Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
THE WAR: SENATE LEADER JOINS PRESIDENT ON INTELLIGENT DESIGN.
Back before he began humming Hail to the Chief to himself as he walked the Capitol halls, Bill Frist headed the bipartisan Senate S&T Caucus http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN97/wn021497.html, and pushed for increased science funding. Recently, he reversed his opposition to stem cell research, supporting it despite strong opposition by the President. Bush said he believes "human life is a gift from our Creator." Some scientists saw Frist's action as a calculated move to demonstrate independence. Although Frist had never voted in an election prior to running for the Senate, he does know how to count votes, and he knows there are a lot more born-again Christians in this country than scientists. Friday, Bill Frist, sided with the President on intelligent design, calling for teaching it in science class with evolution.
THE MIRACLE STUDY: COLUMBIA PRAYS THE SCANDAL WILL GO AWAY.
The prayers aren't working. Bruce Flamm, MD, Clinical Professor at the U. of California, Irvine Medical Center, is the reason http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN04/wn060404.html. A 2001 study from Columbia University Medical School, published in a respected, peer-reviewed journal, reported in-vitro fertilization was twice as likely to result in pregnancy if patients were prayed for without their knowledge by total strangers halfway around the world. WN gently explained that they must be crazy http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN01/wn100501.htm. Bruce Flamm dug deeper, publishing his findings in Sci. Rev. Alt. Med. In four years he has not let up. Under pressure from the Dean, the lead author, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, has removed his name from the study. Another author, a notorious scam artist, is in jail on separate fraud charges. The University has never retracted or apologized for the study, but has now told the journal to remove all links to Columbia. Maybe an intelligent eraser could help.
HOMEOPATHY: IT DOESN'T WORK. BUT DIDN'T WE ALREADY KNOW THAT?
A study at the University of Berne, reported in Lancet, compared 110 trials each of homeopathy and conventional medicine and found benefits attributed to homeopathy were merely placebo effects. The editors of Lancet called for an end to further investment in research on homeopathy, and for doctors to be honest with their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefits.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org
By Danny Westneat Seattle Times staff columnist
Bob Davidson is a scientist -- a doctor, and for 28 years a nephrology professor at the University of Washington medical school. He's also a devout Christian who believes we're here because of God. It was these twin devotions to science and religion that first attracted him to Seattle's Discovery Institute. That's the think tank that this summer has pushed "intelligent design" -- a replacement theory for evolution -- all the way to the lips of President Bush and into the national conversation.
Davidson says he was seeking a place where people "believe in a Creator and also believe in science.
"I thought it was refreshing," he says.
Not anymore. He's concluded the institute is an affront to both science and religion.
"When I joined I didn't think they were about bashing evolution. It's pseudo-science, at best ... What they're doing is instigating a conflict between science and religion."
I got Davidson's name off a list of 400 people with scientific degrees, provided by the Discovery Institute, who are said to doubt the "central tenets of Darwin's theory of evolution." Davidson, at 78 a UW professor emeritus, says he shouldn't be on the list because he believes "the scientific evidence for evolution is overwhelming."
He's only one scientist, one opinion in our ongoing debate about evolution and faith.
But I bring you Davidson's views because I suspect he is a bellwether for the Discovery Institute and intelligent design, as more scientists learn about them. He was attracted to an institute that embraced both science and religion, yet he found its critique of existing science wrong and its new theory empty.
"I'm kind of embarrassed that I ever got involved with this," Davidson says.
He was shocked, he says, when he saw the Discovery Institute was calling evolution a "theory in crisis."
"It's laughable: There have been millions of experiments over more than a century that support evolution," he says. "There's always questions being asked about parts of the theory, as there are with any theory, but there's no real scientific controversy about it."
Davidson began to believe the institute is an "elaborate, clever marketing program" to tear down evolution for religious reasons. He read its writings on intelligent design -- the notion that some of life is so complex it must have been designed -- and found them lacking in scientific merit.
Then Davidson, who attends First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, heard a sermon in which the pastor argued it's foolish to try to use science to understand God.
Science is about measuring things, and God is immeasurable, the pastor said.
"It just clicked with me that this whole movement is wrongheaded on all counts," Davidson said. "It's a misuse of science, and a misuse of religion.
"Why can't we just keep the two separate?"
That's a good question, especially coming from someone who believes strongly in both.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or email@example.com.
Waxahachie Ghost Hunters Tour - Like most old cities across the United States, Waxahachie has a very colorful and historic past. Starting back in the 1840s when Emory Rogers first settled this area, and extending well into the 20th century, many events, both tragic and momentous, have occurred in and around town. Early on, several major cattle trails passed by this area with large herds being driven north to the Kansas markets. Many cowboys dropped by town to tie one on. Who knows how many of these cowboys never made it back to the herd. With the affluence of this area, there are, no doubt, many deaths that have remained unsettled. There is no wonder that paranormal activity is being reported in and around Waxahachie and Ellis County. Two of the most famous destinations are The Catfish Plantation Restaurant and The Rogers Hotel . This Tour includes accommodations at The Rogers Hotel and discounts for dining at the Tavern on the Square and The Catfish Plantation . With grave markers dating back to the 1840s, the Old City Cemetery should not be missed.
The Boiler room at the Rogers Hotel seems to be a very interesting place if you are interested in paranormal activity. Recently there have been several documented encounters with unusual happening while visiting the boiler room. We are in the process of publishing these paranormal events to the hotel web site.
Apparently, a lot of things must have taken place in the boiler room over past 100 some odd years. We are not sure of the nature of the things that took place but we are sure that something happened here!
A few months back, a young couple stayed at the Rogers Hotel in order to conduct their own paranormal investigation. They went from roof to basement taking photographs. It was in the basement boiler room where they discovered a large number of what they described as "Orbs" in the boiler room.
Another guest who was in a basement lounge was awaken by a man that appear to be all bloody and lead the gentleman to the Boiler Room and instructed him to stay away from this room as many people had died here! When the hotel staff found the man later he could hardly move.
Just thought you would want to know about this place.
Word for Word
By SUSAN ASCHOFF, Times Staff Writer
Published August 25, 2005
If President Bush and Kansas public schools believe intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in classrooms, Bobby Henderson says it is only fair to include his deity du jour.
Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Henderson, a 25-year-old with a physics degree from Oregon State University, saw a vision of a tangle of spaghetti noodles with two eyestalks and an affinity for worshipers wearing pirate garb. He believes his god is as valid as the one alluded to in intelligent design, a theory which contends some features of the natural world are just too special to be due to evolutionary roulette.
Kansas State Board of Education members approved a draft proposal Aug. 9 to include intelligent design in science lessons and are scheduled to vote again in October on a teaching plan.
Henderson posted his views, and artwork, at www.venganza.org about two months ago. Below is a selection excerpted from the letter Henderson wrote seeking equal time for his deity in Kansas.
- SUSAN ASCHOFF, Times staff writer
Open Letter to Kansas School Board
I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints. ... I am concerned, however, that students will hear only one theory of Intelligent Design.
... I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.
... None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. ... He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. ... But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. ... He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.
I'm sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. ... You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s.
... I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world: One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.
Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen
P.S. I have included an artistic drawing of Him creating a mountain, trees, and a midget. Remember, we are all His creatures.
- Word for Word is an occasional feature excerpting passages of interest from books, magazines, Web sites and other sources. The text may be edited for space but the original spelling, grammar and punctuation are unchanged.
[Last modified August 25, 2005, 10:16:02]
August 27, 2005
Body & Soul
by mark henderson Pushing the alternative
The Achilles heel of modern medicine is its inability to do much about common and distressing conditions. All too frequently, disabling problems such as chronic fatigue and lower back pain remain stubbornly difficult to treat. These "effectiveness gaps" are where complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has its greatest appeal. They are the chief targets, as The Times revealed this week, of a report commissioned by the Prince of Wales to press the case for more alternative provision on the NHS.
When patients need relief that orthodoxy cannot provide it is unsurprising that they turn elsewhere. Even when the technology of the homoeopath does no good, in the hands of a calming therapist it can prove a powerful prop for unloosening the placebo effect. If individual patients find this helpful, that is all to the good, though robust evidence of efficacy is needed if scarce public funds are involved.
In explaining how alternative treatments might fill effectiveness gaps, however, their advocates tend to overplay the problems of the conventional approach. I have twice spoken in CAM debates this summer, most recently for last week's Straw Poll on BBC Radio 4, and on both occasions I have faced the charge that modern medicine has somehow failed.
If science is so good at healing the sick, the question runs, why do so many still suffer? How can we put our faith in medical methods that have let so many down? The answer is that scientific medicine has been a victim of its success. In seeing off so many of the miseries of disease, it has raised public expectations. Yet at the same time it has changed the rules of the game to its own disadvantage.
The achievements of modern medicine are difficult to exaggerate. Vaccination and antibiotics have transformed our ability to withstand pathogens that once killed us in our millions. Smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, so many of the great plagues of the past are gone or are in abeyance. Tuberculosis, which killed 150 people per 100,000 Britons in the early 20th century, now kills fewer than one per 100,000.
Understanding of the germ theory of disease and anaesthesia has brought safer surgery. Together with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, that has doubled five-year survival rates for cancer in a generation. Infant mortality has plummeted, while UK life expectancy rose from 47 in 1901 to 77 in 2000.
But as our mastery over infectious disease has gone from strength to strength, our experience of it has also changed. With the ever-present threat of a sudden and fatal illness largely lifted, we have become less tolerant of other health problems that would not much have troubled our grandparents.
More importantly, as fewer lives are cut short by acute infection, more of us are reaching middle and old age, and developing the chronic conditions that go with it. We are no longer dying of TB at 30 but are living long enough to get cancer and heart disease, Alzheimer's and arthritis.
These diseases are more complex than the infections that once worried us most, and science is still learning how best to fight them. They tend also to be chronic in nature, causing years of slow degeneration and pain rather than a short, sharp fever from which the patient either dies or makes a full recovery. They are the diseases that give medicine a bad name.
Medicine must not rest on its laurels, content to have won the easier battles. More research is needed to fill the effectiveness gaps, particularly when it comes to chronic illness. Science moves forward by increments, and its greatest strength is openness to new thinking when the evidence is there. Of course it does not yet have all the answers. Its proud track record, though, marks it out as the surest route to revealing them.
