NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 May 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Kansas looks at redefining science


Sunday, May 15, 2005 Posted: 8:46 PM EDT (0046 GMT)

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) -- The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution were not limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself.

Advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world.

Instead, they want to define it as "a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards.

The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes.

"It's a completely unscientific way of looking at the world," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University geologist.

The conservative state Board of Education plans to consider the proposed changes by August. It is expected to approve at least part of a proposal from advocates of intelligent design, which holds that the natural world is so complex and well-ordered that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain it.

State and national science groups boycotted last week's public hearings, claiming they were rigged against evolution.

Stephen Meyer, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, said changing the schools' definition of science would avoid freezing out questions about how life arose and developed on Earth.

The current definition is "not innocuous," Meyer said. "It's not neutral. It's actually taking sides."

Last year, the board asked a committee of educators to draft recommendations for updating the standards, then accepted two rival proposals.

One, backed by a majority of those educators, continues an evolution-friendly tone from the current standards. Those standards would define science as "a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." That's close to the current definition.

The other proposal is backed by intelligent design advocates and is similar to language in Ohio's standards. It defines science as "a systematic method of continuing investigation" using observation, experiment, measurement, theory building, testing of ideas and logical argument to lead to better explanations of natural phenomena.

The Kansas board deleted most references to evolution from the science standards in 1999, but elections the next year resulted in a less conservative board, which led to the current, evolution-friendly standards. Conservatives recaptured the board's majority in 2004.

Jonathan Wells, a Discovery Institute senior fellow, said the dispute won't be settled in public hearings like the ones in Kansas.

"I think it will be resolved in the scientific community," he said. "I think (intelligent design), in 10 years, will be a very respectable science program."

Evolution defenders scoff at the notion.

"In order to live in this science-dominated world, you have to be able to discriminate between science and non-science," said Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "They want to rewrite the rules of science."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) -- The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution were not limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself.

Advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world.

Instead, they want to define it as "a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards.

The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes.

"It's a completely unscientific way of looking at the world," said Keith Miller, a Kansas State University geologist.

The conservative state Board of Education plans to consider the proposed changes by August. It is expected to approve at least part of a proposal from advocates of intelligent design, which holds that the natural world is so complex and well-ordered that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain it.

State and national science groups boycotted last week's public hearings, claiming they were rigged against evolution.

Stephen Meyer, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, said changing the schools' definition of science would avoid freezing out questions about how life arose and developed on Earth.

The current definition is "not innocuous," Meyer said. "It's not neutral. It's actually taking sides."

Last year, the board asked a committee of educators to draft recommendations for updating the standards, then accepted two rival proposals.

One, backed by a majority of those educators, continues an evolution-friendly tone from the current standards. Those standards would define science as "a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." That's close to the current definition.

The other proposal is backed by intelligent design advocates and is similar to language in Ohio's standards. It defines science as "a systematic method of continuing investigation" using observation, experiment, measurement, theory building, testing of ideas and logical argument to lead to better explanations of natural phenomena.

The Kansas board deleted most references to evolution from the science standards in 1999, but elections the next year resulted in a less conservative board, which led to the current, evolution-friendly standards. Conservatives recaptured the board's majority in 2004.

Jonathan Wells, a Discovery Institute senior fellow, said the dispute won't be settled in public hearings like the ones in Kansas.

"I think it will be resolved in the scientific community," he said. "I think (intelligent design), in 10 years, will be a very respectable science program."

Evolution defenders scoff at the notion.

"In order to live in this science-dominated world, you have to be able to discriminate between science and non-science," said Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "They want to rewrite the rules of science."


Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

New Chapters in the Dinosaur Chronicles

May 13, 2005


THE appeal of dinosaurs is in the beholding and the imagining. And just when you thought there was nothing new to behold and imagine, along comes the American Museum of Natural History with a provocative exhibition of current research about these wondrous creatures.

The museum's fourth floor, at least a couple of city blocks long, is already filled with the hulking skeletons of tyrannosaurs and other dinosaurs, fierce carnivores and grazing herbivores. Here 5-year-olds, whose fascinations we marvel at as much as the fossils, find themselves entranced and delightfully frightened by the apparitions from the past. The sight of them inspires wide-eyed learning.

Squeezed between the floor's two great halls is a gallery where scientists have now displayed their latest discoveries and interpretations of how dinosaurs walked and ran, attacked and defended themselves, lived and died. You will not learn all the answers to questions a 5-year-old asks, but it's a bold start.

The exhibition, "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries," opens tomorrow and will run through Jan. 8 before beginning a national tour to collaborating institutions.

The show draws heavily on excavations in Liaoning Province of northeastern China, which has emerged in the last decade as one of the world's richest repositories of dinosaur fossils. Embedded in the 130-million-year-old sediments are many previously unknown species, some with clear traces of feathers from head to tail. The specimens appear to support the dinosaurian ancestry of modern birds.

The fossils themselves and life-size models of what these dinosaurs looked like occupy the gallery. They are virtually brought to life in a huge diorama of their lush forest habitat long ago in China.

The more dynamic displays include a six-foot-long robotic Tyrannosaurus rex that the museum describes as the most scientifically accurate model ever built of a dinosaur walking.

"We're constantly making new discoveries," Ellen V. Futter, the museum president, said to explain the need for another dinosaur exhibition. "There's so much new study, new understanding and fabulous new exhibition techniques."

Guiding a visitor through the gallery, Dr. Mark A. Norell, curator of the exhibition and the museum's leading dinosaur paleontologist, said, "We're really trying to portray current research work that's being done, not just the gee-whiz of dinosaurs."

Dr. Norell is an outspoken proponent of the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds, a theory gaining widespread support among scientists. So it is not surprising that the first fossil specimen encountered here is the well-preserved Bambiraptor, a small predatory dinosaur from Montana. The specimen illustrates the anatomical similarities of certain groups of dinosaurs and today's birds, including a wishbone, swiveling wrists and three forward-pointing toes.

The show's first major section has a more familiar and spectacular look. On the right stands a full-size cast of a T. rex bearing down on visitors below. It is accompanied, just beyond, by a 60-foot-long model of an Apatosaurus skeleton, with silvery geometric arcs replacing the usual assembly of bones.

The two displays illustrate what scientists have learned about the biomechanics of dinosaurs. The construction of the Apatosaurus was based on computer analysis by Dr. Kent Stevens of the University of Oregon. Three large video screens on the wall show animations of the full range of vertebral movements of the long-necked creature.

Across from the huge T. rex cast is the six-foot-long robotic model of the animal. The skeleton moves up, down and sideways in a replication of a striding T. rex out for a fast walk. You can even see the smallest toes flex and curl.

The dynamic model reflects research by Dr. John R. Hutchinson, a computer scientist at the Royal Veterinary College in London who drew on the latest studies of T. rex anatomy and biomechanics. The model was built by Hall Train, a designer of mechanical animations in Toronto. "Making the robotic T. rex," he said in a museum statement, "was the most challenging project in my life, because it required coaxing machine parts to convey movements that are organic and fluid."

In the same section, visitors can conduct their own experiments in dinosaur locomotion. At interactive stations, they can enter changes in an animal's leg muscle mass, posture and center of gravity and observe how this affects the speed and gait of a walking or running T. rex. Comparisons are shown with the locomotion of crocodiles, elephants, horses and humans.

Moving to the second section, on dinosaur behavior, you see the re-creation of tracks left by a dinosaur herd in Texas. Recent studies of the prints have given scientists new insights into dinosaur herding behavior: how many in a herd and how the big animals moved in front and along the sides, with smaller ones in the middle for protection from predators. It reminded scientists of the ways of elephant herds.

The section also has a "trophy wall" of mounted dinosaur skulls, some with horns, spikes, crests and domes. Scientists offer various explanations as to their purpose, whether they were used for defense, mate recognition or display. "Fact is," Dr. Norell said, "we don't really know which of these three hypotheses is going on."

The exhibition centerpiece comes next: the diorama of the Liaoning forest in China. The trees are pine and cedar, which shade a ground floor of ferns. Actually, the setting is based on plant specimens from the New Jersey Pine Barrens, which paleobotanists suggested as closely approximating the Liaoning ecosystem when dinosaurs dwelled there.

Look closely and you will see the life-like models of its inhabitants, all based on recent discoveries. One is a primitive tyrannosaur covered in a featherlike coat. Gliding between the trees is a creature that looks like a dragonfly on home run-grade steroids. The Microraptor is three feet long with feathers and two sets of wings, one on its arms and the other on its legs.

On the ground, a small birdlike dinosaur, Mei long, is sleeping or resting in birdlike repose. Its head is tucked between its forearm and trunk and its tail encircles its body. This is almost identical to the way modern birds sleep with their heads under a wing. Chinese and American paleontologists say this is further evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs and that some dinosaurs were warmblooded.

In another part of the forest, a parrot-beaked dinosaur, a psittacosaur, is trailed by her babies, like a duck and her ducklings. Not far off, there is a dog-size animal named Repenomamus giganticus, the largest mammal yet found from the time of dinosaurs. Its presence is ominous. A related mammal was recently discovered and in the area of its stomach was its last meal: a juvenile psittacosaur. This is the first evidence that not all mammals then were entirely subservient to the reptilian lords of the land, at least not the smallest ones.

Although the diorama animals are models, the exhibition shows a number of the actual fossil specimens from which the models were reconstructed. At nearly every turn, there are interactive stations for calling up more information on each exhibit and videos showing scientists talking about their research and what it adds to our understanding of dinosaurs.

The final section is, appropriately, on the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago. Much is made, of course, of the asteroid or comet that struck Earth at that time and contributed to a mass extinction of life. But other things were going on, including global climate change and widespread volcanic eruptions, and so the show's scientists have left us without a conclusive explanation for the dinosaurs' doom. Why, for example, did birds survive and not other flying or gliding creatures, like pterosaurs? Why did all nonavian dinosaurs large and small die out, and not other reptiles like crocodiles and turtles?

Nothing about dinosaurs, it seems, is simple or entirely resolved, and this justifies the new exhibition at the natural history museum and makes the creatures all the more fascinating to behold and imagine.

"Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries" opens tomorrow at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, (212) 769-5100, and will run through Jan. 8. It travels to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (March 10 to July 30, 2006), the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco (Sept. 15, 2006, to Feb. 4, 2007), the Field Museum, Chicago (March 30 to Sept. 3, 2007) and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh (Oct. 26, 2007 to July 5, 2008).


