Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
The New Republic asks conservative opinion leaders how they come down on evolution, intelligent design and the classroom.
05:44 AM CDT on Sunday, September 4, 2005
American Enterprise Institute and National Review
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I do believe in evolution." What he thinks of intelligent design: "If intelligent design means that evolution occurs under some divine guidance, I believe that."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Sure."
What he thinks of intelligent design:
"I think it's interesting. ... I think it's wrong. I think it's God-in-the-gaps theorizing. But I'm not hostile to it the way other people are because I don't, while I think evolution is real, I don't think any specific there are a lot of unknowns left in evolution theory, and criticizing evolution from different areas doesn't really bother me, just as long as you're not going to say the world was created in six days or something."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't think you should teach religious conclusions as science and I don't think you should teach science as religion. ... I see nothing [wrong] with having teachers pay some attention to the sensitivities of other people in the room. I think if that means you're more careful about some issues than others, that's fine. People are careful about race and gender; I don't see why all of a sudden we can't be diplomatic on these issues when it comes to religion."
The Washington Post
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Of course."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "At most, interesting."
Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "The idea that [intelligent design] should be taught as a competing theory to evolution is ridiculous. ... The entire structure of modern biology and every branch of it [is] built around evolution, and to teach anything but evolution would be a tremendous disservice to scientific education."
William F. Buckley
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "I'd have to write that down. ... I'd have to say something more carefully than I can over the telephone. I'm a Christian."
Whether schools should raise the possibility that the original genetic code was written by an intelligent designer: "Well, surely, yeah, absolutely."
The American Conservative
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I don't believe that evolution can explain the creation of matter. ... Do I believe in Darwinian evolution? The answer is no."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "Do I believe in a Darwinian evolutionary process which can be inspired by a creator? Yeah, that's a real possibility. I just don't believe it can explain the tremendous complexity of the human being when you get down to DNA and you get down to atomic particles and molecules, atomic particles, subatomic particles, which we're only beginning to understand right now. "
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "Evolution [has] been so powerful a theory in Western history in the 19th and 20th centuries and often a malevolent force it's been used by non-Christians and anti-Christians to justify policies which have been horrendous. I do believe that every American student should be introduced to the idea and its effects on society. But I don't think it ought to be taught as fact. It ought to be taught as theory."
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I think God's responsible for the existence of the universe and everything in it. ... I think God is probably clever enough to think up evolution. ... It's plausible to me that God designed evolution; I don't know why that's outside the realm. It's not, in my view."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't have a problem with public schools or any schools teaching evolution. I guess I would have a problem if a school or a science teacher asserted that we know how life began because we don't so far as I know. Do we? ... If science teachers are teaching that we know things that in fact we don't know, then I'm against that. That's a lie. But if they are merely describing the state of knowledge in 2005, then I don't have a problem with that. If they are saying, 'Most scientists believe this,' and most scientists believe it, then it's an accurate statement. What bothers me is the suggestion that we know things we don't know. That's just another form of religion, it seems to me."
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "To the extent that I am familiar with it, and that's not very much, I guess what I think is this: The intelligent designers are correct insofar as they are reacting against a view of evolution which holds that it can't have been guided by God in any way can't even have sort of been set in motion by God to achieve particular results, and that no step in the process is guided by God. But they seem to give too little attention to the possibility that God could have set up an evolutionary process."
, says JOHN G. WEST of the Discovery InstituBut it doesn't belong in schools - yet.
05:29 AM CDT on Sunday, September 4, 2005
I'm not sure I fully understand what exactly intelligent design means," explained Ohio's hapless governor, Bob Taft, recently. At least he was honest.
A lack of knowledge about intelligent design hasn't stopped many politicians and pundits from condemning it. Howard Dean, for example, has asserted that "there's no factual evidence for intelligent design," although it's doubtful he knows anything about the concept.
It's not just politicians and pundits who have dismissed intelligent design based on ignorance; so have some scientists. The most notable example is the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which passed a resolution declaring intelligent design unscientific in 2002.
After the resolution was issued, I surveyed association board members about what articles and books they had read by proponents of intelligent design. Of the four who responded, none could identify even a single article or book.
While one board member said she had perused unspecified sources on the Internet, Alan Leshner, the head of the association, couldn't even make that claim. He responded that the issue had been looked at by the group's "science policy staff."
Now there's a novel way to determine the validity of a new scientific theory: Don't investigate the evidence for yourself.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the discussion over intelligent design is that it is hampered not just by ignorance, but also by serious misunderstandings about what the theory proposes and what its supporters want.
The first misunderstanding is the belief that intelligent design is based on religion rather than science. Intelligent design is a scientific inference based on empirical evidence, not on religious texts. The theory proposes that many of the most intricate features of the natural world (like the amazing molecular machines within the cell) are best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process like natural selection.
Although controversial, design theory is supported by a growing number of scientists in academic and scientific journals, scientific conference proceedings and academic and scientific books. While intelligent design may have religious implications (just like Darwin's theory), it does not start from religious premises.
A second misunderstanding is that proponents of intelligent design are crusading to have it required in public schools. In fact, they are doing the opposite. Discovery Institute, the nation's leading research organization supporting intelligent design scholars, strongly opposes efforts to mandate the theory. Intelligent design is relatively new, and it is important to allow scientific discussion to proceed unhampered by political or legal disputes. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and hinder fair and open discussion of its merits among scholars and within the scientific community.
A third misunderstanding is that there are widespread efforts to mandate the teaching of intelligent design by legislators and school board members. What most states are actually considering is not teaching design, but teaching the weaknesses as well as the strengths of modern Darwinian theory. This is the approach adopted in the science standards of Ohio, Minnesota and New Mexico. It's also the approach under consideration by the Kansas State Board of Education, which earlier this year heard testimony critical of Darwin's theory from professors of biology, genetics and biochemistry at mainstream academic institutions such as the University of Georgia and the University of Wisconsin.
Ironically, while scholars supporting intelligent design are not seeking to impose their views, opponents are increasingly trying to silence critics of Darwin's theory using coercion and intimidation.
At George Mason University in Virginia, biology professor Caroline Crocker was banned earlier this year from teaching about intelligent design in her classes.
At the Smithsonian Institution, evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg, the editor of a respected biology journal, faced retaliation by Smithsonian executives after accepting for publication a peer-reviewed article favoring intelligent design. Federal investigators concluded last month that "it is ... clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing [Dr. Sternberg]... out of the [Smithsonian]."
When asked about Mr. Sternberg's plight by The Washington Post, Eugenie Scott of the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education seemed to suggest that Mr. Sternberg was lucky more wasn't done to get rid of him: "If this was a corporation, and an employee did something that really embarrassed the administration, really blew it, how long do you think that person would be employed?"
The same burn-them-at-the-stake approach is being applied to scientists who criticize Darwin without raising the issue of intelligent design. At the Mississippi University for Women, chemistry professor Nancy Bryson was removed as head of the division of natural sciences in 2003 after merely presenting scientific criticisms of biological and chemical evolution to a seminar of honors students.
Biology professor P.Z. Myers at the University of Minnesota has even demanded "the public firing and humiliation of some teachers" who express doubts about Darwin.
Defenders of Darwin's theory typically justify their efforts to silence dissenting scientists by equating any criticism of Darwin's theory to believing in a flat Earth or denying that the Earth revolves around the sun. Yet such comparisons are specious.
Last time I checked, hundreds of reputable scientists weren't expressing skepticism that the Earth is round. Yet there are now more than 400 scientists with doctorates who openly express skepticism that the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random mutation is sufficient to account for the complexity of life. Many are science professors at major research universities like Princeton, Ohio State and MIT.
National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell points out that "scientific journals now document many scientific problems and criticisms of evolutionary theory," but he adds that "some of my scientific colleagues are very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of problems with evolutionary theory to the general public. They display an almost religious zeal for a strictly Darwinian view."
Supporters of intelligent design are willing to disavow misguided efforts to impose it by government fiat. Defenders of Darwinism likewise need to reject efforts to enforce their views by trampling on academic freedom and free speech.
The validity of intelligent design and, for that matter, of Darwin's theory should be decided through fair and open debate, not through legislation enacted by its friends or witch hunts conducted by its foes.
John G. West is associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute and an associate professor of political science at Seattle Pacific University. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 4, 2005 By DANIEL SMITH
When Donald Kennedy, a biologist and editor of the eminent journal Science, was asked what had led so many American scientists to feel that George W. Bush's administration is anti-science, he isolated a familiar pair of culprits: climate change and stem cells. These represent, he said, "two solid issues in which there is a real difference between a strong consensus in the science community and the response of the administration to that consensus." Both issues have in fact riled scientists since the early days of the administration, and both continue to have broad repercussions. In March 2001, the White House abruptly withdrew its support for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and the U.S. withdrawal was still a locus of debate at this summer's G8 summit in Scotland. And the administration's decision to limit federal funds for embryonic-stem- cell research four years ago -- a move that many scientists worry has severely hampered one of the most fruitful avenues of biomedical inquiry to come along in decades -- resulted in a shift in the dynamics of financing, from the federal government to the states and private institutions. In November 2004, Californians voted to allocate $3 billion for stem-cell research in what was widely characterized as a "scientific secession."
Yet what remains most divisive, according to Kennedy, is not the Bush administration's specific policies, but a more general sense that "scientific conclusions, reached either within agencies or by people outside of government, are being changed for political reasons by people who have not done the scientific work." It is this sense that science is being "misused" that has given rise to two Congressional bills.
In late June, Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, introduced the Restore Scientific Integrity in Federal Research and Policymaking bill. Many on the right interpreted the move as little more than a clever bit of partisan grandstanding. "This all comes out of the Kerry campaign's attempt to spin the legitimate efforts of the administration to monitor scientific reports," Robert Walker, a Republican lobbyist and former chairman of the House Science Committee, told me. Even scientists, the ostensible beneficiaries of the bill, expressed little enthusiasm. "It won't get very far," said Kurt Gottfried, a Cornell physicist and chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass., which has been highly critical of the Bush administration. "We've come to have a cynical attitude about what can happen in this government."
