Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
By James Pinkerton Published 06/09/2005
The evolution vs. creation debate will never stop. But that endless wrangle is destined to take some new turns. How so? Because the evolution side of the debate, which is to say, the science side, is about to beget some serious creationism of its own -- that is, creations by human scientists.
No serious scientist believes the literal Biblical creation account, but many earnest and well-credentialed scientists do believe in Intelligent Design (ID), as a perspective on evolution. And ID, of course, is religiously inspired.
For instance, there's the Intelligent Design Network (IDN), a non-profit group headquartered in Shawnee Mission, KS. According to the network, ID is simply an approach to evolution which "holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection." But that "intelligent cause," which the IDN does not further identify, is by definition some sort of metaphysical -- or, if one prefers, divine -- Creator.
And while religion is at the core of ID, its proponents generate lots of science-y arguments. One of the best known ID-ers is Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and author of Darwin's Black Box. Behe argues that it just isn't possible that random evolution could have produced the flagellum -- the propeller/tail -- on a bacteria. Such an organ, he concludes, is "irreducibly complex," which is to say, only a Master of Complexity could have created it.
But it's a fallacy to argue that just because one person -- or even all the people of an era -- can't figure out how something works, therefore such mysterious workings are beyond any human comprehension, ever. To take one humble example, years ago I saw Siegfried and Roy perform their tiger-based magic in Las Vegas, and was frankly astonished at some of the illusions they generated at the aptly named Mirage casino. I had no idea how they did their tricks, but since I knew that they employed mechanics, not metaphysics, to do their show, I was content just to enjoy it, marveling all the while at human ingenuity. And of course, if one waits long enough, he will get a peek behind the conjuring curtain, learning how tricks are done and also that like the rest of us, Siegfried and Roy suffer from Murphy's Law, too. And so it is with science: eventually, some scientist will figure out how the "trick" of the bacteria's flagellum is done.
But the ID-ers can't wait. They say that they must "study" evolution now, because, in the words of the IDN, "it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion." So to defend their particular religious worldview, they must undercut the work of Charles Darwin.
Similarly, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (DI) presents itself as a serious-minded explorer of possible options. The DI's Center for Science and Culture, for example, presents itself as just another group of think-tankers committed to open inquiry, although clearly stating that it "supports research by scientists and other scholars challenging various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory" even as it "supports research by scientists and other scholars developing the scientific theory known as intelligent design."
But the true mission of the DI was fully revealed in a 1999 posting of an internal DI document called "The Wedge Project" -- a document corroborated recently by The New Yorker -- which described not only the DI's anti-Darwinian goal but also its plan for achieving that goal. The paper begins by decrying the "devastating" effect of Darwinism, Marxism, and Freudianism, upon the "bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built." These three fathers of "isms" were the propagators of a "materialistic conception of reality" that has "infected virtually every area of our culture." And so the DI mission is clear: "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies." These heady fighting words certainly put the ID movement in its proper ideological and theological perspective.
There won't be much defending of Marx or Freud from me. But Darwin was nothing like Marx or Freud. Indeed, biological Darwinism spawned "Social Darwinism," an extreme form of libertarianism. As TCS's own Nick Schulz, a certified non-leftist free marketer, observes, "There's plenty of room for God in a Darwinian universe. Darwin operates on different plane altogether from theology." Provocatively, Schulz compares Darwin to Friedrich Hayek, the legendary opponent of central planning and proponent of free markets. "Both men, in their nuance," Schulz explains, "demand seriousness of thought, not sentiment; both respect complexity that defies simplistic engineering, biological or social."
And that's the problem with ID: it's simplistic. To argue that complex biological phenomena are "irreducibly complex" is to abandon the scientific quest. As Richard Dawkins, who boasts the bold professional title of Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, explains in The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design,
To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like "God was always there," and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say "DNA was always there," or "Life was always there," and be done with it.
So the better mission for the ID-ers, should they choose to undertake it, would be to identify the Intelligent Designer. That's a question that's been wrangled over by theologians for eons, with no firm conclusion yet. But of course, such inquiry has nothing to do with science.
As Schulz suggests, religion is simply on a different plane than science. The whole point is that you take it on faith: you either believe or you don't. In fact, the Catholics put Mysterium Fidei, the mystery of faith, at the center of their belief system. Which is fine, but once again, it's not science.
For those still interested in the ID debate, there's no shortage of material. And for those Darwinians in need of reinforcement, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has a special website. Or one could settle for H. Allen Orr's two-word description of ID in The New Yorker: "junk science."
So enough on what might be called RID, for Religious Intelligent Design. One can either believe in it, or not, but if one does, it must be taken on faith.
But here's something coming that's real, replicatable, and thus inarguable. Let's call it SID, for Scientific Intelligent Design -- that is, designed here on earth by mortal, tangible human beings. There'll be no need to take SID on faith, because it'll be visible -- in your face, even.
Indeed, early examples of SID have been visible for a long time. Plant and animal breeding, using mostly proto-scientific empiricism and intuition, reaches back probably 10,000 years. Consider, as one example of early SID in action, our best friend, the dog. Gazing down at a Chihuahua next to a Cocker Spaniel, it's hard to believe that those different breeds are the same species, Canis lupus familiaris. And all dogs, however cute, are descended from the fierce wolf, Canis lupus. Yes, these interconnections are hard to believe at first, but biologists can prove them.
But canines and crops, of course, were just an overture. The true SID-aceous Era is just beginning, and it will affect humans, as well as animals.
Broadly speaking, scientists are following three distinct paths toward human SID, which we can summarize as "hardware" (prosthetics and robotics), "software" (artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality), and "wetware" (cloning).
In most cases, the scientists involved aren't thinking grand thoughts about human evolution. Instead, they are thinking about helping the elderly and others regain motor functions, or about improving computational power, or about curing many wasting, chronic illnesses. In that sense, they are ironically akin to the "proverbial blind watchmaker" of nature; they are not consciously participating in anything so grand as evolution.
But a few scientists are "sighted watchmakers." They are, for better or for worse, visionaries. And there's nothing incidental or accidental about their advocacy of "transhumanism." In the words of one such scientist, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, "We will invent our successors."
But whatever the motivations, from all directions, SID is coming. In hardware, it's coming. In software, it's coming. And in wetware -- including the hot-button issue of stem cells from fetal tissue -- it's coming. (For those following the current legislative debate over embryonic stem cells in Washington, one might note that American legal restrictions are already being mooted by the world marketplace; fetal-based heart treatment, apparently effective, was recently dispensed in Ecuador, using embryonic stem cells supplied by an institute in Barbados.)
For as long as there are free minds and free markets, these innovations are going to keep on coming. Why? Because to envision things, to build things, to create systems of things -- that's deeply satisfying to many people, and so they keep on doing it, despite all the difficulties and dangers they might face.
So, leaving God or gods out of this, let's say it: human beings are the Intelligent Designers. That might seem sacrilegious to some, but it's true to others, and real to the world.
And in fact, we can always deal with the fruit of Design that's Intelligent. It's Unintelligent Design that we should be worried about. And oh yes, Malevolent Design. We should fear that.
If you are a producer or reporter who is interested in receiving more information about this article or the author, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By John Hait
Friday, June 10, 2005
One of today's hottest controversies is the war over evolution and "intelligent design." So the real question is: Can either evolution or intelligent design be proven scientifically? Well, how do you go about "proving" anything scientifically?
The scientific method was developed to discover logical explanations for observable facts, without using magic or absurd or contradictory assertions. Valid theories need to be testable and verifiable in the laboratory. For example, Einstein said that mass and energy were made out of the same stuff. He used mathematics to predict that large amounts of energy would be released from a nuclear chain reaction. Atomic bombs proved it. But can such abstract concepts as evolution or intelligent design be actually proven? Certainly! But you have to dig deeper than usual.
The construction of the universe is like Lego bricks. The bricks are all the same, and can be used to build a great variety of structures. But they fit together in only a handful of ways. So if what you want to build doesn't follow the "Lego" rules, then it simply cannot be built out of Lego bricks.
When we examine the fundamental processes of the universe, we find them to be very much like Lego bricks, because everything is strictly governed by the interactions of resonant fields. Fields do what fields do, and that's all they do. They always get it right, and they never forget how to do it.
In order to determine if life could have evolved, or requires intelligent intervention, we must first examine the bricks to see how they hook together. We need to discover the "Lego rules" of the universe.
The first step in doing so requires us to advance beyond Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, because it is actually the foundation cornerstone of both quantum mechanics and modern evolution.
Heisenberg asserted that subatomic activities are random, and therefore, can only be examined statistically. A universe based on randomness, allows for the strange and bizarre things to occur that evolution requires in order to counter the observable facts of modern genetics. However, an orderly, deterministic universe does not.
The problem is that, back in the 1920s, Heisenberg failed to provide a mechanism capable of manufacturing our deterministic macro world from his imaginary random-acting subatomic world.
Today, however, thanks to modern laboratory tools and a fresh examination of resonation within atomic structure, we now understand that activities below the quantum limit are not random-they are complex, but also precise, repeatable, reliable, deterministic...causal. Because they turn out to be pseudorandom!
Pseudorandom resonant fields (like Lego bricks) always do it right, and they never forget how to do it.
That is not the kind of actions that would stem from random anything, but it is the kind of response we would expect from pseudorandom subatomic interactions that are so precise and reliable that we can actually use mathematics to describe and predict them.
Why is it important that scientists are able to use mathematics? Because a random number times anything is a random number. It is the definition of "random." However, pseudorandom numbers are used in encryption technology because they are complex, while looking quite random. They are actually generated by orderly mathematical processes that can be used to unscramble what appears to be garbage to one man, and crank out the hidden secret message waiting for another. That's why they call it "intelligence."
If you are interested in examining intelligent design, whether you are for it or against it, you need to understand the fundamental mechanism of the universe.because with no uncertainty, your competition will!
The exciting E-book: "Resonant Fields, the Fundamental Mechanism of Physics, Made Easy To Understand," is available online at www.coolscience.info. Click on "Intelligent Design."
© 2005 by CoolScience
(Special to the Saipan Tribune To email us, catch up on previous lessons, and get further information, go to www.coolscience.info on the Internet, or you can email us at email@example.com.)
Thursday, June 9, 2005
"You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument."
-- Dr. Samuel Johnson
This was bound to happen sooner or later -- Utah schools being sucked into the Kansas-like donnybrook pitting theories of evolution against creationism in the classroom.
It is one of those disappointingly predictable realities of life in the Beehive State: There are lawmakers who simply cannot resist inflicting themselves on the social fabric of the state. They rush into battle, rhetorical guns blazing, creating fear where there was none, and offering solutions where conflicts do not exist.
