NTS LogoSkeptical News for 11 August 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Intelligent design-ists hide under science cloak


By Robert Marshall August 12, 2005

Pseudo-creationists introduce theology into the saga of life.

"Creation science" has once again become an issue in Australia with the proposal that "intelligent design" should be taught in school biology classes alongside Darwinian evolution as a respectable alternative view of the origin and development of living creatures. This debate has been going on for decades in the United States, particularly in the Midwestern Bible Belt where fundamentalist views on the biblical story of the Garden of Eden and God's creation of Adam and Eve hold sway.

In recent times the schools in these states have indeed been compelled by law to include "creation science" in their curriculums.

The new thrust for similar action in this country comes from a group that has now discarded the creationist springboard of religious fundamentalism in favour of what seems at first sight a far more "scientific" approach. Religious zealotry is seemingly abandoned and it is merely suggested (with every appearance of reasonable logic) that Darwin's theory of evolution is just that — no more than a "theory" — and can offer no explanation for the extraordinary correlation between structure and function in animals and plants. This, say the "intelligent design" enthusiasts, makes it seem perfectly sensible to insist that alternative "theories" must be taught as well to preserve a balanced view. They postulate a creative, intelligent "designer" who has imbued the life process with a purpose. But this alleged "designer" inevitably can be none other than the same God as that of the creationists.

Unhappily, this alternative "theory" is not a theory but an unprovable assertion. It was famously and reasonably enough pointed out by anti-evolutionists almost 200 years ago that the very existence of a ticking watch demands the existence of a watchmaker, who had designed and built the watch with a particular purpose in mind. But the next leap of faith in their argument was to insist that a complex structure such as the eye was obviously constructed to a plan intended to produce an image on the light-sensitive retina. Just like a ticking watch, they said, the precise, complex anatomical structure of the eye could not possibly have arisen in any other way than by deliberate design. This in turn demanded the presence of a designer — that is, God — who had created life with an inbuilt mechanism capable of producing such marvels.

Both creationists and these new "intelligent design" enthusiasts contend that "mere chance" cannot be used to explain the complex adult structure of plants and animals, or their embryonic development from a single cell, or the even more incredible complexity of the whole web of life on earth. So they insist that life itself must have a built-in drive towards complexity — an underlying "purpose". Creationists deny that the evolutionary process described by Darwin ever took place.

Their successors, the "intelligent design-ists", now accept the reality of evolution but see it as being driven by a designer who has imbued the process with purpose. In other words, they still introduce theology into the saga of life, but halfway through rather than at the very beginning.

Unfortunately, this stance is the very reverse of the basic methodology underlying all scientific advances. The only permissible question in any search for scientific understanding is not "why?" but "how?", which has unlocked many closed doors in the past and will open many in the future. As soon as one asks "why?" and so allows purpose to enter the equation, there are no more questions to ask.

This crop of pseudo-creationists is merely shifting the emphasis of fundamentalist religious motivation. They look at the marvellous correspondence between structure and function in animal bodies and condemn Darwinian evolutionists because we cannot explain how such complicated and, above all, integrated anatomy could possibly arise without a built-in purpose.

They miss the point. Of course Darwinists have no explanation for the intimate details of evolutionary anatomical change. Although no serious biologist doubts that evolution happens, the mechanisms controlling the development of individual animals (and how their anatomy changes over the generations) are still obscure. We are only now becoming aware of the incredible complexity of the DNA in animal cells and the complex chemical reactions the genes control. We know at last how the human genome is arranged in the chromosomes but as yet know almost nothing about how they exert their effects. There are undoubtedly deeper truths awaiting discovery concerning the obvious mirror-image relationship of structure and function in all living creatures, but the puzzle will only be unravelled by biologists who ask: "How does this happen? What mechanisms are controlling this process?"

The answers will remain forever hidden from those who say: "There is some deep-seated plan at work here!" Because the only other question then available is: "Whose plan?"

Robert Marshall is a senior lecturer in anatomy at the University of Melbourne.

Bush now tool in promoting intelligent design


Opinion - August 11, 2005

• Offering ID as an alternative to evolution is a cruel joke. It walks and talks like science but in the lab it performs worse than medieval alchemy.


Published by news-press.com on August 11, 2005

A teacher in Kansas, where war over Darwin in the schools still rages, calls the theory of intelligent design "creationism in a cheap tuxedo." Great line, but unfair to the elegant tailoring of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think-tank that has almost singlehandedly put intelligent design on the map.

Eighty years after the Scopes "monkey trial," the threat to science and reason comes less from fundamentalists who believe the Earth was created in six days than from sophisticated branding experts and polemical Ph.D.s clever enough to refrain from referring to God or even the Creator, and have now found a willing tool in our president.

Lest you think this is merely of academic interest, consider the stakes: the Pentagon last week revealed that it is spending money to train certain scientists how to write screenplays for thrillers related to their specialties. Why? Because the status of science has sunk so low that the government needs it to become sexy again among students or the brain drain will threaten national security. One reason we have fewer science majors is the pernicious right-wing notion that conventional biology is vaguely atheistic.


Now President Bush has given that view a boost. When Bush was asked about intelligent design last week, he answered, "Both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about."

This sounds reasonable until you realize that, as the president's own science adviser, John H. Marburger III, admits, there is no debate.

"Intelligent design is not a scientific concept," Marburger told The New York Times, committing a bit of candor that will presumably earn him a trip to the White House woodshed.

Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute claims ID uses a scientifically valid "inference to the best explanation" to back up its theories. That might be good enough for a graduate course in the philosophy of science, but offering it as an alternative to evolution in ninth-grade biology is a cruel joke. Its basic claim — the human cell is too complex to be explained by natural selection — is unproven and probably unprovable. ID walks like science and talks like science but, so far, performs in the lab worse than medieval alchemy.

It's not God who's the problem but ID's assault on Darwin. Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller (who attends mass every week) says the "unspoken message" peddled by the Discovery Institute is that evolution is the single shakiest theory in science. In fact, despite its flaws, it remains among the most durable theories in all of science.


Popes and other clerics have long known that religion and evolution are not truly at odds. Evolution does not challenge the idea that the universe began with a spark of divinity. Darwin himself wrote movingly of God. Only the scientific process — not the scientist — must be agnostic. Long before Darwin, enlightened Christians understood that religion and science are best kept in separate realms.

The most clever thing about intelligent design is that it doesn't sound like nonsense. It conjures up Cambridge, not Kansas. The name evokes Apple software, the MoMA gift shop or a Frank Gehry chair. The scholarly articles are often well written and provocative. But the science within these papers has been demolished over and over by other scientists. So now its backers are seeking the equivalent of a government bailout, going around their scientific peers to Red State politicians trying to slip religious dogma into the classroom.

While the Discovery Institute calls God the "designer," to appear less creationist, some of its biggest funders are serious fundamentalists.

An internal memo leaked in 1999 laid out its theological agenda and intention to use ID as a "wedge" to triumph in the culture wars.

Bush's policy of politicizing science — retreating from the field of facts and evidence on everything from evolution to global warming to the number of cell lines available to justify his 2001 stem-cell compromise — will eventually wreak havoc with his legacy. Until then, like his masquerade-ball friends, the president will get more clever at harming science while pretending to promote it. Monkey see, monkey do.

— Jonathan Alter is senior editor at Newsweek. You can reach him by e-mailing letters@newsweek.com or by fax at (212) 445-4120.




Issue # 85 - January/February 1984

"If we learn more than the doctor in areas of value to our health, it is our duty to apply this knowledge to the betterment of ourselves and our families. We need total health more than medically approved health." So says 28-year-old Andrew Saul in the opening chapter of his manual Doctor Yourself. Saul is, it seems, engaged in a struggle to expand the frontiers of the medical self-care movement . . . taking the radical view—even in the eyes of some longtime self-help advocates—that a person who lives a truly healthful life should almost never need the services of medical professionals. In the process of spreading his message, Dr. Saul (he's not an AL D., but rather a doctor of naturopathy, a title recognized in several states and widely accepted in Europe) managed to become the first person certified by New York State to teach naturopathic healing and health-maintaining techniques . . . established the Ashwins Health Institute in Hamlin, New York . . . set up a charity vitamin dispensary for the poor in nearby Rochester. . . and published a shopper's guide to healthful supermarket foods, a how-to manual aimed at helping people through their first body-cleansing fast, arid the book Doctor Yourself. Along with all that, he has still found time to teach classes at the State University of New York at Brockport, bombard local newspapers with alternative medical information and generally make every effort to bring his message of natural health care to as many people as he possibly can.

In fact, Andrew Saul first came to MOM's attention while he was teaching a series of courses at last summer's Community of Homesteaders' Good Life Get-Together in Naples, New York. Once the MOTHER staffer who visited the festival saw that Dr. Saul's presentations were progressively better attended as the days went on, he sat in on one himself . . . and quickly became convinced that the outspoken naturopath's ideas merited sharing with our readers.

So MOTHER sent Bruce Woods to visit Dr. Saul at the Ashwins Health Institute for an in-depth discussion. Mind you, by presenting their conversation (in edited form), we are not necessarily endorsing Dr. Sauls ideas, and—more important—we're certainly not trying to convince anyone to avoid traditional medical care. However, we did indeed find Sauls words to be a stimulating challenge to our own ideas of self-health responsibility. And by sharing his thoughts and providing access information on pertinent books and medical studies, we hope to help you, our readers, to be better able to make wise decisions on questions pertaining to your own health and that of your families. After all, there are not many other situations in which finding the right answer can be so vital. PLOWBOY: Dr. Saul, you've made a name for yourself in the field of alternative medicine at a fairly tender age. That leads me to believe that your interest in medical alternatives goes back a goodly number of years.

SAUL: Well, in essence, I was drawn into natural healing because I found that regular healing didn't work. And I suppose the seeds of that realization were sown when I was a child. Like everybody else, I had the usual injections, and then I went overseas and had more shots, and I ate meals based on the so-called four basic food groups (again like everybody else), and I got sick like everybody else. Not all the time, of course, but often enough.

Now, my "conversion", if you can call it that, was a very slow process . . . I more or less backed into the alternative health field. You see, I was still intending to go into traditional medicine when naturopathic healing was introduced to me by Professor John Mosher at SUNY at Brockport, where I was enrolled in a premed program. Dr. Mosher challenged me on one simple point. He said, "If you really want to help people, why don't you at least investigate the natural healing techniques as well as those of conventional medicine. Let the merits of each system tell you which is best." So I began looking into the subject, and the book that turned me around was Aubrey Westlake's The Pattern of Health. It's a rather unspectacular-looking paperback, but it's probably the most important volume I've read in the last 12 years. Westlake was an experienced English M.D. who had also backed into natural healing, so I could easily relate to what he had experienced. Briefly, he felt that, after 40 years as a physician, he'd spent too much of his time just bailing out leaking boats. He was frustrated by his inability to get down to causes . . . to promote self-help and to effect practical, deep-down cures. The Pattern of Health is the story of his discovery of alternative healing techniques. That book inspired me to read more on the subject, and one thing led to another. I soon started using basic naturopathic methods myself—such as fasting, switching to a vegetarian diet, and taking vitamin supplements—and I actually started feeling better.

PLOWBOY: Were there any other experiences that contributed to your disillusionment with standard medicine?

SAUL: Well, when I observed my first surgeries, I found that I wasn't particularly enamored with the idea of cutting out someone's adrenal glands, or otherwise "invading" the person's body, in the hopes of achieving a desired end, one that often wouldn't come about. But the conflict between my medical career and my "sideline" research into alternatives really became intense while I was studying in Boston.

PLOWBOY: Was that at Brigham Hospital?

SAUL: The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, yes. Now don't get me wrong: That institution's staff members are very good at crisis medicine. But as far as knowing what kind of diet will help a person back to health . . . well, let's just say that I was amazed to see people who had diverticulitis or who'd just had a colostomy getting white bread, soda pop, overcooked vegetables, tiny little salads, slabs of overcooked meat, and no vitamin supplements at all. These were individuals who had been through grueling surgery—sometimes people who were dying—and this lack of nutritional care nailed home the point that orthodox medicine is sometimes wrong. Those who practice it often don't know what they are doing.

