NTS LogoSkeptical News for 19 May 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, May 19, 2005

'Intelligent design' moves too far from Scripture


Mark A. Jenkins

Story last updated at 11:53 PM on May 18, 2005

Ellen Goodman's comments on the creation-evolution debate (Column, "Creationists have adopted liberal arguments," May 13) includes some interesting points.

She is correct in pointing out that it is popular now to argue for "intelligent design" rather than a necessarily straightforward interpretation of Genesis.

This view is becoming more and more popular among Christians as a sort of compromise. It still allows for a several-billion-year-old Earth while somehow putting God in the mix, so that the creation "days" become vast periods of time, with very fuzzy intervals.

Those of us who believe, however, that the biblical creation account in the book of Genesis is to be taken literally, know that when you concede the age of the Earth to evolution, you rip the heart out of the creationist argument. Why? Because you are denying the authority of Scripture and replacing it with man's guesswork. Yes, there is an Intelligent Designer, DNA proves that. How could the information encoded in DNA "evolve"?

But for Christians to deny the historical accuracy and literalness of a six-day creation as described in Genesis 1-3, and then to try to defend the rest of the Bible as authoritative, is going to cause confusion and will eventually backfire.

I am glad to see the theory of evolution continues to be pressured to admit its many flaws. I am glad Christians all over are speaking out. We have just as much right to let our voice be heard. However, let's not stand on a cracked foundation of compromise. Trust what God tells us as the literal truth.

Mark A. Jenkins


Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Thursday, May 19, 2005

Monkey Trial or Kangaroo Court?


By Stan Cox, AlterNet. Posted May 19, 2005.

In three days of testimony in Kansas, witnesses painted a picture of evolutionary biology as a tyrannical discipline that can be salvaged only by admitting the bright light of the supernatural.

The hours passed, and the chilling phrases kept on coming: "security police," "fear and tension," "significant personal sanctions," "enforcement of the Rule," "suppression of evidence," "conflict of conscience," "trampling on those who believe man is purposed."

The man on the stage might well have been talking about life in a totalitarian state, but John Calvert, a lawyer who directs the Intelligent Design Network of Shawnee Mission, Kan., was describing the state of science education in America.

For three days in May, in a cramped auditorium across the street from the Kansas Capitol building, Calvert and his 22 witnesses -- scientists, philosophers, teachers, and other scholars -- painted a picture of evolutionary biology as a tyrannical, "naturalistic" discipline that can be salvaged only by letting the bright light of the supernatural shine in.

Witness Nancy Bryson told the story of how she lost her position as head of the Department of Science and Mathematics at Mississippi University for Women after she spoke out against evolution in 2003. After that, she said, other faculty members would slip into her office after hours to talk with her about the situation, saying that it was "not safe" to talk openly.

California high school teacher Roger DeHart testified that administrators reassigned him from biology to earth science because he had been telling students about what he called the "misrepresentation" of evolution as an explanation for life. When the controversy eventually forced DeHart to move to a different school, he was warned by one of his new colleagues, "I'll be keeping an eye on you."

When parents complained that her by-the-book teaching of evolution showed "humanistic bias" and asked her for her personal opinion, Kansas high school teacher Jill Gonzales-Bravo could only tell them, "I don't feel at liberty to discuss it." She felt compelled to testify at the Topeka hearings, she said, despite her fear that it was "not really a [good] career move."

Creationism Reincarnated

For a brief period between 1999 and 2001, Kansas science teachers had labored under state standards that de-emphasized evolution. In 2004, voters once more gave conservative religious members a majority on the state's Board of Education; as a result, science standards are to be rewritten yet again, in a way that deprecates evolution and permits discussion of intelligent design.

"ID," as it's often called, is the idea that natural processes cannot account for the appearance of new species of plants and animals throughout the earth's history -- that although genetic diversity may shift around a lot within species, the species themselves were designed by an entity outside of nature.

Mainstream scientists are nearly unanimous in rejecting ID, which they say is just a reincarnation of old-fashioned biblical creationism, carefully articulated to avoid going afoul of the Constitution.

In March, a 26-member writing committee assigned by the Board submitted a new draft of science standards that was, well, standard stuff. But eight dissenters on the committee submitted an alternative version that included anti-evolution language. Board members who liked the alternative version decided to schedule hearings for early May in Topeka, to weigh the relative merits of the competing drafts.

Calvert's witnesses turned out in force. Their side was coming off a big win in Ohio, where, in 2002, they had fought for and gotten a change in school science standards. They knew that Kansas, with a newly elected, pro-creation majority on its school board, would be an easy mark.

But Kansas's mainstream biologists boycotted the hearings, comparing them to the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial." They said the outcome was already decided anyway, and that to defend evolution in what they called a "kangaroo court" would only give the proceedings a veneer of respectability they didn't deserve.

'A Good Product'

At the hearings, witness after witness spoke of gaping holes in evolutionary theory, the power of ID to fill those holes, and ID's potential to give students the complete and exciting science education they deserve.

Ohio biology teacher Bryan Leonard testified that he helped write a state lesson plan called "Critical Analysis of Evolution." He said he knows it's a "good product" because of the overwhelmingly positive reaction from students: "The key is to find out what students want and teach toward their interests."

Daniel Ely, professor of biology at the University of Akron, praised the Ohio plan, saying that when students are presented a subject in the form of a controversy and are permitted to argue one side or the other, they "take ownership" of the subject. "When I was a kid, we learned about Communism," he said. "You have to understand both sides."

Philosophy professor Warren Nord of the University of North Carolina, declaring himself a "liberal in every sense," explained that justice demands inclusion of religious groups in classroom discussion, just as it has ensured that "women and blacks" are included.

John Sanford, Courtesy Associate Professor of Horticulture at Cornell and co-inventor of a "gene gun" for incorporating DNA into cells, said that as he sees it, evolution through natural selection is "amazingly not true, which is very exciting." Arguing that that's the kind of excitement needed in the classroom, Sanford said, "Being able to discuss their doubts is awesome for students."

For three days, witnesses delivered a message of openness, fairness, and democracy, declaring that when it comes to biology in the classroom, "you have to let students follow the evidence wherever it leads." And judging from their testimony, all roads lead to intelligent design.

The biologists, chemists, and biochemists who spoke in favor of ID made a host of well-worn points that are regularly debunked by the scientific majority. (The pro-ID argument is laid out in detail on the Center for Science and Culture website of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. Mainstream explanations of evolution as a natural process are well described for the non-scientist on the Kansas Citizens for Science site and a Science and Creationism publication by the National Academy of Sciences.)

Scientists boycotting the hearings, including members of Kansas Citizens for Science, kept an eye on the proceedings while they staffed a press-relations center on the fifth floor of the capitol. Among their many charges was that pro-ID forces had simply inserted into the science standards a lot of inflammatory language ("an unpredictable and unguided natural process"; "no discernable direction or goal") that was meant to make evolution sound "atheistic."

And by the time the hearings adjourned on Saturday evening, Calvert and his witnesses had made it clear that the formula "evolution = atheism" did indeed lie at the core of their legal case for the new standards.

Atheistic Darwinists

The language of the testimony was largely academic, but the tone was at times reminiscent of an old-time revival meeting. Conversion experiences were the rule.

This was how witness James Barham, "independent scholar" and Ph.D. candidate at Notre Dame, introduced his testimony: "I was a convinced atheist Darwinist for 20 years. Slowly, it dawned on me that my interest in the spiritual side of humanity could not be reconciled with my study of science."

Jill Gonzales-Bravo: "At Kansas State University I learned quickly that anyone who believed differently [from evolution through natural selection] was not a true intellectual. I became part of the liberal movement and went into the Peace Corps. But I had children and my worldview changed." She came to see that "evolution takes from students the belief that they are here for a purpose."

John Sanford: "Most of my career I was an atheistic evolutionist. Then I became a theistic evolutionist and finally a biblical Christian. My belief in evolution had been based solely on authority. To the atheist, there is no alternative hypothesis."

Just Confused

The Board of Education had appointed Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray to argue the case for the science standards drafted by the writing committee's 18-member majority. With the scientific boycott in place, Irigonegaray's chief task was to cross-examine the pro-ID witnesses.

In Summer for the Gods (1997), a history of the notorious Monkey Trial held in Dayton, Tenn. 80 years ago, author Edward Larson noted that when cross-examining adversary William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow avoided questions that would allow Bryan to "answer with his well-honed remarks" about the deficiencies of evolution. Rather than give Bryan a "soapbox for his speeches," Darrow focused on exposing him as a religious extremist.

Irigonegaray appeared to be following Darrow's example. He steered clear of most scientific issues, attempting instead to demonstrate the fundamentally religious nature of the witnesses' arguments. (To back up his contention that ID is a fringe theory even in the religious sphere, Irigonegaray read from a document signed by more than 3,700 clergy. An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science praises the theory of evolution as "a core component of human knowledge.")

He asked James Barham, as he did several of the witnesses, if teaching evolution to Kansas children was equivalent to teaching materialism and atheism. "That depends on how it's interpreted by the child," said Barham. "But that is the framework. Teachers who disagree with that framework should be allowed to teach as they feel is right."

He asked Angus Menuge, a professor of philosophy at Concordia University, "How do you explain the many theists, including evangelical Christians, who don't see [evolution through natural mechanisms] as a contradiction of faith?" Menuge didn't flinch: "Some of those people are just confused."

During the two days of hearings that I attended, Irigonegaray began his cross-examination of each witness with the same three questions. In response to the first, "What, in your personal opinion, is the age of the earth?" nine witnesses cited the widely accepted figure of around 4.5 billion years.

Other witnesses bowed at least somewhat to biblical orthodoxy. Gene-gun inventor Sanford put the earth's age at "maybe 10,000 years" but "not as young as 5,000." Pressed for an answer, Roger DeHart finally concluded that "I'm fine with" an estimate of 5,000 to 100,000 years. Daniel Ely and Nancy Bryson gave themselves plenty of room for maneuver, putting the earth's age at somewhere "between 5,000 and 4.5 billion years."

Irigonegaray's second and third questions went to the core of what ID proponents call "the controversy." He asked each witness if she or he agreed that life as we see it today is the result of "common descent" (that is, that species evolve from other species through purely natural causes) and that humans are descended from pre-hominid ancestors. Eleven of 13 witnesses rejected both statements, with varying degrees of force.

Pressed to provide an alternative explanation for the origin of the human species, some witnesses declined, while others offered earnest responses:

"Design, which implies a designer, but we don't go there."

"A creator, but I wouldn't expect the State to teach that."

"An intelligent designer, based on my theistic views."

"Humans and the non-human living world have qualitatively different features that are very mysterious."

"God, by special creation."