West Jordan's Sen. Chris Buttars, a darling of the arch-conservative Utah Eagle Forum, has announced his intention to run a bill in the 2006 Legislature that will require public schools to teach what he's calling "divine design" alongside the theory of evolution. And for some reason, Buttars seems to believe "divine design" connotes a less-theological approach than "intelligent design," the phrase being used in several other states' debates over the issue.
Quick, a show of hands: Who doesn't think "divine" sounds more religious than "intelligent"? All right, nobody; that's what we thought.
Utah education officials rightly worry that Buttars' plan -- to teach that the natural world is too complicated to have developed by chance -- would blur the line between religious instruction and scientific tutelage. That's a valid concern anywhere in this land, given the Constitution's establishment clause, but especially so in a state with still-weeping wounds on the religion front dating back to the middle of the 19th century.
Buttars has been quoted in other media as saying his desire is to offer a counterpoint to what he sees as children being taught in schools that they descended "from monkeys." Leaving the difference between apes and monkeys to be taught to Buttars by a qualified Utah teacher, Buttars also told a reporter he thought the only people who would object to teaching "divine design" would be "atheists." That's a common rhetorical tactic: Shooting your opponent to death before they have a chance to draw their own weapon. Surely Buttars cannot believe this debate is no more complex than believers vs. atheists . . . can he?
More than that, though, we wonder what good can be derived from heading down this road. Utahns who send their children to the public schools do so in the hope that they will receive competent instruction regarding history, mathematics, the English language, art, science and literature, among other subjects. The state-sponsored schools leave matters of religious instruction to parents, other family members and friends outside the confines of government services -- the better to respect each family's individual beliefs, or lack thereof, and because there exists no empirical data to support one faith over another, or the innumerable permutations of faith-based theories in between.
To our way of thinking, religious faith and the study of divinity are things too beautiful and personally sacred to risk being soiled via secular analyses. The day we start turning over religion to the schools is the day we have lost that last bit of ourselves -- our completely free selves -- that we hold most intensely private. By trying to inject religious indoctrination into the schools, Buttars and his fellow supporters of "divine design" are inviting state control over matters now exclusively left to parents and families.
There's still time for Buttars to escape. He could call the whole thing a "trial balloon" and quickly deflate it before it gains sufficient altitude to be taken seriously.
It's a bad idea, senator. It's a divisive tactic. Don't micro-manage the schools like this, and don't show such disrespect for parents who are responsible for teaching their own children what they want them to know about God and the universe.
OLTON--One family considers their property priceless. They claim the Virgin Mary has appeared on one of their walls.
The Garza family was working out in their yard on Monday afternoon when they noticed what they say is the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the outside of their house.
Some say they can also see the images of an olive tree and the face of Jesus.
The news spread through town fast.
Ana Maria Garza says about 500 people have already come to see it for themselves.
"Its been pretty frantic," she says. "All those that believe and don`t believe, they come to witness it and to see if its true ... all I can say... is she`s there."
The family says they conside the images a blessing for the entire town. They`ve invited everyone to come out and see it.
By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, June 9, 2005
(06-09) 05:36 PDT RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) --
Scientists on Wednesday unveiled 11 skeletons of prehistoric crocodiles and said their discovery suggests that an ancient land bridge once linked South America to Indo-Pakistan.
The fossilized skeletons of the Baurusuchus salgadoensis appear to be closely related to another ancient crocodile species, the Pabwehshi pakistanesis discovered in Pakistan, scientists from Rio de Janeiro's Federal University said.
"This discovery really proves that South America was at one time linked to the India-Pakistan bloc and this link could have only been through Antarctica or Australia," said Rudolph Trouw, regional editor of the scientific magazine Gondwana Research.
The Baurusuchus salgadoensis lived some 90 million years ago in an area of southeastern Brazil known as the Bauru Basin, some 700 kilometers (450 miles) west of modern-day Rio de Janeiro, said Pedro Henrique Nobre, one of the authors of the crocodiles' scientific description.
An adult measured about 3 meters (10 feet) from head to tail and weighed around 400 kilograms (900 pounds), making it the largest crocodile species ever discovered in South America, Nobre said.
Unlike modern crocodiles, the Baurusuchus had long legs and spent much of its time walking. It also could live in arid areas where water was scarce like other carnivorous dinosaurs of the epoch, Nobre said.
Nobre said the skeleton was exceptionally well preserved.
Scientists were able to separate the fossil's jaws and see how the Baurusuchus used its big teeth to chew its prey, he said.
"It's the best preserved fossil in this family. The ribs are intact and practically all the bones are preserved. To find a fossil this well preserved is rare," Nobre said.
Scientists were led to the fossils by elementary school teacher Joao Tadeu Arruda, who dug them up himself after one of his students showed him a fossilized tooth near the southwestern city of General Salgado.
Brazil has drawn international attention for its recent discoveries of prehistoric creatures.
In January, the same team of scientists unveiled a replica of another prehistoric crocodile species, Uberabasuchus Terrificus, which lived along the Sao Paulo coast around 70 million years ago.
In December, scientists unveiled a replica of Unaysaurus tolentinoi, an ancestor of the huge Brontosaurus that lived 230 million years ago in what is now southern Brazil. Experts said it was more closely related to fossils found in Germany than to dinosaurs from neighboring Argentina.
June 8, 2005
HOWARD LIPIN / Union-Tribune
Proponents of "intelligent design" contend that aspects of life, from the beauty of a nautilus shell to the clotting mechanism of red blood cells, are too complex to have simply evolved through random mutation and natural selection.
Teaching Darwinian evolution in public schools is again under attack. In the 1980s, it was by creationists who wanted schools to include in their science lessons a Biblical explanation of life's origins. That effort largely failed.
The new challenge comes from proponents of "intelligent design," which argues that there are things in the world – namely, life – that defy scientific explanation and can only be attributed to the handiwork of an unidentified, supernatural creator.
In more than 20 states, proposals supporting intelligent design are being considered, most notably by the Kansas State Board of Education, which may decide this month whether to include intelligent design lessons in its new science curriculum standards and encourage school teachers to more aggressively challenge the precepts of Darwinism.
Supporters of intelligent design say it is a science-based alternative to evolutionary theory. We asked local scientists who conduct the business of science every day for their opinions.
QUESTION: How do you define science? Is intelligent design science?
Science is a mental activity consisting of observation and experimentation, synthesized by interpretation. The interpretation consists of developing a story that is consistent with the results of observation and experimentation. The key concept that distinguishes science from nonscience is that if new observations and experiments contradict the story, the story must be changed to accommodate them.
HOWARD LIPIN / Union-Tribune
Red blood cells.
The challenge of science – the fun of science – is to make observations that compel the story to be changed or expanded. A story is not science if it is not open to testing – to change – by further observation and experimentation. Observations and experiments must be independently verified, or verifiable.
A story does not become science just because some authority or committee tells it or says it is science. It doesn't matter who makes the observation or runs the experiment, if others observe the same thing or get the same result from the experiment, the story must be consistent with those results.
"Intelligent design" is science only if it's a story that can be tested by observation and experimentation. Is there any observation we can make or experiment we can do whose results would be one way if "intelligent design" is true, another way if it is false? I don't know of any, but maybe somebody can. If so, that person has not yet come forth.
In any case, even if God – or someone claiming to be God – were to emerge in a puff of smoke on the floor of the Senate and claim to have created the universe, that story would not be science unless there were some independent means of testing that claim through observation and experimentation.
–Phil Unitt, ornithologist,
San Diego Natural History Museum
Think of Einstein's theory of general relativity, a wonderful hypothesis with huge implications. Hundreds of tests have been proposed, and many of them have been carried out, sometimes at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. So far, Einstein's theory has stood up, but physicists are all convinced that his remarkable insight will eventually form only a part of a larger theory, and that this larger theory will be a better fit to the observations.
Intelligent design is not science, because it only goes partway through this process and leaves out the most important part. Advocates of intelligent design have observed the world, and have proposed the hypothesis that some vast intelligence must have created it because the world (or at least some portion of it) is too complicated to have arisen through natural processes.
This is their hypothesis, and it is in principle testable. For example, one could look for messages or other evidence for the existence of a vast intelligence (see Carl Sagan's novel "Contact" for a fictional example).
Or, in the case of evolution, one could search for sudden discontinuities in the history of life, in which a new structure or function has arisen without any previous history and no relationship to structures or functions in other related organisms. (Such new structures have not yet been found, by the way.)
But the intelligent designers have proposed no such experiments. Their hypothesis is therefore not subject to modification, much less eventual abandonment. As a consequence, intelligent design and its parent belief, creationism, are not science.
professor of biology, UCSD
(Intelligent design) postulates the existence of a hypothetical and abstract entity, lacking any physical concrete presence, unobservable and impossible to experiment with in order to explain biological structures and processes whose origin can be perfectly explained by the simple rules of natural selection. It is based on the acceptance of the existence of a completely unnecessary conjecture – that of a supernatural "intelligent designer" – and violates one of the most basic principles of scientific philosophy, the principle of parsimony, which states that natural effects should be explained through natural causes and that unnecessary hypotheses should be discarded when trying to understand the way the natural world works.
director of scientific research,
San Diego Natural History Museum
If proponents of intelligent design (ID) wish their hypothesis to be treated as a science, then they must be prepared to generate experiments that will prove ID incorrect and teach their students how to disprove ID. If an "intelligent designer" is equated with "God," then, if they are true scientists, they must now spend their time trying to disprove the existence of God. I am not sure if the proponents of ID are prepared to go down that route – training a classroom of students to design experiments that rule out the existence of God. Yet, if they wish to add ID to the scientific curriculum, that is precisely what they must be prepared to do. Those experiments would then take their place with all the other experiments designed to rule out any hypothesis, in other words, to show that the null hypothesis (the idea that events and phenomena are dictated solely by chance) cannot be rejected.
–Dr. Evan Snyder,
neurologist and director of the Stem Cells and Regeneration Program at The Burnham Institute
QUESTION: A central tenet of intelligent design is that some aspects of life are "irreducibly complex." That is, certain biological systems are so complicated that they could not have evolved incrementally through random mutation and natural selection. Your response.
One cited example, among many, is how life began on Earth. Although we still do not fully understand the origin of life from a scientific point-of-view, research continues to provide vital information about the possible processes that may or may not have been involved.
There is optimism that science will eventually provide an understanding of at least the basic processes. Intelligent design claims that the processes involved are scientifically unknowable and thus must be explained by a supernatural or extraterrestrial creator.
This is akin to the widely held 19th century theory of panspermia that life on Earth began from a spore or seed from outer space. Scientific research subsequently demonstrated that panaspermia was not a testable and verifiable scientific theory and the same applies to intelligent design today.
marine chemist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
How can anyone say that something is irreducibly complex, thus evolution impossible? How do they know? Could it not just escape our present state of understanding? Weren't phenomena such as how inheritance takes place thought to be unfathomable not long ago?