Both sides have reason to be skeptical. The bill -- which aims to put an end to the censorship and alteration of government scientific information and to the application of litmus tests in making advisory appointments -- is nearly identical to one introduced in February by Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, that has been languishing in the House. And though Durbin's bill is also sponsored by such formidable Democratic figures as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, it has about as much chance as Waxman's does of becoming law. Yet, as some have noted, the mere fact that it has appeared in the Senate points to the deep political rift over differences between the scientific community and the White House.
The notion that there is a widespread "misuse" of science first gained its force from a series of instances in which administration officials have, as Gottfried and others see it, "broken with an unwritten code of scientific conduct." Two of these instances, widely publicized by watchdog groups and reporters, have taken on almost metonymic significance. In 2002, William R. Miller, a prominent psychologist, was asked during an interview for a position on a National Institutes of Health advisory panel on drug abuse if he had voted for Bush. He replied that he had not. He was subsequently denied the appointment. (The administration maintains that the decision was made for other reasons.) Then, in June 2003, The New York Times reported that White House officials had demanded that a reference to a study in an Environmental Protection Agency report showing sharp increases in global temperatures be replaced by a reference to a study financed in part by the American Petroleum Institute that questioned those increases. According to a widely circulated internal memo, switching the studies and deleting other references to the human contribution to global climate change would have meant that the report no longer accurately represented scientific consensus. Rather than make the changes, the E.P.A. removed the entire section on global warming from its report, which focused solely on the environment. In and of themselves, neither of these instances was unusual; all administrations, according to Daniel Sarewitz, a former Congressional staff member and director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University, seek to some extent to mold scientific evidence to fit their political agendas. But scientists like Gottfried contend that the "scope and intensity" of the episodes under Bush are unprecedented.
It falls to John H. Marburger III, the president's science adviser, to respond to complaints like Gottfried's, and he has consistently maintained that they are a distortion of the administration's position. Recently, however, observers have noted that even he seems unusually insistent on reaffirming the scientific facts. While a guest of the Princeton Environmental Institute this spring, he responded to a question about the Kyoto Protocol by stating: "Global warming exists, and we have to do something about it. And what needs to be done is to reduce CO2." His remarks were quickly picked up by intrepid administration-watchers. Chris Mooney, a science journalist and author of "The Republican War on Science," wrote, "I don't think the president has ever stated the facts so plainly -- has he?" And in February, Marburger responded to a question about intelligent design by stating categorically, "Intelligent design is not a scientific theory." More visibly, he used much the same phrasing when he was asked by a Times reporter last month to respond to the president's endorsement of teaching intelligent design in schools.
When I spoke with Marburger in late August, several months after I first met him, he was adamant that his comments had carried not even a tinge of rebellion. "At least I haven't noticed any change in myself," he said with some amusement. "I still don't think there are any administration policies that are in conflict with science or with the way nature works."
This has been Marburger's stance since Bush's first term. Many scientists, based on what they knew about him, had hoped for something different. Though a delay in appointing Marburger led to speculation about the administration's commitment to science -- his appointment was not finalized until nine months into Bush's first term, and when it was, his position was stripped of the title assistant to the president, a designation it held since Bush's father's presidency -- his resume dovetailed with the concerns of the scientific community. A 64-year-old physicist, academic and university administrator, Jack Marburger was a lifelong Democrat and was widely regarded as a deft conciliator.
Whatever hopes scientists harbored for Marburger, however, were dealt a severe blow after the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report in February of last year charging that the administration's political agenda had permeated "the traditionally objective, nonpartisan mechanisms through which the government uses scientific knowledge in forming and implementing public policy." A petition appended to the report and signed by more than 60 pre-eminent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates -- among them Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health -- accused the administration of "systematically" manipulating scientific findings. There were those who hoped that Marburger would tender his resignation in a show of solidarity; instead, he emerged in defense of the administration, claiming that the U.C.S. report was "wrong and misleading" and insisting that his employers had applied "the highest scientific standards in decision making." These statements alienated many scientists (Howard Gardner, a Harvard cognitive psychologist, went so far as to call Marburger a "prostitute" on National Public Radio), and the protests quickly grew more partisan. In June 2004, 48 Nobelists released a letter endorsing John Kerry, and several months later, a political action group, Scientists and Engineers for Change, arranged a series of lectures by prominent scientists in key battleground states, in a show of force that recalled the vehement opposition of the scientific community to the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Bush's success in the election did little to tamp down scientific activism. The U.C.S. has continued to publicize instances in which politics seems to be intruding on science, and the original petition has garnered more than 7,000 additional signatures. The organization has also teamed up with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit Washington-based watchdog group, to produce a series of surveys tracking political interference, both real and perceived, with government employees in federal agencies. And in June, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report, "Science Under Siege," charging that post-9/11 security measures have imperiled the country's technical competitiveness by restricting access to equipment and documents and obstructing the movement of foreign scientists.
To many in the scientific community, it is unfathomable that Marburger would risk his reputation by staying on and continuing to defend the administration. Others see the fact that he has remained in office as indicative of nothing more than the very real compromises involved in formulating science policy. "If you haven't been there and lived in the White House, and thought deeply about your role and the ethical dilemmas you incur, such as whether or not to resign, then it might be quite difficult to understand what's happened with Marburger," says Neal Lane, Bill Clinton's second science adviser and a prominent supporter of the U.C.S. petition. Those who have worked closely with Marburger agree that his response is based on a careful cost-benefit analysis. "The choice is between Jack and a Neanderthal," says one former Bush administration official, whose livelihood still depends on the federal government and thus spoke to me on the condition of anonymity. "The scientific community will never understand that."
For Marburger, what is at stake is less complicated and less political. He insists that the "science wars" are illusory and that the Bush administration's stewardship of science is both defensible and in keeping with the ideal of scientific progress. Despite the ugly names he has been called along the way, he remains sanguine about science's prospects under the Bush administration -- for the simple reason, he says, that he is careful to make a distinction between Science (which his tone alone capitalizes) and the people who conduct it. Whether scientists set up camp outside the White House, Marburger suggested to me recently, or whether they remain quietly in their laboratories, science will continue to lumber on as it always has. So, too, will Washington.
One afternoon in March, I met Marburger for lunch at the Bombay Club, an Indian restaurant not far from the White House. It was raining, and Marburger, a sensible man who walks to meetings and lunches, arrived in a long black overcoat, his white hair sprinkled with rain. He spoke in a quiet, professorial tone about the work of Hans Bethe, the Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist, who died the day before, and about nonlinear optics, a field made possible by the invention of the laser and in which Marburger was a pioneer. All this seemed at odds with the prevailing image of a man torn between the scientific community that had fostered him and the administration that had taken him in, and I asked what he thought about the notion, widely held in the scientific community, that he must be ethically conflicted.
"I don't feel conflicted," he said calmly. "I don't feel that I'm someone who is, as I've been described, at the 'eye of a hurricane' or at the 'center of a storm."' That image, he said, comes from the fact that "we're very closely tied to the dynamics of politics in our time, but we're not very closely tied to what is actually happening in science."
For Marburger, this is true even, or especially, when it comes to scientific developments that have generated the most controversy. Global warming, which many scientists see in Manichaean terms -- the evidence of increasing climate change versus the administration's unwillingness to take steps to combat the danger -- Marburger sees in terms of a larger back-and-forth between scientific advances and the willingness of the culture to alter itself accordingly. Each generation, Marburger told a group of environmental scientists at Princeton in the spring, has a natural resistance to changing its lifestyle, and our generation has a resistance to changing the way it produces energy -- "one of the deepest and most pervasive aspects of the economy." He sees the stem-cell debate in similar terms: science can point us to the facts, but it cannot solve what for some are the moral issues raised by the use of human embryos in research. In late July, when as staunch a Bush ally as Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader and a physician, backed a bill that would loosen federal restrictions on stem-cell research, Marburger remained silent. Then in August, it was reported that Harvard researchers had used existing embryonic stem cells to convert adult skin cells into stem cells. The bill supported by Frist, which had been gaining momentum in the Senate, despite Bush's threat of a veto, suddenly seemed likely to lose votes. For Marburger, the fact that new research had direct political consequences was as it should be: the findings raised ethical issues that were separate from the scientific ones, which would be worked out in due course.
This does not mean that Marburger believes there can or should be a stark division between scientific and social issues. After serving for 14 years as president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he was tapped in 1998 to become director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, a vast and prestigious federal research complex on the east end of Long Island, whose future had become suddenly threatened by the discovery of a plume of radioactive tritium in the groundwater beneath the lab's nuclear reactor site. The leak was in fact harmless -- it contained less radioactive material than a conventional Exit sign -- but it sent local environmentalists into a frenzy. Marburger spent countless hours listening to the concerns of activists, and he worked assiduously to reform the laboratory's image -- presiding over the shutdown of the offending reactor at the insistence of the Department of Energy, against his better scientific judgment; opening up Brookhaven to public scrutiny; and more strictly enforcing environmental-safety regulations. After three years, Marburger had not only resolved the conflict; he had also earned national recognition -- and it was his performance at Brookhaven that would bring him to the attention of the Bush administration.
As the presidential science adviser -- and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy -- he would step into a less overtly controversial role than the one at Brookhaven. Though scientists since Benjamin Franklin have been acting as advisers to the government, the position was first codified by Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was motivated to bring a scientist closer to the Oval Office by the launching of Sputnik and the ensuing space race. It was an era in which admiration for science and scientists was at its peak, and the cultural mood was reflected in the White House. Early science advisers played an active role in minting policies as expansive as a nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union and as sensitive as U-2 surveillance of the Soviet Union. But this heyday was not to last long. As the influence of scientists grew, so, too, did the level of their political activism. During the 1960's and early 1970's, they began to dispute, often on nontechnical grounds, the Vietnam War and to fight for strict arms control. This led, writes Gregg Herken in "Cardinal Choices," a history of presidential science advising, to "a progressive loss of faith in the process by both sides." The tension came to a head in 1973, when President Nixon, angry over the opposition of his advisers to his antiballistic-missile program, summarily abolished the post of science adviser. Gerald Ford reinstated it in 1976 -- and also established the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was charged with analyzing the impact of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. But the role would be only a shadow of its predecessor.
