“We Canadians,” writes the Toronto Globe and Mail’s most highly profiled columnist, Margaret Wente, like to think ourselves as “more sophisticated than Americans.” Well, she says, we are.

She notes that three American states have agreed to teach both “intelligent design” and Darwinian evolutionism as alternate theories in their public schools. Other states are considering it. “We Canadians” would never do that, she writes. We know that “intelligent design has been overwhelming rejected by the entire scientific establishment.”

That’s why “we laugh at those incredulous [sic] Americans.” A recent poll showed that 55 percent of them say that children should be taught intelligent design as well as evolution.

The equivalent Canadian percentage Margaret did not give, because Margaret does not know. But she does know what the people at the fashionable cocktail parties in downtown Toronto say. She knows what her fellow journalists think. Especially, she knows what Steve Edwards of the rival National Post thinks, because her column appeared six days after his, and says almost exactly the same thing, namely:

That the intelligent design theory was developed by the “Religious Right.” One is given the impression of a circle of televangelists sitting around a table, perhaps with Pope Benedict looking on, as they dream up a pseudo-scientific theory to be foisted on the “incredulous” American public.

Well, I know a few things about “intelligent design” that Margaret does not know and apparently did not bother to find out. For one, it did not start with the “Religious Right.” It seems to have started at UC Berkeley, where a law prof named Phillip E. Johnson was puzzled by the absence of any real evidence behind Darwin’s 150-year-old theory of evolution.

Johnson does not question that the Earth is zillions of years old, and he does not regard the Book of Genesis as a scientific treatise. But neither could he believe that everything came about by sheer chance, as Darwin claimed. To Johnson, Dawinism seemed to require a leap of faith far more demanding than the alternative theory that there had to be some kind of Mind at work behind everything.

So he decided to put Darwin’s theory on trial, as it were – to assemble all the evidence that the scientific community has gathered over 150 years to support the theory, and to see whether or not that evidence would convince a jury.

He discovered an astonishing array of fabrication and outright fraud – pictures depicting evolutionary development that have appeared for years in high school textbooks with no evidence behind them; renowned experiments with fish flies and moths that do not prove what they are supposed to prove; sudden appearances and enormous gaps in the fossil record that do not suggest gradual transition but rather instant change. From all this, he concluded that the Darwinian case is in no sense proven.

He called his book “Darwin On Trial” and spent years trying to get it published. All the big houses wouldn’t touch it. They’d lose all their scientific textbook business if they did. When one house finally took it on, it became an overnight best seller.

Meanwhile, at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, a biochemist named Michael J. Behe came up with another book, “Darwin’s Black Box.” Darwin wrote, says Behe, that “if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

Well it has, he concluded. The fundamental building block of nature is the single cell. In Darwin’s day “the simple cell” was “a black box,” something that could not be opened. Now, says Behe, it has been opened and it is about as “simple” as a Boeing jet. To suggest it came about by mere happenstance is preposterous.

Finally, a mathematician and philosopher at Baylor University named William A. Dembski, who did his post-doctoral work at MIT and Princeton, propounded what he called “intelligent design.” Essentially, it challenges the philosophy called “scientism,” which imposes the dogma that any scientific theory that relies on a factor beyond the natural cannot be regarded as scientific. This means, of course, that no matter how compelling the evidence, science can never discover God. If it did, it wouldn’t be science.

Today, Harvard is spending $50 million to assemble evidence in favor of Darwin’s theory. But they’re not, as Margaret and Steve Edwards report, worried about the “Religious Right.” They’re worried about the likes of Johnson, Behe and Dembski, because their numbers are growing.

Religious people, especially those “incredulous” Americans, naturally embrace the intelligent-design theory because it argues for the existence of God, just as irreligious Victorians and Edwardians a century ago – and Margaret’s crowd today – embrace Darwinism because it argues against God’s existence.

Establishments fight fiercely for their cherished beliefs. Ask Copernicus. Ask Galileo. Ask Johnson, Behe and Dembski.

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