Mark Henderson is the Times science correspondent
By Jeremy Lovell in London August 27, 2005
The world may be beating a path to the doors of homeopathic practitioners as an alternative to conventional medicines, but a study has concluded they may just as well be taking nothing.
The study, published in yesterday's edition of the medical journal The Lancet, is likely to anger the growing number of followers of alternative therapies that include homeopathy.
"There was weak evidence for a specific effect of homeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions," the study found.
"This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homeopathy are placebo effects," it added after examining findings from 110 homeopathy trials and an equal number of conventional medical trials.
In an editorial, The Lancet urged doctors to tell their patients they were wasting their time taking homeopathic medicines - but also to make more time to connect with the patients rather than just prescribing them medicine.
"Now doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefits, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients' needs for personalised care," the journal said.
Entitled "The end of homeopathy", the editorial queried how homeopathy was growing in popularity when for the past 150 years trials had found it ineffective.
But the British Homeopathic Association, which says it has 1000 doctors on its books, strongly disagreed.
"The report should be treated with extreme caution. It is being heavily spun," said Peter Fisher, of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.
August 26th, 2005
Most of the responses I received about my recent article on intelligent design were frankly too irrational to deserve a reply. However, several of them did seem to indicate that I had failed to explicitly state my rationale for regarding "Statement 1" as scientific or for requiring statistical justification for the evolutionary concept of the spontaneous origin of life. My arguments are as follows:
(a) The realm of scientific speculation neither postulates nor excludes the existence of an intelligent force beyond (and responsible for) the laws of nature. If an overwhelmingly improbable event occurs, a scientist must at least acknowledge that the apparent absence of a natural explanation makes the postulation of a para-natural explanation worth considering. Stating (as one reader did) that the existence of a para-natural intelligence is "so infinitesimal as to be excludable" is an irrational and unsubstantiateable dogma, unworthy of a scientist.
(b) The current evolutionary explanation of the spontaneous origin of life (SOL) is that it occurred as a random coincidence of a large number of fortuitous events in the primordial Miller-Urey soup. The opposing "intelligent design" explanation, which might be called the unnatural origin of life (UOL) hypothesis, is that a spontaneous origin is so incredibly unlikely that some other explanation, beyond the laws of nature as we understand them, is required. These two hypotheses are logical opposites of each other.
(c) A decision between them is possible by a statistical estimate of the number of times that a fortuitous creation of a viable self-sustaining organism (e.g. a cell capable of living and multiplying in the soup) is likely to have occurred during the Earth's history. If that number turns out to be (say) 10[exp 12] (i.e. a trillion), then the SOL theory is scientifically plausible and the UOL theory should be relegated to the realm of philosophy. On the other hand, if the answer is 10[exp-12), then the SOL theory is in serious trouble and the UOL theory is, by default, a legitimate alternative hypothesis. If the answer comes out 1, then, even allowing for the wide range of uncertainty, no conclusion can be reached and neither the SOL nor the UOL theory can be considered invalid or beyond the scope of science.
(d) Such calculations are extremely difficult but not impossible. The first approach I suggested would use a minimal-gene minimal-function bacterium as a model, perhaps one of the iron- or sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. A feasible model for the second, or "protolife", approach might be to construct a hypothetical least-common-denominator organism by using only those genes that are common to virtually all types of cells, adding only those additional genes necessary to provide a self-consistent metabolic-pathway diagram. In either case, the biggest stumbling block would be the formation of membranes around the bundles of DNA or RNA to form organelles. I would get around this step, as a zero-order approximation, assuming that it's not the critical rate-limiting step and leaving it out of my calculations.
(e) Until such statistical calculations are made, a scientist has no right either to exclude the UOL hypothesis as a possible explanation for the origin of life or to regard the SOL hypothesis as a proven or even probable fact.
(f) Even if such calculations are made and the SOL hypothesis demonstrated to be virtually impossible, the UOL hypothesislike any scientific hypothesismust always be considered tentative. This is because future scientific discoveries may eventually disclose a hitherto-unsuspected mechanism that would change the statistics and render the SOL hypothesis plausible. I hope these explanations will satisfy most of the readers who expressed concern.
Paul Shlichta is a research scientist who is currently writing a Manual of Methods. His scientific credentials may be viewed here.
Thursday, August 25, 2005 By Brett Rowland
Hollister - Evolution is the standard theory taught in public schools throughout the country to explain how organisms change, and while there are no plans to change that, there are some in the Hollister religious community who feel that intelligent design has a place in public classrooms.
A debate on the role of God in the classroom was touched off anew on August 1, when President George Bush said students should learn about both theories. Intelligent design asserts that the level of complexity in the biological world can only be explained by the direction of an intelligent designer. Evolution is a theory which asserts that biological organisms change over time as a result of natural selection.
Curriculum and content standards for public schools, adopted by the California Department of Education, make no mention of intelligent design or the debate surrounding the theory of evolution, and changes in the curriculum are unlikely to come at the local level in Hollister, district and county officials said.
"We're satisfied with the job we're doing teaching science in our schools," County Superintendent of Schools Tim Foley said. "In our private lives we can all pursue whatever explanations we feel, but in our public school classrooms we must teach the best science that we know."
Intelligent design is being taught in private institutions that set their own rules about what is appropriate in the class room. Walt Lindquist, School Administrator of Calvary Christian School in Hollister, believes students should be able to learn about both theories regardless of whether they attend public or private school, he said.
"We do have a lot of scientific proof that creation did take place," he said. "I think there should be a balance, evolution shouldn't be the only theory taught. Students should at least be aware that creationism is a viable alternative."
Local public school teachers teacher are required to teach state standards, but some have said that intelligent design occasionally surfaces while discussing evolution.
Geri Bonvie, a seventh grade science teacher at Marguerite Maze Middle School, teaches evolution every year because it is required by the state.
"I teach evolution because it is part of the California State Science Standards for seventh grade," Bonvie said. "I do not teach intelligent design because it is not part of the California State Science Standards."
She teaches evolution as a scientific theory, but if a curious student broaches the subject of a creator being responsible for evolution, Bonvie refers the student to his or her parents or clergy members, she said.
San Benito High School teacher and Social Science Chairperson Chuck Schallhorn has followed the debate between the competing explanations for the origin of life even though he doesn't teach science. Schallhorn is open to discussing both theories with students, but said he requires conversations which focus on personal views to take place after class.
"There's nothing wrong with intelligent design as an idea, but it is not a science," Schallhorn said. "It's not an appropriate class topic, but I am willing to talk with students after class."
Many members of Hollister's religious community feel intelligent design and the debate surrounding the two explanations should be taught in public school science classrooms.
Jim Achilles, senior pastor at Grace Bible Church of Hollister, is one who believes students need to learn both theories. He criticized evolution for not being able to provide a scientific explanation for the existence of life and several other weaknesses.
Achilles, who has a master's degree in divinity, also pointed out that intelligent design does not attempt to promote a specific "designer," but rather to provide an alternative theory - one that is firmly supported by scientific evidence, he said.
"Teaching intelligent design is about academic freedom, about good science, about looking at things objectively, and allowing students to think for themselves," Achilles said in an e-mail. "Rather than forcing them to accept a system that violates known laws of science."
Robert Vrijenhoek, former editor of the international journal "Evolution" and an adjunct faculty member at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has spent the last three decades studying as an evolutionary biologist and has come to a very different conclusion about the theory of evolution. Vrijenhoek, who is also a professor emeritus at Rutgers University, said the debate between intelligent design and evolution was nothing new.
"(Intelligent design) peddles a bunch of old ideas clad in new clothes," Vrijenhoek said. "It's criminally mischievous the way it is portrayed as science."
However, Vrijenhoek believes intelligent design theory can be taught in public schools, but just not in the science classroom. Unlike President Bush, Vrijenhoek does not believe the two should be taught side-by-side in the science classroom.
"One is religion and the other is a science," he said. "However, intelligent design could be taught in a philosophy class."
Although intelligent design is not taught in Hollister's public schools, County Superintendent of Schools Tim Foley said curriculum standards are determined by school boards. That means local school boards have the power to vote and change science curriculum to include intelligent design, he said. However, the issue hasn't come up here, Foley said.
Local school board members agree. Hollister School District Board of Trustees President Margie Barrios said the issue had not been brought to her attention and board members were not discussing any changes to current science curriculum in regards to evolution.
"Whatever the state mandates is what Hollister School District will teach," Barrios said.
Jean Burns Slater, superintendent of San Benito High School District, also said the debate had not been brought up. She knows the debate has made headlines in Kansas, but said the district's Board of Trustees in not considering changing curriculum to incorporate intelligent design.
A move to change curriculum standards at the state level, which would require approval by the California Department of Education, is also unexpected, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said.
"In California's academic standards for science are based on sound scientific theory and research. I am disappointed that the president has suggested that nonscientific viewpoints should be included in curriculum," O'Connell wrote in an e-mail. "Just like I will fight tooth and nail to protect California's high academic standards, I will fight to ensure that sound science is protected in California classrooms."
Brett Rowland covers education for the Free Lance. He can be reached at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter August 26, 2005
To the Editor:
Re: "Unintelligent Design," Opinion, August 24
Will Evans '06 is incorrect to assert that "science, like religion, is based on a few fundamental assumptions, the first of which is that God ... does not exist." Science, unlike religion, is not based on fundamental assumptions. Science is a method that scientists use to determine what facts must be proven before they can consider their theories to have been established as fact. During every era in the history of science, there have been sets of background assumptions common to the majority of that era's scientists, and many of those scientists may have regarded them as fundamental. Science progresses when it is led by those who question these "fundamental assumptions," who force the consensus's high priests to defend or to abandon their dogmas.
The problem with intelligent design is not that the background assumptions are bad but that the method employed by Intelligent Design's advocates is not the scientific method. They use God in the same way that the ancient Greek dramatists did: to circumvent an otherwise insoluble problem in the final act. Just as deus ex machina is an improper means to conclude plays, intelligent design is an improper means to advance knowledge.
Adam M. Moline '06
David Jensen says the evolutionists' perspective relies on unproven scientific facts and theories.
By Chris Barton
Science teachers say it has no place in the classroom. Christian educators say children shouldn't be denied alternative views.
Science teachers retaliate that it's not science, it's religion behind a mask and they don't want a bar of it. Christian educators argue they can teach it alongside traditional science, so what are science teachers so afraid of?
Science teachers' blood begins to boil. "It's not science."' they fume.
