NTS LogoSkeptical News for 1 October 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Evolution education update

Kitzmiller coverage continues; California education chief assails "intelligent design"; KU chancellor reaffirms the need for evolution education; APS endorses evolution education

The trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover continues apace, while endorsements of evolution education are offered by California's Superintendent of Public Instruction, the American Phytopathological Society, and the chancellor of the University of Kansas -- but not by the chairman of the Kansas board of education, who publicly stated that it is impossible to accept evolution and the Bible.

KITZMILLER COVERAGE CONTINUES

The trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, began in a federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2005. The media is out in force, so much so that a summary of the extensive coverage is practically impossible. Instead, please browse through the following resources, all of which are replete with links, summaries, and information -- or misinformation: caveat lector.

For official information about the trial from the court itself, visit:
http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller.htm

For information about the case from NCSE, including audio reports from Eugenie C. Scott and Nick Matzke, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/kitzmiller

For information about the case from the ACLU and Americans United, visit:
http://www.aclu.org/evolution
http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_evolution

For coverage in the local press, visit:
http://www.ydr.com/news/doverbiology/
http://www.yorkdispatch.com/

For extensive blog coverage of the trial, visit The Panda's Thumb, the York Daily Record's Mike Argento, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and (with its own distinctive perspective) "Evolution News & Views," hosted by the Discovery Institute:
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/09/waterloo_in_dov.html
http://www.yorkblog.com/
http://aclupa.blogspot.com/
http://www.evolutionnews.org/

CALIFORNIA EDUCATION CHIEF ASSAILS "INTELLIGENT DESIGN"

Speaking at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum on September 28, 2005, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell declared that "intelligent design" was unwelcome in California's public school science classes. "The introduction of intelligent design theory in natural science courses would be a blow to the integrity of education in California," O'Connell said. "Our state has been recognized across the country and around the world for the quality and rigor of our academic standards. Just like I will fight tooth and nail to protect California's high academic standards, I will fight to ensure that good science is protected in California classrooms."

In studies of state standards conducted by the Fordham Foundation, California was among only a handful of states to earn the grade of A, for both its science standards in general and its treatment of evolution in particular. From Pennsylvania, where the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover is ongoing, NCSE's executive director commented, "California's unsurpassed state science standards treat evolution appropriately: as the central, powerful, unifying principle of the biological sciences that it is. I am gratified that Superintendent O'Connell recognizes the need to defend the teaching of evolution against religiously motivated and scientifically unwarranted attacks."

O'Connell also said, "The goal of public education is for students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for California's work force to be competitive in the global, information-based economy of the 21st Century. ... We also want to give students the tools to become critical thinkers and to be able to discuss and reflect on philosophical questions. But, the domain of the natural sciences is the natural world. Science is limited by its tools -- observable facts and testable hypothesis. Because religious beliefs are based on faith, and are not subject to scientific test and refutation, these beliefs should not be taught in the realm of natural sciences."

For a press release from the California Department of Education, visit:
http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr05/yr05rel118.asp

For the Fordham Foundation's study of state science standards, visit:
http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=24&pubsubid=191

For the Fordham Foundation's study of evolution in state science standards, visit:
http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=42

APS ENDORSES EVOLUTION EDUCATION

In a position statement issued on September 20, 2005, the American Phytopathological Society endorsed the American Association for the Advancement of Science's "Board Resolution on Intelligent Design Theory" (issued in 2002), which declared that "the lack of scientific warrant for so-called 'intelligent design theory' makes it improper to include as a part of science education." The APS explained, "There are two reasons why APS has acted. First, evolution is the foundation for what we do daily as plant pathologists in our teaching, research, and outreach activities. Second, we are a society of scientists and, as such, we should speak publicly for science when an important need arises, as it has on this occasion. We have an obligation to see that science is portrayed correctly to the public and in particular to youngsters who are just learning about science." Founded in 1908, the APS is a non-profit, professional, scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant diseases, with nearly 5000 members worldwide.