The Greatest Show on Earth?


by Jason Miller
May 12, 2005

Yes, Phineas Taylor Barnum would be green with envy. The master of the hoodwink would be in awe of the Religious Right movement. Mirroring Barnum, snake-charming, beguiling, conning, and flimflamming are at the heart of its repertoire. Yet these masters of manipulation leave Barnum looking like a bush leaguer. Over the last week, the radicals of the Right have been flashing their propagandistic cunning as they soak up the spotlight of national media attention in Topeka, Kansas.

Faith vs. Science: Round 2

In "Scopes II", the 6 to 4 conservative Christian majority on the Kansas State School Board has again put the theory of Evolution on trial. Despite the lack of testimony from a single member of the mainstream scientific community, "the show must go on" as three of the most conservative board members preside over this "hearing." What is the thinly veiled purpose of this extravaganza? With certainty, it is to validate the concept of Intelligent Design and to denigrate Evolution.

Under the "big top" of Memorial Hall in Topeka, the board has paraded a panel of experts on the concept of Intelligent Design to testify that Evolution is a flawed theory. Several witnesses have asserted the fiction that there is a controversy in the mainstream scientific community over the validity of Evolution. John Calvert, a retired attorney and Kansas resident who heads the Intelligent Design Network, has questioned the "expert" witnesses over the last few days in high hopes of exposing the alleged weaknesses of Evolution.

What are the Stakes?

Once the dog and pony show is over, the Kansas State School Board will implement their new science standards. They will rewrite the very definition of science and seriously limit the teaching of Evolution in our science classes. 455,000 young minds stand to be corrupted by the "theory" of Intelligent Design. By next year, our children could be learning that the Earth is only 10,000 years old, and that humans saddled and rode dinosaurs. Both are commonly held beliefs amongst ardent members of the Religious Right. Two years from now, passages from Genesis could replace references to Evolution in biology classes. Intellectual regression threatens to infect twenty other states with similar maladies over the next few months.

What Precipitated This Absurdity?

In 2004, two groups presented recommendations to the Kansas State School Board concerning the science curriculum. A Majority Report by 25 individuals, including Steve Case, an associate research professor at the University of Kansas, recommended virtually no changes with respect to how public schools teach Evolution. John Calvert and seven other individuals wrote a Minority Report, summarized here .

Displaying the height of hubris, this report calls for the school board to rewrite the universally accepted definition of science. Based on the Majority and Minority Reports, the "Big Six, employing their infinite Biblical wisdom, decided to host hearings to determine the validity of Evolution. Witness the spectacle of "Scopes II."

Validity of Evolution Speaks for Itself

Mainstream scientists elected to boycott this charade. They chose not to debate over a theory that is widely embraced by the scientific community, or address the false dichotomy that belief in Evolution demands that one be an atheist. The truth is that the theory of Evolution has grown and changed significantly since its assertion by Charles Darwin in 1859, and scientists do disagree over some details. However, the majority of the scientific community agrees over the principal aspects of the theory. Conflict over the validity of Evolution is a sham perpetrated by the showmen of the Religious Right. Kenneth Miller, of Brown University and author of Finding Darwin's God, is a living example of one who believes in both Evolution and a Christian God. Miller, whose beliefs are not uncommon amongst scientists and the general population, dispels the myth that Evolution and atheism are synonymous. The scientific community is not denying the existence of God; they simply believe that proving the existence of God is beyond the realm or purpose of science.

Pedro Irigonegaray, the "lyin' tamer" in this circus, is an attorney who is passionately defending the preservation of Evolution Kansas schools. Nobly donating his time to the cause, he has called the proceedings a "kangaroo court". "Junk science" is how he describes Intelligent Design. Through cross-examination, Irigonegaray exposed the fact that several of the witnesses testifying against Evolution have not even read the Minority Report. Following that revelation, conservative Christian board member Kathy Martin acknowledged that she had not read the Report in its entirety either.

Cast of "Characters"

Not one of the "performers" in the Kansas Cirque Plume holds a PhD in evolutionary biology. Just what are the credentials of those who have gathered to debunk a theory that has withstood 146 years worth of scientific scrutiny? John Calvert, the "star of the show", is a retired attorney turned Intelligent Design proponent. William Harris, a close associate of Calvert, is a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and has admitted that he believes that the Christian God is the "Intelligent Designer." Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish activist writer with a master's degree in history. Akyol is affiliated with a Turkish organization called Bilim Arasfirma Vakfi. BAV, a religious cult, was instrumental in virtually eliminating Evolution from the curriculum of Turkish schools. High school biology classes in the secular nation of Turkey now teach a form of Creationism. Charles Thaxton and Jonathan Wells are both strong proponents of the concept of Intelligent Design, a pseudo science promoted by the Religious Right

What is this Intelligent Design "Theory" Anyway?

Intelligent Design is a cleverly packaged form of Creationism which the Religious Right is attempting to sneak into public classrooms through a variety of means, including this farcical "hearing" in Kansas. In 1991, Phillip Johnson, a Berkeley law professor, kicked off the movement by authoring Darwin on Trial. The premise of Intelligent Design is that mere observation of the complexity of the universe provides "evidence" that there was an intelligent designer. In virtual unanimity, the scientific community rejects the credibility of Intelligent Design. Lacking the support of scientific evidence, research, or peer review, Intelligent Design only qualifies as a "theory" in the minds of those who are desperate to "prove" the existence of their version of the Christian God, and manipulate our children into believing in their version of the Christian faith. In 1996, Bruce Chapman founded the Discovery Institute, whose alleged purpose is to advance scientific objectivity. Unfortunately for Discovery, someone leaked an internal document in 1999. With clear articulation, The Wedge Strategy (available here ) belies the true agenda of Discovery.

In the Wedge, the Discovery Institute summarizes its five year objective as follows:

We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

Despite their frequent denials, the Religious Right is advancing Creationism as an alternative to Evolution under the guise of Intelligent Design. The Discovery Institute is the chief architect and proponent of "ID". Its alignment with the Religious Right is quite transparent. Howard Ahmanson, an ultra-conservative Christian, and heir to a savings and loan fortune, has provided it with millions of dollars in funding. Phillip Johnson still appears as a program advisor on Discovery's website . Several of the "expert" witnesses from the Kansas trial, including Michael Behe, Charles Thaxton, and Jonathan Wells, are listed as fellows with the Institute. John Calvert, the conservative Christian posing the questions to the witnesses, leads the Intelligent Design Network of Kansas. The Wedge Strategy document is the icing on the cake. The dots are in place. Connect them, and a disturbing picture emerges.

Betrayals of Public Trust

The conservative faction of the Kansas State School Board personifies the Religious Right, the Intelligent Design movement, and their insidious purposes. Elected by the people of Kansas to represent the educational interests of our children in our secular public schools, Kathy Martin, Steve Abrams, and Connie Morris are selling our children out to advance their personal religious crusade. In a state where there is currently a dearth of funding for public schools, they chose to spend $10,000.00 on the "Scopes II" spectacle simply to provide a vehicle to support their denigration of Evolution. By helping employ The Wedge Strategy to transform public school classrooms into religious pulpits, they are complicit in violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution and in trampling the rights of America's 75 million non-Christians. Kansans put them in office to oversee the secular education of our children, not to introduce their personal faith into the classroom.

As a Kansas taxpayer, voter, and parent of a student in the public school system, I take serious issue with the waste of time and resources spent on these hearings. It is a foregone conclusion that the 6-4 majority on the board will vote to adopt the science standard recommendations of the Minority Report. They have stacked the deck in their favor. They have launched tenacious propagandistic attacks against sound science, and are preparing to flatten the wall of separation of church and state. My wife and I teach our son spirituality in the home, where such education belongs.

Board member Kathy Martin, the out-spoken former teacher from Clay Center, Kansas, minces no words about her agenda, or her tenuous grasp of the facts. In an interview with the Clay Center newspaper, Ms. Martin said, "Evolution has been proven false. Intelligent Design is science-based and strong in facts." Going further, she stated, "Man has changed and evolved, but we are not going to change back into monkeys." When asked if Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism, she commented, "Of course this is a Christian agenda. We are a Christian nation. Our country is made up of Christian conservatives. We don't often speak up, but we need to stand up and let our voices be heard." Ms. Martin saved her most revealing dictum for last. "Why shouldn't theology be taught in the classroom? Morality ought to be taught in every class. Prayer ought to be allowed. Whenever a child wanted to pray in class, I prayed with them. All children believe in God. Even little children whose parents don't take them to church believe in God." If you are a parent, and do not feel shock and dismay as you envision this woman rendering decisions which affect the education of our children, it is time to awaken from your intellectual slumber.

What Do the Moderate School Board Members Think?

At least two of the more moderate members of the board have refused to participate in the process. They both responded to me with their thoughts on the proceedings.

Sue Gamble wrote:

I do not support these hearings and will not participate in them. There is no controversy in the Science Community about the validity of Evolution as a part of Science. The Theory of Evolution has been continually supported and strengthened since its introduction in 1859. My understanding from scientists is that Evolution is one of the strongest theories within science, and actually unifies other scientific disciplines. This is a political issue for the ultra conservative faction on the state board that currently holds a 6-4 majority. This is not an educational issue.

Carol Rupe, another moderate board member, expressed her views:

My personal belief is that God created the heavens and the earth and that He did it through evolution. There is no controversy for me between science and my faith. My father is a doctor and my son is a doctor; they have taken many science courses. They also both have strong faiths. I think that in science class we must teach what scientists think happened. There are plenty of opportunities to teach other ideas in philosophy, sociology, and comparative religion classes. We've been hearing that the teaching of evolution is itself teaching a religion. I certainly don't feel that way, and I don't know of anyone who does. Science is not anti-God any more than math is anti-God. The discussions that are taking place about changing science should be between scientists in the science community. If Intelligent Design is to be recognized as science, then it needs to be peer reviewed. If it is accepted by scientists, then it should be taught. The debate should not be taking place in school board meetings across the country because that is not where science becomes science.

Harbinger of Darkness

Kansas may be center stage today, but next week the Religious Right will launch a new offensive. Despite their loosely organized nature, the Religious Right is highly unified in their obsession to forge a theocracy in America. Men like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell have a vision for America that includes renewing the patriarchal nature of our society, establishing Christianity as the national religion, superseding the US Constitution with the Bible as the ultimate source of law, openly persecuting homosexuals and non-Christians, and teaching our children that faith supplants logic. Dominionism is the goal of the hard-liners of this movement. In Genesis 1:26, God proclaimed man to be the ruler of the Earth, and the Religious Right is "heaven bent" on claiming their dominion. "Scopes II" is not an aberration. It is an omen. Those who value their civil liberties and intellectual freedom would be wise to take heed and make a stand, before it is too late.