In comparison to his midcentury precursors, Marburger is less active in formulating public policy, and unlike his colleague Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, he isn't asked to weigh its ethical or moral underpinnings. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is Marburger's base of operations, plays mostly an administrative role in the White House. With a staff of just over 40 and a budget of only $6 million, the office has none of the attributes that endow the agencies and departments it monitors with independence. And unlike the larger policy shops in the White House, like the National Security Council, it does not play an obvious role in the president's day-to-day decision making. To some extent, these shortcomings have historically been considered something of a benefit; the gist of an old saying among O.S.T.P. staff members is that because they have no people and no money, they can better represent the president's scientific efforts to the rest of the government. But the power of the office is widely agreed to depend on the science adviser's personal relationship with the president. "Your influence depends on whether people around the president feel you have something to add," says Neal Lane, Clinton's second science adviser, now a professor at Rice University and a senior fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy there. "The title" -- assistant to the president -- "is important. It means you're understood to have access."
How much access Marburger has is a matter of considerable debate. The lack of the title, as Lane says, contributes to the conventional wisdom that he works in an orbit far outside Bush's inner circle. But, as Marburger points out, he does attend the senior-level staff meeting held early each morning in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, and he is able to see the president whenever he feels it is necessary. Robert Walker, who served as a science-and-technology adviser to the Bush 2000 campaign, told me, "O.S.T.P. has been a major player in policy, and whoever makes the argument that it's been relegated to some backwater of the White House just reveals how little he knows about how this administration works."
Marburger is fond of citing a line written by Daniel Sarewitz, director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State, that "it is not only axiomatic but also true that federal science policy is largely played out as federal science budget policy." The most important job he has, Marburger told me repeatedly, is helping to shape that policy: "If the science adviser is disengaged from the Office of Management and Budget, then he might as well get on the lecture circuit." Fiscal policy also serves, Marburger says, as an implicit defense of the administration's commitment to science. Over the course of Bush's first term, he points out, overall research-and-development spending rose by 44 percent, which, as some have noted, is a greater increase than in any four-year term in the last 30 years. "You really have to work at it to make a counterargument that science has not fared well in this administration," he told the journal Science last fall.
Critics have a different and, they say, more nuanced, view of the science budget. Much of the increase, they point out, was either preordained -- a residue of the extraordinary expansion of the National Institutes of Health, which began under Clinton -- or comes under the umbrella of military spending. What's more, in a fiscal climate constrained by the war in Iraq and by spending on the war on terror, the most recent White House science budget -- released in February and currently being negotiated by Congress -- was nearly flat, with financing for several programs actually declining. "All the basic science budgets are dropping," Rosina M. Bierbaum, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan and the interim director of O.S.T.P. before Marburger's arrival, told me. "They are emptying the science pipeline. How can you be for science and do that?" John Gibbons, Clinton's first science adviser, adds that money isn't the only issue. "We're unhappy about where science is going," he says. "The budget isn't the point. Are we going to abandon space exploration and just go to Mars? Are we going to maintain a global gag rule on birth control? Where is Marburger's voice in these decisions?"
His voice, Marburger said, is on "the health of science and the objectives that you try to achieve in a society through science." He typically defines these objectives in terms of large-scale projects and issues: the complications posed by the war on terrorism to the free international exchange of students in the sciences (Marburger has sought to ease restrictions placed on foreign-student visas); the identification and evaluation of new technologies to address federal security concerns; the health of the technical-publication industry, which is subject to peer review, in the age of the Internet, which typically is not; the siting and development of "big science" research equipment, like the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; the rise of nanotechnology, with its potential to revolutionize everything from the treatment of cancer to the creation of new weaponry. "We're talking about the United States of America," he said. "A hundred and 30 billion dollars being spent on science and technology, just from government funds. We're talking about the warp speed of the economy, the warp speed of technology. To me, that is what's important. It's important to keep it going."
Marburger has taken pains to make his large-scale priorities, and his small-scale optimism, known. At a forum on science and technology at the Washington-based American Association for the Advancement of Science in April, he called for a new "science of science policy," urging the scientific community to apply the tools of the social sciences to guide research and development. Why not establish econometric models that could discern the effects that, for instance, the growth of technological competence in China and India will have on the American workforce? Or that could provide better data on what the return on federal investment might be in specific scientific programs? He was confident, he declared, that science was fine in the short term. "But," he stated, "I worry constantly that our tools for making wise decisions, and bringing along the American people and their elected representatives, are not yet sharp enough to manage the complexity of our evolving relationship with the awakening globe." The speech was quintessential Marburger: he was imploring the scientific community to get more involved in the workings of the federal government, but he was imploring it to do so with the clinical tools of empirical research.
As for the nitty-gritty of politics itself? I asked Marburger. He waved his hand. "That's just shrapnel in the air."
Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), had what he considers to be an amusing experience when he appeared recently before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs of the House Committee on Government Reform. Over the past two years, the committee, of which Representative Henry Waxman is the ranking Democratic member, has produced a steady stream of news releases and reports questioning the administration's scientific integrity ("Data Manipulation Behind Reported Drop in Terrorism," "Federally-Funded Abstinence-Only Programs Teach False and Misleading Information," "Bush Administration Dishonest About Stem-Cell Research"). Ruch had been invited to speak about the Data Quality Act, a 2001 law that gives outside parties the right to challenge what they consider to be false or misleading government information, but he took the opportunity to denounce what he called a "severe disinformation syndrome" affecting the executive branch. "The level of official dissembling from federal environmental and resource agencies has never been worse," he said. "The federal government today is thoroughly corrupt." "They looked at me as if I had two heads," Ruch told me, speaking of his subcommittee appearance. "They had no inkling I'd talk that way."
Ruch is the flip side of the nonideological, noncombative approach to science represented by Marburger (whom he refers to as "the official apologist for the Bush administration"). His organization, which he has run for 12 years, is what he calls a "battered-staff shelter." It provides legal support and guidance for government scientists and others who claim their work has been subjected to political interference, be it from Democrats or Republicans, or who say they have been punished for refusing to comply with political directives. Ruch referred me, for example, to the story of Andrew Eller, a federal biologist fired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after publicly exposing scientific flaws in the agency's recovery program for the endangered Florida panther. In a federal complaint filed jointly with PEER, Eller charged that he had been pressured by his superiors to play down the risks to the animal and to green-light development projects on land crucial to its habitat. Eller was reinstated after his case was settled out of court.
PEER has also, for the past several months, been producing a series of surveys in conjunction with the Union of Concerned Scientists that has provided significant ammunition for the administration's critics. The most recent survey, of fisheries scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, concluded that nearly one- quarter of respondents had at some time been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a . . . scientific document." More than half were aware of cases in which "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of . . . scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention."
Such interference, Ruch admits, is unavoidable in a system as vast as the federal government, in which scientific work swims in the same pool as political interests, but, he maintains, it has never occurred so frequently. During the Clinton administration, PEER's Washington office received three "intakes" -- complaints of interference with environmental work -- per day. That number, Ruch says, is now up to five, and the professional status of the complainants has risen markedly. "The principal difference stems from the Bush administration's near-obsession with information control," Ruch says. "Under Clinton, it was like the old Will Rogers joke, 'I'm a member of no organized party; I'm a Democrat.' Under Bush, control has been centralized to an extent that's almost unheard-of. And that control has migrated down the chain of command and manifested itself in the form of political interference."
It is this atmosphere of control, many scientists say, that has forced them into an overtly political position and that many fear may be having devastating effects on the federal scientific system. "What has been happening has long-term consequences for the health and capabilities of government science," says Kurt Gottfried of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "and we're beginning to see that scientists don't want to go into government. This is a virus that will take a long time to eradicate." Neal Lane, Clinton's science adviser, adds that morale has been plummeting in many federal agencies over the past five years. He points to several reasons that this might be the case, highlighting a directive issued by the Health and Human Services Department in 2004 that strictly limited the number of scientists the N.I.H. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were permitted to send to an international AIDS conference in Bangkok. An internal department e-mail message revealed that the decision, which Lane says was an egregious instance of top- down interference, was issued because of the heckling of Tommy Thompson, then secretary of Health and Human Services, at a previous conference. And in the E.P.A., Lane says, supervisors have been ignoring internal scientific staff members "in a manner that is reprehensible": "If you want to destroy an agency, that's a really good way to do it."
Is the Bush administration truly a worse science offender than its predecessors? According to Daniel Sarewitz of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, the degree of abuse is difficult to quantify, since the very notion of "misuse" of science is ideologically freighted. In 2003, for instance, the Hoover Institution, a conservative policy institute affiliated with Stanford University, published "Politicizing Science," a book that outlined instances in which policy makers had manipulated science for their own political ends, nearly always in the name of increased regulation. "The two sides simply bring to the table different ideas of what science is and how it should be used in regulating policy," Sarewitz observes.
For Marburger, such differences are less important than those that exist between the scientific community and society as a whole. "Science needs patrons, and our patron is society," he told Science shortly after the 2004 election. "But if we're not careful, the scientific community can become estranged from the rest of society and what it cares about." He was referring to the need for scientists to be sensitive to the religious and ethical concerns of many Americans, but much of the scientific community interpreted his remark as a warning that its criticisms might be affecting the administration's willingness to finance science. "There's this preoccupation with whether science is respected by the federal government," Marburger told me recently. "But I see no indication that that preoccupation has had any impact. Policy makers continue to like science and to fund it appropriately." Science is a monolith, Marburger said. It would take quite a lot of politics to topple it.
This brand of scientific reason is not what his critics want from Marburger, but it is a quality that those who know him well consider immutable, and even quietly beneficial. "Jack's not the type of guy to fall on his sword," says Norman Neureiter, director of the Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Would a different personality be any better? That's difficult to say. If he's a voice at the table for science, that's a contribution, but it will tend to be an unsung contribution."
Of this Marburger seems wryly aware. Last year, during a speech on the politicization of science at the George C. Marshall Institute, he offered a brief outline of the direction his professional life has taken, from bench physicist to presidential adviser. "The curious thing about these roles," he told his audience, which had been led to expect an analysis of the battles then raging over the White House and science, "is that at no time did I regard myself as being a political actor. Yes, that is naive, but it is true."
