John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

Fair Story or Cheap Shot? NYT to Look at Discovery’s Dissent from Darwin Statement on Tuesday

Published at Evolution News

We’ve learned that Tuesday’s New York Times will carry an article by science writer Ken Chang about Discovery Institute’s Dissent from Darwin statement, which this week is being updated with more than 500 doctoral scientists who doubt the Darwinian claim that natural selection and random mutation can account for the complexity of life. The statement was first released in 2001 to rebut the contention that all scientists embrace Darwinian evolution. In fact, there are quite a number of Darwin skeptics among scientists, including many who aren’t religious and many who don’t support intelligent design.

The big question is whether Mr. Chang’s article will be a fair-minded examination of the scientific views of these scientists or a cheap shot focusing on irrelevant side issues such as religion.

Although I hope for a fair and accurate article, I’m not placing any bets. As I told Chang on Friday, we’ve heard from some of the scientists he interviewed, and they expressed concern that he seemed more interested in their religious beliefs than their scientific views. After Chang admitted he had asked signers of our statement about their religious views, I insisted he quote me objecting to this one-sided examination of religion. I told him it was stunning hypocrisy for the New York Times to investigate the religious views of scientific critics of Darwinism while ignoring the anti-religious views of leading defenders of Darwinism. I pointed out that Scientific American had published a survey during the late 1990s indicating that 94.4% of biologists in the National Academy of Sciences identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. But to my knowledge the New York Times has never bothered to ask these supporters of Darwinism about their religious views. That’s because the Times rightly recognizes that the religious views of Darwinists are irrelevant to a discussion of their scientific views. But the same ought to be true for the scientific critics of Darwin. Chang said he would try to quote my “stunning hypocrisy” response in his article. I will be interested to see whether the editors of the “newspaper of record” allow it, or if they censor my response. I will also be interested to see how much of Chang’s article focuses on religon rather than science.

During our conversation, Chang asked me how I would respond to Darwinists who say the scientists who have signed the Dissent from Darwin statement aren’t qualified to speak about evolution because many of them aren’t biologists. As it happens, many of them are biologists. I think Chang was surprised to learn that biologists are now the single largest group of signers of our Dissent Statement (154 of the 514 signers).

Of course, the list also includes many scientists specializing in chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics/statistics, and related disciplines. But since Darwinists continually assert that their theory has implications for many other scientific fields, why shouldn’t scientists from these other fields have the right to speak out? Moreover, it’s remarkably cheeky for Darwinists to claim that only biologists have the right to express views about evolution when many of Darwinism’s leading public defenders in America aren’t biologists. For example, Lawrence Krauss of Ohio (who the New York Times deems qualified to defend evolution on its op-ed page) is a physicist, not a biologist. And Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education, has a degree in anthropology, not biology. If Chang raises this bogus argument in his article, I hope he also quotes my response.

I made several other points in my interview with Chang, and we will see whether they are quoted or suppressed. I emphasized how the Dissent from Darwin statement was attracting increasingly prominent signers from the scientific community, including a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. I further informed Chang that the signing rate actually increased after the Dover decision last year. I told Chang that the willingness of scientists to publicly express their scientific doubts about Darwinism was a huge act of courage given the vitriolic campaign waged by Darwinists to smear and persecute any scientist who breaks ranks with them. (By the way, if you are a doctoral scientist who wants to add your name to the growing Dissent from Darwin statement, e-mail us at

Chang published a story last year in the Times examining the science behind intelligent design. Although somehwat skewed toward the Darwinist side of the argument, the article was more fair and thorough than many stories about ID in the major media. The article was particularly notable for allowing some of the pro-ID scientists to articulate their views in their own words. Of course, for trying to be fair, Mr. Chang was thrashed by the Darwinian Fundamentalists. I hope Chang’s new piece about the Dissent from Darwin statement will be at least as fair as his earlier article, rather than an effort to win kudos from the Darwinian Fundamentalists.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
Discovery Institute