Jason Miller, a 38-year-old father of three boys, works as an account representative for a finance company, and has a degree in liberal arts. He's active in the ACLU as a member and volunteer. Visit his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/. He can be reached at: willpowerful@hotmail.com.

Darwin defender sued for libel


Parent-activist says evolutionist published false claims about him

Posted: May 13, 2005 1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

A California parent battling a school district over how it teaches evolutionary theory has filed a libel lawsuit against the education establishment's chief spokeswoman on Darwin, claiming she is trying to discredit his efforts.

Larry Caldwell, a practicing lawyer, is seeking a retraction from Eugenie C. Scott and the California Academy of Sciences after an Academy magazine, California Wild, published numerous claims he says are false.

Scott – executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Science Education – wrote that Caldwell attempted to get the district to adopt materials advocating biblical creationism, including a young-earth creationist book, "Refuting Evolution," by Jonathan Safarti, and the Jehovah's Witness book "Life: How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or Creation?"

An evolving debate


COVER STORY: The controversy over evolution includes a growing number of scientists who challenge Darwinism. Should schoolchildren learn that fact? Darwinists say no, but Kansas officials may say otherwise | by Timothy Lamer

TOPEKA, Kan. – The auditorium at Memorial Hall here looks like it came straight out of one of the older, small high schools that dot the Kansas landscape. At any moment, it seems, teenagers could come out onto the elevated stage and begin performing Grease for a theater production or singing "The Greatest Love of All" for a talent show.

But Memorial Hall isn't a high school and half the scientists invited to perform refused to participate. On May 5, 6, and 7 the Kansas State Board of Education had three days of testimony about whether schools, along with teaching evolution, should also inform students of the scientific evidence against Darwinism; in other words, whether schools should "teach the debate." Darwinians boycotted the hearings, insisting that there is no debate.

That conclusion was not shared by the 23 witnesses at the hearings.

Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, University of Georgia biology professor Russell Carlson, and University of Missouri-Kansas City professor of medicine William Harris were among those who argued that Darwinism is scientifically controversial. They pointed to challenges to the theory posed by the fossil record and by Mr. Behe's argument that gradual evolution by natural selection cannot account for the complexity of the cell. They argued that the evidence points not to macroevolution but to ID, Intelligent Design. (See WORLD, April 3, 2004; February 26, 2000; and March 1, 1997 for more about ID.)

The May 5-7 hearings were not the first time that the Kansas Board had accepted challenges to the conventional wisdom. The board gained national attention in 1999 when it voted to withdraw references to macroevolution from the state's education standards. Since then Ohio, Minnesota, and New Mexico have introduced scientific criticisms of Darwinism into classrooms, and local school districts in other states have either considered or passed similar measures.

In Kansas, Darwinists won back control of the State Board of Education in 2000 and restored the older standards. But conservatives have now retaken the board, and they are expected to vote this summer to adopt the revisions debated in Topeka.

The Darwinist response to such a challenge is no secret. "My strategy at this point is the same as it was in 1999," wrote Liz Craig of Kansas Citizens For Science on the group's discussion board in February. "Notify the national and local media about what's going on and portray them in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc. . . . we can sure make them look like asses as they do what they do."

Can make them look like asses, that is, if media outlets serve as Ms. Craig's public relations tools—and her strategy seemed to work on the first day of the hearings. Reporters from NBC, ABC, and as far away as France descended on Topeka, and the scene they described wasn't flattering. Several reports characterized the fight as a battle over religion, likening the hearings to the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial." They suggested that the revisions would impede Kansas' efforts to attract biotech companies.

The sense of threat was aided by the precautions officials took. Everyone had to go through a metal detector to get into the auditorium. In the auditorium, a uniformed officer sat off to the side in front, facing the audience. The Darwinist side refused to debate but it did station a lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, to question ID witnesses, and during their answers he occasionally sighed and shook his head, a lá Al Gore in the 2000 presidential debates.

Lost in the propaganda and facial expressions is just how modest the proposed revisions are. For all the comparisons to the Scopes trial, the roles in that trial have been reversed 80 years later. Today, it's the critics of Darwinism who want to introduce what they see as important scientific evidence into science classrooms and it's the Darwinists who are fighting to keep out what they see as heresy.

And yet, the revisions would not require the teaching of ID, which is fine with ID advocates who admit that their theory is too new to be the focus of classroom instruction. The revisions would merely have teachers teach Darwinism and the scientific evidence that supports it, but not treat Darwinism as revealed religion that must not be questioned.

A reading of the revisions turns up no mention of God, no mention of a young Earth, no mention of the Bible. What they do call for is more information in classrooms—a requirement that science teachers present both the scientific evidence for Darwinism and the scientific evidence against it.

Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute testified that there is a "tremendous amount of criticism of the theory that students should be permitted to know about." For example, nearly 400 scientists, including professors at MIT, Rice, and Yale, have signed a Discovery Institute statement that questions "the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."

Other Darwinian skeptics may be flying under the radar. For instance, the April 28 issue of the science journal Nature reported approaching a skeptical researcher who declined to be interviewed because he did not want to hurt his chances for tenure.

To Darwinists, though, the issue is all about religion. Intelligent Design, says Mr. Irigonegaray, is "creationism with a new wrapper. . . . We should not allow the minority to hijack science education and send it back to the 16th century."

By May 7, the last day of the hearings, the international and national media had departed; the press area had empty seats marked "Reuters," "Nightline," and "New York Times." Some audience members remained true believers: One compared not believing in Darwinism with not believing in germ theory. But another acknowledged that some scientific breakthroughs are denounced by mainstream science but turn out to be true.

Outside, a lone protester was handing out bumper stickers that said, "Kansans: not as bigoted as you think!" She asked those leaving Memorial Hall for a lunch break, "Do you want one of these or are you thoroughly indoctrinated?" Since supporters of a critical approach to Darwinism say their whole point is to oppose indoctrination, her question cut both ways. Asked which side she was on, her response was, "I'm opposed to a theocracy." Given the existence of the church of evolution, with Darwin as God, that still did not answer the question. —•

What is science?

One of the questions Kansas officials face concerns the definition of science. Darwinists want the state's education standards to describe science as "the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe around us."

A two-part controversy centers on the term "natural explanations." Many scientists say science must interpret everything naturalistically, and any discussion of supernatural reasons for "what we observe around us" belongs in philosophy and religion classes or discussion groups, not in biology classes and scientific laboratories. But that gag rule could force scientists to accept explanations that might not be true, and not allow them even to consider scientific evidence for design in natural phenomena.

"There is, in fact, a controversy over whether the design in nature is only an appearance or is in fact real," said Angus Menuge, a philosophy professor at Concordia University-Wisconsin. If a science teacher allows only "the presentation of evidence that favors the idea that design is an illusion, he is failing to properly inform the student of both sides of a controversial issue."

Darwinists, the critics said, are in effect trying to encode into the scientific method the religious belief that nature is all that exists. The result is "methodological naturalism" that, when promoted in public schools, has government favoring naturalistic religions over theistic and non-naturalistic religions. The second part of the controversy thus involves religious rights: Is the presentation only of Darwinian belief the type of "establishment of religion" that the First Amendment precludes?—

Michael Behe Promotes Intellegent Design


by Tristan Abbey
Deputy Editor

More evidence exists for intelligent design than for neo-Darwinism, and "grand Darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination," according to Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael J. Behe.

Speaking in the evening at Hewlett on May 2, Behe presented a primer for a growing theory of origins called intelligent design, which posits that certain features in nature are best explained by some sort of intelligent designer, rather than the purely neo-Darwinian mechanisms of natural selection and random mutations. Within the intelligent design community, there is broad disagreement over the designer's identity, which Behe emphatically stated was a different question than whether or not such design was detectable in biology.

"Everyone agrees aspects of biology appear designed," Behe said. Evolution­ists operate under the assumption that the appearance of design is misleading, while he believes that if something appears designed, it in fact may be. The perennial example of this is the bacterial flagellum, an "outboard motor" with a complex arrangement of proteins, all of which must be present in the system for it to function, violating the classical Darwinian principle of gradualism, according to Behe.

Behe first made controversial waves when his 1996 Darwin's Black Box was published. The book presented the idea of irreducible complexity at the molecular level, and discussed as examples various biochemical systems including blood-clotting and the bacterial flagellum. Several years later, University of Chicago-trained mathematician William Dembski established the criteria for design inferences: complex specified information. According to Dembski, irreducibly complex systems, like the flagellum, fit the criteria and are thus examples of intelligent design.

Intelligent design "is a completely empirical conclusion," he stated earlier that afternoon, preempting various criticisms from social, conceptual, and theological standpoints. Behe mentioned that many conservatives are not thrilled by intelligent design and suggested that there are strong social motivations in the scientific community that prevent the exploration of "extra­scientific" causation. He also defended his mousetrap analogy by responding to an attack by John McDonald of the University of Delaware .

To illustrate irreducible complexity, Behe uses a mousetrap. Each component of the mousetrap, the hammer, the base, the spring, the catch, etc., are all required for it to function; without any one of those components, the mousetrap doesn't work. Like the bacterial flagellum, Behe argues, it is extraordinarily unlikely that a gradual evolution of various mousetraps could occur, since natural selection requires viable intermediates.

Addressing a generally friendly audience of hundreds of students at Hewlett, Behe jokingly bashed phi­losophers, asking, "What do they know?" This may have been an inside joke, as well, because Behe routinely works with philosophers and theologians. He also read off a list of journals and newspapers that had reviewed his book, noting that while Christianity Today named it Book of the Year, "Skeptic….did not."

Behe is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture. The Institute is a conservative-leaning think tank based in Seattle . The Center supports efforts to incorporate critiques of neo-Darwinism into public school curricula, funds intelligent design research, and publishes books. Virtually all leaders in the intelligent design community are in some way affiliated with the Center, which boasts 40-some fellows. Nancy Pearcey, who spoke on Wednesday about the cultural implications of evolution, also is a Discovery fellow.

Both sides' views key to education



Posted on Sat, May. 14, 2005

What should public schools teach about the origin and development of life? Should science educators teach only Darwinian theory? Should school boards mandate that students learn about alternative theories? If so, which ones? Or should schools forbid discussion of all theories except neo-Darwinism?

