By J. Richard Pearcey
March 6, 2006 -- News of infighting among leading Darwinians over Intelligent Design has leapt across the Atlantic and landed in the UK at The Guardian, in a report titled “When Evolutionists Attack,” by Andrew Brown. The Pearcey Report broke the story February 21 after noting an explosive letter posted on the blog of William Dembski, a leading figure in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement.
As The Guardian describes it, the meltdown “started with an argument over how to combat creationism,” a term not preferred by some ID theorists, because they encourage a “big tent” approach to the question of origins (intelligent design v. mindless naturalism) and want to emphasize empirical scientific data in making their case.
“In one camp,” says The Guardian, is Florida State University philosophy professor Michael Ruse, “who has always argued that evolution, though true, does not compel atheism. In his last and most controversial book, The Evolution-Creation Struggle, he argued that if evolution did disprove the existence of God, it shouldn’t be taught in U.S. schools since that would mean teaching atheism, which would infringe the constitutional separation of church and state.”
But, as many observers have noted, the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution. This would suggest that the Constitution does not disallow the teaching of Darwin in the public schools, even if that would favor atheism. Or the teaching of critiques and alternatives to Darwinism, even if that would favor theism.
The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Thus, some have argued, the constitutional focus here is on Congress, in an effort to prevent Congress from establishing a National State Church, as was the case in England. On this view, American citizens are a free people empowered to live their lives, including their educational and political lives, on the basis of a Creator who gives certain inalienable rights, as described in the Declaration of Independence.
In opposition to Ruse is “Darwinian Daniel Dennett, philosopher and friend of Richard Dawkins,” an atheist Oxford professor. “Dennett’s latest book, Breaking the Spell, is a vigorous attempt to preach atheism to the unconverted,” The Guardian reports.
When an article in the New York Times Book Review “suggested there was some truth to Ruse’s belief that ‘evolutionism’ is being pushed by people like Dennett as a substitute for religion, Dennett was aggrieved.” So much so, says The Guardian, that Dennett denounced “Ruse’s ideas as ‘a transparent example of a well-known cheap trick’.”
Dennett and Ruse communicated back and forth, and this eventually yielded a letter in which Ruse asserted that Dennett and Dawkins are “absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design.” He said, “Neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas.” In addition, “it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims -- more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of goodwill’.”
Dennett’s response to this blast is not publicly known, because “he has not replied to my email,” says reporter Andrew Brown in The Guardian.
But Ruse is talking. In fact, says Brown, he is “unrepentant.”
“Let’s face up to it: All [Dennett] was doing was slagging me off. He has had an absolutely brilliant career -- he is regarded as something of a demigod in the philosophical community. I think he finds it very difficult when people don’t say to him, ‘You were fantastic. Can I warm the bog seat for you before you take a cr--?’”
In its original February report on the “Darwinian Meltdown Over Intelligent Design,” The Pearcey Report noted that Ruse also said, “We are losing this battle” and that the “knee-jerk atheism” of Dennett and Dawkins is counterproductive. The story was picked up by the Capitol Hill weekly newspaper Human Events and was also featured on the discussion website Free Republic, generating more than 190 comments.
See the entire story in The Guardian here.
The discussion at Free Republic is here.
J. Richard Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report. He has served as managing editor of Human Events and primary editor of Persecution (Regnery), by David Limbaugh.