The Secular Taliban

Think anti-religious bias isn’t a problem in tolerant, 21st century America? Consider these recent comments from elite members of the secular Taliban:

· “They believe that they answer to a higher power, in my opinion,” said Joe Cook, Louisiana director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on efforts by Christians to have more prayer in schools and school board meetings. “Which is the kind of thinking that you had with the people who flew the airplanes into the buildings in this country, and the people who did the kind of things in London.”

· When asked whether one can be a good scientist and a believer in God, world-renowned chemist Herbert Hauptman said at a conference reported on by The New York Times that not only do science and theism not go together, but that “this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race.”

But taking the cake in this regard are scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Last year, Richard Sternberg, managing editor of the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, accepted a paper defending the theory of Intelligent Design (“The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” by Stephen Meyer, Ph.D., of Cambridge University).

ID holds that Darwin’s theory of natural selection cannot explain the complexity of life—as seen at the cellular level or in marvelous structures such as the human eye—and that creation bears the marks of a Creator.

Classical evolution, at least as accepted by many scientists and secular philosophers, holds that life—indeed, all of nature—is the result of unguided and random combinations of matter, energy, and physical law. (Some Christians, of course, believe that evolution is the process God used to create and maintain life.)

Evolution, at least as understood by the secular Taliban, is a materialistic philosophy that specifically excludes God. As the late Carl Sagan famously said, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”

By agreeing to publish a different viewpoint, Sternberg quickly found out he had transgressed secular orthodoxy, and an inquisition ensued. According to the Washington Post:

“Within hours of publication, senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution—which has helped fund and run the journal—lashed out at Sternberg as a shoddy scientist and a closet Bible thumper.

“`They were saying I accepted money under the table, that I was a crypto-priest, that I was a sleeper cell operative for the creationists,’ said Steinberg, 42, who is a Smithsonian research associate. `I was basically run out of there.’”

Of course, Sternberg is nothing of the sort. A self-described evolutionary biologist, he is nevertheless open to considering the evidence presented by proponents for ID—which, after all, is what the scientific method is supposed to be all about.

“I am not convinced by Intelligent Design, but they have brought a lot of difficult questions to the fore,” Sternberg said. “Science only moves forward on controversy.”

Apparently, scientists at the taxpayer-funded Smithsonian believe that some controversies are more equal than others. Facing an intellectual hazing there, Sternberg asked the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency, to investigate. An August 5 letter to Sternberg from OSC attorney James McVay stated:

“Our preliminary investigation indicates that retaliation [against Sternberg by his co-workers] came in many forms. It came in the form of attempts to change your working conditions. . . . During the process you were personally investigated and your professional competence was attacked. Misinformation was disseminated throughout the SI [Smithsonian Institution] and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false. It is also clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.”

When looked at with an open mind (The New Republic’s recent cover story, “The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name,” a case not in point), ID is a compelling theory to many people. Antony Flew, a well-known atheist, recently told Christianity Today that such evidence has made him a theist.

Earlier this month, when pressed by reporters over whether children in the public schools should have an opportunity to learn about ID, President Bush responded, “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is Yes.”

However, it’s an open secret that scientists who have staked their careers on atheistic evolution are doing everything they can to exclude different ideas about it from the scientific discourse. One of their most effective criticisms—that ID proponents are not publishing in peer-reviewed journals—is self-fulfilling.

At Iowa State University, more than 120 professors recently signed a statement trashing ID and calling on other professors not to treat is as science. Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy there who has publicly supported ID as a scientific theory, last week told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the statement is “an attempt to silence talk of ID by definitional fiat.”

As long as institutions such as the Smithsonian and Iowa State act like a secular Taliban, this intellectual censorship will continue—and so will the anti-religious bias.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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