Dawkins against Intelligent Design

Richard Dawkins (this time with Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago) explains it again, in probably the most clear language you can find, why intelligent design should not be taught alongside evolution in science classes:

What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of “it is only fair to teach both sides”? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; “evo-devo”; the “Cambrian Explosion”; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for “both theories” would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

Talking about Dawkins: in the September issue of Discover magazine, there is an article about him entitled “Darwin’s Rottweiler – Sir Richard Dawkins: Evolution’s fiercest champion, far too fierce“. The author, Stephen S. Hall, paints an overall positive picture about Dawkins, but, as he makes it clear already in the title, he thinks that Sir Richard is “far too fierce”. This is how the article ends:

This recusal underlines the most obvious contradiction about Richard Dawkins and the cultural war in which he has so much to contribute: You can be the world’s greatest apostle of scientific rationalism, but if you come across as a rottweiler, Darwin’s or anybody else’s, when you enter that marketplace, it’s very hard to make the sale.

Well, first of all, in most of his writings and talks, Dawkins does not come across to me as a rottweiler. Read the quotation above: is there any barking and biting in it? I don’t think so. It just states facts and draws conclusions that make sense to any reasonable person. 99% percent of his books consist of crystal-clear explanations of how evolution or science in general work. The remaining 1% is similarly well-written and convincing – it just happens that a lot of people are offended because it makes them uncomfortable. Should he never talk about religion just because some people get offended? There are incredibly few people who have the intellect and courage to talk about these issues honestly; even if you disagree sometimes with him, why should one of the most eloquent guys shut up?

At times when American science education is endangered by a few politically powerful, but scientifically challenged people, we would need to clone professor Dawkins, not to tame him. When it comes to speaking the truth in clear and honest terms, I wish we had more rottweilers of the calibre of Dawkins and fewer lapdogs that never bark and never bite.

One thought on “Dawkins against Intelligent Design

  1. Hi, I also read this article. I find tht Dawkins often argues in a way, which is not the best. I mean that from a sophisticated philosophycal point of view the argument is not solid.But yes, we should we have more scientist like Dawkins.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s