These days, we are whittling away quite blissfully at the complexity of biology. For example, we have learned that "horizontal" transmission of whole packets of genes between species happened before and happens now. This means that evolution doesn't depend just on the accumulation of single mutations but that organisms can change wholesale. An example is the plague bacillus, which appears to have arisen by such a mechanism some 100,000 years ago.
It makes simple sense: How would you build a highly complex vehicle that can be driven, flown and navigated underwater? Would you start from scratch with some steel ingots, or would you use parts from existing cars, planes and submarines?
adjunct professor of biology, SDSU
A very simple experiment performed decades ago showed that when a mixture of simple chemicals was placed in a closed chamber and energy was added, the building blocks of life (amino acids) spontaneously formed. The conditions of this experiment mimicked the state of the primordial planet billions of years ago.
Thus, the building blocks of life can easily be made through natural processes, and have been available for hundreds of millions to billions of years. It is not hard to conceive that, over this extended time, chance events and selective environmental pressure would create the remarkable and beautifully diverse forms of life we have today.
–Dr. Mark Tuszynski,
Infectious diseases have been a selective pressure on our species ever since people originated in Africa. The best understood example of this pressure is malaria. Malaria is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito that injects a parasite into the blood and the parasite lives inside the host's red blood cells.
Amazingly, we have made adaptations that make the red blood cells less hospitable to malaria parasites. These changes in our proteins generally have a cost to us, but when they keep people alive long enough to procreate in the midst of a malarial environment, then the mutations are preserved in nature. This accounts for most of the variants in hemoglobin structure.
If malaria in a tropical environment was the selective force that led to the prevalence of sickle cell anemia and thalessemia, are we to conclude that the intelligent designer used malaria for that purpose or that the designer overlooked malaria as a problem and there had to be a post-hoc fix to change the structure of red blood cells?
–Dr. Joshua Fierer,
professor of medicine and pathology, UCSD
QUESTION: Many mainstream scientists have chosen to ignore or avoid the debate over intelligent design. Why?
Years ago, it was claimed that the Earth was the center of the universe. It was also claimed that the Earth was flat. Many scientists were persecuted and even killed because they presented evidence against these faith-based positions.
Debating intelligent design would be like debating someone who still insists that the Earth is flat, or that it is at the center of the universe, simply because he has not gone up in space in person and viewed the Earth and the solar system in person.
Since such positions would be based strictly on faith, there is little point in discussing them, let alone giving them undeserved legitimacy.
–Dr. Ajit P. Varki,
professor of medicine, UCSD
One should never debate such lunacy. It implies that there is something to debate. It only gives it legitimacy it does not deserve. The cry that teaching intelligent design in the science classroom should be permitted because of intellectual freedom is a red herring. We don't teach alchemy, astrology and witchcraft in the science classroom, because like intelligent design, they are not science. By the same token, all Americans, not just scientists, should speak out and complain when their schools are forced to allow such intellectual drivel into their schools.
–J. David Archibald,
professor of biology, SDSU
QUESTION: One key principle of intelligent design is the belief that there are questions about life and the universe that science cannot answer, now or in the future. Your response.
I have to admit that it is not that clear to me just what constitutes ID. Since I could find no research papers published in peer-reviewed scientific publications on the subject, I have had to rely on Internet sources. Most ID Web sites mention something about complexity, design and purpose and, using some form of legalese argumentation, conclude that because the natural world is so complex, it must have been created by an intelligent designer.
However, this is like resignedly saying, "I don't know!"
Do we really want our children to just accept that the natural world is too complex to understand, and that the idea of an intelligent designer is sufficient to satisfy our curiosity about such things as the structure and function of DNA, genes, cells and organisms? Do we also want our future scientists to be reluctant to tenaciously investigate the natural world no matter what discoveries and conclusions they reach and no matter what philosophical ideas of design and purpose are rejected?
If we as a society answer "Yes," to these questions, then I suppose we are also willing to accept Faith Healing 101 as a legitimate course in medical schools.
paleontologist, San Diego Natural History Museum
I don't know of any working scientist who is ready to throw in the towel on any question regarding the life sciences or physical sciences. Certainly, historical events that were not witnessed can never be understood with absolute certainty, but that doesn't mean we can't study them, test hypotheses or construct the most likely interpretation of them.
Breakthroughs may not occur during one's lifetime, but the explosive rate of technological advances gives us hope that we will always progress in our understanding of life and existence.
–Michael Mayer, associate
professor of biology, USD
I believe this is basically a religious or faith question. It seems to me that many who support this notion of intelligent design are doing so to bolster their own religious beliefs, specifically that there is a God, a divine creator. They are disturbed and angry and frightened that what is central in their lives is not generally taught or even mentioned in public schools, and they might view science in general (and evolutionary theory specifically) as a threat, e.g., to a particular set of religious beliefs.
I do respect those who are searching for something beyond themselves, something meaningful in their lives. This is part of the human quest, to seek the mystery of existence. It is a noble and worthy goal.
But, it is also important to have clear and critical thinking, a means of checking ourselves, detecting bias against preconceived notions. There is a great deal of hokum out there. A few hundred years ago, the majority of people in the Western world believed in demons and regularly used them and other superstitious beliefs to justify their behavior and power over others.
I think it is possible to be both spiritual and a critical thinker: To use one's mind (the scientific method and common sense) in evaluating specific beliefs or claims or ideas, and yet to also seek that question of existence and continually embrace the wonder and awesome mystery of this world.
professor of biology, SDSU
Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley
I was in a downtown coffeehouse doing some reading when a man sat down at the table next to me. "Father," he said. "Are you a priest?"
"Yes," I told him.
"Do you believe in creationism?" he asked.
After nearly 20 years of ordained ministry, I've learned to avoid answering such a question right away. I like to know something about my questioner first.
"What do you believe?" I said.
He told me that he believed in creationism.
Creationism, along with a newer theory of creation, intelligent design, is in the news again.
The Kansas School Board recently heard testimony from intelligent design proponents who want their theory taught alongside Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. They believe their theory has as much merit scientifically as does Darwinism, and it makes room for a designer, God. Twenty other states are considering similar changes to science curricula.
Darwin supporters absented themselves from the hearings, maintaining that the board majority wanted to impose conservative theology, not scientific theory, upon the schoolchildren of the state.
I think I understand the motive of the intelligent design advocates. They're afraid that God is being expelled from the classroom and from society by modernizers.
Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr once observed that when people fear modernity, they flee to fundamentalism, be it Christian, Jewish or Islamic. We seek security in the familiar, like creationism, which is based on the ancient Genesis accounts of creation, and now intelligent design.
Although I believe that God is the source of creation, I am nevertheless concerned about mandating the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in the public schools; they are religious concepts that are most appropriately taught in houses of worship, not in science classrooms.
I am also concerned that if public schools start teaching these theories as science, then graduates entering the global workplace will be further behind their counterparts in India, China and elsewhere. These workers are better educated in science and math than our own, and they will work for a lot less than American workers, an argument that Tom Friedman persuasively makes in his new book, "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century."
School boards in Kansas, Missouri and other states need to embrace modernity to maintain our competitiveness globally, not reject it by teaching pseudo-science.
How God created the universe, I told the man at the coffeehouse, was a mystery to me, just as it was surely a mystery to the writers of the Genesis creation stories. Their accounts, I said, are poetry, not science; truth, but not fact.
I believe that God created (and goes on creating) in a slow, steady way, which does not threaten my faith in the Creator. In fact, it only adds to my sense of wonder at the love and power of God.
The Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley is rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield.
Published: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 -- The Truth, A4
Last updated: 6/7/2005 11:03:08 PM
The editorial page has recently offered us many opportunities to share views on evolution vs. a belief in God as our creator. I hope to share some facts that have helped me to see that a belief in God as our creator doesn't diminish, in any way, the importance of scientific research as mankind strives to expand his understanding of all creation.
The light of the world (or intelligence) is sent forth from God, who is without beginning of days or end of years.
God understands and is true to all law. If this were not so, he would cease to be God.
The heavens and earth were created from unorganized matter. This matter is the material of creation and is also subject to law.
Science seeks to come to an understanding of these laws by testing theories about unanswered questions and using the results to form scientific opinions.
Notwithstanding the requirement that we do all we can, on our own, to solve life's mysteries, there is a higher source of intelligence that we can draw from as we seek to recognize the truth. It is hidden from the natural man, though. Only through the eyes of a spiritual man is the light discerned that is given to mankind to encourage him to press on, to seek out all that is good and praiseworthy, to persist in doing good, to resist that which is false and to develop within himself a strength of character that will recognize and accept truth into his life.
If we are going to be successful, we need to develop faith in Jesus Christ as the savior of all his creations and heed his teachings.
I would like you to contrast the contributions and beauty of the works of men such as Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Shakespeare with the empty and hopeless world of Charles Darwin, who when questioned by Lord Tennyson himself, admitted to a higher power behind evolution but emphatically stated that this same power was not concerned with the desires and needs of mortal man and did not respond to man's appeals to it.
Joseph Joachim and Tennyson were good friends for many years and he stated, "I always considered his poems a wonderful antidote to the atheistic books of Haeckel and the terrible tide of materialism that swept over England after Darwin proclaimed his doctrine of evolution."
2004 Chris Elliott Archive
If you haven't yet heard about the intelligent design issue in today's schools, the fast wrap-up on it is that thinly veiled Christian creationism may be soon be taught to your ninth-grader as a plausible scenario for the nascence of humanity. If this fairy tale explanation of life on earth passes the curriculum test, it will be taught as an alternative to Darwin, and depending on the teacher, the educational sway could tend either way.
Intelligent design is currently taught alongside evolution in some Pennsylvania school districts, and various proposals hostile to Darwin's theory of evolution are being considered in more than 20 states. It should probably come as no surprise that the Kansas State Board of Education is taking supporters of intelligent design seriously, hotbed of science that the Sunflower State is. Perhaps Kansas' elite educators accompanied Dorothy to Oz and know something the rest of us don't.
Fundamentalist Christian nutbag and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, suggests that "intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." His amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act that requires public schools to debunk evolution was overwhelmingly approved by his fellow whack jobs in the Pennsylvania State Senate. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the amendment was not included in the version of the bill that was signed into law.
While proponents of ID (interestingly enough, the first two letters in the word "idiotic") cover their asses by being careful not to specifically ascribe life on earth to God's mighty hand, it's not hard to see that the Christian right is behind this movement. This only serves to reveal the Christian right's cowardice alongside its foolishness. They suggest rather than state the design of the divine, knowing full well that there is a desperate population of fundamentalist Christians eager to fill in the gaps.
