NTS LogoSkeptical News for 12 February 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Evolution Debate again rises in Kansas science classes


State Board of Education revising science standards

By Roger McKinney
Globe Staff Writer

David Murphy said he wishes his children would never hear a word about evolution in school.

Murphy, the father of a seventh-grader and a 12th-grader in the Galena (Kan.) School District, said it doesn't matter to him that the scientific community supports evolution.

"It's just hogwash, more or less," Murphy said about evolution. "The Bible proves day in and day out that evolution and every other theory is wrong."

But Arthur Commons, a biology teacher at Baxter Springs (Kan.) High School, said he thinks it is necessary for students to learn about evolution.

"We do cover the theory of evolution," Commons said. "No. 1, it's on the state test. Whether a student believes in it or not, it's good for a student to be aware of what other beliefs are."

Eighty years after biology teacher John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in Tennessee, the debate over how educators should teach evolution has been resurrected again in Kansas.

A committee of 26 educators appointed by the State Board of Education is conducting public hearings around the state as part of the procedure of revising the state's standards for science education. The issue of evolution dominated the discussion at the first meeting last week in Kansas City, said Kathy Toelkes, spokeswoman for the Kansas State Department of Education.

Conservative members of the State Board of Education have questioned committee members about whether they are giving enough consideration to creationism or an idea called intelligent design, which explains the creation and development of life on Earth as the result of a series of events caused by some intelligent force.

Conservatives on the State Board of Education voted in 1999 to remove references to evolution from state education standards, drawing widespread criticism from the scientific community. The state board restored evolution to the teaching standards in 2001 after moderates were elected to the board.

The current alignment on the board is characterized as six conservatives and four moderates.

'People's opinion'

Stan Carter, biology teacher at Galena High School, said he spends one day in class covering evolution. He said he spends the next day telling students about what he says is evidence contradicting evolution.

"There is no way getting around evolution being taught in the classroom," he said. "Our books are saturated with it."

Carter said evolution should be taught as the theory that it is.

"It's still just a theory," he said. "It's people's opinion."

Carter said he does not advocate equal time for creationism, but he thinks it is necessary to point out weaknesses in terms of evolution. Those include what he says are graveyards of animals that supposedly existed during different time periods.

Carter said that when he introduces evolution on the first day, some students get angry. But he thinks that can be a good thing.

"If you don't challenge them sometimes, they don't think," he said.

Regarding the debate at the state level, Carter said he doesn't see why it's necessary for the state to dictate what students should learn about evolution. He said evolution is in the textbooks if students are interested in studying it on their own time.

Carter said he thinks a disclaimer sticker in textbooks stating that evolution is theory and not proven fact would be an ideal solution. A federal judge in Georgia ruled last month that such stickers are unconstitutional. Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline this week proposed putting the stickers in Kansas textbooks as a compromise between moderates and conservatives on the state school board.

'Student-led, student-driven'

Cora Chivers, 16, a sophomore at Baxter Springs High School, said she is taking a biology class this semester, but the debate over evolution and creationism has not come up yet.

"Right now we're studying genetics, and DNA of plants and animals," Chivers said. "I'm undecided about whether the schools should teach either evolution or creationism because there is such a debate and such strong opinions on both sides. I really don't think the schools should teach either theory. They should leave it up to the parents to decide what they want their children to learn."

Cricket Duree, 17, a senior at Baxter Springs High School, said her biology teachers made it clear when they were teaching evolution that it was the opinion of Charles Darwin and some people in the scientific community.

"The teachers would say 'according to Darwin' or 'Darwin said this,'" Duree said. "Some even said they believe in creation, but evolution says this. I think it's OK to teach evolution, but we should learn about creation as well. If they teach both theories, students can make their own assessments about what they believe."

Her mother, Linda Duree, of Baxter Springs, said she doesn't believe the debate should be as polarizing as it is.

"Evolution means change, and we know there is change in the Bible and change in nature," she said. "I don't think creationism should replace evolution. I think the teachers should be open to teaching both the biblical principles and the scientific principles of evolution."

Commons, the Baxter Springs teacher, said the school curriculum does not address creationism or intelligent design.

"People have very passionate views," he said. "It never fails that the students will bring up creation. Most of the time, the conversation is student-led and student-driven."

Commons said he follows the textbook in the class.

"I use the textbook quite a bit," he said. "I will point out some fallacies in the textbooks to let them know the book itself is biased. It's part of my job as a teacher when those things have been refuted to point them out."

Commons said the debate at the state level on evolution and science standards is necessary.

"I think it's good for them to step back and ask: 'Are we testing on what the students need to know?'" he said. He said what students need to learn in 2005 might change by 2020. "Is what we're testing the student on applicable to what they need to know? I think it's healthy to keep on trying to improve the tests."

On the defensive

Some university professors in Pittsburg and Lawrence say the resumption of the debate over evolution gives the state a bad name.

"It's not peculiar to Kansas," said Adrian Melott, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas. "There's something like this going on in 19 different states. Kansas has acquired notoriety by accident."

Melott said though evolution is not his specialty, he became involved in the debate when the state board removed evolution from education standards in 1999.

"This is not a scientific issue, it's a political issue," he said. "There isn't a scientific issue about the validity of evolution. The only issue is whether schoolchildren will learn real science or not."

Melott said intelligent design is simply creationism repackaged under a new name.

"This is just the latest in the evolution of creationism," he said.

Melott said teachers often skip over evolution in Kansas schools because of pressure from parents.

"One of the problems we have is high-school teachers don't get paid very well," he said. "It's hard to get people with degrees in science to teach in high school."

Nancy Brooker, associate professor of genetics at Pittsburg State University, teaches a course on evolution in the fall semester.

Brooker, too, said high-school and middle-school teachers probably are put on the defensive when they discuss evolution in the classroom.

She said the review at the state level is embarrassing to the state.

"It does create a lot of negative public viewing of our state school board," she said. "A lot of committed scientists would like to see the debate go away."

Brooker said she knows some people have genuine religious beliefs about creation, but that there is no need for a conflict.

"We both are not so far away from one another in our search for the truth," she said. "They're just different truths: Why we are here versus how we got here."

She said she does discuss creationism in her evolution class. She said she asks students whose creation idea should be taught, since each culture has its own creation story.

Believing not required

Larry Downing, Pittsburg Middle School science teacher, is on the committee appointed by the state board to revise the state science standards. Downing said he missed the first public hearing in Kansas City, which he said was attended by about 500 people. A second hearing was conducted Thursday in Derby.

Downing said he teaches what is in the school district curriculum developed by local teachers. He said it includes information about evolution, but not about creationism or intelligent design.

Downing said the proposed new state standards would require pupils to understand the theory of evolution and its key concepts. A footnote included in the standards states that understanding does not require the student to believe the concepts.

He said some of his students don't accept evolution because of their religious beliefs.

"That happens," Downing said. "We don't ask them to change their religious beliefs about anything. We teach them the best science that's out there. They understand that."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

© 2005 The Joplin Globe.

The Rise Of The Indian Rope Trick: How a Spectacular Hoax Became History


Peter Lamont
2005, Thunder's Mouth Press; 265p.
conjuring:history, fraud

In the famous Indian rope trick, a conjurer standing in an open field throws one end of a rope into the air, where defying gravity, it stays, and a boy comes to climb up the rope, reaches the top, and disappears. Lamont, a magician and an academic researcher on the performance of magic, has written a hugely entertaining book about this most legendary and exotic of magic tricks. The amazing truth is that there never was any Indian rope trick, and it has almost nothing to do with India. It was the invention of an American journalist. Later, the community of magicians, and those fascinated by their effects, became split between those who were convinced that the rope trick was a real illusion and those who thought it an illusory illusion. Throughout this book is documented the human eagerness to believe; skeptics may assure the public with factual assertions about how the trick never existed, but as Lamont writes, the people who keep Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster going are the same types that will keep the Indian rope trick in existence, even though it never had an existence to begin with. With his book, full of arcane facts and documentation presented by a humorous and entertaining guide, Lamont knows that he is only going to strengthen the legend. In fact, in a jaunty epilogue, he tells us he has, indeed, seen the trick himself, and any reader will agree, he tells a good story.

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@earthlink.net ]

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

God and Evolution




Published: February 12, 2005

An "analysis" of Democrats and Republicans from the Ladies' Home Journal in 1962 concluded: "Republicans sleep in twin beds - some even in separate rooms. That is why there are more Democrats."

That biological analysis turns out - surprise! - to have been superficial. Instead, modern science is turning up a possible reason why the religious right is flourishing and secular liberals aren't: instinct. It turns out that our DNA may predispose humans toward religious faith.

Granted, that's not very encouraging news for the secular left. Imagine if many of us are hard-wired to be religious. Imagine if, as a cosmic joke, humans have gradually evolved to leave many of us doubting evolution.

The notion of a genetic inclination toward religion is not new. Edward Wilson, the founder of the field of sociobiology, argued in the 1970's that a predisposition to religion may have had evolutionary advantages.

In recent years evidence has mounted that there may be something to this, and the evidence is explored in "The God Gene," a fascinating book published recently by Dean Hamer, a prominent American geneticist. Dr. Hamer even identifies a particular gene, VMAT2, that he says may be involved. People with one variant of that gene tend to be more spiritual, he found, and those with another variant to be less so.

There's still plenty of reason to be skeptical because Dr. Hamer's work hasn't been replicated, and much of his analysis is speculative. Moreover, any genetic predisposition isn't for becoming an evangelical, but for an openness to spirituality at a much broader level. In Alabama, it may express itself in Pentecostalism; in California, in astrology or pyramids.

Still, it's striking how faith is almost irrepressible. While I was living in China in the early 1990's, after religion had been suppressed for decades, drivers suddenly began dangling pictures of Chairman Mao from their rear-view mirrors. The word had spread that Mao's spirit could protect them from car crashes or even bring them sons and wealth. It was a miracle: ordinary Chinese had transformed the great atheist into a god.

One bit of evidence supporting a genetic basis for spirituality is that twins separated at birth tend to have similar levels of spirituality, despite their different upbringings. And identical twins, who have the same DNA, are about twice as likely to share similar levels of spirituality as fraternal twins.

It's not surprising that nature would favor genes that promote an inclination to faith. Many recent studies suggest that religious people may live longer than the less religious. A study of nearly 4,000 people in North Carolina, for example, found that frequent churchgoers had a 46 percent lower risk of dying in a six-year period than those who attended less often. Another study involving nearly 126,000 participants suggested that a 20-year-old churchgoer might live seven years longer than a similar person who does not attend religious services.

Partly that's because the religious seem to adopt healthier lifestyles - they are less likely to smoke, for example. And faith may give people strength to overcome illness - after all, if faith in placebo sugar pills works, why not faith in God?

Another possibility involves brain chemistry. Genes that promote spirituality may do so in part by stimulating chemical messengers in the brain like dopamine, which can make people optimistic and sociable - and perhaps more likely to have children. (Dopamine is very complex, but it appears linked to both spirituality and promiscuity, possibly explaining some church scandals.)

Evolutionary biologists have also suggested that an inclination to spirituality may have made ancient humans more willing to follow witch doctors or other leaders who claimed divine support. The result would have been more cohesive bands of cave men, better able to survive - and to kill off rival cave men.

Of course, none of that answers the question of whether God exists. The faithful can believe that God wired us to appreciate divinity. And atheists can argue that God may simply be a figment of our VMAT2 gene.

But what the research does suggest is that postindustrial society will not easily leave religion behind. Faith may be quiescent in many circles these days, or directed toward meditation or yoga, but it is not something that humans can easily cast off.

A propensity to faith in some form appears to be embedded within us as a profound part of human existence, as inextricable and perhaps inexplicable as the way we love and laugh.

E-mail: nicholas@nytimes.com

Friday, February 11, 2005


[From our "better late than never" department.]

Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Dr. Don R. Patton Present:

Stones Of Israel

Last fall, Principals in the Department of Antiquities of Israel invited several associated with the Creation Evidence Museum to travel to Israel to view archeological evidence supporting confidence in the Bible account, as well as to participate in significant related digs. They appreciate the battle we are fighting in Geology. They are fighting a similar vicious battle in Archeology.

Dr. Patton will introduce you to this war, show you the evidence and describe the exciting victories that are being won.

Bunky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, February 1st, 7:30 PM

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News

Number 719 February 10, 2005 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

MEMORY AND CRITICAL AVALANCHES IN THE BRAIN. Physicists at Indiana University are extending their study of the relation between observed patterns of neuron activity and memory storage in the brain. First came experimental work with slices of rat brain. Later the researchers performed simulations to try to emulate the data. Activity in the actual samples displayed two fascinating features: (1) the ensemble of neurons firing varies in size very much like "avalanche" phenomena such as occur in sandpiles and forest fires; and (2) there are stable activity patterns that resemble memory sequences measured in lab studies of rats in a maze. Every time a rat runs a particular route the same sequence of neural firings occur. At night the same sequence might be replayed as a rat "dream." If the rat's dream is interrupted, his ability to run the same route the next day might be compromised. This has added evidence to the notion that sleeping and dreaming help to consolidate memories from the previous day's activities. Stable activity patterns also appear in artificial neural networks as a way of storing information.

The Indiana physicists take a fundamental look at those patterns. They used a 60-electrode array to look at firings in a thin slice of rat brain tissue. The cells in the slice, supplied with oxygen and nutrients, go on behaving as if they were part of a living brain. The general ensemble firing of cells is classified as subcritical (one cell firing leads, on the average, to less one additional cell firing), critical (one firing leads to another firing), or supercritical (a firing leads to two or more cells firing). In this regard, neural cells triggering each other are somewhat like chain reactions among uranium-235 atoms in a nuclear reactor. The subcritical case is uninteresting. The supercritical situation often leads to the case in which all the cells in the sample end up firing, which is also uninteresting. The critical case has the most to offer: neural ensembles of all sizes ensue. If you plot (with logarithmic rulings) the number of firing events versus the size of the firing ensemble, you get a straight line, indicative of classic "power law spectrum" behavior. In other words, the likelihood of an event (earthquake, sand avalanche, hurricane) of size E drops off according to E raised to a negative exponent.

Now, in the simulation work, the notion that the most interesting outcomes occur when the brain system is maintained right at criticality is reinforced. The simulations, which do roughly match the observed behavior, are surprising and even counterintuitive. This is because precisely amid conditions which favor the greatest number of avalanches the largest number of stable neural activity patterns also occurs. One of the researchers, John M. Beggs, says that the work is meant to explore how avalanches in brain cells might be used to store information. (Haldeman and Beggs, Physical Review Letters, 11 February 2005,jmbeggs@indiana.edu , 812-855-7359; lab website, http://biocomplexity.indiana.edu/research/info/beggs.php )

LIQUID CARBON CHEMISTRY. The chemistry of carbon atoms, with their gregarious ability to bond to four other atoms, is a major determinant of life on Earth. But what happens when carbon is heated up to its melting temperature of 5000 K at pressures greater than 100 bars? Although liquid carbon may exist inside the planets Neptune and Uranus, the main interest in studying liquid carbon here on Earth might be in the indirect information provided about bonding in ordinary solid carbon or in hypothetical novel forms of solid carbon A new experiment creates liquid carbon by blasting a solid sheet of C with an intense laser beam. Before the liquid can vaporize, its structure is quickly probed by an x-ray beam. At low carbon density, two bonds seem to be the preferential way of hooking up, while at higher density, three and four bonds are typical. This is not to say that complex organic molecules (carbon bonded to other atoms such as hydrogen or oxygen) could survive at 5000 K, but carbon bonds are tougher and can persist. The experiment was performed by physicists from UC Berkeley, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Kansas State, and Lawrence Livermore National Lab. A team member, Steve Johnson (steve.johnson@mailaps.org), says that one next step will be to study carbon, as well as other materials, at even higher temperatures in order to look at "warm dense matter," a realm of matter too hot to be considered by conventional solid-state theory but too dense to be considered by conventional plasma theory. (Johnson et al., Physical Review Letters,11 February 2005 lab website at http://www.physics.berkeley.edu/research/falcone/ )

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

2004 Was Fourth-Warmest Year Ever Recorded



Published: February 10, 2005

Last year was the fourth warmest since systematic temperature measurements began around the world in the 19th century, NASA scientists said yesterday.

Particularly high temperatures were measured over Alaska, the Caspian Sea region of Europe and the Antarctic Peninsula, while the United States was unusually cool. But the global average continued a 30-year rise that is "due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said Dr. James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in Manhattan.

The main source of such gases is smokestack and tailpipe emissions from burning coal and oil.

The highest global average was measured in 1998, when temperatures were raised by a strong cycle of El Niño in the Pacific Ocean; 2002 and 2003 were second and third warmest.

Dr. Hansen said a weak Niño pattern was likely to make 2005 at least the second warmest year and could push it beyond 1998 and set a record.

The unusual nature of the recent warming was corroborated separately yesterday by a new analysis of 2,000 years of indirect temperature records in tree rings, stalagmites, seabed layers, and other evidence from around the Northern Hemisphere.

That study, published in the journal Nature, found that previous peaks of warming, particularly during medieval times about 1,000 years ago, were as warm as the 20th-century average but that no spikes in the last 2,000 years matched the warming since 1990.

It is one of several recent studies challenging a longstanding view that temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were relatively unvarying until the recent warming, a pattern enshrined in a graph scientists have taken to calling the hockey stick for its long horizontal "shaft" and upward-hooking "blade."

The lead author of the new paper, Anders Moberg of Stockholm University in Sweden, said it was important to recognize that natural influences on climate could either amplify or mask human-caused warming in years to come.

But his paper "should not be a fuel for greenhouse skeptics in their arguments," Mr. Moberg said, adding that there were ample signs that the warming was now outside nature's recent bounds.

Survey: Science, politics at odds


Posted 2/9/2005 8:40 PM

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Politics trumps science when it comes to the government's role in protecting endangered species and the environment, federal scientists said in a new survey.

Of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service scientists who replied to the survey, 71% said the agency cannot be trusted to save endangered species.

The 42-question survey released Wednesday was taken by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Both groups have been harshly critical of the Bush administration's stance on science.

"The survey reveals an alarming disregard for scientific facts among political appointees at the Fish & Wildlife Service," says Lexi Shultz of the scientists group. The scientists surveyed are responsible for studying endangered species, fisheries and wildlife conservation.

Recent agency decisions to remove federal hunting protection for wolves, to not place the sage grouse on an endangered species list and to maintain logging roads in grizzly bear territory have drawn fire from conservationists.