To read the APS's statement, visit:
http://www.apsnet.org/media/ps/evolution.asp

KU CHANCELLOR REAFFIRMS THE NEED FOR EVOLUTION EDUCATION

In a letter to faculty, staff, and students at the University of Kansas, the university's chancellor Robert Hemenway reaffirmed that "Evolution is the central unifying principle of modern biology, and it must be taught in our high schools, universities and colleges." "On a personal level," he added, "I see no contradiction in being a person of faith who believes in God and evolution, and I'm sure many others at this university agree." Chancellor Hemenway's letter comes, of course, as Kansans are bracing for the state board of education's final vote on the state's science standards, which the board rewrote, over the protests of their authors, in order to deprecate the scientific status of evolution.

Hemenway is not the only official at the University of Kansas to deplore the board's tampering with the science standards; in August 2005, the university's provost David Schulenberger told the Lawrence Journal-World that the debate over the place of evolution in the state's science standards was damaging the university's national reputation and its ability to attract the top faculty and students. The protests are not limited to just the University of Kansas: in September, first a group of thirty-eight Nobel laureates and then the American Association for the Advancement of Science criticized the board for its attempts to rewrite the standards in order to discredit evolution.

Meanwhile, at a public event in Independence, Kansas, on September 22, Steve Abrams, the chairman of the Kansas state board of education, was anything but coy about his views. According to the Lawrence Journal-World (September 24, 2005), "During a question-and-answer period to a mostly receptive audience of church-going social conservatives fed up with evolution, Abrams said one couldn't believe in the Bible and evolution. ... 'At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe,' Abrams said. 'That's the bottom line.'"

Abrams's remarks reportedly prompted Tim Emert, a local lawyer, former state Senate majority leader, and former State Board of Education chairman, to leave the event. He told the Journal-World: "There are just so many problems in public education, to create this divisiveness over something that when it translates to the classroom is not going to make any difference, I think is just a sad commentary on the State Board of Education. ... I believe that you can believe that God created the earth, and I believe evolution exists and I can't second guess God about how he created it."

For Chancellor Hemenway's letter, visit:
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/sep/27/letter_chancellor_ku_staffers/?ku_news

For Provost Schulenberger's comments, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/KS/177_standards_debate_harming_kansa_9_1_2005.asp

For the Nobel laureates' and the AAAS's comments, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2005/KS/279_aaas_nobelists_lawrence_mayo_9_16_2005.asp

For the Lawrence Journal-World's story about Abrams's remarks, visit:
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/sep/24/official_its_evolution_or_bible_not_both/?evolution

Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

Evolution as Zero-Sum Game

October 1, 2005
By KENNETH L. WOODWARD

ACCORDING to the tired journalistic trope, the "intelligent design" trial in Harrisburg, Pa., is "Scopes II," or the latest cultural clash between science and religion. But that view obscures the issues at stake - issues I am happy to see the Pennsylvania trial raising, even though I am a religious believer who recognizes evolution and does not think intelligent design theory belongs in any school's science curriculum.

No less a religious authority than the late pope, John Paul II, said that evolution is more than just a hypothesis. It is a thrilling theory that has demonstrated its explanatory power over and over again in diverse scientific disciplines. Intelligent design theory has no such record. Why then, do some religious parents want intelligent design theory taught alongside evolution in public school classrooms?

For some religious fundamentalists, this may indeed be a way of making room for God in science classes. But for many parents, who are legitimately concerned about what their children are being taught, I suspect that it is a way of countering those proponents of evolution - and particularly of evolutionary biology - who go well beyond science to claim that evolution both manifests and requires a materialistic philosophy that leaves no room for God, the soul or the presence of divine grace in human life.

It is one thing to bracket the divine in pursuit of scientific truth - after all, there is no way to include God as a factor in a scientific experiment. But it is something else to suppose that scientific methods and the truths thus arrived at constitute the only kind of knowledge we can have.

In science, as in other practices, there are those whose worldviews are shaped entirely by the methods and disciplines of their work. Thus the Nobel laureate James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the molecular structure of DNA, declares that "one of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural." A historian of ideas would immediately recognize this perspective as an echo of the 19th-century clash between proponents of science and religion.

And then there are evolutionists of a more philosophical bent, like Michael R. Rose of the University of California at Irvine, who use evolution to explain everything, including religion. The penchant to make evolution the intellectual linchpin of a wholly atheist outlook is manifest in the writings of Richard Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford, whose public understanding of human beings is that they are "survival machines" for genes.