With a wink and a nod, they insidiously introduce their backwards beliefs to a significant evangelical population starving for a thumb to stick into the theory of evolution's eye. They slip their holy horse-hooey under the principal's door, and through the simple virtue of lots of stupid people believing it, they are gaining a barely believable toehold into modern education curricula.
Peddling fundamentalist Christian creationism in the school system is insane, and if there is any common sense left in this country, this invasion of church into state will be kicked in the teeth before the next Podunk High School Board ever hears it.
The Adam's rib crowd are plainly put, wrong. Biblical literalism is incorrect. There was no Noah's ark. No burning bush. No garden of Eden. Like all of the Bible's various stories, Adam and Eve is a lovely fable. The virgin birth and the rapture simply didn't happen. Just as people only used to jump over the Berlin wall from east to west, hymens only break from the outside in, and the only permanent way off the face of this earth is to be buried under it.
The fact that the Christian fundamentalist creation myth is under serious consideration as academic material represents a return to the sensibilities of jungle primitives quaking at the electrical storm, a hysterical explanation of unanswerable questions, willfully ignorant of centuries of science. This embrace of mythology as serious theory is no less absurd than espousing Greek and Roman multitheism, with Thor chucking thunderbolts to the earth and Neptune roiling the oceans. As long as we're at it, we might as well write Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny into the history books.
The ignorant masses have always been looking for easy answers to hard questions, and under our current president, they have found a willing dupe at the top to permit religion over science and fantasy over fact. Americans have traditionally had presidents that espouse the latest in science theory, not the oldest of superstitious accounts. It is truly disappointing that under George W. Bush's watch, modern understanding of life on earth has been thrown into a backward-traveling time machine.
To patronize this school of thought for just a moment, let's cede that the puppet master really exists, and that his/her/its design really is intelligent. Wouldn't it make more sense to design an adaptable plant and animal model? If a divine entity really did fashion species, what more perfect plan to perpetuate life on earth than evolution? If the ID crowd really wants to insert a deity into the bafflingly robust ecosystem that has survived constant war and pollution, espouse evolution but ascribe it to God, Allah, the Easter Bunny, the Wizard of Oz, or whatever figurehead they wish.
Here's my daily prayer: Dear Lord, please save me from your followers.
Chris Elliott can be reached at CDElliott009@aol.com
Seacoast Online is owned and operated by Seacoast Newspapers. Copyright © 2005 Seacoast Online
June 8, 2005
John Klimenok's letter to the editor of May 29 claims that there is no competing scientific theory to explain our world than evolution. I am certain that he has heard of "intelligent design" as an alternative theory. There are hundreds of scientists who hold to this theory as superior to evolution.
Some who support evolution have a degree of religious fervor in its defense. I suspect the problem for these people is that they believe that the words intelligent design are code for God. If we say, "There is no competing theory," I respectfully suggest we are being intellectually dishonest.
Some try to balance creationism and evolution
BY JUAN ANTONIO LIZAMA
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Jun 7, 2005
As a child, high school senior Matt Borysewicz learned from the Catholic Church that God created man in his image and made the world in seven days.
Then he learned from science books that life on earth evolved over time and that man came from a monkey.
"I know, for a little while, especially in elementary school and middle school, I was kind of heavy set on evolution," he said. "Recently, I'm believing more of the creation part of it."
Borysewicz, who will graduate from Hanover County's Atlee High School this month and plans to attend George Mason University in the fall, said he feels torn between his two sets of beliefs. He believes, for example, that humans came from a lower animal form, but he also believes that God had a hand in the process.
"I feel like I want to choose one or the other, but I can't decide," he said.
This is the dilemma many students face when they learn one point of view about the origin of life from church and another from science classes in public schools.
There are those who say the two views can share some common ground.
"It is sad that people think that there's this dichotomy," said Wayne Carley, executive director of the National Association for Biology Teachers. "It's sad that people are forced to think either-or. Some people don't think that there is a middle ground."
John Magai Bol, a senior at Hanover Patrick Henry School, said that he does not believe in evolution but that he respects the theory. He believes in the Adam and Eve story from the Bible, he said.
"I think schools should teach the Christian point of view and the evolution point of view, so the people know what they are really about," he said. "They don't have to believe either of them, they just have to be informed."
Though the ongoing debate to teach creationism side-by-side with evolution has not made splashy headlines in Virginia, as it has in Kansas and other states, some scientists believe the debate affects everybody in the United States.
Scientists and advocates of the biblical version of creation have debated merits of teaching evolution and creationism in public schools since Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection" in 1859.
Darwin formalized the theory that the modern human race, Homo sapiens, evolved from a primitive animal species to present form over millions of years. The theory contradicts the story of creation that opens the Bible in Genesis, if it is taken literally.
Despite the prevailing view among scientists favoring evolution, many Americans accept the biblical explanation of the presence of humans on earth.
In a national poll conducted in November by CBS News:
Most scientists oppose teaching creationism in science classes of public schools. Creationism belongs in a religion or philosophy class, said Randy Moore, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota, who has studied teachers' attitudes toward evolution.
"Creationism, creation science or intelligent design, it's simply not science," he said. "It's not testable. For ideas to be considered science they have to be testable. . . . There's no way to prove or disprove that there's an intelligent designer or that there's a God."
In the opposite side of the debate, John Calvert, managing editor of Intelligent Design Network Inc. in Kansas, said it bothers him that scientists use creationism, creation science and intelligent design interchangeably.
They are not the same, he said. The intelligent-design movement has taken God and naturalism out of its theory, angering some religious groups, he said.
"I think the debate is not one between the Bible and science," he said.
"There is evidence of intelligent design that you can detect using standard science methodology."
On the legal side, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1987 struck down a Louisiana law requiring "balanced treatment" of evolution and creationism. And federal courts have said creationism is religious, not scientific. Consequently, most public school science classes, including those in Virginia, teach evolution.
Moore said about half to maybe 60 percent of public-school science teachers in this country teach evolution. He said about 30 percent teach evolution and creationism despite court decisions. The rest of the science teachers avoid both, he said.
"Those data are valid in every state that I've examined," he said. "I know of no studies of Virginia, but I'd be surprised if they're any different from those of other states."
In some states, the issue has moved to the front burner. Politicians make it a campaign signature item. Advocates push the debate into court. In Virginia, the debate, while passionate, has not become a political boiling point.
Randy Bell, an assistant professor and program coordinator for the science education program in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, said Virginia has not been picked as a battleground.
"I think right now the creationists and the folks that are promoting intelligent design are picking those places where they think the political scene is conducive to the goal they want to accomplish," Bell said. "Right now that's more Texas, Kansas and Ohio."
In that atmosphere, Virginia's public school systems have been able to adopt teaching approaches with a minimum of fanfare. The state's Standards of Learning science curriculum calls for students to learn about evolution.
Richmond area public school officials and teachers contacted by The Times-Dispatch would not comment for this article.
Some private schools approach the origin of life from a creationism point of view. Others require students to study both evolution and creationism.
Chris Jarrell is a Bible teacher at Evangel Christian School, a pre-K-to-12th-grade private school in Colonial Heights. He said he teaches creationism in a literal sense. He acknowledged that "there are people who believe in the evolutionary theory."
Jarrell said he teaches students the highlights of the evolutionary theory and shows them how the Scriptures explain some aspects of the theory, such as the existence of dinosaurs and fossils.
"I teach my convictions, but at the same time I want [students] to research for themselves," he said. "I challenge them to form their own convictions."
William Doran IV, theology teacher at Benedictine High School, a Catholic military school, said Benedictine requires students to take the science curriculum and theology.
"I actually provide kids with a growing amount of evidence that creationism is at least as possible as evolution is," he said.
By doing that, Doran said, he expects students to take the Scriptures more seriously.
"I don't want individual students to think it's Bible versus science because that's unfair," he said. "There is science in both."
But, he added, "I don't think evolution and creationism should be taught side by side."
Borysewicz, the Atlee High senior who is trying to reconcile what the Catholic Church taught him with what he has studied in school, said he favors teaching creationism and evolution in separate venues.
"Churches should teach the creation side and schools should teach the evolution side," he said. "There should be a separation of church and state."
As an adult he may choose one or the other, Borysewicz said. Right now, he wants to learn as much as he can about both.
"I believe we should be taught about everything at this point," he said, "but we should not be required at this time to make a decision."
Contact Juan Antonio Lizama at (804) 649-6513 or firstname.lastname@example.org
June 07, 2005
Professor's ideas gain recognition in film
By Brian Oltman
A documentary based on an ISU professor's book in support of Intelligent Design theory is planned to be shown at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. later this month.
Assistant astronomy and physics professor Guillermo Gonzalez co-authored "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery" in 2004 with Jay Richards, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. The book and the documentary examine and express support for the controversial theory of Intelligent Design.
Intelligent Design is "a theory that nature and complex biological structures were designed by intelligent beings and were not created by chance," according to Dictionary.com.
Gonzalez said the basic thesis of "Privileged Planet" is that the rare conditions which make Earth habitable show it was designed for humans. He said the book also goes a step further by arguing the universe was meant for discovery and that Earth's rare conditions make it the optimal place from which to study the universe.
Gonzalez said he became a proponent of Intelligent Design in 1995 after viewing a total eclipse in India and believing it was not a coincidence that he could see it from Earth as a result of the Earth's conditions.
The 60-minute documentary is scheduled to be shown June 23 to a private audience at the Smithsonian. It is also slated to run on some Public Broadcasting Service channels in June and July.
"It brings Intelligent Design public awareness. Anytime publicly more people hear about issues somebody can be convinced. People should take time and see what all hoopla is about," he said.
The showing of the documentary was originally co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History and the Discovery Institute. The Smithsonian has since withdrawn its sponsorship of the movie and returned $16,000 to the Discovery Institute, but has not canceled the screening.
According to a Smithsonian press release, "Upon further review, we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of Smithsonian Institution's scientific research."
The Discovery Institute is a non-profit Seattle-based public policy think tank.
The institute promotes a point of view that brings to its work a belief in "God-given reason and the permanency of human nature," according to its Web site.
Critics of the controversial Intelligent Design theory, such as Hector Avalos, associate professor of religious studies, call the theory another attempt at creationism and view it as more theology then actual science.
Intelligent Design is a religious concept cloaked in the language of science, Avalos said.
Retired professor John Patterson called Intelligent Design "scientifically bankrupt."
He described his thoughts in a book review, "And should bewildering mysteries remain, it is always better to address them with the time-honored methods of modern science, than to posit things like Intelligent Designers, Supernatural Creators and such, that serve only to increase the levels of confusion and mystery around us, rather than clear it away."
Avalos stated that the screening of the film at the Smithsonian is similar to a group renting a room at the Memorial Union at Iowa State.
"However, I fear that ID people will try to represent such a screening as legitimizing their pseudo-science," he said.
