NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 September 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, September 16, 2005


Robert L. Park Friday, 16 Sep 05 Washington, DC


On Tuesday, a federal judge in Harrisburg, PA denied the Dover Area School Board request for a summary judgement. The trial will begin as scheduled on September 26. The legal team that represents the 11 parents who filed the lawsuit welcomed the decision. The lawsuit challenges a decision by the Board to require biology teachers to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution. The lawsuit alleges that "intelligent design" is a religious theory that lies far outside mainstream science. Who is the "intelligent designer"? The answer makes it clear that this is just religion.

Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org

Nobel Laureates urge rejection of intelligent design


By Scott Rothschild (Contact)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

TOPEKA — A group of 38 Nobel Laureates headed by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel have asked the Kansas State Board of Education to reject science standards that criticize evolution.

In a letter to the board released today, the group from several countries said Darwinian evolution is the foundation of biology.

" ... its indispensable role has been further strengthened by the capacity to study DNA," the group wrote. (See entire letter.)

The conservative majority on the State Board of Education have accepted science standards that were proposed by proponents of intelligent design, which holds that the complexities of life point toward evidence of a master planner. A final vote on the standards is expected in October or November.

The Nobel winners, however, said intelligent design cannot be tested as a scientific theory "because its central conclusion is based on belief in the intervention of a supernatural agent."

The Nobel winners also said science and faith are not mutually exclusive.

The signers of the letter from the New York-based Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity includes leading physicists, chemists and medical experts. Wiesel earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.



Book on 'Daily Show'

Friday, September 16, 2005

A pro-intelligent design textbook involved in the Dover Area School District's First Amendment battle was featured Wednesday night on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

The show, a satire on news events and popular culture, is running a four-part series on the intelligent-design controversy this week, titled "Evolution Schmevolution."

Wednesday, commentator Lewis Black held up a copy of the book "Of Pandas and People " and yelled, "They're blinding you with not-science." Copies of the book — which mainstream scientists say is riddled with inaccuracies — are housed in Dover's high-school library.

Anambra health ministry poised to battle quacks


• Friday, September 16, 2005

The Anambra State Ministry of Health says it is poised to eradicate quacks who hide under cloak of homeopathy wreaking havoc on unsuspected people in the state.

Prof. Brain Adinma, the state Commissioner for Health told our correspondent in Awka, already, the bill on quackery, illegal advertising of medical treatment and medicine had received its second reading at the state House of Assembly.

He said, "if the bill sails through, it will prescribe punishment not just to the practitioners, but also the media advertising what we know is falsehood to our people.

"It is only when we have this prescription that we can stop these people from their nefarious activities," he said.

According to him, homeopathy is one of the alternative healthcare delivery but not properly practised in the country.

Adinma said that although the ministry did not have any section related to homeopathy in its statute book, it has a streamlined section of traditional medicine.

He explained that there are traditional medicine board and traditional medicine council with a code of conduct and ethics guiding the practitioners.

"The alternative medicine, like homeopathy is not well streamlined and people are just going to the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja to register as a limited liability company, start practising and wreaking havoc," he said.

The Tide Online is published by Rivers State Newspaper Corporation

Insidious design: the growth of an anti-science


Guest Column
By Patrick Kennedy
September 16, 2005

In the eyes of certain scientists, politicians and swaths of the American public, intelligent design -- the belief that select developments in natural history point to the existence of a higher power -- just might be the breakthrough biological discovery of the new century.

I find this theory somewhat hard to believe. After several weeks of research, I have been unable to locate a single scientific experiment that might be used to validate, or even test, the theory of intelligent design. Yet at a number of universities and institutions, professors continue to promote this bogus, unscientific theory.

The conservative Discovery Institute is considered one of the leading centers for the study of intelligent design. According to Michael Behe, a fellow at the Discovery Institute and professor at Lehigh University, superficial resemblances and very, very select historical examples are enough to point to the hand of a higher power in biological development.

When I called the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, intelligent design's intellectual home base, nobody -- not the researchers, not public relations, not the front desk -- could so much as outline an experiment pertaining to the explanations their organization has promoted since 1996.

One would hope that, at least, intelligent design theory would revolve around a consistent, well-considered concept of the "higher power" central to its postulates. Not a chance. Instead of a unified community of minds, intelligent design enthusiasts represent a mishmash of theologies and philosophies -- which include everything from traditional Christianity to the doctrines of the Raelians, who believe that aliens guided several aspects of human evolution. I'm not making this up.

So why, then, has intelligent design gained so much traction, though everything about it spits in the face of the scientific method? As in the case of many other spurious dogmas, the key to success lies in the sales pitch, not the product. Even in the liberal-moderate media, like Time magazine and the New York Times, the adherents of intelligent design have succeeded in casting their agenda as a quest for academic freedom. To organizations like the Discovery Institute, this is not a battle between science and superstition, but a struggle between intelligent design iconoclasts and their "Darwinian fundamentalist" adversaries. Think of it as the Scopes Trial turned inside-out.

The downtrodden revolutionary status that intelligent design's disciples love to claim is sketchy at best. After all, few scientific martyrs have been openly supported by the president of the United States, the Senate majority leader and cardinals from the Catholic Church. Yet the airwaves have been ringing with horror stories of college professors who have lost their jobs and persecuted high school biology teachers who dared to "teach the controversy."

But what do actual, respectable scientists have to say about this? Professor Kyle Cunningham of the Hopkins biology department, when asked if the battle over intelligent design was a free speech issue, gave me a one-word answer: "Ridiculous." He noted, "They seem to think that this is the leading edge in evolutionary theory." Since he learned that schools in his Pennsylvania hometown would be teaching it, Cunningham has challenged intelligent design in public forums and letters to local newspapers. To him, "the movement is actually regressive, an offshoot of creationism centered around a rigid, religious agenda."

Unfortunately, the intelligent design avant garde has found a way to distort well-considered and worthwhile academic free speech policies, such as those endorsed by Johns Hopkins, to its advantage. The Hopkins Provost's Office stated recently that "the administration would not play any role in determining what the professor might choose to say about this [intelligent design] controversy."

Such a measured declaration, along with the Provost's statement that intelligent design is suitable for biology course discussions, could be quickly skewed by intelligent design's disciples as endorsements of their theories.

Yet, the "teach the controversy" approach -- the idea that intelligent design deserves classroom treatment as a valid challenge to Darwinism -- is actually a perversion of such eminently reasonable policies. Protections on academic freedom assume an adherence to progressive and well-founded intellectual subject matter. Those are criteria that intelligent design's quack explanations, experiment or no experiment, will never fulfill.

So will intelligent design go down in scientific history along with such other learned fields as sorcery, astrology and voodoo ritual? In my next column in this series, I will delve deeper into the ideological climate that spawned the latest challenge to Darwinism and how -- politically and philosophically -- it has found a home with the American public. Still, intelligent design is not without value. According to Cunningham, studying intelligent design has one important function in the classroom: it is the perfect demonstration of what a scientific theory is not.

--Patrick Kennedy is a sophomore chemistry and political science major from Watchung, NJ.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Villagers claim ET sighting


Published on Sep 09 , 2005

Chiang Rai - Villagers claimed they today (Friday) morning witnessed an "alien" or extra-terrestrial being which appeared like a small-body man with large head and about 70 centimetres tall.

Over 10 residents of Huay Nam Rak Village in Mae Jan district's Tambon Janjawa said they saw the ET today morning in a rice field outside the village.

Sawaeng Boonyalak, 35, said he heard from friends that they saw the alien so he rushed to see it.

"The alien is about 70 cm high and has yellow skin and flat chest. Its mouth is very tiny. It has bald big head with big eyes and big ears," Sawaeng said.

He claimed that several villagers also witnessed the ET at the same time with him.

Sawaeng said the alien wandered around in the field for about an hour without caring the villagers who were looking at it.

"Suddenly, the alien floated to a tree top. After more villagers came to see it, it floated into the sky into the bright light," Sawaeng said.

He said villagers did not find any foot print of the being in the area.

Buakaew Intaweng, 59, said she initially thought the alien was a doll but it could move around.

Mae Jan district chief Wisit Sitthisombat said he interviewed over ten villagers and they consistently testified about sighting the alien.

"I asked them to draw what they have seen and the picture came out similarly," Wisit said.

Intelligent design faces first court test


Pennsylvania case goes to trial Sept. 26

By Jeff Nesmith


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A rule instructing high school biology teachers to tell students that intelligent design is a viable scientific alternative to evolution faces its first challenge in a federal court this month.

The lawsuit was brought by 11 parents in Dover, Penn., who charge that the school board is attempting to promote a religion -- Christianity -- in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit has made Dover, about 100 miles west of Philadelphia, the first battleground in a national struggle over whether alternatives to evolution should be forced into high school textbooks.

Intelligent design holds that the development of life cannot be explained solely by evolution and instead appears to have been guided by a supreme intelligence.

Dover's school board passed a resolution in October requiring that students in a ninth-grade biology course be told that evolution "is a theory, not a fact" and that "intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life."

American Civil Liberties Union lawyers representing the 11 parents have sought to depict the Dover matter as part of a national effort to install intelligent design in class- rooms.

The Discovery Institute of Seattle, which calls itself "the nation's leading research organization and think tank on intelligent design," said the case pits "the ACLU against the local school board over its decision to introduce intelligent design into biology classes."

Much of the legal jockeying leading up to the trial's Sept. 26 opening in the state capital of Harrisburg has gravitated to public statements purportedly made by members of the Dover school board last year as they debated and then voted, 6-3, to include intelligent design in the biology course.