The survey comes a year after a highly publicized study by the scientists organization criticized the administration's science decisions in areas that include air pollution, public health and national defense.

Of the 1,410 agency scientists who received the survey, 414 replied. Among the responses:

• 44% reported they have been ordered for "non-scientific" reasons to refrain from recommending protections for endangered species.

• 56% said businesses used political influence to have science findings reversed or withdrawn.

In written responses, scientists complained that agency chiefs are overly friendly with ranchers who are hostile to science and whose cattle graze on public lands.

Interior Department spokesman Hugh Vickery "flatly disagrees" with the assertion that politics overrule science at the agency. "The Endangered Species Act is being administered by statute and appropriately," he says.

The survey has become a First Amendment issue for critics of the agency who say free speech was stifled. A memo from agency headquarters Feb. 2 told employees not to answer the survey during working hours. But agency spokesman Mitch Snow acknowledges that Great Lakes and Southeastern regional offices went beyond this directive to forbid employees from answering the survey at all, even from home.

"This is a clear violation of their First Amendment rights as private citizens," says Beth Daley of the Project On Government Oversight, a government watchdog.

The 30% response rate adds a note of uncertainty to the survey results, says Al Teich of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But the sentiments are consistent with past complaints by scientists, he says.

Tiny jawbone is a prehistoric ear-splitting wonder


By Deborah Smith, Science Editor
February 12, 2005

Some parts of the body are so complex - such as the tiny ear bones responsible for our acute hearing - that scientists have assumed they could only have evolved once.

But the discovery in Australia of a fossil from a prehistoric egg-laying mammal shows that in the case of the delicate middle ear, nature achieved the same complicated feat twice.

The 115 million-year-old jawbone from the small monotreme (a creature related to the platypus) was found near coastal Inverloch, 120 kilometres south-east of Melbourne.

The leader of the research team, Tom Rich, a curator at Museum Victoria, said the discovery by the team was exciting. "These jaws may be the the oldest evidence of monotremes on Earth."

Mammals are unique among animals in having a set of three bones in the middle ear - the hammer, anvil and stapes.

All three types of modern mammals - egg-laying monotremes, pouched marsupials and placental mammals - have this feature, which enables them to hear very soft sounds.

Fossil studies have shown that earlier in mammalian evolution two of these bones were attached to the jaw. Their shifting to form a complex bone structure providing acute hearing was thought to have happened only once, in a common ancestor of all three groups of mammals.

The fossil find by Dr Rich's team overturns this simple view.

This means the same inner-ear structure for acute hearing must have evolved later in monotremes and independently in a common ancestor of marsupials and placentals.

"It happened at least twice," said Dr Rich. The team's results were published yesterday in the journal Science.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Board members differ on placing stickers in science textbooks


Posted on Thu, Feb. 10, 2005


Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - At least one State Board of Education member favors putting stickers in science textbooks saying evolution is a theory and not fact, but other conservative board members aren't sure about the idea.

Board member Iris Van Meter said she likes the idea, which Attorney General Phill Kline suggested publicly after private meetings with the six conservative Republicans, including Van Meter, who form a majority on the 10-member board.

"I think children ought to be taught that it is theory alone," Van Meter said of evolution.

The board's plans to consider changes in state science education standards later this year rekindled the debate over how evolution is taught. Current standards describe it as a key concept for students to learn, but critics hope to expose students to more criticism of it. In the past, some have argued for teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution.

Kline - who continued Thursday to face criticism over his meetings with board members - said adding stickers to textbooks would be a reasonable compromise. A federal judge in Georgia ruled against such a policy last month, but Kline has offered to defend the idea in court.

Board member Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican and one of the conservatives, said local school boards should decide whether to put stickers in textbooks. Board Chairman Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican, said: "That has not been my first priority."

Kline, a Republican, met Tuesday with the six conservatives in two separate meetings of three board members each. Kline said he had two meetings to avoid violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

However, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, and Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, questioned whether the meetings were legal and said Kline needs to explain himself, especially because he outlined proposals last month to promote openness in government.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius didn't address that controversy Thursday, but said she doesn't support changing how evolution is taught.

"We want to have the best-educated work force in the country," she said. "The last thing we need to do is tamper with science standards and change the curriculum."

On Wednesday, the board voted 6-4 to have three of its conservative members hold public hearings to hear from scientists. Abrams said the those hearings represent his first choice for dealing with evolution, rather than the stickers.

Abrams and other members of the state board have clashed with a panel of science educators appointed by the board to review the standards, concerned it hasn't given proper consideration to supporters of creationism and intelligent design.

Evolution says that species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations. Intelligent design, a secular form of creationism, argues that there's evidence of an intelligent design behind the origin of the universe, the formation of the Earth and biological change.

Sue Gamble, a Shawnee Republican and one of four board members supporting the current standards, said evolution critics are trying to gain public support because, "They have failed to legitimize themselves in the scientific community."

Martin said she and other conservatives aren't trying to bring creationism or intelligent design into the classroom, only give students a balanced view of evolution.

Kline said he discussed disclaimer stickers with board members because legislators have asked him about the idea, though he could not remember specifically which ones.

"It was just in the air because of that Georgia case," Kline said.

The Georgia case involved the 2002 decision of a suburban Atlanta school district to place stickers in its science textbooks. A federal judge ruled last month the stickers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Kline said he hasn't reviewed the Georgia case thoroughly but said he believes using such stickers would be constitutional.

"I think it really would be a stretch to say it's not," he said.


State Board of Education: http://www.ksbe.state.ks.us/

Attorney general's office: http://www.accesskansas.org/ksag/

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

Darwin goes on the defensive

Evolutionary Theory takes a beating



Thursday February 10, 2005
Peter Kalajian, Unabashed Darwinist
February 10, 2005

In the summer of 1925, a young, idealistic Tennessee schoolteacher by the name of John Scopes decided that he was going to challenge a Tennessee law which banned the teaching of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in public schools. The children would receive their education from the Bible, as was proper, and no uppity young teacher was going to corrupt their minds with tales about how humans are related to apes. John Scopes, with every intention of being arrested for his crime (he invited a number of observers so there would be no doubt of his guilt), was the first in a long line of educators and concerned parents to abhor the idea of God and the Bible and religious fundamentalism entering the sphere of public education. Scopes was eventually found guilty, but the argument he started has persisted to this day, and still, eighty years later, persons of faith are still putting their best foot forward in the ongoing struggle to poison public education with the faith-based concept of Creationism.

This is America. All you parents out there, you have the absolute right, as the bringers of life, to educate your children in whatever way you see fit. Send them to Seminary, send them to Catholic School, wherever, but understand; Public school is just that, public. There are dozens of active, established religious doctrines out there, and as any grammar school teacher will tell you, we simply do not have the time to teach them all. So, as is only fair, we must not teach any. We teach our children science and mathematics, educate them on the great literary heroes of history, and on the events that have shaped their world. In the spirit of concealment, a new school of thought has emerged regarding the origins of man and the course which humans have taken from our earliest days. Known as "intelligent design", or I.D., the theory is both science and religion. As an open critique of evolution, the proponents of this new pseudo-science believe that the world must have been created by some sort of intelligent, sentient being. They site the complexity of matter and the overabundance of life, maintaining that nothing so complex could have developed on its own over time, as Darwin asserts, but must have been created by an "intelligence." Now, for all you reasonable people out there, the next logical question is, of course, what sort of intelligence? And that, my friends, is the kicker. The proponents of this new concepts do not know, nor are they willing to field a guess, but they are certain of one thing: the Theory of Evolution is just that, a theory, and therefore when our children are taught the intricacies of natural selection and universal common decent (the idea that all life can be traced back to the same primordial life forms which crawled from the ocean millions of years ago), they should also be taught the alternative: Creationism. Leaving the question of what the "intelligence" is in intelligent design open is a blatant attempt to imply that since we do not know the answer, it must be God. And not just any God, either. Not Allah, not Yahweh, but the God of the Bible. It is an attempt to fool people into thinking that "intelligent design" has some actual basis in science, when in fact it is merely creationism by another name Just because 50% of Americans believe that God created the universe in six days does not necessarily make it so.

The school board of Cobb County, Georgia has recently taken a major step toward Biblical education in public schools. Since no judge in America would stand for the elimination of Evolutionary education, the board members of Cobb County had a novel idea. Instead of coming right out and saying the God created the world and all of that business about finches and natural selection is blasphemous nonsense, they chose a far more insidious method. They planted the seeds of doubt. The new Cobb County Biology textbooks, with their atheistic passages about Darwin and his genius, were plastered with large stickers on the outside cover which stated, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact....and should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." Sounds relatively innocent, right? But if there are only two options available to children about the creation of the world and the evolution of man, and parents and teachers unite to say that one of them is not really a fact, then what option do kids have?; To shield themselves from the realities of the world with the protective cloak of religious scripture. (Lucky for all you atheists out there, the Georgia Supreme Court has deemed the stickers unconstitutional and ordered their removal from all textbooks).

I, personally, do not know that Darwin was 100% correct in his hypothesis. Maybe he was not. But I do know that Darwin provided detailed evidence and actual, tangible proof that his theories were accurate, and unfortunately for the religious right, there is but one text which can be sited to reinforce the theory of Creationism: the Bible. And I think it is fair to say that particular document has gone through its fair share of debunking through the generations. If next week, in some remote desert corner of Israel, Biblical Archeologists discovered documentation as old as the Bible which stated unequivocally that the Moon was made of green cheese, or that there is a giant, flying shrimp named Carl constantly orbiting the Earth and making decisions on behalf of the people, will we start teaching that, too? If you want your kids not to be subjected to Evolutionary Theory, send them to parochial school, because in America, in public schools, we should teach science, not religion. This type of scientific censorship in the name of Biblical accuracy and the human unwillingness to believe that we are related, very closely, to Chimpanzees, has no place in our schools. Children receive enough religious indoctrination away from the school setting; there is no reason to bring Creationism into the folds of public education.

Politics and religion enter into evolution debate

Electoral victories boost campaign to question Darwin


By Jon Hurdle

Updated: 3:30 p.m. ET Feb. 10, 2005

PHILADELPHIA - Evangelical Christians, buoyed by the re-election of President Bush, are turning American schools into a battleground over whether evolution explains the origins of life or whether nature was designed by an all-powerful force.

In at least 18 states, campaigns have begun to make public schools teach "intelligent design" — a theory that nature is so complex it could only have been created by design — alongside Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"It's pretty clear that there is a religious movement behind intelligent design," said Steve Case, chairman of the Science Standards Committee, a group of educators that advises the Kansas Board of Education. The board will decide later this year whether to include intelligent design in biology classes.

Some scientists who espouse the theory say intelligent design does not question that evolution occurred, but how it occurred: They believe more was at play than random mutation and natural selection. The theory, they insist, does not support the religious concept of a creator.

Those who advocate giving it equal treatment in schools have a different interpretation.

"Intelligent design promotes a rational basis for belief in God," said John Calvert, managing director of the Kansas-based advocacy group Intelligent Design Network Inc.

History of a controversy

Americans' resistance to evolution is nothing new.

In 1925, Tennessee high school biology teacher John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching evolution in violation of a state law favoring creationism, in one of the most celebrated trials in U.S. history. Scopes was convicted and fined $100, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the verdict on a technicality.

Critics, civil-liberties groups and many biology teachers see intelligent design being used as a version of creationism — the theory that God created the world as described in Genesis. The U.S. Supreme Court barred public school teaching of creationism in the 1980s for violating the separation of church and state.

They say the push for intelligent design in America's schools comes from evangelical Christians, a group key to Bush winning a second term last November.

Across the nation

Supporters have proposed laws in state assemblies, campaigned for new policies at state and local school boards, and placed stickers in textbooks saying evolution is controversial and that students should consider alternatives.

The Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania now requires that ninth-graders are told there are "gaps" in the theory of evolution, and that intelligent design is an alternative they should consider. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the policy in court as unconstitutional.

A bill in Missouri would require public school biology textbooks to contain a "critical analysis of origins" and highlight controversial topics "such as biological evolution."

According to the National Council for Science Education, a pro-evolution group in Oakland, California, other states considering legislation on the issue include Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas. Other state or local school boards debating the teaching of intelligent design include Ohio, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and Alaska.

Strong support for creationism

Most Americans believe in some form of creationism, according to a CBS poll conducted ahead of last November's election. Fifty-five percent of Americans believed God created humans in their present form, and a further 27 percent believed humans evolved, but God guided the process.

Sixty-five percent of all Americans favored schools teaching creationism and evolution, while 37 percent wanted creationism taught instead of evolution.

The poll found greater support for teaching creationism among Republican voters — 71 percent of Bush voters favored teaching creationism alongside evolution.

One noted proponent of intelligent design complicates the debate by arguing it should not be taught in high school.

John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which pioneered intelligent design research, said the theory was too complex to teach at high schools and was better-suited to a college setting.

"There is a concern that intelligent design has been hijacked by people who don't really know what it says," he said. "We don't think it should be a political football."

Science or religion?

Many biology teachers, such as those in Pennsylvania who refused to read the school board's statement on intelligent design to students, say the theory is not scientific.

"Intelligent design is a religious doctrine," said Wayne Carley, executive director of the National Association of Biology Teachers. "There is no research to support it, and it is clearly religious in that it posits a higher being."

Carley conceded the battle against the teaching of intelligent design is a hard one to win because proponents approach the issue as one of faith rather than rationality.

"We can argue that it's bad science, but people don't want to hear that," he said. "They are coming from a much more basic gut level."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited

Paintings That Heal™ Literally! Scientifically Documented Physical & Energetic Healing Artwork

Paintings That Heal™ are scientifically documented artwork whose Healing Energy actually changes the physical, mental and emotional energy fields of the viewer. Being in the presence of the energy of a Painting That Heals™ is what actually alters and heals the viewer's physical and energetic body. The Art of healing is being taken to a new level.

Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) February 10, 2005 -- Paintings That Heal™ are scientifically documented artwork whose Healing Energy actually changes the physical, mental and emotional energy fields of the viewer. Being in the presence of the energy of a Painting That Heals™ is what actually alters and heals the viewer's physical and energetic body. The ART of healing is being taken to a new level.

Initial double blind studies using Biofeedback, state of the art Gas Discharge Visualization Cameras, and the Fortune 500 endorsed HeartMath system, document that it takes less than 5 seconds of exposure to the energy of an individual Painting for positive changes to occur in a subject's heart waves (HRV), respiration rates, body temperature and brain waves (EEG). Changes also occur in their bioenergetic or subtle energy fields. We also have video testimonials to accompany the documentation.

As a diagnostic tool, findings indicate people respond to a specific Painting which represents a disorder or issue that is either presently or potentially in their physical body or energy field. Paintings That Heal™ are created or commissioned to address an individual's or an environmental healing need.

Brent Atwater the creator, is a documented medical intuitive, healer and renowned artist, whose artwork was the subject of PBS national program. At age 16 one of her paintings was chosen for the NC Museum of Art's permanent collection. She now combines all of her gifts into her Paintings That Heal™.

Are Paintings That Heal™ the same as art therapy? No, just being in the presence of the energy of a Painting is what actually alters and heals the viewer's physical and energetic body. In contrast, the healing response in art therapy is generated by the patient making a piece of artwork. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing. Through creating art, talking about art, and the process of making art with an art therapist, one can increase awareness of self, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences, enhance cognitive abilities, and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of artistic creativity.

Although research has yet to be conducted in a clinically controlled environment, scientific and alternative methods used to document and verify results with these Paintings are traditional Biofeedback and cutting edge QXCI: Quantum Xeroid Consciousness Interface. We also use Vocal Emission Analysis, a computer program reflecting subtle energy imbalances in the body, as another recording device.

The GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) Camera was developed by Dr. Konstantin G. Korotkov, Ph.D. of Russia's St. Petersburg State Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics. It is the first device in the world which measures the distribution of energy around a human body. This documenting technique has evolved from extensive research conducted by Russian scientists through the years. There are approximately 400 cameras in use worldwide and most are used to do research work. The GDV Camera photographs an individual's energy fields through image sensors that utilize state-of-the-art optical technology to read energy levels from an individual's fingertips.

The HeartMath System is a product of the Institute of HeartMath, whose primary mission is to assist people in finding the balance between their mind and heart in making life decisions. HeartMath's Freeze-Framer is an interactive computer-based heart rate variability monitor and real-time pulse wave recording that gives a scientific measure of your physiological readings.

To date, there are only a handful of distance healers around the world that have demonstrated the ability to channel, capture, and infuse Healing Energy into the canvas. Brent first discovered the powerful phenomenon of Paintings That Heal™ in March 2004 while creating a commissioned work, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), for the cover of the University of North Carolina Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorder's annual report. Her client asked her to paint a picture of the disorder. When finished, she was inspired to channel the Healing Energy for IBS into another layer of the painting which she placed on top of the original image. Amazingly, the Painting retained the same powerful Healing Energy, and continues to be a source of healing on a deep cellular memory level for those battling this disorder.

To maximize the benefits of a Painting, it should be placed where one will receive optimum ongoing exposure to the Healing Energy on a daily basis. Once the Painting becomes part of an environment, an individual continually benefits from it energetically by means of harmonic resonance. A person's own energy field will regulate the appropriate amounts of energy that they receive on an ongoing basis. You can not be overexposed.

Many of Brent's clients wanted "something" to reinforce their healing path. She takes the discovery she made with her IBS Painting and uses it to create Paintings for her client's. Today, Paintings That Heal™ are a part of her healing practice portfolio that complements and integrates with both traditional medical and alternative healthcare practices and procedures.

Ms. Atwater shares, "In creating Paintings That Heal™, I believe that we are offering a new healing modality which will be physically effective, emotionally and mentally therapeutic, and easy to administer without pain or side effects. We're very excited about the positive results we've seen so far. I'm anxious to expand our research into broader test samples by using more types of monitoring equipment and controlled environments. It is my intent to participate in more research work with various organizations dedicated to discovering and creating new modalities to treat various diseases, disorders, and dysfunctions. It is also my intent for my Paintings to be an integrative bridge between alternative and traditional allopathic therapy."

When asked about what an individual can expect when they are exposed to a Painting, Brent responded, "At present, there are no specific guarantees about the healing properties of Paintings That Heal™, and research results vary with individual situations. However, we are able to document definite changes in the individual's bio energetic fields, and with that given result, we hope, to generate more interest in expanding our long term research program for the energy of Paintings That Heal™. We plan to take my Paintings on the road. By exposing them to a more expansive audience, we are continually gathering new research data, and personal testimonials." Ms. Atwater welcomes opportunities to work with galleries, healthcare practitioners and environments, and researchers in order to further explore and document the potential of this modality.

Brent was first identified as a Medical Intuitive by Larry Burke, MD at the Duke Integrated Center for Medicine. Dr. Burke is a founding member of the American Board of Scientific Medical Intuition with Carolyn Myss and Norm Shealy. She has also been tested by the Edgar Cayce Institute of Association of Research and Enlightenment and determined to be "a Healer" by the criteria set forth by the Institute. Her global Medical Intuitive and Healing Energy work has been studied and/or documented by Duke Center for Integrated Medicine, the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment, The Dallas Center in Atlanta, GA, and NC State University's School of Veterinary Medicine. She works with both traditional and alternative healthcare professionals throughout the world in Integrative Medicine or CAMA (Complementary Alternative Medicine) practices that combine Healing Energy work with traditional medicine. She participates in ongoing medical research.

Through the 80's and 90's B Brent Atwater was a highly collected, exhibited, licensed, televised, and widely sold American photo-realistic, and impressionistic artist. She has been featured on "PM Magazine" in a national segment, on "Crook and Chase" & others, and in many major national magazines ("W", "Town & Country", "Robb Report", et al) and newspapers. Her licensed work has and can be seen in major retail stores and catalogues. She earned a Creative Writing and Art degree from Hollins University, Roanoke, VA, and certification in teaching art. Brent attended Wake Forest University Law School and is a nondenominational ordained minister.

Contact Information:
Brent Atwater
Collections, Inc. dba
Paintings That Heal™, Advancing Health. Elevating Energy. Cultivating Wellness
Atlanta, GA 1.404.242.9022 USA
NC Office:1.910.692.5206 USA
http://www.brentatwater.com or http://www.paintingsthatheal.com

Disclaimer: There are no guarantees about the healing properties of this artwork. Results will vary with individual situations. We can only state that positive results have been documented for individual clients and research in this area continues.

Evangelical Christians battle evolution


Feb 11, 2005

Evangelical Christians, buoyed by the re-election of Republican President George W. Bush, are turning American schools into a battleground over whether evolution explains the origins of life or whether nature was designed by an all-powerful force.

In at least 18 states, campaigns have begun to make public schools teach "intelligent design" - a theory that nature is so complex it could only have been created by design - alongside Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"It's pretty clear that there is a religious movement behind intelligent design," said Steve Case, chairman of the Science Standards Committee, a group of educators that advises the Kansas Board of Education. The board will decide later this year whether to include intelligent design in biology classes.

Some scientists who espouse the theory say intelligent design does not question that evolution occurred but how it occurred: they believe more was at play than random mutation and natural selection. The theory, they insist, does not support the religious concept of a creator.

Those who advocate giving it equal treatment in schools have a different interpretation.

"Intelligent design promotes a rational basis for belief in God," said John Calvert, managing director of the Kansas-based advocacy group Intelligent Design Network Inc.

Americans' resistance to evolution is nothing new.

In 1925, Tennessee high school biology teacher John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching evolution in violation of a state law favouring creationism in one of the most celebrated trials in US history. Scopes was convicted and fined $US100 and the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the verdict on a technicality.

Critics, civil liberties groups and many biology teachers, see intelligent design being used as a version of creationism - the theory that God created the world as described in Genesis. The US Supreme Court barred public school teaching of creationism in the 1980s for violating the separation of church and state.

Push from Bush voters

They say the push for intelligent design in America's schools comes from evangelical Christians, a group key to Bush winning a second term last November.

Supporters have proposed laws in state assemblies, campaigned for new policies at state and local school boards, and placed stickers in textbooks saying evolution is controversial and that students should consider alternatives.

The Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania now requires that ninth-graders are told there are "gaps" in the theory of evolution, and that intelligent design is an alternative they should consider. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the policy in court as unconstitutional.

A bill in Missouri would require public school biology textbooks to contain a "critical analysis of origins" and highlight controversial topics "such as biological evolution."

According to the National Council for Science Education, a pro-evolution group in Oakland, California, other states considering legislation on the issue include Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas. Other state or local school boards debating the teaching of intelligent design include Ohio, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and Alaska.

Most Americans believe in some form of creationism, according to a CBS poll conducted ahead of last November's election. 55% of Americans believed God created humans in their present form and a further 27% believed humans evolved, but God guided the process.

65% of all Americans favoured schools teaching creationism and evolution while 37% wanted creationism taught instead of evolution.

The poll found greater support for teaching creationism among Republican voters - 71% of Bush voters favoured teaching creationism alongside evolution.

One noted proponent of intelligent design complicates the debate by arguing it should not be taught in high school.

John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which pioneered intelligent design research, said the theory was too complex to teach at high schools and was better suited to a college setting.

"There is a concern that intelligent design has been hijacked by people who don't really know what it says," he said. "We don't think it should be a political football."

Many biology teachers, such as those in Pennsylvania who refused to read the school board's statement on intelligent design to students, say the theory is not scientific.

"Intelligent design is a religious doctrine," said Wayne Carley, executive director of the National Association of Biology Teachers. "There is no research to support it, and it is clearly religious in that it posits a higher being."

Carley conceded the battle against the teaching of intelligent design is a hard one to win because proponents approach the issue as one of faith rather than rationality.

"We can argue that it's bad science but people don't want to hear that," he said. "They are coming from a much more basic gut level."

Source: Reuters

Darwinism, Design, and Public Education


JOHN ANGUS CAMPBELL AND STEPHEN C. MEYER, EDS. Michigan State University Press, 2003. 554 pp. (ISBN 0-87013-675-5 pbk, $28.95).

Recycling substitutes for novelty in this intelligent design creationist offering. DDPE is not a new book but rather an anthology consisting largely of warmed-over essays from a 1998 issue of Michigan State University Press's journal, Rhetoric and Public Affairs. Neither of the book's editors is a scientist. John Angus Campbell, who also serves on the journal's editorial board, is a rhetorician. Stephen C. Meyer is a philosopher who serves as director of the Center for Science and Culture (CSC), the creationist subsidiary of the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank in Seattle. Campbell is a longtime CSC fellow. Although a Discovery Instituteowned website (www.darwinanddesign.com) falsely advertises DDPE as a "peer-reviewed science book," it was published as part of MSU Press's Rhetoric and Public Affairs Series. Despite a Discovery Institute press release announcing that the book "features new scientific arguments for design based on evidence in paleontology and comparative anatomy," it offers no new scientific arguments and cannot be reviewed as a science book since intelligent design (ID) science is nonexistent.

But this is old news. Everything ID proponents have offered as "science," starting with Michael Behc's Darwin's Black Box (1996), htxs been thoroughly evaluated, and discredited, by many qualified scientists and philosophers of science. Such critiques are available on the Internet and in recent books. What most needs criticism is the agenda this book serves; that is not as widely understood as it should be.

Despite ID proponents' constant demand for "balance" between evolution and ID in public schools, the book's editors make no pretense at balance. Comparing the publication of DOPE to Darwin's "uphill battle to distinguish his own position in the public mind," Campbell justifies the lopsided presence of creationists in this volume by asserting that "novelty requires time and repetition to sink in." They do, however, make a pretense of offering scientific expertise. Nineteen of the twenty-seven essays are by ID creationists and their supporters, not one of whom is a working evolutionary biologist. Among the eight pro-evolution essays, only four are by scientists. Of those, only two are by evolutionary biologists. There is a preponderance of humanities scholars; some, like rhetorician John Angus Campbell, are ID proponents while others are pro-evolution.

Despite the pro-evolution essays, however, DDPE is designed to showcase the creationist essays, which are themselves a study in intellectual dishonesty. This book is another element of the "Wedge Strategy," a public relations program being executed by the Discovery Institute creationists, who call themselves "the Wedge." The term reflects their intent to "wedge" into the public mind a distinction between science and the naturalistic methodology that makes science successful. They want to convince the public and politicians (which includes educational policymakers) that "theistic science" is a real possibility, that ID's supernatural "intelligent designer" is a fundamental principle of scientific explanation.

Campbell announces that DDPE will offer most readers "a first encounter with an alternative to the established paradigm [of Darwinian evolution] by qualified authors who believe that Darwinism is false and wish to see it replaced"-thus revealing the creationist agenda that guides the book. The intended audience is science teachers, many of whom are underprepared for teaching evolution and all of whom are so busy educating the young and dealing with the problems attendant upon that task that they cannot be expected to do the research that would reveal how misleading this book is. A hefty tome, it will undoubtedly impress educational policymakers who either harbor ID sympathies or are in no position to recognize the book's deceitfulness. It also hands ammunition to ID supporters who will try to persuade school boards that the inclusion of essays by a few reputable, pro-evolution scientists and scholars proves that ID's challenge to evolution is serious enough to compel recognition of it as a worthy scientific alternative. Although the book obviously was not published for scientists, scientists-as researchers, educators, parents, and citizens-should be deeply concerned about how it will be used, so it is from this perspective that I comment.

