Intelligent design of a newspaper

Hugh Hewitt does a terrific job this morning, taking down an appallingly poorly—researched and —written front page story in the Sunday Washington Post, on the subject of "intelligent design" — the intellectually—respectable thesis that fatal flaws exist in Darwin's theory of macro evolution. Many complex systems could simply not have evolved from less complex building blocks: without a "designer" putting into place pieces which have no functionality without the other pieces also in place, they would not have initially functioned.

The secular fundamentalists react to intelligent design arguments much the way Dracula reacts to the Cross — cursing and fleeing away from its substance, heaping scorn from a safe distance in familiar and secure surroundings — in this case the precincts of the Washington Post, which once in a front page "news" story called evangelicals "poor, uneducated, and easily led." It has become an article of faith among the secular fundamentalists that intelligent design theory has no merit because... well, because its proponents are poor, uneducated, and easily led (even though some of them have Ph.D.s in relevant fields).

Once again, media elitists are setting themselves up for a huge take—down. Their tragic flaw is hubris — unreasonable pride in their own supposedly superior intellect. The fact that it took Hugh Hewitt (admittedly, a brilliant man with a large and growing audience, a talk show host and blogger especially popular among intelligent readers and listeners) 45 minutes of web research on the morning after Christmas, to expose the inadequacies of the WaPo's reporting and editing, demonstrates how ripe a target the media elitists remain, even after Rathergate destroyed one of the most important figures among them.

Here is what is going to do—in the elitists, in the absence of phony documents.

Everyone is naturally curious about the question of how we got here. It is the sort of question we all think about first in childhood, and which, no matter what Darwin has to say about micro—evolution (the gradual modification of species due to natural selection), remains unanswered. Serious people have been thinking about this question forever. The current round of questioning of the Darwinian orthodoxy has already enough good books written about it (for example, Darwin's Black Box and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis) that the questions cannot simply be dismissed, the way the media grandees wish. Even if most people don't read the serious books, they do pay attention when others, including talk show hosts, talk about them.

Those whose response is, "Pay no heed to the questions because I am more intelligent than you are," cannot carry the day. People are simply too interested in the question itself.

I find the whole controversy over Darwin an ideal vehicle to teach about the question of weighing evidence supporting alternative hypotheses. As a sociologist, I am used to weighing alternative explanatory frameworks for understanding social institutions and human behavior. Often, we can never definitively know in a scientifically conclusive fashion why people behave as they do. Thomas Kuhn's famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revoltutions,is the perfect companion to a high school unit examining theories and counter—theories around evolution. The ability to construct and weigh alternative explanations for complex questions is just the sort of higher—order thinking our schools need to be teaching — especially if they can be troubled to first teach the basics.

Those who would insist there is no legitimate questions around Darwin's theories (after all, the missing link is still missing) are in the position of Ptolemaic astronomers and strict Newtonian physicists, unwilling to consider the possibility that Galileo or Einstein had anything valuable to contribute to human knowledge. It is not a winning tactic in the long run, particularly in an age when subjects like quantum physics require more than one framework to account for known phenomena. We live in a period of ongoing scientific revolutions, and dogmatic adherence to a Nineteenth Century theorist as gospel is, well, quaint.

Because information flow has been freed by the internet, this question of Darwin's adequacy will continue to be alive, no matter how snarky the Washington Post gets. If the editors there have any intelligence in their own design of the paper, they will issue a front page apology for the inadequacies of their journalism, just as they eventually did when they slurred evangelicals.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.

Hugh Hewitt does a terrific job this morning, taking down an appallingly poorly—researched and —written front page story in the Sunday Washington Post, on the subject of "intelligent design" — the intellectually—respectable thesis that fatal flaws exist in Darwin's theory of macro evolution. Many complex systems could simply not have evolved from less complex building blocks: without a "designer" putting into place pieces which have no functionality without the other pieces also in place, they would not have initially functioned.

The secular fundamentalists react to intelligent design arguments much the way Dracula reacts to the Cross — cursing and fleeing away from its substance, heaping scorn from a safe distance in familiar and secure surroundings — in this case the precincts of the Washington Post, which once in a front page "news" story called evangelicals "poor, uneducated, and easily led." It has become an article of faith among the secular fundamentalists that intelligent design theory has no merit because... well, because its proponents are poor, uneducated, and easily led (even though some of them have Ph.D.s in relevant fields).

Once again, media elitists are setting themselves up for a huge take—down. Their tragic flaw is hubris — unreasonable pride in their own supposedly superior intellect. The fact that it took Hugh Hewitt (admittedly, a brilliant man with a large and growing audience, a talk show host and blogger especially popular among intelligent readers and listeners) 45 minutes of web research on the morning after Christmas, to expose the inadequacies of the WaPo's reporting and editing, demonstrates how ripe a target the media elitists remain, even after Rathergate destroyed one of the most important figures among them.

Here is what is going to do—in the elitists, in the absence of phony documents.

Everyone is naturally curious about the question of how we got here. It is the sort of question we all think about first in childhood, and which, no matter what Darwin has to say about micro—evolution (the gradual modification of species due to natural selection), remains unanswered. Serious people have been thinking about this question forever. The current round of questioning of the Darwinian orthodoxy has already enough good books written about it (for example, Darwin's Black Box and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis) that the questions cannot simply be dismissed, the way the media grandees wish. Even if most people don't read the serious books, they do pay attention when others, including talk show hosts, talk about them.

Those whose response is, "Pay no heed to the questions because I am more intelligent than you are," cannot carry the day. People are simply too interested in the question itself.

I find the whole controversy over Darwin an ideal vehicle to teach about the question of weighing evidence supporting alternative hypotheses. As a sociologist, I am used to weighing alternative explanatory frameworks for understanding social institutions and human behavior. Often, we can never definitively know in a scientifically conclusive fashion why people behave as they do. Thomas Kuhn's famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revoltutions,is the perfect companion to a high school unit examining theories and counter—theories around evolution. The ability to construct and weigh alternative explanations for complex questions is just the sort of higher—order thinking our schools need to be teaching — especially if they can be troubled to first teach the basics.

Those who would insist there is no legitimate questions around Darwin's theories (after all, the missing link is still missing) are in the position of Ptolemaic astronomers and strict Newtonian physicists, unwilling to consider the possibility that Galileo or Einstein had anything valuable to contribute to human knowledge. It is not a winning tactic in the long run, particularly in an age when subjects like quantum physics require more than one framework to account for known phenomena. We live in a period of ongoing scientific revolutions, and dogmatic adherence to a Nineteenth Century theorist as gospel is, well, quaint.

Because information flow has been freed by the internet, this question of Darwin's adequacy will continue to be alive, no matter how snarky the Washington Post gets. If the editors there have any intelligence in their own design of the paper, they will issue a front page apology for the inadequacies of their journalism, just as they eventually did when they slurred evangelicals.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.