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Response to: Robert Hemmenway's "The Evolution of a Controversy in Kansas Shows Why Scientists Must Defend the Search for Truth"

by Ross Olson

For the article to which this is a response, click HERE.

                                             November 5, 1999

Chronicle of Higher Education

To the Editor,

There is widespread misunderstanding concerning what the Kansas Board of Education decision really means. The reaction of the academic establishment implies that it potentially signals the end of civilization as we know it. Why is there such a strong reaction? Are they right, or could there perhaps be any other possibilities? All that has happened is that certain aspects of evolution are dropped from standardized tests, not forbidden in the classroom.

The paper by University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway (10/29/99) asserts that modern science has given us space travel and computers, so assumes that if scientists are alarmed about this decision, we must agree that it is dangerous. Yet evolutionary biology, although it is touted as the unifying principle of science, and theoretical physics, regardless of the elaborate mathematical representations of the "Big Bang," have given us no practical results. Experimental science, engineering and technology have produced drug treatments for cancer and the World Wide Web.

The negative reaction to the decision is rooted in its implication that evolution should not be merely accepted as final truth, but needs to be evaluated objectively, allowing positive and negative evidence equal access to the arena of public and pedagogic discourse. Is this what alarms Chancellor Hemenway? I sincerely hope not!

In fact, the willingness of otherwise intelligent and educated people to jump on a bandwagon calling for censorship of genuine scientific evidence is an alarming indicator of the success of the censorship that this decision attacks. Basically, people educated under the present system do not know that there is credible evidence against evolution or they think that its entry into the debate is somehow improper.

It is not at all different from education under a totalitarian regime, where certain ideas are excluded, if not by censorship, then by ridicule or even persecution. It becomes very easy to simply slip into the herd and move along without a second thought. I was trained in Medicine to simply accept evolution as the logical conclusion of all intelligent people and did not explore the idea in detail until years after graduation. I then found the case to be unbelievably different from what I had been told.

First of all, there is powerful evidence against the basic idea of evolution that complexity increases spontaneously. It can be shown mathematically that not even the simplest protein molecule could have organized itself by chance using all the time and matter in the universe -- it is not even close! To imagine that chance could produce a "simple" living cell is folly. Don't even try to think about the incredibly complexity of the human brain.

When the impossibility of life occurring by chance has been established, there is only one other possibility, which is that it was not by chance. And since there are no real processes that produce order from chaos without the input of intelligence, which means that it was designed. Now THERE is the rub, because that leads where many do not want to go -- to God.

Some critics respond that the supernatural is out of bounds and cannot be considered as the answer to a scientific problem. Others say that it violates the Constitution of the United States. All this proves is that philosophy and history have been taught every bit as poorly as science to the majority of people who consider themselves educated.

Would a critic, for the sake of argument, let me imagine that there really IS evidence for supernatural design and that life really IS the result of an act of creation. If that were so, using the rules of no supernatural answers, a student could endorse all sorts of wrong answers, but would not be allowed to postulate the CORRECT answer! Well, is this just a theoretical concern since there is no such evidence? Wait a moment! How do you know that? And if you are sure you are correct, why be afraid of open dialogue?

Even the citing of Edwards v. Aguillard ought to raise red flags of concern among objective thinkers who may not know anything about the scientific details of the issue. After all, what the court said was that even if there were evidence against evolution, it could not be taught in public schools because it might make the students consider believing in God, which would establish religion, which is unconstitutional. For those who still do not see the problem, consider for a moment the far out possibility that there really IS evidence for a God. We would make it illegal to acknowledge Him! Those who have actually studied the unadulterated history of this nation will realize that knowledge of this turn of events would have reduced the founders to astonishment and dismay.

I personally find it incredible that freedom of expression is protected to the point of allowing children access to pornographic websites, but objective evidence that we are not here by accident is ruled out of bounds without a hearing. Millions of dollars are spent listening for some little sign of intelligent alteration of electromagnetic signals in deep space, yet the incredible evidence of design in life -- each human cell contains eight gigabytes of information in a nucleus less than a hundredth of a millimeter in diameter -- is dismissed as a product of chance.

OK, I will say it. Those who protest the loudest against any attack on evolution do it for less than honorable motives. They are not searching for truth. Rather they are trying to protect their hope of a universe in which there is no authority over them and where they can decide and do as they please.

If you are an honest intellectual or even just a decent person, do not honor their deception with thoughtless assent. Instead let all the ideas into the marketplace and let the better ones win.


Ross S. Olson MD

[This letter was not published]

For the article to which this is a response, click HERE.

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