Since 1998, Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, and Paul Nelson have all spoken at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Now UCSD is striking back. On November 14, 2006, anti-ID philosopher of science Robert Pennock was paid by UCSD's Council of Provosts and the Division of Biological Sciences to speak against intelligent design in a lecture that was free and open to the public in UCSD's RIMAC Arena (which holds about 5000 people). Of course, these groups are all taxpayer-supported. Not only is this free event open to anyone, but TritonLink, the UCSD student website reports that it is mandatory attendance for all freshmen: "All first-quarter freshmen are required to attend the event, which is open to the public":
If a major public biology research university like UCSD is requiring students to attend talks by leading anti-ID philosophers, could the anti-ID bias in the academy be any clearer? Will UCSD later invite a pro-ID speaker which all students are required to hear? I had a great experience at UCSD despite its anti-ID bias. But if you're a student at UCSD (like I was for 5 years, getting my undergraduate and masters degrees), would you consider this mandatory lecture to more closely resemble objective education or one-sided, mandatory indoctrination against intelligent design?
If you're not forced to attend, I say you should still go hear Pennock speak. I chose to take about a dozen courses dealing with evolution in an anti-ID fashion while at UCSD. But if you are forced to attend, what should you expect? I observed nearly all of Pennock's testimony during the Kitzmiller trial. His arguments are fairly standard misrepresentations of intelligent design:
If you attend tonight, you will see him simply claim that ID requires supernatural causation, and therefore is a form of special creationism. He will then explain that science prohibits invoking the supernatural, asserting that a "ground rule" of science is methodological naturalism. He will then conclude that therefore ID is not science. His arguments are easy to refute.
A User's Guide to Refuting Pennock
I can't precisely predict what Pennock will say tonight. But based upon his Kitzmiller testimony, here are my educated predictions about Pennock will say, along with some useful resources for rebuttal:
Surely the intelligent design explanation has unanswered questions of its own. But unanswered questions, which exist on both sides, are an essential part of healthy science; they define the areas of needed research. Questions often expose hidden errors that have impeded the progress of science. For example, the place of intelligent design in science has been troubling for more than a century. That is because on the whole, scientists from within Western culture failed to distinguish between intelligence, which can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural, which cannot. Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science (Of Pandas and People, pg. 126-127, 2nd ed, 1993).
The idea that life had an intelligent source is hardly unique to Christian fundamentalism. Advocates of design have included not only Christians and other religious theists, but pantheists, Greek and Enlightenment philosophers and now include many modern scientists who describe themselves as religiously agnostic. Moreover, the concept of design implies absolutely nothing about beliefs and normally associated with Christian fundamentalism, such as a young earth, a global flood, or even the existence of the Christian God. All it implies is that life had an intelligent source (Of Pandas and People, pg. 161, 2nd ed, 1993).
Indeed, the Pandas textbook seems to adopt methodological naturalism, Pennock's favorite definitional "ground rule" of science. Pandas thus states: "intelligence ... can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural ... cannot." So ID doesn't even violate methodological naturalism which Pennock will assert is a "ground rule" of science. For a more detailed discussion, read Traipsing Into Evolution.
As he did during his Kitzmiller testimony, Pennock may cite out-of-context quotations from ID-proponents where they discuss their religious beliefs in God. These egregious misquotes do not represent what ID-proponents actually think are the conclusions of ID theory, but are rather their personal religious beliefs. A detailed discussion of some of these common misquotes can be found here.
Pennock may assert that ID-proponents are religiously motivated. There are multiple ways to address or rebut this argument. First, what motivation did the famous atheist philosopher Antony Flew have to say, "It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design"? Flew’s statement demonstrates that ID is based upon empirical science. Second, what about Darwinist motives? Many of them seem to have explicitly anti-religious inspiration for promoting evolution. See here for documentation of anti-religious motives of some leading Darwinists.
Pennock may discuss the "Wedge Document," asserting that it claims that ID seeks to insert the supernatural into science. This is not true, as is seen in The "Wedge Document": "So What?”. For another discussion of the Wedge Document, including documentation of the anti-religious documents endorsed by many leading Darwinists, see here.
Pennock may also discuss a paper he co-authored in Nature which used computer simulations to attempt to evolve complexity. The first question here is why is a philosopher co-authoring a technical paper on computer simulations of evolution in the most prominent scientific journal in the world? The answer? Because this was a politically charged paper which Pennock coauthored to ensure that the other authors, who were actually scientists, toed the Darwinian party line. Given the political nature of this paper, it comes as no surprise that it stacks the deck in favor of evolution. The individual mutations which were pre-programmed to occur were scarcely a few steps away from the target function the program sought to evolve. This paper poses no challenge to intelligent design, and a fairly detailed discussion can be found here. If there is no scientific controversy over evolution here, why are Darwinists publishing papers in Nature to defend (albeit inadequately) Darwinism from the challenges of intelligent design?
Once you understand that Pennock is misrepresenting intelligent design when he claims it requires supernatural causation, you should keep this principle in mind as you listen to Pennock: