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Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig (W.-E.L.)
(3 December 2003 and 7 March 2004):


Science at the Beginning of the 21st Century:
A Few Questions and Comments Concerning the Article Designer Scientific Literature by Ulrich Kutschera (U.K.),
Nature 423, p. 116 (8 May 2003)


Comments by biologists on the paper by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig and Heinz Saedler (2002):
(Annu. Rev. Genet. 36: 389-410):

Thank you very much for your fast reply and interesting article!
Sincerely yours,

H. W., Austria

I received a PDF file of your excellent article.
Thank you very much for your kindness.
Sincerely yours,

T. M., Japan

Thank you very much for your superb review.
Best wishes,

A. O., Russia

…the review itself IS as wonderful and thought-provoking
as it seemed from the abstract.

L. C., USA

…I've read your Annual Rev. Genetics paper
and found many interesting observations. I agree with your ideas in
most areas
and have been recently following your work.
[After a detailed discussion the author also agreed with me/us in almost all of the rest.]

R. v. S., USA

…magnífico artículo, exhaustivamente documentado y valientemente interpretado…

M. S. D., Spain


Moreover, the reader will find some remarks by Michael J. Behe on Ulrich Kutschera's non-scientific activities against the ID theory at the end of this article. Now let's turn to an analysis of Kutschera's text:

U.K.: Designer scientific literature

Sir - Your News report (1) "Axeing of website article sparks row at Max Planck", describing the removal of several hundred web pages discussing a concept called 'intelligent design' (ID), is welcome.

W.-E.L.: See, please, some suggestions for corrections of the article. In fact, not only several hundred but more than a thousand pages in print were blocked*. If, however, the censorship of a scientific webpage without any scientific arguments is welcome at the beginning of the 21st century – and this is exactly what has been practiced by Kutschera – then it should be understandable why several scientists have raised the question whether the synthetic theory hasn’t any valid arguments any more and thus is at the end of its tether.

“A human being using arguments should be met with arguments and not by silencing him” – wrote one Professor of Genetics to another on the blocking of my institute’s homepage.

U.K.: In Germany, efforts to undermine evolution education - mostly in the form of ID, which rejects the theory of natural selection - have evolved into a successful campaign,…

W.-E.L.: It is not to “undermine”, but to improve evolution education: “…if you really understand an argument you will be able to indicate to me not only the points in favour of the argument but also the most telling points against it” (see Kerkut). Couldn’t it be, however, that what is undermined by the most telling scientific points against the synthetic theory is its claim to absolute truth – the 'fact' of evolution exclusively by mutations and selection from microbes to man (concerning a documentation of that claim see Artbegriff Nachträge zu Mutation und Selektion)? Shouldn’t a successful campaign against a biased teaching by the synthetic theory, totally excluding any valid scientific arguments against its most doubtful assertions from the outset, be welcomed to any open mind in the scientific world?

ID does not reject the theory of natural selection.

U.K.: …including a standard textbook in its fifth edition, several journals and two professional video films in which proponents of ID such as the microbiologist Siegfried Scherer and the geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig give interviews in the laboratories of their government-sponsored departments.

W.-E.L: If it appears to be correct that adherents of the synthetic theory tell their audience that Biston betularia usually rests in exposed positions on tree trunks (Kutschera 2001, pp. 184-186), that pathogenic bacteria evolved multiple resistances against antibiotics in hospitals by mutations instead of horizontal gene transfer (Kutschera 2001, p. 227), that botanists accepted Darwin much earlier than zoologists etc. (Kutschera 2001, p. 26), - and all this in their government-sponsored departments (see the details on these false claims under Rezension Kutschera), - why then does it appear to be wrong to correct such scientifically egregious mistakes in the labs of government-sponsored departments? Why should homepages and films exposing such mistakes be slandered and/or forbidden? One may ask, how is it possible that in the face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in our scientific age we see the enactment of the despotic rules of the Middle Ages at the beginning of the 21st century right in the heart of science itself instead of valid scientific counter arguments? So what is really happening here? Is this science or rather ideology?

U.K.: The ID strategy is not to identify the 'designer' as God in the Bible or for adherents to call themselves creationists; they have coined the term 'theists' to describe themselves (see ref. 2 for a discussion).

W.-E.L.: There is a clear difference between creationism and ID (see again Rezension Kutschera and Synthetische Evolutionstheorie vs. Intelligent Design).

U.K.: Last year, ID-creationism took a step towards scientific respectability when Lönnig and Heinz Saedler published an review (3) entitled "Chromosome rearrangements and transposable elements".

