In part 1 of my review of the year's top 10 evolution & intelligent design news stories I shall cover #10 down to #6. On New Year's Day I shall cover story #5 down to story #1. The story rankings come from the leading news portal for stories of this kind, which is Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views. If you follow that link and locate the last 10 days of 2012, then you will find a fuller treatment of each story. I shall offer my own comment here, but not reproduce all the additional weblinks provided at ENV.
#10, Emory University Commencement Address by Darwin-Doubting Neurosurgeon Ben Carson: The Irony of Tolerance and Intolerance
Prior to commencement, over 500 faculty members, students and staff protested this planned address because of Dr. Ben Carson's disbelief in Darwinism. Carson, one of the best neurosurgeons in the world, had no intention of speaking about evolution. So why the fuss? Why attempt to cancel what turned out to be a very inspiring speech? Answer: political correctness enforced by Darwinists who will not tolerate diversity of scientific opinion on biological origins.
The four Emory University biology faculty who played the role of Darwinian thought police had the opportunity to hear Dr. Ben Carson talk, which included a brief glance at the kind of tolerance we should all strive to exhibit (this would not have been in the speech had the Darwinists not run their intolerance campaign):
I know there was some controversy about my views on creation and somebody thought that I said that evolutionists are not ethical people. Of course I would never say such a thing and would never believe such a thing nor would anybody with any common sense. So that's pretty ridiculous…. Many people came to this nation and they were trying to escape from societies that tried to tell them what they could say and what they could think and here we come reintroducing it through the back door…. The emphasis should be on learning how to be respectful of individuals who have a different opinion.
Ben Carson was recommending the traditional notion of tolerance, which would allow for Commencement speakers who hold minority viewpoints about controversial science topics like Darwinian evolution. D.A. Carson (no relation to Ben) has recently analyzed how intolerance is being reintroducing through the back door of the house of politically correct “tolerance” in his book The Intolerance of Tolerance (Eerdmans, 2012). This book by D.A. Carson, writes Marvin Olasky in a review:
... illuminates the subtle but massive change in the definition of "tolerance" adopted by many leaders in academia and media. "Tolerance" once meant recognizing the rights of others to have different views. Now it stipulates that no one can say some views are right and others are wrong.
The new "tolerance" dominates ethical matters, but usually it is not applied to the natural sciences. For example, the Emory biologists claim that their evolutionary viewpoints are right and Carson's doubts about Darwin are wrong.
The Carson-Emory controversy is full of irony regarding tolerance and truth claims. The Emory biologists tried to label Ben Carson "ethically intolerant." Carson never claimed that all evolutionists are unusually unethical people, but he did correctly note that if Darwinian evolution were true it would undermine any good reason for belief in objective morality. Ben Carson understands that most people usually live their lives as if objective moral values exist even if their stated theory of origins (such as Darwinism) undermines any good reason for such objective ethical truths.
Dear Emory biologists, please model for your students the only kind of tolerance worthy of a free society and higher education: Exhibit the virtue of holding convictions (Darwinian or otherwise), while not coercing others to agree with your convictions. Welcome community giants like Dr. Ben Carson on your campus while respectfully disagreeing (if you are so convicted) with his views about biological origins. Don’t attribute silly ethical views to Ben Carson that he doesn’t actually hold in an attempt to manipulate your own students into accepting Darwinian orthodoxy. In short, be honest and nice. Irony!
#9, David Coppedge Takes the Stand
Regardless of the outcome of this case of intolerance toward an employee who doubt's Darwin, a modest victory for freedom of thought is in the making. How so? The publicity surounding the lawsuit has revealed the nest of uninformed bias at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. A tentative and unfavorable ruling was issued in October 2012, but we are still waiting to hear whether David Coppedge will get his job back at NASA's JPL.
David Coppedge was a computer "team lead" Systems Administrator for the Cassini mission to Saturn. Did they fire him for lending out DVDs favorable to intelligent design? The evidence that has surfaced in 2012 suggests so. Or was it really Coppedge's subpar job performance, which allegedly predated (though completely undocumented) the controversy of him sharing a few DVDs with acquintances made at JPL?
#8, Discovery Institute Press Publications Stir Fires: Human Origins
Discovery Institute Press published two remarkable books this year: John West's The Magicians's Twin and Science and Human Origins, by Doug Axe, Ann Gauger and Casey Luskin. Story #8 is about the latter.