However, I also had to begin to ask myself whether I really knew what I hoped to be doing. And that concern led me to a great source of information. I started reading reprints produced by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research and found it to be an excellent outlet for good, hard medical and nutritional information. Better still, these reprinted articles are right out of the mainline medical journals . . . including Clinical Physiology, the Journal of Applied Nutrition, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the rest. The foundation has simply reprinted features that describe instances in which drugs do not work, and others that demonstrate how vitamins and foods can cure real diseases.

And that was what I needed to see . . . reports by doctors who'd worked with medical alternatives. At that point there was no turning back for me, because I was faced with overwhelming evidence . . . data provided by medical doctors, by researchers, by Ph.D.'s, and by leaders in their fields. I'd discovered a tremendous amount of material and I'd begun to see that nature cure was not just a questionable method of treating the common cold, but that it could also be used for cancer, encephalitis, meningitis, pneumonia, polio, diverticulitis, and other terrifying diseases.

PLOWBOY: Yet although you received your doctorate in naturopathy in 1976, you weren't able to actually use it until 1980.

SAUL: Yes, I was able to open the Ashwins Health Institute only after an uphill battle. Professor Mosher, an accountant named Keith Taylor, and I began the process by filing for nonprofit corporate status. To do so, we had to obtain the approval of the state attorney general. And, as you probably know, natural healing is not yet considered legitimate medicine in New York State (but it is accepted in some others . . . including Oregon, Washington, and California).

At any rate, the attorney general approved us without question, and our next step was to approach the New York State Education Department, which actually licenses physicians in New York. We assured that organization that we weren't going to practice medicine or grant M.D. diplomas. So the Education Department approved us in short order, at which point we had to get an OK from the county supreme court. Once that was obtained, the state granted us, after some months, our nonprofit status. Then we asked the Internal Revenue Service to verify and underline what the state had done, and to grant us a tax exemption so that our donors' contributions would not have to be split with the government and could be applied, in total, to the services that we hoped w provide . . . tile charitable vitamin dispensary that we now run, for instance.

This application turned into yet another round of forms and letters. Eventually, however, the IRS granted us tax-exempt status. I do believe that the whole process was worthwhile, though, because when a client or student comes to see me, he or she wants to be assured of dealing with a recognized and reputable professional. I'm always careful to point out that I'm certified by the state of New York to teach what I'm teaching.

"A person really can choose to get well or to stay sick . . . and it's shocking to me that many people choose illness."

PLOWBOY: This would probably be a good time to give a working definition of naturopathy.

SAUL: Well, first of all, naturopathy could also be called nature cure, natural healing, or even natural therapeutics. Nature cure is very different from standard—or allopathic—medicine, because a naturopath does not use drugs and doesn't perform surgery.

Now the first question one might ask upon hearing that is "Well, then, what on earth do you do?"

To answer that, I have to admit that there are a number of naturopathic approaches. Natural healing is a highly diverse field. However, rather than limit myself to any one of these schools of thought, I believe in using sort of a team approach . . . that is, employing many such methods in concert. I'm interested in results rather than "pet" theories. All I want to see is people getting better, and any technique that they can use to get results is fine with me.

Furthermore, nature cure almost always is safer than allopathic medicine. After all, a healthful diet is probably the keystone to ally form of naturopathic therapy. And there are no unpleasant side effects of eating right.

PLOWBOY: It would seem that you're saying the patient bears the responsibility for his or her own health, then.

SAUL: Exactly. A person really can choose to get well or to stay sick . . . and it's shocking to me that many people choose illness. I often tell folks that everybody has the right to be sick. And I'm not being flippant when I say that! If a person really wants to get well, he or she won't mind making a change of lifestyle . . . or taking whatever course of action will help him or her get better.

If an individual wants to get well enough, or perhaps I should say if a person wants to get well, enough . . . he or she will be willing to take such steps. In fact, my most successful students often tend to be just a bit desperate and discouraged . . . and that combination can sometimes yield remarkable results. Many people do their best work when their backs are against the wall.

PLOWBOY: Why is it that nature cure has such a limited acceptance in this country? Isn't it far more generally recognized overseas?

SAUL: Naturopathy is downright mainstream in many other countries. In Germany, for example, naturopathic healers are abundant. Furthermore, there was a time when nature cure practitioners were far more common in the U.S. In Florida, for instance, two sister bills were passed in 1927: the Naturopathic Practice Act and the Medical Practice Act. In those days, naturopaths and medical doctors often worked side by side. But by 1959, the nature cure practitioners were no longer being licensed, while, of course, the M.D.'s are to this day.

The official reason for such "precautionary" restrictions is to protect people from quack therapies. And many individuals have been taken in by treatments that are statistically invalid. Unfortunately, orthodox medicine leads the league in the use of statistically invalid approaches to human illness. One has only to read Ivan Illich's Medical Nemesis to verify that medicine not only is without statistical significance in many cases, but also is sometimes definitely harmful. One out of five people admitted to a typical research hospital today will acquire an iatrogenic—or doctor caused—disease!

PLOWBOY: Can you cite some well-documented clinical evidence of the effectiveness of nature cure?

SAUL: Yes, a great deal of it. You have only to go to the journal of Applied Nutrition, to the Journal of the Franklin Institute, to Clinical Physiology, to The Lancet, or to any of the many excellent British and German journals to find that such techniques are well established. For instance, in 1950 Dr. Benjamin P. Sandler, a United States Navy physician, then at the Mayo Clinic, treated tuberculosis—and did so more effectively than anyone else at that clinic at the time-using nothing but a high-protein, low—carbohydrate diet.

Then too, Dr. William J. McCormick of Toronto, Canada has—since 1946, at least—been using high doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to treat herniated or ruptured disks, as well as a variety of infectious childhood illnesses. Or how about Dr. Frederick Robert Klenner of Reidsville, North Carolina? For 45 years he's been using vitamin C as an antibiotic, an antitoxin, and an antihistamine. He's employed it, with success, against polio, meningitis, tetanus, encephalitis, and a number of other serious diseases. This man is giving injections of vitamin C, and reported—in A Physician's Handbook on Orthomolecular Medicine—that vitamin C is the most useful therapeutic substance available to the doctor.

Klenner suggests that when an M.D. admits a patient to the hospital, the first thing he or she should do is to administer vitamin C while deciding what other course of action to take. In many cases, the physician won't have to do anything else . . . because the vitamin therapy will cure the condition. Why, high doses of vitamin C can even be a beautiful treatment for infected cows. I worked on a dairy farm for a while before I started practicing, and helped inject doses of a million or more units of antibiotics to cows with mastitis. Yet if farmers would give their milking stock 20,000 to 30,000 milligrams of vitamin C and eight ounces of cider vinegar a day, the animals wouldn't have mastitis problems.

Colds, cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia, herpes, meningitis, encephalitis . . . how, people ask, can one vitamin cure so many different illnesses? The answer is that the lack of one vitamin can cause many different illnesses.

PLOWBOY: Hold on there. Are you saying that you know of people who've achieved a complete and total remission of genital herpes as a result of vitamin therapy?

SAUL: Yes, that's the proper term for it . . . complete and total remission. The specific form of vitamin C used was calcium ascorbate, in conjunction with sizable doses of L-lysine, a magnesium supplement, and a vegetarian diet. The amount of calcium ascorbate may exceed 40,000 milligrams daily. And yet, proportionate to body weight, that's no more vitamin C than a sick rat would manufacture!

PLOWBOY: Right. Rats, goats, and many other animals produce vitamin C in their bodies, and the amount varies with the creature's health.

SAUL: Yes, a healthy rat may manufacture the equivalent of a human dose of 6 grams a day. A sick rat—or goat—will manufacture a good deal more.

Vitamin C is inexpensive . . . has broad-spectrum utility . . . is effective . . . and is safe. Yet it gets absolutely no significant attention from the medical community. Perhaps that's because physicians don't believe that anything cheap, safe, and generic could work.

PLOWBOY: And, of course, it's also available without a prescription.

SAUL: That's precisely why vitamin C appeals to me, because I'm trying to promote radical wellness self-reliance. By that I don't mean that people should just learn when to go to the doctor or how to avoid mixing their medicines. Such concepts are little more than grade school—level medical self-reliance. I want people not only to know what type of—approach might help them, but also to be able to take the appropriate action and get results, totally on their own. People no longer have to suffer.

PLOWBOY: And it was to spread the word about such health care that you came out with your self-published book, Doctor Yourself . . . which I believe you've called a "health homesteader's handbook".

SAUL: The purpose of Doctor Yourself is to describe—in simple, practical, immediately useful terms—12 ways people can improve their own health.

PLOWBOY: But how do you convince them that they have the capability of managing their own health?

SAUL: The book addresses that fear right off. The first chapter explains that it's easy—and safe—to be your own doctor . . . if you know how. The absence of knowledge is what should be feared.

PLOWBOY: Well, how can a person obtain the necessary knowledge? What sorts of materials are available to the public?

SAUL: Doctor Yourself lists about 140 readily available books and articles, and that's by no means intended to be a complete bibliography. However, the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research should be the first source a person investigates. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See tire access list accompanying this interview.] I'd even go so far as to suggest that anyone interested in self-care get one copy of every reprint and book the foundation publishes. These would prove to the person, as much as anything can be proved by written material, that "real" doctors do cure diseases with nutrition . . . with fasting . . . with vitamins . . . and with minerals.

Then again, people can simply go to their local libraries, and even to medical libraries—no one's going to throw them out—and research any disease that they'd like to understand. I'd also suggest visiting a pharmacy, borrowing the establishment's copy of the Physician's Desk Reference for Prescription Drugs, and reading enough of it to appreciate how dangerous many drugs are and how little is known about the majority of them. Yet another valuable source of information is the Merck Manual. It's a 2,400-page medical text, and it sells for about $12. That's almost like getting four years of medical education for $12!

PLOWBOY: It sounds like quite a bargain.

SAUL: Yes. This is a book that practically every physician has on his or her desk, and one that every health homesteader should have, too. Now, you might well ask, do I really believe people are going to go through this volume and learn everything they need to know? Certainly not. In fact, I think much of the information in the Merck Manual concerns ways of approaching illness that I'd disagree with. But the book does at least correctly describe symptoms and conventional treatments. It will let a reader know what the medical approach to a specific problem would be.

I also highly recommend Dr. Schuessler's Biochemistry by J.B. Chapman, M.D. The 168-page book lists the 12 Schuessler cell salts and tells exactly how to use them . . . it's doubly cross-referenced . . . and it's probably the most valuable single medical book for the home I've ever seen. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The 12 Schuessler cell salts were categorized, in 1873 by the German biochemist whose name they bear. Many naturopaths believe they can be used to relieve disease by restoring the minerals missing in the affected tissue.]

The next book that belongs in the health homesteader's library is Boericke's Materia Medica, ninth edition, by William Boericke. This 1,000-page volume, a detailed presentation of homeopathic theory and treatment, will set you back about $20.

The possible additions to this list are, of course, about as numerous as the world's diseases. But it's safe to say that you could make a good "tool kit" with six or seven books . . . six or eight herbs . . . a very big bottle of vitamin C . . . some good multiple vitamins (everyone should, I think, take a high-potency natural multiple vitamin a day) . . . and a few other basics.

PLOWBOY: So the tools and the information needed for medical self-care are probably more accessible than most people believe. But aren't there some legal implications of doing one's own doctoring?

SAUL: First of all, it's completely lawful to doctor yourself. The Constitution provides for that. You may also treat your immediate family if you—and they—wish. Should you start prescribing for a friend or a neighbor, though, you'd be venturing into legal corridors. And, if you charge for treating a neighbor or friend, you are definitely asking for trouble.

Then again, though, I don't treat anybody. And I don't diagnose,0 prescribe, or operate. Instead, I teach people how to diagnose and how to treat themselves to get specific results. They may use that education or not . . . it's up to them.

PLOWBOY: I've read that you're opposed to vaccination.

SAUL: Slow down a second. I do counsel people frequently on the pros and cons of vaccination. But I never tell anyone not to get shots or to get shots. I simply point out the alternatives that are available. Our four-year-old daughter has never had an injection, and our son is no longer getting them, vet both youngsters—lifelong vegetarians—are at least as healthy as the other children in the neighborhood.

PLOWBOY: Even though they're exposed to the many contagious illnesses children encounter in school?