Daniel Smith has written for The Atlantic Monthly, Granta and n+1 and is at work on a book about the history and science of hearing voices.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Some concerned church changing evolution stance
By Frank Bentayou, Religion News Service September 3, 2005
CLEVELAND -- FedEx phoned Lawrence Krauss' cluttered office in the physics department at Case Western Reserve University.
This package he was sending abroad, a dispatcher asked, could he give a more complete address?
The package held a letter Krauss had addressed to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, 00120 Vatican City.
The dispatcher wanted Mr. Benedict's street number.
Thus did FedEx provide a moment of comic relief in a dispute over the question: How did life on Earth come to be as it is?
The July 13 letter written by Krauss and two other scientists stressed their hope that the Roman Catholic Church would not "build a new divide, long ago eradicated, between the scientific method and religious belief" and asked the pope to clarify the church's position on evolution.
Co-signing the letter with Krauss, a best-selling popular science author who is Jewish, were two renowned Catholic biologists, Kenneth Miller of Brown University in Rhode Island and Francisco Ayala of the University of California, Irvine.
They are among a faction of scientists who feel that any redefinition of evolution along the lines of a recent article by an influential cardinal could have grave implications. Especially in America. Especially now.
They say the United States has a special sensitivity to religion versus science issues as some citizens and groups have sought to open classrooms to additional models for how life came to be as it is.
Evolution science, developed through empirical methods since the mid-19th century when Charles Darwin published the bones of his biological breakthrough, holds that life arose, changed and became more complex through natural processes including random changes and natural selection. Science educators have taught and fleshed it out for decades.
Other models include creationism (belief that a supernatural force conjured the world as it is today) and intelligent design, which posits that a kind of evolution operates, but a "designer," or god, intricately controls every change.
Drawing the line
Whatever their advocates say, intelligent design and creationism are religion, Krauss argues, and only the Darwinian approach deserves attention in science classes.
To scientists, the difference between empirical and creationist and design models is that systematic observers can test any aspect of the former and use its theoretical basis to create new knowledge.
Anti-evolutionists often say belief in Darwinism "is tantamount to atheism," said Robert Pennock, who teaches philosophy of science at Michigan State University.
"That's not a fair characterization," said Pennock, author of "Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism." "Evolution is no more atheistic than physics or chemistry."
In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed there was no opposition between evolution and Catholic doctrine. In 1996, Pope John Paul II endorsed Pius' statement.
The reason some scientists want Benedict, the current pope, to clarify the church's position is that they sensed a shift July 7 when The New York Times published an opinion column by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna. In it, Schonborn wrote: "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense -- an unguided, unplanned process ... is not."
The Times identified the cardinal as "close to Pope Benedict XVI" and reported that his article was a response to an earlier Times essay by Krauss. Krauss had written: "The Catholic Church can confidently believe that God created humans, and at the same time accept overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of common evolutionary ancestry of life."
'No doctrinal basis'
To some, Schonborn's reference to intelligent design went off like a bomb. In their letter to the pope, Krauss, Miller and Ayala praised the church for having embraced the scientific explanation of life's development but warned him of efforts "to dangerously redefine the church's view of evolution."
But biochemist Michael Behe takes a different view.
"Evolution no longer looks like a random process to me; it looks like a set-up job," said Behe, a professor at Lehigh University who is active in the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a group that supports teaching of intelligent design. "My sense is that we'll discover the means to detect the design scientifically."
"This statement, coming from a cardinal, has no doctrinal basis," said Phillip Sloan, a philosopher of science and history at Notre Dame University. For his part, said Sloan, a Catholic teaching at a pre-eminent Catholic university, "It's not the business of theology to dictate the business of science."
Article Last Updated: 09/03/2005 02:08:09 AM
Buttars' pitch can't sway unanimous 'no' vote
By Mike Cronin
The Salt Lake Tribune
To borrow a line from Dorothy: We're not in Kansas anymore.
Unlike the Kansas School Board, which earlier this summer approved allowing educators to teach theories in addition to evolution that explain life on Earth, the Utah Board of Education on Friday unanimously approved a position statement supporting the continued exclusive teaching of evolution in state classrooms.
Only two people out of the dozens who attended Friday's meeting sided with Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, and his proposal to allow teaching "intelligent design" as a theory to explain the origins of life.
Intelligent design asserts that an intelligent force created the universe. Though advocates claim the theory does not attempt to identify the designer, many of them are affiliated with explicitly Christian-centered organizations.
One, William Dembski, who heads the Center for Theology and Science at Louisville (Ky.) Southern Seminary, even argues in his book, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, that the designer must be the god Christians worship.
The school board ignored Buttars' complaint that board members never invited proponents of intelligent design to participate in drafting the position statement.
The board also chose to decline his request to delay voting on the document until the senator could give a two-hour presentation arguing for intelligent design.
During the public comment period, Buttars repeated his intention to either introduce legislation to require intelligent design be a school topic, or place the issue on next year's ballot in the form of a referendum.
Speaking to board members, 10 scientists and researchers representing disciplines including biology, chemistry, geology, paleontology and engineering tried to dismantle the contention that intelligent design is based on sound science.
Instead, many called it pseudoscience and agreed with Duane Jeffery, a Brigham Young University biology professor, who put it in the same category as astrology and pyramid power.
"By definition, science does not attempt to explain the world by invoking the supernatural," University of Utah bioengineering professor Gregory Clark told the board.
"Intelligent design fails as science because it does exactly that - it posits that life is too complex to have arisenfrom natural causes, and instead requires the intervention of an intelligent designer who is beyond natural explanation. Invoking the supernatural can explain anything, and hence explains nothing."
Such attacks are nothing new, said Casey Luskin, a policy analyst at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute Center for Science & Culture, a right-leaning nonprofit policy and research organization.
"Intelligent design is not just a negative argument against evolution," he said. As an example, Luskin cited the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California. Its Project Phoenix uses radio telescopes in places such as Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico to "listen" for signals that would provide evidence of other technological civilizations in the universe.
"SETI is an attempt to identify intelligent design in radio signals from outer space, signals with an intelligent origin rather than a natural origin," he said. "If we can try to detect intelligent design in signals we receive from outer space, why can't we detect intelligent design in genetic codes we see in biology?"
Buttars insisted that all he wants is equal time in the classroom - and it doesn't have to be the science classroom.
"Whenever anyone challenges the evolution people, they go berserk," he said. "[Evolution] is not a fact . . . We're dealing with censorship here. If we only taught Shakespeare in English class, that wouldn't be fair."
Some of the scientists retorted that science is not a democracy.
"Legitimacy is not determined by public opinion polls, radio and TV talks shows, privately published books and, most certainly, not by legislation," said Richard Tolman, a professor of biology and science education at Utah Valley State College.
© Copyright 2005, The Salt Lake Tribune.
Posted on Sat, Sep. 03, 2005
GUEST COLUMN | JODY SEYMOUR
I long for those `evolved' to do better with God's creation
Where did you "come from?"
There are a number of answers to that question for me.
"I came from Biloxi, Mississippi," is one. Or "I came from the union of love by parents who dreamed of a child." Or "I came from the hand of God."
All are true. But after that, the details get complicated. Some think the theory of evolution does not allow room for God's work. "Gaps" in the theory and the idea of complexity as viewed in such a mechanism as the human eye to some challenge the process of random selection.
I am not quite sure why I was born in Biloxi. I could have been dreamed up by some other lovers in, say, Kalamazoo. This could all seem quite random. Where is the intelligent design in it all?
I have read about evolution, and if one reads about what we know of the process, what at first looks "random" is not so random when viewed from the perspective of millions of years. God must smile at our efforts to reduce "time" to fit our need to understand and know.
God says to Moses and many other figures in the Hebrew Bible, "My ways are not your ways." Creation accounts in Genesis were never meant to be "explanations" of God's ways. The artistic and liturgical renditions in the Bible are faith affirmations, which state that God uses "chaos" and what some call "random" events to produce order.
God probably knew that the inhabitants of the garden and the "creatures of the earth" would want to "know" how they were created. There is intelligent design in it all, I think. It's just that we have "evolved" along the way enough to assume that we can figure it all out.
Since most of the scientific community supports the process of evolution, is there any reason to assume that the God who fashions billions of galaxies is not smart enough to use this process to "design" creation?
I wish we would allow the phrase "intelligent design" to refer to the need to pay teachers more and athletes less. Why can't the phrase instill in us the motivation to figure out ways to work with enemies rather than trying to kill them? The idea of intelligent design should challenge us to ask questions of what we are becoming rather than arguing over where we came from.
I came from Biloxi, from God, from mom and dad, and from a mysterious weaving of what might look random but is purposeful to the one whose ways are not my ways.
This weaver longs for creatures who are supposedly "evolved" to do better with a creation that is given as a gift and loan. God may be whispering in the midst of all the noise of our supposed progress, "Act with the intelligence I have brought you to and then work with me to design a world where the little ones have more and the mighty remember from where they came."
The Rev. Jody Seymour is senior pastor of Davidson United Methodist Church. Reach him at email@example.com.
By John Piper
Editor's Note: For resources on responding to Hurricane Katrina, see the "Today at DG" section on the Desiring God homepage.
September 2, 2005
On his 89th birthday (August 31) NPR Senior News Analyst, Daniel Schorr, observed that President Bush had "staked out a non-position" on the debate between evolution and intelligent design. Bush had said that "both sides ought to be properly taught in the schools of America." Then, with manifest scorn, Schorr linked the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with the concept of intelligent design: "[Bush] might well have reflected that, if this was the result of intelligent design, then the designer has something to answer for."
No, Mr. Schorr, you have something to answer for, not God. God answers to no man. Come, Daniel Schorr, take your place with Job and answer your Maker: "The Lord answered Job [and Daniel Schorr] out of the whirlwind and said: 'Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. . . . Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed"?'" (Job 38:1-3, 8-11).
Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Shall the pot say to the Potter, "This is an unintelligent way to show your justice and your power? Come, Maker of heaven and earth, sit at my feet-I have lived 89 years and have gotten much wisdom-and I will teach you-the eternal God-how to govern the universe"?