Last week, the Kansas State Board of Education held its first round of hearings to determine what Kansas students should learn about Darwinian evolution and to address some of these very questions. Of course, many educators wish such controversies would simply go away. If science teachers teach only Darwinian evolution, many parents and religious activists will protest. If teachers present religiously based ideas, they run afoul of Supreme Court rulings.

We think there is a more constructive way to advance science education that also gives students and parents a diversity of perspectives at stake in the biology curriculum.

We propose that teachers should present Darwin's theory of evolution as Darwin himself did, as a credible, but contestable, argument. Rather than teaching Darwinian evolution as an incontrovertible "truth," teachers should present the main arguments for contemporary Darwinism and encourage students to evaluate these arguments critically as they would any other theory.

There are several good reasons for teaching science this way:

Teaching scientific controversies and arguments helps students understand the nature of science. Scientists typically deliberate, and argue, about how best to interpret evidence.

Teaching current scientific arguments for and against a theory is necessary to give students an accurate understanding of the current status of a theory. And, in the case of Darwinism, there are significant scientific criticisms of the theory that students should know about.

For example, some scientists doubt that all organisms have evolved from a single common ancestor. Fossil studies reveal "a biological big bang" near the beginning of the Cambrian period (530 million years ago) when many major, separate groups of organisms - including most animal body plans - emerged suddenly without clear precursors. This directly challenges the Darwinian picture of the history of life stemming from one fully connected branching-tree.

For this reason, nearly 400 Ph.D.-level scientists, including researchers from institutions such as MIT, Yale and the Smithsonian, have signed a statement questioning the creative power of the natural selection mechanism. Fifteen such dissenting scientists were among those testifying to encourage the Kansas State Board to adopt a more inclusive controversy-based curriculum.

Shouldn't informed biology students know that some scientists question key aspects of evolutionary theory and why they do? It seems like a majority of the public thinks so. Interestingly, polls from 2001 to 2004 show that more than 70 percent of the electorate favors teaching both the evidence for and against Darwin's theory of evolution.

As school boards and educators shape science education policy and curriculum, they should remember what Darwin himself wrote in the Origin of Species, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

Meyer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, and Campbell, a professor of communications at the University of Memphis, are the editors of Darwinism, Design and Public Education.

Sebelius: Evolution hearings could tarnish state's image


Posted on Fri, May. 13, 2005


Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - A debate over how evolution is taught in Kansas schools could tarnish the state's image, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Friday.

Her comments came a day after a State Board of Education subcommittee concluded four days of hearings, taking testimony from critics of evolution. The entire board plans to consider changes by August in standards that determine how students are tested on science.

Because a majority of board members are conservatives, the board is expected to adopt at least part of a proposal from intelligent design advocates, who want to expose students to more criticism of evolution. Many Kansas scientists and science teachers have complained that such language would endorse a fringe view of the theory.

"I think it casts some doubt throughout the country and the world whether or not we are up to the task of educating kids in the 21st Century," Sebelius said during a Statehouse news conference.

Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, said the scientists who presented criticism had strong credentials. The institute supports research into intelligent design, which says some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause because they are well-ordered and complex.

"These were not fringe, flaky, wackos," Wells said.

Kansas scientists argued that many of the witnesses were not testifying in their areas of expertise and were often wrong about the science.

"Kansas' national and international reputation is damaged once again, becoming notorious for these efforts to weaken the teaching of modern science," said Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka attorney representing evolution's defenders during the hearings.

Witnesses attacked evolutionary theory that says natural processes may have created life from chemicals, that all life has a common origin and that man and apes had a common ancestor.

As for Kansas' international reputation, one witness, Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish newspaper columnist, said many Muslims view the United States as an overly materialistic society. He said adopting science standards allowing more criticism of evolution will help the American image.

"The conservative people in those nations think they are being invaded by a culture that is anti-theistic," he testified.

And John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira attorney who organized the case against evolution, said polls show most people want evolution and other concepts taught together. Calvert helped found the Intelligent Design Network.

The hearings drew journalists from Canada, France, Great Britain and Japan. Many Kansas scientists and science teachers worry that the attention Kansas receives will mirror the ridicule it received in 1999, when a conservative-led board deleted most references to evolution from the science standards.

In 2000, voters elected a less conservative board, which quickly adopted the current, evolution-friendly standards. Last year, conservatives regained their majority.

Sebelius said however this year's debate turns out, Kansans need to send a strong message to outsiders that they want to turn out the best-educated students.

"What we need is more science-knowledgeable students, more standards at a higher level to be set and not, I think, a dilution of what kids may need to learn," Sebelius said.

On the Net:

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

Intelligent Design Network: http://www.discovery.org

Kansas Citizens for Science: http://www.kcfs.org

Letters - Creation science is no science at all


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Misunderstandings of "the scientific arguments"

The letters on intelligent design, "Inquiring minds consider the case for 'intelligent design" [May 11]may fairly represent the state of knowledge of the average person who has not examined the arguments concerning intelligent design but has taken the claims of the staff of the Discovery Institute as being scientifically sound. They may also be taken as evidence of the deplorable state of knowledge of evolutionary biology. I suggest as a starting point for a person with an inquiring mind a collection of articles entitled, "Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics," edited by Robert T. Pennock, published by the MIT Press in 2001.

The theory of evolution has been established to a degree of scientific certainty comparable to the certainty of say Newtonian physics, relativity theory, the atomic theory or quantum theory.

As a powerful way of understanding the relationships among living creatures, including humans, evolutionary biology does not actually require an account of life's origin.

The claims that "increasing cracks" in evolutionary theory are becoming evident and that "things are just too complex to simply dismiss as a cosmic hiccup" are simply wrong. Cumulative findings of paleontology and molecular genetics contradict the first claim and critically reading scholarly analyses of the books (never peer-reviewed articles) of the principle theorists on intelligent design, William Dembski or Michael Behe, should convince the open minded that the second is also in error.

There is a well-funded and well organized attempt to foist off intelligent design creationism as science and to position evolutionary biology as a deeply flawed theory. It has been to some extent successful in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kansas.

Let us be vigilant that it does not succeed in California for ultimately teaching such erroneous ideology to our children will handicap them in dealing with their competitors in a global economy.

John B. Bush Jr.
Laguna Beach

Semantic games

Calling intelligent design a scientific theory does not make it so. A scientific theory involves the formulation of underlying principles of observed phenomena which have been verified to a least a substantial degree. It is subjected to testing and stands up to continual challenges, such as the theory of relativity. And like the theory of relativity, evolution is based upon the "laws" of physics.The intelligent design crowd uses symantics to confuse the scientifically illiterate into confusing a scientific theory with an abstract belief.

There is nothing random about evolution, natural selection is the opposite of random. Intelligent design is simply creationism with a new dress.

Larry Parkins
Garden Grove

Still compatible with creator

Although evolution is not perfect, it the best scientific theory available today. Intelligent design is not a scientific theory; it offers no predictations and cannot be tested. It is a philosophical argument disguised in pseudo-science.

Evolution, on the other hand, can be tested, corrected, and verified. That makes it a scientific theory and is why it belongs in a science class. Moreover, evolution is simply the mechanism about how life has changed and is not incompatible with the idea that God is the creator of the universe.

Peter Bui

Philosophical conundrum

The problem with intelligent design is that is doesn't solve the problem it purports to solve.

If some intelligent designer is required to explain the complexity of the universe, then there must be an even more intelligent designer to design the first designer. And so on, ad infinitum. Or did the intelligent designer just happen chance?

But this is clearly a subject for philosophy rather than science. So I say, bring 'em on. Before biology class each day, let's have a philosophy class where these matters can be "examined with an open mind."

But I suspect that the creationists would have a fit if we were to expose the absurdities their philosophical tenets to the minds of poor, immature 10th graders. I'm sure the high school students could handle it, but their religionist parents couldn't.

Robin Purciel

Narrow-minded imagination

Intelligent design is not science, it is a limited and narrow-minded imagination, a bad and misguided byproduct of faith. The Gospel would be better served by an act of kindness, instead of an act of ignorance. Read the Bible, then read about science and evolution. They are, and should remain, two separate books.

Stan Rogers
El Toro

"Those who support intelligent design should consider a quote from biologist and social philosopher Herbert Spencer whose theory of evolution predated Darwin's. He said, "Those who cavalierly reject the theory of evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all."

Dale Martin

The Terms of Debate in Kansas


Published: May 15, 2005

Hearings on how Kansas schoolchildren should be taught about the origins of life - the fourth and final session concluded on Thursday in Topeka - quickly morphed from science lesson to vocabulary quiz. As the battle over evolution moves beyond Darwin vs. Adam, semantics seems almost as important as studies of cell composition.

Most of the two dozen scientists, teachers and lawyers who have urged amending the state's science standards to include critiques of the theory of evolution support the movement known as intelligent design, which posits that the universe's mysteries and complexities are best understood as evidence of an intelligent designer (generally seen as a longer name for God).

It is a debate in which the two sides differ on many basic terms, including the definition of science itself. Mainstream scientists define their work as seeking natural explanations for the world around us, while their critics define science as a systematic method of continuing investigation, using various tools to lead to what they consider more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

Methodological Naturalism

The philosophy of mainstream science that nature has its own method, without the possibility of supernatural influence on, say, how DNA is sequenced. William S. Harris, a chemist who helped write Kansas' alternative science standards questioning evolution, said that methodological naturalism puts blinders on the search for truth.

Irreducibly Complex

Introduced in Michael Behe's 1996 book, "Darwin's Black Box," which describes the intelligent design concept, this phrase refers to a system in which the removal of one part prevents the system from performing its basic function. Such a system could not evolve over time, since it cannot exist without every part, and thus would undercut the concept of natural selection.

Common Descent

The idea that, beyond the biblical notion that humanity descends from Adam and Eve, all of life's species have the same origin. Pedro Irigonegaray, the lawyer at the Topeka hearings arguing for the teaching of evolution, pressed several witnesses on whether they believe in prehominids as the ancestral line to homo sapiens. One response from an opponent of teaching evolution: Extremely unlikely.

Wedge Strategy

Conceived by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, this reflects the change in strategy by critics of evolution to avoid mentioning hot-button terms like creationism and instead emphasizing intelligent design, with its logical-sounding notion that complexity unexplainable by natural laws should be attributed to some other, possibly divine, force. The aim is to create a wedge to change school curriculums to teach the controversy over Darwin's theories. (The other side said there is no scientific controversy.)