It is unlikely that parents who want intelligent design taught on equal footing with evolution read books by Drs. Wilson, Rose or Dawkins. Chances are they are among the Americans who are more likely to believe in the Virgin Birth than in evolution. That tendency appalls some people but should surprise no one.

Most Americans, as they go about constructing lives and building families, making choices and exercising free will, do not think of themselves as gene survival machines or as random products of an impersonal process that whispers, in effect, "I am all that is." And most Christians do accept the Virgin Birth as part of a larger religious narrative that tells them there is a God who created the world - one who cares so passionately about humankind that his only son took human form.

Simply put, belief in evolution does not compel anything like the personal commitment demanded by religious faith in a divine creator and redeemer. Thus, while it is tempting to pit Genesis against evolution as competing myths of human origins, many Christians, including scientists and theologians, do embrace evolution.

That is one good reason not to see the trial in Pennsylvania as a repeat of Scopes. The danger in intelligent design is not just that it is bad science, but that it seeks to enlist evidence from science in the service of religious truth while denying evolutionary processes like mutation and natural selection. But the designer God of intelligent design is no more necessary to Christianity (or other monotheisms) than was the deistic God of Newtonian physics. In both cases, God ends up being made in the image of an intellectual system, much like Aristotle's unmoved mover. That is not the God of revelation.

ONE way out of the classroom conflict over teaching evolution would be to devise courses that examine the cultural uses to which evolution is put. But such courses would inevitably involve dialogue with religious concepts and perspectives - and thus raise further objections from those who see no place at all for religious ideas in public education.

And so, while I think intelligent design is the wrong approach, I sympathize with those parents who object to the materialist assumptions that can easily color the teaching of evolution, absent any acknowledgment of the claims of religion. Those parents are smart enough to know that, like nature, some teachers abhor a vacuum.

Kenneth L. Woodward, a contributing editor at Newsweek, is working on a book about religion and American culture since 1950.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/01/opinion/01woodward.html?th&emc=th

MIOS MEETING

Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Professor David R. McQueen, M.S., Ed.S. And Shirley McDonald McQueen, BS Will Present The Intelligent Design Of The Human Ear: The Organ Of Corti - The Body's Microphone

Professor McQueen was a staff scientist at the Institute for Creation Research from 1983-1987. Since returning to Louisiana to get his science education training (Ed.S., University of Louisiana at Monroe, 1989), Mr. McQueen has taken graduate classes in biology, including Neurology. It was in this class he was introduced to the amazing Organ of Corti. Beginning with William Paley's 1794 book on the “argument from design” and bringing us up to 21st Century arguments from natural history museums, Professor McQueen will discuss this issue and introduce the idea of not only ID, but "miraculous design." Mrs. McQueen is a 1975 graduate of the University of Tennessee's College of Education. She has been a Kindergarten teacher, museum docent, and children's creation science tour leader since the 1970s. She will add her unique perspective on how to take a topic like the anatomy of the human ear and teach it to children.

Bunky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, October 4th, 7:30 PM


Friday, September 30, 2005

Court Case Could Influence National Science Curriculum

http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-09-30-voa10.cfm

By Jim Bertel
Washington, DC
30 September 2005

In the United States there is a growing debate over what school children should be taught about the origins and development of life.

Most of the scientific community supports the theory of evolution, which says life evolved over time into more complex organisms.

But a number of school boards have added an alternative theory to their curriculum called Intelligent Design, which argues living organisms are so complex, an intelligent force must have been involved in creating them.

A court case in the eastern U.S. state of Pennsylvania could influence the way science is taught in this country. At issue is whether school children should be taught Intelligent Design as an alternative theory to Evolution.

Richard Thompson, a lawyer representing the school board that has endorsed Intelligent Design, believes the case is about the freedom to present an alternative to evolution, which was first proposed by Charles Darwin.

"It is the ability of school boards to allow public students to know other theories besides Darwin's theory."

But the state's legal director, Vic Witold Walczak, says introducing Intelligent Design into the curriculum is an attempt to sneak religion into public schools.

"We expect to show the motivation here locally was to undermine evolution and to teach a religious concept," said Mr. Walczak.

Opponents of Intelligent Design, like Alan Leshner, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, say it is nothing more than the biblical account of creation in a new wrapper.

"There is nothing scientific about intelligent design as a concept. And therefore we see no reason to teach it in the science classroom. It's not an alternative to evolution as an explanation or a scientific theory."