No. Rather let us put our hands on our mouths and weep both for the perishing and for ourselves who will soon follow. Whatever judgment has fallen, it is we who deserve it-all of us. And whatever mercy is mingled with judgment in New Orleans neither we nor they deserve.
God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners. He did not suffer massive shame and pain because Americans are pretty good people. The magnitude of Christ's suffering is owing to how deeply we deserve Katrina-all of us.
Our guilt in the face of Katrina is not that we can't see the intelligence in God's design, but that we can't see arrogance in our own heart. God will always be guilty of high crimes for those who think they've never committed any.
But God commits no crimes when he brings famine, flood, and pestilence on the earth. "Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?" (Amos 3:6). The answer of the prophet is no. God's own testimony is the same: "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things" (Isaiah 45:7). And if we ask, is there intelligent design in it all, the Bible answers: "You meant evil . . . but God meant it [designed it] for good" (Genesis 50:20).
This will always be ludicrous to those who put the life of man above the glory of God. Until our hearts are broken, not just for the life-destroying misery of human pain, but for the God-insulting rebellion of human sin, we will not see intelligent design in the way God mingles mercy and judgment in this world. But for those who bow before God's sovereign grace and say, "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever," they are able to affirm, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Romans 11:36, 33). And wisdom is another name for intelligent design.
No, Daniel Schorr, God does not answer to us. We answer to him. And we have only one answer: "Guilty as charged." Every mouth is stopped and the whole world is accountable before God. There is only one hope to escape the flood of God's wrath. It is not the levee of human virtue but the high ground called Calvary. All brokenhearted looters and news analysts and pastors are welcome there.
-- Copyright Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 888.346.4700.
September 4, 2005
By RANDY KENNEDY
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, Sept. 27 through Dec. 31. IT is not a place you would normally expect to find a curator preparing for a major photography show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But a few summers ago, Pierre Apraxine was camped out on the third floor of a rambling town house on West 73rd Street near Central Park, the headquarters of the American Society for Psychical Research, a 120-year-old repository of the paranormal whose founders included the philosopher William James.
In the world of photo collecting and scholarship, Mr. Apraxine is nothing less than an institution. For almost two decades, he served as the eyes, ears and auction proxy for the philanthropist Howard Gilman, who built a collection - recently acquired by the Met - that is widely considered to be one of the most important in the world, thanks largely to Mr. Apraxine's expertise and globe-trotting tenacity.
On this particular day, however, Mr. Apraxine was working in the service not of photography but of the sixth sense, of that great invisible interchange that the Russian spiritualist Mme. Blavatsky described as a kind of astral post office. He had folded his lanky 6-foot-3 frame into a small, steel soundproof booth illuminated by a red lamp. Halves of Ping-Pong balls were taped over his eyes and headphones hissing white noise were placed over his ears. In a room nearby sat a fellow curator and friend, Sophie Schmit, who was given a randomly selected image on a piece of paper. The goal was for Mr. Apraxine, sealed in his chamber - lulled into a deeply relaxed condition known as a ganzfeld state - to receive the image that Ms. Schmit was sending.
As it turned out, he performed fairly well, describing several images that corresponded to the ones Ms. Schmit was holding. (In the interest of the research, the society asks that the images not be made public.) When the positions were reversed, with Ms. Schmit in the chamber, the pair did even better - Ms. Schmit described with sometimes eerie accuracy the image he was mentally willing her to see.
None of this was particularly surprising to Mr. Apraxine, who grew up on a family estate in Estonia where supernatural goings on often seemed to be part of the natural course of the day. According to stories his mother told him, a vaporous woman in white who may or may not have been the specter of an old aunt appeared regularly, sometimes fluttering over Mr. Apraxine's crib.
"She was a benevolent spirit, in that she was watching over me," he explained. "On the other hand, she did not like one of the maids and she terrified other members of the household, especially if someone was stealing. She was a watchdog."
And does Mr. Apraxine, 70, a former Fulbright scholar and a sterling product of a post-Enlightenment education, really believe this story? Or in things that go bump in the night? During lunch recently at the Met, he looked up from his plate and stared out into Central Park for a moment. "I have a formula, an answer for that that is ready-made," he said. "I believe you can see a ghost, but that doesn't mean I believe in ghosts."
He paused and elaborated: "I remain a noncommitted observer - that's the best way to put it."
But Mr. Apraxine has been a curious and open-minded observer almost all of his life, consulting psychics, undergoing hypnosis, reading books and magazines about the paranormal and, once, visiting a voodoo ceremony in Haiti. So his involvement in organizing the show at the Met - "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult," a fascinating survey of the ways in which photography has been used to try to prove the existence of the supernatural - is more than just a professional or aesthetic exercise for him. At the least, it is one of those coincidences Mr. Apraxine says he decidedly does not believe in.
"There is nothing accidental - at least in my life," he says.
His early adult interest in occult photography grew out of his work as a collector, not a spiritual seeker, he said. In the early 1970's, when he began to work with Gilman to build a world-class photo collection, the strength of the Gilman holdings was in 20th-century work by photographers like Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Mr. Apraxine's mission was to start trolling backwards, buying good pictures from the 19th century, stretching all the way back to photography's infancy in the 1830's. To the surprise of both men, who had assumed that most of the best of 19th-century photography had already been bought by museums, masterpieces were still for sale around the world, and many were being sold for what now seem to be laughably small sums.
As the collection deepened, occult photographs were simply another important piece of the field's history. From the 1870's through the 1930's, the belief that cameras had the power to capture not just the visible and fleeting but also the invisible and ephemeral produced a huge body of images intended as almost scientific exhibits. (They also served as sales pitches for photographers offering Civil War widows a last glimpse of a loved one.)
The 120 pictures in the exhibition are by turns spooky, beautiful, disturbing and hilarious. They are also, by and large, the visual records of decades of fraud, cons, flimflams and gullibility - though there are also some pictures, like those produced by an eccentric Chicago bellhop, Ted Serios, said to be purely from his thoughts, in the 1960's, that have never been adequately explained.
"We don't consider it the real stuff, you know," said Dr. Nancy Sondow, president of the American Society for Psychical Research, which lent several photographs to the show. Still, she added, "I guess it's interesting from the standpoint of the history of photography."
The pictures are a window onto a bizarre, and almost forgotten, period of American and European history, when the camps of spiritualism and strict rationality battled it out on the front pages of newspapers. The 1869 fraud trial of William Mumler, a Boston and New York photographer who was the first known practitioner of spirit photography, became a public spectacle. The mayor of New York himself ordered an investigation into his practices, and P. T. Barnum testified for the prosecution, speaking as the Amazing Randi of his day. But Mumler had many defenders. His patrons included Mary Todd Lincoln, who visited him after her husband's assassination; she took away a photo that shows his ghostly form standing behind her. (Mumler was acquitted at his trial, but discredited, suspected of manipulating photo plates.)
Spirit photography began in a typically American burst of entrepreneurship, and for this reason serious European spiritualists were slow in joining. One wrote that while the United States had taken the lead in many things, it had also "left us far behind in the invention of false rumors." But the practice soon took off in France and England, and produced groups whose names seemed to be lifted right from the pages of H. G. Wells or J. K. Rowling: the Society for the Study of Supernormal Pictures, the British College of Psychic Science, the Occult Committee of the Magic Circle.
By World War II interest had peaked, but the exhibition makes clear that it has never really gone away. The show includes some of the famous Polaroid images produced by Mr. Serios, who claimed to be able to project his thoughts onto film and whose work remains one of the best documented and most hotly debated cases in the field. Even today, fascination with the practice is widespread, aided by video technology and the Internet - just type the words "ghost hunter" into Google and you can find thousands of examples of contemporary images purporting to show otherworldly emanations.
Mr. Apraxine and Ms. Schmit, who organized the show with three other curators, stressed that the only way to do such a show was to profess official agnosticism. "The authors' position is precisely that of having no position, or at least not in so Manichean a form," they wrote in the exhibition's catalog.
But in a telephone interview from her home in Paris, Ms. Schmit conceded that a strong sense of "what if?" was also a basic requirement. "If I hadn't considered at least the possibility of it existing," she said, "I don't think I would have ever been interested in doing the exhibit." That summer day at the American Society for Psychical Research, where the two curators were sorting through the group's archives to find photographs for the show, they agreed to participate in the telepathy experiment not as a joke but as a sort of curatorial research assignment for extra credit. "We are very open, both us, to that kind of thing," she said.
Indeed, for Mr. Apraxine, it seems to have been at times more than just openness. A charming but private man who combines Old World elegance with an almost childlike enthusiasm, he tells of several encounters in his life that he has found hard to explain. Raised mostly in Belgium after his family left Estonia, he was sent by his family to Ireland to learn English and one night sneaked alone into an abandoned house rumored to be haunted - Mr. Apraxine pronounces it "HOWN-ted" - where he says he heard a clock ticking in a room with no clock and footsteps where there appeared to be nobody walking.
Later in his life, in the 1960's, on the advice of acquaintances who worked at the occult magazine Planθte in Paris, he went to see his first psychic, in the countryside near Orlιans. "I wanted to see what my life would be like," he explained. He recalled being nervous and feeling a little silly. "I was expecting to see someone clothed in robes with an owl on his shoulder, you know?" he said. Instead the man was wearing shorts, and in his backyard among the clucking chickens, using a pendulum as an aid, he foretold for Mr. Apraxine "all the salient points of my life - and they all happened." And Mr. Apraxine said all this as matter-of-factly as if he were discussing daguerreotypes.
Later, after moving to New York, he regularly consulted another psychic in the West Village and urged one of his reluctant friends to see her, too. "I wanted to destabilize his Cartesian mind," he explained, smiling.
At this point in his life, Mr. Apraxine said, he feels that many of his curiosities about otherworldly things have been satisfied, or have at least gone into hibernation for a while. He reads less about the occult and hasn't seen a psychic in years. Or, for that matter, a ghost. (He sent a follow-up e-mail message to a reporter after the interview, just to make sure that he did not appear as inordinately apparition-obsessed: "I do not smirk at people who tell me of paranormal experiences," he wrote, "but neither do I believe that the silhouette in a badly lit corridor is the ghost Aunt Dorothea coming back to spy on her husband.")