"It" is "intelligent design" - a challenge to the theory of evolution described by some as creationism in disguise. But it's a challenge that's garnering support from high places.
"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," United States President George W. Bush said this month. "If you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."
The topic is also the subject of court action in Pennsylvania, taken after the Dover Area School Board decided to revamp its biology curriculum to include intelligent design.
In December, 11 parents sued the district and its board members, claiming they were bringing God into the science class. The case is being watched closely by 21 states across America facing controversies over how evolution is taught to high school students.
The debate also has been simmering in New Zealand. Chief proponents of intelligent design here include Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart and Auckland University School of Engineering associate professor Neil Broom, author of How Blind Is a Watchmaker?
The argument was rekindled last week when 500 New Zealand schools received unsolicited DVDs and workbooks from the Christian-based Focus on the Family organisation.
The material comes via the Centre for Science and Culture (CSC), a division of the Discovery Institute, a religion-based conservative think-tank in Seattle. It criticises Darwinism and promotes the idea of an "intelligent designer" outside the laws of nature to explain the intricate complexity of living organisms.
"Intelligent design people will tell you it doesn't mean there was a God. It just means something intelligent designed it. I'm much more comfortable saying God's there and he made it," says Michael Drake.
The principal of Carey College looks pleased with his answer. It avows his faith. Drake exudes the unshakeable rightness, some might say smugness, of a committed Christian.
The private school in Panmure teaches a literal interpretation of creation found in Genesis alongside the teaching of evolution. Drake believes in a young Earth - one that's about 6000 to 10,000 years old because that's what you get if you add up all the begats in the Bible.
Questions of carbon dating are not a problem. "It's perfectly possible to say God created the world at a point in time and at that point in time it [the Earth] was fixed with so many carbon 14 and so many ordinary carbon molecules - why not? God is God."
It's the sort of statement (given ample evidence that the world is at least 4.6 billion years old) that gets science teachers spluttering into their coffee.
"There are no geologists I am aware of who think the world is only 10,000 years old. That's the most fatuous idea one has ever come across," says Martin Hanson, a science teacher of 40 years and author of nine textbooks including Apes and Ancestors II.
Drake is unbowed, pointing to the swag of science awards the school has won. "Our kids will leave this school understanding evolutionary theory and creation theory and being able to work with both right through the science syllabus."
David Jensen, principal of Immanuel Christian School, holds a similar view.
"People have to see that evolution is as much a religious faith-based position as is creationism. Our creationist beliefs rest on faith in God as creator. An evolutionist perspective is just as religious.
"It relies on unproven scientific facts and theories - that's why it's called a theory of evolution. It's not the fact of evolution - it's called a theory for good reason. No one can prove it."
Science teachers splutter in unison with incredulity. "These people talk about evolution as a theory in crisis - they don't understand the word theory," says Alan Munro, head of science at Southland Boys' High.
"In layman's terms a theory is just a guess or something unproven, but in science a theory implies something that has been proven and generally accepted as true."
Hanson agrees, pointing to atomic theory. "No chemist has the slightest doubt about the existence of atoms. They're using theory in quite a different sense - it's a framework of knowledge and ideas which has great predicative value and is solidly based."
Jensen's faith is also unshakeable. "At the very least it's intellectually honest to give a reasonable amount of attention to the deficiencies of the theory of evolution as well as having a look at other competing theories, creationism being one."
Jensen is not as hard-line as Drake in terms of the age of the Earth. He's comfortable putting that aside as "a bit of a grey area". He claims evolutionists are fixated on the Earth being millions of years old because that is what evolution requires.
His main problem with evolution lies with its notions of chance mutations and accidental events creating complex forms of life. He rejects more figurative interpretations of the Bible which allow some Christians to see evolution as part of God's plan.
"It makes no sense. Why would God use a process of death and random events to create when he can create things as good?" And he sees it as inconsistent that "a good God" used millions of years of death and suffering.
For Jensen such an idea doesn't fit with Genesis, where it says, "God created and it was good." And with the description of the Garden of Eden - "an amazing place where animals were not ripping each other apart and devouring each other".
The intelligent design argument is more sophisticated. It doesn't retreat to a belief in the Bible as its founding truth. And it doesn't directly refer to God. But it shares with creationists the same difficulty in accepting the role of chance, accident or randomness in explaining the origin of life.
Drake sums up the problem for all. "Evolutionary theory says if there is a God, then he has not made things by means of design, purpose or, in the creationist point of view, with immediacy."
Hanson is scathing. "Intelligent design people are nice people, but they have difficulty in confronting complex realities - they need simple truths. There are a tiny number of biologists who do have problems with evolution, but they are such a minute, microscopic rump that they are hardly worth considering."
The Privileged Planet, one of a set of three DVDs distributed by Focus on the Family, sets out to show through maths and astronomy that purpose and design are everywhere.
The Earth, rather than being an inconsequential, chance speck in a vast universe, is the perfect viewing platform from which to appreciate God's handiwork. Similarly it's hard to accept that humans might not be the special objects of God's creation but simply a product of natural selection brought about by "numerous successive slight modifications".
Enter Icons of Evolution to cast doubt on the formulation of Charles Darwin's theory. Munro, who has assessed some of the DVDs, is annoyed by its bias and use of outdated information. "They say 'here was an error that was made back in the 1860s' and, therefore, because of this error the whole of evolution is wrong."
He points out the nature of science is to test theories for validity and be prepared to accept the theory can be proved false. "You come up with a theory and later evidence changes the story and we have to do a rethink, but we've never found anything which totally disproves evolution."
The material, Munro thinks, should probably be returned to sender. But he's toying with the idea of using some of it in a lesson on testing whether evidence is valid. "If it was going to go to the library, I'd file it under something like fairytales and fables - it's not scientific."
Intelligent design's king hit argument against evolution is found in the third DVD Unlocking The Mystery of Life. It claims to have found a scientific principle ("irreducible complexity") which proves certain structures could not have been produced by evolution.
The argument asserts that structures like the bacterial flagellum (a whip-like motor found in single cell organisms) and the human eye are so enormously complex that if you take them down into their constituent parts, the simpler bits and pieces don't have a function.
Take one part away and the eye or the flagellum doesn't work. In other words, it's irreducibly complex and must have been designed.
While evolution doesn't have a clear explanation for the development of the eye or the flagellum, biologists say they can show that both are not irreducibly complex.
"As soon as you look at bacterial flagellum and find that the various structures that go to make it up do have a function, and look at the complexity of the camera eye and find that there are much simpler versions available, the argument gets pulled to pieces," says Alison Campbell, a former secondary school science teacher and now senior lecturer in biology at Waikato University.
Campbell, who helps run the Evolution for Teaching website, points to a paper - The Flagellum Unspun - which claims to undo some of the probability equations used to make the irreducible complexity case.
Intelligent design may not be in our science curriculum, but it's not exactly out, either. The Ministry of Education's national administration guidelines don't place any restrictions on its teaching. Nor do they specifically restrict the teaching of young Earth creation or theistic evolution. So does the science curriculum allow for alternative theories to evolution to be taught?
"Schools and teachers have a responsibility to select theories widely accepted by the scientific community," says the ministry's curriculum manager Mary Chamberlain. "A full exploration of these theories should include a consideration of challenges that have been made to them."
Even if the challenges are non-scientific? "We are not suggesting that teachers teach it as accepted science," says Chamberlain. "We are suggesting that challenges to accepted scientific understandings should be considered in science lessons" - such as in the "Making sense of the nature of science" strand.
Southland High's Munro rejects the interpretation of the syllabus. "A science controversy has to have science on both sides."
Campbell is not impressed, either: "It's a non-controversy as far as the wider scientific community is concerned." There is only one theory - evolution - and to suggest otherwise is to fall into the trap of misunderstanding what a scientific theory is.
She says neither young Earth creationism nor intelligent design offer any reasonable challenge to evolutionary thinking.
"It's the thin edge of the wedge - as soon as you introduce intelligent design into the classroom in any guise, then it's in the classroom and it gives it some legitimacy and I don't think that legitimacy is warranted. It's not science."
Author of book on life's origins calls faculty petition an 'attack'
By LISA LIVERMORE
REGISTER AMES BUREAU August 26, 2005
Ames, Ia. - A forum on how the theory of intelligent design should be taught at Iowa State University is planned for this fall, but the professor who is sparking the debate is likely to avoid the event.
A total of 124 ISU faculty members have signed a petition opposing the teaching of intelligent design as a scientific fact. Intelligent design promotes the notion that an unseen force is at least partially behind humanity's development, pushing aside the theory of evolution.
Guillermo Gonzalez , an ISU astronomy professor who is nationally known for his research on intelligent design, said his colleagues are creating a hostile work climate by circulating the petition.
"I'm really taken back by the viciousness of the attack," Gonzalez said Thursday in an interview with The Des Moines Register. "I'm amazed at the campaign they are orchestrating to try to intimidate me with this petition."
Intelligent design has ignited debate nationwide over what explanations for life's origins should be taught to students in public kindergarten through 12th grade, and on public university campuses. Kansas' state board of education is expected to require that public high school students be taught about the doubts concerning evolution. The teaching of intelligent design is being challenged in court in Dover, Pa. And earlier this month, President Bush said public school students should be taught about intelligent design along with the theory of evolution.
John McCarroll, an ISU spokesman, said he is unaware that the subject is being taught.
Gonzalez said he doesn't teach about intelligent design because it's controversial and because he doesn't want to teach about an idea that's not yet accepted.
The petition that was signed by about 7 percent of ISU's faculty was forwarded this week to university administrators. ISU President Gregory Geoffroy asked the faculty senate to sponsor a forum on intelligent design, a university spokesman said.
Claudia Baldwin, president of the faculty senate, said she wants the forum to focus on what classes intelligent design is taught in at ISU, not whether the theory should be taught.
"As educators, we want to put things in front of students, and sometimes our students have to draw conclusions from that," Baldwin said. "Our students will have the opportunity, I hope, to hear about this theory, and just as with creationism, they will be able to decide what they believe."
Hector Avalos, an associate professor of religious studies, was one of the faculty members who drafted a letter seeking colleagues to sign a petition opposing the teachings of intelligent design as science.
He said he became concerned after Gonzalez generated attention from a book he wrote titled "The Privileged Planet."
"We don't want to be known as the 'Intelligent Design University,' " Avalos said. "We don't think this is science."
Gonzalez said his book argues for design based on evidence drawn from the physical sciences.
