Letting Science, Not Rhetoric, Drive the Debate over Intelligent Design

By Casey Luskin

As scientific debates become increasingly politicized, materialists seek to cast proponents of intelligent design (ID) as not just wrong, but also ignorant, irrational, immoral, or even dangerous. Four years ago the Council of Europe took this to the extreme, resolving that teaching ID might be a “threat to human rights.”1 Though the intensity of such rhetoric has increased in recent years, this trend is not new. Defenders of Darwinian orthodoxy aim to win the argument by ridicule and strong-arm tactics rather than reasoned discourse.

In 2000, Dale L. Sullivan recognized in Technical Communication Quarterly that “published ridicule” is deployed to defend evolution by “hold[ing] heretics up to public scorn in displays of derision.” According to Sullivan, the goal is to “de-authorize publications that could be perceived as dangerous to the community,” where “the ultimate rhetorical effect…is to silence the voices of the authors and thereby to control the scientific forum.”2

Similarly, a 2009 paper in the Journal of Science Communication by Inna Kouper observes that “emotional and often insulting evaluations are very common” among Darwin defenders, who “seem to be eager to demonstrate not only their rightness, but also to distinguish their group of reasonable and worthy individuals from others, who are wrong, unintelligent, and overall worthless.” In Kouper’s view, “the frequency of such evaluations and mockery undermines the goals of rational debate and criticism.”3 Such attacks intimidate scientists who are skeptical of Darwinian evolution into silence, lest they become targets. The result is de factocensorship.

If Sullivan and Kouper are correct, then ID critics must view Michael Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism as dangerous, as it has faced severe ridicule, scorn, mockery, and derision. Behe’s critics argue not just that he’s wrong, but that he’s completely, pitifully, and exhaustively wrong, and very likely incompetent and dishonest. Rhetorician Thomas Woodward calls this the “sledgehammer technique,”4 for it goes far beyond mere scientific analysis…

Letting Science, Not Rhetoric, Drive the Debate over Intelligent Design