Bill Buckingham, chairman of the board's curriculum committee, was quoted as saying a textbook selected by teachers for the course was "laced with Darwinism."

Asked whether he was promoting Christianity in the public school, Buckingham replied that "this country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution" but "on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such," according to plaintiff's lawyers.

School board lawyers, without identifying Buckingham by name, say the plaintiffs based much of their case on newspaper accounts of a board member "who, wrestling with addiction to Oxycontin (a pain medication), occasionally allowed political opponents or reporters to put words in his mouth."

The board's lawyers said the change was thoroughly debated and board members concluded that "evolution is a theory (not a fact) and that components of the theory . . . are contested on scientific grounds."

Northwest Area mulls adding 'intelligent design' to curriculum


By Tom Long, Staff Writer 09/15/2005

At a table at Curry Donuts in Shickshinny, three men said they hadn't heard of "intelligent design," a theory the Northwest Area School Board is considering adding to its classes.

But after a little explanation of the controversial theory, which says the complexity of life requires the existence of an "intelligent designer" as an alternative to the theory of evolution, the men started talking. Biblical passages about Adam and Eve and interpretations of the book of Genesis flew through the smoke that rose from cigarettes smoldering in a blue ash tray.

"I was never so angry as when they took prayer out of school," said Charlie Noss. Noss said as far as he's concerned, public school should be able to teach Genesis, the Bible's first book. "Without him, we wouldn't be here," Noss told his friends, holding his coffee cup in the air. School board member Randy Tomasacci first suggested making intelligent design part of Northwest's curriculum at a February meeting. The issue will get its first public hearing tonight at a 7 p.m. at the high school library. Tomasacci expects several more meetings before the board makes a decision about changing the curriculum.

In other districts across the country, intelligent design has started controversy because some feel the theory implies the existence of God, and that teaching it in public school violates separation of church and state. Tomasacci thinks intelligent design should have the chance to be heard. "I feel that it's censorship to keep this point of view away from children," the board member said Wednesday. "Is this such a terrible theory that we have to keep it away from our kids?"

Tomasacci has some support on the board. Board member Peter Lanza said he didn't plan to be at the meeting because he wasn't aware of it, but he isn't opposed to teaching intelligent design alongside evolution. Lanza says he'll vote the way he thinks residents feel, and his feeling at the moment is most people would support intelligent design - though the name might complicate the issue. "My feeling, right along, is that, you know, we should be calling it what it is," said Lanza, explaining his problem with the terminology. "What they're talking about, I assume, is God. And I have no problem with that."

Board President Nancy Hudock said she was concerned about a lawsuit, but she plans on listening with an open mind tonight. She doesn't feel teaching morality or religion should be the school's responsibility. Hudock said she asked Superintendent Nancy Tkatch to invite members of the science department to answer questions. "Any type of religion or spiritual belief should come from the parents' level," Hudock said. Some residents are also hesitant about having God in schools.

At work at Skovish Brothers Pools on Union Street in Shickshinny, Ellie Sprague said she doesn't want her eighth grade son being forced into studying intelligent design. It should be a parent's responsibility to explain God and religion, she said, If the class were elective, she wouldn't worry about it. "You have to have a separation somewhere," said Sprague, who hadn't heard the term "intelligent design."

California law professor Phillip Johnson came up with the theory of intelligent design in a 1991 book. The theory isn't tied to any particular religion because it does not name the "designer." According to the Intelligent Design Network, a group that promotes the theory, intelligent design is simply a scientific disagreement with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Intelligent design has been the subject of both scientific and social controversy. Many see intelligent design as a descendant of Creationism, which relies heavily on the book of Genesis to explain the origins of life. The Dover School District, near York, Pa., faces a law suit from parents after it added the theory to its classes.

At least a few residents don't have a problem with teaching the theory, so long as both sides are presented. "I don't see a reason they couldn't incorporate both," said Rosemarie Hall from her porch on Main Street in Shickshinny. "It (intelligent design) should at least be acknowledged." At Curry Donuts, Dale Hess agreed. He said he questioned his science teacher many years ago when he studied Darwin's explanation for life.

"I was always taught God," Hess told friends Noss and Joe Cici. His science teacher left a spot open for God, and let him make the choice. "As long as they teach both sides of the story."

Hess got up from the table, leaving Noss and Cici still chatting about evolution, Creationism and intelligent design. The question, Hess said with a laugh, had opened a "can of worms."

©The Citizens Voice 2005

Gore: schools should teach creationism


Recall a few short weeks ago, when the Mainstream Media and Democratic spokesmen and activists roundly criticized President Bush for his belief that schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life? He went on to state that

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

Many people on the left ridiculed the President for his views, basically characterizing him as a mountebank and Neanderthal. This was so, despite the fact that education is a process and often reaches its potential as competing theories are debated. This criticism also flew in the face of the views of a majority of Americans who support teaching both evolution and creationism (a synonym for "intelligent design") .

But, ironically and not reported in the MSM, Former Senator, Vice President, and Presidential candidate Al Gore ALSO supported the teaching of creationism in schools. In 1999, his spokesman declared that the decisions over teaching about the origin of life

"should be made at the local level and localities should be free to decide to teach creationism as well".

While a spokesman may make gaffes, keep in mind that as Vice-President, Gore had on his desk a placard with the motto "WWJD"-an acronym for "What Would Jesus Do?".

So Mr. Science and Reason (Gore) may have more in common with the religious and pedagogical views of George Bush than many appreciate.

Ed Lasky 9 15 05

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Holy Rights


September 14, 2005, 8:45 a.m.

Church and state and the Bush justices.

By Vincent Phillip Muρoz

Abortion continues to dominate discussion about John Roberts's nomination and will certainly dominate commentary surrounding President Bush's second nominee. Beyond the posturing and polemics, however, the core issue is not in play. Even if President Bush is successful in appointing two anti-abortion justices, five votes will remain on the Court to uphold Roe's essential holding protecting a woman's right to choose. Of more immediate consequence is the new appointees' impact on constitutional questions that have been largely overlooked, in particular the relationship between church and state.

With Chief Justice Rehnquist's death and Justice O'Connor's retirement, the Court lacks a five-vote majority regarding the purpose and meaning of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. On cases such as posting the Ten Commandments on public property and allowing public-school children to say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance," the new nominees will control future jurisprudence. As potential holders of the "swing vote," they should be pressed about their understanding of religious freedom.

Four sitting justices — Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer — embrace the "wall of separation." They interpret the First Amendment to prohibit the government from advancing one religion over others or from favoring religion generally over non-religion. In practice this creates serious doubts about religious groups participating in state-funded programs and about governmental endorsement of religion in the public square.

In 2002, for example, the four "strict-separationists" voted against allowing religious schools to participate in an Ohio school-voucher program. They argued that to allow public funds to flow to private (mostly Catholic) schools has the impermissible effect of advancing religion. The same four voted with Justice O'Connor last June to strike down Ten Commandments displays posted in two Kentucky county courthouses.

The three other remaining justices — Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas — take a different approach. They argue that "strict-separationism" misinterprets the Constitution's text and flatly contradicts our nation's traditions. They interpret the Establishment Clause to prohibit "coercion" of religion — that is, compelling belief, practice, or financial support of religion. They would allow religious groups to participate in public programs like school vouchers as long as the religious groups do so on the same terms as non-religious groups. Their approach also allows non-coercive governmental acknowledgement of religion, like posting of the Ten Commandments.

The split on the Court reflects deep differences in jurisprudential philosophy, contrary understandings of the judiciary's role, and competing assessments of the potential harmfulness of religion.

While at times paying lip service to the Founders, the more liberal justices ultimately defend the "wall" by claiming that it is the best way to prevent social strife in modern day, pluralistic America. They argue that the Court should withdraw from the normal political process questions that might divide the American public along religious lines. The implication is that the judiciary is most capable of determining how, when, and under what conditions religion may safely appear in public. And more often than not, when exercising that judgment, the "strict-separationists" vote to limit religion's public presence because they believe it is so potentially divisive.

The more conservative justices understand their role to be more limited. They take their bearings not from what they perceive to be best for contemporary society, but rather from the Constitution's text. What is determinative for them is that the First Amendment prohibits religious establishments and establishments, at the time of the Founding, involved coercion of religious practice by force of law and threat of penalty. They confirm this interpretation with our nation's history, which reveals that many of the Framers who drafted the First Amendment themselves embraced non-coercive, governmental endorsement of religion. If the American people now want to allow a non-coercive religious presence in the public square, the conservative justices will not object.

From his record, we know almost nothing about John Roberts's views on church and state. He is not going to answer questions about specific cases, but queries about judicial philosophy are fair game. Senators concerned about religious freedom should ask Roberts how he would discern the meaning of the Constitution's prohibition of religious establishments. Would he take his bearings from the meaning of the words as they were understood at the time of the drafting and ratification of the First Amendment? Or would he follow modern day precedents that take their bearing from the judiciary's perception of the demands of social cohesion? The same question should also be asked of Bush's second nominee.

Before anyone assumes the awesome power of a Supreme Court justice, the American public deserves to hear responses to such questions. The meaning and extent of the Constitution's separation of church and state, not to mention the role of the judiciary in contemporary American politics, will depend on the answers provided.

— Vincent Phillip Muρoz is assistant professor of political science at Tufts University and a fellow of the Discovery Institute.

Students ponder faith and science


The controversial idea of intelligent design has become a hot topic on the ISU campus.

