Note: This commentary by John West was originally published in USA Today on Dec. 22, 2005. West co-founded Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
It’s a phrase proponents of Darwin’s theory might do well to ponder as they crow over the decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania “permanently enjoining” the Dover school district from mentioning the theory of intelligent design in science classes.
Contrary to Judge John Jones’ assertions, intelligent design is not a religious-based idea, but instead an evidence-based scientific theory that holds there are certain features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause. No legal decree can remove the digitally coded information from DNA, nor molecular machines from cells. The facts of biology cannot be overruled by a federal judge. Research on intelligent design will continue to go forward, and the scientific evidence will win out in the end.
Still, Darwinists clearly won this latest skirmish in the evolution wars. But at what cost?
Evolutionists used to style themselves the champions of free speech and academic freedom against unthinking dogmatism. But increasingly, they have become the new dogmatists, demanding judicially-imposed censorship of dissent.
Now, Darwinists are trying to silence debate through persecution. At Ohio State University, a graduate student’s dissertation is in limbo because he was openly critical of Darwin’s theory. At George Mason University, a biology professor lost her job after she mentioned intelligent design in class. At the Smithsonian, an evolutionary biologist was harassed and vilified for permitting an article favoring intelligent design to be published in a peer-reviewed biology journal.
Those who think they can stop the growing interest in intelligent design through court orders or intimidation are deluding themselves. Americans don’t like being told there are some ideas they aren’t permitted to investigate. Try to ban an idea, and you will generate even more interest in it.
Efforts to mandate intelligent design are misguided, but efforts to shut down discussion of a scientific idea through harassment and judicial decrees hurt democratic pluralism. The more Darwinists resort to censorship and persecution, the clearer it will become that they are championing dogmatism, not science.