For many, battle over intelligent
design pits the head vs. the heart
By Joseph Sheppard
March 29, 2006 | Legislators, scientists, school-board
members, and lobbyists have been swapping arguments,
insults, votes, and tens of thousands of emails as a
major movement to unseat the theory of evolution as
absolute science in schools appears to sputter.
Before the end of this year's legislative session,
Utah House of Representatives voted down Senate Bill
96. The bill would have ensured that the State Board
of Education endorse no particular theory on the origins
of human life and that they stress that not all scientists
agree on which theory is correct.
This defeat closely follows the Ohio Board of Education
decision to drop a mandate which included a critical
analysis of evolution in 10th grade biology classes.
Evolutionists may feel that justice is being served
with these recent decisions, but others claim that science
has prejudiced itself to the point of burying all theories
People talk about the controversy surrounding evolution,
but among most scientists there is no controversy, said
Frank Messina, a professor of general and evolutionary
biology at USU. He said the SB 96 was deceiving in claiming
that scientists do not agree on which theory of the
origins of life is correct.
"It's like saying that scientists are not in complete
agreement as to whether the earth moves around the sun
or the sun around the earth," Messina said.
Evolution is one of the best demonstrated facts in
science, not one of the most questioned facts, Messina
"No one is working on whether evolution occurs, but
people are working on how it occurs and how it has occurred
in the past," Messina said.
Of course others, including the majority of the Utah
State Senate, which had passed SB 96, disagree with
More and more scientists from respected institutions
are speaking out against evolution, said Rob Gunn, the
USU director of the Christian group Focus and a former
professor of evolution courses at Cal Poly San Luis
He said there are a number of scientists who have
theories on the origins of life other than evolution,
like Michael Behe of Lehigh University and the scientists
at Discovery Institute, but that the findings of their
work is underplayed because of scientific prejudice.
The culture of the university has put science in the
category of naturalism, Gunn said. There must be a naturalistic
explanation for any phenomenon and that naturalism is
absolutely pervasive in the field of biology, he said.
"Science is not the neat and tidy objective world
that we all think it is," Gunn said. "There is tremendous
prejudice and persecution if you don't buy in to evolution."
Messina says he disagrees that evidence for theories
opposing evolution is being suppressed.
"Bring any evidence in to me and we'll publish it
and become rich and famous," Messina said.
The ultimate source to determine whether something
is real science are the scientific peer reviewed journals,
where scientists go out of their way to check other
research, Messina said. In these journals there is no
debate about whether or not evolution occurs, he said.
Despite the apparent continuity among biologists,
a majority of Americans still refuse to accept evolutionary
theory's explanation of the origin of humans, Gunn said.
He's right. According to a 2005 Gallup poll, more
Americans are likely to endorse a purely creationist
view on the origin of humans than either a purely evolutionary
view or a view involving elements of both.
"At a gut level people think, 'No, things didn't happen
by chance and aren't here because of something that
emerged from primordial slime,'" Gunn said.
But, science does not depend on polling people- it
rises or falls according to the weight of the evidence,
"Even if 99 percent of biologists believed in intelligent
design it would be irrelevant until their beliefs were
published and verified in peer-reviewed journals," Messina
said. "It would be unethical for scientists to modify
what they have learned to make people comfortable."
For now, peer-reviewed journal content wins out over
alternate theories as evolution will continue to be
taught unhampered and uncontested in Utah public schools.
The battle now won, it is still unclear whether it
was a battle of beliefs or of science. For Senator Chris
Buttars, who sponsored the bill, it was clearly one
"There are a number of influential legislators who
believe you evolved from an ape," Buttars told the Salt
Lake Tribune following the Monday vote. "I didn't."