September 14, 2005

Ames, Ia. — Tom Ingebritsen is a science professor who leads a small class where he pushes a hot button at the Iowa State University campus: God.

In his class, "God and Science," he asks students to think critically about why they do or do not believe a creator had a hand in the planet's beginnings.

"This is an issue that we ought to be talking about," Ingebritsen said after class. "Everybody is afraid to talk about it."

The issue of teaching about a divine role in nature reached a boiling point last month when more than 120 ISU faculty members signed a petition opposing the teaching of intelligent design as a scientific theory. Guillermo Gonzalez, an ISU astronomy professor who has become a key figure nationally for a book he co-wrote on intelligent design, said at the time that his colleagues were trying to intimidate him with the petition.

Evolution and Intelligent Design

In most public schools the theory of evolution as crafted by Charles Darwin has been taught as science to explain the origin of life. Intelligent design is being offered as an alternative to evolution, mostly by conservative Christians. Last month, President Bush said schoolchildren should be taught about intelligent design.

The Earth has no privileged spot in the universe, that we are here due to random chance. In his book "Pale Blue Dot," astronomer Carl Sagan wrote: "Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.''


"The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion,'' says the Intelligent Design Network's Web site, intelligentdesignnetwork.org.

Learn more

The National Academies, an organization of scientific experts, has set up a pro-evolution Web site at nationalacademies.org/evolution/.

The Discovery Institute, an organization that advocates the discussion of intelligent design in science class, can be found on the Web at discovery.org.

Since the faculty controversy, ISU students have been quietly investigating the topic on their own. At the same time, other public universities are wrestling with the issue.

Representatives of the Discovery Institute, an organization that advocates the discussion of intelligent design in science classes, point to a recent case at Ohio State University, where they say a graduate student's dissertation was placed in limbo because he had supported teaching students what skeptics say about evolution.

But Earle Holland, a spokesman for Ohio State, said the dissertation was placed on hold because a committee formed to review it had no faculty members from the academic department in which the student was seeking a Ph.D.

Off campuses, increased interest in the topic is reflected in everything from added demand for related reading material at bookstores to four nights of cable television satire on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.''

At ISU, most of the students in Ingebritsen's class are Christians who want to learn how to better debate the issue of Earth's origins.

Others have joined student groups such as Truth Bucket, which looks for evidence to explain events in the Bible such as resurrection. Some attend weekly discussions with their pastors, or contact professors after working hours with questions about intelligent design.

"We definitely realize it's an important thing to know about, discuss and teach," said ISU student Peter Swanson, a senior and one of the founding members of Truth Bucket. "What you think about the world and how you view reality will affect your life."

Mary West is a senior at ISU who studies animal ecology. She said she enrolled in Ingebritsen's "God and Science" class because she was worried about the future of science, the basis of her chosen career path as a veterinarian.

During a recent class, she sat squarely across a table from Ingebritsen while he asked the students to consider the different views surrounding the creation of the universe and the creation of life.

West, one of the few members of the class who is not a practicing Christian, interrupted Ingebritsen as he was asking her to share her thoughts on the mysteries behind the planet and life's origins.

"Keep studying science," West she said to him. "We'll get there."

Later in class, the seven students discussed whether they believed Jesus died on the cross. They argued about philosophy, science and tolerance. They discussed the definition of a miracle.

Dathan Verzani, a freshman from Sioux City, was quiet during class. But afterward, he said, "I am a Christian, and I always have friends who argue the difference between evolution and creationism."

After class, Ingebritsen said, "There are no easy answers to this, especially if you come from a Christian perspective. We have to be careful not to jump into easy explanations."

Tim Borseth, a pastor at Stonebrook Community Church in Ames, said many Christian students from the university talk to him about how the Earth's beginnings are taught at ISU.

"I have a lot of students who speak to me in angst over what to think about what they are hearing in their classes, which appears to be hostile to their faith and their understanding of the Bible," he said.

That's why Borseth, who works closely with a Christian student organization called the Rock, has a list of professors he knows — including Ingebritsen — who will talk to students who have doubts about Darwinism and are struggling with issues of faith and science.

"I thought it would be helpful if I had professors to direct students to," Borseth said.

Still, not all religious professors are willing to talk about intelligent design with students — on or off the clock.

Rohan Fernando, a professor of animal science at ISU who advises the Rock, said he refers students with questions about God's role in science to Borseth, who is a pastor. "I'm not trained in evolution," he said. "If you are going to take a public stand, you might have problems," he said.

ISU student Sam Ose said many professors avoid the topic of intelligent design. Ose, a former physics major, said he's taken a class from Gonzalez and noticed he was reluctant to talk to students about the topic.

"He has to worry about his professionalism — what he is teaching and what is simply conversation," said Ose, a fifth-year senior from Williams who attends a discussion group on theological issues weekly with Borseth.

"I think professors outside the classroom should be able to speak their mind as educated, intelligent people and say whatever they like," said Ose, who does not believe intelligent design should be taught as science.

Gonzalez has said he didn't mention the issue this semester because it does not relate to his class material.

However, Gonzalez said he has recently brought up the topic briefly to answer a student's question in a class dealing with origins that he teaches in the spring.

"I mentioned that some people believe that's an explanation for what we observe, and the other point of view is material causes, and I leave it at that," he said.

Even the brief mention of it troubled Dennis Martin, a junior from Norwalk who studies philosophy. He said the comment made the two theories seem equal in stature; he believes they are not.

"I understand arguments for academic freedom," he said. "At the same time, students are investing in their futures."

Both Gonzalez and his opponent Hector Avalos, a professor of religious studies who organized the faculty petition denouncing intelligent design, agreed that student interest in the topic was a positive step for understanding of the issue.

"I'm hopeful that students will continue to discuss this and seek ways to learn about it," Gonzalez said. "The climate of the university, I've always felt, has been not open to discussion of intelligent design."

Avalos said discussion among students is fine — though he would be opposed to it ever being taught in class as a scientific fact.

"What concerns me is when only one side is discussing it and not the other," he said. "The trouble comes with people thinking you can scientifically prove a claim of faith."

Register staff writers Beth Loberg and Lauren Burt contributed to this article.

Evolution vs. intelligent design: Don't put fences between science, religion


By Vladimir Vukanovic

(September 14, 2005) — I have gotten the impression from recent discussions about teaching "intelligent design" that some people are of the opinion that religion and science oppose each other. This is the question I would like to address.

To quote the German physicist Max Planck: "For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations. For the former, God is the basis, and for the latter, the crown of every observation in the world."

According to Planck, there is in nature "a meaningful order to which nature and man are subordinate. ... Wherever we look, we never find a contradiction between religion and science, rather complete accordance in all essential points."

These words confirm the opinion previously expressed by Sir Isaac Newton: "The wonderful arrangement and harmony of the cosmos would only originate in the plan of an almighty and omniscient being. This is and remains my greatest comprehension."

Arthur Eddington, the English astrophysicist who first verified the predictions of the general theory of relativity, said, "Modern physics leads necessarily to God." In the view of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, theologian and paleontologist, God creates by evolution, too.

I accept the idea that cosmic evolution embraces the evolution of inorganic matter (the formation of galaxies, stars and planets), the biological evolution on Earth and the spiritual evolution of humans toward God and love.

According to today's science, physical constants and physical laws from the very beginning have been adjusted very precisely, so that life could exist at some stage of the cosmic evolution. One example of this adjustment: the fine balance between cosmic expansion and gravitation. Faster expansion could prevent the formation of stars; stronger gravitation could lead to contraction of the universe, also without stars.

There are many other examples of such fine-tuning. We live in a very special universe in which life is possible.

Chance also plays a role. The natural fundamental order provided by physical laws exists together with chance. The world is not rigid, nor is it chaotic.

Science motivates belief in God. I am sorry when I hear people from science and those from religion attack or ignore each other. Of course there are differences between science and religion. Science tries to understand how the world is built; religion primarily talks about God, who is love and the creator of the world. This is, however, no reason to build a fence where none exists.

Vukanovic is distinguished professor emeritus in physics, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Evolution vs. intelligent design: Keep classroom door open to both


By Randy Ryon

(September 14, 2005) — Intelligent design is rapidly gaining scientific credibility. In the true spirit of seeking the truth, it should be taught along with evolution. Intelligent design teaches that because of all the extremely complex, highly successful, and beautifully creative designs in life, there has to be an intelligent influence. In contrast, evolution has life happening by chance design, mutated changes and survival of the fittest.

The majority of evidence supporting evolution is focused around small adaptive changes within each species of plants, insects and animals. This evidence also can be claimed by intelligent design and what engineers would call a "robust" or highly successful design of each species. An example of robust design would be how every kind of dog started from one breed and can still interbreed to make new kinds.

The main problem with evolution is its very weak case for explaining the large transitional jumps forming the 1.7 million distinct species. Within these species are a vast number of new and unique features. If evolution is responsible for this huge amount of change, why isn't it observed happening anywhere today? In mammals, for example, the closest thing we find to transitional forms are birth defects and mutations such as cancer, neither of which ever make improvements.

The astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated the odds of the simplest living organism happening by chance to be the same as a tornado passing through a junkyard and leaving a working 747 jet. The amazing balance of life-sustaining conditions on Earth defies the physics law of entropy, the natural move away from order. Engineering science dictates that for any complex system to work, such as the eye, all of its many parts would have to evolve at the same time. This is a problem for evolution's "natural selection" because any new feature, such as an eye or wing, would only reduce the chances of survival unless it was formed fully functional.

