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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Intelligent design: What is the controversy about?

In Touchstone magazine, intelligent design "godfather" Phillip Johnson, a retired Berkeley law prof, writes,

The controversy over evolution is at bottom not a dispute about evidence, but a dispute about whether words like “evolution” should be defined precisely and used consistently, and about whether a scientific conclusion is indisputably correct if it is endorsed by a consensus of contemporary scientific authorities. That is why I thought it appropriate for a law professor to take a professional interest in biological evolution, since lawyers are trained to insist that terms in a legal document be precisely defined, and are taught to check any consensus judgment of experts against the primary evidence.

Examples of vague or slippery definitions and appeals to the authority of consensus abound in writings about evolution, especially those writings that urge potentially skeptical people to trust the experts, rather than to examine the evidence for themselves.

For the rest, go here.

Funny thing, when I was young they used to tell me that science depended on evidence, not on a consensus of learned heads. I was regularly regaled with tales about how the mammals beat the dinosaurs because we were smarter than them, and Galileo beat the Church because ... and then I grew up ...

Note: Touchstone belongs to the same stable as Salvo, sponsored by the Fellowship of St. James. I write a regular column for Salvo.

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