Warren Nord enthusiastically recommended that schools should wrap every subject, including biology, in its religious and philosophical context. An incredulous Irigonegaray asked him, "Is it important to have religion taught in economics class?"

Nord: "Yes."

Irigonegaray: "What about math class?"

Nord: "I can make a case for that."

Several witnesses flatly refused to discuss their personal religious views, but only one of them was explicit about being a non-Christian. Mustafa Akyol of the International Dialogue Platform in Istanbul, Turkey argued that opening biology classes to ID in the United States would do wonders for our relations with the Muslim world. Muslims today, he said, are alienated by the West's materialism, which "includes atheistic philosophy."

Apparently, Calvert had invited Akyol in order to demonstrate that the ID camp pitches a big tent. But Akyol himself may be more of a small-tent kind of guy. The week of the hearings, Kansas City's Pitch Weekly reported that Akyol is associated with a cultish organization called Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, which has harassed, threatened and slandered Turkish academics who teach evolution.

Keeping the Designer Under Wraps

A biology teacher who discusses with her students the case for intelligent design -- as she would be allowed to do under the alternative science standards -- might well be asked by students, "So, tell me, who or what did the designing?" At the hearing, most witnesses wanted to discuss only design, not a designer. That often required some fancy footwork. Here is Irigonegaray's exchange with Russell Carlson, professor of biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Georgia:

Irigonegaray: "The intelligent designer is God?"

Carlson: "Well, yeah, I'd agree with that."

Irigonegaray: "Science should be neutral with respect to religion?"

Carlson: "Yeah."

Irigonegaray: "But intelligent design places faith in ... "

Carlson: "No, the designer is neutral."

Irigonegaray: "You said the designer is God."

Carlson: "We shouldn't discuss the identity [in the classroom]."

Irigonegaray: "We should keep that a secret?"

Carlson: "When children have questions about the materialist explanation, we now send them to their parents or pastors. Instead, design should be offered as an explanation."

Carlson later added that if a child asks about the identity of the designer, that is the point at which he or she should be sent to a parent or pastor.

Following Angus Menuge's testimony, I asked him what should happen when children ask, "Who's the designer?" Menuge said, "You should cut off discussion at that point, and pursue it in a forum other than the classroom."

But it will be teachers and administrators, not university professors, who determine what actually happens in Kansas public schools under the new standards -- and the pro-ID members of the state Board of Education do not appear to be so circumspect when it comes to religion. During an intermission, I asked board member Kathy Martin whether, as Menuge suggested, a teacher should cut off discussion of the designer's identity.

"Oh, no," she said. "If a student wants to have that conversation, there's nothing wrong with the teacher discussing that. It's all about the students' needs, and as you know, they have a lot of needs these days. I was a teacher myself. If, say, a student's puppy has been run over by a car, the student and I might pray about it together, privately. It's not about religion -- it's about helping the student."

Connie Morris, another pro-ID school board member, told me, "No, we can't mandate intelligent design or creationism in the school standards. But as the fellow from Ohio said, we have to let students go where the evidence leads. I'll give you an example. Did you know there is evidence now that prayer is beneficial in treating cancer?" I asked if teachers should be able to teach about that. Morris, her eyes brightening, said, "Absolutely!"

Those school board members gave substance to a scenario foreseen by Harry McDonald, spokesperson for Kansas Citizens for Science: "They don't even have to introduce ID into the standards. All they need is for a child to ask about it, and that will open the classroom door to religion."

The Legal Strategy

The final witness was Calvert himself, who announced that he planned to file "an extensive legal brief" in the coming days that would provide the basis for revising the science standards to allow ID. His legal argument, which had been implicit in all of his questioning of witnesses, goes like this:

(1) Evolution as it's now taught in Kansas schools is based on methodological naturalism, that is, the search by science for explanations only in the natural world.

(2) Methodological naturalism always implies philosophical naturalism, the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural world. (This, say anti-ID scientists, is the fatal flaw in the argument.)

(3) Philosophical naturalism is atheistic.

(4) Atheism is a religion. (Needless to say, this is a proposition not universally accepted.)

(5) Therefore, religion is already being taught in Kansas biology classes.

(6) So religious fairness requires that evidence for intelligent design and against evolution through natural selection also be allowed in the classroom.

By arguing, implicitly, that the supernatural should be introduced into science curricula alongside "naturalistic" ideas, Calvert is relying on the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that teaching be "secular, neutral, and non-ideological" with respect to religion.

For three long days, many in the audience had been wondering which witnesses were correct -- those who said the new standards would not inject religion into the curriculum or those who said or implied that they would.

In his testimony, Calvert cleared up that confusion. To meet the legal requirement of neutrality as he defined it, schools either must allow religious teaching in biology classes or else allow nothing at all to be taught about how biological species come to be.

The ID forces' reliance on federal law is significant. After the hearings, Irigonegaray told reporters, "What we saw in there was religious extremism, and what we are seeing in Kansas is happening all across this country."

Adding to that, Harry McDonald of KCS noted that only four of the nearly two dozen witnesses were from Kansas. "They had to scour the nation to find enough people to testify. With a word, we could have had thousands of Kansas scientists here to support evolution."

But this struggle is unlikely to be decided in the scientific arena. In America, where polls have shown that a majority believe in some form of creationism and want it taught in their schools, it's easy to portray the defenders of biological evolution as anti-democratic, overly educated elitists.

One KCS scientist provided this understated assessment of the hearings' outcome: "Looking around at the audience in there, I realized that we do have a communication problem."

By walking a couple of hundred steps from the door of the hearing room, witnesses and audience members would have found a reminder that Kansas has been an ideological battleground longer that it has been a state. In a hall just off the Capitol rotunda is John Steuart Curry's great mural of John Brown towering over Union and Confederate forces as he brandishes a rifle in one hand and a bible in the other.

Then as now, Kansas was a magnet for out-of-state religious radicals. But then, a century and a half ago, they were on the right side of history.

Someday, historians may kick around the question of who was right and who was wrong in the Kansas battle over science education. The state's schoolchildren also will be weighing that question, and they won't have to wait very long for the chance to do so. Their new science standards are due out this summer.

Stan Cox lives in Salina, Kan. He has a Ph.D. in plant breeding and cytogenetics and has been a plant breeder for 22 years.

Ballot Fight on Evolution Ends in a Tie


Published: May 19, 2005

The battle over teaching evolution in the Dover Area School District in southeastern Pennsylvania ended in a draw in elections on Tuesday, as two competing slates won separate primaries, setting up a rematch in November.

A slate of seven incumbents, all of whom support a policy requiring high school biology students to be told about "intelligent design," an alternative theory to evolution, won in the Republican primary.

But a slate of seven challengers, all of whom support discussing intelligent design as a religious concept in humanities courses instead of biology classes, won in the Democratic primary. There are seven open seats on the nine-member board.

Under Pennsylvania's election laws, the 14 candidates were allowed to run in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

Each side had hoped to sweep both primaries, which would have allowed them to run uncontested in November. But Tuesday's results mean all 14 candidates will be on the fall ballot.

The race was the most hotly contested in memory for this 3,500-student district south of Harrisburg because of a contentious policy on intelligent design that the board approved last October.

Under that policy, a statement is read to biology students asserting that Darwin's theory "is not a fact" and pointing them to a book on intelligent design, "Of Pandas and People" by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon (Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 1993).

Intelligent design asserts that the mechanism of life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding hand could have created it. Though intelligent design does not identify that master architect, its critics argue that it leads inevitably to God.

In December, a group of Dover parents, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, challenged the policy in federal court as an unconstitutional effort to compel biology teachers to present religious material as science.

That trial is scheduled to begin in September, just as campaigning in the school board race is expected to heat up again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Letters - Intelligent Design: The evolutionary challenge


Wednesday, May 18, 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 Design, 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

Evolving Curriculum


Lauren Wolfe 05/17/2005 12:35 pm

With the debate over "intelligent design" heating up across the South, it may not be surprising to learn that the push for reevaluating school curriculums has drifted North.

Far from the Bible Belt, an upstate politician has introduced a bill in the New York State Assembly that would require public schools to teach the newest twist on Creationism, a theory that holds humans were created by an "intelligent designer" rather than evolving by happenstance.

While support for the bill is hardly overwhelming in Albany, critics are perking up and speaking out.

"I am shocked that a legislator in a progressive state like New York would propose such backward and unconstitutional legislation," says Tim Gordinier, director of public policy and education for the Institute for Humanist Studies, an Albany-based organization that promotes the separation of church and state. "I think they're emboldened by what's taking place elsewhere."

Assemb. Daniel L. Hooker (R-Saugerties) is the only sponsor of the bill. He has also sponsored another piece of legislation that would allow the posting of the Ten Commandments on government property. Hooker was unavailable for comment; he has been called into active service in the Marines.

A memo tacked on to the proposed intelligent design bill states as a justification for the proposal: "Teaching just one theory can inadvertently result in that theory being looked at as an absolute truth."

This homeopathic hokum does nobody any good



ONE good thing that can be said about homeopathic medicine is that no-one ever died from taking an overdose. You could swallow a whole health shop of homeopathic tablets and you would not suffer a single side effect from the supposedly active ingredient. That is not because they are "natural" and therefore safe. It is because the "active" ingredient isn't. There is no medicine in the medicine. There are no side effects, because there are no effects.

Greater Glasgow NHS Board caved in yesterday to a well organised campaign against its plans to close the in-patient ward of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital and redirect the savings into modernising other areas of its service. Its decision has been greeted with universal praise as another victory for people power over the faceless bureaucrats. The plucky patients have seen off the so-called experts to retain a service that is unique in Scotland and, indeed, the whole of the UK. Good for them.

Unfortunately, their gain comes at great loss to the rest of us, and I do not just mean the £300,000 a year that goes into running these beds. The success of this campaign is a triumph for the forces of unreason, and anything that boosts them will ultimately damage us all. Homeopathy is hokum and should be treated as such.

It was invented some 200 years ago by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann as an alternative to the unsavoury conventional medicine of his time, which included purges and bloodletting among its treatments. Its core belief - one that contradicts all known physical laws - is that less equals more, that the smaller the amount of active ingredient in the medicine, the more effective it is.

Over-the-counter homeopathic remedies are diluted to the extent that they do not contain even a single molecule of the substance that is supposed to cure you. As the physicist Robert Park has pointed out, a patient would need to drink 7,874 gallons of such a solution to ingest their first molecule of medicine. Attempting to do this would result in a fatal overdose, but it would be the water that killed you, not the homeopathic remedy.

The reason you can't test for the effects of homeopathy is because there is nothing there to test.

In the 200-odd years since its invention, no-one has been able to prove how homeopathy works or, more importantly, that it works at all. Supporters of homeopathy will tell you this is because it operates beyond the limits of modern scientific knowledge. Park offers a more prosaic, and more plausible, explanation. The reason you can't test for the effects of homeopathy is because there is nothing there to test.

Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, conducted a clinical trial recently on the popular herbal healer arnica and found it no more effective than a placebo. Yet, the fact that homeopathic remedies don't do us any good does not mean that this style of treatment is totally without benefit. The placebo effect is real.

Most homeopathic practitioners are private and, as such, are able to devote more time and attention to their patients than overworked GPs in the NHS. It is this, and the prescription of those sugar pills by an authority figure in which the patient believes, that most likely explains any effects homeopathy may have.

The Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital is a fine example of this process in action. It is a lovely modern building, staffed by wonderful, caring people. Its patients speak extremely highly of it and say they benefit from the personal attention and the many alternative treatments on offer. Fair enough. Their feeling of well-being is obviously important. But how many of these treatments are actually doing them any real good? No-one can say.

The hospital does not eschew modern medicine. It does not advise its HIV-positive patients to throw away the scientifically proven pharmaceuticals that keep them alive. They just get access to extra soothing treatments and attentive staff which reduce the stresses of coping with their disease.

All this might sound like an argument for keeping the hospital intact, or even increasing its funding, but it is, in fact, the opposite. The resources of the taxpayer-funded NHS are limited and should be distributed equitably and used in the most efficient manner possible.

According to the British Medical Association in Scotland, there is insufficient evidence to justify a nationwide roll-out of alternative medicine on the NHS. If that is the case, there is insufficient evidence to justify its use at all.

Is it fair that a few patients in the west of Scotland get these services, which have no proven medical benefit above the placebo effect, when it means others are denied the modernisation of their hospital?

Is it fair that these patients get half a day of their doctor's time when others may get only a few minutes?

Is it fair to spend all this money on questionable therapies in Glasgow when patients elsewhere could benefit from a new hi-tech scanner that really could save someone's life?

Why should a handful of patients, or physicians for that matter, be rewarded for a belief in magic? What next - witch-doctors on the NHS?

Homeopathy may not damage bodies, but it can poison minds. Once we abandon reason as our guide, there is no telling where we will end up.

Text of NYS bill to amend the education law to teach ID




2005-2006 Regular Sessions


May 3, 2005

Introduced by M. of A. HOOKER -- read once and referred to the Committee on Education

AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to requiring study in both theories of intelligent design and evolution


1 Section 1. The education law is amended by adding a new section 803-b
2 to read as follows:
20 S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets { } is old law to be omitted. LBD11536-03-5 .SO DOC A 8036

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What parents don't know ...


But should be told about their children's state of mind

Last update: May 17, 2005

Few parents want to believe their children might have mental health problems or learning disabilities. They certainly don't want to believe their children might be in danger of failing school, abusing drugs or even committing suicide.

But learning about a child's problem is a first step to solving it. How much worse, for those parents, to learn about a child's problems only after irrevocable damage has been done. A bill approved this session by the state Legislature seeks to stifle objective (and in many cases, expert) observers who might otherwise speak up when they see a child in trouble. Gov. Jeb Bush should listen to his top human-services advisers and veto it.

HB 209 would restrict school officials and child-welfare workers who talk to parents about their children's potential mental-health problems. If it becomes law, it would force school officials to use a misleading "script" when talking to parents, including informing them that a mental-health diagnosis would be noted on a child's permanent record. School officials say that statement is misleading and worse, easily misinterpreted.

The wording is clearly intended to spook parents struggling with the idea that their child might have emotional or mental problems -- or scare teachers away from even bringing up the topic. The bill was backed by the Church of Scientology, which crusades against psychiatry and psychology. Committees heard tearful testimony from actresses Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston -- and much hysteria about parents being "forced" to drug their children -- but no real evidence that would support the need for such harsh measures in Florida.

Lawmakers also heard from top officials, including representatives from the state departments of health and education, that the legislation is not needed and would probably do more harm than good. They also explained that federal law already forbids school districts from forcing children to take psychotropic drugs or participate in counseling.

Lawmakers did heed the experts in part, removing provisions that would have banned school officials from dispensing psychotropic medication prescribed to children unless they hired a pharmacist to do so, and forbidding school officials from even mentioning that a child might have a mental or emotional problem. But it still has potential to do harm. A provision in another bill (SB 1090) would provide children with all the protection they need, while allowing school officials to speak frankly with parents about potential problems.

In the coming days, Bush is likely to hear as much from his own advisers. He already knows about the rates of teen suicide, juvenile delinquency, drug use and other problems often related to untreated mental illness. On that evidence, he should veto HB 209.

Discredited doctor's 'cure' for Aids ignites life-and-death struggle in South Africa


Sarah Boseley
Saturday May 14, 2005
The Guardian

Patricia Masinga, 36, had known she had HIV for about 10 years. She worked for an Aids organisation, so when, inevitably, she began to get sick, she was well placed to get treatment, and her youth and two children gave her every reason to fight to stay alive.

But even among educated, professional women such as Patricia, uncertainty and confusion about the safety of Aids drugs has started to take hold in South Africa. She opted for a diet of garlic and lemon instead. A month ago, she died.

Doctors and campaigners who have been struggling to increase the availability of Aids drugs to the 5 million HIV-infected people in South Africa are dismayed by the activities of a German-born doctor, Matthias Rath, who has reignited a life-and-death struggle in South Africa.

Dr Rath denounces Aids drugs and claims that all those who promote them are the paid lackeys of western drug companies. Vitamins, not drugs, are the cure for Aids - and cancer and diabetes too for that matter - he says, and there are those in the South African government who appear to give him credence.

He has appeared with the health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has made it clear she favours the healthy properties of garlic, lemon, beetroot and olive oil and will not back the use of the antiretrovirals which have stopped the death toll in the west.

Dr Rath's proclamations in full-page advertisements in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, as well as the widely read Sowetan in South Africa, claim that Aids drugs are toxic and potentially deadly. Although the medical establishment denies his claims, the uncertainty they are creating has been deepened by the equivocal attitude of the government.

It has affected the Aids organisation that Patricia (not her real name) worked for, and some of the traditional healers, who now doubt the safety of the drugs. Patricia told a friend she was fearful of them. "A few weeks before she died a friend of hers asked me to try to get her proper medical help," said Mark Heywood, the treasurer of the Treatment Action Campaign and founder of the Aids Law Project. "But it was too late. We are hearing of a fear and uncertainty that is becoming a real obstacle."

The health minister declared last week she would not be pushed into putting people on treatment for HIV - there are 42,000 in the public sector on antiretroviral drugs at the moment, well below the hopes of the World Health Organisation which has set a global target of 3 million on treatment by the end of this year. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang has refused to condemn Dr Rath when invited to do so by journalists.

Dr Rath, who has offices in California, the Netherlands and, most recently, Cape Town, claims his vitamin supplements, which cost more than £16 a month, can prevent and cure most diseases.

He began his career working with Linus Pauling, the US scientist who won Nobel prizes for chemistry (1954) and peace (1962) before becoming most famous late in his long life for backing vitamin C as the cure for all ills.

Dr Rath has taken the advocacy of vitamins into all-out war on the pharmaceutical companies through the Dr Rath Health Foundation, funded by and supporting the internet sales which appear to have made him a lot of money. Rulings banning his strident publicity leaflets and website claims by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration in the US, together with detailed and damning critiques from the Swiss study group for complementary and alternative methods in cancer and the British Medical Journal, have not softened his messianic tone.

This week an influential group of Harvard scientists and the United Nations followed the South African Medical Association in publicly rejecting his claims about Aids. But whatever the establishment scientists say, Dr Rath is in danger of being believed by millions.

On his website, the full-page ads in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune appear as editorials. "Dr Rath speaks in the New York Times", one of them is headed, in the paper's typeface. "Call to the people and governments of the world. Stop Aids genocide by the drug cartel!"

The cartel, he says, includes not only George Bush, but Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, whose plan for Africa is said to be a ploy to increase the revenues of the British drug company GlaxoSmithKline. The antiretroviral drugs which scientists say have stopped the death toll in the west, damage the cells in the body which vitamins protect and repair, he claims.

Supporting him are some of the maverick US scientists whose argument that HIV was not the cause of Aids found favour with the South African president, Thabo Mbeki some years ago. They, too, said the drugs made people ill. David Rasnick, one of those scientists, has now joined Dr Rath in Cape Town. Both names appear in one of the New York Times adverts which details a "clinical pilot study" of 18 people with Aids in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha who were said to improve after four weeks on the supplements.

According to the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, which has cajoled and fought with the government for access to treatment for some of the 5 million now infected with HIV there, Dr Rath's experiments with vitamins in Khayelitsha are probably illegal because he did not have approval to open clinics and offer any kind of therapy. Furthermore, the levels of vitamin C in the supplements were far beyond the 200mg a day recommended as safe by the US National Institutes of Health, says TAC, and could cause diarrhoea, which could kill somebody with Aids.

Dr Rath has in turn thrown a mountain of mud at TAC, accusing it of paying people to attend demonstrations calling for treatment and money-laundering funds from drug companies.

Yesterday TAC asked a Cape Town court for an injunction to prevent Dr Rath making such allegations, prior to a suit for defamation. "He's got a lot of money obviously and he uses it perniciously to spread false information about medical treatment not just for HIV," says Mr Heywood. "The problem is that in South Africa he has found fertile ground both because of the denialism that exists within our government with relation to the management and treatment of HIV but also because of Aids denialist groups, which he is pumping lots of money into."

The damage of the Rath publicity, say his many critics, is in undermining confidence in treatment which can, unlike vitamins, save lives. "It is very serious," says Nathan Geffen of TAC's head office. "People are dying because of confusion. Tens of thousands of South Africans are dying because they are too confused and scared of being stigmatised to find out about their HIV status and get treatment."

Ralf Langner, the international coordinator of the Rath foundation, denied that it hoped to make money selling vitamins in South Africa. Their mission, he said, was to inform people of the toxicity of the drugs and "support this government in its attempt to bring nutritional programmes forward".

Asked if people should stop taking antiretroviral drugs, he replied: "I think people should make an informed decision in being aware of the side effects that there are and should be aware of the natural possibilities to delay the onset of this disease." Critics such as the UN, he said, had been infiltrated by the pharmaceutical industry. He agreed that Dr Rath had a lot of opponents. "It's like it is when you are ahead of your time," he said.

Médecins sans Frontières, which runs three HIV clinics in Khayelitsha treating nearly 2,000 people with Aids drugs, said yesterday that after three years, four out of every five people on the treatment were still alive. Without drugs, half would have died within a year. Those who died mostly had advanced Aids before starting treatment. Only four deaths could be directly linked to drug toxicity.