One of the fastest-growing areas backing intelligent design is the study of DNA and its incredible programming format. Werner Gitt's Universal Laws for Information shows that DNA could only be the result of intelligent input. Our best scientific minds today cannot produce a thinking, self-repairing, reproducing or living entity. Life is full of complex living designs that are well beyond man's present capability and certainly beyond chance design.

These are just a few of the many scientific facts that are major stumbling blocks for evolution, and yet all strongly support intelligent design of the highest order. Although intelligent design does not identify the designer and should be taught in public schools that way, I think it is reasonable to conclude that it requires far greater faith to believe that life happened by chance and Mother Nature than it does to believe that it was created by God.

Ryon of Victor is a mechanical designer working in research at Xerox Corp.

Lawsuit over intelligent design moves forward


Federal judge denies motion to throw out Dover case; trial set to begin Sept. 26.

Daily Record/Sunday News
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The attorney for the Dover Area School Board calls his client's decision to include intelligent design into the biology curriculum a "modest proposal."

"That this very modest proposal is in fact a violation of the (First Amendment's) establishment clause is ridiculous," said Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center.

But apparently a federal judge thinks that it's at least a possibility.

In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III denied Dover's request for summary judgment to throw out a case filed against the district by 11 parents over the intelligent design inclusion.

He wrote that "genuine issues of material fact exist regarding as to whether the challenged policy has a secular purpose and whether the policy's principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion."

The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26 in Harrisburg federal court.

"We're disappointed, but not surprised," Thompson said.

Intelligent design is the idea that life appears too complex to have evolved solely through natural selection and genetic mutation and might have been guided by an intelligent designer.

Evolution is the widely accepted theory commonly referred to as the single unifying paradigm of biology.

In a separate motion, Jones also ruled Monday that attorneys in depositions may ask two freelance correspondents about what they "saw and heard" at school board meetings last June. However, attorneys may not ask them about "motivation, bias, mental impressions, or other information extrinsic to what the reporters saw and heard" at the meetings.

Thompson had argued that to restrict the questioning would deny his client's right to due process.

Both Joe Maldonado, correspondent for the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, correspondent for The York Dispatch, are listed by the plaintiffs as witnesses in the case, and Thompson wants to be able to question them as part of the discovery process before the trial.

At issue are several articles written by Maldonado and Bernhard-Bubb in June 2004 regarding discussions on a proposed biology book during which board members discussed creationism. In sworn depositions in January, school board members denied the remarks attributed to them in the newspaper articles.

The newspapers' attorney, Niles Benn, said he believes any testimony will likely be limited to the veracity of the correspondents' stories.

"I'm satisfied with that," Benn said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bookman: Admit it: Intelligent design is an issue of faith, not fact




Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Teach the controversy."

That's all that advocates of intelligent design ask. Go ahead and teach what they call the scientific evidence for and against the theory of evolution. But at the same time, why not also teach the "competing scientific theory" that only an intelligent being could have created the marvel of the world around us?

In making that argument, most advocates of intelligent design reject any suggestion that their approach is religion disguised in a white lab coat. Intelligent design is simply good science, they say, with all the rigor and honest inquiry that science requires, and it should be treated as such.

In fact, the scientific evidence in favor of a designer "can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences," says the Intelligent Design Network, which advocates teaching the approach in public schools.

The classic example cited by ID advocates is the eye. As they see it, the eye's remarkable intricacy cannot be explained through the gradual changes implicit in evolution. And the absence of a natural explanation leaves just one other possibility: A creator must be at work.

Of course, scientists strongly dispute such claims, arguing that evolution can indeed account for the sophistication of the eye, noting such rudimentary versions as the light sensitivity of some one-celled creatures and light-sensitive patches of skin in others.

But in terms of public opinion, that argument doesn't make much headway. In a recent Harris poll, only 38 percent of Americans said they believed that human beings evolved from earlier creatures; only 12 percent believe that evolution should be the only theory of human origin taught in our schools.

President Bush takes that same approach, endorsing the teaching of both evolution and intelligent design.

Unfortunately, though, I don't believe ID advocates are sincere about wanting to teach the controversy. If they are, they simply haven't thought through the implications.

A controversy, remember, has two sides. And if alleged weaknesses in evolution theory are to be taught in our schools as science, then scientific evidence against the existence of an intelligent designer or God must be taught, too.

That's how science works. If you propose a theory, you issue an invitation to others to shoot holes in your theory.

So think about that: Do we really want science teachers exploring the evidence for — but also against — the existence of a designer? I don't think that's wise or useful for a number of reasons, but that's what a rigorous and intellectually honest debate would require.

To take a tiny example, the existence of an appendix — which serves no purpose except to enrich surgeons — certainly calls into question the intelligence if not the existence of an ultimate designer. To take a larger example, would an intelligent designer allow the birth of babies so malformed that they are doomed to live only a few hours of a painful existence?

And to change scales altogether, what kind of intelligent designer creates a world in which a massive hurricane wipes an entire city off the map?

If the complexity of the eye argues for an intelligent designer of this universe, the random deaths of large numbers of innocent people can certainly be said to argue against it.

Of course, priests, ministers, rabbis and mullahs have been dealing with such profound questions forever, and they do so largely by deferring to the unknowable mystery of God's will and God's mind.

I'm not trying to challenge that wisdom, not for a moment. I have too much respect for the power of faith.

But in an honest debate, it must be said that those answers are grounded in faith, not in science. And ultimately, that's really the problem.

When advocates of intelligent design deny that they are advancing religious faith, they aren't being honest. They're telling a lie, no matter how well-intended, and it's a lie that fools no one. Yet they want everyone to pretend to believe it.

Trying to advance the cause of faith by dishonestly disguising it as science does a profound injustice to both. But the greater harm is to religion. If you are trying to spread faith by denying its power, something's wrong.

Truth cannot be advanced through deception. Scientists may not be able to confirm that, but I bet your minister can.

Bookman is the deputy editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He can be reached at jbookman@ajc.com.

Undoing Darwin


CJR Home Issues 2005

By Chris Mooney and Matthew C. Nisbet

On March 14, 2005, The Washington Post's Peter Slevin wrote a front-page story on the battle that is "intensifying across the nation" over the teaching of evolution in public-school science classes. Slevin's lengthy piece took a detailed look at the lobbying, fund-raising, and communications tactics being deployed at the state and local level to undermine evolution. The article placed a particular emphasis on the burgeoning "intelligent design" movement, centered at Seattle's Discovery Institute, whose proponents claim that living things, in all their organized complexity, simply could not have arisen from a mindless and directionless process such as the one so famously described in 1859 by Charles Darwin in his classic, The Origin of Species.

Yet Slevin's article conspicuously failed to provide any background information on the theory of evolution, or why it's considered a bedrock of modern scientific knowledge among both scientists who believe in God and those who don't. Indeed, the few defenders of evolution quoted by Slevin were attached to advocacy groups, not research universities; most of the article's focus, meanwhile, was on anti-evolutionists and their strategies. Of the piece's thirty-eight paragraphs, twenty-one were devoted to this "strategy" framing — an emphasis that, not surprisingly, rankled the Post's science reporters. "How is it that The Washington Post can run a feature-length A1 story about the battle over the facts of evolution and not devote a single paragraph to what the evidence is for the scientific view of evolution?" protested an internal memo from the paper's science desk that was copied to Michael Getler, the Post's ombudsman. "We do our readers a grave disservice by not telling them. By turning this into a story of dueling talking heads, we add credence to the idea that this is simply a battle of beliefs." Though he called Slevin's piece "lengthy, smart, and very revealing," Getler assigned Slevin a grade of "incomplete" for his work.

Slevin's incomplete article probably foreshadows what we can expect as evolution continues its climb up the news agenda, driven by a rising number of newsworthy events. In May, for example, came a series of public hearings staged by evolution-theory opponents in Kansas. In Cobb County, Georgia, a lawsuit is pending over anti-evolutionist textbook disclaimers (the case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit). And now comes the introduction of intelligent design into the science curriculum of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district, a move that has triggered a First Amendment lawsuit scheduled to be argued in September before a federal judge in Harrisburg. President Bush and Senator Bill Frist entered the fray in early August, when both appeared to endorse the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.

As evolution, driven by such events, shifts out of scientific realms and into political and legal ones, it ceases to be covered by context-oriented science reporters and is instead bounced to political pages, opinion pages, and television news. And all these venues, in their various ways, tend to deemphasize the strong scientific case in favor of evolution and instead lend credence to the notion that a growing "controversy" exists over evolutionary science. This notion may be politically convenient, but it is false.

We reached our conclusions about press coverage after systematically reading through seventeen months of evolution stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post; daily papers in the local areas embroiled in the evolution debate (including both papers covering Dover, Pennsylvania, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Topeka, Kansas, Capital-Journal); and relevant broadcast and cable television news transcripts. Across this coverage, a clear pattern emerges when evolution is an issue: from reporting on newly discovered fossil records of feathered dinosaurs and three-foot humanoids to the latest ideas of theorists such as Richard Dawkins, science writers generally characterize evolution in terms that accurately reflect its firm acceptance in the scientific community. Political reporters, generalists, and TV news reporters and anchors, however, rarely provide their audiences with any real context about basic evolutionary science. Worse, they often provide a springboard for anti-evolutionist criticism of that science, allotting ample quotes and sound bites to Darwin's critics in a quest to achieve "balance." The science is only further distorted on the opinion pages of local newspapers.