In many ways, he said, the Met exhibition did not develop as an outgrowth of his interests. It simply became another way of working through them, an exploration he hopes that people who see the show may want to take, too.
"I thought, 'Maybe I will learn something by delving more deeply into this subject,' " he said, " 'and maybe I will learn something about myself.' "
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Sep 3, 2005, 0:20 GMT
SYDNEY, Australia (UPI) -- A Christian school in Australia plans to add Intelligent Design to its science curriculum.
The Australian reports the Sydney Christian School appears to be one of the first in the country to adopt Intelligent Design.
'We would have no problem with ID being taught in religious or science classes,' said Ted Boyce, the school`s principal.
Intelligent Design advocates argue that life is too complex to have evolved entirely through random mutation and natural selection. Most scientists say Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory, since, unlike natural selection, it cannot be tested and disproved.
Australian science teachers have decided that Intelligent Design should not be taught as a scientific theory in science classes but can be taught as a 'belief system.'
Copyright 2005 by United Press International
Many years ago when I was a high school English teacher, it was difficult to get the students to accept that one opinion may not be as sound as another. Such things as facts, reasoned arguments or scientific knowledge were not obstacles to their beliefs; they were simply ignored. The students' attitude was straightforward: "It is my opinion. It can't be wrong. Everyone's opinion is equal."
Now those students have grown up and raised their own families. And it appears they were the ones who provided most of the answers to a survey on the teaching of evolution in the public schools conducted in July by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
That survey showed 42 percent of the 2,000 adult respondents reject evolution and believe that humans and other living things have always existed in their current form - a belief Pew said is consistent with the Bible's account of creation.
Only 26 percent accept the Darwinian account of evolution as occurring through processes such as natural selection. Another 18 percent said they accept that evolution has occurred, but they believe a supreme being guided it for the purpose of creating humans and other life.
Now, I believe religious faith plays an important role in people's lives. But I do not believe faith's role should be to reject the understanding that can be derived from scientific inquiry.
As others have pointed out before me, there are significant differences between the natural world and the spiritual world, between reasoning and believing, between investigating the processes of life and contemplating the meaning of life.
Yet those differences largely were lost on the Pew respondents. The survey found 64 percent support teaching creationism alongside evolution in the public schools. And a surprising 38 percent support teaching creationism instead of evolution.
When Pew asked who should decide what the schools teach about evolution, the respondents stayed true to form: 41 percent said parents should make that decision, while another 21 percent said it is the school board's job. Only 28 percent said scientists and science teachers should decide what to teach about the science of how life developed on Earth. (The other 10 percent didn't know.)
This is an astonishing rejection of scientific knowledge by the general public.
But Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education and a defender of teaching evolution, told The New York Times that the survey findings were not surprising.
"Americans react very positively to the fairness or equal time kind of argument," Scott said.
Indeed, President Bush in early August told reporters that both evolution and intelligent design should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about." A few weeks later, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Senate Republican leader, adopted the same view.
In taking that position, Bush and Frist aligned themselves with intelligent-design advocates who insist the public schools should "teach the controversy," by which they imply that evolution is controversial among scientists.
The controversy, however, is political and religious, not scientific. And it is being stirred not by scientists, but by those who believe the natural world is so complex it could have been created only by an intelligent designer - God.
When it comes to deciding what should be taught in public school science classrooms, one person's opinion is not equal to another's. Nor should parents or school board members overrule the scientists and science teachers.
What is relevant is what the best science says. And the best science supports the teaching of evolution as the best explanation for how life developed on Earth.
In faith, it is sufficient to say "I believe."
But in science, that acceptance leads to ignorance and the rejection of thoughtful inquiry.
Editorial columnist Jim Kiser appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-8012.
A religion of his own
by Maura Judkis Arts Editor Published: 9/2/2005
When prospective students tour GW, one of the things they learn is how easy it is to start an organization. Tour guides chirp about the school's most famous alumni - Colin Powell and Jackie O, of course, and if the tour guide is feeling daring, he might throw Watergate's "Deep Throat" into the mix. But one name that prospective students do not hear is that of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Perhaps it's because students are simply unaware of Hubbard's ties to GW and Washington, D.C. - he only attended GW for two years, from 1930 to 1932. But maybe a more likely reason is that the mere mention of Scientology - religion of the stars - may start a controversy that most would rather avoid.
Some religions have pilgrimages - Muslims flock to Mecca, Catholics travel to the Vatican, and Jews are drawn to Jerusalem. Scientology does not, but D.C. ranks high on the religion's list of revered places. The religion's headquarters are in Los Angeles, but the first-ever Church of Scientology is an unassuming townhouse on 19th Street near Dupont Circle. Decades ago, Hubbard held his lectures there, and today it is home to the L. Ron Hubbard Museum.
The museum is just a block away from the current D.C. Church of Scientology, where parishioners receive lessons and Sunday services in a lush mansion, also full of artifacts from Hubbard's life.
"Ron loved his time at GW," said the Rev. Susan Taylor, president of the Founding Church of Scientology, sitting in a room in the church with framed pictures of Hubbard looking down on her from all sides. "It's an honor for us to be near the school."
Hubbard, whose first name is Lafayette, moved around the West as a boy, spending time in Montana and Washington state before making his first trip to D.C. at age 13. An enlarged photo in his museum shows a skinny, smiling boy standing on the Mall in front of the National Gallery of Art. Hubbard was well-traveled due to his father's military career, but he returned to the Washington area to complete high school in Manassas, Va., after trips to Asia and earning the honor of being the youngest Eagle Scout ever.
Soon after, Hubbard's parents urged him to attend GW and get an education at the engineering school. He was a member of Pi Theta Xi, the engineering fraternity, and the founder of the GW Gliders Club, a group for students with an interest in aviation. He sang and played instruments on a local radio station, and helped organize the fraternity's annual dance. He bought Cokes for five cents at Quigley's.
As an assistant Hatchet editor, Hubbard was expected to help with reporting the news, but news was not what made Hubbard stand out - rather, it was his fictional works. Hubbard's first fiction story, "Tah," was published in The Hatchet and was followed by many more, including the award-winning "The God Smiles." One of his greatest mentors was a GW professor of rhetoric, Dean William Wilbur. Hubbard also stood out in the field of science.
"He was very concerned about atomic science," Taylor said. "He took one of the first classes ever offered in the subject. It was then that he became concerned about the long-term effects of science - after all, you can't undo an A-bomb."
Another science project of Hubbard's included experiments with a Koenig photometer, a device used to measure sound vibrations. In an engineering experiment, Hubbard experimented with sound waves by reading poetry in different languages to the photometer. He discovered that the machine would react the same whether he was reading a haiku in Japanese, or an English poem in iambic pentameter.
"Essentially, he discovered the wavelength of beauty," said Bill Runyon, the president of Friends of L. Ron Hubbard, an organization dedicated to Hubbard's memory. "He was so independent-minded. He always walked the line between doing his assignments and stretching the envelope. Instead of compromising, he reached for discoveries."
In 1932, a desire to travel overcame Hubbard, so he placed an ad in The Hatchet that stated, "Seeking restless young men with wanderlust." Fifty students from the area responded to the ad, and with Hubbard as their leader, they sailed through the Caribbean and took photographs.
Founding of the Church
In the years that followed, Hubbard spent his time traveling, taking photographs, and writing fiction. Many of his works went to The New York Times bestseller list and were adapted into films. The most recent Hubbard-inspired film is "Battlefield Earth" - a flop at the box office - and stars renowned Scientologist John Travolta. But ask any Scientologist, and he'll tell you that the film is not nearly as good as the book.
"It wasn't like he woke up one day and heard voices," the Rev. Taylor said. "He had a firm belief that man was basically good. And you think, 'whoa what is going on with crime and drugs then?' But he searched for baggage behind that, which lead to dianetics, which led to the belief that man is a spiritual being."
According to Hubbard's teachings, a person is composed of the body, the mind, and the thetan, or the spirit. The word dianetics comes from the Greek words for "through" and "soul," and thus became Hubbard's method for understanding the mind and soul. Scientologists believe that because the thetan is not a part of the body, it lives on after death. Practitioners of Scientology work to discover their past lives.
Hubbard also believed that there are eight dynamics, or impulses, in life: self, creativity, group survival, species or mankind, life forms and nature, the physical universe, the spiritual dynamic and infinity. Scientologists try to become an "operating thetan," or a person that exists across all of these dynamics. Once they have done this, they have obtained the state of "clear."
Scientologists take classes in the teachings of Hubbard, called "auditing." These classes are led by Scientology-certified counselors, who use personality tests and an E-meter - a machine with two metal cones for a person to grip, through which a person's soul is measured - to diagnose personality traits in Scientologists. Scientologists pay for these classes, and the literature, which can often run in the thousands of dollars.
As Scientologist Tom Cruise recently made clear in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, Scientologists do not believe in psychiatry, or in taking mind-altering drugs.
"I don't even use aspirin," Runyon said. "I don't have to. I haven't taken an aspirin in 15 years. If you are healthy spiritually and mentally, you won't have those problems."
"We don't feel that anyone has ever been helped by psychiatry," Taylor explained. "You see a kid with HDDD or whatever it's called, and he takes Ritalin, and you take a look later and find out that his life has been destroyed."
To purify themselves from these toxins, Scientologists pay for a process called purification, in which they cleanse themselves of harmful chemicals by taking vitamins, walking on a treadmill and sitting in a sauna for up to five hours a day.
Hubbard explained these concepts to followers throughout his lifetime in his recorded lectures, or congresses. They would often be held in his 19th Street townhouse, but if he drew a large enough crowd, he would move them to the nearby Shoreham Hotel.
"Poor Jesus," Taylor said. "Christianity was founded so many years ago, and because it's all verbal, there were no copyrights, and his word was open to interpretation. We do not have that problem - Ron wrote everything down, so we're very fortunate that the religion has remained pure."
Today, there are more than 5,100 Scientology churches or groups around the world. In every single one of these churches, there is an office dedicated to L. Ron Hubbard.
"We do not worship Ron," the Rev. Taylor said. "He was just a man."