The book generated more attention after the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., agreed to schedule a June screening of a film based on the book, which is co-written by Jay Richards of the Discovery Institute, a group based in Seattle that supports intelligent design.
Avalos said he has approached Gonzalez more than once to participate in a forum on the topic.
"He doesn't want to do it where he's asked questions about this by opponents," Avalos said. "The nature of science is to submit your ideas for scrutiny."
Gonzalez said he doesn't want to attend forums because he doesn't approve of Avalos' tactics.
He said he is the only "lightning rod" for intelligent design at ISU, which is why he said he feels the petition targets him.
Baldwin said she understands Gonzalez's reluctance to attend the forum.
"I think the problem here is we have a great number of faculty en masse who have said this is not science," she said. "Dr. Gonzalez is there, perhaps, alone. I don't know how many supporters he has in his department."
August 26th, 2005 @ 7:52am
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Jon Huntsman says intelligent design theory should not be taught in science classes, but he left open the possibility that it could be taught in other classes.
That was immediately seized upon by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who has been talking about requiring intelligent design to be taught in public schools.
Huntsman told his monthly KUED news conference Thursday, "Public schools are largely secular institutions. I would expect my kids in science class to be instructed in those things that are somewhat quantifiable and based on thorough and rigorous empirical research."
He said other concepts should be taught outside the classroom.
"At home -- and in churches or synagogues -- I would hope they could hear different ideas about creation," Huntsman said.
Asked if he was opposed to teaching intelligent design in schools, Huntsman said he was against it being taught in science classes.
"If it comes up in sociology or philosophy as differing views on creation, I think that's appropriate," Huntsman said. "But that doesn't happen until college or maybe later in high school."
"I think that's a good, clear pathway," Buttars said. "I don't have a problem with that. Don't teach it in science classes. Teach it in humanities or philosophy. He's right."
State curriculum director Brett Moulding believes the governor is saying such philosophy classes are better taught at the college level.
"That's consistent with what the state Office of Education has been saying about this issue," Moulding said. "When you start having discussions in a philosophy class, I think that belongs at the college level."
Intelligent design is based on the concept that life is too complex to be explained alone by evolution.
Buttars said parents have complained children are being taught that they evolved from apes. He said evolution is a theory that should not be taught in schools as fact.
Evolution of species is central to Utah's high school biology core curriculum.
The state Board of Education next week will consider a position statement on the matter. The statement likely will support the current curriculum and include language on teacher sensitivity to student beliefs, Moulding has said.
Buttars plans to address the board on his stand that evolution should be taught "as an unsubstantiated theory."
If the board refuses, Buttars said he would request that intelligent design be taught in some sort of humanities class.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
August 26, 2005 latimes.com
By Edward J. Larson
THE MODERN neo-Darwinian theory of evolution has taken it on the chin recently. Public opinion surveys suggest that only about one in 10 Americans believe that life developed through purely natural processes, without divine assistance, as evolution posits. Over the last year, state and local school boards across the country have decided to open their biology classes to supernatural explanations for life. A few weeks ago, President Bush added his voice to the chorus, saying schools should teach intelligent design alongside the theory of evolution.
Americans simply don't find Darwinism very appealing. According to modern Darwinists, random genetic variations chosen in a survival-of-the-fittest process created all living things, even humans with nothing guaranteeing our emergence at the top of the heap. Darwinism is not a comforting world view for conscious, egotistical beings like us.
Humans are mammals with a sense of purpose. That is our nature. Many theories of modern science have challenged our sense of purpose. Astronomy has moved us from the center of a finite universe to the periphery of a minor galaxy in a vast and expanding universe, which may itself be only one of many universes and merely a blip in time that came from and will return to nothingness. Geology and paleontology have pushed back our origins beyond any meaningful comprehension. Darwinism leaves life itself to chance. No wonder people rebel against such ideas.
Intelligent design, despite its proponents' claims to the contrary, isn't modern science. It's part of that rebellion against it. Scientists look for natural explanations for natural phenomena. Their best explanations, if they survive rigorous testing, become scientific theories.
Intelligent design, in contrast, is a critique of all that. Its proponents may challenge the sufficiency of evolutionary explanations for the origin of species but they have not and cannot offer testable alternative explanations. The best they can offer is the premise that, if no natural explanation suffices, then God must have done it. Maybe God did do it, but if so, it's beyond science.
This is where lots of people would like to be: beyond science. According to doctrinaire Darwinism, we arose from the muck by chance, we struggled to exist, we will return to dust and probably everything that can remember us or be influenced by our efforts ultimately will end. Intelligent design, on the other hand, posits that we came from a designer who transcends nature's limits and offers us hope that we will live beyond those limits.
It should come as little surprise which of these alternatives many Americans choose to believe and want to teach to their children especially if they're handed reasons to doubt Darwinism by credentialed scholars such as those in the intelligent design movement. President Bush wants schools to offer hope for eternity alongside Darwinism. People prefer purpose in their origins; they see purposefulness in nature. No wonder they want it taught in their schools. But that does not make it science.
Science is a particular way of looking at natural phenomena. It seeks testable, repeatable and therefore exploitable explanations. That is why science is valuable. It tells us how to use nature. What we know about evolution allows us to combat pathogens by discovering ways to disable or eliminate them. What we know about evolution allows us to understand ecological relationships and preserve habitats. What we know about evolution allows us to explore genetic relationships and push the frontiers of biotechnology.
Whether or not we like science, we need it and the theory of evolution is part of the package. Modern biologists looking at nature through the lens of Darwinism have transformed our lives through breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and genetics.
As a critique of science, intelligent design could have a place in the classroom too but not as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Rather, good biology teachers could use issues raised by the intelligent design movement to help their classes better understand Darwinism.
In the end, science students must learn how to see nature as scientists see it. Anything else would be purposeless.
EDWARD J. LARSON is a historian of law, science and medicine at the University of Georgia. His book, "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion ," won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1998.
PUBLISHED: Friday, August 26, 2005
By ERIC BAERREN
One of the most obvious defects of modern journalism well, the kind that most people are exposed to daily is that it preaches objectivity, but practices something more akin to equal time for both sides.
Fairness comes from objectivity, which demands that a journalist weighs both sides and comes to a conclusion. What is truth is automatically fair, or so I once found scrawled on a bathroom wall.
Mainstream reporting today demands equal time for two sides (usually two, even if there might be four or even five). Unfortunately, in many cases the two sides just aren't equal, because the expertise and evidence falls unequally behind one side. Avoiding the appearance of taking sides when one side is full of crap rewards the outlandish and even crackpot, while punishing experts whose only sin is being part of the consensus majority. And, it makes forming an informed opinion based solely on that kind of reporting a shot in the dark.
In no other area will this be more damaging than in science-related issues. How we, as a nation, approach science will affect almost every facet of our lives from public health, to more wisely protecting the environment, to competing for future foreign investment, and to yes national security.
That's what makes Chris Mooney's "The Republican War on Science " such a valuable book.
Has the Republican Party declared war on science? Mooney says yes, and his case is made stronger not just because his evidence, but the space he's provided for rebuttal. Both sides are treated fairly, just not equally. The evidence says, "Yes, when science doesn't back policies of today's Republican Party, they'll simply seek to confuse the issue," and Mooney writes, "When science doesn't back policies to today's Republican Party, they'll simply seek to confuse the issue." Hey, this is real journalism.
It's important to isolate this to specific period of time. This campaign has really only evolved in the last 30 years, starting with the emergence of rightwing think tanks during the Reagan administration.
Little by little, they honed their techniques, and what eventually emerged is today's widespread gridlock on science-based issues from health risks associated with food sweeteners to mercury in the water to the effectiveness of condoms. Any issue associated with science can be turned into a hot potato by adding the right ingredients.
Those ingredients vary, from confusing the issue, to attacking scientists conducting the research, to demanding so much study as to effectively paralyze action. Congress has tweaked the rules in favor of provoking confusion from making it easier for lawmakers to use opinions outside the mainstream, making it look like there is fierce division among scientists were none exists (dissent is fine, but scientific consensus builds slowly, and isn't based on ideological leanings, as it is often supposed).
For instance, among biologists, the question of evolution isn't whether it's happening, but how it works. However, the Discovery Institute has argued that evolution is weak because it hasn't yet solved every riddle. In reality, biologists have stopped arguing over whether evolution is happening, and are now focused on how it works. "Teaching the controversy," as is popular today, is an irrelevant argument, meant only to confuse the public and weaken support for ideology-neutral science (the Discovery Institute's real goal, as Mooney reminds us, is to reform science so that it's compatible with Christian principles). The gaps, to evolutionary biologists, are job security the day they figure out all the answers is the day the research grants dry up.
Similar confusion is evident in issues from climate change to the effectiveness of condoms. Where the bulk of science doesn't fall behind the social conservatives or industry, they instead seek to muddle how the issue is perceived by the public. Taken individually, the issues might only raise the odd eyebrow. Taken in its sum total, as Mooney provides, and the book makes a powerful case, and a mighty compelling read.
That leads us to what's missing how confusion over science could affect us; the reason why regular people should care.
Mooney sprinkles references to it throughout the book, but it too often gets lost in the evidential tide. He's collected a number of the most prominent science controversies in one place, and the case is startling even for those who follow these controversies individually. He could have strengthened the impact of his point by giving us an idea of what we might miss out on by allowing the continued watering down of science.
It's a minor quibble, and does not take away from Mooney's case that something is amiss in Washington.
But, why stop in D.C.? For the last four years, we've heard the familiar bark of "sound science" come from Lansing, where lawmakers have stalled on needed groundwater regulations. We also hear it when talk about wetland management, and most recently in Dow's attempted dodge of dioxin culpability in the Titabawassee River. Every so often, we also hear rumbling on the state level about the need to give students access to "all viewpoints," in biology class.
That makes this not just a national war, but a statewide one, and what damage it can do nationally V the effect could be doubled in a state looking to diversify its economy into healthcare research and technology-based industry.
The solution is political, and like any piece of good journalism, Mooney provides insights into what has to be done to solve it, leaving the real leg work to the voters.
The book's Web site is www.waronscience.com. Chris Mooney maintains a Web log at http://chriscmooney.com/blog.asp. "The Republican War on Science " will be available in September and can be pre-ordered at www.amazon.com.
Eric Baerren is the Sun news editor. His columns run Fridays.