The idea that species evolve over time is almost universally accepted.


The notion that one species can evolve into another, a view that is rejected by creationists and some intelligent designers.

Biological Evolution

In their competing proposals for Kansas' standards, the two sides differ on how this should be defined for high school students. Mainstream scientists say it is an "explanation for the history of the diversification of organisms from common ancestors," while the dissenters call for eight more paragraphs saying biological evolution "postulates an unpredictable and unguided natural process that has no discernable direction or goal."

Jonathan Wells, a Discovery Institute senior fellow, took issue even with his comrades' use of biological evolution, preferring "Darwinian evolution." When Mr. Irigonegaray, the lawyer arguing for teaching evolution, pointed out that Darwin predates the discovery of genetics, Mr. Wells offered "neo-Darwinist evolution" instead.

Letters - Intelligent Design: The evolutionary challenge


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Stereotypes don't engage "the essential questions"

Tom Teepen's column, "The sham that is 'Intelligent Design'" [May 10], provides little enlightenment of Intelligent, displaying instead little understanding of the scientific or philosophical bases. His invectives (sham, brouhaha, gimmick, pseudoscience) do little to even support Darwin's conjectures.

His erroneous implications include: ID support is only Christian based; scientists do not support ID; creationism was conjured up to counter court rulings; and ID support comes solely from Republican majorities. ID involves very detailed scientific analyses of biological systems. It questions how such complexity could evolve incrementally in a randomly driven process controlled by survival of fittest. Absent fossil data or other substantial scientific evidence supporting Darwin's conjectures, after all this time, many scientists, including secular ones, are driven elsewhere for explanations.

ID challenges evolutionists to describe how incredibly complex biological systems of subsystems, like eyesight and blood clotting, could have evolved incrementally. Intermediate stages in sight evolution (incomplete, hence sightless) are not likely to have resulted due to survivability. Thinking persons with some modicum of open-mindedness might explore ID and take a shot at answering such questions. If it leads to a designer, let there be one.

Stan Sholar
Huntington Beach

Science at the foundation

Dean H. Kenyon, Professor of Biology at San Francisco State Univesity co-athored "Biochemical Predstination" (McGraw-Hill - 1969). It was the best selling advanced level book on chemical evolution in the 1970's. As a result of advances made in scienticfic data since the 60's, Kenyon now teaches a balanced approach to the question of Biochemical origens (like that suggested in Kansas).

Kenyon writes in the forward of the book What is Creation Science," "there continues to be widespread misunderstanding in the scientific community just what 'creation science' is. Many have considered it to be religion in disguise or have chosen to shun it altogether, even to the point of refusing to examine any scientific creationist writings. This situation is regrettable and exhibits a degree of closemindedness quite alien to the spirit of true scientific inquiry."

Science must be a study for truth, regardless of where the information leads, even when it takes you to a place you are uncomfortable with.

Larry Jorgenson

19th century wizards of oz

Tom Teepen unable or unwilling to intelligently confront the growing legions attacking his beloved macroevolution (William Dembski on the mathematical front, Michael Behe on the biological front, and Phillip Johnson on the logical front) resorts to a tried and tested ad hominem diatribe: "Only five years into the new millennium, our fingertip grip on the 21st century already is slipping. We could tumble into the 18th before you can say 'macroevolution.'"

He refuses to acknowledge that the emperor may actually have no clothes or that the little professor behind the curtain is not the great and powerful Wizard. It must be a bit disconcerting to see philosophical icons such as former atheist Anthony Flew switch to deism solely on the solidity of arguments for Intelligent Design. We are moving ahead in the 21st century. One can only hope that Tom Teepen keeps from tumbling back into the 19th.

James Beasley
Aliso Viejo

Science with an agenda

I am a professional engineer with a chemical engineering degree and several certifications. Tom Teepen's closing comment in the article, "The sham that is intellegent design," is another indication of how fearful the Darwinian theorists are of the truth or any contradiction to what they consider to be the truth so they can force their views on others as part of a covert agenda for abortion, homosexual activism and other grievous sins which are an anathma to Judaeo-Christian values.

Other viewpoints should be recognized. I experienced these in public school 50 years ago. I have both learned and experienced that our secular system doesn't work no matter how hard we try to hide our shortcomings by changing standards, personal accountability, SATs or laws.

The bottom line is that the secular population can't really understand spiritual principles For example, one version of the "Big Bang theory" states that there was nothing in the beginning and then it blew up. It's kinda like the Darwinians whocan't accept there is no fossil evidence for evolution/mutation in a vertical vector of species development. They are still looking for the "missing link" which may be the best evidence that is was left out by "Intelligent Design." We pray for you and our country "in God we trust"

Ed Johnston
San Juan Capistrano

Enlightenment from tradition

Once again we have a journalist telling us what is the supposed truth of the "Intelligent Design." But, this is a biblical and theological issue, and not an issue for a lay journalist to be lobbying for or against with politics. Thank God for Kansas' common sense, and seeking to balance the issue. Though we could use a bit of the 18th century thought and logic of John Locke's language, which was used by two great minds of our Christian West: John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. Their Lockean manifestation drew on Enlightenment thought and traditional theology alike. And in this too, is the tradition of "Intelligent Design":the Creator God.

Rev. Robert Page

Evading the real issues

The real "sham" was several columns of ad hominem attack on religious conservatives. Proponents of I.D. are asking middle and high school educators to allow reasonable challenges to evolutionary theory be included in science textbooks. For Teepen this equates to "idiot fairness" and a "defacing of biology texts." Drop the hyperbolic name calling, address the issues and the "sham" might just evolve into believable "truth."

Dave Peeler
Laguna Niguel

Humanity in context

Intelligent Design makes sense to me as long as humankind is not proclaimed the glorious, crowning achievement. This newspaper, television and common sense tells us that something far better must be in the works by an Intelligent Maker.

Allen Wilson

'Intelligent design' should be tempered intelligently


Article Published: Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 2:15:50 AM EST

The North Adams [Mass.] Transcript said in a recent editorial: When fighting scientific fact with unproved speculation, it's a good move to take advantage of a layman's understanding of science in order to paint it as an opt-in belief system, much like religion. Such is the triumph of the anti-evolutionists who went in front of the Kansas School Board to testify that white is actually black and up is actually down.

It doesn't seem like making a case against reality would be that easy, but, really, it's just a matter of twisting the right words to an audience of people who have reached a conclusion long before they heard the facts.

The first move by anti-evolutionists is to point out that evolution is "just a theory." A theory, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed," so we guess we will agree with them there.

Biologist Stephen Jay Gould explained it this way: "Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them." Other claims border on ignorant. They say that no one has ever witnessed evolution, even though the AIDS virus functions as a time-lapse example of the process, as well as other viruses that develop penicillin immunity and insects that develop immunities to pesticides. Perhaps they missed those, they are awfully small creatures.

Anti-evolutionists often say that no transitional fossils exist, which is only true if you ignore all those transitional fossils detailing the process from reptilian to mammal, land creature to whale, and so on. Maybe they don't understand what "transitional" means.

Anti-evolutionists also claim that gaps in the fossil records are proof against evolution, rather than an illustration of the fact that millions of years of specific favorable conditions are required to create fossils.

The anti-evolutionist goal of dismantling scientific education in our country has only really one result: ignorance, which is a required component of control. The disruption of an educational discipline that teaches critical thought and promotes a disavowal of belief without appropriate processes and evidence is mandatory to their plan. Anti-evolution activists serve up the deceptively reasonable dogma of intelligent design as a valid counterpoint to evolution. When you move past all the manipulative twisting of scientific jargon that intelligent design proponents tend to toss out, you will this is a discipline stating, essentially, that because the universe is so complex and orderly, there must be a creator behind it. Well, that's a nice thought, certainly, but it hardly qualifies as scientific research. All that the universe being complex and orderly really proves is that the universe is complex and orderly. Equally, it's not as if evolution claims that life is random - natural selection is a very orderly process, actually.

Gould points out that there are no absolutes in science, though there are plenty of absolutes in traditional religions, and in George Bush's America, absolutes rule. People do have the right to believe that the earth is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth, and that Martians are building canals on Mars, but that right does not make them so.

The question "Do you believe in evolution?" is not a valid question at all. Evolution is a fact whether you believe it or not.

The real question is "Do you believe in intelligent design?" If you do, it's up to you to rectify your beliefs with scientific fact - it is not up to science to fudge the processes of nature in order to make you feel better about your beliefs.

'Intelligent design' debate key to Pa. school election


By Martha Raffaele, Associated Press | May 14, 2005

DOVER, Pa. -- On opposite sides of town, two billboards for competing slates of school board candidates illustrate the deep divide here over the teaching of evolution and the origins of life.

One sign shouts, ''It's time for a new school board in Dover!" The other describes the seven sitting board members as ''the INTELLIGENT choice," a reference to the board's decision last fall to require the mention of ''intelligent design" in class.

In what is believed to be the first such decision in the United States, the school board voted 6 to 3 in October to require that ninth-graders be told about intelligent design when they learn about evolution in biology class. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex, it must have been created by a guiding force.

Tuesday's primary election promises to be a battle royal among 18 candidates evenly divided over the intelligent-design mandate in this 3,400-student school system near Harrisburg.

''We would have no interest this year if not for the intelligent-design issue," school board president Sheila Harkins said.

The intelligent-design policy is being challenged in a federal lawsuit scheduled to go to trial in September. The plaintiffs are eight families who say intelligent design is biblical creationism disguised in secular language and has no place in a science classroom.

The school board has defended the intelligent-design mandate, saying it merely wants students to know about weaknesses in Charles Darwin's theory.

The controversy in Dover is one of several recent battles over the teaching of evolution. The state education board in Kansas is considering adding intelligent design to its science standards.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Evolution education update: All over but the shouting in KS, legislation dies in FL but lives in NY, AAPT adds its voice for evolution

The Kansas kangaroo court ends in acrimony, recrimination, and a $17,000 tab; antievolution legislation dies in Florida but lives in New York; and the American Association of Physics Teachers adds its voice for evolution.