W.-E.L.: Considering the facts given in the link above, - isn’t the term “ID-creationism” nothing but a swearword to discredit the intelligent-design-movement from the very outset and to block an investigation of its merits and to prevent any scientific discussion of its achievements?

I agree, however, that ID “took a step towards scientific respectability when Lönnig and Heinz Saedler published a review (3) entitled "Chromosome rearrangements and transposable elements"”. But isn’t the substitution of science for the neo-Darwinian claim to absolute truth of the origin of species exclusively by mutations and selection (the so-called “fact of evolution”) an important step for the advancement of science itself?

U.K.: In this article they summarize arguments against Darwin's concept of gradual evolution with reference to the prominent German anti-Darwinists Otto Heinrich Schindewolf (1896-1971) and Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958).

W.-E.L.: Our main reference is to Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock (see the key words) and a discussion of her ideas about gene regulation by transposons and her anti-Darwinian views on the origin of species. Couldn’t it be, however, that an anti-Darwinian Nobel laureate does not fit into the world view of a neo-Darwinian biologist with his claim to absolute truth as mentioned above? So why is the main person, the respectable anti-Darwinian Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock, not mentioned by Kutschera, but only Schindewolf and Goldschmidt, who have already been reviled for decades by the Darwinian community (concerning Goldschmidt, see Antwort)? Doesn’t Kutschera try to block access to possibly valid scientific arguments by playing with the prejudices he can expect to be deeply indoctrinated by and into the adherents of the Darwinian community?

U.K.: Lönnig and Saedler discuss the possibility of "a partly predetermined generation of biodiversity and new species", which they characterize as a "nonselection-driven and autonomous" process.

W.-E.L.: This is correct and it is, in fact, anti-Darwinian. But in contrast to many adherents of the modern synthesis, - would an honest scientist stop thinking at this point? Or rather wouldn’t scientists continue asking and test the question, ‘what are the merits, the scientific arguments, the facts which can be advanced for this view ?’ However, such questions are not raised by Kutschera. "A partly predetermined generation of biodiversity and new species", which we characterize as a "nonselection-driven and autonomous" process is anti-Darwinian and    t h e r e f o r e    it must be false. Is that really a convincing scientific attitute at the beginning of the 21st century or rather just a strong materialistic prejudice blocking scientific progress?

William A. Dembski has made the following appropriate comment (2003, p. 6) on what he calls “evolutionary logic” (Miller Response):

Evolutionary logic takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum. The absurdity is intelligent design or more generally any substantive teleology. For [materialistic] evolutionary biologists, to treat design or teleology as fundamental modes of explanation capable of accounting for the emergence of biological structures is totally unacceptable. Any valid argument that concludes design in such cases must therefore derive from faulty premises. Thus, in particular, any claim that entails, makes probable, or otherwise implicates design in the emergence of biological structures must be rejected. But evolutionary logic does not stop here. Not only must any claim that supports design be rejected, but any claim that rules out design thereby demands assent and commands belief. Hence evolution’s logic of credulity – belief in an evolutionary claim is enjoined simply because it acts as a defeater to design and [often] not because any actual evidence supports it.

Is such an evolutionary method really scientific or rather the expression of a totalitarian materialistic world view?

U.K.: Popular books by ID proponents Michael Behe and William Dembski are cited as credible sources. (For critical reviews of these books, see refs 4 and 5.)

W.-E.L.: Why does Kutschera not object to the pro-Darwinian “popular books” we also cited as “credible sources”, e.g. Darwin’s Origin of Species as well as the evolutionary “popular books” by Comfort, Conway Morris, Dover, Eldredge, Gould and others? In fact, all these books advance and discuss scientific arguments whose range of applicability is open for further critical analysis. Concerning responses to the critical reviews mentioned by Kutschera, see Michael J. Behe (2000): Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design as well as William A. Dembski (2002): Addicted to Caricatures: A Response to Brian Charlesworth.

U.K.: Lönnig and Saedler refer to a "wide range of opinions" and cite evolutionists such as Michael J. Benton, Stephen Jay Gould and John Maynard Smith as well as ID-creationists such as Behe and Dembski, and Lönnig's now-removed web pages.

W.-E.L.: We should, perhaps, also have mentioned the deviating evolutionary opinions of Jeffrey H. Schwartz (1999): SUDDEN ORIGINS. John Wiley and Sons. New York (420 pp.) or of Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (2002 and 2003): ACQUIRING GENOMES: A THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. Basic Books. New York (256 pp.) or that of a real creationist like Duane T. Gish (creation some 10,000 years ago in six literal 24-hour days). - But can there be really any question that there is, in fact, a “wide range of opinions” among evolutionary biologists and between them and ID scientists as well as between both and creationists?