SAUL: Yes. And if you're initially put of by this idea, remember that the unvaccinated child poses absolutely no threat at all to the other children, because the others have had their shots. So the only possible complaint can be one of neglect, with the argument that says, "If you don't allow vaccinations, you're injuring that child." But that just isn't necessarily a true statement. The fact of the matter is that many injections—including the diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus shots—are not without risks of their own. What's more, many vaccines may not be all they're cracked up to be. For instance, there was a medical doctor up in Canada who treated polio with iodine supplements in the 1950's. The method is called iodine prophylaxis, and the effectiveness of his treatments suggests that the popularization of iodized salt has had more to do with the elimination of polio in America than the polio vaccine!

Now I am not saying that there's no statistical significance to results with the Salk vaccine. But I also believe that, on a scale of 1 to 10, it definitely ranks below 2. Whereas I think vitamin C, a vegetarian diet, and iodine will actually prevent polio more effectively. Once again, all of the evidence supporting this theory can be found in articles available from the Lee Foundation.

PLOWBOY: Let's say an individual who's reading this interview decides, "Well, this Dr. Saul seems to make some sense, and I know I haven't been taking care of myself as well as I could." 'then . . .

SAUL: What should he or she do?

PLOWBOY: Yes. And—to be more explicit—if someone isn't ready to jump into a major lifestyle change with both feet, what initial steps might give him or her enough immediate results to provide encouragement?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Saul informed us of a good source of vitamin C (although he was careful to point out that he wasn't necessarily recommending the other products sold through this outlet). It seems that Bronson Pharmaceuticals (Dept. TMEN, 4526 Rinetti Lane, La Canada, California 91011) sells ascorbic acid vitamin C powder for $15.50 a kilogram, postpaid in the U.S.

SAUL: Well, the very first thing I recommend is that people stop eating meat.

PLOWBOY: Whoops!

SAUL: I know, I lose a lot of people on this point. But I'm not out to make friends . . . I'm out to tell people what I believe is the truth.

Unfortunately, a lot of my students kind of run into a brick wall right there. They are just not willing to give up the hot dogs and hamburgers in order to get rid of—say—their arthritis. Well, if they're not ready to drop meat, they should no longer look at themselves as victims of this demon arthritis, but rather as victims of their own stubbornness. This is why motivation is so important. Natural healing works . . . but only if you do.

You know, I was in a class once, and I mentioned that rats make their own vitamin C, and someone asked, "Does that mean rats are a good source of vitamin C?" I replied, "Sure, if you eat your rats raw. Once you cook the meat, the vitamin C content is almost nil."

I think that's why traditional Eskimos tend to be healthy . . . because they eat raw meat. If they tried to subsist on cooked meat, they'd all be seriously vitamin-deficient. People who do eat meat, then, probably should do so the way that true carnivorous or omnivorous creatures do: Eat the whole animal . . . skin, bones, blood, intestines, brains, eyes . . . everything.

" . . . the popularization of iodized salt [may have] had more to do with the elimination of polio in America than the polio vaccine!"

PLOWBOY: Would that actually provide a balanced . . .

SAUL: It'd be a perfect diet. If you completely consume a raw, freshly killed animal, you'll get everything you need . . . all the vitamins, all the minerals, everything. But that's repugnant to us, because, you see, we're not meat eaters by nature.

However, to return to my subject, people who do stop eating meat typically find that—for instance—their hay fever isn't as bad, their allergies aren't as severe, or their skin doesn't break out as much. This is due, in part, to the fact that these "new" vegetarians are avoiding all of the chemicals that find their way into meat: the hormones, the antibiotic residues, the colorings, and the preservatives.

On top of all that, when people stop eating meat, they spend less on food. I save $20 a week simply as a result of being a vegetarian. Now that's $80 a month tax free . . . without having to go out and earn it. I'm all for that!

PLOWBOY: There are, of course, any number of arguments as to whether humans are, by nature, omnivorous or vegetarian . . . and there are also any number of people who'll give you very convincing evidence pointing one way or the other. However, I suspect that the key here is the quality of the meat that people can get nowadays.

SAUL: Look, I'm not telling people that they have to stop eating meat. I'm saying that if I were they, I'd stop eating meat right away. If they do so, regardless of the validity of one or another of the arguments about mankind's nature, I believe they'll get results. They'll feel better, they'll have fewer illnesses. That's my real reason for not eating meat, because a vegetarian diet works.

That should hardly come as a surprise. After all, when you buy a cut of beef; for example, you're getting the dead muscle tissue of an animal that's been raised in a highly confined environment and on a very limited diet.

PLOWBOY: That environment was probably quite stressful, too.

SAUL: The meat could contain lead if the animal was grazed near an interstate highway, or be doped with antibiotics or other chemical residues. And, on humanitarian grounds, some farming conditions are deplorable . . . those typical of many veal-raising operations, for instance.

PLOWBOY: We recently did an interview with Dr. Michael Fox of the Humane Society of the U.S., and he touched on that. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See MOTHER NO. 79.] In fact, he cited evidence that human diseases are developing resistance to antibiotics as a result of the huge quantities of these substances that are given to animals.

SAUL: Worse yet, we're actually starting to see humans contracting diseases as a consequence of eating animals that have been fed "killfloor scraps", or—as they're commonly called—"meat by-products". Think of it this way: A steer goes to market, and the muscle meats by no means make up the whole animal . . . there's also a lot of waste that is processed into meat by-products. And these substances sometimes include the entire bodies of animals that are cancerous or have other diseases that make them unfit for human food. Well, according to a report by Dr. P.F. McGargle—a veterinary surgeon who did meat inspection—published in Preventive Medicine Forum, countries in which these ground-up animal byproducts are used in livestock food have an unusually high incidence of human cancer. Childhood cancer, in particular, is much higher in countries that use kill-floor scraps when producing feed for hogs, chickens, and turkeys.

Now if you organically raise your own livestock, or if you're a hunter and you get wild game . . . surely that animal had a better chance to get a balanced diet rich in minerals and vitamins—and lived a better life-than did a steer confined to an intensive feedlot. Even so, I still think we should eat the whole animal—raw—if we're going to call ourselves omnivorous.

PLOWBOY: What actions other than adopting a vegetarian diet would you recommend?

SAUL: If a person is not on insulin or any medication that requires eating, I'd suggest a short fast (four to six days) to rid the body of the toxins accumulated over years of unhealthful living. Fasting, by the way, is also a commonly used naturopathic treatment for certain illnesses.

PLOWBOY: Do you have any tips that might help a first-timer get through a fast? A lot of people are really intimidated by that idea.

SAUL: We have a little brochure called "Techniques for Successful Fasting" that many individuals have found helpful. Basically, it makes the following recommendations: [1] Go into the fast with a positive attitude. Some folks think they're surely going to die if they stop eating. Of course, that's not true, unless they have a health problem such as diabetes and can't fast. [2] They should attempt a 50/50 juice/water fast . . . consuming half fruit juice and half water, either mixed together or in alternation.

PLOWBOY: In any amounts that they feel comfortable with?

SAUL: Yes . . . any amounts. [3] They should continue their vitamin supplements while fasting. Now some naturopaths say you don't need these "boosters" while fasting—or, indeed, at all, if you're eating a healthful diet—but my feeling is that in real life, with its stresses of jobs and kids and traffic jams, you'll find it worthwhile to take vitamins every day.

[4] The next tip is to have a nightly enema during the fast-on any day that you don't have a bowel movement naturally—to rinse out the wastes that accumulate in the bowel and are not being eliminated. Otherwise, toxins will remain in your body when your fast is over. Now I lose a lot of individuals when I recommend that nightly enema, but, again, I'm not out to win buddies.

[5] And the last piece of advice is to come of the fast slowly and gradually. If you fast for four days, take a day or two to come of it. If you fast for six days, take at least two days.

PLOWBOY: Just how does one come of a fast gradually?

SAUL: Stick to fruit salads, vegetable broths, and such . . . and eat half of what you want but do so twice as often as you normally would. If you try all these steps, you'll almost certainly succeed. Most people who have fasted and hated it were on a water fast with no vitamins and no enema.

PLOWBOY: If people do manage to give up eating meat and make their way through the first fast, what should they then consume on a day-to-day basis? What do you feel would be healthful?

SAUL: A two-thirds raw food diet. Or what I prefer to call a two-thirds salad diet. I recommend, for example, an all-fruit breakfast, with some cheese or yogurt, and an all-salad lunch. Try to use sprouts instead of lettuce . . . sprouts are a complete protein while lettuce is not. Then, for supper, eat any meatless menu that you like . . . going very light on sweeteners and very light on eggs. I also recommend drinking three glasses of raw fruit or vegetable juice a day . . . preferably before meals.

PLOWBOY: What about breads?

SAUL: Whole grain breads can be a very valuable part of any diet. There are other ways to get your grains, though. Sprouting your wheat, for instance, is a superb way of getting complete protein.

And this brings us to an opportunity to exercise some real dietary economy. If people want to save money and still feel that they're getting enough protein, they should be sure to have a cereal bowl full of sprouted grain or beans a day. You can grow a whole jarful of sprouts for pennies. In fact, you could live on an all-sprout diet for less than $3.50 a week!

"If you completely consume a raw, freshly killed animal, you'll get everything you need . . . all the vitamins, all the minerals, everything."

There are people right now who are starving to death in America—many of them are elderly—because they can't live on the $10$12 a week that they can spend on food. If these people were to eat, say, a diet consisting of half sprouted wheat and half sprouted alfalfa, lentils, mung beans, sunflower seeds, or chick-peas, they would get all of the protein they need . . . all of the vitamins . . . and all of the minerals. Then, if a person had just a little additional money, he or she could supplement that all-sprout diet with a daily eggnog . . . the latter being simply a glass of raw milk and a raw egg yolk only, with maybe a little sweetener added. That would provide an excellent poverty-level diet. Now I am not suggesting that we should all eat that way. I'm saying if I had only $4.00 a week, I could be very healthy on that amount of money.

PLOWBOY: And very bored, perhaps.

SAUL: Very bored, but also very alive. You know, it doesn't cost much to get good nutrition, but we neglect our need for it. I wonder how many nursing homes even give a high-potency natural multiple vitamin every day?

And simple, easily available vitamins can actually fight drug addiction! I've written to Nancy Reagan and expressed my support for her fight against drug abuse in children. And I told her that our work at the Ashwins Health Institute—in particular our vitamin dispensary that serves the poor in Rochester—has shown us that substance abuse trails off when individuals get adequate vitamin supplements . . . especially B vitamins and vitamin C in substantial quantities. I suggested to Mrs. Reagan that she help develop a national vitamin supplementation program. Unfortunately, all I got in reply was a polite letter from her press secretary.

Yet I've talked to people at St. Joseph's House of Hospitality in Rochester who often seemed to be so drunk they couldn't stand up without my holding them. We get such alcoholics on vitamin C and B complex, though, and those individuals can get off the booze. And that means a lot.

More amazing still, in Scotland it's been discovered that people who—in the course of treatment for cancer—were given morphine, or even heroin, can be injected intravenously with ten grams of vitamin C a day, and break the addiction in less than ten days . . . with no withdrawal symptoms, maintenance drugs, or side effects!

PLOWBOY: Hasn't it been said that almost 90070 of all North Americans don't get enough vitamin C?

SAUL: Yes. William J. McCormick, the Toronto, Canada M.D. I mentioned before, did tests on several thousand individuals. He did find that 9007o of them were vitamin C—deficient.

That may sound like a shocking statistic, but look at our nearest animal cousin, the gorilla. It's a vegetarian animal . . . one that's anatomically very similar to human beings and one which gets over six thousand milligrams of vitamin C a day in its normal diet. Yet the government's telling us that we need (according to the RDA) about one one-hundredth of that amount. Now somebody's wrong, and I'll side with the gorilla and against the government.

Of course, that common human deficiency's very likely why we find that people simply get better when they take vitamin C. Statistics and controlled experiments aside, it all comes down to what the individual is willing to do. If any reader of this interview wants to conduct a safe experiment, all the person has to do is start taking the amount of vitamin C that I recommend and see if he or she feels better after a few weeks. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See the accompanying chart.] The proof is in the pudding. You can't argue with that, any more than you should ignore Ivan Illich's disclosure that survival rates for the most common types of cancer—those that make up 90010 of all cases—have remained virtually unchanged for the past 25 years.

PLOWBOY: Are you saying that all of our new chemotherapeutic drugs have made no progress in treating these cancers?