MSF called on the ministry of health "to recognise the plight of people in advanced stages of HIV infection by unequivocally stating that nutrition alone will not save them from death. For them [drug] therapy remains the only hope for survival."

Science vs. science


The debate over the teaching of evolution isn't just in Kansas anymore, as other states take up the issue. While these battles make headlines, they are the fruit of a scholarly movement that has shaken up the scientific establishment. WORLD talked to four "Intelligent Design" revolutionaries who are fighting Darwinists on their own terms | by Lynn Vincent

The evolution debate reignited this month as Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson ruled that Oklahoma's State Textbook Committee doesn't have the authority to require that biology textbooks carry a disclaimer that calls Darwinism a "controversial theory." (Committee members plan to challenge the ruling.) Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the Tangipahoa School Board voted 5-4 against taking a defense of a similar disclaimer to the U.S. Supreme Court after an appeals court declared that the disclaimer is unconstitutional.

While none of this is good news for those who question Darwinism, one thing is clear: Darwinists are being forced to play defense. A major reason why is the emergence over the last few years of the Intelligent Design movement-a group of scholars and writers who argue that the world and its creatures show evidence of design. Who are some of the authors behind this movement? WORLD spoke with four of them.

Ignore That Man Behind the Curtain

In 1987, when UC Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson asked God what he should do with the rest of his life, he didn't know he'd wind up playing Toto to the ersatz wizards of Darwinism. But a fateful trip by a London bookstore hooked Mr. Johnson on a comparative study of evolutionary theory. And by 1993, Mr. Johnson's book Darwin on Trial had begun peeling back the thin curtain of science that shielded evolution to reveal what lay behind: Darwinian philosophers churning out a powerful scientific mirage.

Darwin on Trial was the result of Mr. Johnson's years-long, lawyerly dissection of arguments for evolution. The forensic strategies of prominent evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould reminded Mr. Johnson of courtroom sleight-of-hand: Their materialist definition of terms decided the debate before opening arguments could begin. "I could see," he said, "that evolution was not so much science as a philosophy that Darwinists had adopted in the teeth of the facts."

Once evolutionists read his book, they were eager to sink their teeth into Mr. Johnson, whom they saw as a middle-aged, Harvard-educated dilettante sticking his unscientific nose where it didn't belong. Critics lined up to debate him. But once engaged, his adversaries found him to be both ruthlessly intelligent and maddeningly congenial. With his agreeable, favorite-uncle face, wire-rimmed specs, and a perpetual smile in his voice, it was hard not to like Mr. Johnson as he shredded their arguments. And, of all things, he even wanted to be friends when the debates were through.

"I've been overplayed as a controversialist," said Mr. Johnson, who sees such bridge-building as his greatest strength. (God built a bridge to him during the failure of his first marriage, when he became a Christian believer. He met his second wife Kathie at a Presbyterian church conference.) "I see myself as a person who tries to build alliances and friendships. To win the debate, you have to carry both the moral high ground and the intellectual high ground rather than try to win by any sort of power tactics. That's really what we're trying to teach people."

The "we" is the cadre of intelligent design (ID) proponents for whom Mr. Johnson acted as an early fulcrum. In the early 1990s, as formidable scientists and theoreticians like Michael Behe, William Dembski, and others emerged in support of design theory, Mr. Johnson made contact, exchanged flurries of email, and arranged personal meetings. He frames these alliances as a "wedge strategy," with himself as lead blocker and ID scientists carrying the ball in behind him.

"We're unifying the divided people and dividing the unified people," he said, adding that the "unified people" refers to Darwinists who at present occupy increasingly dissonant camps. The debate, he argues, is being successfully reformulated in a way that changes the balance of influence and "puts the right questions on the table."

Evidence of an influence shift comes in varied forms: For example, Paul Nelson, a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Chicago, was able to get approval for a Ph.D. dissertation arguing against the theory of common ancestry-a mighty feat at a liberal, secular university. (Mr. Nelson's book on the same topic will be published this year.) And Baylor mathematician William Dembski is spearheading a conference in April at which heavy-hitting secular academics will present papers on both sides of the evolutionary argument.

Such double-edged debates delight Mr. Johnson. "The whole 'wedge' philosophy isn't that you present answers and people listen. It's that you get people debating the right questions, like 'How can you tell reason from rationalization?' and 'Can natural processes create genetic information?'" This summer, Mr. Johnson will publish a new book, The Wedge of Truth, a volume that frames fundamental questions he feels people ought to be debating in the controversy over origins.

"Once you get the right questions on the table," Mr. Johnson said, "you can relax a bit, because if people are discussing the right questions instead of the wrong ones, then the discussion will be moving in the direction of truth instead of away from it."

The Third Atom Bomb

The reeducation of Michael Behe began in a green recliner. On a chill fall night in the same year Mr. Johnson was seeking direction from God, Mr. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University, sat at home in that recliner, transfixed by a book that shook the very foundations of his own understanding of science. It was three in the morning before he finished Michael Denton's book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, and turned out the lights. Nine years later, Mr. Behe himself published a book that began turning out the lights on the theory of evolution.

"Although I had pretty much believed evolution, because that's what I was taught, I always had an uneasy feeling and questions in my mind," said Mr. Behe, a Roman Catholic who grew up in a family of eight children in Harrisburg, Penn. "After reading Denton's book, and seeing his rational, scientific approach to the problem, I decided I had signed on to something that just was not well-supported. And, since evolution is such a strong component of many people's view of how the world works, I started to wonder: What else have I been told that is unsupported, or not true? It was a very intense, intellectual time."

That intensity ultimately gelled into Darwin's Black Box (Free Press 1996), a book that hit secular scientists like an atom bomb. Charles Darwin himself had already provided a pass-fail test for his theory: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Mr. Behe's book (now in its 16th printing) was the first to administer Mr. Darwin's own test at the molecular level. Using simple yet scientifically bulletproof analyses, Mr. Behe showed that even at the cellular level many structures are "irreducibly complex," meaning that all parts of a structure have to be present in order for the structure to function at all. Thus, the slow, gradual changes proposed by Darwin were as likely to have led to the spontaneous formation of complex structures as are flour, sugar, eggs, and milk likely to gradually coalesce into a wedding cake.

Mr. Behe wrote: "Applying Darwin's test to the ultra-complex world of molecular machinery and systems that have been discovered over the past 40 years, we can say that Darwin's theory has 'absolutely broken down.'"

Most of Mr. Behe's secular critics did not, of course, agree. His work has been the target of both scholarly rebuttal and brainless invective. But on the whole, Darwin's Black Box received surprisingly respectful treatment. Not only did many Christian groups name it one of the most important books of the 20th century, but reporters from the mainstream press also flocked to Bethlehem, Penn., to see what made Mr. Behe tick. Secular universities slated him for speaking engagements. The venerable New York Times even shocked Mr. Behe by inviting him to submit an article explaining the main thesis of his book.

Still, Mr. Behe, who seems somewhat embarrassed that his name appears on "important author" lists with the likes of Tolkien and Solzhenitsyn, doesn't see himself as a scientific crusader. He doesn't look like one either. At a recent conference on intelligent design, the bearded Mr. Behe emerged as the Anti-Suit. Opting to take the podium in his usual uniform of a plaid shirt, blue jeans, and workboots, he looked, while lecturing, like what he is: a dad.

"I do not see myself as called to overturn thinking on evolution in the world," Mr. Behe said. "My primary focus is my marriage and my family. I see myself as called to raise my eight children, and anything else is gravy."

But what about having written a book that decimated the fallacious underpinnings of modern science? That, he allows with a smile, is pretty good gravy indeed.

God's Mathematician

It's easy to imagine what William Dembski's wife finds in the dryer lint trap after washing her husband's pants: equations. Long, elegant equations replete with tangents, vectors, and permutations tangled unceremoniously with tissue shreds in the lint trap. When Mr. Dembski speaks, equations come out. When he writes, equations come out. Surely he must keep a few spare equations in his pockets.

A mathematician with two Ph.D.s and director of Baylor University's Polyani Center, an information theory research group, Mr. Dembski is a long string-bean of a man who would rather listen than speak. But swirling behind his glasses and thin, angular face is an intellect that helped vault intelligent design theory from the realm of the possible to the province of the probable. His book, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press 1998), set secular scientists' skirts afire by crafting for the first time a scientifically rigorous "explanatory filter" for detecting design.

"In the scientific community, there is always the worry that when we make an attribution of design, that natural causes will end up explaining it," said Mr. Dembski, who is also a Discovery Institute senior fellow and the man whom author George Gilder once called "God's mathematician." "There's the sense that we 'can't do science' with design because we can't get a handle on it, or do it reliably. My work is aimed at refuting that view and showing that we can have a reliable criterion for detecting design and distinguishing it from other modes of explanations" of origins.

Mr. Dembski describes his own formative concept of origins as a "vague, theistic belief." The son of a biologist (he now lives in Irving, Texas, with wife Jana and 8-month old daughter Chloe), he said: "There was a time when I accepted some form of evolutionary theory." But his understanding of God as the designer solidified early in his 20-year Christian walk. Still, he points out that his theories-and intelligent design theory in general-spells designer with a small d. "Although I would personally identify God as the designer on theological grounds, the Bible is not entering into these discussions. Intelligent design theorists are trying to make it a fully rigorous, scientific enterprise."

As a result, Mr. Dembski sees not only a growing acceptance of ID theory among scientific faculty at Christian colleges, but also an emerging community of theistic academics at secular universities. But Massimo Pigliucci isn't one of them. A biologist, Mr. Pigliucci's sputtering, angry review of The Design Inference published in the journal BioScience called Mr. Dembski's work "trivial," "nonsensical," and "part of a large, well-planned movement whose object ... is nothing less than the destruction of modern science."

Mr. Dembski loved it. "If the worst humiliation is not to be taken seriously, at least we're being taken seriously," adding that even fellow Darwinists panned Mr. Pigliucci's intemperate reaction to Mr. Dembski's book. "If we're generating such strong, visceral responses, we must be doing something right."

Making It Clear

When it comes to baby toys, Steve Meyer doesn't play favorites. Whether he's lecturing 19-year-old college freshmen or arguing for intelligent design before science elites, Mr. Meyer has no qualms about pressing together chains of brightly colored snap-lock beads or launching a superball across the room.

All, of course, in the name of science.

"I've found that most people, even scientists, don't mind having ideas made clear," said Mr. Meyer, a philosopher of science and a professor at Whitworth College in Spokane. "In intelligent design, making ideas clear is all to our advantage because the case for Darwinism really depends a lot on obfuscation. So, if [Darwinists] can conceal that with lots of difficult jargon and technical terminology, they can keep everybody but the experts out."

