death of evolution?
Wed, 20 Nov 96 12:51:00 -0500

Russ Maatman expressed the view that one clear case
of "intelligent design" will topple the evolutionary
paradigm. I beg to differ, on two grounds:

(1) Finding such an obvious anomaly entails having it
recognized as such by many in the scientific community
at large. Perhaps Mr Behe can convince some that several
such anomalies exist; lacking the technical credentials
to judge his claims, I remain an interested agnostic on
this issue. At any rate, it really takes a lot to convince
scientists that a genuinely intractable problem exists
for such a well-accepted theory. It is worth recalling
that the Michelson-Morley expt, often cited as a direct
route to special relativity, was in fact not seen as
anomalous by many at the time, including by Michelson,
who viewed it his whole life as a failed expt since he
hadn't detected motion through the ether. And Einstein
himself may have been ignorant of that particular
expt when he wrote his famous paper.

(2) Even after an anomaly is recognized as a serious
explanatory problem, it is still not so easy a step to
get rid of the theory in which it is anomalous. Scientists
are in practice very conservative creatures who don't jump
ship without the availability of a better one in the vicinity
to land on. I agree that scientists OUGHT to consider
intelligent design hypotheses, if the evidence suggests them.
But I doubt that many scientists will want to, given their
operative definition of science as allowing only for
materialistic hypotheses.

This last comment leads me to ask a question I would have
raised, had I been part of the conference. Let's suppose
that a prominent jurist, call him Phil, had been assigned
to be the prosecuting judge at an important homicide
trial, let's call it the Simpson trial for lack of a
better name. Suppose that one of the defense attorneys,
call him Johnny, had suggested that the devil made his
client do it. Would Phil accept that defense? I strongly
suspect he wouldn't. I suspect that, down deep, Phil
would turn out to be a methodological naturalist, at least
in his courtroom.

If Phil is listening, I'd love to have his comments. If
not, can someone answer for him?


Ted Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840