SAUL: Very little. Let me point out—as Linus Pauling has noted that the medical establishment has double standards when it comes to vitamins and medicines. A drug may not work all the time, and may even have dangerous side effects, but still be considered a worthwhile risk for a possible success. Whereas if a vitamin doesn't work all the time, but is totally safe, most physicians won't even try it.

PLOWBOY: Are there any other easy self-help courses of action that you'd recommend?

SAUL: Well, for one, there's the "spontaneous release by positioning" technique (as developed by Lawrence Hugh Jones, D.O.), which is a method—a first aid technique—for adjusting a person's spine. [EDITOR'S NOTE: We'll describe this method in detail in our next issue.]

PLOWBOY: You seem to be sowing a number of self-help seeds, Dr. Saul. What do you hope will result from such work?

SAUL: Most of all, I'd like to see people stop living with their illnesses and start living without them. I dream of a nationwide system of neighborhood health cooperatives, which will make individuals so self-reliant that they can simply bypass the professionals. And I mean bypass the naturopath as well as the medical doctor. Now if someone has a broken leg or is bitten by a rabid dog, for heaven's sake, they'd still have to seek medical help. The secret is not to never go to a doctor . . . the secret is to rarely need to go.

PLOWBOY: So you believe that every illness is a result of unhealthful living.

SAUL: Basically, yes.

PLOWBOY: How does naturopathic theory explain the existence of contagious diseases?

SAUL: I could probably fill your magazine responding to that question, but I'll try to be brief. First of all, there is no absolute proof that germs are the primary cause of any illness. Yes, germs are found at the scene of illness. But then, detectives are found at the scene of a crime, and that fact doesn't mean that they committed it.


SAUL: In fact, many medical doctors have, during the last 150 years, gone on record as saying that they believe the germ theory isn't valid. It certainly doesn't seem to explain cancer very well . . . or heart disease . . . or mental illness . . . or diabetes. At least 20 billion dollars' worth of cancer research hasn't been able to defeat malignancy, or we'd all be vaccinated for it, you can be sure of that.

That's the first basic point. The second is that if we go back to Robert Koch , who formulated Koch's postulates—upon which the germ theory is based—we find that there's a logical flaw in that argument. The first postulate says that you can isolate the germ in a sick animal. The second postulate says you can culture that germ and then—here's the third postulate-inject that cultured germ into a healthy animal and produce the symptoms characteristic of the illness. The fourth postulate states you can then remove the germ from the newly sick animal . . . and it will be the same germ, thus proving that the microorganisms caused the disease.

Now that sounds ironclad. But—as Andrew Weil, M.D. points out in his book The Natural Mind—there's a flaw in postulate three. How is the germ presented to the animal? By bypassing all of the body's defense systems, since it's injected directly into the bloodstream!

The naturopath claims that disease resistance is the main story! It allows germs to become a factor.

PLOWBOY: Are you saying, then, that someone who leads a healthful life would be less likely to contract a contagious disease?

SAUL: Absolutely. They'd be less likely to catch it, and if they did, it would be less severe. Here's a simple example. Our children had been playing with the neighbor's kids just before those children's chicken pox became visible, at the most contagious stage of that disease. A few days later, the other kids had chicken pox. But our youngsters developed only five or six spots apiece. We upped their vitamin C and that was the end of that.

PLOWBOY: That sounds analogous to the increased disease and bug-attack resistance shown by healthy, organically grown plants.

SAUL: Certainly. And you can apply that same line of comparison when considering the laboratory animals used in medical research. Think about the white rats—generation after generation after generation of them—that are fed only commercial rat food. That diet can't possibly contain every natural factor . . . it can only contain what we humans think rats need for a healthy life. OK?

So all of these rats get the same diet . . . one that quite possibly is deficient, and certainly is given in excess. We introduce germs to these animals and they drop dead. When I was in Australia, I studied with Professor S.A. Barnett of the Australian National University in Canberra. He asserted that if those same experiments were conducted with London sewer rats, the results would be quite different, because those rodents wouldn't be so quick to die. Not only do London sewer rats have a more broadly based diet . . . they're also, of course, constantly exposed to germs. There simply wouldn't be any rodents if the population wasn't able to resist illness. Again, resistance is the question . . . not germs.

And people can build resistance by getting plenty of rest . . . plenty of exercise . . . and the right kind of diet. We also need vitamin supplements, especially vitamin C. If folks follow these simple rules, though, germs will really become more or less irrelevant. This sort of natural disease prevention is always to be preferred to medical inoculation and such. If it's a toss-up, go with nature. Nature has had thousands of years to work out the enzyme/vitamin/elimination/nutrition structures of the body. Nature has had a lot of experience.

The medical establishment, for all its good intentions, has had considerably less experience.

You know, when the signers of the Declaration of Independence were sitting down at the table, one of the gentlemen present was Dr. Benjamin Rush, surgeon general of the Continental army. When they sat down to sign the Declaration—to more or less create this country—Dr. Rush said the following: "The Constitution of this republic should make special provision for medical freedom, as well as religious freedom. To restrict the art of healing to one class of men, and to deny equal privileges to others, will constitute the bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic."

And this, of course, is the real crux. Medicine is not a science . . . it's an art. And that's why people should be encouraged to be their own doctors . . . because it's an art form, for which you need no degree, and which generally requires no training that you can't pick up on your own.

Just remember this basic point: Our internal environment is the primary influence on our health! We're talking about inner-space ecology. We're talking about interior homesteading. And the rewards of naturopathic living can be enormous. To sit down to a simple, healthful meal with healthy children and to be able to know that your basic bodily equipment is functioning as well as possible, should, I think, be a more important aspect of self-reliance than solar heating!

PLOWBOY: One of the first rules of a self-reliant lifestyle is that you must take care of your tools . . . and you're talking about the most precious tool we have.

SAUL: Exactly. This body is the only one we're going to get, so we owe it to ourselves to be careful with it. And I think that we can get better health care by doing the job ourselves than we can by contracting it out.

Of course, if you are going to doctor yourself; it's vitally important that you take the time, do the reading, and put enough energy into it to do a good job. I don't want people going out half-baked . . . reading one book and thinking they're experts.

But make no mistake, naturopathic remedies do work. If a dedicated person goes into the field to prove nature cure wrong, he or she will wind up proving it right. The truth will stand on its own. The folks with real problems are those who can't be bothered to look into natural healing at all. The people who are indiferent. The people who don't care.

Our hospitals and nursing homes are filled to capacity with those people!

EDITOR'S NOTE: People interested in obtaining more information about Dr. Saul and the Ashwins Health Institute cat: [1] mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope—along with a dollar or two to cover expenses—to the Ashwins Health Institute, Dept. TMEN, 23 Greenridge Crescent, P.O. Box 144, Hamlin, New York 14464 for general information . . . [2] send a tax-deductible donation of $10 or more to receive a copy of Doctor Yourself by return mail . . . or [3] send a donation of $20 or more to receive Doctor Yourself, Techniques for Successful Fasting", and a packet of related home health-care information.

Devolving Arguments


God isn't exactly a fact, but Sen. Chris Buttars is certain evolution is only a theory.

by Katharine Biele

Sometimes you think your brain's going to burst. That's the way it is with "intelligent design," the idea that a Supreme Programmer wired us to become the intellectual behemoths we are today.

Which brings up the question of who programmed the programmer? And if we are in a universe expanding forever, what was here before, and where was it? And who designed the Big Bang anyway. If that programmer doesn't like us, will we be terminated like the dinosaurs?

"The problem is that they're teaching human evolution as a fact, and it's not a fact," says Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. "That whole evolution thing has got more holes in it than a crocheted bathtub."

Buttars ran a bill last session requiring "intelligent" or "divine design" be taught in tandem with evolution. He put the bill on hold in hopes of finding a middle ground with the State Board of Education, but has been buoyed by President Bush's recent equivocating on the subject.

The president's comments were enough to stir up the editorial writers like Paul Krugman, who say it's all part of a conservative plot to make people believe long-resolved debates are still debatable. They did it with global warming, and now they're doing it with evolution, he says.

Buttars knows evolution doesn't just happen overnight. The Earth, he says, maybe evolved in stages, but when you get into evolution, it's just adaptation.

"They ought to teach that the whole evolution thing is a theory. The problem … is that the missing link is still missing and the whole fossil chain is, too. It's a quantum leap I can't even believe," says Buttars, who took his disdain to the state superintendent of education, Patti Harrington.

Harrington was out of town last week, but the state core curriculum addresses it.

"Evolution is central to modern science's understanding of the living world. The basic idea of biological evolution is that Earth's present day species developed from earlier species," it says.

But Buttars says he's been getting calls about kids proclaiming "humans come from apes and that it is a fact."

Board spokesman Mark Peterson thinks someone just misunderstood. "I think they talk about life in general on earth," he says. "If you want to get into technicalities, no one is really teaching that man is descended from apes. Apes and man were descended from a common ancestor. … Certainly, we're not a new and improved gorilla."

The senator, however, has been reading up on things like DNA studies, and he's aghast. According to some intelligent design advocates, the information coded in DNA is too complex to have happened by accident. And that purportedly debunks the whole evolution theory. It also brings us back to creationism.

"It is a possibility that a group of people is trying to inject their religion into schools," says Tim Beagley, a state board member and biology professor at Salt Lake Community College. "I hope that's not true, because it would be unconstitutional."

Beagley and others have been working on a position statement to clarify the thinking on evolution in the schools.

"If any of our teachers are telling students that their own belief system is flawed because of the theory of evolution, then that is wrong," he says. "Our position statement will say there are two theories, and that we should respect the beliefs that students bring into classroom."

That could be tricky. The Christian Right believes Darwinism "banished the concept of intelligent design from biology, consigning it to a marginal theological ghetto," according to Jay Richards, a senior fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle.

"If we are nothing more than the sum of chance, impersonal law and environment, then we are not free and responsible individuals, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Because we are not free, we are not responsible; so, paradoxically, we can do whatever we 'want.'"

The ramifications are both social as well as scientific. In fact, some evolution critics have gone so far as to say "evolutionists" are atheists, and everyone knows this doesn't play well in Utah. Ironically, some mainstream Christian religions have voiced support for a belief that evolution and Intelligent design can coexist.

"I don't see anything inconsistent with religious teachings," says Beagley. "The sad reality of it is they have very important questions to ask—is there guidance to this entire process? Unfortunately, it's not a question that the scientific process can answer."

This is not something Buttars wants to hear. He's meeting with Harrington this week to try to find some middle ground. He doesn't really want evolution taught at all, but heck, if they're determined to teach evolution as fact, well, then they have to be really careful not to call it human evolution.

And they would have to include discussion of intelligent design. "The same people who would die on the sword of the First Amendment say you can't say anything if it has a reference to God," Buttars says.

This likely won't fly in science class. In a humanities class, maybe. And Buttars would be OK with that, he says.

"They're scared because religion involves absolutes; it doesn't change," Buttars says. "Their goal eventually is not to make reference to God, Deity or morals in government, and then you've got theory left and that shifts like the sands of the day."

That kind of talk worries Beagley. "It's a confusing signal we're sending to teachers—that we want them to teach the core curriculum, and then add to it in kind of a subjective way."

The subject here is God, and that alone is a brain-bursting sandstorm of theory.

Depositions refer to creationism


Dover officials testified that religious research was involved, court filings show.

Daily Record/Sunday News
Wednesday, August 10, 2005

While members of the Dover Area School Board didn't speak publicly about creationism until June 2004, private conversations about incorporating it into the biology curriculum started much earlier, according to documents filed in federal court this week.

In late 2002 or early 2003, when Bertha Spahr, head of Dover's high-school science department, requested a new biology textbook, she was told that a board member wanted half the evolution unit devoted to "creationism."

Spahr's remarks about the creationism requests for biology class were part of her sworn testimony in depositions taken this spring.

In other depositions cited in court documents, school board member Bill Buckingham said he helped raise money to buy the district copies of the pro-intelligent design textbook "Of Pandas and People" by soliciting contributions through his church.

Dover Supt. Richard Nilsen said in his deposition that, in the search for a new biology textbook, Asst. Supt. Michael Baksa gathered information from parochial schools but not other public schools. Baksa said in deposition that, in his research, he reviewed information from the Bob Jones University publication "Biology for Christians."

Bob Jones University's official creed proclaims a belief in "the creation of man by the direct act of God."

