Hawks op/ed in Wisconsin State Journal

Thanks to all those who wrote after yesterday's opinion column ran. I really want to thank the WSJ editorial staff, and opinion editor Scott Milfred in particular, for giving it such a quick treatment and prominent placement --- right at the top-center of the Sunday Forum opinion page. I certainly couldn't have asked for any better, and I'm grateful for it.

I don't know how long those archives will stay available, so I'm posting the column in full below:

Science Picks Sides In Evolution Debate
Sunday, August 7, 2005
John Hawks
Last week, President Bush said this about presenting "intelligent design" alongside evolution in science classrooms: "That decision ought to be made by local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught."
National organizations of scientists immediately condemned his view. The American Geophysical Union released a statement saying Bush's position "puts America's schoolchildren at risk."
Most Americans do not share this outrage. According to a 2004 CBS News poll, 65 percent of Americans favor teaching both creationism and evolution in schools, including 56 percent of Kerry voters. To most people, teaching both sides of a controversial issue seems like the fair solution. As Bush said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."
I learned evolution as a boy in Kansas in public school. Now, its state school board proposes teaching intelligent design - the idea that a natural system incapable of explanation by evolutionary theory must prove the existence of God. I taught college-level human evolution both in Kansas and in Utah before I came to Wisconsin. A 2000 report placed Wisconsin in the bottom 18 states for its public school treatment of evolution. I've had my work cut out for me.
What I've learned is that scientists do a poor job communicating to people about fairness in science. In America, people expect to hear both sides - even when there are more than two.
Science is different: Every new idea has a chance to stand or fall based on whether it accords with nature. As a scientist my job is to attack both new and established ideas. That is how science proceeds, and nature is the impartial judge that keeps science fair. Well-accepted scientific theories do not teeter on one leg; they are supported by a long record of explaining nature well.
Evolutionary theory predicts nature incredibly well: Breeders use it to improve the production of dairy cattle, doctors use it to understand and arrest the spread of diseases, naturalists use it to protect fragile ecosystems, and medical researchers use it to develop new cures.
And I use it to understand human origins. This last aspect has been controversial, but it is incontrovertible. Our genetic similarities to other primates highlight our common ancestry. I study evolutionary changes in the brain: The same equations that predict changes in animal breeding also describe the gradual expansion of our ancestors' brains - to three times their original size. This history is part of our humanity.
Many faiths accept the evidence that evolution explains life's diversity and history. Many also believe that God started the process at the origin of the universe, and that He may have helped guide evolution to life's present form.
Science does not contradict the idea that the evolution on Earth may have been divinely inspired. Many scientists themselves believe it. Indeed, science has nothing whatsoever to say about God, His intentions, or His past actions - these are matters of faith, not of scientific proof. There is no conflict between science and faith: Each addresses its own proper sphere.
But other deeply sincere people believe that evolution robs life of meaning. Some seek evidence that evolution is wrong. The strongest possible evidence would be to find a natural system that could not possibly have arisen by evolutionary change - a "smoking gun" with the fingerprints of the Creator. Intelligent design, or ID for short, is this idea.
No such natural system explaining the existence of God has ever been found, but ID proponents keep their ideas alive by seizing any unexplained fact as evidence that evolution is about to crumble. This is not science. Scientists cannot yet predict when and where earthquakes will happen. The logic of ID would call this proof of divine tectonics.
ID explains nothing in nature. Compared to the long and successful record of evolutionary theory, ID is a fruitless quest. ID has led to no substantial discoveries, no body of knowledge, no understanding of nature. It presents no future for students who learn it, no prospect of training, no chance of understanding the mysteries that still remain.
ID proponents hope to cheat into schools what they cannot win fairly in science. They hope to persuade fair-minded people that their children should hear "both sides."
The truth is, only one side is science. The other is the vain hope that God left the lid off the cookie jar, just enough to prove He was there. Tomorrow's engineers, architects, doctors, and scientists deserve better. ID should stay out of school.