Posted by Steve Verdon at 12:21
Well, I have posted on this before and many people disagree with it. But here is an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent making the same argument I have made.
Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible complexity' and 'specified complexity'-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.--Paul Nelson, Touchstone Magazine 7/8 (2004): pp 64 – 65.
Seems pretty obvious to me that ID has a pretty long ways to go before it comes even close to being thought of a respectable scientific endeavor. As such bringing it into a high school science course would be detrimental to the students.
Quote via Pandas Thumb.
Update: For completeness here is Paul Nelson's response to the use of this quote.
Note, that the response is basically that the quote is accurate and that right now at best ID is some sort of proto-theory that needs quite a bit more work before it is ready for primetime. All the other gibberish about getting stoned by touching a silver ball is just Nelson's way of trying to not admit he has pointed out a serious issue with ID...it ain't a scientific theory. Nelson and his ilk, if the rest of them were honest, would add, "Yet". My question is, what are they waiting for? Formulate some hypotheses, test them, gather data, present the results. Of course, that is alot harder than merely sneering at the notion of speciation or pointing to gaps in the fossil record.
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There's an old story about how a bunch of co-workers told the same jokes to each other over and over again. They finally decided to just assign them numbers. Someone would shout "Ten!" and everyone would laugh.
Since you are on a broken record on this topic, you should assign it a number. You could write "Twenty two!" which would be the "I am so smart because I believe in evolution and ID people are idiots" post. You'd save a lot of time.
Posted by: whatever at June 7, 2005 16:26 Permalink
While technically correct, both James and Paul aren't addressing the actual reason ID doesn't have a 'theory' behind it – ID, by its very nature, is irreconcilable with testing.
How do you 'test' whether or not God exists? For any test that could be performed, one can conceive some aspect of God's power that would render the test moot. That's the mental failing of ID'ers and creationists in general – accepting evolution doesn't disprove the existence of God at all; it just means you can't take the Bible's story of creation as literal fact.
Posted by: legion at June 7, 2005 17:14 Permalink
Date published: 6/7/2005
PORT ORCHARD, Wash.--I am a public high school biology teacher, and I do an unusual thing. I teach my students more than they have to know about evolution. I push them to behave like competent jurors, not just to swallow what some authority figure tells them to believe, not even me--but rather to critically analyze, with an open mind, the evidence set before them.
Scientific theories have come and gone for centuries, replaced by better ones as new evidence arises. There has always been controversy in science and tremendous opposition to those who challenge the orthodoxy of the day. An effective way to teach science is to explore some of these controversies.
Teenagers, not surprisingly, find this approach exhilarating.
When I note that contrary to their large and monolithic biology textbook, some highly credentialed scientists insist that there are limitations to Darwin's theory, the students perk up.
And when I note that some current biology textbooks contain widely discredited evidence for Neo-Darwinism--a synthesis of Darwin's theory of evolution and Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics--the last of the sleepy looks in the classroom usually vanishes.
Skepticism for its own sake isn't the goal here, but it's important for students to realize that even respected scientists have peddled fraudulent evidence in defense of a pet scientific dogma. A few examples my students learn about are Ernst Haeckel's faked embryo drawings and the infamous Piltdown Man--fossils of a primitive hominid that turned out to be a hoax.
I also expose students to the reputable evidence for evolution. They learn about some of the pillars of evolutionary theory-- genetically altered fruit flies, the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and insecticide resistance in bugs, how breeding programs change domestic species, and how oscillating climates affect the beak size of certain kinds of finches. These and other examples demonstrate that organisms are capable of change over time.
What is the significance, I ask my students, of these microevolutionary changes? Can they be extrapolated to explain macroevolution--that is, evolution from one type of creature to a fundamentally different kind?
I also dissect these evidences using recent discoveries that have raised important questions among evolutionary biologists.
My students learn that even highly trained biologists disagree on these issues, interpreting "hard" evidence in different ways.
The job of the scientist, I explain, is to find the best explanation to a problem, not just to defend his or her own position at all costs.
After my presentations, many kids will ask what I believe, since they cannot tell what my position is.
One such student told me she appreciated my neutral approach. Her reason was simple: hearing the evidence for and against the theory gave her the freedom to weigh the evidences for herself.
This student eventually wrote an article for our local paper about my approach. After it was published, a reporter from that paper appeared unannounced, interviewed me, and called my superintendent to ask if she knew how I was teaching evolution.
My principal saw that it was a freedom of speech issue and gave me his full backing.
My superintendent asked me to stick to the adopted curriculum-- which does not include intelligent design theory--and I've done so. However, I have retained the freedom to mention intelligent design theory to curious students as another viewpoint used to explain life and its diversity.
The superintendent reminded me to remain neutral in my presentation, and gave me her backing.
We were on firm legal footing. Constitutional law allows this approach:
The Supreme Court has ruled that it is permissible to teach students about alternative scientific viewpoints and scientific criticism of prevailing theories.
And a June 2001 Senate addendum to the No Child Left Behind Act states, "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of views that exist."
Finally, this approach comports with the state of Washington's high school assessment test, which expects students to be able to think critically, analyze information, and draw informed, reasoned conclusions.
Charles Darwin wrote, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."
That, in my opinion, is what science is all about.
DOUG COWAN is a veteran science teacher at Curtis Senior High School in University Place, Wash., where he teaches biology, physiology, and human anatomy.
Article Last Updated: 06/06/2005 03:08:43 PM
Backers of 'divine design' theory want equal time in schools
By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune
One state senator, backed by a powerful conservative lobby, wants Utah public schools to teach "divine design" side by side with evolution, allowing students to decide which theory is more valid.
The decades-old debate expected to erupt during the next legislative session in January will also involve decades-old arguments, but with a new twist.
Some school officials believe teaching a divine design could violate the constitutionally protected separation of church and state.
"We don't teach religion in school," said Brett Moulding, curriculum director for the state Board of Education. "We don't believe this law would be in the best interest of public education."
But the moral-crusading group Eagle Forum, which has often flexed its muscle on Utah's Capitol Hill, argues a community has a right to teach its values to its children.
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, plans to lead the fight for instruction of divine design in Utah public schools. He wants to defuse some of the expected controversy by avoiding the term "creationism" altogether.
Instead, he favors "divine design," sometimes called "intelligent design," which "doesn't preach religion," he said. "The only people who will be upset about this are atheists."
Supporters of intelligent design say nature is so complex that it could not have occurred without the guidance of some higher power, maybe God, maybe something else.
They say this differs from traditional creationists who believe that God created the Earth, and argue the distinction means its inclusion in public school curriculum would not violate church-state separation.
The Kansas School Board is now debating a new change to its science curriculum after hearing arguments from supporters of both evolution and intelligent design.
The Kansas board expects to make a decision by the end of the summer.
Other states across the country such as New York, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama continue to debate adding intelligent design to the curriculum.
Buttars plans to add Utah to that list of states by sponsoring a bill requiring educators to also tell students that some believe "a superior power" created the world.
Buttars, who regularly takes up moral debates, sponsored a 2004 state constitutional amendment that strengthened Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. His next target is evolution and its domination of the science curriculum.
''The divine design is a counter to the kids' belief that we all come from monkeys. Because we didn't,'' said the conservative Republican and retired director of a private school for troubled boys. "It shocks me that our schools are teaching evolution as fact."
Buttars doesn't disregard evolution completely, rather he believes God is the creator, but His creations have evolved within their own species.
"We get different types of dogs and different types of cats, but you have never seen a 'dat,' '' he said.
Buttars will have the backing of the Eagle Forum, led by conservative activist Gayle Ruzicka, who has independently pushed for divine design education in the schools.
"What an insult to teach children that they have evolved from a lower life to what they are now, and then they go home and learn that they are someone special, a child of God," Ruzicka said. "This is not right."
Buttars and the Eagle Forum can expect resistance from some education groups.
The state education board is in the process of elaborating its position on evolution, after members of the public brought up intelligent design in a previous board meeting.
Evolution is part of the core curriculum for high school science teachers. Creationism or divine design is not.
That doesn't mean Utah teachers don't bring it up on their own.
Scott Berryessa, president of the Jordan Education Association, representing about 2,100 teachers, says he more often gets complaints from students and families upset that divine design is mentioned in the classroom.
"If either theory is shortchanged on exposure in Utah schools it would probably be the theory of evolution," Berryessa said. "Teachers wish that our Legislature would stop micromanaging the process of education - especially when it comes to issues as personal as these."
David Cox is both a legislator and a school teacher.
The Lehi Republican believes in evolution, but he believes God started the evolutionary process.
He says people are too easily offended when religion is mentioned in public, but he doesn't like the state dictating to teachers.
"I'm conflicted," Cox said. "But I want the teachers to have the freedom to say there are different philosophies."
Evolution vs. 'intelligent design'
* Public school science curriculum standards are evolving. Defenders of current evolution-based science curricula say the increasing clout of religious voters is behind a new movement to push creationism or intelligent design into the classroom. Critics of the status quo say current science curricula are biased and they point to a national movement to restore moral values in public institutions.
Lawmakers in a growing number of states (at least nine at last count) have been looking at legislation related to teaching evolution in public schools.
l A third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a well-supported scientific theory. And a third of Americans consider themselves biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, according to a 2004 Gallup Poll.
Source: The National Conference of State Legislatures
Opponents say intelligent design is like creationism
June 6, 2005
BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
The national debate over how life began is landing in the quiet southwest Michigan village of Richland, where the school district is threatened with a lawsuit over teaching the theory of intelligent design in science classes.
IN THE BEGINNING
The three theories of how life began:
•Evolution: Charles Darwin's theory that life evolved in tiny stages, each stage more adaptable to the current conditions than the last through a process called natural selection.
•Creationism: Basically holds that God created all life and includes the explanation found in the Bible, in Genesis.
•Intelligent design: Agrees with natural selection but says some life forms, such as humans, are too complex to have been created by accident so there must have been an intelligent designer. It does not discuss the designer's identity.
Intelligent design holds that the universe is too complicated to have been created by accident, as the theory of evolution implies. Consequently, there must have been some sort of "intelligent designer" behind creation. The question is whether intelligent design is science -- or religion?
Backers say the theory is not creationism because it doesn't speculate about the identity of the designer.
Critics, including the National Science Teachers Association, call it nothing more than a thinly disguised version of creationism and a back-door attempt to get religion into public schools.
"It's the religious right that's pushing this. This is mixing religion and science," said Gerry Wheeler, president of the association.
The issue worked its way into Gull Lake Community Schools, which includes Richland, when two middle school science teachers, Julie Olson and Dawn Wenzel, put a book on intelligent design called "Of Pandas and People" on the district's annual textbook list. Wenzel and Olson also added a lesson including "Of Pandas and People" into the district's binder-thick science curriculum. The school board subsequently approved both.