With a First Amendment trial scheduled for Sept. 26, the Dover district is at the center of a national debate on the subject of intelligent design — the idea that life is too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by an intelligent designer.

After board members voted to make intelligent design part of the school district's ninth-grade biology curriculum, 11 district parents filed suit, arguing the board members were trying to force religion into science class.

The references to depositions were part of an opposition petition filed Monday by the parents' attorneys. The petition had been filed in response to the district's July 13 request for the case to be dismissed.

Richard Thompson of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the district, said he could not speak about depositions referenced in the documents filed Monday because he had not finished reading the material.

"First of all, there is disagreement to what really happened," Thompson said.

Thompson also said the remarks made by some board members are irrelevant because the case should be decided solely on the statement in which students are told about intelligent design.

The plaintiffs' opposition petition cites the U.S. Supreme Court's three-pronged "Lemon test," which states the following:

· a government action must have a legitimate secular purpose,

· it must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion, and

· the action must not result in an excessive entanglement of government and religion.

The plaintiffs' response states that the Dover school board was motivated by advancing religion in science class and therefore the policy's primary purpose is religious and unconstitutional.

"At the end of the day, the judge will make the decision," Thompson said.

Attorney Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton, who is representing the parents, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Judge John E. Jones III is expected to rule soon on the district's request that the case be dismissed.


On Oct. 18, when its school board voted 6-3 to approve science curriculum changes, the Dover Area School District is believed to have become the first district in the country to include intelligent design in its high school biology curriculum.

Intelligent design is the idea that life is too complex to have evolved solely through natural selection and therefore must have been created by some intelligent force.

Supporters say the policy simply gives time to alternative views to evolution.

Its critics say it's not science, but a way of forcing Christianity into biology class.

In December, 11 parents filed a federal civil-rights suit against the district.

On Jan. 18 and 19, as part of the school board's mandate, district administrators read a statement to ninth-grade biology students in which intelligent design was mentioned.


In the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania's 1968 Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act violated the First Amendment. The act allowed the state superintendent of public instruction to reimburse nonpublic schools, most of them Catholic, for teachers' salaries, textbooks and instructional materials.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court also struck down the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act, which provided funds to supplement salaries at nonpublic schools, again mostly Catholic, by 15 percent.

The court's decision in this case established the "Lemon test," which states the following:

· a government action must have a legitimate secular purpose,

· it must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion, and

· the action must not result in an excessive entanglement of government and religion.

Source: wikepedia.org, an online encyclopedia

Stealth creationism will cripple science


August 10, 2005

President Bush's shocking suggesting that anti-science intelligent design theory become part of science education ("Bush takes stand on creation issue," Aug. 2) highlights a national security problem.

Fewer and fewer Americans are going into science and engineering.

Nothing could be more demoralizing to the scientific community than to have "stealth creationism," the ID movement, competing with science in basic education!

John Davis

You're being narrow about creationism, WALTER BJORCK, Concord - Letter


August 10. 2005 8:00AM

I magine for a moment that there is grave concern in your community about the possibility of a bear at large. Elaborate scientific investigation has been mounted to determine if and where the bear has appeared and where it may likely appear again.

Try to conceive of how you would feel if, one morning in the local cafe, you hear an old-timer mention casually, "That bear they're looking for is just like the one I've seen in my yard every morning at 6."

Yet this is precisely the way many creationists feel about the teaching of evolution. The scientists are amassing huge amounts of research to piece together what caused the universe as we know it. They are looking at many possibilities, and these possibilities are being taught in our tax-supported schools.

But a claim has been made in the cafe that our origin has been observed, only this is better than the bear story. The old-timer says he saw the one that caused the commotion, but many claim there is good evidence for a God who not only saw but caused the commotion we call the universe.

Some creationists would distance themselves from this way of presenting their case, and there are many types of evolutionists. There are even those somewhere between: the theistic evolutionists. Yet the Concord Monitor in "Scopes retried" (editorial, Aug. 5) wants to limit who can come into the cafe. Let's call investigation without direct observation "science," and allow only it into our cafes, our public schools, the Monitor says. Anyone who believes there is evidence that God directly observed and designed our universe has a "religion," and that belongs outside.

But is this really adequate education? And who's being narrow-minded now?



Kansas Board OKs Evolution Knock

TOPEKA, Kansas, Aug. 10, 2005

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 to include greater criticism of evolution in its school science standards, but it decided to send the standards to an outside academic for review before taking a final vote.

The Kansas school system was ridiculed around the country in 1999 when the board deleted most references to evolution. The system later reversed course, but the language favored by the board Tuesday comes from advocates of intelligent design or creationism.

The belief, which many say is deeply tied to religious belief, holds that some features of the natural world are best explained by an unspecified intelligent cause. Evolution is a fundamental scientific theory that species evolved over millions of years through natural selection.

However, the latest version of the science standards says the board isn't advocating intelligent design ­ which says some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause because they're well-ordered and complex ­ as an alternative to the theory of evolution. But the language favored by the board comes from intelligent design advocates who challenge the theory of evolution.

Tuesday's debate exemplified the divisiveness of the issue, with moderates saying religion has no place in the science classroom.

"When mainstream science accepts this, we can put them in science classes," said board member Janet Waugh, of Kansas City, who voted against the standards.

And, as CBS News Wichita affiliate KWCH reports, some of the state board members said they don't think the debate has a place in the school board, either.

"This whole debate is out of place. The debate of what should go in these standards shouldn't be taking place, here in a policy setting," said school board member Bill Wagnon.

Fellow member John Bacon disagreed.

"These are public schools funded by public dollars, and public children attend them, and so I think this debate does belong here," Bacon said.

President Bush seems to believe the debate is a worthwhile. During an Aug. 1 round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Mr. Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Mr. Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

The standards are used in developing state tests for fourth, seventh and 10th-graders, though local schools have the final say on what is taught in their classrooms. Students will be tested on the new standards in the 2007-08 school year.

In May, scientists boycotted the school board debate. The boycott was led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Kansas Citizens for Science, which believe the hearings are rigged against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists said they don't see the need to cram their arguments into a few days of testimony, like out-of-state witnesses who were called by advocates of the "intelligent design" theory.

This latest version of the science standards is being sent to a Denver-based education think tank for external review, which is routine whenever the board alters school standards, the Kansas City Star reports.

The review, which is expected to cost more than $20,000, should last about a month.

A final vote could come as early as next month, though board members say October or November is more likely.


When is a debate not a debate?


"a sophisticated attempt by the Discovery Institute to reignite an argument settled during the 19th century."

Despite Criticism, 'Intelligent Design' Finds Powerful Backers Seattle Group Works to Create National Debate Where Scientists Say None Exists

Aug. 10, 2005 - At its office in Downtown Seattle, the Discovery Institute is pursuing a revolutionary mission: to convince ordinary Americans, opinion leaders and schools to consider an alternative to evolution that its advocates call "intelligent design."

The think tank is promoting an idea that all of the nation's top biologists say has no scientific basis. But the Institute insists there's a raging debate among scientists on both sides of the evolutionary divide.

"When we find information embedded in DNA, in living cells, we think that we are looking at strong evidence for a prior intelligent source," says the Discovery Institute's Stephen Meyer. "The theory of intelligent design is that the appearance of intelligence is evidence of real design."

An Old Debate?

Though it seems like a new debate about evolution, Ronald Numbers, chair of the Department of the History of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, describes it as more of a sophisticated attempt by the Discovery Institute to reignite an argument settled during the 19th century.

"What they're really after is to bring the supernatural back into science itself," said Numbers, "So that the authority of science in the classroom stands behind this claim that evidence of an intelligent designer has been discovered through scientific means."

The idea of intelligent design itself evolved largely through a skillful marketing campaign that has promoted the concept of a controversy many scientists insist does not exist. In "Nightline's" own survey of the country's top 10 biology departments, the verdict was unanimous -- of the nine department chairmen who responded, all insisted no scientific evidence supports the concept of intelligent design.

'Teach the Controversy'

But in opinion articles, books, and high-gloss video productions alike, the Discovery Institute has suggested that scientists are, in fact, engaged in a raging debate.

"They've really in many ways won the public relations battle with a brilliant slogan," says Lawrence Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Astrophysics at Case Western University. "It implies there is a controversy when in fact in science, there's no controversy.

The intelligent design strategy itself dates back to a Supreme Court decision in 1987 that banned the teaching of creationism in public schools because it violated the separation of church and state. In the aftermath of that ruling, a Discovery Institute report proposed a goal of defeating "scientific materialism" and replacing it with the "understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

Political Boost and Growing Momentum

Last week, President Bush spoke out last week in support of schools combining traditional evolution lessons with discussions of intelligent design. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes," Bush said.

And four years ago, the intelligent design movement got a major political boost when Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., pushed for language in federal law asking public schools to teach criticism of evolution.

Though that language never made it into the law, the Discovery Institute used the momentum to actively encourage school districts to turn a critical eye on evolution. In 2002, it helped persuade Ohio to change its curriculum so teachers could present criticism of evolution in science classes and in May of this year, Discovery officials helped convince the Kansas state school board to do the same thing.

Now, some school boards are pushing beyond the Discovery strategy. Earlier this year, the school board in Dover, Pa., was sued for violating the separation of church and state after mandating a textbook teaching intelligent design.

Today, the Kansas Board of Education tentatively approved new standards for science education, which would encourage teachers to discuss different views on evolution. A final vote on the new standards is expected in the fall.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Evolution vs. Religion

Quit pretending they're compatible.

Jacob Weisberg
Posted Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005, at 12:30 PM PT

President Bush used to be content to revel in his own ignorance . Now he wants to share it with America's schoolchildren.

I refer to his recent comments in favor of teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution. "Both sides ought to be properly taught … so people can understand what the debate is about," Bush told a group of Texas newspaper reporters who interviewed him on Aug. 1. "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be­as Bob Wright argues ­creationism in camouflage. Or it may be­as William Saletan argues ­a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

If Bush had said schools should give equal time to the view that the Sun revolves around the Earth, or that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, he'd have been laughed out of his office. The difference with evolution is that a large majority of Americans reject what scientists regard as equally well supported: that we're here because of random mutation and natural selection. According to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject (2004), 45 percent of Americans believe God created human beings in their present form 10,000 years ago, while another 38 percent believe that God directed the process of evolution. Only 13 percent accept the prevailing scientific view of evolution as an unguided, random process.

Being right and yet so unpopular presents an interesting problem for evolutionists. Their theory has won over the world scientific community but very few of the citizens of red-state America, who decide what gets taught in their own public schools. How can followers of Darwin prevent the propagation of ignorance in places like Kansas, whose board of education just voted to rewrite its biology curriculum to do what President Bush suggests?

Many biologists believe the answer is to present evolution as less menacing to religious belief than it really is. In much the same way that intelligent-design advocates try to assert that a creator must be compatible with evolution in order to shoehorn God into science classrooms, evolutionists claim Darwin is compatible with religion in order to keep God out. Don't worry, they insist, there's no conflict between evolution and religion­they simply belong to different realms. Evolution should be taught in the secular classroom, along with other hypotheses that can be verified or falsified. Intelligent design belongs in Sunday schools, with stuff that can't.

This was the soothing contention of the famed paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who argued that science and religion were separate " magisteria ," or domains of teaching. The theme appears frequently in statements by major scientific organizations and wherever fundamentalists try to force creationism or its descendents on local school boards. Here, for instance, is the official position of Kansas Citizens for Science, the group opposing the inclusion of intelligent design in the state's science curricula: "People of faith do not have to choose between science and religion. Science is neither anti-Christian nor anti-God. Science denies neither God nor creation. Science merely looks for natural evidence of how the universe got to its current state. If viewed theistically, science is not commenting on whether there was a creation, but could be viewed as trying to find out how it happened."

In a state like Kansas, where public opinion remains overwhelmingly hostile to evolution, one sees the political logic of this kind of tap-dance. But let's be serious: Evolutionary theory may not be incompatible with all forms of religious belief, but it surely does undercut the basic teachings and doctrines of the world's great religions (and most of its not-so-great ones as well). Look at this 1993 NORC survey: In the United States, 63 percent of the public believed in God and 35 percent believed in evolution. In Great Britain, by comparison, 24 percent of people believed in God and 77 percent believed in evolution. You can believe in both­but not many people do.