It's Mr. Meyer's aim to let the non-experts in. Tall, intense, and personable, he calls himself a "shameless popularizer" and is the acknowledged PR-guy for the design movement. Speaking to a mixed group of scientists, philosophers, and journalists at a recent intelligent design conference in L.A., he blew up balloons and slapped magnetic letters on a child-sized whiteboard to simplify explanations of evidence for design in DNA. When he was through, the philosophers and journalists actually understood what he was talking about.

Mr. Meyer arrived at his own understanding of life's origins between shifts at Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) oilfields in Dallas. After graduating from Whitworth in 1980, Mr. Meyer went to work for ARCO as a geophysicist. In 1985, a conference convened in Dallas that brought together top philosophers, cosmologists, and biologists to discuss the interrelationship of recent scientific findings and religion. Mr. Meyer, who basically wandered in off the street to listen in, found his own vaguely held notions of theistic evolution dismantled by former big-gun Darwinists who had themselves concluded that scientific evidence pointed to an intelligent designer of the universe.

"For me, it was a seminal event, a turning point," Mr. Meyers said. "I saw that there was an exciting, intellectual program here worth pursuing." It was a turning point that would lead him to Cambridge University where, in 1991, he earned his doctorate in the history and philosophy of science for a dissertation on origin-of-life biology.

Now, Mr. Meyer divides his time between Whitworth and his position as director of the Seattle-based Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. The center, says its mission statement, "seeks to challenge materialism on specifically scientific grounds." Mr. Meyer said the center was founded as an academic end-run around secular university research departments held hostage by Darwinists. With its corps of 40 research fellows in disciplines ranging from genetics to biology to artificial intelligence, he contends the center has the academic firepower to engineer a profound shift in the naturalistic paradigm that now dominates the culture.

For his part, Mr. Meyer stays busy with fundraising, budget management, and his own research on the evidence for design in DNA. (His book, DNA by Design, will be published this year). He also keeps design theory alive in public forums. For example, when last year's controversy regarding the teaching of evolution in Kansas erupted, Mr. Meyer debated evolutionary biologists on National Public Radio. And his science and op-ed pieces appear in major papers, including The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, his critics publish op-eds of their own. He, like his ID colleagues, is regularly slammed as "anti-scientific" and "anti-intellectual."

"The gatekeepers of evolutionary theory are very worried about the design movement," Mr. Meyer said. "It's got a huge appeal with students, it's framed in a way that makes their position very unattractive, and the evidence supports it. When it was religion versus science, evolutionists won that debate every time."

Now, it's science versus science, he said. And the debate evolutionists had thought was settled has only just begun.




Posted on Tue, May. 17, 2005

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

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. 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: This is mainstream science's philosophy that nature has its own method, without the possibility of supernatural influence on, say, how DNA is sequenced.

Irreducibly complex: This phrase was introduced in Michael Behe's 1996 book, Darwin's Black Box, which describes the intelligent design concept. It refers to a system in which the removal of one part prevents the system from performing its basic function. Such a system 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.

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

Macroevolution: The notion that one species can evolve into another is a view that is rejected by creationists and some adherents of intelligent design.

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." But the dissenters call for eight more paragraphs saying that 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 the lawyer arguing for teaching evolution pointed out that Darwin predates the discovery of genetics, Wells offered "neo-Darwinist evolution" instead.

The Evolution of Creationism


Published: May 17, 2005

The latest struggle over the teaching of evolution in the public schools of Kansas provides striking evidence that evolution is occurring right before our eyes. Every time the critics of Darwinism lose a battle over reshaping the teaching of biology, they evolve into a new form, armed with arguments that sound progressively more benign, while remaining as dangerous as ever.

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Students of these battles will recall that in 1999 the Kansas Board of Education, frustrated that the Supreme Court had made it impossible to force creationism into the science curriculum, took the opposite tack and eliminated all mention of evolution from the statewide science standards. That madness was reversed in 2001 after an appalled electorate had rejected several of the conservative board members responsible for the travesty.

Meanwhile, Darwin's critics around the country began pushing a new theory - known as intelligent design - that did not mention God, but simply argued that life is too complex to be explained by the theory of evolution, hence there must be an intelligent designer behind it all.

The political popularity of that theory will be tested today in a school board primary election in Dover, Pa., where the schools require that students be made aware of intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinism. The race pits those who voted last year for that rule against those who oppose it.

Now the anti-evolution campaigners in Kansas, who again have a state school board majority, have scrubbed things even cleaner. They insist that they are not even trying to incorporate intelligent design into state science standards - that all they want is a critical analysis of supposed weaknesses in the theory of evolution. That may be less innocuous than it seems. Although the chief critics say they do not seek to require the teaching of intelligent design, they add the qualifier "at this point in time." Once their foot is in the door, the way will be open.

The state science standards in Kansas are up for revision this year, and a committee of scientists and educators has proposed standards that enshrine evolution as a central concept of modern biology. The ruckus comes about because a committee minority, led by intelligent-design proponents, has issued its own proposals calling for more emphasis on the limitations of evolution theory and the evidence supposedly contradicting it. The minority even seeks to change the definition of science in a way that appears to leave room for supernatural explanations of the origin and evolution of life, not just natural explanations, the usual domain of science.

The fact that all this is wildly inappropriate for a public school curriculum does not in any way suggest that teachers are being forced to take sides against those who feel that the evolution of humanity, in one way or another, was the work of an all-powerful deity. Many empirical scientists believe just that, but also understand that theories about how God interacts with the world are beyond the scope of their discipline.

The Kansas board, which held one-sided hearings this month that were boycotted by mainstream scientists on the grounds that the outcome was preordained, is expected to vote on the standards this summer. One can only hope that the members will come to their senses first.

Sleepy Election Is Jolted by Evolution


Published: May 17, 2005

DOVER, Pa., May 16 - The election may draw only a few thousand voters, and the central issue involves a policy of just 162 words. But a school board election on Tuesday in this rural community is being closely watched across the nation because of its implications for the contentious debate over evolution.

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At stake are seven seats on the Dover School Board currently held by supporters of a policy approved last fall requiring high school biology students to be made aware of the "intelligent design" theory, an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution.

The policy, considered the first of its type in the nation, does not authorize the teaching of intelligent design. But in its direct challenge to evolution - it says that Darwin's theory has "gaps" for which "there is no evidence" - it has sparked a federal lawsuit and Dover's liveliest school board election in memory.

Angered by the way the board handled the intelligent design debate, a slate of seven political novices has challenged the incumbents seeking re-election. Four unaffiliated candidates, two opposed to the policy and two supporting it, are also on the ballot.

Though Tuesday's election is only a primary, it is viewed as an important referendum on the policy. Almost all of the candidates will appear on both the Republican and Democratic ballots, meaning one slate could oust the other, allowing it to run virtually uncontested in November's general election.

"This is an issue that really does cross party lines," said Jeffrey A. Brown, a school board member who resigned in protest against the intelligent design policy but is now running as an unaffiliated candidate.

The election in Dover, about 25 miles south of Harrisburg, comes at a time when Christian conservatives opposed to the teaching of evolution have been pressing their case in school boards around the country.

In Kansas, the state board is expected to vote next month to adopt new curriculum standards requiring that questions about evolution be raised in biology classes, something Ohio required in 2002. Bills to allow teachers to challenge Darwin in class are also being debated in Alabama and Georgia, and local school boards in many other states are debating policies similar to Dover's.

"Across the country, more and more school districts are coming to grips with the idea that intelligent design is a theory that should be taught alongside evolution," said Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian public interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that is representing the Dover school district in the federal suit.

Debates over evolution have also typically brought unusually intense attention to otherwise sleepy education board elections, sometimes resulting in wholesale changes. In Kansas, board members who removed evolution from the state standards in 1999 were ousted in 2000. But anti-evolution candidates regained the majority in subsequent elections.

Intelligent design posits that the mechanism of life is so intricate that only a supremely powerful force could have created it, not the more random process of natural selection that Darwin described.

Though intelligent design does not identify that master architect, its critics assert the theory leads inevitably to God and religion. For that reason, a group of Dover parents, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, have challenged the policy as unconstitutional.

Under the Dover policy, a statement is read to biology students asserting that Darwin's theory "is not a fact," urging them "to keep an open mind" and pointing them to the seminal book on intelligent design, "Of Pandas and People." Students are allowed to leave class when it is read.

"The junkyard is full of unproven hypotheses," Mr. Brown said about intelligent design. "We have no business promoting it until it's gained widespread acceptance in the science community."

The Dover board members running for re-election did not respond e-mail or phone messages left at their homes and the school board office. But in an interview on CNN on Monday night, Alan Bonsell, an incumbent running for re-election, defended the policy as nothing more than an effort to tell students "that there are other theories out there than Darwin."

"It's not religious at all," Mr. Bonsell said.

The slate of challengers, who go by the name Dover C.A.R.E.S., have stepped lightly around the intelligent design issue, a sign that they believe the policy may be popular in this socially conservative area.

They have proposed that intelligent design be discussed in humanities courses as a religious concept, not in science classes. Paradoxically, that may mean that if the challengers win, intelligent design would be examined more thoroughly, and critically, than under current policy.

"I'd rather that students discuss it intelligently than just have a statement read," said Warren M. Eshbach, the father of a Dover High School science teacher and a retired minister who is a spokesman for Dover C.A.R.E.S., which stands for Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies. "This is a debate that is not going away."

The current board has rejected that proposal, saying intelligent design is a scientific theory. "If they are going to teach intelligent design in religion, then they have to teach evolutionism in the same class," Mr. Thompson said.

The race is playing out differently on the local stage than in the national arena. The incumbents have campaigned on keeping taxes low and getting more aid. The challengers have criticized the board as "secretive, arrogant and dishonest." Neither side has focused its campaign materials on intelligent design.

"This is really about governance," said Bernadette Reinking, a retired nurse who is running on the Dover C.A.R.E.S. slate.

Many voters seem to think that while the debate has generated much interest in the election, it has also become a distraction.

"It's out of hand," said Rebecca Neal, 29. "We need to focus on the kids."

Monday, May 16, 2005

'Intelligent design' suggests faith in God isn't enough


Jane Ahlin, The Forum
Published Sunday, May 15, 2005

Jane Ahlin teaches English as an adjunct faculty member at MSUM. A former commentator for KDSU (ND Public Radio), she has written for The Forum opinion pages since 1989. Her column appears Sundays in The Forum.

For all that is being written and said concerning "intelligent design" theory as a threat to the teaching of science in America's classrooms, not much has been put forward about ways intelligent design (I.D.) undermines religious faith. Instead, I.D. is a coup for Christian fundamentalists who have worked long and hard to put a palatable spin on creationism in order to come out on top in the so-called American culture wars.