Later this month, all of this will probably be on full display as the dramatic evolution trial begins in Pennsylvania over intelligent design, or ID. The case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, will be the first ever to test the legality of introducing ID into public-school science classes. The suit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of concerned parents after the local school board voted 6-3 to endorse the following change to the biology curriculum: "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, Intelligent Design." The trial is likely to be a media circus. And, unfortunately, there's ample reason to expect that the spectacle will lend an entirely undeserved p.r. boost to the carefully honed issue-framing techniques employed by today's anti-evolutionists.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," the famed geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973. What Dobzhansky calls "evolution," Charles Darwin himself often called "descent with modification," but the basic idea is the same — that the wide variety of organisms occupying the earth today share a common ancestry but have diversified greatly over time. The main force driving that process, Darwin postulated, was "natural selection." In brief, the theory works like this: natural variations make some organisms better equipped than others for their various walks of life, and these variations are heritable. As a result, some organisms will be more likely to survive than others and will therefore pass on advantageous traits to their offspring — a process that, over vast stretches of geological time, can bring about division into species and, ultimately, the diversity of life itself.

Since Darwin's time modern science has dramatically bolstered this theory with evidence from a wide range of fields. For example, advances in genetics and molecular biology have now shown how heredity actually works, as well as explained the nature of chance mutation (the source of the "variation" that Darwin noted). In fact, DNA now provides perhaps the single best piece of evidence supporting the theory of evolution. More closely related organisms turn out to have more DNA in common, meaning that the course of evolutionary change can actually be charted through genetic analysis.

As the National Academy of Sciences has noted, further evidence for evolutionary theory comes from such diverse arenas as the fossil record, comparative anatomy (which reveals structural similarities in related organisms, often called "homology"), species distribution (showing, for instance, that island species are often distinct from but closely related to mainland relatives), and embryology. With all of this interlocking evidence, the academy has declared the theory of evolution to be "the central unifying concept of biology."

Despite its firm foundation, however, evolution has long been challenged by some devout religious believers who find it incompatible with a literal interpretation of scripture and an assault on religion itself (even though many evolutionary scientists are themselves religious). Over nearly a century in the United States, the creationist movement has not only persisted but changed its form in reaction to legal and educational precedents. In the 1960s and 1970s, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bans on the teaching of evolution were unconstitutional, creationists adopted the mantle of "creation science" or "scientific creationism," arguing for instance that Noah's flood caused geological phenomena like the Grand Canyon, and calling for "equal time" for their views in public schools.

More recently, Darwin's foes have taken up intelligent design, making the more limited — and far more sophisticated — claim that evolution alone cannot explain the stunning complexity of anatomical structures such as the eye, or, more basically, parts of the cell. The intelligent design movement, like the creation science movement before it, includes at least a few Ph.D.s — for example, Lehigh University's Michael Behe, who argues that certain biochemical structures are "irreducibly complex," meaning that they could not have evolved in an unguided fashion and must instead have been designed by a superhuman intelligence. Behe's arguments have not successfully swayed the broader biological community, however.

If attacks on evolution aren't anything new in America, neither is the tendency of U.S. journalists to lend undue credibility to theological attacks that masquerade as being "scientific" in nature. During the early 1980s, for example, the mega-evolution trial McLean v. Arkansas pitted defenders of evolutionary science against so-called "scientific creationists." Today, few take the claims of these scientific creationists very seriously. At the time, however, proponents of creation science were treated quite seriously indeed by the national media, which had parachuted in for the trial. As media scholars have noted, reporters generally "balanced" the scientific-sounding claims of the scientific creationists against the arguments of evolutionary scientists. They also noted that religion and public-affairs reporters, rather than science writers, were generally assigned to cover the trial.

Now, history is repeating itself: intelligent-design proponents, whose movement is a descendant of the creation science movement of yore, are enjoying precisely the same kind of favorable media coverage in the run-up to another major evolution trial. This cyclical phenomenon carries with it an important lesson about the nature of political reporting when applied to scientific issues. In strategy-driven political coverage, reporters typically tout the claims of competing political camps without comment or knowledgeable analysis, leaving readers to fend for themselves.

For example, consider this perfectly balanced two-sentence summary of competing positions that appeared repeatedly in coverage of the Dover, Pennsylvania, evolution debate by The York Dispatch's Heidi Bernhard-Bubb: "Intelligent design theory attributes the origin of life to an intelligent being. It counters the theory of evolution, which says that people evolved from less complex beings." This type of pairing fails in more ways than one. First, the statement about the "less complex beings" that supposedly preceded modern humans suggests a lackluster understanding of evolutionary theory. (Nothing in evolutionary theory suggests that an increase in complexity is inherent to the process. In fact, very simple bacteria continue to thrive on earth to this day.) Even worse, such "balance" is far from truly objective. The pairing of competing claims plays directly into the hands of intelligent-design proponents who have cleverly argued that they're mounting a scientific attack on evolution rather than a religiously driven one, and who paint themselves as maverick outsiders warring against a dogmatic scientific establishment.

Political reporting in newspapers is just part of the problem. Television news reporting often makes the situation even worse, even in the most sophisticated of venues. Consider, for example, a March 28 report on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, in which the correspondent Jeffrey Brown characterized evolution's new opponents as follows: "Intelligent design's proponents carefully distinguish themselves from creation scientists. They use only the language of science, and avoid speaking of God as the ultimate designer." Brown appears oblivious to the scientific-sounding arguments employed by earlier creationists. Moreover, references to God and religion aren't particularly difficult to find among ID defenders, if you know where to look. The pro-ID Discovery Institute's strategic Wedge Document, exposed on the Internet years ago and well known to those who follow the evolution issue, baldly stated the hope that intelligent design would "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and . . . replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

In a kind of test run for the Dover trial, the national media decamped to Kansas in May to cover public hearings over the science curriculum staged by anti-evolutionists on the state school board (hearings that mainstream scientists themselves had boycotted). The event triggered repeated analogies to the Scopes trial (even though there was no actual trial), colorful storytelling themes that described the "battle" between the underdog of intelligent design and establishment science, and televised reporting and commentary that humored the carefully crafted framing devices and arguments of anti-evolutionists.

Even the best TV news reporters may be hard-pressed to cover evolution thoroughly and accurately on a medium that relies so heavily upon images, sound bites, drama, and conflict to keep audiences locked in. These are serious obstacles to conveying scientific complexity. And with its heavy emphasis on talk and debate, cable news is even worse. The adversarial format of most cable news talk shows inherently favors ID's attacks on evolution by making false journalistic "balance" nearly inescapable.

None of which is to say there aren't some journalists today who are doing a great job with their evolution coverage, and who can provide a helpful model. Cornelia Dean, a science writer at The New York Times, presents a leading example of how not only to report on but also how to contextualize the intelligent-design strategy. Consider a June 21 article in which, after featuring the arguments of an ID proponent who called for teaching about the alleged "controversy" over evolution in public schools, Dean wrote: "In theory, this position — 'teach the controversy' — is one any scientist should support. But mainstream scientists say alternatives to evolution have repeatedly failed the tests of science, and the criticisms have been answered again and again. For scientists, there is no controversy."

Besides citing the overwhelming scientific consensus in support of evolution, journalists can also contextualize the claims of ID proponents by applying clear legal precedents. Instead of ritually likening the contemporary intelligent-design debate to the historic Scopes "monkey trial" of 1925, journalists should ask the same questions about ID that more recent court decisions (especially the McLean v. Arkansas case) have leveled at previous challenges to evolution: First, is ID religiously motivated and does it feature religious content? In other words, would it violate the separation of church and state if covered in a public school setting? Second, does ID meet the criteria of a scientific theory, and is there strong peer-reviewed evidence in support of it? In short, to better cover evolution, journalists don't merely have to think more like scientists (or science writers). As the evolution issue inevitably shifts into a legal context, they must think more like skeptical jurists.

And as evolution becomes politicized in state after state through trials and school board maneuverings, it rises to prominence on the opinion pages as well as in news stories. Here, competing arguments about evolution and intelligent design tend to be paired against one another in letters to the editor and sometimes in rival guest op-eds, providing a challenge to editors who want to give voice to alternative ideas yet provide an accurate sense of the state of scientific consensus. The mission of the opinion pages and a faithfulness to scientific accuracy can easily come into conflict.

In fact, these forums are quite easily hijacked by activists. Actors on both sides of the evolution debate, but especially pro-ID strategists, often recruit citizens to write letters and op-eds that emphasize the strategists' talking points and arguments. "You get an awful lot of canned comment on the creation side, which you just can't use," observes William Parkinson, editorial page editor of The York Dispatch, one of the two papers closely covering the Dover evolution controversy. Yet despite his awareness of this problem, Parkinson's paper did recently print at least one form letter modeled on a prepared text put out by the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, a Christian conservative group. Precrafted talking points included the following: "This is a science vs. science debate, not a science vs. religion debate — it is scientists looking at the same data and reaching different conclusions." The York Dispatch's rival paper, the York Daily Record, printed two letters clearly based on the same talking points.

In our study of media coverage of recent evolution controversies, we homed in on local opinion pages, both because they represent a venue where it's easy to keep score of how the issue is being defined and because we suspected they would reflect a public that is largely misinformed about the scientific basis for the theory of evolution yet itching to fight about it. That's especially so since many opinion-page editors see their role not as gatekeepers of scientific content, but rather as enablers of debate within pluralistic communities — even over matters of science that are usually adjudicated in peer-reviewed journals. Both editorial-page editors of the York papers, for example, emphasized that they try to run every letter they receive that's "fit to print" (essentially meaning that it isn't too lengthy or outright false or libelous).

