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May the Fittest Theories Survive

Letter to the Editors

By Timothy Standish

To the editors:

When I was an undergraduate, I published many articles in my school’s paper. Some of them were idiotic. Thus, I feel a kinship with Jonathan H. Esensten ’04, who will no doubt look back on “Death to Intelligent Design” with head-wagging bemusement at the folly of his youth (Column, March 31).

No matter how cleverly presented, dumb ideas simply can’t be covered up by elegant prose. Arguing for denying an idea (Intelligent Design) a forum and then arguing that it is illegitimate because it has not been discussed in the forum of scientific publications is disingenuous at best.

Appealing to the authority of Stephen Jay Gould and Clinton Richard Dawkins is irrelevant in the marketplace of ideas. Gould and Dawkins advocate circling the wagons against a common enemy, not meeting it in battle. This may or may not be a clever political move, but it has nothing to do with the strength or weakness of an argument.

Censoring discussion in this way reveals weakness or insecurity that, in my opinion, is misplaced, especially on a university campus. Declaring an idea “senseless” before debate is, well, senseless.

Let the ideas out in the open, shine a light on them and let the competition begin. Debate on a foundation of data and logic and the most robust ideas will triumph. It is in a free marketplace of ideas that the best thinking prevails.

Timothy Standish

April 4, 2003

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