PETER D. WARD Published: August 14th, 2005 12:01 AM
I have a great idea. To improve the scholastic ability of our children, let's teach them that the Earth is flat.
And let's be serious about it really try to convince them the Earth is indeed flat as a pancake, and that all those laws of physics and pictures from space showing a round Earth have been misinterpreted by those arrogant scientists.
To really get the point across, let's also tell our kids that hundreds of scientists and politicians support the view that the world is flat even our president!
If any kid questions this wonderful new theory, let's intimidate him or her into line and be sure to let our kids know those who oppose this new hypothesis are godless liberals intent on destroying America, just as U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) blamed the Columbine tragedy on those who teach evolution.
Such seems to be the unintelligent approach of the so-called intelligent design movement. I say "so-called" because Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Witt and their cohorts at Seattle's Discovery Institute who make their living peddling this snake oil would have you believe there is a massive groundswell of scientists who have been won over to their cause.
They sometimes cite "400 brave scientists" who have signed on to intelligent design. Are they kidding? There are four to five times that number at the University of Washington alone who deal with facets of evolution every day and hold it as a proven scientific theory.
Add to that the hundreds of universities and public and private laboratories in this country, and many more around the world, and you start to see that these guys are very much like the tiny, tiny number of scientists, many paid for by the energy industry, who say human-induced global warming isn't happening.
Don't be misled. When these guys say evolution is only a theory, they actually prove their total lack of scientific understanding. Evolution is a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory. But gravity has been proved, you say? Think about it. What's proved is that when you let go of a brick it falls to the ground. Gravity is the theory that best explains why that happens. And in centuries of experimentation and testing, nothing has come along to replace gravity.
Likewise, nothing has come along to replace evolution as a scientific principle. And intelligent design cannot. Why? Because there is no way to test the hypothesis.
Meyer, Witt and friends would have you believe the evidence is all around. But, unlike evidence for scientific theories like evolution, the evidence for intelligent design is open to a wide variety of interpretations, none of them provable by repeated testing in the way of science. And so it comes down to what you believe. And that is faith, not science.
I can only imagine Bruce Chapman and his Discovery Institute friends must admire a place like Iran, where dissent is at best limited and where pesky scientific studies that would get in the way of the religious state never receive a public forum.
In China's Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, Chairman Mao Zedong purged all intellectuals, an action that had severe impact on development of the Chinese economy. But China learned from that error and now has more engineering graduates than does the United States. And not one of them had to learn intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.
I teach evolution at the University of Washington. Even at the college level, it is a very difficult and demanding subject, and its abundant proofs require a detailed understanding of genetics, molecular biochemistry and paleontology.
But for those who have made the intellectual journey to master these concepts, the stark explanatory power first realized by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago shows clearly how life on this planet evolved from the simple to the complex through natural selection and a lot of time.
But just as we do not teach electronics or quantum physics to our kids in middle school, we cannot possibly teach in a meaningful way more than a few catchphrases and rudimentary concepts about evolution at that level. So there is no way a middle school student would be equipped to independently judge between intelligent design and evolution. Yet that's precisely what some school boards in this country are asking of their students.
We in America must face a harsh truth. Our standard of living comes from our brainpower. We no longer build cars or locomotives or steel that the whole world wants. We have run through most of our natural resources, including the once vast old-growth forests. We no longer even build the only commercial jets worth buying.
Just as the rest of the world caught up to the United States in the quality of its basketball stars, so, too, is the rest of the world catching up to perhaps the last bastion of our greatness as a nation: our educational system at the university level.
The modern research universities in our country are the sources of almost all scientific, biological, and technical breakthroughs. But these universities depend upon a continued source of intelligent, curious children, students grounded in a good understanding of basic science.
Teaching intelligent design at the middle school or high school level will rob our young students of a proper grounding in science, because it bears no relationship to science. Those who say it does are toying with the future of our nation. And I believe they are doing so deliberately, even maliciously.
Peter Ward is a University of Washington professor of biology and earth and space sciences. He has been a UW faculty member since 1985.
Posted 8/25/2005 9:38 PM Updated 8/25/2005 10:08 PM
By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
DOVER, Pa. The high school here looks like American high schools everywhere: flat, featureless and brick, with the requisite athletic field and a billboard advertising "meet-the-teams night."
But the school term that starts here Tuesday promises to be anything but ordinary. A nationally watched court case and a polarizing local school board election have made this small southern Pennsylvania town a flash point for those who support and oppose intelligent design the concept that parts of the universe and human life are so complex, they are best explained by an intelligent cause or designer. "Chance and necessity do not explain the origins of life," says Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture, an intelligent design think tank in Seattle.
Is intelligent design science or religion? That's the question a U.S. district court judge in Harrisburg will consider starting Sept. 26, and Dover voters will weigh Nov. 4.
The two tests arise from a long struggle to discredit evolution, the theory that life forms evolved over billions of years through a natural process. Though broadly accepted by scientists, evolution has long been challenged by creationists who say God created the universe.
Courts repeatedly have found that teaching creationism in public schools amounts to promoting a religious viewpoint, in violation of the Constitution. Now come intelligent-design advocates. Hoping to avoid church-state conflicts, they don't discuss the identity of the designer, and they deny any link to creationism. But Eric Rothschild, the attorney leading the challenge against Dover schools, says intelligent design is "a new form of creationism" that still violates the separation of church and state.
Science or religion?
Debate continues A small band of scholars is promoting an alternative to evolution called intelligent design. Opponents call it creationism by another name. A guide to the three terms and the debate over them:
Creationism: God created the universe.
Intelligent design: Some biological structures, such as DNA instructions, are so complex they could not occur as a result of evolution and must be the work of an intelligent designer. No answer as to who or what that might be.
Evolution: Charles Darwin's theory that species evolve over billions of years through natural selection, inheriting small variations that improve individuals' abilities to survive and reproduce.
The theory of evolution is backed by 150 years of research. White House science adviser John Marburger called it "a cornerstone of modern biology."
Intelligent-design advocates want teachers to be more skeptical about evolution. For example, Stephen Meyer, a science philosopher and director of the Center for Science and Culture, says fossils don't show the evolution of species over generations.
Meyer and others say they are not pushing for discussions of God in biology class. But most scientists say intelligent design relies on a supernatural explanation and is thus a religious belief, not a scientific theory. Leonard Krishtalka, a Kansas paleontologist and museum director, calls it "creationism in a cheap tuxedo."
On the other end of the spectrum, fundamentalists criticize intelligent-design advocates for leaving out God. Intelligent design "could just as easily lead to New Age or Hindu-like notions of creation, as well as weird alien sci-fi notions," Carl Wieland says in an article for a group called Answers in Genesis. That, he says, might be worse than evolution.
By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll
Percentage of adults nationally that are "very" or "somewhat" familiar with:
Intelligent design: 45%
Percentage that believe the following are "definitely" or "probabaly" true:
Intelligent design: 31%
Source: USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll Aug. 5-7 of 1,004 adults nationally. Margin of error: =/- 3 percentage points.
The Dover school district requires that biology classes, in addition to teaching evolution, include a one-minute statement that explicitly mentions intelligent design and a book on the subject published by a Christian foundation. That policy believed by activists on both sides to be the only one of its kind in a U.S. school district goes on trial Sept. 26 in a federal lawsuit filed by 11 parents against the Dover Area School Board. Seven school board members who support the policy are on the ballot less than six weeks later, up against challengers who say intelligent design is a religious idea that doesn't belong in science class.
Still a mystery
Intelligent design has a network of passionate scholars and supporters who have helped four states write science education standards critical of evolution. Intelligent design is a prominent topic in newspapers and magazines. President Bush recently heartened advocates when he said it should be taught along with evolution.
Yet despite all the attention they've drawn, critics of evolution are losing in court and making little headway so far in most state legislatures and school boards. And intelligent design remains mysterious to many; more than half in the latest USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll say they are not familiar with it.
"A lot of us thought that school board elections all over the country would be dominated by it particularly in conservative areas," says Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics & Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College near here. "But other than a couple of places, it just has not taken off."
Even sympathizers alike say intelligent design probably isn't destined to become a galvanizing national political movement such as abortion or gay marriage. Republicans and conservatives are divided on its merits and skeptical about its relative importance to voters. Even its most passionate proponents are moving ahead gingerly, for fear they'll provoke court challenges like the one here and set back their own cause.
The Center for Science and Culture (CSC) and its parent, the Discovery Institute, are leading promoters of intelligent design. Their goal: "to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life" by 2018.
Discovery is trying to avoid a constitutional showdown that could result in a ban on teaching intelligent design. The current approach: urging schools to "teach the controversy" over evolution that it has fueled.
To that end, Discovery tried to head off the Dover confrontation. John West, CSC's associate director, says freedom of speech is at stake. Banning intelligent design is wrong, he says, but so is "trying to impose it in classrooms," as Dover does.
Attorney Seth Cooper advised the Dover school board not to adopt its policy and even offered guidelines for change. "We do believe a lawsuit is certain in your situation," Cooper told Alan Bonsell, the school board curriculum chairman, in a Dec. 10, 2004, e-mail. "We strongly recommend some corrective action be taken."
Discovery is constantly on alert for such brushfires. In June, when Utah state Rep. Chris Buttars proposed a bill to teach "divine design," West accused Buttars of wrongly conflating creationism and intelligent design. So far, Buttars has not introduced his bill.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Thomas Creighton introduced a bill authorizing school districts to teach intelligent design. He says it is opposed by people who have a more "atheistic" worldview. It's also opposed by Discovery, which said so in a letter to the Legislature.
No GOP consensus
Republicans and conservatives are divided over intelligent design. Seven state Republican parties Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas have "anti-evolutionist" platform planks that support teaching creationism and/or intelligent design, according to the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education.
But the national GOP platform does not mention it. In Pennsylvania, says party spokesman Josh Wilson, "there are Republicans on both sides" and it has never come up at a state committee meeting.
A few conservatives in Congress have aligned themselves with intelligent design. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in 2001 that students should debate "such alternative theories as intelligent design." But Santorum, who is running for re-election next year, told National Public Radio on Aug. 4 that "as far as intelligent design is concerned, I really don't believe it has risen to the level of a scientific theory ... that we would want to teach it alongside of evolution."
Some Republicans are reluctant to wade in. Ex-House speaker Newt Gingrich, who often discusses his faith in God and in science, is refusing to do interviews on intelligent design. When the conservative Heritage Foundation invited CSC director Meyer to lecture last April, it received protest e-mails. Some fellows said the opposing view should also be presented. "We don't do any research in this area at all," says Stuart Butler, the group's domestic policy director. "There are a large number of people at Heritage who disagree with it."