We wanted to measure the whole of opinion writing in these two papers. So for the period of January 2004 through May 2005, we recorded each letter, op-ed, opinion column, and in-house editorial that appeared (using Lexis-Nexis and Factiva databases). We scored the author's position both on the teaching of intelligent design or creationism in public schools and on the question of whether scientific evidence supports anti-evolutionist viewpoints. While this remains a somewhat subjective process, strict scoring rules were followed that would allow a different set of raters to arrive at roughly similar conclusions.

Rather stunningly, we found that the heated political debate in Dover, Pennsylvania, produced a massive response: 168 letters, op-eds, columns, and editorials appearing in the York Daily Record alone over the seventeen-month period analyzed (plus ninety-eight in The York Dispatch). A slight plurality of opinion articles at the Dispatch (40.9 percent) and the Daily Record (45.3 percent) implicitly or explicitly favored teaching ID and/or "creation science" in some form in public schools, while 39.8 percent and 36.3 percent of opinion articles at those two papers favored teaching only evolution. On the question of scientific evidence, more than a third of opinion articles at the two papers contended or suggested that ID and/or "creation science" had scientific support.

In short, an entirely lopsided debate within the scientific community was transformed into an evenly divided one in the popular arena, as local editorial-page editors printed every letter they received that they deemed "fit." At the York Dispatch this populism was partly counterbalanced by an editorial voice that took a firm stand in favor of teaching evolution and termed intelligent design the "same old creationist wine in new bottles." The York Daily Record, however, was considerably more sheepish in its editorial stance. The paper generally sought to minimize controversy and seemed more willing to criticize Dover school board members who resigned over the decision to introduce intelligent design into the curriculum (asking why they didn't stay and fight) than to rebuke those board members who were responsible for attacking evolution in the first place. When the Dover school board instituted its ID policy in October 2004, the first York Daily Record editorial to respond to the development fretted about an "unnecessary and divisive distraction for a district that has other, more pressing educational issues to deal with" but didn't strongly denounce what had happened. "I think we've been highly critical of the personal behavior of some of the board members, but we've tried to be, you know, fair on the issue itself of whether ID should be taught in science class," says the editorial-page editor, Scott Fisher, who adds that the editorial board is "slightly divided" on the issue.

Interestingly, however, not all local opinion pages fit the mold of the York papers. Given the turmoil in Cobb County, Georgia, over the introduction of anti-evolutionist textbook disclaimers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also covered the debate heavily on its opinion pages. But the paper took a very firm stand on the issue, with the editorial-page editor, Cynthia Tucker, declaring in one pro-evolution column that "our science infrastructure is under attack from religious extremists." Tucker, along with the deputy editorial-page editor, Jay Bookman, also warned repeatedly of the severe negative economic consequences and national ridicule that anti-evolutionism might bring on the community. Meanwhile, a majority of printed letters, op-eds, and editorials in the Journal-Constitution (54.2 percent) favored teaching only evolution and argued that ID and/or creationism lacked scientific support (53.5 percent). This may suggest a community with different views than those in Dover, Pennsylvania, or it may suggest a stronger editorial role. (Tucker and Bookman did not respond to queries about whether they print letters according to the proportion of opinion that they receive or use other criteria.) Yet despite the strong stance of the Journal-Constitution editorial staff, the editors also actively worked to include at least some balance in perspectives, inviting guest op-eds that countered the strongly pro-evolution editorial position of the paper. Roughly 30 percent of the letters and op-eds to the paper featured pro-ID and/or creationist views.

At the other local paper we looked at, The Topeka Capital-Journal, the issue has not received nearly as thorough an airing, though the proportion of pro-evolution to pro-ID arguments was roughly similar to those in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Interestingly, the Topeka paper appears to have been somewhat reluctant to go beyond publishing letters on the topic, featuring only two guest op-eds (both in support of evolution) and no in-house editorials or columns. Silence is no way for an editorial page to respond to an evolution controversy in its backyard.

At two elite national papers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, the opinion pages sided heavily with evolution. But even there a false sense of scientific controversy was arguably abetted when The New York Times allowed Michael Behe, the prominent ID proponent, to write a full-length op-ed explaining why his is a "scientific" critique of evolution. And when USA Today took a strong stand for evolution on its editorial page on August 8 ('INTELLIGENT DESIGN' SMACKS OF CREATIONISM BY ANOTHER NAME), the paper, using its point-counterpoint editorial format, ran an anti-evolution piece with it (EVOLUTION LACKS FOSSIL LINK), written by a state senator from Utah, D. Chris Buttars. It was filled with stark misinformation, such as the following sentence: "There is zero scientific fossil evidence that demonstrates organic evolutionary linkage between primates and man."

More recently, the Times delivered another coup for anti-evolutionists by printing a July 7 op-ed by the Roman Catholic Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, making the case for the "overwhelming evidence for design in biology." Schonborn is a religious authority, not a scientific one, and while his opinion may have been newsworthy because it suggested a shifting of position on evolution within the Catholic Church, the "evidence" to which he referred is not recognized by mainstream evolutionary science. In fact, the Times science writer Cornelia Dean implied as much when, in covering the publication of Schonborn's article as a piece of news, she wrote in her seventh paragraph that "Darwinian evolution is the foundation of modern biology. While researchers may debate details of how the mechanism of evolution plays out, there is no credible scientific challenge to the underlying theory."

In early August, on the heels of Cardinal Schonborn's newsmaking op-ed, Americans received another confusing signal about the scientific merits of intelligent design, this time from President Bush. During a roundtable discussion with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush said of the teaching of ID, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought . . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas and the answer is yes." That day an AP article on the president's remarks reported his statements without context — no response from a scientist, no mention of the scientific basis for evolution. The Houston Chronicle, one of the five Texas papers at the roundtable, reflected on Bush's statement uncritically in its story, noting only that intelligent design and creationism "are at odds with a Darwinian evolution theory, which holds that humans evolved over time from other species." The Chronicle also quoted a board member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, observing that Bush was playing to his conservative Christian base. In their reporting, the political correspondents Elisabeth Bumiller at The New York Times and Peter Baker and Peter Slevin at The Washington Post did at least contextualize Bush's remarks with responses from pro-evolution advocacy groups, but they also referred to ID as a "theory," lending an implicit sense of scientific legitimacy to a religiously motivated political movement.

At the end of August, the Times weighed in with a three-part series on the evolution "controversy," drawing from its deep well of expertise. On Sunday, August 21, reporter Jodi Wilgoren provided background on the history, funding, and tactics of the Discovery Institute. On Monday, science writer Kenneth Chang tackled the science, giving considerable space to an explanation of evolutionary theory. Cornelia Dean broke new ground on Tuesday with a piece about how scientists, including devout Christian scientists, view religion.

The series was nuanced and comprehensive, and will likely boost even higher the profile of evolution in the news. Still, the unintended consequence may be that increased media attention only helps proponents present intelligent design as a contest between scientific theories rather than what it actually is — a sophisticated religious challenge to an overwhelming scientific consensus. As the Discovery Institute's vice president, Jay Richards, put it on Larry King Live the day of the final Times story: "We think teachers should be free to talk about intelligent design, and frankly, I don't think that it can be suppressed. It's now very much a public discussion, evidenced by the fact that you're talking about it on your show tonight."

Without a doubt, then, political reporting, television news, and opinion pages are all generally fanning the flames of a "controversy" over evolution. Not surprisingly, in light of this coverage, we simultaneously find that the public is deeply confused about evolution.

In a November 2004 Gallup poll, respondents were asked: "Just your opinion, do you think that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is: a scientific theory that has been well supported by evidence, or just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or don't you know enough to say?" Only 35 percent of Americans answered a scientific theory supported by evidence, whereas another 35 percent indicated that evolution was just one among many theories, and 29 percent answered that they didn't know. Meanwhile a national survey this spring (conducted by Matthew Nisbet, one of the authors of this article, in collaboration with the Survey Research Institute at Cornell University), found similar public confusion about the scientific basis for intelligent design. A bare majority of adult Americans (56.3 percent) agreed that evolution is supported by an overwhelming body of scientific evidence; a sizeable proportion (44.2 percent) thought precisely the same thing of intelligent design.

At the very least, the flaws in the journalistic presentation of evolution by political reporters, TV news, and op-ed pages aren't clarifying the issues. Perhaps journalists should consider that unlike other social controversies — over abortion or gay marriage, for instance — the evolution debate is not solely a matter of subjective morality or political opinion. Rather, a definitive standard has been set by the scientific community on the science of evolution, and can easily be used to evaluate competing claims. Scientific societies, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have taken strong stances affirming that evolution is the bedrock of modern biology. In such a situation, journalistic coverage that helps fan the flames of a nonexistent scientific controversy (and misrepresents what's actually known) simply isn't appropriate.

So what is a good editor to do about the very real collision between a scientific consensus and a pseudo-scientific movement that opposes the basis of that consensus? At the very least, newspaper editors should think twice about assigning reporters who are fresh to the evolution issue and allowing them to default to the typical strategy frame, carefully balancing "both sides" of the issue in order to file a story on time and get around sorting through the legitimacy of the competing claims. As journalism programs across the country systematically review their curriculums and training methods, the evolution "controversy" provides strong evidence in support of the contention that specialization in journalism education can benefit not only public understanding, but also the integrity of the media. For example, at Ohio State, beyond basic skill training in reporting and editing, students focusing on public-affairs journalism are required to take an introductory course in scientific reasoning. Students can then specialize further by taking advanced courses covering the relationships between science, the media, and society. They are also encouraged to minor in a science-related field.