That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument. It destroyed the faith of Darwin himself, who moved from Christianity to agnosticism as a result of his discoveries and was immediately recognized as a huge threat by his reverent contemporaries. In reviewing The Origin of Species in 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, wrote that the religious view of man as a creature with free will was "utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God." (The passage is quoted in Daniel C. Dennett's superb book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.)

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna, was saying nothing very different when he argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on July 7 that random evolution can't be harmonized with Catholic doctrine. To be sure, there are plenty of scientists who believe in God, and even Darwinists who call themselves Christians . But the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical, and supported by an enormous body of evidence. Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the emergence of the first bacteria, doesn't even leave much room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to flick the first switch.

So, what should evolutionists and their supporters say to parents who don't want their children to become atheists and who may even hold firm to the virgin birth and the parting of the Red Sea? That it's time for them to finally let go of their quaint superstitions? That Darwinists aren't trying to push people away from religion but recognize that teaching their views does tend to have that effect? Dennett notes that Darwin himself avoided exploring the issue of the ultimate origins of life in part to avoid upsetting his wife Emma's religious beliefs.

One possible avenue is to focus more strongly on the practical consequences of resisting scientific reality. In a world where Koreans are cloning dogs , can the U.S. afford­ethically or economically­to raise our children on fraudulent biology? But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.

Jacob Weisberg is editor of Slate and co-author, with Robert E. Rubin, of In an Uncertain World .

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2124297/

CSICOP Online: Winking Jesus Statue & Send a Letter to George Bush

Winking Jesus Statue:

Mystery Solved!

Joe Nickell


On July 28, 2005 --according to a Hoboken, New Jersey, street "preacher" –a plaster Jesus statue he had installed as part of a sidewalk shrine suddenly opened one eye. "Some believe it is a miracle," reported the Associated Press. "Others believe someone doctored the sculpture" ("More" 2005). The partially blind, unemployed Catholic, named Julio "Sly" Dones, had retrieved the two-foot-tall, Sacred Heart of Jesus statue from a garbage bin a year before. He had made it the centerpiece of a shrine of Madonnas, crucifixes and cherubs that he had set up outside a housing project on Jackson Street.

Dones says that while he was cleaning the "sleeping" figurine, which is visibly scuffed and has peeling paint, it opened its right eye (Schapiro 2005; Vernon-Sparks 2005).

Stories soon also spread of the statue blinking its right eye, turning its head, and streaming tears (Arrue 2005). These effects were not verifiable, however, and in any case could have been due to the imaginations of what the New York Daily News called the "enraptured witnesses" (Schapiro 2005). As well, statues left outdoors might well trickle moisture. The effect of the wide-open eye, however, was there for all to see (as shown in the accompanying photograph).

A "carnival atmosphere" attended the "Winking Jesus," and reactions were varied. A traffic attendant said she regarded it as "an absolute miracle,"and a masseuse promised she would "start going to church from now on." But one fourteen-year-old girl shook her head and stated, perceptively, "It's just a sculpture. I think somebody just scraped its eyelid off" (Schapiro 2005). To Read More of This Article Visit:


2) Bush Supports Teaching Intelligent Design


On Monday, August 1, in response to a query from a Texas reporter, President Bush said that he believed that both evolution and Intelligent Design should be taught in the schools "so people can understand what the debate is about."

During the 2000 campaign, Bush said several times that local school boards should decide about teaching evolution and alternatives; he also indicated support for teaching creationism. Intelligent Design (ID) seeks to contradict scientific theories, advocating religious beliefs over scientific research. Its origins and the goals of its advocates are theological. However, some advocates of ID have introduced claims that can be falsified, and have been, as in Ken Miller's criticism of Michael Behe.

TAKE ACTION NOW and tell the President why Intelligent Design has no place in a science curriculum! Send a letter to President Bush. Visit:


Tuesday, August 09, 2005



By: Samuel L. Blumenfeld

Back in 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1981 Louisiana law which mandated a balanced treatment in teaching evolution and creation in the public schools. The Court decided that the intent of the law "was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind," and therefore violated the First Amendment's prohibition on a government establishment of religion. In other words, the Court adopted the atheist position that creation is a religious myth.

In speaking for the majority, Justice William J. Brennan wrote: "The legislative history documents that the act's primary purpose was to change the science curriculum of public schools in order to provide an advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety."

Of course, no one bothered to remind the learned Justice that some of the world's greatest scientists were and are devout Christians and, that it is atheism which is destroying true science, not religion. Also, Justice Brennan seemed to be totally unaware that an "establishment of religion" meant a state-sanctioned church, such as they have in England with the Anglican Church, which is the official Church of England. Belief in God is not an establishment of religion. Belief in a supernatural being who created mankind is not an establishment of religion.

Also, there is no factual basis to evolution. The fossil record shows no intermediary forms of species development. No scientist has been able to mate a monkey and a human being and get something in between.

But home-schoolers, although not affected by what the Court forces on government schools, should know how to refute the Fairy Tale called the Theory of Evolution. Justice Brennan called it fact, which simply indicates the depth of his ignorance.

First, what exactly is the Theory of Evolution? For the answer, we must go to the source: Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, published in 1859. Darwin claimed that the thousands of different species of animals, insects, and plants that exist on earth were not the works of a Divine Creator who made each specie in its present immutable form, as described in Genesis, but are the products of a very long natural process of development from simpler organic forms to more complex organisms.

Thus, according to Darwin, species continue to change or "evolve," through a process of natural selection in which nature's harsh conditions permit only the fittest to survive in more adaptable forms. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 20th century. The elite fittest are not having enough children to see that their tribe increases, while the so-called unfittest all over the globe are having kids like crazy.

Darwin also believed that all life originated from a single source—a kind of primeval slime in which the first living organisms formed spontaneously out of non-living matter through a random process—by accident.

The first false idea in the theory is that non-organic matter can transform itself into organic matter. Pasteur proved that this was impossible. Second, the enormous complexity of organic matter precludes accidental creation. There had to be a designer. There is now a whole scientific school devoted to the design theory. William A. Dembski's book, Intelligent Design, published in 1999, is the pioneering work that bridges science with theology. Dembski writes:

"Intelligent design is three things: a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes; an intellectual movement that challenges Darwinism and its naturalistic legacy; and a way of understanding divine action….It was Darwin's expulsion of design from biology that made possible the triumph of naturalism in Western culture. So, too, it will be intelligent design's restatement of design within biology that will be the undoing of naturalism in Western culture."

Dembski proves that design is "empirically detectable," because we can observe it all around us. The birth of a child is a miracle of design. The habits of your household cat is a miracle of design. All cats do the same things. These are the inherited characteristics of the species. The idea that accident could create such complex behavior passed on to successive generations simply doesn't make sense. The complexity of design proves the existence of God. Dembski writes:

"Indeed within theism divine action is the most basic mode of causation since any other mode of causation involves creatures which themselves were created in a divine act. Intelligent design thus becomes a unifying framework for understanding both divine and human agency and illuminates several long-standing philosophical problems about the nature of reality and our knowledge of it."

Intelligent design is certainly proven by the fact that every living organism lives through a programmed cycle of birth, growth, and finally death. That very specific program is contained in the tiniest embryo at the time of conception. The embryo of a cow probably does not look any different from the embryo of a human being. But each has been programmed differently: one creates a cow, the other a human being. In the case of the latter, that tiny embryo contains an incredibly complex biological program that causes the individual to be born, pass through infancy and childhood, develop into maturity, middle-age, old age, and finally death, a process that takes sometimes as much as a hundred years. How can an accident plan what is going to happen 100 years after it has happened?

But since intelligent design infers the existence of a designer—God—it is likely that evolutionists will resist any change in their views, since the acknowledgment of the existence of God is too nightmarish for them to contemplate.

Samuel L Blumenfeld is a regular columnist for Ether Zone. He is the author of eight books on education including "NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education," "The Whole Language/OBE Fraud," and "Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children." His books are available on Amazon.com.

Samuel L.Blumenfeld can be reached at slblu@netway.com

Published in the August 9, 2005 issue of Ether Zone.
Copyright © 1997 - 2005 Ether Zone .

Study intelligent design as philosophy


Your voice: David B. Greenberg

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker ("What's harm in teaching ID?", Aug. 6) has reflected on the controversial topic of evolution vs. intelligent design. Is it appropriate to bring this topic into the public school classroom? she ponders. If the answer is yes, then perhaps it should be included as a topic of discussion in a course in philosophy, certainly not in the scientific context of physics and biology.

The questions of how the universe began and the origins of life are the subjects of intense scrutiny by some of the brightest and most gifted scientists in the world. Accepting that our universe was created 13.7 billion years ago, give or take a billion, what was there before the big bang?

That, of course, is a question that requires a bit of conjecture. Clearly, time is a measure of change. If there is no change then the concept of time is moot. However, the current cosmological thinking suggests that there may be an infinity of universes of all possible sizes, shapes and properties, constantly being generated and dying, with ours but one in a higher-dimension multiverse.

Among the physicists concerned with contemporary cosmology, the suggestion that some higher order is controlling the strings of this multiverse is not a significant agenda item. Rather such philosophical thinking has no place in the real physical world. It is only a choice for those who allude to a metaphysical approach as a rationale for these open questions.

When one accepts the latter, then there is no reason to probe further into the realm of cosmology and the origins of life. The believers of creationism/intelligent design are of this persuasion; I am of the other. They are satisfied with their view; I am still seeking answers to these momentous queries.

As for the question of whether life arose from the organic matter prevalent in our universe or by a creator's design, I offer the following parable as it reflects upon classical thermodynamics:

"If a thousand monkeys, each at a typewriter typing one letter per second, were at that task long enough (say up to 13.7 billion years), they would eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare" - and perhaps even the code for life.

David B. Greenberg is a professor emeritus in chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

Careful What You Wish For


Beyond Belief Steven Waldman

Why schools should teach evolution, intelligent design, and creationism. And why some religious conservatives may regret it.

Intelligent design is not nearly as bad as opponents make it out to be--and may not be nearly as good as its fans are hoping.

Let's start by separating intelligent design theory from the views of many activists advocating it. ID, as it's often called, has indeed become a cause celebre for religious conservatives, some of whom would be happier actually teaching creationism--the actual claims in the Bible.

So it's not surprising that ID has been labeled "creationism lite" by critics.

But "pure" intelligent design theory does not go that far. It basically says that Darwinian evolution does not describe everything and that the complexity of biological design indicates that a "designer" helped create it, rather than a random process. This is not so far off from what Thomas Jefferson or other deists might have advocated. They believed that the Creator designed the laws of nature and let them run--but there was never any question that the scientific laws had a designer. I suspect that like modern-day intelligent design advocates, people like Jefferson--enlightenment thinkers with a scientific bent--would be irritated with the Darwinian assumption that God played no role.

Conversely, there's nothing in intelligent design that requires one to believe the world was created in six 24-hour days. In fact, it may come as a shock to some religious Christians that ID's leading advocate, William Dembski, doesn't believe in the scientific validity of key parts of the Bible.

"The evidence of cosmology and geology strongly confirms a universe that is not thousands but rather billions of years old," William Dembski writes in a new article. "Intelligent design should be understood as the evidence that God has placed in nature to show that the physical world is the product of intelligence and not simply the result of mindless material forces. This evidence is available to all apart from the special revelation of God in salvation history as recounted in Scripture."

Still, religious activists have a lot to lose by pushing intelligent design into the schools in hopes of pointing people to God--though they may not realize it.

Why? 54% of those surveyed in June did not believe humans developed from earlier species. The poll also said 64% said we were "created directly by God," while only 10% seemed to take the intelligent design view that "human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them."

Let's take a hard, scientific look at Adam's rib.

If scientists think they're convincing people about evolution by insisting that it alone be taught, they're wrong.

Conversely, having schools teach theories other than evolution may undermine their popularity, not enhance them--if the scientific community changes its attitude and strategy.

Those who believe in serious science should say to those in the religious community: OK, we will teach the most commonly held views on human origin. The most commonly held theories are evolution, ID, and the biblical view. All should be subjected to equal scientific rigor.

Yes, we should assess the complexity of the eye to see if random mutations and natural selection alone might have explained it. But we should also study the scientific evidence for and against the idea that the earth is 6,000 years old, as some creationists claim. Yes, we should study the gaps in the evolutionary chain--but we should also take a hard, scientific look at the evidence for woman springing forth from man's rib.