Does it appear to be far-fetched that a person who campaigns against a scientific web-page without any scientific arguments would - if he were able to do so - also remove the chapter CHROMOSOME REARRANGEMENTS AND TRANSPOSABLE ELEMENTS from volume 36 of the Annu. Rev. Genet. (2002)? And if so, could this be an indication of the same state of mind predominant in the Church of the Middle Ages or any other totalitarian institution or regime (history offers many examples) burning books instead of discussing and refuting them?

U.K.: On the basis of these references and polemical comments, the authors state that we should welcome all ideas and hypotheses on the origin of life, "wherever they may lead".

W.-E.L.: Would the keen eyes of the editors and referees of the Annual Reviews of Genetics really have allowed polemical comments in their volumes? What does Kutschera mean by “polemical comments”?

We wrote: “Extrapolating from the wide range of current opinions (3-5, 14, 29, 30, 33, 38, 40, 55, 56, 64, 71, 75-85, 89-93, 101, 109, 121, 122, 126-130, 132-138), we might safely predict that if similar meetings [referring to the Darwinian semicentennial and centennial 1909 and 1959] are held in 2009, the climate of opinion will be much closer to that of the 1909 semicentennial than to that of the 1959 centennial, and transposable elements will have played a special part in discussions on the origin of systematic species, from small to large chromosome rearrangements in muntjac deer to many different plant chromosome lines.”

The fact is that transposons have already played a special part in discussions on the origin of systematic species. However, if facts and an extrapolation from facts are dismissed as “polemical comments” – then any science would consist mainly of polemics. Yet considering Dembski’s comment quoted above - isn’t it clear that for biologists in such a totalitarian state of mind anything that could weaken and detract from their claim to absolute truth as mentioned above is nothing but polemics?

When one reads the full sentence from which Kutschera has taken the point on the ideas and hypotheses “wherever they may lead” - isn’t the rest of Kutschera’s sentence a par-excellence-example of a quotation out of context when one considers the following connections (Lönnig & Saedler, 2002, p. 403): ”However, in the face of the numerous scientific problems still unresolved in the context of the origin of species and higher systematic categories, we would probably be well advised to continue to welcome the plethora of different and diverging ideas and hypotheses on the origin of life in all its forms as well as to remain open-minded on real results of investigations, wherever they may lead” (italics added)?

Is that advice not also relevant for ID as well as any other hypothesis on the origin of species? So what could be wrong with it? Couldn’t the actual reason for Kutschera's objection to that advice be that he - in principle already "knowing the truth" on the origin of species - has stark problems with remaining open-minded on real results of investigations, wherever they may lead?

U.K.: In a German video film called Is The Bible Right? There is No Evidence for the Theory of Evolution, Lönnig argues that an intelligent force, endowed with consciousness and spirit, has been at work in the creation of all complex forms of life. This viewpoint is now implicitly proposed as a hypothesis in the scientific literature.(3)

W.-E.L.: The correct title of the English version of the video film is: Is the Bible Right After all? (And the subtitle:) The theory of evolution lacks evidence. Shouldn’t one expect an exact quotation of the film produced by Fritz Poppenberg in a Nature article?

As for me, it is accurate to say that “This viewpoint [of ID] is now implicitly proposed as a hypothesis in the scientific literature”. However, it is not correct to apply the same point to Heinz Saedler who has repeatedly stated that “he doesn't believe in intelligent design himself”. Why does Kutschera not discriminate between these different basic viewpoints when discussing our paper? (If I had written the paper alone, I would have preferred to explicitly propose ID as a hypothesis.**)

U.K.: Four years ago, this journal published two excellent editorials (6, 7) entitled "The difference between science and dogma" and "Combating the exploiters of creationism". I think that the time is ripe to continue this series.

W.-E.L.: Can honest scientists who have carefully studied the ID movement and their scientific arguments really be convinced that the two editorials referred to by Kutschera were “excellent” or rather that they were strongly biased in favour of a materialistic worldview?

Since there is not even one scientific argument in Kutschera’s text critizising our scientific paper – the question may be raised why Nature has published Kutschera’s scientific-argument-free comments.

Does Kutschera's comments in Nature as documented above really belong to the peak of scientific analyses at the beginning of the 21st century?