But the ongoing push to include I.D. in science curriculum does more than muddy scientific waters; it actually underscores the irreligious notion that when it comes to believing in God, faith isn't enough.

The target of the I.D. proponents is evolution because they equate evolution with atheism. However, in their zeal, they've set up an unintended target, one of individual and collective religious faith.

The contradiction is interesting. Usually, we think of faith as a central tenet of religion and the hallmark of spiritual journeys. But I.D. suggests that God's existence must be scientifically proven, not accepted by faith. It also puts God in the role of a fill-in or an alternative where there are gaps in scientific knowledge.

Posed as scientific theory, the I.D. concept hinges on science's inability to prove a negative. In other words, since the complexities of plant and animal life are hard to explain and science cannot prove that God is not responsible for them, science should theorize that God is responsible for them.

Of course, the I.D. people don't say, "God;" the new twist is to postulate a great, amorphous "intelligent designer." (Fill in the blank with your own personal favorite designer/god.) The results become scientific protocols that are compromised and religion that is tied to the designs of a common-denominator-type deity.

What is unfortunate about this phenomenon is that it does nothing to enhance science or religion, and, more importantly, it is unnecessary. Evolutionary theory is neither pro-God nor anti-God; it is neutral. Its' crux is natural selection: in order to adapt, survive, and flourish, organisms change over time. Period. Evolution makes no claims about the human soul, nor does it define - much less diminish - human dignity.

Instead, with 150 years of solid scientific inquiry behind it, evolution gives framework to our understanding of biology, an understanding that in recent years has been enhanced through discoveries in human genome research. There is nothing perfect or complete about that framework; however, like other good scientific theory, both a preponderance of confirmed facts and an absence of incompatible facts make evolution an organizing biological principle.

In a Newsweek article earlier this year, Frances Collins, director of the Human Genome Institute of the National Institutes of Health - a man comfortable with the identity tag "outspoken evangelical" Christian - expressed his pleasure that God "who created the universe, chose the remarkable mechanism of evolution to create plants and animals of all sorts." Clearly his scientific work does not detract from his faith, but he knows the difference between the two. It is the difference that I.D. blurs.

Proponents of I.D. like to disparage evolution as the "dogma of Darwinism." But the principles of natural selection cannot supplant religious faith in believers. A "dogma of design" out to prove God through science, on the other hand, just might.

Kansas Debate Challenges Science Itself


By JOHN HANNA, Associated Press Writer

Monday, May 16, 2005

(05-16) 15:33 PDT Topeka, Kan. (AP) --

The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution weren't 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."

'Intelligent Design' Proponent Phillip Johnson, and How He Came to Be


Doubting Rationalist
By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 15, 2005; D01

BERKELEY, Calif. "The Washington Post is not one of my biggest fans, you know that."


The Washington Post reporter has just walked out of a spray of Pacific-borne rain into the living room of a modest bungalow west of downtown. There's a shag rug, an inspirational painting or two and Phillip Johnson, dressed in tan slacks and a sweater and sitting on a couch. He pulls a dog-eared copy of a Post editorial out of his shirt pocket and reads aloud:

"With their slick Web sites, pseudo-academic conferences and savvy public relations, the proponents of 'intelligent design' -- a 'theory' that challenges the validity of Darwinian evolution -- are far more sophisticated than the creationists of yore. . . . They succeed by casting doubt on evolution."

The 65-year-old Johnson swivels his formidable and balding head -- with that even more formidable brain inside -- and gazes over his reading glasses at the reporter (who doesn't labor for the people who write the editorials).

"I suppose you think creation is all about unguided material processes, don't you? Well, I don't have the slightest trouble accepting microevolution as the cause behind the adaptation of the peppered moth and the growth of finches' beaks. But I don't see that evolutionists have any cause for jubilation there.

"It doesn't tell you how the moths and birds and trees got there in the first place. The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can't account for that."

He's not big on small talk, this professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley's law school.

For centuries, scriptural literalists have insisted that God created Heaven and Earth in seven days, that the world is about 6,000 years old and fossils are figments of the paleontological imagination. Their grasp on popular opinion was strong, but they have suffered a half-century's worth of defeats in the courts and lampooning by the intelligentsia.

Now comes Johnson, a devout Presbyterian and accomplished legal theorist, and he doesn't dance on the head of biblical pins. He agrees the world is billions of years old and that dinosaurs walked the earth. Evolution is the bridge he won't cross. This man, whose life has touched every station of the rationalist cross from Harvard to the University of Chicago to clerk at the Supreme Court, is the founding father of the "intelligent design" movement.

Intelligent design holds that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand -- perhaps subtle, perhaps not -- of an intelligent creator.

"Evolution is the most plausible explanation for life if you're using naturalistic terms, I'll agree with that." Johnson folds his hands over his belly, a professorial Buddha, as his words fly rat-a-tat-tat.

"That's only," he continues, "because science puts forward evolution and says any other logical explanation is outside of reality."

Johnson and his followers, microbiologists and geologists and philosophers, debate in the language of science rather than Scripture. They point to the complexity of the human cell, with its natural motors and miles of coding. They document the scant physical evidence for the large-scale mutations needed to make the long journey from primitive prokaryote to modern man.

They've inspired a political movement -- at least 19 states are considering challenges to the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution.

None of which amuses evolutionary biologists, for whom intelligent-design theory inhabits the remotest exurb of polite scientific discourse. Darwin's theory is a durable handiwork. It explains the proliferation of species and the interaction of DNA and RNA, not to mention the evolution of humankind.

The evidence, they insist, is all around:

Fruit flies branch into new species; bacteria mutate and develop resistance to antibiotics; studies of the mouse genome reveal that 99 percent of its 30,000 genes have counterparts in humans. There are fossilized remains of a dinosaur "bird," and DNA tests suggest that whales descended from ancient hippos and antelopes.

Does it make any more sense to challenge Darwin than to contest Newton's theory of gravity? You haven't seen Phillip Johnson floating into the stratosphere recently, have you?

William Provine, a prominent evolutionary biology professor at Cornell University, enjoys the law professor's company and has invited Johnson to his classroom. The men love the rhetorical thrust and parry and often share beers afterward. Provine, an atheist, also dismisses his friend as a Christian creationist and intelligent design as discredited science.

As for the aspects of evolution that baffle scientists?

"Phillip is absolutely right that the evidence for the big transformations in evolution are not there in the fossil record -- it's always good to point this out," Provine says. "It's difficult to explore a billion-year-old fossil record. Be patient!"

Provine's faith, if one may call it that, rests on Darwinism, which he describes as the greatest engine of atheism devised by man. The English scientist's insights registered as a powerful blow -- perhaps the decisive one -- in the long run of battles, from Copernicus to Descartes, that removed God from the center of the Western world.

At which point a cautionary flag should be waved.

Scientists tend to be a secular lot. But science and religion are not invariable antagonists. More than a few theoretical physicists and astronomers note that their research into the cosmos deposits them at God's doorstep. And evolution's path remains littered with mysteries.

Is it irrational to inquire if intelligent life is seeded with inevitabilities?

"Give Johnson and the intelligent-design movement their due -- they are asking terribly important questions," says Stuart A. Kauffman, director of the Institute for Biocomplexity at the University of Calgary. "To question whether patterns and complexity, at the level of the cell or the universe, bespeak intelligent design is not stupid in the least.

"I simply believe they've come up with the wrong answers."

Faith From Doubt

Johnson's early life was, by his own accounting, a rationalist lad's progress. He grew up in Aurora, Ill., a cocky kid so razor sharp that after his junior year in high school he packed off to Harvard. "I attended church in high school, but it was just part of the culture, like the Boy Scouts," he says. "We'd drop my father off at the golf course on the way to church."

He finished Harvard and then law school at the University of Chicago, where he graduated first in his class. He dabbled in Christian philosophy, read some C.S. Lewis. "I found it mind-stretching but I remember thinking: It's a real shame it's not true." Johnson became a clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren at the Supreme Court. In 1967, with a wife and two young children, he went west to Berkeley, where he would gain international renown as a teacher of criminal law and legal theory.

His life was marching to an up-tempo beat.

"I wasn't working very hard intellectually. My motives were shallow," Johnson says. "I was a typical half-educated careerist intellectual with conventional liberal politics."

Johnson possesses a tenured professor's inability to hold his tongue, whether assaying a reporter's dumb question or his own life's arc. In the 1970s, Berkeley was roiling. Johnson opposed the Vietnam War but grew disillusioned and turned right. His wife, an artist, found feminism and wandered another way. Their marriage swept away like flotsam.

"I had been very happy for a long time," he says. "I was shaken to my core."

Johnson's daughter, Emily, remains close with each parent. She recalls a time of upendings. "Men of my father's generation really expected that if they did their job, and provided, how could their marriage fall apart?" she says. "They didn't know what to make of the new questions and new demands."

The night his wife decided to leave in 1977, Johnson attended a church supper with Emily, who was 11. The pastor spoke passionately of Christ and the Gospels. The professor doesn't remember a Lord-sundered-the-heavens moment; he wasn't rending his tweed jacket.

He just heard the words, perhaps for the first time in his life. "I wasn't convinced," Johnson says, "but I said to myself: 'The minister's presenting me with a real option.' "

Johnson drove home that night and pulled out his books of law and philosophy. If this was to be his epiphany, he would experience it with his rationalist lights on.

"I was concerned that I could be just throwing my brain away," he says. "I needed to know if I was adopting a myth to satisfy my personal hunger."

He was nudged along by his interest in "critical legal studies," a left-wing movement that holds that the law is prejudice masquerading as objective truth. Asked to contribute a conservative critique for the Stanford Law Review, Johnson embraced the movement -- sort of.

"I disliked intensely their infantile politics," he says. "But their critique of liberal rationalism and the sham neutrality of rationalism helped me become a Christian. I became the entire right wing of critical legal studies."

In time, he converted and married his present wife, Kathie -- who also was an adult convert. They met at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, which was, like most everything in that town, a very liberal institution. "We have never felt," Johnson says, "a need to be around only people who agree with us."

London Calling

All of which laid the groundwork for Johnson's sabbatical in 1987. He traveled to London nagged by the sense that his intellectual gifts had been put to mediocre ends. One day while browsing in a bookstore, Johnson picked up a copy of "The Blind Watchmaker" by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins argued that life was governed by blind physics, that free will was illusion, that religion was a virus.

Johnson devoured dozens more evolutionary texts. He found extraordinary minds and polemics, but the evidence didn't much impress him.

"I was struck by the breadth of Darwin's claims as opposed to how scanty were the observable changes." He peers at you with that unwavering gaze. "I said to my wife that I shouldn't take this up. I will be ridiculed and it will consume my life.

"Of course, it was irresistible."

This was more than a middle-age exercise in mental gymnastics. Johnson discerned in Darwinism a profound challenge to the faith he had embraced so passionately.