Some have suggested as a compromise that ID and creationism be taught in social studies courses as comparative religious theories. I disagree. If religious conservatives want religious theories in science classes, they need to be willing to have them subjected to scientific scrutiny. If they're taught in social studies classes, they will be taught as all equally valid.

One thing traditionalists will have to do, however, is agree to dispense with what has become a new conservative moral relativism. In effect, they've been arguing that, hey, they're all theories. One's just as good as another. That sounds like the relativism for which conservatives have long been (appropriately, in my view) criticizing liberals.

When science teachers assess evolution, ID, and creationism, they should absolutely weigh heavily the fact that most scientists have studied evolution and found it to be about as certain as the idea that the earth orbits around the sun, while still offering the minority viewpoints that find Darwinism lacking.

Both sides in the debate seem to assume that "teaching a subject" means propagandizing for it. I suppose bad teachers do that. But good teachers--of anything--lay out the assertion and subject it to analysis.

ID opponents are right to be concerned about how intelligent design would likely be taught--because the real agenda for many nonscientist ID proponents is to discredit evolution so much that it leaves only the biblical view standing. Instead of putting up the barricades for Darwin, the scientific community should declare defeat in the court of public opinion. Then, they should take the lead in developing a scientifically rigorous curriculum that assesses all three theories.

Of course this will force creation advocates to confront a different issue: Do you really want an intensive exploration of the scientific validity of the Bible? Or is there actually an argument that those issues are better left for discussion in Sunday schools and at home?

For those whose faith does not depend on biblical inerrancy, this approach will pose no threat. Having kids conclude that some parts of the Bible shouldn't be taken as literal fact will not undercut their faith.

But for those who do believe in the Bible as guide not only for faith and morals but also for history and science, the effort to put intelligent design in the schools--and the related idea of teaching about creationism that ought to come with it--could be a real threat.

'Intelligent design' smacks of creationism by another name


Posted 8/8/2005 10:54 PM

For more than a century, scientists have overwhelmingly accepted the theory of evolution. As recently as the 1960s, however, teaching about the theory in schools was a crime in several states.

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned such laws in 1968, resistance continued. People offended or frightened by the notion of natural selection demanded the teaching of what they called "creation science," a thinly disguised version of the Bible's Genesis story with little or no grounding in science. That, too, was found to be unconstitutional, an attempt to preach one view of religion to a captive audience of many faiths in the public schools.

Now, activists in dozens of states and school districts are pushing to require the teaching of what they call "intelligent design," which ascribes creation to a vaguely undefined cosmic force that sounds a great deal like the God of Genesis but usually isn't named as such.

Kansas' Board of Education is busy this summer rewriting the state's biology curriculum standards to accommodate the demands of intelligent-design advocates. Ohio took similar action last year. School districts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are requiring the teaching of what they call alternative theories of evolution, regardless of whether they have scientific validity.

With more creativity and less obstinacy, reasonable compromises might be found for school children to discuss conflicts between science and faith. But the subject is treated more as a game of capture the flag. Children and science teachers are made into political pawns of those with religious agendas.

Nearly one-third of teachers responding to a National Science Teachers Association survey this year said they felt pressured to include creationism, or its various political offspring, in their teaching about life's origins. The National Academy of Sciences says efforts to discredit evolution or push it out of the classroom are going on in at least 40 states. If those efforts succeed, many students will get a seriously distorted science education.

Evolution, associated with 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin, is the concept that the diversity among plants and animals is attributable to genetic mutation and natural selection over the generations. It is the cornerstone of modern biology. Though there are various "missing links" in the evolutionary chain, it has never been refuted on a scientific basis.

Today's more sophisticated critics cite the unanswered questions and assert that many cellular structures, including humans, are too complex to have evolved over time and thus must be the creatures of an intelligent design by some higher power.

Backers of intelligent design ask for equal time in science classrooms for their concept. President Bush voiced support for the idea last week. The catch is that their theory isn't science. It can't be tested with rigorous experimentation. It is at best a philosophical concept, or a matter of faith.

That's not to be trivialized or disrespected. And there certainly is a place in education — a history class, a philosophy class, a study of comparative religions — for a discussion of the ways various cultures have attempted to explain the miracle of life on earth. It's appropriate for teachers to note that though nearly all scholars and researchers accept evolution, it has been and remains controversial.

But creationism, by whatever name, doesn't belong in a science class.

Keep Intelligent Design Out of Science Classes


Good education doesn't expect students to choose from a smorgasbord of ideas. Teach the best science we have: evolution.

By Michael Ruse

So-called intelligent design is getting a lot of media attention in America at the moment. Its supporters are pushing hard to have it introduced into the science classes of the nation's public schools, there to be taught alongside evolutionary theory. ID supporters argue that students should be "taught the issues"--meaning they should be exposed to the various beliefs that Americans have about biological origins--and then allowed to decide for themselves.

The ID movement is having considerable success in its aims. Several school boards in states as different as Kansas and Pennsylvania have decided (or are in the process of deciding) that ID should be taught in biology classes. Very recently the movement has gained significant support, for President George W. Bush has agreed publicly that ID should be taught. It is no exaggeration to say that if President Bush gets to mold the Supreme Court to his own ends--and he is obviously trying just that right now--then by the end of the decade we might well see the court allowing ID into schools. Already three justices (Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia) have expressed support for such a move.

Two questions should be asked. What is intelligent design? Should it be taught in schools? Answering the first, the claim is that in the history of life on this planet, at some point or points, an intelligence intervened to move things along. This was necessary, argue ID theorists, because life shows "irreducible complexity," and blind law--especially the Darwinian evolutionary theory that depends on natural selection--cannot explain such complexity. Only an intelligence is able to do this.

Is ID a form of creationism, meaning a form of biblical literalism that takes the early chapters of Genesis as the basis for world history--six days of creation, six thousand years ago, universal flood, and so forth? Not in so many words at all. A creationist's views encompass ID, but an ID supporter might not accept biblical literalism.

In fact, although some ID supporters are literalists, most are not. The leaders of the movement--the retired lawyer Phillip Johnson, the biochemist Michael Behe, and the philosopher and mathematician William Dembski--all believe in a very old earth, and they all embrace some measure (for Behe, particularly, a large measure) of evolution. The point is that none of these people think that natural selection alone--or any natural-law-driven mechanism--can explain everything.

Having made this distinction, however, I do think that ID and creationism have more than a few links. Supposedly, the ID people do not specify what kind of intelligence is involved in getting over the hump of irreducible complexity, but it is pretty clear in their writings that this intelligence is the Christian God. No one thinks that a super-bright grad student on Andromeda is running an experiment here on planet Earth, and that every now and then he or she jiggles things about a bit to see what will happen. Dembski, for one, has been explicit that he sees the designing intelligence as the Logos talked of at the beginning of Saint John's Gospel.

Why give evolution unique status in biology classes?

I believe that there is an even greater tie between creationism and ID. Both groups worry about right living--"moral values," in today's jargon. Traditional creationists like Henry Morris and Duane T. Gish are explicit "premillennial Dispensationalists," meaning that they think that Jesus is going to return soon, lead the troops at the battle of Armageddon, and then rule the earth for a thousand years before the Last Judgment. This means that all human efforts at progress are pointless. Better to concentrate on personal purity and converting people, so that God will be pleased with you when he returns.

Some ID folk (the philosopher of science, Paul Nelson, for example) share these eschatological views. Most do not. But they do seem to agree with the creationists that moral values are the real issue, and that evolution points to a different--a wrong--kind of future.

Again and again, ID writings go off on moral crusades--moral crusades in the direction of traditional evangelical Christianity. Johnson particularly is always fulminating against modern society--divorce, single mothers, kids in jail, homosexuality, cross-dressing (a particular Johnson bugaboo), and more.

Turn now to the second question. Should this sort of stuff be taught in schools? I do expect morality to be taught, or at least I expect the kids to leave school with a sense of moral values. I do not share all of the ID values--I think gays are just regular people--but I recognize that Americans have different values, and I can see that schools should try to reflect this a bit. But overall, I want teachers to teach children the worth of every human being and the common decencies that go with that realization.

I am quite happy with the teaching of ID in courses on religion--not theology, but comparative religion or world religion. In such classes, ID would not be taught as the truth, but as a system to which others subscribe. Personally, I think that we have a crying need for courses in comparative religion. I want to see various kinds of Christianity covered, but also other religions. In this day and age, I think every American child should have at least a nodding acquaintance with Islam, so that we can know what people in Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan truly believe.

However, I argue strongly against teaching ID in biology classes in state-supported schools. If people want to do this in privately funded religious schools, well, that is one of the costs of democracy. But state schools are another matter. In 1981, I went down to the State of Arkansas as an expert witness (in the philosophy of science) to aid the ACLU in a successful attempt to beat back a creationism-friendly law. I would do the same today to beat back an ID-friendly law.

Why do I say this? Why should my beliefs--my evolutionary beliefs--be given unique status in biology classes? First, because teaching an essentially religious theory like ID--outside of the "comparative religions" scenario I've described--is illegal. ID is religion carefully disguised as science to get around the Constitution--that is why ID supporters rarely talk explicitly of God--but it is religion nevertheless. If the Supreme Court rules otherwise, then that will not be the first time that the Supreme Court has been wrong.

More importantly, ID should not be taught because it is not fruitful as science. Saying that the designer did something is what the philosopher Alvin Plantinga has labeled a "science stopper." If you say that someone intervened, then you are stuck about what to do next. The successful scientist, including the scientist who spends all day Sunday on his or her knees in church praying, is a methodological atheist. Science works by assuming blind law and then going out to find it. Putting matters bluntly, today's biologists argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory works; it is well tested; and although there are controversies (for instance, over the paleontological theory of punctuated equilibrium promoted by the late Stephen Jay Gould), the theory is accepted. On the other hand, ID theory adds nothing to our store of knowledge. It is promoted only because people have religious beliefs they hold dear, and that is simply not the basis for good science.

But what about the argument that students should be allowed to decide for themselves? Put Darwinism and ID both on the exam, and do not penalize a student for opting for one over the other? With all due respect to the president, that is nonsense. Good education is not a matter of indifferently offering to students a range of options--a kind of intellectual smorgasbord--and then letting them choose. Good education is teaching the best that you have, together with the critical skills to take inquiry further--perhaps indeed overturning everything that we hold dear. If I heard that my university's med students had to take time out from surgery or pharmacology in order to learn the principles of faith healing or witch-doctoring, because some people believe in them, I would be appalled--and so would you.

So, I say: ID is religion. It is Creationism Lite. Teach students about it in comparative religion courses, along with Christian ideas and the ideas of other faiths. But keep it out of biology classes. It has no proper place in them.

Dr. Michael Ruse is Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University. He is the author of 'The Evolution-Creation Struggle' and 'Can a Darwinian be a Christian?: The Relationship between Science and Religion.'

Monday, August 08, 2005

The intelligent design end run


Posted on Mon, Aug. 08, 2005



President Bush ignited another skirmish in the culture wars when he told some Texas journalists last week that he thinks "intelligent design" ought to be taught in the public schools, along with evolution.

Suddenly the president's conservative Christian supporters were jumping for joy, saying this is what they've been fighting for all along. Meanwhile, people opposed to religious dogma creeping into the education system were crying foul.

Bush's comments actually sounded reasonable, given the way he put it. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, noting that both sides of the issue should be taught "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Who can quarrel with the all-American idea of exposing students to varied points of view? But there's a disturbing history here that can't be ignored.

Creationists, who believe in the biblical account that God created the universe and everything in it in six days, before taking a day off, have failed repeatedly to get the courts to OK the teaching of creationism in the public schools.

The Supreme Court twice has rejected their position. In 1968 the court said Arkansas may not forbid the teaching of evolution because the law had a clearly religious purpose and was therefore unconstitutional. And in 1987 the court ruled that Louisiana may not ban the teaching of evolution unless creationism also was taught, because that law also was trying to advance a religious doctrine.

Now the creationists "are looking for a new horse to ride," says Charles Haynes, senior scholar at The First Amendment Center of The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va. And that horse is intelligent design.

The intelligent design theory tries to plug the holes in Darwin's theory of evolution and its idea of natural selection with the theory that there's an intelligence behind life's creation, whether it's God or some kind of alien life force.