After Campbell's introduction, DOPE is organi/.ed into four sections of essays followed by five appendices. Campbell states that the book addresses the question, "Should public school science teachers be free to teach the controversies over biological origins?" His introduction sets the tone for the discussion of this question with three false assertions: "ID is a science, a philosophy, and a movement for educational reform." As science, Campbell says, ID is "an argument against the orthodox Darwinian claim that mindless forces-such as variation, inheritance, natural selection, and time-can account for the principal features of the biological world." As a philosophy, it is a "critique of the prevailing philosophy of science that limits explanation to purely physical or material causes." As educational reform, "ID is a public movement to make Darwinism-its evidence, philosophic presuppositions, and rhetorical tactics-a matter of informed, broad, and spirited public discussion."

Science, however, does not consist of "arguments against" anything. People who claim to have a scientific theory must actually do scientific work and produce original, empirical data; but at an October 2002 ID conference, CSC fellow William Dembski, ID's leading intellectual, admitted that while ID has made cultural inroads, it enjoys no scientific success. And in criticizing science's limitation to material, i.e., natural, explanations, Campbell reveals ID to be not a philosophy, but a religious belief that would explain natural phenomena by invoking the only alternative: the supernatural. Campbell, of course, cannot use that term without divulging ID's religious identity, which is the chief obstacle to the Wedge's plans for educational "reform." But the public discussion of "Darwinism" that Campbell seeks to advance toward such reform is nothing more than the usual creationist carping against evolution.

In Part I, "Should Darwinism Be Presented Critically and Comparatively in the Public Schools? Philosophical, Educational, and Legal Issues," Campbell's essay exemplifies not only the dishonesty found throughout the book's ID offerings, but his astonishing misunderstanding of the nature of science and science education. Apparently thinking that readers will forget his denial in the introduction that the book's purpose is to "advocate the theory of ID," he asserts here that "to understand Darwin's argument, to say nothing of the contemporary controversy that it continues to generate, students need to understand Darwinism's dialectical opposite: the intelligent design hypothesis." But modern science education has advanced far beyond Darwin's arguments because modern evolutionary biology has advanced far beyond the science of Darwin's day. Darwin's arguments form the historical backdrop for the current science that supports evolution, and it is this science that must be taught to students in an appropriately digestible form. But even on the premise that Darwin's arguments per se should be taught in public school science classes, it by no means follows that ID must also be taught. ID is not evolution's "dialectical opposite" in any substantive, scientific sense. Such an opposite must perforce be a genuinely scientific theory supported by original data produced by a genuinely scientific methodology-a feat that ID proponents have never even attempted. To the extent that ID is an opposite of any sort to evolutionary theory, it is so in a purely rhetorical, and thus scientifically insignificant, sense.

"Teaching the Controversy: Is It Science, Religion, or Speech?," the essay by law professor David De Wolf, philosopher Stephen C. Meyer, and attorney Mark DeForrest, was first published in the Utah Law Review (2000). Grafted as an attempt to evade the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark anticreationism ruling, Edwards vs. Aguillard (1987), it reflects the Wedge's desire for a legal test case. It is built around the hypothetical case of science teacher "John Spokes" (a sophomoric parody of "Scopes"), who wants to modify the approved science curriculum he teaches to include instruction about putative evidence found by the "growing minority of scientists" who see "real, not just apparent, design in biological systems." Wanting only to "teach the controversy," Spokes "wisely" decides to consult school officials to make sure he is "on safe ground." This hypothetical case is a thinly disguised reference to the real case of Roger DeHart, the Burlington, WA, science teacher who taught ID in his public school science class for ten years until a student finally reported him. The Spokes case does not reflect the true story of DeHart, who proceeded neither "wisely" nor truthfully: he never consulted school offi\cials about his plans and failed to honor agreements with his principal about teaching materials. Yet the Discovery Institute supported him to the wire. De Wolf even defended DeHart publicly, comparing him to John Scopes and arguing that the school board should not fear litigation. But had DeHart continued teaching ID-in any of its disguises, e.g., "teaching the controversy"-a lawsuit would have been a certainty. He eventually left Washington State to teach in a Christian school in California.

Nonetheless, De Wolf et al. argue in DDPE that teaching ID in public schools is not only legal but mandatory, asserting that Edwards does not apply because "design theory is not based on a religious text or doctrine" (a claim I refute elsewhere). Conveniently for non-productive Wedge scientists, De Wolf et al. assert that "the legal and educational point at issue is not whether design theorists are right in their scientific claims but whether their work may be discussed in science classrooms of public high schools." On the contrary, whether they are right on the science is at issue, and they are not right. But scientists will not be burdened with making that assessment: the authors place the responsibility of scientific peerreview on the backs of teachers and school boards, who must assess "the work of scientists such as [Michael] Behe, [Dean] Kenyon, [Charles] Thaxton, [Walter] Bradley, [Stephen] Meyer, [Paul] Chien, [Jonathan] Wells, [William] Dembski and others" to determine whether it has "a legitimate place in a public school biology classroom." Among those named, Meyer and Dembski are not scientists at all; and the others, who are, have produced no ID science to review.

De Wolf et al. close on a further deceptive note, suggesting that prohibiting ID in public schools makes a lawsuit more likely than allowing it. Casting the issue as one of academic freedom and "viewpoint discrimination," they assure readers that "a school board that encouraged an open discussion of the issue [Wedge code for teaching ID], consistent with the best science, would reduce the likelihood of litigation by any party." The Discovery Institute's goal, however, is not to prevent but to precipitate a lawsuit. The Wedge strategy is to persuade school boards that "teaching the controversy" will reduce the likelihood of litigation-knowing full well that a board's adoption of ID under any guise virtually guarantees it.

A Discovery Institute spokesman confirmed this during the Wedge's well-publicized Ohio effort: "All we need is one state to stand up and say we are going to permit academic freedom [more ID code] on this issue, a test case." Tellingly, the first Wedge figure to surface prominently in Ohio was not a scientist but pro-ID lawyer John Calvert. In a similar episode in Darby, Montana, it was De Wolf himself. Not content with trying to fool science teachers and school boards, De Wolf et al. clearly presume they can fool federal judges, too.

Campbell's and De Wolf et al.'s attempts to mislead readers are no surprise; ID critics know that this is standard Wedge operating procedure. But the essay by Warren Nord, a respected philosopher of religion who writes extensively on religion and education, is particularly misguided and functions as part of the Wedge's enterprise. Nord believes religion should be taught in public schools, a position that presents no problem provided such instruction is free from religious advocacy. Teaching comparative religion is a good idea. He does seem to favor advocacy (not to mention a medieval view of history) when he complains that "history texts teach students to think in secular ways about religion; they do not teach students religious ways of thinking about history." (His complaint reflects a similar conceptual shift increasingly evident among evangelicals in which "secular" is misunderstood as "anti-religious" rather than "non-religious.")

Nord's view here is troubling in itself to those who value secular government and education, but a problem more immediately relevant to the subject of ID surfaces in his opening words: "I am not going to argue that students should be required to learn about intelligent design (ID) theory because it is a better or more reasonable theory than its naturalistic counterparts. I don't know whether it is. Instead, I am going to argue that some study of ID theory should be included in the curriculum because there is substantial disagreement about whether ID is a better theory and the disagreement is of such kind that educators are obligated to teach students about it." Here is the problem: Nord should know that ID is not a better theory and that the only "substantial disagreement" comes from the Discovery Institute and its creationist supporters.

Nord discusses teaching ID as part of the issue involving the relationship between science and religion, as when he observes that students "must be sensitive to religious alternatives to secular ways of making sense of nature." He is correct to do this; ID is religion. Yet whether he frames the discussion this way intentionally is unclear since he is so confused about the nature of both science and science education and about the difference between science and religion. He complains, "Science texts . . . never include any substantive discussion of the relationship of religion to scientific method." Yet this omission is explained by the fact that there is no relationship between religion and scientific method, at least not in science. Science comprises many disciplines and specialties, but in the midst of its diversity there is an epistemological (empirical) and methodological (naturalistic) unity that provides a common basis of inquiry for scientists who themselves reflect the world's religious diversity. Science gives them ways to adjudicate their scientific disagreements. But their religious diversity will persist because of the absence of a comparable epistemology and methodology for resolving the disagreements fundamental to the religious diversity of supernatural religions. If the supernatural exists, even Nobel laureates have neither the cognitive faculties nor a methodology for verifying it.

Nord's argument for "taking ID seriously as science" reflects his misunderstanding of the epistemology and methodology of science. Claiming incompetence to address the question of how many scientists take ID seriously and what research ID has contributed to science (an incompetence that could easily have been remedied by visiting Medline, where the answer to both questions is found to be "zero"), he feels competent to assert that, in science, "methodological naturalism functions much as does Scripture for religious fundamentalists: just as fundamentalists are not open (in principle) to scientific evidence that falsifies Scripture, so methodological naturalists are not open (in principle) to nonnaturalistic evidence, claims, or theories that might be taken to falsify established science. . . . [U]nless methodological naturalism is itself open to potential falsification, this commitment will be . . . an uncritical faith." Nord apparently does not understand that justification for methodological naturalism is purely pragmatic. While the concept of falsification is relevant to the propositional content-the what-of science, it is inapplicable to the methodology-the how-that produces this content. Propositions are either true or false, and methodologies are either workable or unworkable. Period.