"I realized," he says, "that if the pure Darwinist account was accurate and life is all about an undirected material process, then Christian metaphysics and religious belief are fantasy. Here was a chance to make a great contribution."

The image remains a tad incongruous, this tweedy law professor from Berkeley with the hair combed carefully to the side of his pink forehead, making the rounds of London's scientific conferences, ambling up to prominent biologists and paleontologists and peppering them with questions. He was not impolite, just persistent. "Sometimes they pinned my ears back," Johnson recalls. "Sometimes I made friends."

Stephen C. Meyer, then a young graduate student studying the philosophy of science at Cambridge, got word of this "law professor who was getting some odd ideas about evolution." Meyer, who harbored his own doubts, walked to a tavern with Johnson and they talked for hours.

"Phillip understood that the language of science cut off choices: Evolution had to be an undirected process or it wasn't science," says Meyer, who today directs an intelligent-design think tank affiliated with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. "He knew the rhetorical tricks.

"By the end of that day I knew we could challenge Darwin."

Roll Over, Darwin

So what does that mean, "to challenge Charles Darwin"?

Darwin wrote "The Origin of Species" in 1859. In the broadest terms, Darwin had three insights: Evolution is responsible for the vast profusion of life, as all living organisms descend from common ancestors. Species are not immutable -- new species appear gradually through micro-mutations known as speciation. Natural selection guides all of this, acting as nature's drill sergeant, culling the flawed genes.

It sounds so tidy. But evolutionary theory -- like most scientific theories -- trails behind it no small number of unanswered questions, lacunae and mysteries.

Darwin, for instance, noted that different species tend to have similar body features, and attributed this "convergence" to a common ancestor. But that often isn't the case. The complex eye of a squid and a human are nearly identical yet lack a common genetic inheritance. The renowned biologist Simon Conway Morris has found many such examples in nature and proposed that it's "near inevitable" that species converge toward an intelligent "solution" to life.

Morris's theory treads a touch too close to Heaven for many biologists.

Then there's the inconvenient fact that most species evolve little during the span of their existence, which leaves the mystery of how to account for evolutionary leaps. The late biologist Stephen Jay Gould speculated that species become isolated and mutate in revolutionary transitions of a few thousand years. That remains a controversial explanation.

"Some biologists still argue that you can get to high evolutionary forms purely through natural selection," says Theodore Roszak, a noted historian of science. "That involves more faith in chance than religious people have in the Bible."

Darwinian theory also presupposes an "inconceivably great" number of links between living and extinct species. But paleontologists have discovered only a relative handful of such fossils. And scientists still puzzle at the great explosion of life known as the "Cambrian explosion," when thousands of multicellular animals appeared over 10 or 20 million years (a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms).

Johnson composed a sort of prosecutor's brief. Natural selection? It strengthens existing species, but there's "no persuasive reason for believing that natural selection can produce new species and organs." Mutations as a driver of new species? Much too slow to account for grand changes.

By the end of his 1991 book, "Darwin on Trial," Johnson was convinced that he had peppered Darwinian theory with intellectual buckshot. So he posed the question: Why won't science consider that an intelligent hand operates alongside chance and physical law?

Let it be said that Johnson's book did not change the world. The scientific reviews weren't so hot and a few law school colleagues looked at him as if he had lost half a brain lobe. But Meyer, director of the Center for Science & Culture, remembers reading it and feeling a sense of relief.

"A lot of creationists are unctuous and earnest and begging for a place at the scientific table," says Meyer. "Not Phil. He was a star academic, he conceded nothing, and he's got rhino hide for skin."

The building blocks of the intelligent-design movement slowly took form. A few like-minded souls in academia e-mailed Johnson. He called back, connected one with the other, and often traveled to meet them.

"I found a lot of people ready to challenge the culturally dominant orthodoxy, but they didn't know how," Johnson recalls. "They thought if they just dutifully presented evidence, the Darwinists might listen. I said we have to think more strategically.

"I evolved -- if I may use that word -- as a leader of that group."

After all those years in Berkeley lecture halls, he had a thespian's feel for a crowd. Once he debated the famed biologist Gould. Gould was learned and merciless, but most critics say Johnson held his own. "It was like playing Jack Nicklaus and losing in a playoff," Johnson says.

As Johnson explained to Touchstone magazine, a Christian journal: "I do not want my audience to go away thinking: 'That's one clever lawyer who can make you look like a fool. . . . I want them to go home saying . . . 'There's more to intelligent design than I thought.' "


You want to talk Cambrian explosion? Fine. But how about a little perspective?

"We have to acknowledge the reality that it took place more than 500 million years ago," says Kenneth Miller, a Brown University microbiologist and author of "Finding Darwin's God," arguing that theism is not at odds with evolutionary theory. "It's not as if there was some sort of instantaneous injection of complexity into an ordered world."

Miller pauses a moment.

"Look, I can admit that fossils might be the result of a super-intelligent or supernatural form -- I'm a Red Sox fan. But it's surely not very likely."

Johnson finds precious few fans in the scientific establishment, particularly among biologists. They see conservative money spent on academic conferences and publicity and public debates. Johnson thrives, they say, by the law professor's tactic of attacking soft targets and then raising his hands in victory.

The best scientific theories, scientists say, offer overarching explanations for natural phenomena even while acknowledging that many details remain to be worked out. If Einstein supplants Newton, that's the joy of science.

"Anytime the intelligent-designers find a mystery that scientists can't yet explain, they shout: 'See!? See!?' " says Provine, the Cornell biologist. "I like having Phil come to Cornell to debate. He turns a lot of my students into evolutionists."

Maybe mysteries aren't so mysterious. Intelligent life, Provine says, is understandable as adaptations accrued over hundreds of millions of years. And the cell falls short of miraculous.

"A lot of the DNA in there is not needed -- it's junk," says Phillip Kitcher, the Columbia University philosopher of science. "If it's intelligently designed, then God needs to go back to school."

Harvard professor Owen Gingerich has studied the cosmos as senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and is a devout Christian. He enjoys talking to Johnson and doesn't care for the insistent secularism of many Darwinists. But he doesn't buy intelligent design's utility as a scientific theory, not least because he sees no way to test its ideas.

"Johnson tends to avoid questions he doesn't want to answer -- such as what accounts for mankind if not evolution?" Gingerich says. "If he says that the first man literally came out of the mud like Minerva from the brow of Zeus, he knows he would be ridiculed.

"Looking for God's direct hand is a very fuzzy business."

God's Fingerprints

So what of God?

Isn't there, Johnson is asked, a risk inherent in trying to toss out Darwin and discern God's footprints? Why would He use his hand to create the tyrannosaurus and the Cro-Magnon only to discard them in great extinctions? What of gamma blasts and dead stars, and the cold maw of the universe?

If science proves that the wonders of the cell and the machinery of the eye are the result of a material process, what becomes of faith?

Johnson listens and folds his hands in his lap and remains silent. He's had two strokes, the latter a few months back. His mind remains a fine instrument, the levers and wheels spinning sure as ever. But putting thoughts into words can be laborious. He shakes his head and dislodges a stream.

"One answer is that it's hard to evaluate unless you know what the Designer was trying to create," he says. "I suppose the Creator could have made it so that we would live forever and be bulletproof. Flawless design may not be his point."

Many in the intelligent-design movement shy from overt talk of religion, wary of handing a rhetorical gun to their critics. God, Gaea or super-intelligent alien: They do not presume to pierce the veil of the Designer.

Johnson pays no heed to these worries. Darwinists and Christians alike, he says, "start from faith, just as every house has a foundation." His friend Provine, Johnson says, has found faith in materialistic atheism. Johnson has found Christ.

Johnson, who is already back on the lecture trail, is not content with a Creator so deferential to natural processes as to fade into the cosmic woodwork. Johnson is convinced, intellectually and emotionally, that His hands have shaped human life -- and the evidence likely is there if only science will look for it.

Johnson works his way to his feet and walks slowly to his living room window. The lemon trees are in bloom. Mist rises off the sidewalk. "I think it's very possible that God left some fingerprints on the evidence," Johnson says, his words rattling out now. "Once you open science to that possibility, we're poised for a metaphysical reversal."

He smiles and catches himself. "I'm content just to open science up to an intellectual world that's been closed to it for two centuries."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Kansas Debates Evolution


by: Shawn Augsburger

Betsy Yeh

This month the Kansas State Board of Education decided to revisit the issue of teaching evolution in public schools. In 1999, Kansas removed references to evolution from the state curriculum. Following the 2000 election, a new board returned evolution to the state education standards in 2001.

Evolution opponents weren't discouraged in 2004, and Kansas elected another socially conservative school board.

The new majority on the board hopes to change the science standards to revise the definition of science to include nonnatural explanations for natural phenomena, emphasize that evolution is merely a "theory" and teach the criticisms of evolutionary theory.

While teaching students the shortcomings of current evolutionary theory is good, some of the other proposed changes are suspiciously political.

The proponents of this alternative proposal supported by the school board are the "Intelligent Design" theory lobby. Since teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional, creationists have largely adopted this "scientific" alternative to evolution.

According to ID theory proponents, some biological components have irreducible complexity and therefore require an "intelligent designer." Supporters of the ID theory charge that there is political bias in attempting to censor their logical "scientific" alternative, but the reasons why one shouldn't teach ID theory as science should be as much scientific as they are constitutional.

ID theory defaults to the supernatural when naturalistic theories are imperfect. ID theorists like Michael Behe often write hundreds of pages criticizing evolution, but never show positive evidence for ID. This type of argument for ID theory fails because it is a fallacy of the excluded middle. Assuming current evolutionary theories are wrong doesn't make ID theory correct.

Their proposal to redefine science to include nonnatural explanations as being scientific would open the door to teaching pseudoscience in classrooms with the blessing of the Kansas State Board of Education. Furthermore, supernatural explanations can't be falsified and therefore fail Karl Popper's falsifiable criterion that is widely considered necessary for something to be a science.

While supporters of ID theory deny that the intelligent designer must be a god, it seems more than coincidental that they want supernatural explanations to be deemed science. Hence, it is not surprising that critics of ID theory in the scientific community regard it as creationism by another name.

The lead critic against evolution in the hearings was attorney John Calvert, who argued that evolution "promotes atheism," which he considers an unconstitutional teaching of the religion of "naturalism." This is despite the fact that neither evolution nor naturalism meet the definition of a religion.

Calvert fails to realize that a religion requires a belief in "a supernatural power." Naturalistic evolution does not require the supernatural; therefore, it fails the test of being a religion. Calvert's motivation to declare evolution as unconstitutionally promoting atheism is political.