With training in covering science-related policy disputes on issues ranging from intelligent design to stem-cell research to climate change, journalists are better equipped to make solid independent judgments about credibility, and then pass these interpretations on to readers. The intelligent-design debate is one among a growing number of controversies in which technical complexity, with disputes over "facts," data, and expertise, has altered the political battleground. The traditional generalist correspondent will be hard-pressed to cover these topics in any other format than the strategy frame, balancing arguments while narrowly focusing on the implications for who's ahead and who's behind in the contest to decide policy. If news editors fail to recognize the growing demand for journalists with specialized expertise and backgrounds who can get beyond this form of writing, the news media risk losing their ability to serve as important watchdogs over society's institutions.

When it comes to opinion pages, meanwhile, there's certainly more room for dissent because of the nature of the forum — but that doesn't mean editorial-page editors can't act as responsible gatekeepers. Unlike the timidity of the York Daily Record and The Topeka Capital-Journal, The York Dispatch and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution serve as examples of how papers can inform their readers about authoritative scientific opinion without stifling the voices of anti-evolutionists.

One thing, above all, is clear: a full-fledged national debate has been reawakened over an issue that once seemed settled. This new fight may not simmer down again until the U.S. Supreme Court is forced (for the third time) to weigh in. In these circumstances, the media have a profound responsibility — to the public, and to knowledge itself.

Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed Magazine and author of The Republican War on Science (www.waronscience.com), due out this month from Basic Books. Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State University, where his research focuses on the intersections between science, the media, and politics.

© 2005 Columbia Journalism Review at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism

Intelligent design, dumb science?


The Varsity - Science Issue: 9/12/05

By Chris Damdar

Last month, US President George W. Bush made waves by endorsing the notion that teachers ought to present the ideas of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside the theory of evolution in high school science classrooms. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas," said Bush, "the answer is 'yes.'"

ID supporters argue that life is too complex and organisms too suited to their ways of living to have come about through natural processes, as asserted by evolution. Instead, ID proponents invoke a Designer, and claim that it is possible to scientifically show that life was designed.

The majority of scientists dismiss ID as religion disguised as science. Yet proponents of ID are on the brink of legally forcing Kansas school boards to teach ID as a valid scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution. This decision would set a strong precedent for similar cases in the US and Canada.

The talk focused on whether ID should be taught in schools, and was put on by U of T student group the Secular Alliance last Friday. It featured DJ Grothe, the director of the Center for Inquiry, who spoke against the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classrooms.

Grothe began with a short clip wherein ID proponents blame society's ills on secularism and humanism, and attribute practices such as abortion to the rise of evolutionary thinking. "Humanism is a religion that has gained an unmistakable grip on our schools," American televangelist Pat Robertson was seen saying. "Students are forced to replace their faith in God with faith in man."

During his talk, Grothe boiled down his argument against ID to three reasons: "It should not be taught in schools because it is unscientific, unwise, and unconstitutional," he argued. "Unscientific because ID proponents have not produced any scientific evidence or research. Rather than advancing a scientific program and appealing to a scientific forum, they use political means to show why their evidence against evolution should be taught."

Grother said that teaching ID in schools is unwise, because "science teachers have a responsibility to teach the best science of the day. Would you teach astrology in an astronomy class?" In addition, Grothe claimed that ID was religious and that its introduction into schools would violate the separation of church and state. Grothe also warned of the proliferation of large religious organizations who clamour against evolution and assist in efforts to introduce ID into classrooms. One such organization is Campus Crusade for Christ, which operates throughout North America on a $400-million-a-year budget; the organization has a chapter at U of T.

In an interview with The Varsity, Grothe dismissed the notion that schools should "teach the controversy" surrounding evolution. "There is no scientific controversy regarding the acceptance of evolution. The scientific evidence demands the verdict of evolution....However there is a cultural controversy. I think Intelligent Design can and should be taught in a history class or philosophy class as a social controversy, but not as a science."

During the question period, one vocal audience member stood up to challenge the audience's near-unanimous support for evolution. After a long introductory statement asking for tolerance and pleading to be allowed to go on without interruption, he asked four prepared questions and then read off a long statement that purported to prove the falsity of evolution. Most of his statements received chuckles from the audience but patient responses from Grothe. After presenting his point of view, the audience member advised attendees to visit the website www.evolutiondeceit.com for more evidence.

"You can't go through life thinking you know everything," he told The Varsity. "I don't know exactly what Intelligent Design is, but the debate is all about whether God exists," he said. "I think God should be taught in the classrooms." He met with hostility during and after the talk, mainly for taking up a lot of time.

One patient voice of opposition was Dr. Larry Moran, a professor of biochemistry at U of T, who countered the audience member with the website talkorigins.org. Moran's office server hosts an Internet discussion group called talk.origins, which is devoted to debating the evolution vs. creation controversy. Started in 1988, the newsgroup has also spawned an archived website, talkorigins.org, a compendium of articles presenting the evidence for evolution, and counter-arguments to common creationist claims.

In addition to countering the audience member, Moran also criticized the third pillar of Grothe's case against the teaching of ID-the fact that it would be unconstitutional. "You cannot defend against a cultural attack by invoking the Constitution," Moran said. "It's the wrong strategy.

"[Evolutionists] rely on the courts to defend them as their first line of defense." That, he said, "plays into the creationists' game-it reinforces the notion they're being oppressed by the atheist establishment."

"By and large there is no traction (for ID) among university students in Canada," said Moran. "U of T students getting up in class to air anti-Darwinian views would likely get laughed at by their fellow students. Most students at U of T don't see a conflict between their science and their religion," he said. "They just don't see a controversy, so it's hard to stir them up."

Intelligent design - more politicking than science


SAB Sep 13, 05 3:44pm

I write this letter in response to Steven Foong's letter 'An intelligent designer in the origins of life?'

With all due respect to Mr Foong, evolutionary theory has gone far beyond 'Darwinism' to include all what we know today about molecular genetics and biological systems. Scientists have seen microevolution in action and there's no reason to believe that macroevolution couldn't happen according to the theory as it exists today not 140 years ago.

As for intelligent design; it is not a scientific theory despite its proponents' insistence that it can be. It is actually science in reverse. Intelligent design often must assume design in order to prove that there is a designer but always fails to explain the nature and origin of the designer. Without proof of a designer the main hypothesis of this "theory" crumbles.

The intelligent design argument hinges upon the notion of "irreducibly complex systems," or systems that could not function if they were missing just one of their many parts. Irreducibly complex systems cannot evolve in a Darwinian fashion, they say, because natural selection works on small mutations in just one component at a time. They then leap to the conclusion that intelligent design must be responsible for these irreducibly complex systems.

But natural selection and molecular genetics can explain this since complex, interlocking biological systems do not evolve as individual parts, despite the intelligent design proponents' claim that they must. They evolve together, as systems that are gradually expanded, enlarged, and adapted to new purposes.

Sure such things can be explained by the existence of a designer but they don't need to be as evolution acting over hundreds of thousands or millions of years and in accordance to the principles of molecular genetics and the laws of physics can explain them also. Evolution also explains the redundancy found in molecular biological systems and the vast amounts of useless material in our DNA. A designer would certainly be much neater about it.

A true theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena. By this standard, Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science. It has produced countless important experiments (let's re-create a natural species in the lab - yes, that's been done) and sudden insight into once puzzling patterns (that's why there are no native land mammals on oceanic islands). In the nearly ten years since the popularization of intelligent design theory, it has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology.

In short intelligent design tends to look more like politicking than real science and has absolutely no place in any classroom anywhere. It is a pseudoscience that looks more like metaphysics, theology or philosophy. It is just creation theory wrapped in a shiny new package and offers nothing new to scientific discovery.

Intelligent design old news to Darwin



`Origin of Species' author would shy away from today's debate because, well, he was too shy to face it back when, the Tribune's Tom Hundley writes on visit to his home.

By Tom Hundley the Tribune's chief European correspondent
Published September 13, 2005

DOWNE, England -- So what would Charles Darwin have to say about the dust-up between today's evolutionists and intelligent designers?

Probably nothing.

Shy and reclusive, Darwin disliked argument. He also was plagued by poor health. In particular, he suffered from terrible flatulence that made him reluctant to venture out in public.

Even after he became one of the most famous and controversial men of his time, he was always content to let surrogates argue his case.

At the house in Downe where he spent the last 40 years of his life, he rigged up a system of mirrors so he could peek out the window of his study and see who was at the front door. Unwanted visitors were sent away.

A son of privilege, young Darwin took a degree in divinity from Cambridge in 1831 and prepared to settle into an uneventful life as a country vicar. It was sheer chance that his tutor at Cambridge mentioned Darwin's name to an aristocratic young naval officer, Robert FitzRoy, who was looking for a suitable intellectual companion for a mapmaking expedition to the South American coast.

Several others had declined the offer. But Darwin, 22 at the time, saw it as a kind of gap year and jumped at it.

Darwin had not traveled much before his five-year journey on the HMS Beagle. And after his return to England, he would never travel again.

He settled in this snug village in the Kentish countryside, a place that seems little changed over the last 100 years, and he kept his ideas mostly to himself as he thought through his theory of natural selection.

From his university days Darwin would have been familiar with the case for intelligent design. In 1802, nearly 30 years before the Beagle set sail, William Paley, the reigning theologian of his time, published "Natural Theology" in which he laid out his "Argument from Design."

Paley contended that if a person discovered a pocket watch while taking a ramble across the heath, he would know instantly that this was a designed object, not something that had evolved by chance. Therefore, there must be a designer. Similarly, man--a marvelously intricate piece of biological machinery--also must have been designed by "Someone."