Two other conservative think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, list no intelligent design experts on their Web sites. Most Christian advocacy groups focus on judges, abortion and gay issues. Focus on the Family has worked with intelligent design advocates and featured proponents on founder James Dobson's radio show several times. But even so, "it's not on our radar screen as high as the other issues," says Tom Minnery, the group's vice president of public policy.
Will intelligent design ever turn into a broad movement? It may not because of its tendency to divide conservatives, and other reasons:
It's not that important to most voters. Even in Dover, intelligent design is secondary to school financing. "The big issue really is responsible management of the school system and the taxpayers' money," says school board member Jim Cashman, an intelligent design supporter up for re-election.
It's a local concern that doesn't lend itself to federal action. "It doesn't seem that it's an issue that would mobilize social conservatives nationally," Minnery says.
It's too muddled to generate what Butler calls "political adrenaline." You can't be for and against abortion, he says, but you can believe in God and evolution: "It's like thinking of the world poetically and ... of the world scientifically."
It doesn't carry the emotional punch of abortion or gay marriage. William Martin, a Rice University fellow in religion and public policy, says the intelligent design battle cry is that evolution is unproved, "and here's an alternative we believe is more appropriate."
"They're not saying human beings are being killed, or the family is being destroyed," he says, citing conservative attacks on abortion and gay marriage. Martin, author of With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, says intelligent design "is not likely to die off right away. But I don't think it will get much further."
One indicator of its future will be the outcome of the trial here. But that's expected to last several weeks and go to the Supreme Court, no matter which side wins. A more immediate measure will be the Nov. 4 school board elections.
The candidates on the Democratic ticket include four moderate Republicans. One of them, Patricia Dapp, voted for Bush last year but now says he's "overstepped his bounds" on personal, religious issues such as intelligent design.
Bonsell, the curriculum chairman, is running for re-election on the GOP ticket. He says he can't believe the fuss over Dover's policy.
His daughter will take ninth-grade biology this year along with the daughter of a Democratic opponent, physics teacher Bryan Rehm. "I don't believe in evolution, but I don't mind my daughter hearing about it. Why can't there be a discussion?" Bonsell asks.
Rehm replies: "Teach intelligent design. But not in science class."
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) this month came out against the use of physical restraint in the treatment of children. Physical restraint is a key element of Attachment Therapy (AT), a bizarre and dangerous pseudo-psychotherapy used mainly on adopted and foster children. A large proportion of AT practitioners are social workers.
At NASW's triennial meeting in Washington, DC, on August 7th, delegates unanimously declared the organization as "opposed to the physical restraint of children for purposes other than safety." Delegates also noted that physical restraint of children for any other reason is a violation of their Code of Ethics.
The resolution was submitted by Utah's delegation. Utah authorities
long struggled with social workers using and teaching Attachment
and AT parenting techniques. Two children in Utah are known to have
in AT-related tragedies involving restraint:
At least two cases of child death from AT-related restraint have been
the hands of social workers:
"Our chapter has long been warning of the dangers and abuses of physical restraint," says Alan Misbach, President-Elect of the Utah NASW. See: http://www.childrenintherapy.org/library/documents/utahnasw.pdf
Said Misbach, "Too many professionals, including social workers, have been seduced by the 'quick fix' that restraint-as-therapy promises. We welcome the help of our national organization in alerting the public, regulators, and our fellow professionals that any use of restraint by a social worker other than for immediate safety is unethical."
The NASW joins a growing list of professional organizations opposing
use of restraint except in safety emergencies:
The entire text of the resolution can be found on the ACT website at: http://www.childrenintherapy.org/library/documents/nasw.html.
*AT NEWS* sends the latest news/opinions to activists and allied organizations about the many abusive, pseudoscientific, and violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with our nation's most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees.
AT NEWS is the publication of *Advocates for Children in Therapy.* For more information on Attachment Therapy and a film clip demonstrating AT, go to the Utah activists' site at http://www.kidscomefirst.info and ACT's website: http://www.childrenintherapy.org.
Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
WHY IS ATTACHMENT THERAPY *TORTURE*?
Attachment Therapy is therapist-initiated physical contact and restraint which aims to inflict emotional and physical discomfort on a child (or infant) so that the child struggles, often for hours, until exhausted. AT parenting methods are severe and are largely based on humiliation, deprivation and isolation.
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
IN the not-too-distant future, maps of the solar system may be redrawn to add another planet - or perhaps take one away. Last month, when scientists announced the discovery of a possible 10th planet, some nine billion miles from the Sun, they reignited a long-running debate about what a true planet is. They are grappling with whether the newly found celestial body, known for now as 2003 UB313, should be granted planetary status, and if it is not, whether Pluto, a like- size ice ball in a far orbit of the Sun, should be stripped of the title.
Astronomers are afire over the shake-up, and their musings have been lighting up the news media. But they aren't the only ones excited about the discovery. Their mystical cousins, astrologers, have also been jolted; they are speculating about what it might mean for their cosmic readings and prophecies. After all, they, too, are students of the solar system.
Astrologers often employ the maxim "as above, so below." Now suddenly that which is "above" may be radically changed.
"It's exciting," said Richard Brown, an astrologer from Toronto. "I'm immediately on the Internet, and I'm just jumping up and down."
Michael E. Brown (no relation to Richard), an astronomer and a member of the team that discovered 2003 UB313, said he has been peppered with inquiries from astrologers seeking to know the exact moment he made his observation. Dr. Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, subsequently posted the time of discovery on his Web page for their benefit, he said, because he has always appreciated astrologers' enthusiasm for the heavens. "The astronomical world frequently sits around and bickers," he said. "It's nice to see a group sit around and take pleasure in new discoveries."
If 2003 UB313 is a 10th planet, astrologers say it may have a profound influence over people's lives, and thus on the forecasts astrologers make. But its potency cannot be discerned until perhaps several years after the astronomical debate is settled, when astronomers have had time to chart its orbit. So astrologers are not inclined to do anything hasty. There will be no tearing up of charts, no hurriedly penciling in a new planet and certainly no crossing out of Pluto, a body that many astrologers hold near and dear.
On the contrary, astrologers seem to have reached an unspoken consensus to take a wait-and-see approach. Wait and see if there is a 10th planet. Then wait and observe its influence on human life. Astrologers have been searching the sky for centuries for clues to how the positions of stars and planets could affect life on Earth. Their celestial observations intrigued Chaucer, Shakespeare and even Galileo. The profession still thrives, supported in no small part it seems by people who say they do not really believe in it, as evidenced by the enormous popularity of horoscopes in magazines, newspapers and on the Web. Last year America Online's most popular search term was "horoscope."
A Gallup Poll telephone survey conducted in June found that 25 percent of Americans believe that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives.
"We like to think of ourselves as the second-oldest profession," said Mr. Brown, the astrologer.
Dr. Brown said, "I think of it as entertainment," adding that his wife reads her horoscope in the newspaper each morning, though not because she believes the predictions will come true.
But to some critics, the discovery of a potential 10th planet is just more evidence that astrology is humbug. If astrologers were able to detect the influences of planets on people's lives accurately, should they not have noticed the influence of a 10th planet long before astronomers detected it?
"You would think astrologers would have noticed after 2,000 years of making predictions that every 20 years or so things would get messed up," said Phil Plait, an astronomer at Sonoma State University, in Rohnert Park, Calif. "And then someone would say, 'Maybe there's another planet out there.' "
Astrologists argue that they have never asserted that the known planets and stars account for every last detail of human life. "We assume there are going to be other planets," said Deb McBride, an astrologer in Brooklyn.
Leigh Oswald, an astrologer in London, said unknown forces may determine when scientists discover new planets. "A planet is discovered when it's appropriate for humanity to understand it," she said. "In other words, when we are ready for it."
Throughout history, when faced with the addition of a new planet, many astrologers have duly figured out how to use it in their calculations. Pluto, the most recently discovered planet, is so tightly woven into astrological charts, to lose it would be unthinkable, Ms. Oswald said. "It's been observed to have a huge influence on people's lives."
Because Pluto is an outer planet, it operates on a level that affects humanity as a whole as well as individuals, astrologers say. (The farther out a planet is, theoretically, the more global its effects.) Named for the Greek god of the underworld, Pluto brings about unexpected changes. "It's usually dark," Ms. McBride said. "It's usually a huge upheaval in someone's life." That upheaval - in a person's health, family or career - is generally followed by a rebuilding, a resurrection, she said.
Pluto is in Sagittarius right now, which to astrologers means it is exerting an influence on larger social forces like religions, ideologies and cultural traditions. "When you put Pluto in a sign like Sagittarius, you start getting religious wars, differences in cultures," Ms. McBride said.
Astrologers are especially eager to learn 2003 UB313's permanent name, because in their business, a celestial object's name is essential to its interpretation. "Naming is important, particularly when a name has a mythological charge to it," said Barry Perlman, a San Francisco astrologer. "You're connecting it to a lineage of cultural traditions."
Even though a planet's name is chosen by mere mortals, astrologers do not consider the choice a matter of chance. Rather, they see it arising from an alignment of unseen forces that affect the collective human unconscious. They find it no accident that Pluto, for example, was discovered in 1930, in the era of the rise of Nazism and the development of the atomic bomb.
Dr. Brown has been informally calling the possible new planet Xena, after the title character from the cult television series "Xena: Warrior Princess." (He has given equally playful nicknames to other planetary bodies he has discovered, including Santa, Easter Bunny and Flying Dutchman.)
The official name of 2003 UB313 has yet to be determined however. First the International Astronomical Union, which has the last word in naming celestial objects, has to decide if it is a planet, something that is unlikely to happen before 2006, Dr. Brown said. He would not reveal the name his team has nominated, but allowed that it is neither Xena nor the name of any Greek or Roman god.
With or without a new planet, some astrologers say they already have plenty to study, because they believe that celestial bodies, from the Moon to the billions of stars, can be incorporated into readings. "There's a whole treasure trove that we haven't used," said John Cook, an astrologer from New York City.
Like many astrologers, Mr. Cook is fascinated by the work of astronomers, but he knows the feeling is rarely mutual. "Every time people meet an astronomer, they ask them what their sun sign is, and they hate that," Mr. Cook said with a chuckle.
