Fair debates focus on evidence
Response to “Professors express multi-disciplinary disappointment about Darwinian event”
Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
The debate over the adequacy of Darwinian accounts of evolution has always been heated. There is nothing wrong with a heated debate, as long as the debate focuses on the scientific evidence.
That was our goal during the recent event "4 Nails in Darwin's Coffin," held at SMU on Sept. 23.
Unfortunately, a letter criticizing the event to the Daily Campus by eight SMU faculty members, including Lecturer John Wise and Professor Ronald Wetherington, consists almost entirely of baseless personal attacks. This is, unfortunately, a common pattern among defenders of Darwinian orthodoxy.
During the event, which included a screening of the documentary "Darwin's Dilemma," as well as several brief presentations, we presented four straightforward arguments based on scientific evidence well-attested in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, that natural selection and random genetic mutations cannot fully explain the major adaptations we see in living things. Any serious response to our arguments should address this evidence.
Instead of focusing on the evidence, however, these SMU faculty members accuse us of lying. They do this no fewer than 11 times in a seven hundred word letter. When charging someone with dishonesty it is customary to cite some evidence of the same, yet no evidence is cited.
They do accuse one of us, Steve Meyer, of implying at the event that it was sponsored by the SMU administration. But any fair-minded attendee will know that Meyer simply thanked the administration for allowing the event to happen.
Why would he do that?
As many of the attendees knew, Meyer participated in a similar event at SMU in 2007. SMU lecturer John Wise and others pressured the administration (unsuccessfully) to cancel that earlier event. So Meyer was thanking the SMU administration for protecting academic freedom on campus, not for sponsoring the event.
In their letter to the Daily Campus, these faculty members assert that we are not interested in debate. This is a curious accusation, since at least some who signed the letter of complaint attended the event.
During the question and answer period, they were free to raise public objections. They did not do so.
Moreover, there was an attempt to schedule a time to meet privately with some of these same faculty members to have a private discussion about the scientific issues. They were unwilling to do so.
In addition to accusations of dishonesty, Wise et al. claim seven times in their letter that intelligent design is either religion or pseudoscience. And yet they fail to cite a single scientific error in our presentations. Assertions do not make arguments.
To be sure, they reference a webpage where Dr. Wise has posted critiques of our presentations (amidst various and sundry attacks on our character, credentials and honesty). We will post responses to any scientifically relevant criticisms at: www.darwinsdilemma.org/smu.
We are happy to trust SMU students to decide for themselves whether the arguments we presented have merit, and whether the responses by Wise and others are intellectually honest attempts to have an academic debate or defensive attempts to avoid such a debate.
Douglas Axe, Ph.D.
Stephen Meyer, Ph.D.
Paul Nelson, Ph.D.
Richard Sternberg, Ph.D.
Jonathan Wells, Ph.D.