Michele Bachmann has taken criticism for saying that some Nobel Prize winners doubt atheistic evolution. She has better support than some people think.
What exactly did Michele Bachmann say?
At the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans yesterday, Michele Bachmann said that she “supported” intelligent design. She did not say that all schools throughout the country should teach intelligent design, or creation science (not the same thing), or anything else by order of the federal government.
What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.
Michele Bachmann poses before an American flag. Photo: United States House of Representatives
The Congresswoman supports block grants to the States, grants that the States could spend as they see fit, with “minimal” federal direction.
That does not sit well with CNN or Gambit. Both organs misconstrued her remarks, though Gambit at least embedded an audio file. To be fair, the Daily Mail (London) got it wrong, too. Also, Michele Bachmann gave that as her answer to a question by Gambit of how many Nobel laureates support creation. The candidate did not shed any light on that issue.
What does the Nobel Prize have to do with this?
In 2006, Michele Bachmann said this about evolution (emphasis added):
There is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact… hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design.
A high-school student named Zachary Koppelin took exception to that remark. He began a campaign, which he is still running, to have the Louisiana legislature repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. That Act allows teachers, at their discretion, to introduce “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” that might not teach that evolution is a fact. Koppelin made a list of 57 Nobel laureates who say that evolution is a fact, and challenged Michele Bachmann in 2006 to name some of the Nobel laureates who doubt evolution. Gambit repeated that question at the RLC yesterday.
Obviously Michele Bachmann did not expect that question. But several Nobel laureates have cast doubt on evolution after all.
Who, for example?
Albert Einstein. Photo: Cesar Blanco. CC BY 2.0 Generic License
A free e-book titled Fifty Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believe in God names, as the title implies, fifty. (This title is available in English and Russian.) The list begins with Albert Einstein. He famously said:
Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.
Einstein could not be an atheist and say that. (In fact, he was Jewish.) In fact he spoke scathingly of
the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium for the people’ – cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.
That’s a direct dig at Karl Marx.
Sir John Eccles, who won the Nobel Prize for figuring out how nerve cells connect, said flatly that people are more than tissue, and more than nerves. A person must have a non-material mind, and Someone must have created that mind. He also said a few choice words about
a regrettable tendency of many scientists to claim that science is so powerful and all pervasive that in the not too distant future it will provide an explanation in principle for all phenomena in the world of nature, including man, even of human consciousness in all its manifestations. In our recent book (The Self and Its Brain, Popper and Eccles, 1977) Popper has labelled this claim as promissory materialism, which is extravagant and unfulfillable.
Yet on account of the high regard for science, it has great persuasive power with the intelligent laity because it is advocated unthinkingly by the great mass of scientists who have not critically evaluated the dangers of this false and arrogant claim.
And atheistic scientists still make that claim. They also call it “methodological naturalism.” They make a rule never to accept a non-material explanation, even when the statistics demand it. By convention, if events do not fall out as one expects, and the odds against what one observes are longer than nineteen to one, something else is happening that explains why events did not fall out that way. Those who work with statistics for a living talk about the null hypothesis, which says: “Nothing else is going on, other than what you would expect.” Evolution is the classic null hypothesis. And it has failed again and again. Eccles knew this, and he was not the only one.
Even without these examples, people like Koppelin use faulty logic when they ask Michele Bachmann to “match” their list of Nobel laureates who believe in evolution—or as Eccles puts it, “promissory materialism.” They appeal to the authority of the Nobel Prize Committee and to the numbers of Novel laureates on their side. But they might not want to admit that the Nobel Committee has abused its authority.
Raymond Damadian invented Magnetic Resonance Imaging. For that he won the National Medal of Technology and a place in the Inventors’ Hall of Fame. Two other scientists built on Damadian’s work to make MRI practical. And they won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine, while Damadian did not share in that honor. Even the secular media knew why: Damadian is a creation advocate, and a passionate one. This was so embarrassing that Damadian’s opponents tried to deny it.
Origins science has always had this problem. Evolution dominates it, and evolution advocates make sure that no creation advocate will ever receive any prizes, lest the prize-givers lend credence to creation science. But what about Sir John Eccles? Well, they missed him—because he kept quiet about his creation advocacy until he had his Prize and no one could take it away from him.
So Michele Bachmann was right to say that scientists do not agree that evolution is a fact. She was right to say that at least some Nobel laureates believe that life did not come about by chance, and something or Someone had to design it. And by the way: her critics are wrong to talk about “intelligent design creationism.” Intelligent design says only that life had a design. Creation science goes further: that the evidence favors the Biblical account.
And if Koppelin really wants an answer, he can look it up on the Internet, as your editor did. He might have to page past the first page in the Google rankings, but a little extra effort will reap great reward.
Featured image: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). Photo: US House of Representatives.