The Edmond Sun

March 22, 2006

Doctor pushes for academic freedom on evolution

David James

EDMOND — With the introduction and now House passage of HB 2107 known as The Academic Freedom Act, there has been considerable concern expressed by two of the community editorial writers for The Edmond Sun as published on the Viewpoints page. In David McNeely’s article, published Feb. 15, he considered this bill to be designed to inflict harm to science education in Oklahoma. I assume this means that by allowing science teachers to include intelligent design into their curriculum this would somehow inhibit student thinking and ultimately inhibit fundamental research.

Evolution and natural selection has not provided an adequate explanation for many of the cellular and molecular processes that have been discovered. How is it possible that an intelligent design behind the process could stop further research? When one sees that a watch functions well but may not have perfect timing it does not keep anyone from further research to improve it just because it has a designer rather than occur by “natural causes.”

I have had the benefit of growing up in the science educational system of Oklahoma. While in medical school in the 1970s, I was taught that for many years some of the human tissues such as the appendix, tonsils and pineal body were considered merely vestiges leftover from evolution that had no current function and was no longer needed. It has been shown in the last 30 years that these organs have important functions at various times in life and should not be removed without clear indication.

It can be said that an evolutionary concept contributed to many unnecessary surgeries whereas if one has the concept that life is by design, there must be reasons for things we don’t understand and we should continue to study them until we have as much understanding as possible. To say that tissues are simply vestiges of evolution because we haven’t yet figure out their purpose, to me stifles an open, searching mind.

Also McNeely wrote of academic responsibility in the sense that to teach intelligent design would be irresponsible since he considers it to be a false theory. If I understood his article, he means it is false because it has no testable hypotheses. That is not entirely true as you can set up models either logical, mathematical or computer that take a given process such as human clotting functions and try to determine how those processes could have developed over eons of time and still provide a function that allowed a life to survive.

Obviously we can’t go back and watch how it was done whether it was by God or natural processes. Evolution is not testable nor has it been proven in any way and cannot be observed. So by McNeely’s definition it should be false as well.

I was taught that all living beings came to existence only through the process of evolution by natural selection. There was no consideration for any other possibility even when no one has been able to explain adequately the lack of transitional fossil records (of which there should be huge numbers), the astronomical odds for life to begin in some kind of primordial mix as well as multiple biological processes that require many steps to complete their function when there is no intermediate function. It is no wonder most scientists consider evolution the only adequate theory because that is all they were taught and all other ideas were ridiculed.

Mickey Hepner in his well-written article of March 5 states intelligent design is not scientific. He states, “Our science curriculum should be determined by the findings of science.” I agree and we should include all the findings not just what fits the currently accepted theory of the National Academy of Sciences.

When the current dogma cannot be challenged in a reasonable academic environment, that is when progress in knowledge becomes stifled and in danger of losing ground. My understanding of the role of science is to discover the truth.

Hepner states “in Biology, we see that life has evolved over time.” No, in fact we see that life forms of different species and phylum are similar in structure and function such as apes and man. We do not observe that they have evolved. Science has made that assumption based on limited data and no testing other than among the same species.

Intelligent design is not religion. The concept was formulated because of highly complicated scientific findings of the last 10-20 years. It may fit into some peoples view of religion but it is not a belief system. The time has come for HB 2107 to allow teachers to introduce concepts that can be consistent with current research.