Despite this, the Scientology center is filled with busts and photos of Hubbard and artifacts from his life, as well as several copies of The Hatchet hung along the entryway of the building. In Hubbard's office, which gives off the aura of a shrine, there are grand bookcases filled with all of Hubbard's writings, artifacts from his life, and several different prototypes of E-meters.
Gelman Library is full of Hubbard artifacts as well. A search in the University archives reveals an old Cherry Tree yearbook with Hubbard's fraternity photo in it and old Hatchet issues that contain his earliest writings.
University archivist G. David Anderson has received many inquiries from people looking for details about Hubbard's life - and not all of them are from Scientologists.
"I just sent some information about him to a student last week," Anderson said. "I get inquiries on and off throughout the year. It seems like more and more people are catching on that he came here."
Anderson, who teaches a class on research for the University, is a fan of Hubbard's works. The University archives has framed original illustrations from Hubbard's series "Mission Earth" hanging on its office walls.
"I like science fiction and I read it a lot - if I were a collector, I would bid for his works," Anderson said.
One more way that Hubbard will be commemorated at GW is through a memorial reading room for the creative writing program.
"There has been some conversation about (the Scientologists) making a gift which would make it possible for us to put a room in for creative writing," said University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, "but we have been very clear that there would be no representation that the University endorsed Scientology since we are totally secular."
Trachtenberg said his views of the religion are mixed. He is not worried about having the University's name linked to a controversial figure - "'Deep Throat' is an alumnus, and no one is more controversial than that," Trachtenberg said.
"I'm no expert, but my feeling is that all religions all require a person to make a leap of faith, and if you're capable of making that leap of faith, you can be a Mormon, a Jew a Catholic, a Muslim, a Buddhist or I suppose a Scientologist," Trachtenberg said. "I like my religions to be at least 1,000 years old, though."
By Molly Wendt Published: Friday, September 2, 2005
The term Scientology has become common because of the outspoken support of it as a religion by celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. However, with all of the hype the question remains: What exactly is Scientology?
Well-known science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard created the idea of Dianetics in the early 1950s, an alternative to many psychiatric practices of the day. In order to remain a tax-free organization and to further delve into the religious aspect of Dianetics, Hubbard declared Scientology a religion in 1953. The word Scientology literally means the study of truth, which is what Hubbard based his religion on.
In Scientology, the three ways to live to the fullest are through what Hubbard called the ARC triangle. The triangle is made up of affinity, reality and communication. By organizing a person's life to this triangle, they increase their overall effectiveness.
Hubbard also created what he called a Tone Scale. A person's mood dictates how they are placed on the Tone Scale in Scientology. The Tone scale is how a person's worth or value is determined. Combined with emotions, how a person acts or reacts to outside forces affects their place on the scale.
Many aspects of Scientology appear to have commonalities with other, more mainstream, religions. Scientology's basic interests lie in what is called the thetan or spirit of a person. According to Hubbard, the thetan is a being that has lived through many lives and for trillions of years. The thetan influences a person's present life by remembering hurtful or evil incidents, and affects the person's personality and potential to do wrongdoing in its present life. In order to achieve enlightenment in Scientology, the person must gain mental awareness and realize that by accepting that they are an immortal spirit, they can ultimately reach the state of Operating Thetan. Reaching this level of thetan gives them the power to control matter, energy, space, time, thought and life - a nearly god-like state. Many who have studied Scientology and Hubbard have stated that Hubbard believed himself to be a modern-day version of Buddha.
To achieve enlightenment spiritually, the follower has to help others toward their own enlightenment, thus the Church of Scientology has created many facilities to help people overcome problems such as mental illness, drug dependency and immorality. Scientology practices Hubbard's ideas on treating people with psychiatric problems, ideas that were previously rejected by the American Psychological Association (APA).
After his thesis was rejected by the APA, Hubbard shifted the focus of Scientology to exposing all psychiatrists as frauds. According to Hubbard, 75 million years ago the galactic tyrant called Xenu brainwashed thetans, who then used human beings as a sanctuary. Through the process called auditing, or listening, many Scientologists have recited memories from past lives, including a previous life as a martian or an animal. Hubbard claimed that psychiatrists were the product of the brainwashing incident, still trying to continue the work of Xenu.
Many of the views toward other religions that Scientologists accept come from their experiences with Xenu. Hubbard teaches that Christ did not actually live, but was a memory planted by Xenu during the brainwashing episode and that Christianity is evil. Scientology teaches that Islam is also the creation of extraterrestrials. While Hubbard likens himself to Buddha, he claims that these religions, and many others, have failed to realize their true potential.
In the United States and also in Australia, Scientology has gained recognition as a religion, therefore giving it the rights and privileges awarded to other religions. In other countries, such as Germany, Scientology is considered a cult bent on taking over the government. Several conspiracies to break into government offices have been connected to the Church of Scientology in both Canada and the United States.
With a wide range of beliefs and a focus on the individual, Scientology is quickly gaining followers worldwide. Hubbard's book "Dianetics: The Modern Study of Mental Health" was on the New York Times best-seller list for over 100 weeks and has sold more than 20 million copies in 50 different languages. Despite its controversial beginning, Scientology is gaining followers internationally.
By Hiram Caton - posted Friday, 2 September 2005
President George W. Bush's offhand recommendation that intelligent design (ID) be taught in high-school biology courses ignited an enormous reaction, including a Time magazine cover story. Bush doesn't know much about evolution or theology, but in these times, when the weird and the grotesque are fashionable, his comment was news because it seemed to endorse the long struggle of Christian anti-evolutionists to challenge the standard science version of the history of life on Earth.
Scarcely a week after the Bush story broke, Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson made a similar recommendation at the National Press Club. Nelson had talked with Bill Hodgson, national director of the Campus Crusade for Christ Australia, who showed him a DVD, Unlocking the Mystery of Life. Nelson was impressed and apparently supports the CCCA's aim to distribute the DVD to public schools and universities. Nelson also endorsed the Bush position that ID supplements, rather than replaces, standard evolutionary biology.
These commotions were relevant to me, for I was in email conference with colleagues about whether anything positive for high school biology education can be extracted from the seemingly endless row. Our focus was the round table on the issue at this week's annual conference of the US-based Association of Politics and the Life Sciences, which focuses on issues involving politics, public policy and the life sciences. In the US, the ID movement has involved school boards or state legislatures in 24 states.
The battle lines are rigid. The US science establishment is adamant that ID casts doubt on well-established science, using specious evidence and faulty logic. The attempted incursion into the classroom is not to be tolerated. End of story. Add to this the legal campaign to maintain an iron wall of separation between church and state, and you have a belligerent "them" and "us".
For their part, the ID leaders are a different breed from evangelical creationists who insist on a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis and Bible Belt morality. They hold PhDs in biology and mathematics from leading universities; some are tenured professors. Their organisational base, the Discovery Institute, located in Seattle, Washington, makes effective use of online, print and DVD promotion. By such means the institute reaches any teacher or student curious enough to run a Google search. Those who look discover telling points scored against the standard position, at least for those at the beginner level, and this embarrassment partly accounts for the science establishment's anger.
Is there anything to be said in favour of the ID proposal to "teach the controversy"? If the answer is yes, should it be taught in biology classes or under some other subject heading? As a historian of evolutionary thought, it is for me a truism that teaching the controversy is central to telling the story of the rise of the evolution outlook to a dominant public belief system. There are some facts about that history that ID advocates should know but never mention if they do.
For example, Charles Darwin's famous book was not the main source of the assault on theology and religious belief. A key source was theology. Specifically, the German historical school had by 1830 discarded the divinity of Christ, the sacred origin of scripture, belief in miracles and Christian moral teaching, including sin, repentance, and eternal life: a thorough demolition. This perspective was imported into England in 1846 with the translation of David Strauss's The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. It did not stir the controversy that it had in Germany because attention was occupied by a sensational, locally produced evolution bestseller, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Despite its condemnation by the science-ecclesiastical establishment, Vestiges was an engaging book whose admirers ranged from Queen Victoria to the working class. It substituted an eloquently argued naturalism, including human evolution from primates, for creationist doctrine.
The same line of argument was taken by philosopher Herbert Spencer, who in 1852 launched the idea that progressive social change was an expression of evolution. He coined the phrase that his contemporaries came to cherish as the dynamic of the times, "survival of the fittest".
Thus, Darwin's celebrated book did not deliver an earth-shaking new vision of nature, as creationists believe. The Origin of Species came nowhere close to the bestseller list. It sold about one-third as many copies as did Vestiges. Darwin's main claim to novelty, the discovery of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, was implicit in Spencer's theory and indeed had been clearly stated three decades previously by the Scot Patrick Matthew, who aptly styled it "the natural law of selection".
From the point of view of public uptake, Darwin's most important contribution was his high social status, for it meant that an outlook that previously lacked the necessary social credentials had acquired them.
The science establishment's horror at the thought of the pollution of biology teaching by pseudo-science is certainly sincere but of doubtful consistency, with its many compromises with social currents too strong to resist. Not only science but all subjects have been made over to be supportive of multiculturalism, equality of the sexes, identity politics, environmentalism and other preferred beliefs. The postmodernist catchphrase critical thinking has been adopted in the titles of biology teaching texts and teacher aids.
Not even mathematics escapes the drive to conformity: there is a multicultural rendition of mathematics. All of which proves to postmodernists that not even science escapes the power of indoctrination.
This is nowhere more obvious than in the mighty suppression of evidence in the textbook rendition of human origins. In Darwin's day as well as our own, the naturalistic account means that our behaviour is in many ways heritable and accordingly cannot be shaped indefinitely by culture. We are not blank slates upon which social norms can be written at will. To some it's doubtful that we even have free will.
This view is offensive to prevailing opinion and, in the case of race and sex, can stir explosive emotions. Managing this high-risk area is a delicate exercise requiring that students be shielded from contemporary genetic evidence of ethnic affinity, racial differences and innate sexual differences, while extolling the power of science to identify and treat heritable diseases.