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not teach creationism because it violated the constitutional ban on establishment of an official religion.

Intelligent Design supporters say it is not creationism. They argue that, given the intricate structures in nature, the only explanation is an intelligent influence.

Mark Ryland is with the Discovery Institute, a driving force behind the idea that Evolution is just one of several theories.

"Intelligent Design theory says, although we can argue about specific ways in which an intelligent cause can interact with nature, the best inference for the data we see is some kind of intelligent causation."

Most of the scientific community, including Alan Leshner, believes evolution is a proven explanation of how organisms have changed or evolved to adapt to changing environments.

"Evolution is far more than a belief or an educated guess about how people came to be as they are," said Dr. Leshner. "It is, in fact, the product of converging evidence from many, many different fields of science. Many, many thousands of studies that, in fact, have provided a theory, an organizing principal in fact, that describes how humans came to be."

While most scientists see no need for alternative theories, a poll earlier this year found nearly two thirds of Americans believe creationism or Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools. Among them is U.S. President George W. Bush, but he believes the decision should be left to the states. Twenty-eight are considering it.

Mark Ryland, of the Discovery Institute, says that may not be necessary. He believes it is more important to teach high school students to view evolution with a critical eye.

"That's what you should do. Don't teach Intelligent Design theory which is an alternative explanation. Simply teach the current mainstream explanation and the problems with that explanation, and leave it at that."

The problem, he says, is that evolution can't explain many aspects of nature including how the universe began.

Alan Leshner worries that undermining a fundamental theory of science threatens to weaken science teaching.

"We in the scientific community think we have an obligation to the young people of this country to prevent them from being poorly educated about science."

No matter what the outcome is in the Pennsylvania case, both sides agree, ultimately, it will be the Supreme Court that issues the final verdict.

BS in Tomales Bay traced to Oakland

http://www.ptreyeslight.com/stories/sept29_05/hulls0929_05.html

Point Reyes Light - September 29, 2005

Somewhat logically

John Hulls

Princeton University professor Harry G. Frankfurt has done us all a valuable service in looking into the true nature of institutional deception and its effect on society. In a small book (Princeton University Press), titled On Bullshit, Professor Frankfurt reviews numerous ways BS can be so widely disseminated as to affect all aspects of modern life.

Scientific BS, for example, often consists of leaving out crucial information. Take the "intelligent design" advocates. You simply cannot have an honest debate with these folks, so they should simply be called on their BS and then ignored. The Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank in Seattle that is the source of much of this malarkey, claims that "intelligent design" is not religious, nor motivated by religion, and merely makes "scientific" claims that Darwin is incorrect.

Their "science" is BS, but it is BS with a purpose. The institute's "Wedge Strategy," which has now been leaked to the public, consists of a 20-year program that seeks to drive a wedge between the "devastating cultural consequences of scientific materialism" and "the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." As an excellent article, A Skeptics Guide to Intelligent Design, reported in the July 9-15 New Scientist, the Discovery Institute's response to it agenda being exposed is that it is "just a fundraising document." This disingenuous spin is a prime example of Professor Frankfurt's description of institutional BS.

A West Marin example of leaving out crucial information to advance a very questionable agenda was demonstrated last week by staff of the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is based in Oakland. At a meeting where the board established maximum-pollution levels for Tomales Bay, staff so jiggered research data that it became pure BS.

The "TMDL" (Total Maximum Daily Load), the board adopted last week sets a limit on how much bacteria-laden waste can go into the bay. Many West Marin folks, myself included, met the deadline for submitting questions to the RWQCB, but the staff's only action was to post largely non-responsive answers on the web only days before the meeting, simply not enough time to analyze and respond. I will dwell on only one staff response because it is the most disturbing.

When questioned about the large amount of waste from wildlife, which has been documented in bays up and down the West and East Coasts, staff responded that their data show that wildlife doesn't make a significant contribution to the bacterial load.

This assertion is directly contradicted by the RWQCB's own data. Water samples had been taken at White Gulch below the tule-elk range in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The RWQCB staff had sampled creek water below White Gulch to use as a baseline on bacterial pollution from wildlife because there are no livestock or septic systems anywhere near the area.