The Kansas Board of Education hearings on proposed revisions to the state science standards, which were widely condemned as a kangaroo court or show trial, commenced on May 5, 2005 in Topeka, Kansas. Testifying before three antievolutionist members of the board, a parade of witnesses expressed their support for the so-called minority report version of the standards (written with the aid of a local "intelligent design" organization), complained of repression by a dogmatic evolutionary establishment, and claimed to have detected atheism lurking "between the lines" of the draft science standards. Conspicuously absent from the hearings were representatives of the scientific community, who honored the call of the grassroots pro-science organization Kansas Citizens for Science. Kansas scientists, educators, and concerned citizens were not idle during the hearings, however, holding a separate event outside the hearings to provide informed commentary to the media and the public at large.

In the hearings, Topeka civil rights attorney Pedro Irigonegaray provided the only critical voice, asking pointed questions with the aim of documenting dubious motivations and lack of relevant expertise. The first major media story to appear after the first day of the hearings highlighted instances in which witnesses admitted under his probing that they rejected, or were ignorant about, such basic scientific facts as the age of the earth (approximately 4.5 billion years) and the common ancestry of humans and apes. According to a later story, although most of the witnesses accepted the correct age of the earth, most rejected common ancestry. A further embarrassment came when, after a witness admitted that he had not read the full draft standards, board member Kathy Martin consoled him by saying, according to the Wichita Eagle, "Please don't feel bad that you haven't read the whole thing because I haven't read it myself." The Associated Press reported "groans of disbelief" from the audience.

With the exception of such embarrassing moments for the witnesses and the boards, the proceedings were evidently dull. Writing for the Kansas City Star, David Klepper noted that "[a]lthough there was a full house at the start, most left well before the hearing ended." Apparently, lectures on "primordial soup, fruit fly mutations and whether humans are related to worms" did not hold the interest of the audience. Not even the prospect of the "intelligent design" luminaries testifying, including Michael Behe and Stephen C. Meyer, convinced the bulk of the media to stay for the third day of hearings. Afterward, with the antievolution testimony over, the media paused for analysis. Nationally, the highlight was the Washington Post's May 8 editorial "Kansas evolves back," which observed "[T]here is no serious scientific controversy over whether Darwinian evolution takes place. Intelligent design is not science. Whatever its rhetoric, the public questioning of evolution is fundamentally religious, not scientific, in nature."

Due to the scientific boycott of the hearings, the only person to speak on behalf of the draft science standards May 12 was Pedro Irigonegaray, who devoted his ninety minutes to criticizing the proceedings themselves. The Wichita Eagle reports that he described the hearings as "a gigantic waste of money" -- the costs are estimated to be in excess of $17,000 -- "and an insult to Kansas teachers with great potential for harm to teachers and students." He warned that if the board were to accept the so-called minority report version of the draft science standards, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the decision might result, since it embodies a "narrow, sectarian, theological view of science that conflicts with mainstream Christianity and many other faiths." And he questioned the impartiality of the three members of the board present, as well as their competence to assess the testimony of the witnesses. Irigonegaray further irritated the board members by declining to answer their questions on the grounds that he was not appearing as a witness; Kansas "intelligent design" activist John Calvert refused to shake his hand.

What's next for Kansas? Observers in the state say that it was clear even before the hearings that the sole point of the exercise was to provide political cover for the antievolution faction on the board to override the consensus of the committee of scientists, science educators, and citizens appointed to revise the science standards. Judging from the press coverage, it failed. State Board of Education Chairman Steve Abrams -- himself a creationist -- told the Lawrence Journal-World that he hopes for a set of revised standards to be approved in the later summer, but he did not specify whether it would be the draft version or the so-called minority report version. NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "The eyes of the nation will be on Kansas in the next few months. We hope that the board of education will do right by the children by adopting the scientifically accurate and pedagogically appropriate draft science standards as submitted by the writing committee." It may be all over for the shouting, but expect plenty of shouting.

To read the Washington Post's editorial "Kansas evolves back," visit:

To read Salon's "A real monkey trial," visit:

And to support the efforts of Kansas Citizens for Science, visit: http://www.kcfs.org


When the legislative session of the Florida House of Representatives ended on May 6, 2005, House Bill 837 -- a version of the so-called Academic Bill of Rights promoted by conservative activist David Horowitz -- died. Its sponsor, Dennis Baxley, was earlier quoted as suggesting that a student could sue under the proposed law if a professor were to say, "Evolution is a fact. I don't want to hear about Intelligent Design ... and if you don't like it, there's the door." He was also reported to have claimed that as a Florida State University student "he was subjected to a 'tirade' on evolution being right and creationism being wrong." According to a later story in the Tallahassee Democrat (April 22, 2005), however, Baxley denied both that HB 837 was intended to force the teaching of creationism and that the bill would have enabled students to sue. Even before the House adjourned, it was clear that the bill was unlikely to pass, but Baxley was reportedly pleased that it at least sparked a discussion about classroom bias.

Meanwhile, in New York, Assembly Bill 8036, introduced on May 3, 2005, and referred to the Committee on Education, would require that "all pupils in grades kindergarten through twelve in all public schools in the state ... receive instruction in both theories of intelligent design and evolution." It also charges New York's commissioner of education to assist in developing curricula and local boards of education to provide "appropriate training and curriculum materials ... to ensure that all aspects of the theories, along with any supportive data, are fully examined through such course of study." Richard Firenze, who teaches biology at Broome Community College, remarked, "This bill is completely absurd. Those of us in New York who are concerned about our children's science education should sit up and take notice: it's not just in places like Georgia and Kansas that creationists are trying to sabotage biology education." The bill's sole sponsor, Daniel L. Hooker (R), represents Assembly District 127.

To read the Tallahassee Democrat's story on Florida's House Bill 837, visit:

To read the complete text of New York's Assembly Bill 8036, visit:


On April 24, 2005, the American Association of Physics Teachers adopted a statement on the teaching of evolution and cosmology. Prompted by dismay over "organized actions to weaken and even to eliminate significant portions of evolution and cosmology from the educational objectives of states and school districts," the AAPT's statement reads, in part, "Evolution and cosmology represent two of the unifying concepts of modern science. There are few scientific theories more firmly supported by observations than these ... We do our children a grave disservice if we remove from their education an exposure to firm scientific evidence supporting principles that significantly shape our understanding of the world in which we live." The statement also explains, "we do not endorse teaching the 'evidence against evolution,' because currently no such scientific evidence exists. Nor can we condone teaching 'scientific creationism,' 'intelligent design,' or other non-scientific viewpoints as valid scientific theories. These beliefs ignore the important connections among empirical data and fail to provide testable hypotheses. They should not be a part of the science curriculum." Established in 1930 with the goal of ensuring the dissemination of knowledge of physics, particularly by way of teaching, the AAPT currently has over 11,000 members in 30 countries around the world, and publishes the American Journal of Physics and the Physics Teacher.

To read the AAPT's statement, visit:

To read NCSE's collection of organizational statements supporting evolution education, visit:

Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available:

What Intelligent Design Is—and Isn't


The more scientifically sophisticated we get, the stronger the argument for intelligent design.

By Jay W. Richards

Unless you've been hiding in a cave, you've heard of "intelligent design" (ID) and some of its leading proponents—Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski. Unfortunately, you probably got the mainstream media's spin. It's so predictable, I sometimes wonder if reporters aren't using computer macros. The reporter types control-alt "CE" and out pops the witty headline: "Creationism Evolves." Control-alt "Scopes Trope" and out pops a lead referencing the old Spencer Tracy film "Inherit the Wind," a cartoon-like caricature of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial over evolution in the classroom.

Control-alt "Conspiracy" and, presto, a paragraph about the religious right and its scheme to smuggle Bibles into the science class as the first step toward establishing a theocracy. Next comes a quotation supposedly representing the view of all "serious scientists," with the phrase "overwhelming evidence" thrown in for good measure. The story practically writes itself, and it possesses this virtue: it saves the reporter the bother of actually investigating what design theory really is.

Victor Victorian

So what is ID, really? ID is not a deduction from religious dogma or scripture. It's simply the argument that certain features of the natural world—from miniature machines and digital information found in living cells, to the fine-tuning of physical constants—are best explained as the result of an intelligent cause. ID is thus a tacit rebuke of an idea inherited from the 19th century, called scientific materialism.

Natural science in the Victorian Age, or rather, its materialistic gloss, offered a radically different view of the universe: (1) The universe has always existed, so we need not explain its origin; (2) Everything in the universe submits to deterministic laws. (3) Life is the love child of luck and chemistry. (4) Cells, the basic units of life, are essentially blobs of Jell-O.

Onto this dubious edifice Charles Darwin added a fifth conjecture: All the sophisticated organisms around us grew from a process called natural selection: this process seizes and passes along those minor, random variations in a population that provide a survival advantage. With this, Darwin explained away the apparent design in the biological world as just that—only apparent.

Each of these 19th-century assumptions has been undermined or discredited in the 20th century, but the materialist gloss remains: There is one god, matter, and science is its prophet. It hides behind its more modest cousin, methodological naturalism. According to this tidy dictum, scientists can believe whatever they want in their personal lives, but they must appeal only to impersonal causes when explaining nature. Accordingly, any who discuss purpose or design within science (the founders of modern science generously excepted) cease to be scientists.

The Universe Strikes Back

There was one problem with this tidy rule. Nature forgot to cooperate. The trouble started in the 1920s when astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the light from distant galaxies was "red-shifted." It had stretched during the course of its travels. This suggested the universe is expanding. Reversing the process in their minds, scientists were suddenly confronted with a universe that had come into existence in the finite past. Who knew! Hubble's discovery, confirmed by later evidence, flatly contradicted the earlier picture of an eternal and self-existing cosmos. The universe itself had re-introduced the question of its origin to a community bent on avoiding the question altogether.

This was just the beginning. In the 1960s and '70s, physicists found that the universal constants of physics (e.g., gravity, electromagnetism) appeared finely tuned for complex life. To astrophysicist and atheist Fred Hoyle, this fine-tuning suggested the work of a "superintellect."

Still more recently, growing evidence in astronomy has revealed that even in a finely tuned universe, dozens of local conditions have to go just right to build a single habitable planet. This growing list of unlikely requirements is only half the story. In "The Privileged Planet," astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and I argue that those conditions for habitability also provide the best overall conditions for doing science. The very places where observers can exist are the same places that provide the best overall conditions for observing. For instance, the most life-friendly region of the galaxy is also the best place to be an astronomer and cosmologist. You might expect this if the universe were designed for discovery, but not if, as astronomer Carl Sagan put it, "The universe is all there is, ever was, or ever will be."