References of Kutschera’s article (the new ones of my comments are included in the text):

1. Abbott, A. Nature 422, 460 (2003).

2. Palevitz, B. A. Evolution 56, 1718-1720 (2002).

3. Lönnig, W. E. & Saedler, H. Annu. Rev. Gen. 36, 389-410 (2002).

4. Coyne, J. A. Nature 383, 227-228 (1996).

5. Charlesworth, B. Nature 418, 129 (2002).

6. Nature 400, 697 (1999).

7. Nature 402, 843 (1999).


Some Comments by Michael J. Behe
(Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, USA. Tue, 13 May 2003)


I wanted to write to express my support for you. I read the recent article in Nature concerning your website and the letter by U. Kutschera in the current issue. In my experience over the past years I have found that some people simply will not tolerate the idea that nature might not be the explanation for itself. They can be very emotional and aggressive. Nonetheless, the progress of science is showing more clearly that random processes and natural selection are inadequate to account for life. So we should take heart that the data are on our side and, I think, that the scientific community must eventually recognize that.

[And on Thu, 4 Dec 2003, Michael Behe added:]

I'm delighted to hear that you are giving public lectures on ID. The response you report is very similar to what I have experienced in the United States. People are very interested in the topic, and discussion will last as long as there is time for. Darwinists typically scream and fume, so much so that one gets the feeling that something more than science is on their minds! I think that Darwinism gets almost all of its power from being orthodoxy, the view that all "respectable" scientists accept, rather than from its ability to actually explain life. If Darwinism actually had to produce results to justify its acceptance, it would be in big trouble. Therefore the more we point out its shortcomings in public, and pressure Darwinists to produce results, the more people will realize its shortcomings.

I enjoyed reading your response to Professor Kutschera. We have a few like him over in the USA as well. Please let me know if I can ever be of any assistance to you.



For further details on ID, see the

Contributions by Michael J. Behe

and the

Writings of William A. Dembski.


*In the interim the ban has been partly reversed (for the details, see Zeitanalyse).

**Our common denominator consisted in bringing out the scientific facts and open questions concerning TEs and the origin of species and higher systematic categories. Yet, for a devout adherent of the synthetic theory, the choice of too many scientific problems questioning her/his theory appears to be already suspect of ID (there is a tendency among many neo-Darwinians to ignore such problems focusing on what seems to be the evidence for the theory, or to mention problems only if at least some solution according to the theory appears to be at hand). Nevertheless, progress in science is only possible when the basic problems of a theory are clearly stated and discussed (in fact, only persons being in a deeply antiscientific state of mind are trying to sweep the most important problems of a scientific theory under the carpet). However, the ideologically neutral scientific facts and problems themselves may be viewed and interpreted differently in different world views: can TEs, 'normal' mutations and selection finally explain "everything" in biology, i.e. including the origin of irreducibly complex structures and the origin of all species and higher systematic categories? The answer that these points pose open problems for further scientific research (for "an exact evalution of the possibilities and limits of TE-mediated contributions to the origin of species" etc., p. 403) seems to be unsatisfactory for many biologists, for they tend to answer such questions already in the affirmative - not on the basis of positive scientific knowledge, but due to their unshakable hope and faith in the all-embracing naturalistic method ('there will be absolutely no problem that could not be solved by it') and materialistic world view. Yet, there is already an enormous amount of scientific evidence that the synthetic theory will not be the last word in biology! - In connection with the topics of irreducible complexity, the origin of higher systematic categories, and the Cambrian explosion (pp. 402/403), ID could have been briefly mentioned as an alternative hypothesis to the ones discussed so far. Of course, it is an open question whether the reviewers and editors of the Annu. Rev. Genet. would have allowed it to appear in print.

Dembski describes the presently widely held bias against ID as follows: "In the current intellectual climate it is impossible to get a paper published in the peer-reviewed biological literature if that paper explicitly affirms intelligent design or explicitly denies Darwinism and other forms of naturalistic evolution. Doubting Darwinian orthodoxy is comparable to opposing the party line in a Stalinist regime. What would you do if you were in Stalin's Russia and wanted to argue that Trofim Lysenko was wrong? You might point to paradoxes and tensions in Lysenko's theory of genetics, but you could not say that Lysenko was fundamentally wrong or offer an alternative that clearly contradicted Lysenko. That's the situation we're in. To get published in the peer-reviewed literature, design theorists have to tread cautiously and can't be too up front about were their work is leading" (THE DESIGN REVOLUTION, 2004, pp. 304/305) - Nevertheless, the editors of Annu. Rev. Genet. have to be commended for their tolerance to permit our explicit anti-Darwinian arguments to appear in print without any exception.


Internet address of this document: internetlibrary.html
© 2003 and 2004 by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig - loennig@mpiz-koeln.mpg.de