Nord's criticism of methodological naturalism shows that he has swallowed the ID line whole. He would profit more from reading science and talking to scientists, in order to understand their methodology, than from relying on Wedge founder Phillip Johnson, whom he credits for his insights about naturalism but who is similarly misguided (or more likely in Johnson's case, disingenuous). Nord exemplifies the support ID enjoys among academics who should know better but-hindered by prior religious loyaltiesdon't. DDPE will not help these people correct their errors; however, people of faith who properly understand the boundary between science and religion should take the book as an incentive to present to the world a more informed religious faith than Nord offers in this essay. (This has been done to some extent in Keith Miller's excellent book, Perspectives on an Evolving Creation.)

The articles in Part II, "Scientific Critique of Biology Textbooks and Contemporary Evolutionary Theory," and Part III, "The Theory of Intelligent Design: A Scientific Alternative to Neo- Darwinian and/or Chemical Evolutionary Theories," are standard ID fare and merit little discussion; most can be found on the Internet in some version. Given Wedge members' practice of endlessly recycling the same material, the ID arguments in these essays have already been capably and exhaustively critiqued. All seek to discredit the naturalistic methodology of science. The sole nod to real science is ID critic Massimo Pigliucci's "Where Do We Come From? A Humbling Look at the Biology of Life's Origin." Pigliucci, a working biologist, writes with honesty and good humor. But science teachers need not buy the book for this essay; it is reprinted from the September/October 1999 Skeptical Inquirer. One of the ID essays, however, deserves special attention; it is an amalgam of the unbecoming features of the others.

"The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang," by Stephen C. Meyer, Marcus Ross, Paul Nelson, and Paul Chien-all Wedge members- is a slight reworking of a 2001 version posted on the Internet with only Meyer, Nelson, and Chien as co-authors. The article centers around the significance of early Cambrian fossils in China. The Discovery Institute has made the "Cambrian explosion" a centerpiece of teaching resources available on its website; and with respect to teaching materials, the credentials of authors become especially relevant.

For teachers who lack the r\equisite scientific expertise to assess the reliability of such material, this article is a glaring example of the importance of being able to trust those credentials. The addition of Ross as a co-author is probably intended to create a faade of scientific authority. He studies paleontology-but as a doctoral student, not as a working scientist. Yet unseasoned as he may be, he is the only author with any formal paleontology training. Meyer, as stated, is a philosopher, as is Paul Nelson. Nelson, moreover, is a young-earth creationist who believes Earth is only 6- 10,000 years old, yet he has put his name to an article about fossils that the article acknowledges to be hundreds of millions of years old! One would be hard pressed to find a clearer example of intellectual dishonesty. Marine biologist Paul Chien has no formal training in paleontology. He considers his interest in Cambrian fossils a hobby and has no interest in acquiring the credentials needed to discuss them knowledgeably; he has published no scientific articles on the subject. However, the lack of proper credentials by these authors is not by any means the only feature that should warn teachers-and everyone else-against placing any trust in this article.

ID creationists are exceptionally good at making their traditional creationist viewpoints difficult to detect. One has to know these viewpoints in order to recognize them in ID. Teachers unfamiliar with the creationist tradition may not recognize them here, phrased as they are in seemingly benign scientific jargon, as when Meyer et al. contend that disparate animal body plans, evidence of disparate phyla, appear abruptly in the Cambrian period. They assert that these body plans "do not grade imperceptibly into another, either at a specific time in geological history or over the course of geological time" and that "the persistence of morphological distance between Cambrian animals is not an artifact of a classification system." Trying to disguise creationist canards with seemingly sophisticated scientific analysis, they assert the absence of "transitional intermediates" that would disclose the path of Precambrian natural selection that eventuated in Cambrian life forms: "Not only have expected life forms not turned up, but the pattern of the sudden appearance of novel structure has become more pronounced."

But Meyer et al. are merely rephrasing the "scientific creationism" of young-earth creationist Henry Morris: "[A]ll the kingdoms, phyla and classes in the organic world have been essentially unchanged since life began, and . . . even the orders and most of the families, genera, and even species appear suddenly in the fossil record, with no incipient forms leading up to them. . . . [W]hile there may have been changes within the kinds (as provided by creative forethought) [i.e., a designer] ... the kinds have apparently not varied since the beginning, except for those that have become extinct" (Scientific Creationism, 1974, pp. 87- 88). The Meyer et al. article is characterized throughout by such linguistic camouflage.

Just prior to their inevitable pitch for ID, Meyer et al.-true to their creationist forebears-speculate that "Perhaps the Precambrian rocks do not record transitional intermediates and ancestors for Cambrian animals because none existed." But the existence of Precambrian ancestors is documented, and Meyer, Nelson and Chien knew-or should have known-about the relevant work in progress when they wrote their 2001 essay. They had access at the time to an important article in the 2000 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (J. Y. Chen et al, 97: 4457-4462) attesting to the significance of fossils from the Doushanto Formation in China: "The latest Precambrian . . . has yielded trace fossils of unmistakable bilaterian origin. . . . These remains indicate that major evolutionary diversification of animals already had occurred by the onset of the Cambrian, and, therefore, more remote ancestral forms must have been alive earlier."

The irony here is that the Discovery Institute had helped to organize a 1999 conference in China on these fossils, and Paul Chien attempted for several years (for DFs own purposes) to cultivate the Chinese paleontologists who discovered them. Since the PNAS article, another has appeared in Science (3 June 2004) confirming the Precambrian ancestry of the Doushanto fossils: "Ten phosphatized specimens of a small . . . animal displaying clear bilaterian features have been recovered from the Doushanto Formation, China, 40 to 55 million years before the Cambrian. . . . These fossils provide the first evidence confirming the phylogenetic inference that Bilateria arose well before the Cambrian." But it's a safe bet that Meyer et al. will dismiss these findings. No amount of fossil data will induce them to admit they are hoaxing their readers.

The only saving grace of DDPE-though a small one-is Part IV, "Critical Responses." Seven of the twelve essays are pro-evolution, but not all are of equal quality. Rhetorician Celeste Michelle Condit's essay, "The Rhetoric of Intelligent Design," is particularly good. She states bluntly, and correctly, that "Intelligent design theory simply repeats the pattern of the long history of rational advocacy for the existence of God." Much of her discussion is substantive, although in framing the issue as a rhetorical one she risks making her criticisms irrelevant. By understanding ID advocates as attempting to "increase the scope of religious discourse" so that the latter will "supplant scientific method," she marginalizes her own criticisms. ID is not in any important sense a rhetorical problem. Campbell's earlier avowal in his introduction that teaching "the controversy" will "advance public understanding of both the nature and rhetoric of science" is simply a red herring to steer readers away from the fact that there is no real scientific controversy over evolution to teach and that ID is scientifically bankrupt. Teaching ID poses a pedagogical problem and a constitutional problem, making it an ultimately cultural problem in the first instance and, more immediately, a political problem in the second.

The pro-evolution essays all make useful points, but they are not sufficient to neutralize the book's heavy-hanging deceitfulness. One suspects that only with their inclusion was the book able to clear the barriers to publication at a presumably selective academic press. A more cynical explanation is that Campbell and Mayer used them as a source of vicarious legitimacy-a well-known Wedge tactic and one that ID proponents, lacking scientific legitimacy, are forced to employ. The unfortunate aspect of this strategy is that the pro-science contributors have become-one hopes unwittingly-the Wedge's pawns. (A Discovery Institute plan to publish the proceedings of the above-mentioned China conference failed when legitimate scientists in attendance realized that papers by creationists Jonathan Wells and Paul Nelson would be included and given equal billing with their own.) In allowing their essays to be included, the pro-evolution contributors to this volume have rendered a scholarly courtesy to ID proponents; but their work now becomes fuel for the ID public relations machine. It is time to question whether observing such rules of academic etiquette with creationists is serving the cause for which those who defend science speak.

Unsurprisingly, the honest scholars and scientists do not get the last word. That goes to creationist sympathizers and, last, to Phillip Johnson, who thinks that ID's biggest obstacle is "to overcome the prejudice that says that to attribute anything in biology to a Designer is to engage in 'religion' rather than 'science'." If this is Johnson's concern, he really should speak to his Wedge colleague Nancy Pearcey, who, as did Johnson, contributed an essay to William Dembski's recent book, Uncommon Dissent. Pearcey writes, "By uncovering evidence that natural phenomena are best accounted for by Intelligence, Mind, and Purpose, the theory of Intelligent Design reconnects religion to the realm of public knowledge. It takes Christianity out of the sphere of noncognitive value and restores it to the realm of objective fact, so that it can once more take a place at the table of public discourse" (72-73).

Darwinism, Design, and Public Education thus ends as it begins. Michigan State University Press has unfortunately rewarded the Wedge's creationists with its institutional prestige; but when their supporters cite this book to school boards as evidence of ID's scientific viability, its publication will not redound to the press's credit. DDPE is more aptly titled Alice Through the Looking Glass, where people who have never done any science want to revolutionize it. Darwinian evolution becomes indecipherable and unteachable without the counterbalance of "intelligent design theory." Non-scientists who advocate a pre-modern view of science want to "modernize" science education. Scientists should read it, but only so they can fight its influence on the education of those who will one day do science and those who will be called upon to support it.

Department of History and Political Science
Southeastern Louisiana University
Hammond, Louisiana 70402
E-mail: bforrest@selu.edu

Copyright Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Dec 2004

Source: Integrative and Comparative Biology

Subject: Bush Admin interfering with scientific research

[This is our non-news news item for the month of February. Ed.]