David Lewis of UC Cooperative Extension noted that even though RWQCB staff themselves selected White Gulch as free of human and agricultural bacterial influence, the measured pollution levels are several times higher than the new pollution standards for creeks flowing into the bay, and are therefore clearly from wildlife.

Worse yet is how RWQCB staff simply ignored data from another water-sampling site (labeled Marshall Near Shore No. 44). This site was chosen to test for bacteria from septic tanks in the area, but the amount of bacteria here was not significantly different from the amount of bacteria at water-sampling sites without houses.

Dr. Brian Schrag at Indiana University heads a National Science Foundation program on research ethics. As such, he insists that when researchers substitute data that reinforces their theory for data that contradicts it, the researchers are obliged to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that any interested party must be made aware of the contradictory data that is being ignored; moreover, the researchers must clearly explain and document the scientific rationale supporting their ignoring uncomfortable data or substituting more favorable data.

In their presentation to the RWQCB, staff never directly mentioned their White Gulch data. A couple of times the staff made vague allusions to the White Gulch testing, but in no way did they cpme close to observing scientific ethics, as outlined by Professor Schrag.

What is doubly frustrating is that the US Environmental Protection Agency's handbook, Protocol for Developing Pathogen TMDLs (the recently approved standard) mentions many of the potential sources of bacterial pollution that West Marin residents have been specifically concerned about, such as how much bacteria can be attributed to septic tanks, domestic animals and wildlife. It also gives examples of TMDLs developed with an EPA computer model (called BASINS).

BASINS, which is available at no charge from the federal government, allows a rapid analysis of where bacterial waste comes from and what the result would be if those bacteria were reduced in individual creeks within a watershed. The EPA gives examples of using DNA and other bacterial/microbial tracking methods to determine the specific animals waste in a creek is coming from something many folks in West Marin want to see done.

RWQCB says no and claims the EPA says such tracking isn't practical. However, when you actually read the EPA's Microbial Source Tracking Guide document, it's not the negative document that RWQCB say it is; rather, it's a thorough guide to the many tracking techniques. It indicates when to use tracking and gives examples of TMDL standards developed with bacteria tracking.

As federal EPA staff have told The Light, there is a huge disconnect between the EPA in Washington and what occurs at the regional level. So, what's to be done?

The TMDL approved by the regional board must still be approved by the State Water Resources Control Board, the state Office of Administrative Law, and the federal EPA. If the regional board is not called to account for its jiggering of data that the bay is seriously polluted by bacteria from failed septic tanks the lie, through repetition, will become embedded in the bureaucratic consciousness and used to justify widespread expensive engineering and replacement of septic systems.

Simple tracking of the source of bacteria can block the RWQCB's cavalier approach to setting TMDL standards. Failure to scientifically determine sources of contamination will result in endless studies, evaluations, and projects. These will create uncertainty and ongoing costs for county government, residents of the Tomales Bay watershed, ranchers, and shellfish growers.

The RWQCB seems to be at the beck and call of bureaucrats, not scientists, and their TMDL would provide them high-paid employment for years. By the RWQCB staff's own admission, the new TMDL is going to cost Marin County and its citizens millions of dollars. And in the end, Tomales Bay may not be any better protected than it is right now. For as scientists as opposed to bureaucrats know, wildlife really can and really do account for much of the fecal bacteria in coastal waters and only good science will tell us how much.

Dr. Corey Goodman, a Marshall resident and member of the National Academy of Sciences, previously offered to assist RWQCB in assembling a world-class panel of scientific experts to provide advice on Bacterial Source Tracking. Dr. Goodman is a past chairman of the academy's Board on Life Sciences, which has already conducted studies of waterborne pathogens for the EPA.

He has also generously offered to allow his own ranch land to be used for the proposed East Shore community septic system. Perhaps RWQCB could be persuaded to ask Dr. Goodman to assemble a truly independent academy review panel and determine if their TMDL is science, or as Proefssor Frankfurt's book put it, that substance which is "a greater enemy of the truth than lies are". No bull.

Editor's note: Not only are the misrepresentations in the regional board staff's report so egregious that any attempt to use it for legal enforcement is bound to fail. Attempts to secure grant money virtually guarantees litigation against the grantor and the grantee. In the meantime, The Light is asking the Marin County Grand Jury to investigate how residents here will be affected if county government acquiesces to the new TMDL.