But Dr. Brown, a Gemini, doesn't mind. "I'm happy that they're thinking about the solar system," he said, "even if I don't agree."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Catherine Bennett Thursday August 25, 2005 The Guardian
In 1982 the Prince of Wales was elected president of the BMA, and promptly used this platform to lecture doctors on the attractions of healing. Naturally, he anticipated some resistance. "Perhaps," he told the doctors, "we just have to accept it is God's will that the unorthodox individual is doomed to years of frustration, ridicule and failure in order to act out his role in the scheme of things, until his day arrives and mankind is ready to receive his message."
Years of frustration passed, but mankind did not get any readier. The Prince persisted. A speech last year, recommending Gerson therapy, a regime involving much juice and coffee enemas, attracted, if possible, more ridicule than any of his previous observations on alternative medicine. The prince said he knew of a lady, diagnosed with terminal cancer, for whom Gerson had proved a real lifesaver.
The most forceful rebuke, on that occasion, came from Professor Michael Baum, the eminent oncologist, who wrote an open letter in the British Medical Journal, beseeching Charles to be more careful in recommending unproven alternative therapies to patients with life-threatening diseases. "My authority comes with a knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years' active involvement in cancer research," Baum pointed out. "Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth." Believers in God's will, of course, might see this accident differently.
Charles persisted. He commissioned his biggest yet challenge to conventional medicine: a report, to be published this autumn, which reportedly argues that the wider provision of complementary therapies such as homeopathy could be cost-effective for the NHS. It has been prepared by Christopher Smallwood, a former economics adviser, whose medical qualifications are identical to Prince Charles's: nil.
It is pointed out that Smallwood has nothing to do with the Prince of Wales's own Foundation for Integrated Medicine, which believes in "promoting a holistic and integrated approach to healthcare which engages with all aspects of a patient's being including mind, body and spirit and which takes into consideration environmental, psychosocial and nutritional aspects of health". It also believes in "the intrinsic healing capacity of every person".
It was not this foundation, but the Prince of Wales himself who commissioned the forthcoming report, of which a draft has been seen by Professor Edzard Ernst, of the University of Exeter and a contributor to this newspaper. Ernst has commented that the report features "outrageous estimates without any strong evidence to support them" and "is based on such poor science, it is hair-raising".
Of course the final draft may be different, but given its authorship, and in the absence of new research which might justify extending NHS provision of complementary therapies, there is every reason to believe the prince's latest plug for magic-based medicine will be received in the traditional fashion: denounced by doctors, and supported by a few like-minded aficionados of coffee enemas, cranial osteopathy, and Samuel Hahnemann's distilled water. If, as it appears, Charles has attempted on this occasion to shape public health policy, there will presumably be further questions about his increasingly ambitious assessment of his constitutional importance.
Since he first declared his antipathy to orthodox treatment, this pattern of events has been repeated so often, and with so little sign that the prince is getting anywhere in revolutionising the health service, that the most interesting aspect of his interventions has ceased to be what he is saying (for these hallowed truths are, in any case, unchanging), and become, instead, the intensity of his need to keep on saying it. It is time, in short, for the thing to be considered holistically, taking into consideration the full environmental, psychosocial and nutritional context.
Ridicule me if you like, but I intuit a quite unusual kind pathology at work here. It has been noted, for years, that the prince's default mood is one of extravagant self-pity, usually on the basis that no one understands/appreciates him, everybody mocks/despises him. But this certainty, so essential to the prince's wellbeing, is apt to be shaken, regularly, by the fact of his being one of the most fortunate men alive. Thus, the prince has become dependent, one might almost say addicted, to the regular supply of condemnation required to trigger a sensation of victimhood, and thus, a truly satisfying bout of self-pity. (It seems no coincidence that his new report - a rather obvious plea for more Baum-style critiques - arrives at a time of personal fulfilment, shortly after marriage to the woman he loves.)
Why is medicine, unlike history teaching, or conventional farming, the subject of the prince's most sustained, deliberately ignorant and vexatious challenges? Because over time, hardened to normal doses of criticism, the prince has become dependent on stronger and stronger levels of denunciation, and discovered that the collective hostility of the medical profession is a more powerful drug than the much milder indignation of the academic or agricultural establishments.
Without actually laying my hands on the prince, I am reluctant to be more definite, and it remains quite possible that a simple case of blocked energy explains his pointless and faintly creepy obsession with other people's diseases. Alternatively, it could stem from a bad experience in a surgery around 60 years ago. Add to that his growing belief in the sacred dimension of his office and you can see how the prince may, quite genuinely, have come to believe that he possesses healing powers, like absolute monarchs of the past.
Unlike his predecessors, who seem to have specialised, with some reluctance, in sufferers from scrofula, Charles generously proposes to heal us one and all, regardless of ridicule and frustration and the rather steep cost to the NHS. Eventually, mankind will be ready to receive his message. Not today, though.
Savaged by animal lovers If the government deserves to be criticised for changing the rules of the game, using terrorism as an excuse, it seems only right that it should be congratulated when, in the face of terrorism, the rules of the game survive entirely unchanged. Newchurch guinea pig farm closed down because animal rights extremists had been allowed to persecute the residents of this farm, and of five surrounding villages, for six years. When villagers asked for an injunction in March, a high court judge refused to extend this protection, even though he agreed that "the Halls, and those connected with them, have been subjected to a menacing and prolonged campaign. The intention is to terrorise."
The exultant tone of various animal rights websites suggests that new laws designed to restrict animal-loving thuggery may be equally ineffectual in changing the rules of this particular game. While semi-respectable sites merely vow to apply Newchurch-style methods to their next victims, anonymous UK contributors to a website called Bite Back offer a triumphant diary "from the front lines". Recent additions include a claim to have burned down Hertford College's boathouse on July 4 (a protest against the South Parks lab) and much crowing about nighttime attacks outside various family homes (addresses and phone numbers supplied for future visitors), whose inhabitants are taunted with their vulnerability: "While you sleep in bed at night, we are out there walking round your property, spray-painting your house, spray-painting your car, watching you and hitting back for the animals. Wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you think your friends are, always remember nothing is as it seems and the ALF is watching and waiting to get you and your family."
And that was published before the surrender of the benighted farm in Newchurch.
8/25/2005, 8:08 a.m. ET The Associated Press
PORTERSVILLE, Pa. (AP) A 5-year-old autistic boy died after receiving a controversial medical treatment some believe may cure the neurological and developmental disorder, officials said.
Abubakar Tariq Nadama, of Monroeville, died Tuesday morning at Butler Memorial Hospital after receiving a chelation therapy treatment at the Advanced Integrative Medicine Center in Portersville.
The boy went into cardiac arrest after receiving his third treatment from Dr. Roy E. Kerry, said Butler County Deputy Coroner Larry Barr.
State police in Butler County were investigating Nadama's death. The boy's mother, Marwa Nadama, said she didn't blame the therapy, but was waiting for test results.
In chelation therapy, the patient receives an intravenous injection of a synthetic amino acid ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid that latches onto heavy metals and then passes through the urine.
The synthetic amino acid also known as EDTA has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only after blood tests confirm that the patient is suffering from acute heavy-metal poisoning.
Some parents of autistic children believe chelation therapy can detoxify and have reported significant improvements in their children. This has led more parents to seek the therapy since 2000.
"There are those in the alternative medical field who feel that mercury and other toxic elements do contribute to autistic disorder, and that their removal would be a pathway to reducing autism," said Dr. Jonathan Collin, a practitioner of alternative medicine in Washington State.
But critics of chelation therapy said there isn't sufficient evidence to link autism to mercury or lead toxicity and called the procedure risky.
Howard Carpenter, the executive director of the Advisory Board on Autism-Related Disorders said it was just a matter of time before there would be a death linked to the therapy.
"Parents of children with autism are desperate. Some are willing to try anything," Carpenter said.
When Nadama went into cardiac arrest, Kerry's office staff started to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the boy, Barr said.
He said an autopsy was inconclusive, and more tests would be needed to determine how Nadama died.
By CHARLES COLSON BreakPoint Published August 25, 2005
President Bush sent reporters into a tizzy recently by saying that he thought schools ought to teach both evolution and intelligent design. Students ought to hear both theories, he said, so they "can understand what the debate is about."
Well, the usual critics jumped all over the president, but he's absolutely right. Considering all competing theories was once the very definition of academic freedom. But today, the illiberal forces of secularism want to stifle any challenges to Darwineven though Darwin is proving to be eminently challengeable.
Take biochemist Michael Behe's argument. He says that the cell is irreducibly complex. All the parts have to work at once, so it could not have evolved. No one has been able to successfully challenge Behe's argument.
In fact, the scientific case for intelligent design is so strong that, as BreakPoint readers have heard me say, even Antony Flew, once the world's leading philosopher of atheism, has renounced his life-long beliefs and has become, as he puts it, a deist. He now believes an intelligent designer designed the universe, though he says he cannot know God yet.
I was in Oxford recently, speaking at the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute, and had a chance to visit with Flew. He told a crowd that, as a professional philosopher, he had used all the tools of his trade to arrive at what he believed were intellectually defensible suppositions supporting atheism. But the intelligent design movement shook those presuppositions. He said, however, on philosophical grounds that he could not prove the existence of the God of the Bible.
In the question period, I walked to the microphone and told him as nicely as I could that he had put himself in an impossible box. He could prove theism was the only philosophically sustainable position, but he could not prove Who God was. I said, "If you could prove Who God was, you could not love Godwhich is the principle object of life."
I admitted that I had once gotten myself into the same position. I had studied biblical worldview for years and believed that I could prove beyond a doubt that the biblical worldview is the only one that is rational, the only one that conforms to the truth of the way the world is made. But that led to a spiritual crisis of sorts, when one morning in my quiet time I realized that while I could prove all of this, I could not prove Who God was. I began to worry: When this life was over, would I really meet Him?
Some weeks later, as I describe in my new book The Good Life, it hit me that if I could prove God, I could not know Him. The reason is that, just as He tells us, He wants us to come like little children with faith. If you could resolve all intellectual doubts, there would be no need for faith. You would then know God the same way that you know the tree in the garden outside your home. You would look at it, know it is there, and that's it, as Thomas Aquinas once said.
Faith is necessary because without it you cannot love God. So as I said to Dr. Flew, if you could prove God, you couldn't love Him, which is His whole purpose in creating you. He later told me that I have raised a very provocative point that he would have to give some thought to.