"I am fully confident that our school board never studied this page, never had it brought to their attention and never knew what it meant even if they did see it," Superintendent Rich Ramsey said in a statement made through the district's attorney.
Olson said intelligent design is being embraced by a growing number of scientists, but she wouldn't comment on whether personal or religious beliefs contributed to their decision to teach the subject.
"I feel that's kind of irrelevant since we're discussing science. We don't talk about the designer, we strictly teach the science aspect," Olson said.
They quietly taught intelligent design alongside evolution for two years until a parent complained last fall. Then the administration told them to stop teaching the theory while a committee, including the two teachers, studied whether it belonged in the curriculum.
The committee voted 5-2 in May against teaching intelligent design, with Wenzel and Olson the only dissenting votes.
In the meantime, the teachers turned to the conservative Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor. The center, which is suing a Pennsylvania school district over not allowing intelligent design to be taught, notified Gull Lake it's likely to be sued as well.
"People were aware they've been teaching this," said Richard Thompson, the law center's chief counsel.
"Basically what we think happened -- and we will find out -- is that some outside pressure was put on the superintendent to prohibit the teaching of intelligent design."
There was no outside pressure, said the district's attorney, Lisa Swem. School officials didn't know Olson and Wenzel were teaching intelligent design until they received the complaint.
"There was never any approval or authorization for intelligent design," Swem said.
The debate between teaching creationism or evolution is not new. During the last few years, however, it's been refueled by intelligent design. In May, the Kansas State Board of Education held a hearing on teaching evolution. Three states -- Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota -- have adopted standards that could allow intelligent design to be taught in schools.
A survey by the science teachers' association this year found almost one-third of its members feel a growing pressure from students or parents to teach creationism or intelligent design.
"It's just not fair to present unsupported, unproven data to our students," said association president Wheeler. "The key issue is, is intelligent design testable? There's no test that one can set up to prove it, and that's the test of science."
The theory is hotly debated in the scientific community, with most mainstream scientific journals discounting it. Advocates point to a handful of papers published in peer-reviewed journals, including one in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a periodical that requires three established scientists review all papers in order to be published.
The article caused a furor among the society's members, who went on to endorse a statement saying there was no credible evidence that intelligent design is legitimate science.
Meanwhile, the debate continues in the Gull Lake community.
"It wasn't until creationism was ousted from public schools that intelligent design was brought in," said Mark Jennings, a Gull Lake Community Schools parent and pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Richland. "I've always thought the school should leave teaching about God to the church and we'll leave science to the schools."
But another parent, Brian Showerman of Augusta, said kicking out intelligent design limits what students can learn.
"Our kids need to have the freedom to learn all aspects of a thing, to figure it out for themselves," he said.
Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-469-4681 or email@example.com.
Monday, Jun. 6, 2005 Posted: 8:22:00AM EST
A new front has opened up in the debate over evolution and creationism in Utah, with a proposal to require the teaching of divine design in public schools.
State Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) has agreed to take the lead in pushing new legislation on the teaching of divine design, also known as intelligent design, in conjunction with evolution in schools.
Buttars is supported by a strong conservative lobby, headed by the Eagle Forum, which has previously sought the inclusion of divine design in the public school science curriculum.
School officials argue that any laws requiring the teaching of divine design could be found in violation of the separation of church and state under the First Amendment.
Supporters of the proposal contend, however, that divine design is not the same as creationism. Unlike creationism, divine design simply acknowledges that the world is so complex, its development must have been guided by some higher power. Proponents do not specify who that higher power is.
Currently, public schools in Utah are required to teach evolution, but not alternative theories. Some teachers have independently chosen to introduce the topics of creationism or divine design in their classrooms.
The issue of what to teach in schools regarding evolution has been an ongoing debate. Recent cases have gained nationwide attention.
In May, the Kansas Board of Education held hearings to decide on new science standards. A three-member committee heard arguments from proponents of intelligent design and evolution. Last week, written arguments from both sides were submitted to the Board. The Board is expected to decide on new standards by the end of the summer.
One of the most publicized cases last year concerned evolution disclaimer stickers that were placed on the cover of ninth grade science books in Atlanta, Georgia. The stickers said that "evolution is a theory, not a fact," and warned students that "material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."
Six parents filed a suit against the Cobb County School District, charging that the stickers violated the separation of church and state. The school district argued that the stickers were meant to open up discussion on the topic of evolution and alternative theories of the origin of life.
In January, a federal judge ordered the stickers to be removed. The school district began removing stickers from over 30,000 books in May, although an appeal is pending on the judge's ruling.
The new proposal in Utah is yet another iteration of the creation-evolution debate. The issue is expected to be brought up when the next legislative session begins in January.
The University of Pennsylvania's medical school is the latest in a growing number of U.S. medical schools that include alternative medicine such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and massage therapy in their curriculums.
Penn doctors are teaming with experts at the Tai Sophia Institute alternative medicine school in Maryland to design a program to teach medical students about alternative medicine. The program will start at Penn medical school in August, the Associated Press reported.
"More and more there's a willingness by conventional schools to recognize the CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) schools as having this expertise. And there's a recognition by the CAM disciplines that linking with conventional academic centers to foster research is a good thing," Aviad Haramati, a professor at Georgetown University's medical school, told the AP.
A 2002 U.S government survey found that more than a third of American adults have tried alternative therapies. Traditional medical schools are responding to the public popularity of alternative medicine. Currently, more than 95 of the 125 medical schools in the United States require students to do some kind of CAM coursework, says the Association of American Medical Colleges.
"We're not going to turn great surgeons into acupuncturists or herbalists; that's not the idea. The goal is that Penn medical school graduates will be highly able to speak with patients about how to guide these things into their overall care," Robert Duggan, co-founder of Tai Sophia, told the AP.
Copyright © 2005 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.
Long-term advocates of chelation therapy must be smirking just a little.
This controversial treatment, which removes toxic heavy metals like mercury and lead from the body, is federally approved for just that: treating lead poisoning and toxicity from other heavy metals.
It has never been approved for treating heart disease or autism, although heart patients have sought its benefits for years, and autism patients are making headlines claiming chelation's success in reversing the disorder by eliminating mercury in the body.
The ongoing commotion awoke the sleeping federal giant - also known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute - two years ago. These two divisions of the National Institutes of Health put up a combined $30 million for a five-year national trial of chelation for heart disease.
We can thank Dr. Gervasio A. Lamas, director of cardiovascular research and academic affairs at Mount Sinai Medical Center-Miami Heart Institute in Miami Beach, for this serious, long-term look at what some doctors - even Lamas - had considered voodoo medicine.
(Patients are still being recruited for this study, and there are sites in Palm Beach County in Tequesta and Atlantis that need volunteers. Call 888-644-6226 for information, but you must be 50 or older and have already had a heart attack. Because this is a federal study, there is no payment, and it requires 40 infusions - 30 of them weekly - of either a chelating agent known as EDTA or an inactive substitute, along with the standard medications your doctor is giving you.)
Lamas, who had never used chelation therapy, began to agitate for this study when a patient asked about it.
"I said I thought it was junk. But I couldn't really say that, because there wasn't enough information," he says. "I thought of doing (the study) in August 1999. I applied for the first grant in March 2000 and was rejected."
He got eventually approval, and the first patient was recruited in 2003. The study focuses on people who have already had one heart attack because - imagine this - people with mild coronary artery disease are "so healthy and well-managed, it would take 7,000-8,000 patients" to get definitive results, he says.
One other point: Don't expect this study to advance the autism thesis. Mercury is removed with a different chelating agent than EDTA, Lamas said.
The heart study is concentrating on two theories: that chelation can prevent oxidation of LDL, the bad cholesterol, which causes arterial plaque. (Many of the heavy metals are involved in oxidation reactions within the body.) Or that it may act as a "very important antioxidant."
"All trials of antioxidants have been negative," Lamas said, "but no one has tried such a high dose as we're doing."
What if the study proves effective? Lamas thinks it may result in drug companies producing chelation pills that might benefit those at high risk for a heart attack, such as diabetics.
But "the coolest of all," he said, "is that the (alternative medicine) practitioners would have been correct for so many years."
On Health is a weekly column on health issues. If you have questions or comments, write Carolyn Susman at The Palm Beach Post, P.O. Box 24700, West Palm Beach, Fla. 33416, call 820-4433 or e- mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Palm Beach Post
Prayer helps in the OT!
Hilary E. MacGregor Los Angeles Times
On an operating table at a medical center in San Francisco, a breast cancer patient is undergoing reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. But this will be no ordinary surgery. Three thousand miles away, a shamanic healer has been sent the woman's name, a photo and details about the surgery.
For each of the next eight days, the healer will pray 20 minutes for the cancer patient's recovery, without the woman's knowledge. A surgeon has inserted two small fabric tubes into the woman's groin to enable researchers to measure how fast she heals.
The woman is a patient in an extraordinary government-funded study that is seeking to determine whether prayer has the power to heal patients from afar -- a field known as "distant healing." In recent years, medicine has increasingly shown an interest in investigating the effect of prayer and spirituality on health.
A survey of 31,000 adults released last year by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 43 percent of U.S. adults prayed for their own health, while 24 percent had others pray for their health.
Science has only begun to explore the power of distant healing, and the early results of this research have been inconclusive. In an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2000, researchers reported on 23 studies on various distant healing techniques, including religious, energy and spiritual healing. Thirteen of the 23 studies indicated there are positive effects to distant healing, nine studies found no beneficial effect and one study showed a modest negative effect with the use of distant healing.
The study of distant healing was once the realm of eccentric scientists, but researchers at such prominent institutions as the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Chestnut Hill, Mass., Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco are involved in the field. And the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has spent $2.2 million on studies of distant healing and intercessory prayer since 2000 — a small fraction of the agency's annual budget, which totaled $117 million in 2004.
Some people think even that relatively small sum of money is not being well spent.
While some scientists oppose such studies on religious or scientific grounds, others question whether it is possible to devise a scientifically valid method for measuring something as nebulous as the power of prayer.
What constitutes a "dose" of prayer? How does one define prayer? Is channeling Buddhist intention or reiki energy the same thing as praying to a Judeo-Christian God? And how do you determine whether it was prayer that made a patient better, or something else, such as the placebo effect?
The first study
Cardiologist Randolph Byrd did the first major clinical study on distant healing at San Francisco General Hospital in 1988. He divided 393 heart patients into two groups.
One group received prayers from Christians outside the hospital; the other did not. His study, published in the Southern Medical Journal, found that the patients who were not prayed for needed more medication and were more likely to suffer complications. While it had flaws, the study garnered considerable attention.