No United Front for Intelligent Design

http://media.the-scientist.com/blog/display/129/

Posted by Brendan Maher
[Entry posted at 28th September 2005 12:47 AM GMT]

In the weeks before the battle over first amendment rights ramped up in Dover, the Discovery Institute folks said they didn't support intelligent design mandates in science curricula, saying that such cases will only be politically divisive. Now, lawyers representing the school board are apparently happy to hear it. The York Daily Record, which has nicely covered some of the dismay experienced by a small town under the media heat lamp and now listed as the Number One Island of Ignorance by one group, talked with Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute program officer and Robert Crowther II, the Institute's communications director.

They're not participating in the actual proceedings, but were happy to weigh in to the court of public opinion by giving the YDR reporter some mixed messages. Both sides are wrong, they contend. They criticized Kenneth R. Miller, Brown University biology professor and Monday's witness for three things: characterizing ID as a concept that focuses on what evolution doesn't explain; suggesting that ID requires a supernatural being; and claiming that ID is not a testable theory.

Dustbining the first and last of those criticisms, Luskin himself cites Michael Behe's 2004 article in Protein Science about how proteins and protein interactions could not evolve. Behe actually does test a theory here, but that theory is evolution, with the ultimate goal of showing what evolution doesn't explain. As for the supernatural, Richard Thompson, an attorney for the Thomas More Law Center said he was relieved that the Discovery Institute pulled their backing. As he is trying to make a case that inserting ID into scientific curriculum is not about religion, he is glad to be distanced from an organization he says has made a lot of comments that bring religion into the debate. So the institute criticizes Miller for bringing religion into the debate and Thompson criticizes the Institute for bringing religion into the debate. Who gets that potato next?

Lessons from intelligent design

http://www.jhunewsletter.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/09/30/433c4e6bac284

Opposition, Inc.
By Patrick Kennedy
September 30, 2005

This article is second in a series of three exploring the theory of intelligent design. The final installment will appear in two weeks.

Within academia, the temptation to dismiss intelligent design outright must be irresistible. As it stands, the theory, which attributes certain biological developments to the intervention of an ambiguous higher power, lacks both unifying concepts and emperical foundations. Am I missing something here, or aren't those the two essential criteria of any scientific theory?

However, though this may sound crazy coming from a science major, we cannot cast intelligent design aside. Not yet.

Right now, the best thing that the scientific community can do is study the phenomenon of intelligent design's sudden popularity. Though the movement has plenty of the signs of the typical right-wing cabal, from shadowy thinltank backing to superficially benign partisan endorsements, it is more: a defining cultural statement and manifestation of our society's direction. Only when serious science begins to realize why the doctrine has gained traction despite its dubious teachings can any progress against it be made.

On a very basic level, intelligent design conflates two of the impulses that are strongest in modern America: faith in God and trust in modern science. In a country that believes in the virgin birth and re-elects a born again Christian but has been inundated with wireless technology and advanced medical treatment, any solution that includes both concepts has to be sellable.

Yet how can you have science without experiments? Simple -- you can have jargon that sounds like science. On my request, the conservative Discovery Institute mailed me two articles about the "implications of theoretical falsification" and the "demarcation of disciplines." These arguments rope in everything from extraterrestrial life to lineage patterns, but there is no process, no unified hypothesis nor any data. Just look at names like "Discovery Institute" or even the term "intelligent design" itself. Funny how positive, technical-sounding word choice can hide a lack of substance.

Then there is the free speech issue, the claim among intelligent design circles that this is a fight for diversity of opinions -- even though the experts at a research university like Johns Hopkins think differently. Like other professors I have talked to, philosophy professor Peter Achinstein gave me a decisive "no" when I asked if this was a matter of civil liberties. To him, intelligent design is more the product of an empowered fundamentalism in contemporary politics.

What we neo-Darwinians, as the Discovery Institute likes to demonize us, often overlook is that intelligent design is not just a cynical policy tool. Responding to my last column on intelligent design, one reader declared that it is a diverse movement that will render Darwin obsolete. There are still those who view Darwinism as an affront to human dignity, or honestly hail intelligent design as a breakthrough.

But that is not to disregard the ideological force of this doctrine. Don't forget the unified support that American religious conservatives have lent the movement, or how its unexpected growth spurred leaders of the Catholic Church to challenge Pope John Paul II's essential support of scientific evolution.