Information Plantation

Of course, even with a suitable environment, you don't automatically get man or even amoebas. Before the Darwinian mechanism can even get started, it needs a wealth of biological information as part of the first self-reproducing organism. For instance, there's the information encoded along the DNA molecule, often described as a sophisticated computer code for producing proteins, the three-dimensional building blocks of all life. These, in turn, need the right cellular hardware to function.

In recent years, philosophers William Dembski and Stephen Meyer have turned this evidence into a formidable argument for intelligent design. Dembski, also a mathematician, applies information and probability theory to the subject. Meyer argues that the usual aimless processes of chance and chemistry simply can't explain biological information and that, moreover, our everyday experience shows us where such information comes from—intelligent agents.

Moving up a level, we find complex and functionally integrated machines that are out of reach to the Darwinian mechanism. Biochemist Michael Behe immortalized some of these in his bestselling 1996 book, "Darwin's Black Box."

Behe argues that molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum are "irreducibly complex." They're like a mousetrap. Without all of their basic parts, they don't work. Natural selection can only build systems one small step at a time, where each step provides an immediate survival advantage for the organism. It can't select for a future function. To do that requires foresight—the exclusive jurisdiction of intelligent agents. That's the positive evidence for design: Such structures are the sort produced by intelligent agents, who can foresee a future function. If you get this point, you've already comprehended more than most journalists writing on the subject.

The New Zoo Review

Moving to the macroscopic world, we see the three-dimensional complexity of many diverse animal body plans (phyla). In the fossil record, these show up suddenly. The problem for Darwinism is not that there are "gaps." Of course there are. Rather, it's the entire fossil record's pattern of sudden appearance of new phyla and persistent morphological isolation between them. This is not the gradually branching tree of life the Darwinian story leads us to expect.

Nor is this an argument from ignorance. In our experience, sudden innovations and massive infusions of information come from intelligent agents. The primary innovations come first (e.g., car, airplane, a new Cambrian phylum) followed by variations on the original form. This is the story the fossil record tells.

The Definition or the Evidence?

At the beginning of the 21st century, we have new evidence and new intellectual tools at our disposal. Standing in the way is the materialistic definition of science inherited from the Victorian Age. If a definition of science conflicts with the scientific evidence, should we go with the definition or the evidence?

To ask the question is to answer it. "Scientia" means knowledge. If we are properly scientific, then we should be open to the natural world, not decide beforehand what it's allowed to reveal. Either the universe provides evidence for purpose and design or it doesn't. The way to resolve the question isn't to play definitional games but to look.

The G-word

Recently, Nobel-prize winning physicist Charles Townes asked, "What is the purpose or meaning of life? Or of our universe? These are questions which should concern us all.... If the universe has a purpose, then its structure, and how it works, must reflect this purpose."

Townes continues: "Serious intellectual discussion of the possible meaning of our universe, or the nature of religion and philosophical views of religion and science, needs to be openly and carefully discussed."

Unfortunately, few are willing to follow Townes' advice. If we talk about ID, we're warned, someone, somewhere, will start talking about God.

But certain ideas in science will always have theological implications. As arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins so memorably said, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Right.

Both Dawkins and Townes agree that ideas in science can have theological implications. Isn't that obvious? Yet in our current climate, even the bare rumor of God causes some to reach for their stash of derisive terms—"theocrat," "fundamentalist," "creationist"—they don't require much imagination.

But that response rings increasingly hollow. The genie is out of the bottle, and name-calling and misinformation won't put him back. The mandarins can no longer control the flow of information to those who seek it. The implications can take care of themselves. It's time to discuss the evidence.

Jay Wesley Richards, Ph.D., is Vice President for Research and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science & Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He is the co-author, with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, of 'The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery' (Regnery, 2004), and contributes to the blog idthefuture.com.

Borrowing a Page From Lysenko, Intelligent Design Theorist Demands Gov't. Hearings


Posted by Ernest Miller
May 12, 2005

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about the ongoing evolution/intelligent design/creationism debate ongoing in Kansas (Lysenko's Intelligent Design). Today, there is more evidence of the Lysenkoist tendancies among the intelligent design cognoscenti. From the intelligent design theorist William Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent comes this interesting suggestion (including illustration) (The Vise Strategy: Squeezing the Truth out of Darwinists):

I therefore await the day when [evolution/intelligent design governmental] hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas that compel evolutionists to be deposed and interrogated at length on their views. There are ways for this to happen, and the wheels are in motion (e.g., Congressional hearings over the teaching of biology in federally funded high schools for military kids). For such hearings to have the desired effect, however, will require that evolutionists be asked the right questions.

What I propose, then, is a strategy for interrogating the Darwinists to, as it were, squeeze the truth out of them. For a glimpse of what I have in mind, see the examination of Eugenie Scott by Robert George before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (go here [PDF]). [link in original]

Lysenko would be all in favor, I think. Though even Lysenko might have shied away from torturing a stuffed toy version of Darwin to make his point.

Intelligent Design To Be Pivotal Issue In Dover Election


POSTED: 5:05 pm EDT May 12, 2005

DOVER, Pa. -- Voters in a York County school district will have to consider a crowded field of candidates in next Tuesday's primary election.

Eighteen candidates are running for seven seats on the Dover Area School District board. They're evenly divided on a policy the board adopted in October to require high school students to hear about "intelligent design" in biology class.

Intelligent design is a concept that challenges the theory of evolution by saying the universe is so complex, it must have been created by an unspecified guiding force.

School board President Sheila Harkins is one of seven current school board members on the ballot. She said intelligent design appears to be the overrriding issue in the election.

Opponents of the school board include a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the school district.

Bryan Rehm said intelligent design should not be taught in a science class.

The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in September.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

Debating the Merits of Intelligent Design


by Tristan Abbey (Pro) and Paul Laddis (Con)
Deputy Editor and Staff Writer

Are Darwinists Chickens?
Tristan Abbey

Let's suppose you hold two Ph.D.s in evolutionary and theoretical biology. You edit the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed journal affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. You've had dozens of articles published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Morphology and the Journal of Biological Systems. You've lectured, spoken, or taught at universities across the United States , from Northern Michigan University to the University of South Carolina . You are not a proponent of intelligent design, but your research has led you to conclude neo-Darwinian mechanisms are not sufficient to account for the complexity of life. As you prepare to resign as scheduled from the Proceedings, you also approve publication of a scientific paper written by a Cambridge-trained philosopher of science theorizing that an intelligent designer played a role in the origin of animal body plans. What happens?

You're asked if you're a "right-winger," accused of being a "creationist," and prevented from continuing research. The Biological Society of Washington quickly does damage control and publicly explains that the paper was an "inappropriate" mistake, discounting the fact that you pursued the peer-review process. Your career as a scientist hangs in the balance.

Believe it or not, this actually happened to a researcher named Rick Sternberg. The paper in question was "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Stephen C. Meyer. This is a classic, and scary, case of censorship by orthodox Darwinians, who are afraid of any sort of critique of their sacred methodological naturalism, the philosophical bias permeating much of the scientific community that prevents any non-natural explanation from being considered. No controversy exists, they tell us.

But what of the facts? Darwinists have failed to explain how animal body plans arose, where the precursors to the Cambrian phyla are, how cooptation actually worked to produce irreducibly complex systems, and countless other problems with standard theory. Hundreds of scientists have signed petitions and letters criticizing neo-Darwinism, asserting that it cannot explain everything it pretends to. Many have written books pointing out where Darwinian mechanisms have failed to explain some aspects of biology. The peer-reviewed literature is bursting with examples of papers written by scientists who do not endorse intelligent design, but nonetheless critique aspects of evolutionary theory. If this is not a scientific controversy, what is?

The attraction of intelligent design is its broad scope. Astrophysicists, for example, have explored the fine-tuning of the universe and of the Earth, theorizing that because so many aspects had to be just right that an intelligent designer is responsible. Origins of life researchers, on the other hand, can point to the decades of failures that have not shown that life can originate spontaneously by purely natural processes. Geneticists can look at "junk" DNA, ask what it does, and discover various functions for allegedly useless sequences. Development biologists can observe embryological development and conclude that generative entrenchment suggests body plans didn't evolve from a universal common ancestor. Molecular biologists can determine various biological systems are irreducibly complex. And on, and on…

This is not to say that intelligent design is necessarily the truth. Years from now intelligent design may indeed be a laughable idea and its proponents relegated to the dustbin of crackpot theories, alongside the Flat Earth and Marxist-Leninist "science." But let's wait and see.

It is regrettable that so much of the work in intelligent design is kept hush-hush. There are many scientists, professors, and biology students who keep that aspect of their lives a secret, for fear of ruining their careers with a careless phrase or foolish affiliation with a controversial organization like the Discovery Institute. The cases of Rick Sternberg, Roger DeHart, Jonathan Wells, and others seem to indicate that their careers would, indeed, be at the very least adversely affected were they to come out of the closet.

Which brings us to a very simple question: If the evidence is so strongly in favor of evolution, and if intelligent design is so clearly wrong, what is the Darwinian establishment afraid of?

Tristan Abbey is the director of the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center (www.idurc.org)

The Dogmatists' New Clothes
Paul Laddis

Creationism is an example of what Richard Dawkins calls a "virus of the mind," a cultural parasite which spreads simply because it is good at spreading, not because it benefits its host. Just last month editorials in Science and Nature warned of a newer, more insidious strain called "Intelligent Design."

Why do the editors of Nature consider ID "a threat to the very core of scientific reason?" (Nature 434; 1053) ID is nothing but creationism dressed up as science. But this disguise makes it alarmingly effective in slipping past Americans' defenses in sound bytes and presentations like Michael Behe's recent lectures, which were part of the "Veritas Forum at Stanford," and causes considerable confusion about the nature of science. Strip away the rhetoric, and ID is completely devoid of scientific merit. Behe's argument may be summarized as follows:

1. Everyone agrees that living things appear designed.

2. There are "structural obstacles" to the evolution of biological systems.

3. Therefore, the best explanation is that these systems were in fact designed by an intelligent being.

The "structural obstacles" refer to Behe's infamous notion of "irreducible complexity." A structure is irreducibly complex if removing one component causes it to stop functioning completely. If the structure minus one component does nothing, it could not have evolved, or so the argument goes. After all, natural selection can only favor intermediate forms if they confer some sort of advantage. Otherwise, the whole structure would have to come into being fully-formed, which as just about any scientist will tell you, is absurdly improbable. Darwin himself acknowledged that his theory could not account for any structure that could not be produced by a series of "small successive changes" to existing components, but could find no such example.