Haynes concedes that intelligent design is not just warmed-over creationism, because it proposes alternative ways of looking at the same scientific data that the evolutionists use to support their theory. The problem is that the people pushing for it to be taught don't know very much about the theory themselves.

"With all due respect to the president," Haynes says, "I doubt if he knows if intelligent design is scientifically sound or not." The theory is a relatively new one that has not been written about much in scientific journals. And it has been soundly rejected by the National Academy of Sciences and by the National Center for Science Education.

Until it's more thoroughly explored by scientists, Haynes warns, what we could get in the schools is what he calls "a cartoon version" that's not very good science.

Moreover, many of its supporters are people who have long opposed evolution as being dangerous and a threat to their religious beliefs. By promoting intelligent design, they claim they're not pushing a religious agenda, when in many cases they are.

Haynes, who co-wrote a manual on how to teach religion in the schools without promoting a specific religion or violating the Constitution, says he believes students should be taught about the controversy over evolution. But it should be done properly.

He envisions a short unit in a biology course that tells students the history of the controversy, the different viewpoints, and that people are debating serious religious world views that challenge evolution.

Some people have suggested that it be taught in social studies classes as a political debate, not a scientific one.

But the religious fundamentalists shouldn't be allowed to do an end run around their rejected creationism courses and foist their beliefs on others in the name of science.

Write to Ms. McCarthy at mccart731@aol.com.

Not-so intelligent design seems the case


By John Blumenthal August 8, 2005

President Bush recently said he believes intelligent design should be taught in public schools. Supporters of this concept profess that the human body is simply too complex to have come into being through millions of years of haphazard evolution, as Charles Darwin theorized.

Proponents of intelligent design claim some super-intelligent cosmic force (i.e., God) must have been the wizard behind the miracle of the human body. Our anatomies, it is thought, are marvels of divine engineering.

Oh really? Excuse me, but if you've ever witnessed the birth of a child, then you know that the concept of an 8-pound newborn struggling to fit through an opening not much larger than a silver dollar is hardly an example of brilliant engineering. Why, one might wonder, do hens, turtles and fish have it so much easier?

Next, let's consider the less than divinely inspired concepts of death and decay. I can see why the intelligent designer created death -- living forever would probably be insufferably dull by the age of 300. After all, how many reruns of "The Dukes of Hazzard" can one person endure? How many cover stories on Paris Hilton? And who wants to buy birthday presents for someone for 300 years? But wouldn't it have been infinitely more intelligent if humans simply perished painlessly in our sleep instead of having to bear extreme agony and suffering first? Or better still, if we just vanished?

Speaking of pain, if you were the cosmic engineer behind intelligent design, what possible reason would you have to invent tooth decay? Cancer? Diabetes? Constipation? Why do our so-called miraculous bodies so easily pull muscles, break bones, lose teeth, sever spines, develop hemorrhoids? Wouldn't the design have been more intelligent without all this bad stuff?

OK, let's say, for argument's sake, you are the super brainy engineer behind intelligent design. You have a clean slate to work with. Your task is to create human beings from scratch. You're thinking millenniums ahead, so you start with the basics: two arms and two legs seem like good ideas, symmetrically speaking. A head might be useful, feet, hands, faces and so forth. And let's make the creature stand upright so he can maneuver better and escape from predators, such as paparazzi and bill collectors.

So far so good, except for one thing: How is your new creation supposed to drive a car, put on makeup, eat a bran muffin and talk into a cell phone at the same time with only two hands? Wouldn't multitasking be easier with more limbs? Wouldn't three hands have been a more intelligent design? As the super cosmic engineer with all the answers, shouldn't you have foreseen these problems? Frankly, they do a better job at Toyota.

Human life might have been an utterly painless existence, brought to a humane close by an internal enzyme set to go off randomly while we slumber.

If you ask me, Darwin got it right. Humans are nothing more than haphazard products of accidental evolutionary mutation. Frankly, intelligent design just wasn't really that intelligent when you get down to it.

And now, excuse me, I have to find my glasses and limp to the potty.

-- John Blumenthal, of Westlake Village, is the author of the novel "Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour" published by St. Martin's Press

It's design all right, but is it intelligent?


Monday, August 8, 2005 10:55 AM CDT

For more than 30 years, the conservative movement in America has been doing battle with the forces of relativism, the ``do your own thing'' philosophy that eschews objective truth and instead sees all beliefs and all personal choices as equally valid. Instead, philosophically minded American conservatives have argued that there is such a thing as objectivity and that some beliefs really are better, truer or more accurate than others. Given this history, it seems appropriate to ask: Is President Bush really a conservative?

The question arises because earlier this week, while talking to a group of Texas newspaper reporters at the White House, the president was asked his views on the subject of ``intelligent design,'' the quasi-scientific, quasi-religious movement that promotes the idea that an unseen force led to the development of the human race, as opposed to the big bang, biology, physics and evolution. Mr. Bush said, ``Both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about.'' He added, ``You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.''

Of course the president is right that, in the context of a philosophical debate, it would be appropriate to discuss both sides of an issue before arriving at a conclusion. In the context of a religious discussion, it would also be very interesting to ponder whether the human race exists on Earth for a purpose or merely by accident. But the proponents of intelligent design are not content with participating in a philosophical or religious debate. They want their theory to be accepted as science and to be taught in ninth-grade biology classes, alongside the theory of evolution. For that, there is no basis whatsoever: The nature of the ``evidence'' for the theory of evolution is so overwhelming, and so powerful, that it informs all of modern biology. To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century.

To give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt, he may have been catering to his Texas constituents, a group of whom, in the city of Odessa, were recently found to have turned an allegedly secular public high school Bible studies course into a hodgepodge of myth and religious teaching. But politics are no excuse for indulging quackery, not from a president--especially not from a president--who claims, at least some of the time, that he cares about education.

-- The Washington Post

Intelligent Design, President Bush And Evolutionary Class


Author: Steve Sabludowsky | 8/7/2005

The debate over whether "intelligent design" should be taught in public schools is still being debated. Last week, President Bush perhaps honestly, but perhaps also foolishly spoke his mind when he said, ""Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You´re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

I responded teasingly by writing a column called, "No Signs of Intelligent Design in White House".

In the column, I asked whose religion would we use as a model to discuss biological and evolutionary science.

I also stated that in my view President Bush has raised an issue that could be raw meat during the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts.

In a perfect world, President Bush has the right idea regarding "intelligent design"—even in a public school setting. School students should consider the origins of the world and evolution and compare it to religious explanations. However, the major risk in this debate is the teacher and the curriculum.

We do not know the religious or political bias that the educator brings to the table or the pressures of the individual local school boards in this arena.

I believe the constitutional separation of church and state does not mean that there can be no religious ideas discussed in the classroom, but practically speaking by doing such we run the risk of promoting one religion over another.

This does not mean that we should just throw intelligent design out of the classroom window. It might be possible that well accepted and multi-sect religious organizations and groups who believe evolution is the only answer could design a course lasting a few hours that could be offered and taught nationally that would be very inclusive and raise issues that question all sides. The course could be taught over the television and the Internet and the experts could be available online to field the questions.

If done properly, this might please those who want the issue of "intelligent design" to be raised and to be viewed by comparison to evolution. It could be an ambitious project and might end up being more controversial than the argument raised in the first place. There is a venue for logical discussion of this issue and perhaps by looking at technology, and through sober non-partisan, secular and non-secular collaboration, we might just evolve into a better class of scientists and thinkers.

Groups Applaud Bush 'For Standing Up' For Intelligent Design


Christian groups embraced President Bush's recent comments that he believed schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life. During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers last week, Bush declined to go into detail about his personal views of the origin of life, but he said students should learn about each explanation, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

Proponents of intelligent design say life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation, the Associated Press reported. Scientists have rejected the explanation as an attempt to force religion into science education.

The theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead.

"It's what I've been pushing, it's what a lot of us have been pushing," said Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, "The New York Times" reported.

Land, who has close ties to the White House, said that evolution "is too often taught as fact," and that "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists."

At the White House, intelligent design was the subject of a weekly Bible study class several years ago when Charles Colson, the founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, spoke to the group. Colson has also written a book, "The Good Life," in which a chapter on intelligent design features Michael Gerson, a Christian who is an assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning.

"It's part of the buzz of the city among Christians," Colson told the 'Times." "It wouldn't surprise me that it got to George Bush. He reads, he picks stuff up, he talks to people. And he's pretty serious about his own Christian beliefs."

Mark Hartwig, Focus on the Family's social research analyst for the origins controversy, added: "President Bush is to be applauded for standing up for free-speech rights in the origins debate. Even a brief examination of the facts makes it crystal clear that American students deserve the chance to hear both sides of the debate and then draw their own conclusions."

Bush's remarks were in keeping with what he has said in the past. "I think it's an interesting part of knowledge [to have] a theory of evolution and a theory of creationism. People should be exposed to different points of view," Bush said during one 1999 appearance for the 2000 presidential campaign, "The Los Angeles Times" reported. "I personally believe God created the Earth."

For further information on this topic: Darwinism Under the Microscope - by Dr. James Gills

Survival of the fittest? Darwin meets Intelligent Design


Aug. 8, 2005, 12:47AM


I'm not sure it's kosher to play devil's advocate when the subject is evolution vs. intelligent design, but here goes.

Americans are atwitter following President George W. Bush's comments that public schools ought to teach both evolution and the nascent theory of "intelligent design" (ID). The president's remarks, now dissected more ways than Genesis, were in response to questions from a group of Texas journalists.

His words seem uncontroversial enough — that kids ought to be taught both ID and Darwin (not necessarily in equal amounts, though he wasn't explicit on that point) "so people can understand what the debate is about."

So far, that seems a galaxy or two short of left field. Then, as reported by The New York Times, he clarified:

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. ... You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

Atheists, secularists and others whose aversion to religion sometimes borders on fanaticism — there's no dogma like no dogma — see in Bush's remark a subversive move toward replacing Darwin's theory of evolution with a creationist view of man's origin.

Proof of this nefarious conspiracy is hinted at by The Times' mention that ID has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group at the White House. What else would they discuss in Bible study? Howard Dean?

I don't doubt that deeply religious Americans weary of assaults on everything from the Ten Commandments in public buildings to God in the Pledge of Allegiance find solace in any public expression of respect for their beliefs.

That some will exploit Bush's comments to their further comfort — and even to advance their own educational preferences — will surprise no one.

But there's no reason to assume from Bush's comments that Darwin is facing extinction, or that Americans suddenly will sprout webbed toes and retreat into the slime if ID is mentioned in schools.

Before I forget, one quick correction to The Times story deserves mention. In a Freudian slip of biblical proportions, the reporter misquoted Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, an advocacy group for ID. Commenting on Bush's remark, Meyer was quoted as saying:

"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biblical origins." Except Meyer didn't say "biblical"; he said "biological origins." The Times ran a correction on Thursday.

Back to playing devil's advocate, what if ID were taught in the interest of making education more interesting?

Whatever else is true or merely theoretical, the question of man's origin is endlessly fascinating, as demonstrated by headlines and blogs this past week. The Web site technorati.com, which tracks public interest in the blogosphere, counted 17,000 blog entries on ID as of midday Thursday.

If adults find the issue that compelling, might not high school students also? I realize students have been rendered nearly insomniac by the intense level of intellectual stimulation commonly found in public schools, but what's the harm in spiking the punch a little?

Meanwhile, the father of evolutionary theory seems in no danger of being displaced by Bush or advocates of ID, which, by the way, is not the same as creationism, as is often misunderstood.

John G. West Jr., senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, explains that while creationism defends a literal interpretation of Genesis and a biblical God, the theory of ID "is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.

"Instead, intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the 'apparent design' in nature observed by biologists is genuine design (the product of an organizing intelligence) or is simply the product of chance and mechanical natural laws."

Not exactly wacky wisecracking from the lunatic fringe. Objectively, what would be the harm in inviting discussion of this new theory alongside others that have the imprimatur of modern science?

Truth has nothing to fear from charlatans, after all. And alert, stimulated children incited to prove or disprove intelligent design would hardly suggest a failure of public education.

As an indefatigable fan of metaphor, I am personally disinclined to go literal on most anything beyond instructions for dismantling bombs. But if the creationists are right and Genesis is to be taken literally, I'd bet my immortal soul that God is shaking his head right now thinking, "I never shoulda created the apple."

Parker is a syndicated columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. She can be e-mailed at kparker@kparker.com.

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