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Objectivity Lost in Debate Over Faith, Evolution

Original Article

Science should be open-minded, objective and free of bias. Yet the career of Richard Sternberg, a prominent scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is in jeopardy. This is because he, as editor of the scientific journal “Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington,” published an article on “intelligent design” by Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute. Intelligent design theorizes that the universe and living things are best explained as having an intelligent cause.

The Smithsonian response isn’t surprising because the scientific “establishment” holds a philosophic worldview termed “scientific materialism” or “naturalism,” which rejects the possibility that an intelligent designer might be responsible for life. Not only are most naturalists closed to considering the possibility of intelligent design; many are openly hostile to it. In 2002, the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science passed a resolution condemning intelligent design. Rather than being open to whatever explanations the data indicate, naturalists are committed to a philosophical system that rejects the possibility that God or an intelligent designer intervened in the creation of life in general and human beings in particular. However, the theory of evolution, to which naturalists fiercely claw, is unable to explain critical aspects of life’s origins.

Consider DNA, the complex molecule within cells, which directs synthesis of protein molecules. DNA contains long lines of four chemical “bases.” Typically, 1,200 to 2,000 properly arranged bases are required to build just one protein – and the human body can make about 25,000 different proteins. The organized information in human DNA, contained within each cell, would more than fill the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is obvious a collection of reference books, a symphonic score or a computer code has an intelligent designer; why do naturalists reject outright that DNA might also have one?

While no one believes natural forces alone could build a functioning auto assembly plant, how could nonliving chemicals have assembled themselves into the first living cell, something much more complex? Intelligent design also better explains the development of bacterial flagella, which basically are bidirectional, motor-driven propellers; the origin of complex organs such as eyes, which interact with the nervous system to permit vision; and the development of the human mind, which thinks, has a conscience and is capable of love.

Consider if I were to show passers-by a sculpture of a dog. No one would posit that it had resulted from undirected natural processes acting on a granite boulder over time. But consider a living dog. Would anyone deny that this dog was more complex than the sculpture? Logic should suggest that this living dog had a brilliant designer infinitely more talented than the designers who created the dog sculpture.

The Smithsonian article that got Sternberg into trouble dealt with “The Cambrian Explosion,” in which dozens of animal forms suddenly emerged in the fossil record. Darwinian biologists are unable to explain this development in such a short time period. The definitions of science and truth are at the center of the cultural battle that is raging in America.

Whose definitions will we use? Will we arrogantly permit only definitions and theories involving undirected natural forces?

Naturalists have framed what is being taught regarding life’s origins while suppressing contradictory evidence and alternative theories. Yet a worldview committed to one theory despite evidence to the contrary violates the essence of science. Today’s scientists are seeking the best naturalistic explanation but should be seeking the best explanation. Their commitment should be to find out what is true.

For naturalists, God is a myth; life either has no meaning or, at best, only whatever meaning they themselves instill into it. They maintain “faith” is only necessary if one believes in God. But all worldviews require faith in response to reasonable evidence. Therefore, faith is perhaps more necessary for the naturalist than for the proponent of intelligent design!

Two thousand years ago, Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, asked Jesus life’s most important question: “What is truth?” Are scientists honest enough to embrace truth even if it conflicts with their worldview?

John Marshall is a physician and professor of medicine in the University of Missouri School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine.