Answers in Genesis–US, was there and filed the following report.
Joseph Roman, chairman of the Standards Committee for OSBE, opened the meeting. He stressed to the audience that the meeting was just an information-gathering event, and that the committee was a long way from finalizing Ohio’s science standards.
Next to speak was Jennifer Sheets, president of OSBE, who emphasized that this event was not a public hearing; no public testimony would be taken. If people wanted to testify concerning the standards, they could do that at the board’s meeting on Tuesday (12 March) or during the time set aside at monthly meetings for public testimony, between now and late fall (projected time when standards will be accepted).
Each panelist was given 15 minutes to present his case. Then there would be a question-and-answer period, in which each panelist was given 2 minutes to answer the question, rotating who went first each time. The audience was told that there was to be no applause, cheering or jeering—her warning was observed for a while, until Dr Miller made his first hit against intelligent design.
The first panelist to speak was Dr Jonathan Wells, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture and author of Icons of Evolution: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution Is Wrong.
He started by stating that this was “a growing scientific controversy,” not a religious controversy. He pointed out that several textbooks currently used in Ohio biology classes include inaccuracies, such as Ernst Haeckel’s drawings and peppered moths (see “Something Fishy About Gill Slits!,” and “Developing Deception”). He said, however, that the main thing the OSBE had to decide was whether teachers should be permitted to tell students about the problems in textbooks without fear of losing their job. He mentioned the sad story of Roger DeHart in Washington State (see Anti-Creationists Threaten Another Teacher’s Liberty; see also the story of Rodney LeVake).
Dr Wells’ second topic was to question the evidence for Darwin’s theory. He spent some time discussing the Cambrian explosion.2 Dr Wells also mentioned the document “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism," signed by 100 scientists who declared, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.” He asked whether teachers in Ohio would be permitted to tell students that some scientists disagree with the tenets of Darwinism.
His third topic was design. He asked, “Is the design we all see real or merely an appearance?” He cited some quotes from ID scientists Drs William Dembski and Michael Behe. He explained that intelligent design theory is an inference from biological evidence, not a deduction from religious doctrine. He also emphasized that it was not Biblical creationism.
The next panelist to speak was Dr Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University and author of several books, including the recent Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth … and Beyond.
Krauss used as his “bible” the US National Academy of Sciences book Teaching about Evolution, quoting several anti-creation lines from the book. (Note: This book is thoroughly rebutted in Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s Refuting Evolution.) He condemned ID as an assault on science because ID proponents “knowingly mislead the public by distorting the facts of science.” Not surprisingly, he repeated the evolutionist mantra “There is no disagreement in the science community regarding the fact of evolution.” (Yes, he said “fact” of evolution.) He pointed out (erroneously) that “ID does not appear in any scientific literature.” He stated that he didn’t think it would be fair to students to elevate ID to the status of scientific theory.
He said scientists of his ilk could be replaced by hundreds of thousands of other scientists, but ID scientists couldn’t be replaced by even 100 others. He also stated that “ID has never been subjected to peer review.” After all, he did an Internet search and found not one article on intelligent design in over 2 million articles that were searched. Therefore, he concluded, ID is not science. “Science is what scientists do and what scientists publish.” If it’s not published, it’s not science.
Next we heard from Dr Steven Meyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College (Washington State).
He emphasized that teachers must be permitted to teach the controversy, and in fairness, both sides (pros and cons) of Darwinism should be presented.
Meyer addressed the issue, raised by Krauss, of whether ID scientists are scientists. He then asked if Dembski and Behe could be considered real scientists. Apparently, he said, the universities where they are teachers think so. Furthermore, he noted that Galileo, Darwin and Copernicus never published in peer-reviewed journals. In fact, he said, Darwin was careful not to because he knew his views wouldn’t be accepted by the scientists of his day. He also handed out a list of 40 articles he has written and had published in peer-reviewed journals, along with another list of Dr Wells” articles.
He proposed a compromise for the OSBE:
- Do not mandate testing about ID, but at least teach the scientific arguments for and against Darwin’s theory.
- Permit—but do not mandate—alternative theories of origins, including ID. (Note that AiG has been promoting this “freedom rather than compulsion” approach for years.)
He pointed out that the US Supreme Court decision Edwards v. Aquillard (1987),3 which overturned the creationism law in Louisiana, permits critiques of alternate theories. He then mentioned that the new federal education act adopted language that encourages honest treatment of the controversy surrounding origins science (see Honest Science “Left Behind” in U.S. Education Bill).
Last to speak was Dr Kenneth Miller, who says that he is a Christian and is winning kudos for his recent book Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution. However, this book has been thoroughly refuted by John Woodmorappe and Jonathan Sarfati at Mutilating Miller’s Arguments.
He criticized Wells for criticizing his biology books because they show peppered moths and Haeckel’s drawings, saying that those items were not in his biology books. (Note: They’re in earlier editions but not in the 2002 versions, which are still at the presses.) “The pattern of lying by Dr Wells continues,” he said. He criticized Wells” discussion of irreducible complexity as unscientific. He, too, did an Internet search, and in the 2 million articles he searched (same number as Krauss says he searched) he didn’t find one article on irreducible complexity or intelligent design.
Miller then brought up the idea that if there was an intelligent designer, why are there so many extinct animals and other organisms? There must have been mistakes in those extinct versions, and “mistakes are not intelligent.” However, when Dr Miller used the same approach in the PBS Evolution series, i.e. alleging “bad design” in nature, Dr Sarfati demonstrated that Miller is incompetent in the relevant fields so often hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about—see this section of the AiG response to Episode 1.
That ended the 15-minute talks by each presenter.
There followed a hodgepodge of questions supplied by state board members, with two-minute answers given by each presenter. The questions ranged from semi-profound (‘Define science so that our understanding of the universe is not limited by our ability to measure it’) to the routine (‘What would you suggest we should do to excite more students about science?’). By this point, I think everyone’s eyes were beginning to glaze over, including the panelists”.—Judi Hahn
As AiG has said repeatedly, this whole debate is a sad testimony to the decline of Christian influence in America. Bible-believing teachers once had the freedom to speak openly about the history, geology and biology proclaimed in Genesis. Who would have dreamed that simply raising questions about evolution would generate such controversy? The battle to get “intelligent design” into Ohio’s standards may weaken the evolutionists” grip on public education, but it’s a far cry from giving teachers real freedom to present the true picture of two worldviews in conflict.
Note also that while we are obviously on the side of such freedoms in education, one of the “weak points” of the ID approach is its deliberate failure to want to align itself with the history given in the Bible. IDers may see this as a tactical strength, and we wish them well, but the problem is that without acknowledgment of the role of sin, the Curse and the Fall, all the “bad things” in the world become part of the “evidence for design” and thus leave ID open to gibes about the cruel or clumsy designer. While they try to leave theological issues out of it, their opponents will not. Evolutionists who attack God’s design are really using pseudotheological arguments, not scientific ones.
A similar thing happened prior to Darwin, when the deists of the day (who rejected Biblical history at the same time as they talked of a designing God) persuaded people to “leave the Bible out of it.” Intellectuals presented “watchmaker” arguments for design, but the result was that many others, including Darwin himself, began to ask themselves, “what sort of God would design a world with death and suffering’? (Remember, they had been told to keep the Bible, with its Genesis answers to such questions, out of it.) The result was that atheism became stronger than ever before.