Evolution, ironically, isn't anti-religious in that one can believe in any religion if it lacks a story of creation or at least one that does not conflict with evolutionary theory. Many Buddhists, for example, can accept evolutionary theory, and even former Pope John Paul II recognized evolution as being "more than a hypothesis." Therefore, evolution doesn't demand the death of non-theistic religion as Calvert claims. Every major science group boycotted the hearings as rigged against evolution and their suspicions proved correct. Even the two moderate members of the board subcommittee boycotted the hearings!

On the first day of the hearings, board member Kathy Martin admitted to having not read all of the evolution-friendly standards. How can one be fair if one refuses to even read all the evolution material? Furthermore, the board didn't give Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney who was the lone defender for evolutionary theory, the time he requested to seek witnesses.

On the other hand, the board gave Calvert additional time to rebut Irigonegaray during time that had been designated for the evolution defender!

In addition, Calvert and his 23 witnesses are being reimbursed $5,000 for the their costs, which increases the cost of the hearing to an estimated $17,350. Irigonegaray, in response, refused any reimbursement saying, "I believe that would be stealing from the children of Kansas." If Calvert cares so much about the issue, he should pay his own costs like Irigonegaray.

As the Wichita Eagle noted on April 12, "What Kansans should see is a waste of time and money and, once again, a train wreck for the state's image." Their prediction proved accurate.

Shawn Augsburger is a fifth-year history major. He can be contacted at augsburs@uci.edu

©2004 New University Newspaper

Creationism and evolution can work together


Published Monday, May 16, 2005

By Gregory L. Schneider
Special to The Capital-Journal

The recently completed hearings on evolution depicted to many the replay of the Scopes Trial. Screeds in the Washington Post and New York Times framed the arguments presented by Clarence Darrow (played by Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray) and William Jennings Bryan (starring Connie Morris) as if you were watching a late-night replay of Inherit the Wind.

Like the last Scopes Trial, the evolutionists held the day. When two witnesses sympathetic to intelligent design theory claimed to believe the Earth was only 5,000 to100,000 years old (defying physical evidence to the contrary) and when it was further revealed that board member Kathy Martin hadn't even read the recent standards, believing them too technical, then the jig was up.

There probably is never going to be a compromise between creationists and Darwinists. But the two approaches, as the Catholic Church attests, are not fundamentally opposed to each other. Nor should it be problematic for science teachers who teach evolution to discuss alternative views about creation. In fact such a debate would be educational.

Gregory L. SchneiderChristian students who are taught in church or at home the views of creation as revealed in the Bible shouldn't be threatened by learning about Darwin's theory. Faith should always be tested and given the strong belief of many Christians, Darwin's theory is probably not going to alter their beliefs.

Even though I believe that too much concerning Christian belief has been removed from public education, including prayer in schools, I am not of the belief that intelligent design theory, unless it can be empirically demonstrated through the scientific method, should be taught in science courses. So far, intelligent design as a theory has fallen short of that goal.

How could intelligent design be empirically demonstrated? The best intelligent design advocates, especially Michael Behe and William Dembski, have criticized weaknesses in Darwin's theory of natural selection (especially on the microbiological level) without offering empirical evidence proving their case concerning an intelligent designer of the universe. How could they? Such a belief rests on faith, which is not, nor should be, a part of science.

Darwin, a naturalist, tested his contentions with the best methods of scientific practice during his day and his followers have done the same. Intelligent design advocates must prove empirically that there is an intelligent designer. That is a tough nut to crack.

On the other hand, there is plenty science can't prove. Darwinists can offer evidence of natural selection and evolution but they can't explain how the world was created. It is an impossible quest for science. Scientists who advocate the Big Bang theory, holding that the cosmos was created by tremendous explosions scattering matter throughout the galaxies and creating our planetary system, can't empirically demonstrate who or what set off the Big Bang.

Here is where religion and faith come into play. Such matters should be discussed in public schools somewhere. Why not in a science course by discussing the fact that Darwin and the Big Bang fall short of explaining everything about the universe? Isn't there room for compromise on this?

The frustration evidenced by conservative Christians about the teaching of Darwinism stems, in part, from the erosion of support for anything Christian being discussed in the public schools. Zealous advocates of strict separation of church and state insist that public education is not the place for such discussions. They have removed Christianity from the public square and especially from the schools.

If public education can't be a place to discuss intelligent design, neither should it be a place for the discussion of sex, alternative lifestyles, condom distribution or half of the other malarkey that passes for "education" today. Those issues, like religious faith, are private matters best left for the family and church to discuss.

Christian conservatives should be prepared to make a deal. They will give up trying to get creationism in public school curricula when public educators give up teaching sex education. It is a safe bet neither side will make such a deal and the evolution-creation debate will not go away anytime soon.

Gregory L. Schneider is an associate professor of history at Emporia State University. He lives in Topeka. He may be reached at Schneidg@emporia.edu.

© Copyright 2005 CJOnline

Darwin's evolution theory loses out in mock trial


Indo-Asian News Service

New York, May 16, 2005

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was on trial in Topeka, Kansas, and it seems the legendary British naturologist lost to an "intelligent designer" - a barely disguised euphemism for God.

The mock trial of Darwin's theory by Kansas' Board of Education, which concluded on May 12, included testimonies and cross-examination of and by pro-evolution and pro-creationism experts.

The board's trial voted 6 to 4 in favour of bringing the concept of "intelligent design" within the methods of teaching science in schools. Over two dozen scientists, teachers and lawyers said the state's science standards be amended to incorporate alternative thinking.

There was widespread apprehension among America's liberals and scientists that God is being brought into the country's classrooms by the supporters of the concept of an "intelligent designer", who argue that the world had to have been designed by a particularly smart designer, possibly God.

At the centre of the trials is Steve Abrams, a veterinarian and Republican, who among other things believes that earth is only 5,000 years old, a view propagated by Christian conservatives, as opposed to 4.5 billion years as argued by scientists.

Abrams as the board chairman has challenged the validity of evolution as the only valid explanation of life. He has said evolutionary biology is inadequate in terms of evidence and there ought to be an intelligent designer at the helm.

The pro-creationists, who are generally perceived by scientists and liberals as Christian religious zealots pushing a biblical agenda, have lately chosen to use seemingly more neutral language while arguing their case. Rather than saying that life was created by God, they use the term an intelligent designer to give their case a more rational touch.

Among those who testified was Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish newspaper columnist and Muslim. He reportedly said that the theory of evolution, which incidentally goes against Islam as well, generates "anti-Westernism" elsewhere in the world. The purpose behind introducing people like Akyol was to give the trial an appearance of being non-partisan and religiously diverse.

The evolution versus creationism debate has been raging in Kansas since 1999, when the state dropped evolution from its requirements of science education and invited widespread ridicule.

School Boards Want to 'Teach the Controversy.' What Controversy?


Published: May 17, 2005

The recent so-called debates on the teaching of evolution in Kansas have me thinking about different theological reactions to the teaching of evolution.

The Roman Catholic Church, which stands on common ground with conservative Christians in opposition to abortion, and which is doctrinally committed to notions like the Virgin Birth, apparently has no problem with the notion of evolution as it is currently studied by biologists, including supposedly "controversial" ideas like common ancestry of all life forms.

Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II have reaffirmed that the process of evolution in no way violates the teachings of the church. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the church's International Theological Commission, which stated that "since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism."

At the same time, those who wish to include "intelligent design" in the science curriculum insist that if we leave the creator out of discussions of the origin and evolution of life, then such "naturalism" must be incomplete - and that it opens the door to moral relativism and many of the other ills that go along with it.

The ultimate extension of this position may be Representative Tom DeLay's comment that the tragedy at Columbine happened "because our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial mud." Evolutionary biology is not the only science that appears to raise theological issues.

As a cosmologist, I am reminded of a controversy that arose from the development of a consistent mathematical solution of Einstein's equations, devised in 1931 by Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest and physicist.

The solution required what today we call the Big Bang. By confronting the conventional scientific wisdom that the universe was eternal, and instead demonstrating that it was likely to have had a beginning in the finite past - indeed, one that could certainly be said to be born in light - Lemaître was hailed by many, including 20 years later by Pope Pius XII himself, as having scientifically proved Genesis.

Lemaître, however, became convinced that it was inappropriate to use the Big Bang as a basis for theological pronouncements. He initially inserted, then ultimately removed, a paragraph in the draft of his 1931 paper on the Big Bang remarking on the possible theological consequences of his discovery. In the end, he said, "As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside of any metaphysical or religious question."

While this argument may seem strange, Lemaître was grasping something that is missed in the current public debates about evolution. The Big Bang is not a metaphysical theory, but a scientific one: namely one that derives from equations that have been measured to describe the universe, and that makes predictions that one can test.

It is certainly true that one can reflect on the existence of the Big Bang to validate the notion of creation, and with that the notion of God. But such a metaphysical speculation lies outside of the theory itself.

This is why the Catholic Church can confidently believe that God created humans, and at the same time accept the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of common evolutionary ancestry of life on earth.

One can choose to view chance selection as obvious evidence that there is no God, as Dr. Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and uncompromising atheist, might argue, or to conclude instead that God chooses to work through natural means. In the latter case, the overwhelming evidence that natural selection has determined the evolution of life on earth would simply imply that God is "the cause of causes," as Cardinal Ratzinger's document describes it.

The very fact that two such diametrically opposed views can be applied to the same scientific theory demonstrates that the fact of evolution need not dictate theology. In other words, the apparently contentious questions are not scientific ones. It is possible for profoundly atheist evolutionary biologists like Dr. Dawkins and deeply spiritual ones like Dr. Kenneth Miller of Brown University, who writes extensively on evolution, to be in complete agreement about the scientific mechanism governing biological evolution, and the fact that life has evolved via natural selection.

Students are completely free to make up their own minds, in any case. What is at issue is whether they will be taught the science that should allow them to make an informed judgment. But impugning the substance of the science, or requiring the introduction of essentially theological ideas like "intelligent design" into the curriculum, merely muddies the water by imposing theological speculations on a scientific theory. Evolution, like Lemaître's Big Bang, is itself "entirely outside of any metaphysical or religious question."

The Discovery Institute, which promotes "intelligent design," a newer version of creationism, argues that schools should "Teach the Controversy." But there is no scientific controversy.

State school board science standards would do better to include a statement like this: While well-tested theories like evolution and the Big Bang have provided remarkable new insights and predictions about nature, questions of purpose that may underlie these discoveries are outside the scope of science, and scientists themselves have many different views in this regard.

Or one might simply quote Lemaître, who said of the limitations of science and of his own effort to reconcile his scientific discoveries with his parallel religious beliefs: "To search thoroughly for the truth involves a searching of souls as well as of spectra."

Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss is chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University. His new book, "Hiding in the Mirror," will appear this fall.

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