10 October, 2002

In response to a letter to the Ohio Board of Education, I got a rather extensive reply from Board member, Deborah Owens-Fink. Below is the full exchange:

1. My letter

Dear Board of Education member:

This past weekend I participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation's Walk for a Cure. As I walked around the course with family and
friends, it became very clear to me why Ohio needs quality science
standards. The conquest of juvenile diabetes, and dozens of other
devastating diseases, will depend on the best medical research following an
evolutionary model, whether it relates to understanding the origin of the
endocrine system and its functions; how stem cells can be manipulated to
repair organs like the pancreas; or which animal species are the best
candidates for testing different treatments.

A pseudo-science concept like "intelligent design will never cut it. ID
provides no explanation for how genetic diseases occur, or why viruses
affect specific cell functions - evolution does. ID provides no framework
from which to explore new research avenues - evolution does. ID provides no
basis for developing effective testing protocols - evolution does.

The reason why intelligent design fails is very simple. ID is simply an
"argument from ignorance" [if I can't understand it, it must be due to a
'intelligent designer']. This is really no different than the medieval
conviction that diseases were caused by evil spirits (intelligent
designers), and that cures could be effected through charms, potions, and
ritual incantations.

Surely Ohio's children in the 21st Century deserve better than having their
science classes infiltrated by empty ideas straight out of the Dark Ages.
Say NO to Intelligent Design, and NO to any compromise!

Sincerely,

Thomas A. Baillieul, M.Sc., PMP
196 Amazon Place
Columbus, Ohio 43214

2. Response from Owens-Fink

From: "Owens,Deborah L" <deb@uakron.edu>
>To: "Thomas Baillieul" <tbaillieul@hotmail.com>
>Subject: RE: Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2002 10:08:26 -0400
>
>My father has diabetes so I agree with you that yes indeed Science
>Standards are very important. My husband is a medical researcher- and
>teaches medical students, and residents, and has a degree in micro-biology,
>and is an MD. I myself have a degree in engineering, and teach research
>methods at the graduate level; I say this only to let you know that we both
>use the scientific method in our work.
>
>ID is not any of the things you suggest. I do not know where you have
>obtained your information, but if you have read the material of the likes
>of Behe and Dembski it is clearly "science" not a God of the Gaps as you
>attempt to portray it.
>
>
>Investigating ID would be appropriate for any science class, if done
>looking only at the scientific evidence.
>
>So while I appreciate your concern, I do not agree with your position. I do
>appreciate your taking the time to write, and express your opinion.
>
> Most Respectfully,
>Deborah


3. And, of course, I had to respond...

Dear Dr. Owens-Fink:

Actually, I reached my conclusions after reading Behe and Dembski, and
Wells, and Meyer and closely examining their arguments. Also, I have read
critiques of their works by experts in various fields. The proponents of ID
have failed to gain acceptance for their ideas within the biological
sciences community, not because scientists are resistant to new ideas (new
and even radical ideas are being raised and considered all the time), but
because ID is an empty concept. I note that neither the folks at the ID
Network nor our friends at the Discovery Institute have been able or willing
to respond to Marlene Jennings' challenge to bring forth specific and unique
evidence of intelligent design or a consensus view of how intelligent design
works which could be turned into a curriculum standard. This is not
surprising given that none of the leading proponents of ID are in agreement
regarding: what constitues design; when design has occurred over the history
of the Earth and in which life forms; whether design only affects the
molecular level, or can be detected in whole organisms; how it can be
detected repeatedly by independent researchers (an objective test); how ID
has led to the wide diversity and geographic distribution of lifeforms
around the planet and through time; and why there are so many examples of
"poor" design in the natural world.

One simple and dramatic test of ID as a scientific concept would be to have
Michael Behe propose a research program on the causative mechanisms of
diabetes (either Type 1 or Type 2)using intelligent design as the
theoretical framework. This proposal could then be submitted to the National
Institutes of Health or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for
review. If it passes muster, it would be the confirmation that you are
seeking that ID has scientific merit. You should be able to get such a
suggestion passed directly to Behe through John Calvert.

Sincerely,

Tom Baillieul

4. And a final 'non-reply' from Owens-Fink

From: "Owens,Deborah L" < deb@uakron.edu>
>To: "Thomas Baillieul" <tbaillieul@hotmail.com>
>Subject: RE: Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2002 15:24:33 -0400
>
>Thomas- thanks for your reply- I am pleased to know that you have read
>their work- but do not of course agree with your assessment or your
>inferences- so probably best to agree that we disagree- and let that be-
>I appreciate your position, while not agreeing with your conclusions.
>Most Respectfully, Deborah


Of course, by the methods of Behe and Dembski, diabetes meets the tests for specified complexity. Can diabetes presently be explained by 'chance' or by any particular "natural law" -- of course not! Diabetes is caused when the pancreas ceases to produce sufficient insulin to aid in the metabolism of sugars; but the reasons for the disorder are unknown. It could be due to genetic predisposition, a latent viral infection or a combination of factors. If neither chance nor natural mechanisms are the answer, we are told to "infer design". Once we have this answer, the problem is simple -- we should stop looking for further causes and simply accept that a "designer did it" through an unknowable mechanism. With this as the conclusion, we should stop all medical research, as well as all attempts at finding a cure!

This is exactly where the Intelligent Design concept leads. It is the aspect of stopping the search for cures that makes ID such a dangerous idea. Jonathan Wells, Discovery Institute Fellow and author of Icons of Evolution has explicitly advocated cutting off of funding for research in areas of biology by following this very argument.