Well, today, the results of the survey were released. It turns out that huge numbers of government scientists defied the orders from the Bush Administration and completed the survey anyway. Now that the results are in, it is clear why the Bush Administration tried to prevent government scientists from participating in the ethics survey.

Among the results:

# 44 percent of government scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service reported that they have "been directed, for non-scientific reasons" to avoid making any scientific findings that would indicate that species of American wildlife are in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

# One out of every five scientists at the Fish annd Wildlife Service indicated that they had been forced by the Bush Administration to "inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document" - changing the reporting on official studies in order to favor Bush Administration policies

# 56 percent of government scientists taking part in the survey reported direct involvement in cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention".

# 42 percent of the Fish and Wildlife Service scientists reported that they were unable to express "concerns about the biological needs of species and habitats without fear of retaliation".

# 70 percent of staff scientists and 89 percent of scientific managers had direct knowledge of instances where officials appointed by President George W. Bush interfered with scientific determinations of whether species merited protection under the law.

# Half of all scientific staff at the Fish and Wildlife Service reported that morale among at the Service is poor or extremely poor. Only one half of one percent of the scientific staff described morale as excellent.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Spoon-bending Geller vows to prove he really is psychic

Wed Feb 9,12:26 PM ET

LONDON (AFP) - Spoon- bending entertainer Uri Geller was set to appear before the august Oxford Union debating society to prove he really is a psychic, the union has announced.

Geller, 58, has offered to fix, under the watchful eye of a special camera, any broken watches that members of the union may have, in order to convince skeptics that he is a true psychic.

"Uri Geller is quite simply the most famous alternative entertainer in Britain and it is an honour to have him at the Oxford Union," said the union's vice-president Vlad Bermant ahead of the evening appearance.

The Oxford Union, associated with Oxford University, has been an oratorical training ground for generations of British politicians.

Previous guests have included three former US presidents, the late Mother Theresa and pop star Michael Jackson (news), a close friend of Geller's.


The E Word


by Ben Fulton

Just imagine that, for every question you presented to someone in power, they answered with the words, "We don't really know. It's a mystery." Now imagine if you or your child asked a question about the origin of the human species in a science class, only to have a learned instructor tell you, "We don't really know. It's a mystery." Would anyone dare call that education?

To explain, or attempt to explain, how the world works is one of the most brilliant features of the human mind. Yet here we are in the 21st century, with a whole new crew of people trying to shut the human mind, along with some of its best questions and best explanations, down. In case you missed the creationists' first opening salvo with the 1925 Scopes Trial, or the 1998 anti-evolution book Darwin's Black Box, this time around it's called "Intelligent Design." Names may change, but the lame nature of creationist explanations still stinks on ice. They want "evolution disclaimer" stickers on textbooks. They want public-school teachers to know there could well be trouble if their kids are ever taught that all life evolved from common ancestors. They deride evolution as "just a theory," without understanding the true meaning of the scientific term.

This week is an appropriate time to reconsider where the debate over Charles Darwin's theory of evolution stands, even if the debate among scientists ended long ago. Today, the overwhelming majority of scientists accept Darwin's explanations about the origins of life. "Nothing in biology makes sense, except in light of evolution," said the Russian biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky. Still, according to the National Science Foundation, 47 percent of Americans don't buy it.

Last week marked the death of Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, who amassed volumes of evidence in support of Darwin's theory, and especially for the theory that isolated populations are the origin of novel species. "Please tell me what is wrong with Darwinism," Mayr used to tell skeptics. "I can't see anything wrong with Darwinism."

Those among the "Intelligent Design" movement, such as Pennsylvania's Dover School Board, which succeeded recently in requiring that creationism be taught alongside Darwin, don't care about the gaping problems of their explanations, which are far more complex and harder to swallow than evolution. "Intelligent designers," as they're called, can't explain how their "designer" creates new species. "We don't know," a director of the Intelligent Design-oriented Discovery Institute's Center for Science recently told Newsweek. "It's a mystery." And some people call talk like that "education."

These same people would have countless American students' heads wrapped in a similar veil of know-nothingness. Why ask questions about the origins of life? Indeed, let's demolish the whole foundation of scientific discovery—questions—and leave the mind blank. Somewhere, for some unknown reason, some "designer" executed the whole scenario. But if God is indeed in charge, please let us know why we aren't all optimally adapted to our environments.

It's much more reliable to search for answers amid the evidence of hereditary variation among living organisms. For example, the 99 percent of genetic material humans share with chimpanzees. If Darwin could again come to life during his birthday, Feb. 12, he'd be amazed that it's taken this long for American education to evolve.

Creationism and Evolution: Let science move forward please


by Thomas E. Hanlon Junior
February 09, 2005

As some may have heard, read or been told, the issue of teaching the theory of evolution in public schools, some eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, has risen yet again to prominence in the news. Now, after all the press the subject has gotten, I feel the need to throw my two cents into the mix.

A school district in suburban Atlanta put stickers in the front cover of its high school biology textbooks stating that "...evolution is a theory and not a fact." Now, all politics aside (if I can muster the strength), I must say that I think phrases like this contribute to poor science education, and I have to call into question the quality of science education received by the people who have made such comments, and indeed some of the people leading the charge are far from scientific in their basis of arguments.

Some may say that as a science major I'm biased toward a certain point of view, and while this may be true to a point, it does not change the basic terminology of science. The great physicist Richard Feynman has famously stated that "Scientists delight in taking ordinary words and changing their meaning." This statement I feel gets right to the issue.

In everyday usage, the word theory has a certain meaning, when we say things like "in theory I knew how to solve the problems on that test" during a conversation we mean to say that "I should after a whole semester have known how to solve those problems, if I did is another question all together" or in other words it's an uncertain principle and far from fact.

However this meaning is, perhaps to the great surprise of many, not the scientific meaning of the word. In science a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the na tural world, or in other words, given all that we know this or that idea is the most likely explanation of how things happen. There are many other theories in science that don't seem to cause as much a huff as evolution. These theories include such things we take for granted every day like electricity and gravity.

I ask all people to think about what we want in science education. We can either reach a point where people know how science works, or we can continue on the path that some are heading down right now without an understanding of or for that matter much appreciation for science.

Fear of evolution


Originally published February 9, 2005

LIKE MANY SCHOOL districts around the country these days, Cecil County is struggling with the issue of how to teach evolution. Some county school board members wonder if a new edition of a biology textbook that discusses evolution also offers a significant enough challenge to it. The board is scheduled to decide next week whether to accept the textbook. In other districts, the fight over evolution has been much more heated, leading to lawsuits and proposals for restrictive legislation.

This latest round of the evolution vs. creationism debate sounds like echoes of the Scopes monkey trial 80 years ago. Across the country, teachers are refraining from teaching evolution, even when it is included in the curriculum. In recent years, at least a dozen states have introduced legislation designed to restrict classroom discussions of evolution or give similar consideration to alternative theories.

Why isn't this a settled matter? As scientific theories go, evolution is more than sound. As a legal issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled requiring the teaching of creationism in public schools is unconstitutional.

But the evolution vs. creationism controversy has deep historical and cultural roots that keep popping to the surface. Surveys show that barely half of Americans accept evolution, compared with at least 75 percent in other industrialized countries. In addition, local control of education makes it difficult to determine what is -- or isn't -- being taught in individual classrooms. It's sometimes hard to know the chilling effect that anti-evolution advocates or other censors are having unless or until the controversies start erupting in public.

Among the recent controversies: Last month, a federal judge ordered the school board in Cobb County, Georgia, to remove stickers placed in textbooks in 2002 saying that "evolution is a theory, not a fact." Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Dover-area school district in Pennsylvania because it has required biology students studying evolution to be told about an idea called "intelligent design," which holds that aspects of the natural world are so complex that they must have been directed by some higher intelligence. Proponents of evolution rightly call it creationism with a new coat of paint.

Some of the anti-evolution fervor has been fueled by the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind law. The push for tests and standards has given evolution more classroom time, sparking more anti-evolution protests. It's possible to blunt at least some of the controversy if education administrators stand firmly behind those teachers who come under fire for teaching evolution.

Telling students that there is controversy over evolution may offer timid school districts some cover, but those discussions should not be part of science classes. Not teaching evolution at all because it is controversial should be unacceptable.

Cecil County, are you listening?

More motions in Dover fight


Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Last month six parents filed papers asking to join the lawsuit in support the Dover Area School District's October decision to include intelligent design in the ninth-grade biology curriculum, arguing that preventing their children from hearing about the concept violates their First Amendment rights to free speech.

But on Friday, the plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion arguing that the six parents should not be allowed to intervene in the suit because there is no "First Amendment right of parents to demand that a school teach any particular subject." Also on Friday, attorneys for the school board and district filed a counter-motion in support of the six parents.

Michael and Sherree Hied, Raymond and Cynthia Mummert and James and Martha Cashman have petitioned the courts to become defendants with the board and administration.

The 11 parents suing the district say the inclusion of intelligent design — which essentially states that life is too complex to have evolved solely through natural selection and therefore must have been created by an intelligent designer — violates the constitutional separation between church and state.

Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
The North Texas Skeptics
P. O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
214-335-9248 Skeptics Hotline (current information)

Current News  News Back Issues

What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.