On intelligent design, the pope, etc.
Feb 6, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 20
May I See Some ID?
Adam Wolfson's "Survival of the Evolution Debate" (Jan. 16) was generally insightful, but he seriously misstates the views of both the Discovery Institute and proponents of intelligent design on some key points.After asking if the intelligent design debate is really a scientific one, Wolfson claims that "it is the mantra of the Discovery Institute . . . that the controversy between intelligent design and natural selection should be a part of any science curriculum." Not so.
Although the Discovery Institute supports the right of teachers to discuss intelligent design (ID) voluntarily, it has vigorously opposed efforts to mandate ID's inclusion in public school science curricula, including the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district policy that Wolfson cites. The Discovery Institute opposed Dover's policy from the start. Instead, we favor the more modest goal of teaching students about some of the well-documented scientific problems of neo-Darwinism, an approach already adopted by states such as Ohio.
Second, Wolfson cites Leon Kass as faulting ID proponents for claiming that "the only possible answer" to the issues they raise "is a Designer-God." Leon Kass is an admirable and perceptive thinker on bioethics, but he is misinformed here. Leading ID proponents have long emphasized that scientific evidence cannot tell whether an intelligent cause detected in nature is God. Such a conclusion, if it is to be drawn, requires additional arguments from philosophy and metaphysics. Kass also seems to imply that ID proponents merely poke holes in neo-Darwinism and then default to intelligent design. In reality, though, they seek to offer negative evidence against all available materialist explanations (e.g., neo-Darwinism, self organizational models) as well as positive evidence for intelligent design.
John G. West
Not Like the Others
After rightly criticizing celebrities for their farcical accusations against President Bush, The Scrapbook commits a similar offense against Pope John Paul II by comparing his request that the life of killer-rapist Roger Keith Coleman be spared to the claims made by Amnesty International, Time, and the New York Times that Coleman was innocent ("The Guilty Martyr," Jan. 23). The pope, unlike those other entities, never suggested anything about Coleman's innocence. Catholicism teaches that the death penalty, through witnessing the value of life by treating murder with deadly seriousness, can be just and necessary. But John Paul II noted that in our day capital punishment often is not necessary and that our "culture of death," by radically devaluing life, has robbed capital punishment of its teaching potential. The man The Weekly Standard called "John Paul the Great" was hardly the type simply to follow the New York Times in the latest cause célèbre. The late pope's opposition to the death penalty was as different from that of those in your line-up as George Bush is from a Team America puppet.
As a high school history teacher, I was pleased to relate The Scrapbook's 75 year-old breaking news story ("Upton Sinclair's Ethics," Jan. 16) to my students. Seven years ago, as a new teacher, I was hoodwinked by our textbook into believing the innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti. I did as many do, passing this knowledge along to my students as if it were gospel. Then I read Paul Johnson's The History of the American People, and I began to share my concerns with the textbook portrayal of the case. Now I can gladly report that the hundred or so high school seniors I teach each year will hear the truth.