So how does science fight back? As Achinstein noted, intelligent design cannot be treated as an item in a serious scientific debate. Without any sort of empirical framework, it would at most be relevant to disputes over the philosophical or social reception of contemporary science--not a balanced biology curriculum.

It is fine for museums to instruct their employees to ignore questions related to creationism, as is becoming a standard policy. It is also a legitimate idea, as another of my readers suggested, for teachers to "explain why science now rejects [intelligent design] and all other versions of creationism" in order to cut misconceptions at the bud. Yet modern biology needs to fill this void with more than experiments.

At its core, intelligent design melds God, human purpose and free speech with science in a seemingly appealing dogma that is an insult to all four. Perhaps a social problem that has left only one-fourth of the United States believing the validity of Darwin's explanations needs a social solution. That is what I will outline in my next column in this series. But just to give academia a heads-up, this struggle for survival must be fought not in the universities but on the front lines of mass culture.

First, however, the term "intelligent design" has to go. Considering how those two words give an exacting, enlightened air to a theory devoid of intellectual rigor, it's time for a more appropriate name. Does "fad creationism" work better?

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

Garrett backs lessons on intelligent design

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2NzgyMDI1JnlyaXJ5N2Y3MTdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5Mg==

Friday, September 30, 2005

By KATHLEEN CARROLL STAFF WRITER

Rep. Scott Garrett is calling on school boards throughout New Jersey to include lessons on intelligent design alongside evolution, on the heels of a Pennsylvania court case on the issue.

"Evolution is the predominant theory right now," said Garrett, R-Wantage. "[But] intelligent design is one that is apparently growing in some scientific communities, in academia. ... It seems that a school board should at least consider being tolerant and open to discussing both theories."

Fast facts

Evolution: The theory that life evolved over billions of years through mutation and natural selection.

Creationism: The Biblical belief that God created all life.

Intelligent design: The idea that life is so complex, it must be the work of an intelligent being.

Beyond expressing his views, the congressman said he would not advocate for a law mandating changes to the state curriculum. Last month, President Bush offered a similar view, urging local communities to consider teaching intelligent design, but shying away from intervening at the federal level.

In New Jersey, students must master some concepts of the theory of evolution beginning in the second grade.

"In science it's clear that evolution is the standard and must be taught," said Jay Doolan, director of the Office of Academic and Professional Standards at the state Department of Education. "The history standard, the social studies standards do allow for alternative discussion."

The state's science curriculum standards also include study of "science and society," which could mean lessons on societal controversy surrounding scientific principles, or the history of how such principles are developed, he said.

Awareness of intelligent design - which argues that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by an intelligent being - has grown as a federal district court in Pennsylvania hears arguments on the issue this week. Parents in the Dover, Pa., school district are asking the court to block the local school board's order that science teachers teach intelligent design and tell students the theory of evolution is flawed.

Nobel Prize winners speak out

Six Nobel laureates joined some 200 scientific and religious leaders Thursday in urging all 50 U.S. state governors to insist that their schools teach evolution and oppose religiously inspired alternatives.

The Nobel laureates - Peter Agre, Paul Berg, Mike Bishop, Gunter Blobel, H. Robert Horvitz and Harold Varmus - sent a letter to the governors warning that moves to teach "intelligent design" could leave U.S. students further behind their peers abroad, harming U.S. economic competitiveness.

"We certainly will not be able to close this gap if we substitute ideology for fact in our science classrooms," the group of about 100 scientists and 100 clergy wrote.

The letter was coordinated by an advocacy group known as DefCon: The Campaign to Defend the Constitution, which is fighting what it calls a rising threat of religious-based influence over public school curricula.

The effort was criticized by defenders of alternatives to evolution, such as the theory of "intelligent design," as an attempt by a scientific elite to quash dissent.

"It's an endless, endless process of peer pressure," said Edward Sisson, an attorney who assisted the Kansas Board of Education in adding intelligent design to its science curriculum.

A court in Harrisburg, Pa., is currently hearing the first case designed to test whether public schools can teach intelligent design, the belief that living organisms are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence.

In a 1987 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools violates the separation between church and state. Ed Barocas, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said intelligent design is creationism under another name.

