Scientists from a major pro-intelligent design (ID) think tank praised a Darwinist this past Friday over an article he wrote on their controversial concept.
In the article published in The Christian Century, J. Scott Turner, faculty of the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry in Syracuse, N.Y., scolded his colleagues over their reactionary stance against ID thought – which argues that life is a result of a "designer."
Scientists at the Discovery Institute, a grouping of ID advocates, hope that the Darwinist's article will help open the door for other evolutionists to be less close-minded about ID.
"Hopefully Turner's criticisms will strike a chord with Darwinists who might otherwise close their ears to the argument for academic freedom for ID-proponents," explained Casey Luskin, co-founder of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, on the Discovery Center website. "Given the intolerance towards ID-sympathy that Turner describes, let us also hope that the chord is heard but the strummer is not harmed."
While Turner is very open with his stance about the issue and disagrees with ID science, he sees the negative backlash given to supporters of the issue and feels that it is unwarranted. Instead, he argues that science is meant to be discussed with arguments on both sides rather than one side being silenced completely.
"[The] modern academy [is] a tedious intellectual monoculture where conformity and not contention is the norm," wrote the SUNY professor. "Reflexive hostility to ID is largely cut from that cloth; some ID critics are not so much worried about a hurtful climate as they are about a climate in which people are free to disagree with them."
There have been several cases throughout the year in which supporters of ID thought have been strongly affected for their beliefs by academic and scientific institutions.
The most recent publicized incident involved astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, author of pro-ID book The Privileged Planet, who was denied tenure at Iowa State University (ISU). The professor had strong credentials and had exceeded the typical number of peer reviewed journals needed to receive tenure at the university. He had written 68 papers, 53 more than the ISU's required 15.
He also had the highest score among the entire faculty in the astronomy department ,according to the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), which calculates the scientific impact of scientists in astronomy.
Several professors at the school even admitted that his ID belief, which Gonzales never taught to students, was the main factor in denying him tenure.
"It's a sad day for science and free inquiry when tenure is denied to a scientist of Guillermo Gonzalez's caliber," said Dr. John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science & Culture for the ID think tank Discovery Institute, on the Discovery Center website.
ISU President Gregory Geoffroy, who denied Gonzalez's appeal for tenure, "has clearly demonstrated that academic freedom is not as important to Iowa State University as passing an ideological litmus test," he added.
In Turner's article, the Darwinist addressed these problems against ID proponents, and how they are unfairly treated. He personally cited an incident involving hostility against Richard Sternberg, former editor of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, from scientists at the Smithsonian Institute.
"It would be comforting if one could dismiss such incidents as the actions of a misguided few. But the intolerance that gave rise to the Sternberg debacle is all too common," wrote Turner. "The attitudes on display there, which at the extreme verge on antireligious hysteria, can hardly be squared with the relatively innocuous (even if wrong-headed) ideas that sit at ID's core."
As another main point, Turner explained the role that ID can play in education and that it should not so easily be thrown away as bad theory. While evolution has a place in the classroom, he explained that ID also has beneficial traits that can lead to more balanced science, even if it is not all correct.
"[I]ntelligent design … is one of multiple emerging critiques of materialism in science and evolution. Unfortunately, many scientists fail to see this, preferring the gross caricature that ID is simply 'stealth creationism,'" added the Syracuse professor. "[But] ID is not popular because the stupid or ignorant like it, but because neo-Darwinism's principled banishment of purpose seems less defensible each passing day."