I adopted Science and Human Origins as one of the textbooks for a biology course I teach at The College at Southwestern. My students benefitted greatly from it. This book, which is also suitable for popular consumption, responds to the inaccurate claims made in standard biology textbooks and it helps correct the errors about human origins often repeated at the leading theistic evolution website www.biologos.org.
Science and Human Origins is a book about science yet its importance lies no less in anthropology. Not anthropology the social-science field, but the ageless enigma of what a man is. Are you a clever animal, or something incomparably other? In his Introduction, John West cites G.K. Chesterton who wrote that, "Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution." That frames the subject concisely.
#7, Peer-Reviewed Science Raises Doubts about Darwin
Richard Dawkins wrote in The Blind Watchmaker:
It is true that there are quite a number of ways of making a living -- flying, swimming, swinging through the trees, and so on. But, however many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive. You may throw cells together at random, over and over again for a billion years, and not once will you get a conglomeration that flies or swims or burrows or runs, or does anything, even badly, that could remotely be construed as working to keep itself alive. (1987, p. 9)
Of course Dawkins does not embrace intelligent design, nor do the authors of this paper that came to the notice of ID theorists in 2012: "The Levinthal paradox of the interactome," Protein Science 20 (2011):2074-79. This paper echoes Dawkins' insight, and explains why it present a huge problem for naturalistic accounts of the origin of life. (In the moive Expelled Dawkins says that "nobody knows" how life originated). The Levinthal paper explains why the possibility space of "being alive" (ways to be put together so as to be alive) is so much vastly smaller than the possibilityspace of being "not alive." Peter Tompa of Vrije Universiteit in Brussels and George Rose of Johns Hopkins University have written a paper of profound significance, as philosopher of biology Dr. Paul Nelson explains at ENV:
...consider the origin of an entire cell. All cells possess what has been called an "interactome," namely, "a complex network" comprising "a host of cellular constituents" -- proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, metal ion cofactors, and so on. If the Levinthal paradox (old version) arises from the difficulty of searching the space of possible configurations for a single protein, the new version of the paradox, formulated by Tompa and Rose, asks the same question for the possible arrangements of the cell's interactome, an enormously larger collection of objects with a correspondingly greater search space. As Tompa and Rose express the problem,
Unlike protein folding, self-assembly of the interactome has not yet prompted such widespread attention, and for understandable reasons. It is a problem of bewildering complexity...Where does one begin? Our goal here is to show that assembly of the interactome in biological real-time is analogous to folding in that the functional state is selected from a staggering number of useless or potentially deleterious alternatives.
[O]ur calculations of combinatorial complexity [show] that the emergent interactome could not have self-organized spontaneously from its isolated protein components. Rather, it attains its functional state by templating the interactome of a mother cell and maintains that state by a continuous expenditure of energy. In the absence of a prior framework of existing interactions, it is far more likely that combined cellular constituents would end up in a non-functional, aggregated state, one incompatible with life...The spontaneous origination of a de novo cell has yet to be observed; all extant cells are generated by the division of pre-existing cells that provide the necessary template for perpetuation of the interactome.
As far as science can detect, life comes only from pre-existing life. Regardless of the age and size of the universe (or even multiverses), life could not have arisen from non-life without the operation of intelligent design (ID). This is the most reasonable conclusion given all that we know from cosmology and the science of life. Paul Nelson gives even more detail as to why this paper by two non-ID scientists has tremendous ID implications. That leads us to story #6.
#6, Peer-Reviewed Science Supports Intelligent Design
While intelligent design is a new area of scientific endeavor, recent years have been a period of encouraging growth, producing many excellent peer-reviewed scientific publications. In February 2012, to celebrate Darwin Day, ENV published an updated list of specifically pro-ID peer-reviwed scientific papers, 50 by the end of 2011. In the meantime, ENV has been documenting a growing list of new research results that support the conclusions of intelligent design. This is not quote mining and distortion. Go see for yourself.
Top Story #10 to Story #6: What We Learn
ID theory is on the rise, and today's version of Darwinism is in a state of crisis. One symptom of a failed paradigm is when (in story #10 and #9) Darwinists have resorted to uncivil and dishonest means of shutting down coversation about whether ID or Darwinism offers a better account of the origin of life and major kinds of life.
Go to Evolution News and Views and locate the last 10 days of 2012 to read more about the top 10 stories of 2012. Also look for my CP post on New Years Day that will report on story #5 to story #1.