Unconvinced Intellectuals

Most people have heard of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. At the trial, Scopes's defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, placed the prosecuting attorney, William Jennings Bryan, on the witness stand. Darrow was a well-known agnostic and Darwinist. To make evolution look good and the Bible look bad, Darrow wanted to question Bryan regarding his views on the Bible. Bryan agreed, but only if he could question Darrow about evolution. The court ordered that Bryan take the stand first before asking Darrow questions. Yet though Bryan answered Darrow's questions, he never got to cross-examine his rival. Why not? Scopes had pled not guilty -- that's why there was a trial. But unexpectedly at the conclusion of his examination of Bryan, Darrow changed Scopes's plea to guilty. That closed the case and made it impossible for Bryan to call Darrow to the stand for questioning. And so in the Scopes trial, scientists managed to present their case for evolution without any challenge. In fact, the Scopes trial is a metaphor for the whole debate over evolutionary theory. It has continually evaded critical scrutiny and proper cross-examination. But no longer. Scientists and scholars in the intelligent design movement are mounting a concerted effort to force Darwinists to open up and discuss the weaknesses of evolutionary theory. In this regard, Dr. William Dembski has edited a fascinating new book titled Uncommon Dissent. This book features fourteen essays by intellectuals who find Darwinism unconvincing. Their dissent is "uncommon" because the majority of intellectuals in the West have completely bought into Darwinian evolution. But with books like this, we can expect to see that majority erode, and quickly. Contributors to this book include some of the "usual suspects" in the intelligent design movement, like Dembski, Phillip Johnson, and Michael Behe. But there are also some new names. Frank Tipler, a physicist well known for his work on the anthropic principle, exposes how peer review in scientific journals actually stifles originality: Darwinists review Darwinists and never have to answer the challenges of intelligent design. Another new name is Edward Sisson, an attorney who used to direct avant-garde theater. His chapter sheds some much needed light on the Scopes trial. For example, did you know that the very textbook from which Scopes taught advocated eugenics and promoted racism? Indeed, it divided humanity into five races and ranked them in terms of superiority, concluding with "the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America." This is the book Darwinists insist Scopes had a right to teach? Perhaps the most interesting chapter is the last by David Berlinski, a mathematician. In addition to his essay, we find Berlinski mixing it up with Darwinists who were criticizing his essay. Letters by Darwinists, like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Eugenie Scott, are all there along with Berlinski's responses. I'll let you read the exchange and decide for yourself who got the better of it. Suffice it to say, after reading this chapter, and better yet this book, you'll realize that Darwinism is in for a grilling like none it has experienced before. And it's about time. For further reading and information: William A. Dembski, ed., Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI Books, 2004). See BreakPoint's resource page on intelligent design. See Chuck Colson's Ten Questions about Origins, a helpful tool for students. The videos "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" and "Icons of Evolution" are great tools to help your child understand the controversy over evolution and intelligent design.


Chuck Colson


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