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Writer: Intelligent design antidote to ‘new fundamentalism’ of evolution

NEW YORK (BP)–“The New Fundamentalism,” according to a Wall Street Journal headline Aug. 8, is evolution.

In an op-ed article atop The Journal’s editorial page, Gregg Easterbrook, a senior editor of the New Republic and BeliefNet.com, writes that evolution dogmatism is “just as preposterous” as the 1925 Scopes trial — “and just as bad for freedom of thought.”

Today, Easterbrook writes, “the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, with everyone from the Supreme Court to establishment media holding that students should hear only Darwin’s side of the debate.”

The Wall Street Journal article joins numerous other commentaries in the wake of the Kansas State Board of Education primary election Aug. 1 in which pro-evolution candidates won three key Republican primaries, which likely will result in overturning the anti-evolution science standards adopted by the Kansas board last year.

“….in the aftermath of the Kansas votes,” Easterbrook writes, “pro-evolution dogma continues to suggest that any alternative to natural selection must be kept quiet.”

Easterbrook, it should be noted, is no creationist. “Evolution unquestionably occurs,” he writes in his second paragraph, “and is essential to understanding biology.”

But Easterbrook accords “intelligent design,” an emerging option to Darwinian dogma, a place at the table.

“Intelligent design is a sophisticated theory now being argued out in the nation’s top universities,” he writes.

Intelligent design theory can allow for an “immensely old” universe “and that all living things are descended from earlier forms,” Easterbrook writes.

“But the theory goes on to contend that organic biology is so phenomenally complex that it is illogical to assume that life created itself. There must have been some force providing guidance.”

It does not fly in the face of a 1986 Supreme Court ruling against the teaching of creationism religious doctrine in public schools, Easterbrook notes.

“Intelligent-design thinking does not propound any specific faith or even say that the higher power is divine,” he writes. “It simply holds that there must be an unseen intellect imbedded in the cosmos.”

Educators should “teach the controversy,” Easterbrook counsels. “Present students with the arguments for and against natural and supernatural explanations of life, and then let them enter into this engaging, fertile debate,” he writes. “The intelligent design theory may or may not be correct, but it’s a rich, absorbing hypothesis — the sort of thing that is fascinating to debate, and might get students excited about biology class to boot.”

But, Easterbook laments, many school systems are “steering away from teaching intelligent design, believing it to be an impermissible idea under the Supreme Court ruling. Editorials and columnists prefer not to mention the new theory, hoping to tar all non-Darwinian ideas as mere creationism. This isn’t freedom of thought — it’s the reverse.”