If this has a familiar ring to it, it's because this is pretty much the same argument that intelligent design advocates use today.

Darwin's discoveries, and the scientific conclusions they led him to, troubled him greatly. He dawdled almost 20 years before getting up the gumption to publish. He knew the scandal his ideas would cause in Victorian England. He knew, too, how it would upset his wife, a believer who feared she would not see her husband in the afterlife.

"On the Origin of Species" was an immediate sensation when it came out in 1859. The first great public debate took place on June 30, 1860, in a packed hall at Oxford University's new Zoological Museum.

Samuel Wilberforce, the learned bishop of Oxford, was champing at the bit to demolish Darwin's notion that man descended from apes. As always, Darwin stayed home. His case was argued by one of his admirers, biologist Thomas Huxley.

Wilberforce drew whoops of glee from the gallery when he sarcastically asked Huxley if he claimed descent from the apes on his grandmother's side or his grandfather's. Huxley retorted that he would rather be related to an ape than to a man of the church who used half-truths and nonsense to attack science.

The argument continues unabated, and these days the intelligent designers and anti-evolutionists seem to be gaining ground, especially in the United States. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicates that 42 percent of Americans accept the biblical account of creation, while 64 percent said they support the idea of schools teaching creationism and evolution.

For the overwhelming majority of scientists, however, the argument is settled: 146 years after the publication of Darwin's theory, it remains the bedrock of modern biology.

Darwin died in 1882 and was interred in Westminster Abbey, next to Isaac Newton. His house in Downe is a museum.

The famous study looks as though he just stepped away for a moment--a busy clutter of notebooks and animal bones, fossils and feathers, tweezers and twine.

Visitors can follow in Darwin's steps and stroll along the same footpath where he took his daily walks and minutely observed the flora and fauna.

The only notable change since Darwin's day is that the footpath swings past a vast greensward, where Homo sapiens can be seen carrying quivers of clubs that they use to bludgeon a small white ball until it disappears into a hole.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Intelligent design


Ralf Thilen
Posted September 12 2005

In his commentary, "Science seeks hard evidence" (Sept. 5), Moin Rahman states that intelligent design does not accept evolution. But the fact is that ID does not reject evolution.

What ID does not accept is evolution driven by blind chance or that our universe is one among billions of similar universes that just happens to carry all the many prerequisites of life as we know it.

Instead, ID sees a superior intelligence behind it all. Why would this be impossible given that a totally insignificant speck in our enormous universe -- the human being -- has developed a certain level of intelligence?

Rusher wrong on intelligent design


With thousands of Louisianians suffering so severely, it is incredible that anyone should have to answer pseudoscientific claims by creationists. Our tragedy notwithstanding, creationists have not slowed their campaign to convince Americans that "intelligent design" threatens evolutionary theory and offers a scientific alternative. William Rusher, in his second column on ID in The Advocate within a few months, is contributing to this never-ending hornswoggle.

Rusher's Sept. 2 column is so wrong I hardly know where to start. One hopes that he writes from ignorance rather than an intent to mislead. Having co-authored with Paul Gross the book that explains intelligent-design creationists' politically fueled religious campaign ("Creationism's Trojan Horse," Oxford University Press, 2004), and having been selected as an expert witness in the first ID court case in Dover, Pa., later this month, I feel responsible for setting the record straight for Advocate readers.

First, ID is not "a modification of the theory of evolution," as Rusher claims. It is creationism.

Second, this issue is not between "those who believe in God" and atheists. I know evolutionary biologists who are devout Christians. ID creationists use this scare tactic to literally frighten people into accepting ID.

Third, although Rusher says ID "doesn't depend on the existence of a God," the movement's own leaders define it as "theistic realism," meaning that God is the creator and his handiwork is detectable in biology. (None, however, have shown how to detect it.) They also call it "the logos of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." So ID depends not only on God, but Christianity.

Finally, although a relative handful of scientists endorse ID compared with the tens of thousands who accept evolution, those in this handful have subordinated their scientific integrity to their political and religious loyalties.

Most tellingly, not one of them uses intelligent design in his professional work as a scientist. That fact, not a conspiracy by science journals, explains why ID creationists have trouble publishing papers invoking ID as a scientific explanation. They produce no scientific data to publish. Quite simply, they are another column in the Religious Right's effort to control public education and policy.

As a Louisianian, I am outraged that during this terrible time, I have to prepare for a creationism trial. As an American, I am wondering when the Religious Right's attempt to control our public institutions will ever end.

Barbara Forrest

Monkeying about with science


September 10, 2005

SOME educational debates - like Mimi in Act IV of La Boheme, or our last guinea pig - take an unconscionably long time to die. The controversy over the teaching of so-called Intelligent Design (The Theory Formerly Known as Creationism) as an alternative to evolution is a textbook case in point.

That we are still discussing the issue at all in an age of genetic engineering, stem-cell research and cloned political leadership seems ample proof that Darwin didn't take things far enough. Homo sapiens are not only descended from simpler organisms - we've appointed some of them to be our top educational policymakers.

The basic idea behind Intelligent Design (a euphemism worthy of the Freedom Fighters who recently rearranged the molecular structure of 52 London commuters) is that life is too complex to have come about by chance, and must therefore have been thunk up by a Divine Being, or at least a seriously Gifted and Talented one.

The concept is not entirely without merit. For one thing, it's simple enough for an amoeba, or even a Republican, to digest. Yet it seems to me the relationship between structural complexity on the one hand and the Hand of God on the other is hardly what you'd call self-evident. But perhaps I think that only because I am not a Christian (only an Anglican). And who knows? Maybe God really did create Outcomes-Based Education.

When US President George W. Bush recently declared his support for Intelligent Design, I wasn't really surprised. Bush's aides say he learned about ID in his weekly Bible study class. (According to leaked documents, they are going to let him play The Whirlwind in the pageant this year.) And speaking of vestigial life forms, how fitting that one of the group's favourite Sunday School teachers is convicted Watergate felon Charles Colson, now a self-proclaimed evangelical divine.

It wasn't until Brendan Nelson followed in Bush's knuckle-print, describing Intelligent Design as a theory with enough merit to be taught alongside evolution in Australian high schools, that I really went ape. I mean, talk about a case of monkey see, monkey do. Teaching creationism under the banner of biology in this day and geological age makes about as much sense as ... oh, gosh, I don't know ... putting a GP in charge of educational policymaking.

In a state of nature, as Darwin observed, the fittest survive. In politics, they normally just return to the private sector. Let us join together in wishing them godspeed.

Evolution - Creationism


In the Wake of President Bush's Public Comments About Teaching Human Origins, Science & Spirit Takes Up the Debate

QUINCY, MA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 09/12/2005 -- On August 1, President George W. Bush told a group of reporters that he supports the inclusion of intelligent design alongside evolution when public school students are taught about the origins of life. On August 10, the Kansas State Board of Education made a preliminary decision to eliminate the theory of evolution from required school curriculum. In less than 10 days time, a debate that has been smoldering since Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching evolution in 1925 had erupted once again, landing front and center on the radar screen of the American public. Science & Spirit has long been on the leading edge of the evolution vs. creationism debate. In its September-October issue, the magazine, uniquely positioned to cover the controversy delves even deeper, presenting multiple perspectives through which readers can begin to understand the origin, ferocity, and significance of the issue:

--  Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward J. Larson takes us back to
    Dayton, Tennessee, and walks us through the next 80 years, chronicling the
    clash between science and religion, highlighting major court decisions and
    legislation, and tracking public opinion on the matter.
--  Philosopher of science Michael Ruse describes the European reaction to
    America's evolution "wars" and issues a call "to learn about the evolution-
    creation dispute and to do what you can to serve the cause of truth and
--  Leading primatologist Frans de Waal illustrates primate-human
    comparisons through compelling photographs and describes his interest in
    primates and evolution by saying, "The more I learn about where we came
    from, the more I appreciate what we are today and wonder about the larger
    scheme of things."
--  Ernan McMullin, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of
    Notre Dame and a Catholic priest, makes the case that Saint Augustine's
    ideas can help bridge the divide between scientific and theological
    accounts of how life began.

The September-October issue of Science & Spirit also examines American universities' reluctance to address spiritual issues in the classroom, despite students' eagerness to explore; spotlights the world's first nonprofit drug company; and looks at an international gathering of community groups dedicated to furthering the science-religion dialogue.

Highlighted Links
Science & Spirit

Science & Spirit is published six times a year by Heldref Publications. It is sold on newsstands and by subscription, and can be viewed online at www.science-spirit.org.

Diane Glynn Publicity
Tel. 203.259.4586
Email: Email Contact

SOURCE: Science & Spirit Magazine

'Alien' sighting in Thailand


Officials in Thailand are investigating claims by villagers who say they have seen an alien.

About 10 people from Huay Nam Rak claims to have spotted the alien in a nearby rice field, reports The Nation.

The 'extraterrestrial' was said to have a small body, a large head and didn't leave any footprints.

It is reported the creature wandered around in the field for about an hour without taking any notice of the villagers.

Sawaeng Boonyalak, 35, who was among those who rushed to see it, said: "The alien is about 70 cm high and has yellow skin and a flat chest. Its mouth is very tiny. It has bald big head with big eyes and big ears.

"Suddenly, the alien floated to a tree top. After more villagers came to see it, it floated into the sky into the bright light."

District chief Wisit Sitthisombat who interviewed the ten residents said they were consistent in their testimonies.

He said: "I asked them to draw what they have seen and the pictures came out similarly."

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