So, I hope you will pray for Antony Flewa gentle and courageous man who appears to be seeking God. And we should remember that if this brilliant man can be persuaded out of his atheism by intelligent design, anyone can see it. Those of us contending for the intelligent design point of view, which now includes among our ranks the president of the United States, I'm happy to say, are on increasingly solid ground.
Copyright © 2005 Prison Fellowship.
Thursday, August 25, 2005; A18
Richard Sternberg has done science a favor too subtle for the Smithsonian Institution to grasp ["Editor Explains Reasons for 'Intelligent Design' Article," news story, Aug. 19]. He has moved the debate away from the lecture hall, where scientist is confronted by intelligent-designing lawyer, to the grinding millstones of the scientific journal, where all the facts, theories and suppositions can be weighed and some found worthy.
The way to scientifically discuss the issue is to have competent scientists present the case as well as possible. Intelligent design may or may not survive, but the honorable game is to address the argument, not dogmatically attack the man.
HUGO G. BLASDEL
The Smithsonian Institution has forsaken the marketplace of ideas for censorship and thought control. When presented with a debate about the theories of evolution and intelligent design in its affiliate journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, the Smithsonian treated the journal's editor as a heretic for daring to publish such discussion.
Never mind that the editor, Richard Sternberg, has two doctorates in evolutionary biology and does not necessarily believe in intelligent design. That did not stop his colleagues from accusing him of being a closet creationist.
Even Charles Darwin would be hard-pressed to explain how a society founded on the principles of John Stuart Mill has evolved into one against which George Orwell warned.
Aren't scientists justified in criticizing the publication of an unscientific paper in a scholarly science journal?
Although the article's author, Stephen C. Meyer, had undergraduate training in physics and geology and subsequently worked as a geophysicist, his postgraduate work was in philosophy and the history of science. He is on the faculty of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian university, where he teaches a course in Christian apologetics in the School of Ministry.
Mr. Meyer also is director and senior fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, the think tank at the center of the intelligent design creationism movement. As revealed in a fundraising document, the Discovery Institute has a plan that culminates in three 20-year goals:
· To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
· To see the application of design theory in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, and psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; and to see its influence in the fine arts.
· To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.
When scientists see words such as "dominant perspective" used in connection with intelligent design, they have every right to be alarmed.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Eric Wang's Aug. 24 column, "From Darwin to Orwell" is misleading in how evolution stands in a theory as opposed to "intelligent design," a misleading "theory" that attempts to go over court creationism rulings to teach what is essentially a variation of creationism. As theories go, evolution has as much evidence towards it as to validate it than any other biological theory. Intelligent design, however, does not have any set examples disproving evolution or advocating their cause.
The theory, for example, does not scientifically explain issues in evolution such as the "Cambrian Explosion" with anything other than a presumptuous claim that there exists an intelligent designer, i.e. God.
Belief in an intelligent designer and belief in intelligent design do not have to go hand in hand. Until more proof arrives for this misguiding theory (I do not know how this could occur, considering there is no way to even find evidence for it), leave the evolution/intelligent design" debate in history class and let scientists teach science, not theology.
August 25th, 2005
Of the many reasons why intelligent design an argument I reject ought to be taught alongside evolution in our public schools, perhaps none is more compelling than the ignorance and demagoguery which is evident in our current national debate over the issue. Below are four myths you frequently come across while reading the political literature on the subject, followed by the facts.
Myth: The theory of intelligent design is a modern version of Creationism.
Charles Krauthammer (in Time Magazine ):
"In Kansas, conservative school-board members are attempting to rewrite statewide standards for teaching evolution to make sure that creationism's modern stepchild intelligent design infiltrates the curriculum."
Jerry Coyne (The New Republic ):
"'Intelligent design' is merely the latest incarnation of the biblical creationism espoused by William Jennings Bryan in Dayton."
Richard Dawkins (London Times ):
"ID [Intelligent Design] is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name."
Fact: The theory of intelligent design goes back at least as far as classical Greece and it has been debated in nearly every century since then.
Our century is no different. Those who advocate intelligent design are not "disguising" anything; they are not furtive men. They are offering for your consideration an idea that has intrigued the minds of everyone from Plato to Kant, an idea that possibly began when Socrates asked:
"With such signs of forethought in the design of living creatures, can you doubt they are the work of choice or design?"
Now, because the design argument can be found in Plato's dialogues, we can deduce that the theory not only predates the theory of creationism which was but one religious response to Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) it is also not wedded to Judeo-Christian scripture.
Krauthammer, Coyne and Dawkins are wrong here.
Certainly, there have been updated versions of the intelligent design theory see, for example, Oxford professor Richard Swinburne's article, "The Argument from Design" in Philosophy, vol. 43 (1968) but the design hypothesis is no more modern than the Epicurean hypothesis that the universe consists solely of particles in random motion.
Myth: The theory of intelligent design claims that the designer is the God described in the Bible.
Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education (USA Today ):
"ID advocates are also coy about the identity of the designer, claiming that it doesn't have to be God. But, token allusions to the possibility of extraterrestrial or time-traveling biochemists notwithstanding, no one is fooled into thinking that the designer is not the Designer: God."
Fact: It is a matter of formal logic, not deception, that allows one to consistently accept the intelligent design argument while utterly repudiating the theory of creationism as well as the Bible itself and its God.
Much misinformation abounds on this point. The argument from intelligent design is an argument from the order or regularity of things in the world to a powerful non-embodied rational agent who is responsible for that order, a being or beings that may not be the God of Abraham and Jesus. As David Hume famously remarked, perhaps this world "was only the first rude essay of some infant deity who afterwards abandoned it"; maybe the deity is now deceased and our world is like a battery burning out until we are all dead like our cosmic Author. Be that as it may, you need not embrace the God of the Bible, or its notions of creation, in order to accept the notion that a divine hand, maybe even a devilish hand, is behind the workings of our universe.
Myth: Conservatives and Christians necessarily accept the intelligent design argument.
Jean Chen (Pop & Politics ):
"Intelligent design is just another strategy from conservative Christians to ban evolution."
Fact: You can consistently be a political conservative or a devout Christian and still totally reject the argument from intelligent design.
How many are aware that, of the many critics of the design argument, none were more formidable than a political conservative, on the one hand, and a Christian fundamentalist, on the other?
David Hume, an agnostic and a conservative, did not try to censor the design argument from students, as some now evidently wish to do with America's youth. As the honest intellectual he was, he advanced the design argument in its then most cogent form and then critiqued it mercilessly in his classic Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779).
In the following century, the Danish thinker Soren Kierkegaard, a profoundly God-fearing Christian literalist, also jettisoned the intelligent design argument, just as he wholeheartedly repudiated all attempts at proving God's existence. But he did so for reasons of faith. He thought, and quite reasonably, that any such proof would undermine our freedom to choose Christianity. After all, if God's existence could be shown to be true like a Euclidean proposition, then what would happen to that other significant article of faith which we call "free will"? If God could be demonstrated like a math problem, then wouldn't one have to believe in Him by force of logic? Rather than by love, by choice, by gambling one's very existence with fear and trembling on the Unknown, the very stuff of the human spirit as described throughout the Bible?
Myth: The theory of evolution and monotheism are logically at odds or, at least, inimical.
Jacob Weisberg (Slate ):
"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)."
Fact: You can consistently accept the theory of evolution and still be a monotheist, seeing the hand of God in the evolutionary workings of the universe.
In 1930, F.R. Tennant wrote a magnificent book called Philosophical Theology, wherein he developed something called "The Anthropic Principle." This principle suggested that the cosmos was fashioned for the development of intelligent life. Had there been only a slight alteration in the values of, say, the charge of the electron or the degree of nuclear force in the universe then intelligent life, or any life at all for that matter, would most likely not have developed. Tennant said it was possible to imagine a frenzied world wherein no rules held. But the actual universe was not chaotic and was evidently regulated in such a way that the evolutionary process lead to an environment in which intelligent life think Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Nightingale could exist. Such intellect, he thought, suggested evidence of a divine plan. Of course, Tennant's conclusion might well have been mistaken, but he was right to point out that there was nothing obviously incompatible between the theory of evolution and the notion that a deity designed the evolutionary process itself.
Accordingly, the current idea that the "science" of evolution is logically at odds with the "faith" of intelligent design may rest on a false disjunction.
The dispute between intelligent design versus a randomly ordered cosmos is age-old and fascinating and still unresolved. That smart and honest writers are now busy promulgating sheer fictions about this debate suggests that we are indeed in need of education on this topic. And that is a sufficient reason, in my opinion, for it to be taught in our schools, perhaps not in biology classes, but at least in mandatory philosophy classes, something our school systems do not demand to our national shame.
As I said at the opening, I am not persuaded by intelligent design arguments, not because the theory of evolution is unassailable it most certainly has weaknesses but because I don't think anyone has successfully answered the criticisms of intelligent design offered by Hume, Kant and Kiergegaard. If those secular fundamentalists who wish to gag intelligent design theories are so worried about future generations, let them demand, then, that we also teach Hume, Kant and Kierkegaard in our public schools rather than censorship! Our students should be exposed to this great discussion in all its dimensions, so that they can make up their own minds.
As President Bush said: "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." That is the scientific and liberal attitude.
Jonah Avriel Cohen recently finished his PhD in philosophy and religion at the University of London. He will be teaching Humanities at Kaplan University and can be reached at email@example.com
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I hope readers will look up their definition of evolution in a standard biology textbook instead of using Joseph G. McCormack's.
All arguments made by McCormack have been addressed and refuted long ago. Those interested may look up these arguments addressed at Web sites like www.talkorigins.org or www.ncseweb.org.
McCormack's comment that Intelligent Design "is recognized by many scientist" is disingenuous. Although scientific facts do not depend on their popularity, McCormack ought to know that the number of scientists who support Intelligent Design are a vast minority when compared to all practicing scientists who affirm evolution as an unifying principle of modern biology.
The era of prescribing gods or supernatural explanations for gaps in our scientific knowledge is long gone. Nevertheless, this is precisely what Intelligent Design is all about: In case of doubt, press the god button. Lacking any content, Intelligent Design (a.k.a. Creationism) is all about recasting the normal debate that occurs in science as doubt or problems with evolution, or rehashing old arguments that have been long refuted. That this both bad science and bad theology does not seem to bother these folks a bit.
M. A. Hernandez, Gilroy