Since then investigators have continued to look at the possible effects of remote prayer and similar distant healing techniques in the treatment of heart disease, AIDS and other illnesses as well as infertility. Numerous experiments involving prayer and distant healing have also been done involving animals and plants. One such study found that healers can increase the healing rate of wounds in mice.
"Critics often complain that if you see positive results in humans it is because of positive thinking, or the placebo response," said Dr. Larry Dossey, a retired internist in Santa Fe, N.M., and author of numerous books on spirituality and healing. "Microbes don't think positively, and are not subject to the placebo response."
In the early '90s, Elisabeth Targ and colleagues at the California Pacific Medical Center studied the effects of distant healing on 20 AIDS patients. Schlitz, who worked with Targ (who died of a brain tumor in 2002), said the study found those receiving prayer survived in greater numbers, got sick less often and recovered faster than those who did not. A follow-up study of 40 patients found similar results.
At about the same time, Duke University's Krucoff was leading a small but unusual experiment to determine if cardiac patients would recover faster after angioplasty surgery if they received any of several intangible (noetic) treatments. His study compared the results of healing touch, stress relaxation and distant healing with standard care.
All of the groups did better than the standard care group, with those receiving distant prayers doing best. He has since completed a larger, multi-site study. That study — the largest to date — is currently under review for publication in a medical journal.
Article Last Updated: 06/05/2005 01:44:25 AM
State Sen. Chris Buttars wants Utah public schools to teach "divine design" side by side with evolution, allowing students to decide which theory is more valid.
The decades-old debate over evolution and creationism is expected to erupt during the next legislative session in January, but with a new twist.
Buttars, R-West Jordan, wants to defuse some of the expected controversy by avoiding the term "creationism." Instead, he favors "divine design," sometimes called "intelligent design." Supporters of intelligent design say nature is so complex that it could not have occurred without the guidance of some higher power, maybe God, maybe something else.
Some school officials believe teaching a divine design could violate the constitutionally protected separation of church and state.
By Nichole Dobo, Staff Writer 06/05/2005
Two words during a February Northwest Area school board meeting have grabbed the ear of a national civil rights organization.
Those words - "intelligent design" - prompted a letter from the Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League. The letter urges the district not to consider teaching "intelligent design." "Intelligent design" holds that the universe is so complex that a higher being must have created it, but stops just short of naming the designer.
School board member Randy Tomasacci wants to explore including "intelligent design" in the science curriculum
"I want to show them both sides," he said. "There are shortfalls in the theory of evolution."
Currently, the Dover Area School District is involved in a lawsuit after it began teaching "intelligent design" in high school science classes.
School board members at Northwest Area have yet to discuss the theory at length and are far away from making a decision, Tomasacci said.
Tomasacci said the school board wants to hear out the facts and decide for itself if "intelligent design" is a compatible theory for the district, he said.
However, the decision on "intelligent design" is at least a school year away, Tomasacci.
"Northwest is never one to jump in," he said. "We will discuss the issue, hold public meetings. We tend to discuss things ad nauseum."
The Anti-Defamation League has sent out two letters in the state - one to Northwest Area and another to Dover Area, said Barry Morrison, the regional director of the Eastern Pennsylvania office of the Anti-Defamation League.
The organization does not currently have any plans to sue Northwest Area, Morrison said.
However, a lawsuit would be a possibility if a student or a parent objects to "intelligent design" being taught, Morrison said.
"It's still a little premature," he said.
In the beginning
The theory of "intelligent design" was first spelled out in a book written by a California law professor.
Phillip Johnson, a law school professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, has found himself firmly settled in the debate.
He began searching for a new theory of creation based in science after listening to a pastor speak of Christ and the Gospels in the 1970s, according to a May 15 Washington Post story.
Johnson often debated his theory with the nation's foremost evolution scholars for years. He wrote "Darwin on Trial" in 1991. He told the Post he wrote the book after poking holes in the 1859 theory of Charles Darwin that contends all organisms have a common ancestor.
However, his "intelligent design" theory did not get widespread media attention until school districts began considering using it in public schoolhouses.
In Dover, 11 parents have filed a lawsuit that contends teaching "intelligent design" is a violation of a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which prohibited giving evolution and creationism equal time in the classroom.
"I know a number of school board members are watching the Dover case very closely," said Tomasacci said.
Tomasacci said several northeast Pennsylvania school board members contacted him to discuss the possibilities of including "intelligent design" their school curriculum. However, Tomasacci declined to give the names or school districts of the school board members.
"It's a reflection of the people in our state and in the area," Tomasacci said.
Teaching of "intelligent design" is not bringing the Bible or the Koran into the classroom because it does not name the creator, Tomasacci said. "Intelligent design" gives children an alternative origin theory to learn, he said.
"I am not a scientist or pretending to be one," Tomasacci said. "But leaving out parts of the debate is censorship."
Difficulties on theory
Not all scientists are Darwinists.
Dr. Phil Skell, of the National Academy of Sciences, recently spoke in Hazleton against evolution - and "intelligent design."
Skell is against teaching what he calls "historical biology" and this includes theories of origin because there is not enough evidence to make a valid theory, he said.
"Historical biology has nothing to do with what is great about modern biology," Skell said. "My opposition is teaching anything that deals with a historical biology: Darwinism, Buddhism, and intelligent design, Aztec Cosmology."
He said all origin theories are highly speculative. "Intelligent design" is just a new twist on something old, he said.
"It's just as scientific as Darwinism and just as useless as Darwinism."
Still, Skell admits that he is a minority among his colleagues. About "95 percent" of scientists are atheist or agnostic, which may lead them to Darwinism, he said.
The problem with "intelligent design" has nothing to do with religion, argues Scott P. McDonald, an assistant professor of education at Penn State University. "Intelligent design" is not based on science, he said. Therefore it has no place in a biology class, he said.
McDonald teaches future science teachers.
"It's not quite science and its not quite religion," McDonald said. "It's a hybrid of religion."
The problem McDonald has with "Intelligent design" is it does not have solid scientific evidence to back it up, he said. Instead, it is based on the "metaphysical," something McDonald contends should stay out of the science lab.
"They are two different things," he said of the theories. "One is based on the natural world and patterns we see in it. The other believes in the metaphysical."
McDonald said he is not aware of any college or university that prepares teachers to instruct on "intelligent design."
"There is no research because it is not a testable theory," he said.
The origin of debate
American educators in the public school system have grappled with the teaching of evolution for decades.
In 1925, John T. Scopes was convicted with violating Tennessee law when he began teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. His conviction was overturned later overturned.
The debate was rekindled in 1987 when a Louisiana law, which sought equal time for creationism and evolution, was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Evolution and creationism have been part of the debate for a very long time," McDonald said. "Intelligent design is just the next step in the debate."
Lately, discussions on "intelligent design" have popped up in his classroom.
Teaching a roomful of children evolution - a theory some say directly contradicts the Bible - is something many teachers struggle with, McDonald said.
However, "intelligent design" discussions in his classroom are something new.
"One year ago, we would not have been having these discussions," McDonald said.
©The Citizens Voice 2005
Article Last Updated: 06/05/2005 01:44:27 AM
When I attended Brigham Young University in the 1970s, the school made no bones about where it fell on the teaching of evolution. I once tried to mask my failure to study for an anthropology test with piety. The quiz asked "Which hominid is acknowledged as the first true man?" I answered, "Adam."
I flunked the quiz but learned a valuable lesson about which texts I needed to be studying to pass biology and geology at the Lord's University.
In the early decades of the last century, Mormonism, along with the rest of religious America, was grappling with Darwin's theory of natural selection. Things came to a head in 1925 with the Scopes Monkey Trial. A high school science teacher from Kansas had been hauled into court for teaching evolution, contrary to state law.
For fundamentalist Christians, the issue was simple. Darwin was wrong (as well as possibly being an instrument of the devil). The earth was 6,000 years old, period. Fossil evidence to the contrary was dismissed as the remnants of unlucky animals drowned in Noah's flood. There are Bible literalists today who argue that the neat fossil layering actually represents the ability of extinct animals to swim, with dinosaurs obviously being the least buoyant.
The LDS Church, instead of coming down foursquare against evolution, engaged in some thoughtful reflection. What did it believe about evolution? A special meeting of church leaders was called not long after the Scopes trial to examine the issue.
B.H. Roberts, a general authority and intellectual, argued that there was no conflict between faith and science. Couldn't God operate through natural processes, in this case evolution, to create our world?
In fact, he continued, wasn't the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression a kind of spiritual evolution? If it was the spiritual nature of things to progress from a lower to a higher form, then why not the physical as well?
Joseph Fielding Smith, an apostle who would become president of the church four decades later, was having none of it.
Evolution undercut the sanctity of scripture and demeaned man as God's crowning achievement. We are not the heirs of apes, he argued.
Neither Roberts nor Smith were shy about defending their stands. When the issue threatened to blow up into a public argument between general authorities, the church told the two to drop the matter.
On April 7, 1931, the church's governing First Presidency, headed by Heber J. Grant, addressed the general authorities: "Leave geology, biology, archaeology and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church."
In practice, this has meant that the physical sciences curriculum at BYU has not been turned over to the religion department. Students troubled by the course work receive a packet containing all of the Church's official statements concerning evolution, as well as the chapter on evolution found in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
In short, beyond reaffirming that Adam was "the primal parent of our race," the official statements say that God hasn't made his mind known about evolution.
Despite the Smith-Roberts dust-up, the church has spent comparatively little time or trouble on evolution. It has never been a Mormon issue. The church has been quite happy to move on to the real business of religion while saying about evolution, "We don't know."
That hasn't stopped others who think they do know. Notions fueled by Bible literalists are being touted as alternative theories to evolution. "Creationism," they say, deserves equal time in the public classroom. While maybe worth pondering as an article of one's faith, creationism is not science.
In fairness, creationism is also taught at BYU. You just have to go to the religion department to hear it.
Sunday, June 5, 2005
Over the centuries there has occasionally been a conflict between religion and science. Recently there has been a seeming conflict between the religious concept of creationism and the scientific theory of evolution. Creationists believe that the world and the universe were created in six days. Whereas the theory of evolution and an abundance of scientific evidence understand the creation of the universe as taking billions of years. This conflict arises from a misunderstanding of the purpose and the proper use of Scripture. Oftentimes, well-meaning religious people will say that you either believe that God created the world in six days — or you do not believe in the Bible. But that is just not the case.
First off, the Bible is a book of faith. It tells us about God and our relationship with God. For this knowledge and understanding there is no better source. However, the Bible is not a science book. There is no need for conflict between science and religion — because science is merely attempting to explain what God has made. Science merely tries to figure out how the universe that God made works. There is no conflict.