Behe presented as his sole example a bacterial flagellum. Flagella are whiplike complexes of thirty-odd proteins which function like outboard molecular motors. However, he neglected to point out the large number of published examples of homologous structures, or proto-flagella, which show that small subsets of the proteins that make up the flagellum could have a selectable function. Any doubt that Behe is aware of this fact was erased when students brought up a prominent example, the Type Three Secretory System, after the lecture. Basically, the TTSS is the same as the mechanism used to export flagellar components to the exterior of the cell, but it is part of another pathway that secretes bacterial toxins.

Even if the flagellum were "irreducibly complex," it could still have evolved. In treating the protein components of the flagellum as irreducible black boxes, Behe once again conveniently omits basic facts of which he is obviously aware. These include Darwin 's reason for believing all biological structures can be produced by gradual change: evolution co-opts existing structures for new purposes.

It may be improbable that a protein component would suddenly arise ex nihilo. But the structure of proteins and the way they function together often changes gradually, e.g. through comparatively small "point mutations." The ancestral form of the complex could very well have done its job with fewer components.

To visualize how this works, imagine a simpler system consisting of a protein A which performs some function, and a protein B which makes A more effective. Over evolutionary time, this system undergoes a series of "small, successive changes," i.e. point mutations: A becomes A2, B becomes B2, A2 becomes A3, and so on. It is quite possible for natural selection to favor such stepwise improvements in the system, even if A becomes increasingly dependent on B, to the point where An and Bn have no selectable function individually.

There are also many mechanisms for the addition of new components. For example, gene duplications are quite common, and redundant copies of A will tend to diverge into specialized forms. In many cases this also explains the origin of B. Far from being impossible in principle, we should expect that many of Behe's "irreducibly complex" structures evolved from just one protein!

Stripped of its main premise, Behe's argument goes nowhere. However, a more fundamental problem for the "theory" of ID is that it mostly consists of pointing to things that evolution supposedly can't explain. This tends to draw attention away from the fact that ID can't explain anything.

What I mean is this: any scientific theory must be testable. Since Behe has not put forward any model of the "designer," his "theory" makes no predictions, only ad hoc suppositions. In short, ID is not science. True, evolutionary theory has yet to produce a complete, detailed account of the history of life (hence, it continues to be a productive area of research.) By presenting ID as a viable alternative, Behe propagates an absurd double-standard of proof which undermines real scientific understanding. Ostensibly, the purpose of the Veritas Forum was to discuss religious issues. I would be the last person to advocate "censoring" anyone's personal beliefs, although private Universities have that right. However, I wish the organizers had chosen speakers who know where belief ends and scientific fact begins. University policy dictates that Stanford's resources be used to further its basic mission of producing and disseminating knowledge. Why have those resources been used to elevate pseudoscience? The Stanford community deserves an explanation.

Creationism belongs in religion class


By: Jeff Schmucker

Thursday, May 12, 2005

By the time you read this column, members of the State Board of Education should have completed their discussion hearings on how evolution should be presented in school. Since I wasn't very good at science in school, I'm pretty sure one reason I didn't put too much weight on the evolutionary theory was because I wasn't paying attention in science class.

It seems those who believe in the creationist theory want other theories presented that possibly coincide or go against the evolution theory, including the belief that the universe is so complex, that it had to have been created by God, or some other higher power.

Maybe I don't understand because I'm from Virginia, but isn't evolution taught in science class and not religion class?

Wanting to mix theology and religion with science seems absurd. There are numerous other subjects that cover those topics, but not science.

The purpose of high school is to prepare students for college or life after high school. My science classes in high school or college didn't mess around with other theories about higher beings, but instead focused on the information we needed to know pertaining to science.

Evolutionary studies were considered important by my professors to understand how species change over time and use that information to understand how animals adapt to different environments and challenges.

The physical changes to humans over time can be studied in science, but other types of changes effecting humans are already taught in other classes. We call these classes history, political science, psychology, sociology and, of course, religion.

If we're really going to use the argument that "all theories should be presented," then maybe we should apply the argument to other studies.

How about we teach students that the confederate army during the Civil War was possibly right in wanting to keep slaves and secede from the Union. After all, there are probably some who would agree. Why not present their theories as strongly?

Or maybe we should study more on the effectiveness of communism and anarchy as forms of government? Some idealists believe that those would be better forms of government, so let's present them equally as we do democracy. Fair is fair after all.

When I was a kid growing up, my mother used to tell my brother and me, "You can either play outside or inside, but you're not doing both," and then she'd lock us out of the house.

This rule should also be applied to school boards and administrators. If school boards and government agencies are going to decide to leave religion out of public schools, then they need to do so and not open the door so much. If our government and other groups can decide on a peaceful way to present religious beliefs without the headache, only then should the door be opened to include creationist theories.

Otherwise, other theories and beliefs should be left up to parents and other influences outside of the school. Teachers and administrators have enough responsibility without having to teach students religious beliefs.

With the vast amount of information available to children, such as the Internet, libraries, etc., parents forget the powerful information available to children in their own homes –– the parents themselves.

As influential as school systems are, children inadvertently learn more from their parents than they realize. They take with them the good and the bad.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how valid an argument is made, a child will hold on to a belief and when asked why will say, "Because my mom/dad said so."

Probably the scariest fact from all of these discussions on theories is that teen-agers will take every scrap of information offered and make up their own minds.

Isn't that scary? Imagine children and teen-agers becoming adults and making up their own minds. Some even go on to teach students about evolution and religion.

I'm not too worried about what will come from the State Board of Education discussions, because government, like all things, changes over time, and whether you have faith in science or religion, it's all speculation from here on out.

Jeff Schmucker, a Globe reporter, can be reached at 367-0583, Ext. 214, or jeffschmucker@npgco.com.


Robert L. Park Friday, 13 May 05 Washington, DC


Tai who? What's going on with the great Ivy League med schools? A study at Columbia claimed to show that the prayers of complete strangers halfway around the world increased pregnancy rates of fertility patients, who were not even aware of being prayed for. The study was revealed to be fraudulent. Somebody had to tell them this? http://www.aps.org/WN/WN04/wn120304.cfm Harvard too has been embarrassed by ties to the wacky world of alternative medicine. Now, the oldest medical school in the nation, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is pandering to the public's obsession with mystical healing. Medical and nursing students at Penn will be able to earn a master's degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) from Tai Sophia Institute. Tai Sophia began teaching acupuncture 30 years ago, but has since expanded into other "medical arts" that don't work. Two weeks ago, Tai Sophia sponsored a Deepak Chopra conference http://www.aps.org/WN/WN98/wn100998.cfm. Wayne Jonas, author of Healing with Homeopathy, is on the Board of Trustees.


JAMA, May 4, reports a randomized, controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of acupuncture with sham acupuncture in treating migraine. There were 302 patients in the study. Acupuncture is widely touted for treating migraine, but in 12 sessions over 8 weeks, sham acupuncture, in which the needles are inserted in the "wrong" points, was just as effective as inserting them in the "correct" points. This should greatly simplify the training of acupuncture specialists. Just stick the damn needles anywhere.

Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.

Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.aps.org/WN

'Something' found at ghostly jail

A group of ghost hunters has said there is "definitely something" at a Cornwall jail which is believed to be haunted. Members of the Paranormal Site Investigators (PSI) group spent Saturday night at Bodmin Jail trying to record spooky goings-on.

During the 10 hours at the prison, two team members had to leave the building through nausea and stones were thrown at the team while below ground level.

Team leader Nicky Sewell said: "There's definitely something there."

Ghostly grunt?

The team set several experiments: measuring electro-magnetic frequency of cells, monitoring temperatures and attempting an "electronic voice phenomena" (EVP) recording.

An EVP is an unexplained voice, or voice type sounds, occurring on an audio recording. Some recordings are thought to be the voices of ghosts or spirits.

The team said it recorded an unexplained grunt during the experiment.

Also during the overnight stay, stones were thrown at members of the team while in the condemned cells.

There were no windows for outsiders to throw them in; and the ceiling was metal, meaning they could not have fallen from above.

The temperature of the stones was also significantly hotter than the ambient temperature of the cell, or the roof and floor. The team admitted its evidence from the night was not conclusive in itself.

But team leader Nicky Sewell said: "There's definitely something at Bodmin Jail which was trying to make its presence known to us that night."

Bodmin Jail dates back to 1776 and was the site of more than 55 executions. More than 20,000 people came to watch one public execution carried out there.

The last hanging took place in 1909 and the Crown Jewels and Doomsday Book were stored at the jail during the First World War.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Ghost reports are put to the test

Ghost hunters are taking part in a scientific experiment at what is claimed to be one of the UK's most haunted locations.

Mary King's Close is a warren of underground streets in Edinburgh, sealed off from the outside world more than two centuries ago.

About 200 volunteers will take part in research led by Prof Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire.

Prof Wiseman believes ghosts are literally all in the mind.

Phenomena experienced

The psychologist has carried out research suggesting people react to environmental cues, such as subtle drafts, and, in particular, visual factors, like low lighting.

A strange feature of Mary King's Close is striking similarities between many of the reports of phenomena experienced there.

Its most famous ghost is Annie, a playful child spirit who has been known to tug at the skirts of female visitors.

The volunteers will be asked to walk in small groups through the streets and the remains of their old houses, and report anything unusual.

Previous visitors are said to have experienced apparitions, phantom footsteps, eerie sensations and feelings of sickness.

Hidden temperature and humidity sensors will monitor "cold spots" - commonly found in supposedly haunted locations - while other instruments will record magnetic activity and low frequency sound waves.

Prof Wiseman said: "One of the things I'm most interested in is the idea that certain rooms are perceived as having personalities, which might elicit stereotypes of ghosts.

"We'll be asking volunteers not only whether they've experienced a ghost, but what kind of ghost it is.

"We've also made photofits of mock ghosts, and ones that have been reported, and we'll be showing them to volunteers in different rooms.

"The idea is to see which ghosts people think are most likely to be seen in a particular room, and whether they coincide with genuine reports."

Prof Wiseman suspects that feelings of sickness and uneasiness could be caused by "infrasound" - low frequency sound waves that might be generated by traffic rumbling overhead.

Mary King's Close, off the Royal Mile, was bricked up in the 17th Century and was only reopened in 2003.

The "ghost experiment" is part of a 10-day Mary King's Close Ghost Festival.

Prof Wiseman hopes to announce initial results from the investigation towards the end of the festival on 22 May.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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