Darwin, too, must be rescued from the taint of evolution's deplorable racist, sexist and eugenic past. This is a neat trick because Darwin shared the Victorian view that arranged races on a scale of evolutionary advance, with caucasians at the peak, and he did not doubt that many so-called inferior races would be extinguished in the struggle for existence. His vision of man through the scientific lens confirmed the Victorian self-evidence that women were the weaker sex.
As for eugenics, Darwin worried a great deal about congenital illness that he passed to his offspring and he was favourably disposed to the eugenic aspiration invented by his first cousin Francis Galton.
How do textbooks cope with this great jeopardy? Mainly by pretending that it doesn't exist. Students are told, for example, that biologists overwhelmingly endorse natural selection as the main mechanism of evolution, as they do. But there is usually no hint at the vigorous debates among them about its interpretation and evidence. Similarly with the cardinal sins of racism, sexism and eugenics. It is enough merely to express strong disapproval in the name of the latest scientific evidence and pass in silence the active debate on racial and sexual differences in IQ.
In the light of these considerations, what are we to make of the proposal to teach the controversy? As a teacher who attempts to encourage student engagement and critical thinking, I was cautiously favourable. Many prominent biologists ignore the supposedly sacred boundary between empirical science and speculation to talk about the still unknown origin of life and the meaning of evolution in the cosmic context. This includes evolutionists who say bluntly that evolution has no human meaning. If such speculations were introduced into biology courses, the inclusion of ID would be natural. This I have done in tertiary-level history of science with reasonably good results. But at secondary-level biology? I don't think so. However, the APLS round table may see other possibilities.
First published in The Australian on August 31, 2005.
Hiram Caton is a former professor of politics and history at Griffith University in Queensland and an associate of the US National Centre for Science Education. He is working on a book titled Evolution in the Century of Progress. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
SEATTLE, Sept. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- In a blatant attack on academic freedom a small number of faculty at Iowa State University have organized a petition denouncing intelligent design as unscientific and urged the university community to essentially ban the theory from campus.
"The Darwinist inquisition is spreading," said Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think-tank researching the theory of intelligent design. "Darwinists at George Mason University, Ohio State University, and the Smithsonian have recently hunted down and tried to disgrace scientists and educators for daring to defy the Darwinian orthodoxy. Now we see that the witch hunt has turned to Iowa State University and is focused on an astronomer, Guillermo Gonzalez."
Dr. Gonzalez, a senior fellow of Discovery Institute, is internationally known among astronomers and cosmologists as an expert on the astrophysical requirements for habitability and on habitable zones. He is a co-founder of the concept of Galactic Habitable Zones (GHZ). He and his colleagues captured the cover of Scientific American for their foundational and defining work on the very idea of GHZs. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed science papers, the latest being "Habitable Zones in the Universe" forthcoming in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres.
He is also a leading scientist who is for intelligent design in cosmology and astronomy, and his association to the subject has led to these attempts to stifle scientific inquiry and academic freedom.
The Des Moines Register reports that faculty members have "accused Gonzalez of having a hidden religious agenda" and "fingering him as an academic fraud." Gonzalez has commented that the incident has made his work environment less than collegial.
"A small group of narrow-minded and intolerant faculty members have started a petition to rule out intelligent design as inherently unscientific; and are seeking to essentially ban it from being researched, taught, even discussed, at ISU," said Chapman. "In so doing they have targeted the only person on the campus who publicly is known to defend intelligent design in his work."
For more information visit the Discovery Institute website at http://www.discovery.org.
SOURCE Discovery Institute
Web Site: http://www.discovery.org
Copyright © 1996-2005 PR Newswire Association LLC
Posted: September 01, 2005
by: John Mohawk / Indian Country Today
President Bush and Sen. Bill Frist support the idea that schools should teach the theory of ''intelligent design'' as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution. The theory of ''intelligent design'' urges that there are things in nature that are so complicated that they could not have ''evolved'' incrementally through natural selection, as was proposed by Darwin. American culture these days is powerfully impacted by the fact that very wealthy people who have some pet ideas can bring these into public discourse by giving huge sums of money to so-called conservative think tanks which then pay people to write articles advancing their ideas.
To find out who's behind the ''controversy,'' follow the money. A major player has been the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, financed by ultra-wealthy Christian conservatives such as Roberta and Howard Ahmanson, Phillip Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. Their funding has fostered some 50 books on the subject and intense lobbying and is spearheaded by an argument that evolution is a theory contested by other scientific theories.
But the funders are not advocates of science. They are Christian ideologues such as the AMDG Foundation, whose acronym reflects a Latin phrase ''to the greater glory of God,'' and the Stewardship Foundation, an evangelical Christian outfit. These and other groups have settled on a ''teach the controversy'' strategy, designed to weaken the theory of evolution although no legitimate controversy exists among scientists.
Darwin's observations urge that biological changes have been random and therefore a matter of chance. The fact of biological change in response to altered conditions is undisputed. As we know, medicines are developed to kill disease organisms that then mutate to become immune to the medicine. The successful mutations ''evolve,'' and over long periods of time can become more complex species. The people who advocate ''intelligent design'' are far more successful at politics than science, but their target is the element of randomness, or chance, in Darwin's theory of evolution and the strategy is to create doubts about evolution in the political arena.
''Intelligent design'' proponents, including presumably Bush, urge that some biological phenomena are so complex they could not have happened by accident or chance; that they must have originated from some kind of plan or design. It is a seductive proposal, especially to people who hope it is true. Opponents of ''intelligent design'' argue that it represents religion cloaked as science, that it's impossible to subject it to scientific methods of inquiry and that its proponents offer theological and philosophical arguments that are not scientific.
The argument brings to the surface ancient conflicts over belief systems. Many of the ancient cultures - perhaps most - expressed a belief in the idea that chance drives events.
Numerous ancient North American religions were elaborate on this point. The ancient Iroquois, for example, told stories of how spirits of the universe struggled over the fate of life on the planet, and the pro-life force was challenged by the indifferent-to-life force to settle the matter with a game of chance. The chosen game was dice played in a bowl, and in the ''great gamble for life'' the spirit who created human life won. In this view, the survival of human life was the product of a great game of chance. Indeed, all life was a product of chance. Iroquois logic had it that the people of the earth should be grateful that they were beneficiaries of that good fortune, and they created a ceremonial complex of thanksgiving to celebrate.
According to some versions of an ancient teaching about the beginning of life, the creator of life departed from the earth and left it to run on its own. It would be a small step to interpret this to mean the creator of life created evolution.
There are, I confess, scientific theories I don't like. The land bridge theory comes to mind. It doesn't explain, for example, how peoples of Australian origin came to be found in Tierra del Fuego. It implies that there was but one migration and tends to deny alternative routes. Some scientists will deny this, but for the most part this is what people experience when talking to them about it.
But if I had $100 million, I wouldn't spend it hiring mercenaries to write articles deconstructing it the way the Christian conservatives who support ''intelligent design'' are doing. If you really believe something of this nature, you don't need to ''fix'' the intelligence. The ''intelligent design'' position ultimately supports evangelical beliefs of an all-seeing, all-controlling supernatural being and leads us to an ''intelligent designer'' who has a plan and, presumably, doesn't make mistakes. The fossil record presents an insurmountable obstacle to scientific acceptance of that idea.
There is extensive, overwhelming evidence that great numbers of animals and plants have existed in the past that do not exist now. Some of these existed successfully far longer than humans have inhabited the earth, but then they went extinct. We don't know why most of them went extinct, but if there was an ''intelligent designer'' guiding their biological development, there is plenty of evidence that there were dead-end designs, which could easily be understood to represent mistakes. Pointing that out to teachers of religion usually evokes a response that we must have faith that the supernatural being works in mysterious ways beyond human comprehension and that everything worked out according to plan. If that is the case, then the creator of the universe is an intelligence beyond human comprehension, a ''great mystery.'' Many indigenous cultures believe that.
The purveyors of ''intelligent design'' are challenging the idea of evolution because, ultimately, they believe not only that the plan of the great mystery is knowable, but that they have exclusive insights into what it means and what its design is. They want it both ways: an incomprehensible mystery and an intelligence which can be revealed to humans. But if it's a mystery, then it can't be understood; and if it can be understood, it can't be a mystery.
A mystery which cannot be subjected to scientific methods of evaluation cannot be scientific. The people who are being seduced into thinking that there is a debate and that students should hear all sides are not giving adequate attention to the motives of the groups and institutions which have bought and paid for the popularization of their ideology. We should all ponder why the United States is walking a path toward a faith-based science and where it will lead.
John C. Mohawk Ph.D., columnist for Indian Country Today, is an associate professor of American Studies and director of Indigenous Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
© 1998 - 2005 Indian Country Today
The Intelligent Design (ID) movement has opened a broad attack on evolution and science.
In so doing, it threatens our free democracy and Jewish tradition.
Judaism is a religion of this world and invites open inquiry, while ID is an ideology that denies this world and opposes open inquiry.
Historically, the level of honest inquiry has been closely related to physical safety. The Golden Age of Spain (honest inquiry encouraged) and Nazi Germany (honest inquiry denied) serve as two notable examples of this trend.
The ID movement is, therefore, a seriously threatening ideology.
ID claims that life is too complex to be explained by the random processes proposed in the theory of evolution. This seemingly benign statement actually attempts to limit empirical inquiry into this world.
Life is tremendously complex. But who would deny the tremendous progress we've made in understanding life as it actually developed? The answer is those who espouse intelligent design.
When intelligent design claims that life is too complex to be explained, it joins all the countless ideologies in human history that tried to stop humanity from solving problems of this world, to stop us from thinking and observing.
ID uses the language of science to discredit science. It speaks of complexity, theory and observation, but its actions reveal it to be an ideology of simplicity, a rejection of theory, and a call to base our lives on a dictated fantasy.
Evolution is a vibrant field of human inquiry, ready to change whenever the next real observation is found. Intelligent design is a rigid ideology aimed directly at this one realm of human inquiry, but ready to attack others as well.
When a society shifts to ideology at the expense of actual facts, then pursuit of greater knowledge of our world ceases and persecution of those who deny the ideology is swift to follow.
The Jewish community can only ignore this danger at its own peril.
Arthur Lavin, M.D., FAAP
Copyright 2005 Cleveland Jewish News
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.
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."