Whether God chooses to use billions of years and create the laws of physics to guide this universe into being, so be it. That doesn't invalidate the Bible.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we read that "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep — while the spirit of God swept over the face of the waters." (NRSV)
There is no problem believing that the void was space and the darkness lasted for billions of years. The point of the story is that God was in charge. And God made this world out of nothingness. Even scientists have to admit that the material for the Big Bang had to come from somewhere.
Nothing in science can contest that. Science does not even address the subject of God — it is only equipped to answer questions about what has been created: The earth, this universe. When some individual scientists say they do not believe in God — that is their individual belief. Most of the scientists I have met were very faithful people — and their scientific studies only further served to confirm their faith and awe at a God who could create such a fantastic universe.
In the same way, whether God used several billion years to create the world and all of its plants and animals — or whether God did it in several days, it should not matter to us. The point is, we know who the creator is.
Now, the subject comes to Adam and Eve. The stories about Adam and Eve are stories that the Bible uses to teach us about the nature of sin. This is a story the Bible uses to teach us about our relationship with God — our relationship with each other — and our relationship with the earth.
For instance, what is the first thing that Adam does when God tells him that he broke the rules? Adam says, "It wasn't me. It was the woman that you gave me who made me do it."(paraphrase) In one sentence Adam slanders his relationship with God, his relationship with his wife — and basically all of humanity.
And isn't that the first thing that we say when we are caught doing something bad? "Well, everyone else does it." Or, "It isn't my fault — the boss or the company or the colonel told me to do it." Basic sin. Not taking responsibility for our actions. That is what we learn from the Bible — not whether there were only two people at the beginning of the world.
And if you're uncomfortable believing that humanity evolved from an ancestor of the apes — that is OK. Some truths are hard to face. Certainly humanity can act like animals at any given time. Or worse. We can systematically slaughter millions of our own kind out of the simple desire for power. Even the apes do not do that.
Some truths are hard to face. But there is no conflict between believing in evolution and believing the Bible. As Christians, we do not need to change the textbooks. We do not need to fear that the schools are teaching our children wrong. Eventually even science itself will admit to forces beyond its understanding (i.e. intelligent design).
In the meantime, we, the church will carry the torch of faith — until all the world, even science, recognizes God as the creator of everything that is.
The Rev. Steven E. Thomas is pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church, New Bridgeville.
In the fourth of my series of excerpts from papers on energy medicine, Alex Hankey asked "Are We Close to a Theory of Energy Medicine?," and, in his final statement, said: "The author has expanded material to present in future issues of this Journal that will attempt to develop this vision in rigorous detail." Here is something he has recently published, not in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, but in a new on-line journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. You can get the free full text of this article at: http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/2/1/5
Here is the abstract:
CAM Modalities Can Stimulate Advances in Theoretical Biology
Hethe House Cowden, Kent TN8 7DZ, UK
Most complementary medicine is distinguished by not being supported by underlying theory accepted by Western science. However, for those who accept their validity, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities offer clues to understanding physiology and medicine more deeply. Ayurveda and vibrational medicine are stimulating new approaches to biological regulation. The new biophysics can be integrated to yield a single consistent theory, which may well underly much of CAM*a true 'physics of physick'. The resulting theory seems to be a new, fundamental theory of health and etiology. It suggests that many CAM approaches to health care are scientifically in advance of those based on current Western biology. Such theories may well constitute the next steps in our scientific understanding of biology itself. If successfully developed, these ideas could result in a major paradigm shift in both biology and medicine, which will benefit all interested parties*consumers, health professionals, scientists, institutions and governments.
Introduction: "This approach has resulted in three radical theories, one on Ayurveda's Tridosha system of classification of physiological function and regulation (15*17), one on a theory of physiological regulation (18), which results in a theory of vibrational medicine (19) including homeopathy (20), and one (21) which draws on the other two to begin to explain one of Scott-Morley's many advances in the practice of Voll's system of electroacupuncture (22)."
The Biophysics of Regulation and Health:"However, the microscopic, reductionist approach fails for the study of CAM. Systems of complementary medicine tend to act on a more holistic level, and require more holistic approaches to describing physiological function for theories of their action to be constructed. A fundamental reason why complex organisms exhibit holistic functioning lies in the fact that regulation processes must themselves be regulated. This leads to an integrated hierarchy of regulation processes of an holistic nature. Assuming that regulation processes are necessarily independent of each other*the reductionist perspective*is therefore a fundamental error when considering the regulation of complex biological systems.
"Hyland (27) specifically suggests that systems theory and the physics of complexity must be necessary to describe processes in holistic medicine. Holistic aspects of systems are necessary to describe similar properties of holistic medicine. Ordinary physics and chemistry cannot do so. Milgrom (28*31), in an equally radical approach, has used properties of quantum systems to model several aspects of homeopathy."
"The following section summarizes a theory of Ayurveda's Tridosha (15,16) utilizing systems theory (27) to identify the chief functions requiring regulation."
Ayurveda's Tridoshas: Gross Regulation of Organisms: "By analysing the functions ascribed to the doshas, it has proved possible to develop a scientific theory for them in terms of elementary systems theory, which identifies three necessary functions for any open system, input/output, throughput or turnover and storage or structure (15)."
"For example, Vata is responsible (among other things) for nutrient and fluid uptake in the colon, its peristaltic action and also kidney function. It tends to involve processes requiring membrane transport, such as nerve function. Pitta regulates digestion and all processes of energy regulation and balance, e.g. skin pigmentation. Kapha is responsible for structure, cohesion and lubrication, the relationship of which to storage is based on a common biochemistry of lipids and polysaccharides (16).
"In single cells, the same functions are governed by similar biochemical processes: input/output, Vata, membrane transport; energy turnover, Pitta, metabolism; and storage, Kapha, lipids in the cell membrane and carbohydrates in the cell wall."
"The systems approach has been justified by considering the pathway of fatty acid metabolism using acyl coenzyme A, occurring in all cells in all life forms (16). Its universality implies that it plays a role of exceptional significance. Only the systems approach can adequately explain this."
Genomes and Feedback Singularities: "Secondly, the elements that 'fluctuate' are quantum expectation values of biochemicals involved in regulation. These couple to genome expression and may mean that activity at active sites 'fluctuates' in a similar quantum sense."
"the life force is equated with quantized instability fluctuations"
"rest allows the system to return towards the dynamic attractor"
"The theory can also be applied to the 'vibrations' of vibrational medicine (19), such as homeopathic medicines: they are quantum fluctuations, with similar power to stimulate phase transitions in living systems stuck in a metastable state (18,20). The addition of quantum fluctuations in the form of a vibrational medicine (of whatever kind) adds power to the naturally occurring life force, as many phenomenological accounts of their actions state, and naturally restores a system to a healthier place in the phase diagram."
"One key idea in chronic disease is that the life force has become weak. The only way to restore its power is to strengthen it, i.e. with the quantum fluctuations of which it is constituted. Mere drugs acting at a chemical level will never achieve this. Vibrational medicine can, however, if the correct fluctuations are administered. Those of a toxin coupling chemically to the disabled function (i.e. the function it poisons) will do so (18). This forms the first detailed scientific theory of the homeopathic principle, and is probably the most powerful result established for the theory so far."
Conclusions: "Like doshas, reflexological maps and the nadi/acumeridian system are fundamental to animal physiology. Both these problems presented by CAM proclaim fundamental properties of life we have yet to understand and identify in scientific terminology. They must apply to, for example, morphogenesis and embryology. Rather than dismissing them as in the past as mere superstition, why not use them to inform the development of a new theory of morphogenesis, one based, for example, on the concept of a quantum morphogenetic field?"
"If scientists can rise to this challenge, CAM will stimulate the next paradigm shift in biology, one even deeper and more profound than present molecular biology resulting from elucidating the chemical structure of DNA."
"Remarkably, quantized fluctuation fields describing the life force (18) are like harmonics of ordinary quantum fields."
I would say that the universality of acyl CoAs in living things is readily explained by evolution, not the author's "systems approach."
The pseudoscientific nature of Voll's electroacupuncture is discussed in a link given with one of the earlier papers.
The journal this paper was published in is indexed in Medline.
Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D. email@example.com
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But the Oxford University team stressed that there are no accepted biological reasons for the results and that more research is needed into such areas.
They said it may be down to the type of environments where pylons are located.
And they said it did not resolve the debate about whether it is unsafe to live next to power lines.
Around 1% of homes in the UK are estimated to be within 200 metres of high voltage National Grid power lines.
The researchers said their findings, published in the British Medical Journal, showed living in such close proximity to power lines at birth could account for five extra cases of childhood leukaemia in a total of around 400 that occur in a year - a total of 1%.
The British Medical Journal study did not look at level of exposure to magnetic fields
But other scientists who have considered the issue have suggested that low frequency magnetic fields, such as those caused by the production of electricity, could possibly be linked to cancer.
However, others have disputed this link.
And experts agree that there are likely to be many factors involved in leukaemia, including genes and the environment.
Even if the apparent risk was found to be real, the number of cases of leukaemia that would result would be very few, said the authors.
The latest study was carried out by Dr Gerald Draper and colleagues from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University and Dr John Swanson, a scientific adviser at National Grid Transco.
It looked at more than 29,000 children with cancer, including 9,700 with leukaemia, born between 1962 and 1995, and a control group of healthy youngsters in England and Wales.
The researchers measured the distance from children's home addresses at birth from the nearest high voltage power line.
They found that 64 children with leukaemia lived within 200 metres of the line, while 258 lived between 200-600 metres away.
Overall, youngsters living within 200 metres of the lines were about 70% more likely to develop leukaemia, and those living between 200 and 600 metres away about 20% more likely to develop leukaemia than those who lived beyond 600 metres from high voltage pylons.
Although the trend was definite, the researchers said they could not reasonably explain why it occurred.
For this reason, they caution that it might be down to factors other than the pylons themselves, such as the type of people who live near pylons or the general environment where pylons are located, which they plan to investigate.
Eddie O'Gorman, chairman of the UK charity Children with Leukaemia, said: "There is now a clear case for immediate government action.
"Planning controls must be introduced to stop houses and schools being built close to high voltage overhead power lines."
But Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK's Medical Director, said: "People who currently live or have lived near power lines in the past need not panic about this research. The triggers that cause childhood leukaemia are most likely a random course of events over which a parent has no control.
"This study reports a very slight increase in the risk of childhood leukaemia for children born near power lines, but the researchers could not link this to the power lines themselves.
"These results may indeed be entirely due to chance."
A spokesman from the Health Protection Agency said the study findings suggested that at least some of the increased leukaemia risk might be associated with factors other than electromagnetic fields.
Dr David Grant of Leukaemia Research said: "We recognise there is a lot of public anxiety and concern about living close to pylons and exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields.
"There is no reason why anyone should be advised to move house on the basis of these new results."
There are around 7,000km of high voltage power lines involved in the transmission of electricity across England and Wales, and 21,800 steel pylons.
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