Jonas Salk on the ID-Evolution Debate


As the argument heats up between proponents of Intelligent Design and proponents of evolution, perhaps a word of advice from one of history's greatest scientists might be helpful to those of us struggling to follow the debate.

As developer of the polio vaccine, Dr. Jonas Salk is among the handful of men whose work saved literally millions of lives.  (And while he always appreciated the world's acclaim for his achievement, his failure ever to win a Nobel prize — which would have brought him the recognition from his scientific peers he craved —— infuriated him until the day he died.)  Jonas was a philosopher as well as a scientist, and he once told me he thought history would remember him more for his philosophy than for his science.  I thought that was crazy — until I read his books; if you can find any of them still in print, take a look and see what you think.

Back in the early 1990s, Jonas and I would meet for dinner about once a month.  His willingness to sit and chat with me, and to answer my questions about science, was among the greatest privileges of my life.  At dinner one evening at a restaurant in La Jolla he liked to frequent, I told Jonas that I'd been reading some books and articles about Intelligent Design, and asked if he'd been following the debate.  He nodded, so I plunged ahead and asked which side he was on.  I was startled by the vehemence of his response.  Jonas started to shake his head from side to side, slammed his knife and fork onto the table, and let fly:

'Why do I have to choose?  Why must it be one or the other?  Of course evolution is real.  DNA mutates, and that makes evolution one of the most powerful forces in nature.  But who set evolution into motion?  Can't God have done that?  I can't stand it when the ideologues take over on something like this.  Don't ever let yourself be caught in one of these 'either/or' debates, because when you finally figure it out — it's usually a bit of both.'

Good advice, from a great man.

Herb Meyer    8 25 05