"Intelligent design, which has been rejected as not scientific by every reputable scientific organization, attempts to bring religious creationism back into science class," he said.

In New Jersey, the only official murmur on the issue came last week, when a parent asked the school board in the K-8 Bethlehem Township school district, in Hunterdon County, to include doubts about the theory of evolution in the middle school curriculum, said Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. No public decision has been made on that matter.

State standards set only a minimum of what must be taught in public classrooms. Local school boards may go beyond the state requirements. And, the state Legislature has required new elements be added to those standards, such as enhanced study of African-American history.

In the case of intelligent design, "I don't understand why there is so much turmoil," said state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R- Demarest. "It would seem to me you could easily teach both theories. ... If the people who create the curriculum guidelines attempt to do something that seems to favor one theory to the exclusion of the other, then maybe the Legislature may get involved."

In recent years, about 10 New Jersey families have contacted the conservative social issues group League of American Families to discuss including alternative ideas on human evolution in classrooms, said executive director John Tomicki.

"It's not a front-burner issue," he said. "But it is slowly rising. ... There is little doubt that the publicity attending the lawsuit has raised interest."

The majority of parents who want their children to learn about creationism in school generally remove them from the public school system, opting for parochial school or home schooling, he said.

While evolution - the theory that life as it exists today is the result of mutation and natural selection over billions of years - may be a controversial issue in many communities, it is the foundation of modern biology and has virtually no critics among mainstream scientists. Most scientists contend that intelligent design is a thinly veiled version of creationism. They say it is a religious concept that should not be taught in public schools, and cannot be called a scientific theory because it cannot be tested by verifiable evidence.

Study of evolution is supported by the New Jersey Science Teachers Association, which last month was one of 60 signatories on an official statement by the National Congress of Science Education.

"Teachers of science should be supported in the teaching of evolution and the strong body of scientific evidence supporting it," the statement reads, "and not pressured to present non-scientific views."

But a survey this July found that two-thirds of Americans favor teaching creationism in public schools alongside evolution, with broad support among religious and secular citizens, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

The poll also asked who should have the primary say in what is taught in class. Respondents more frequently favored parents and science teachers rather than school boards: 41 percent said parents should have a say over what students learn, 28 percent chose science teachers and 21 percent chose school boards.

Intelligent Design Advocates Fight Back

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/29/AR2005092901885.html

By JOHN HANNA
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 29, 2005; 9:32 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. -- A group of Nobel Prize winners should have done more homework before criticizing proposed science standards in Kansas, advocates of the guidelines said in a letter Thursday.

Intelligent design advocates pushing new standards, which would expose students to more criticism of evolution, say the laureates' complaints are an attempt to suppress debate on the issue.

The letter was signed by Bill Harris, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Greg Lassey, a former middle school science teacher, who helped draft the disputed language.

"We all want good standards," the letter said. "However, demeaning rhetoric that does not address specifics but serves only to belittle and misrepresent the changes is not helpful."

Earlier this month, 38 laureates, including prominent chemists, physicists and medical experts, asked the State Board of Education to reject the proposed standards.

The laureates, led by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, said evolution is the foundation of biology and that it has been bolstered by DNA studies.

Many scientists see intelligent design as another form of creationism, which the Supreme Court has banned from public schools.

Intelligent design theorists believe the complexity of the natural world cannot be explained except by attributing creation to some higher intelligence.

The Kansas board expects to vote this year on the standards, which will be used to develop tests for students but would allow local boards to decide how science is taught.

Parents put 'Intelligent design' in the dock

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/life/mg18825193.600

01 October 2005 From New Scientist Print Edition. THE opening shots were fired on 26 September in the first court case to scrutinise intelligent design (ID), the creationist alternative to Darwinian evolution.

The case, brought by 11 parents of children at Dover High School in Pennsylvania, challenges the local school board's decision to expose kid to ID in science classes.

The plaintiffs' attorneys will employ a double-pronged strategy, simultaneously attacking ID's scientific credentials to lay bare its religious motivation and highlighting its similarities to creation science.

After opening statements, the plaintiffs called their first expert witness, biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University in Rhode Island. He drew parallels between ID and creationism and argued that ID is not science.

He also attacked the ID book Of Pandas and People, which the Dover School Board recommends for students, arguing that it inaccurately interpreted Darwin's theory and selectively cited research. "Anybody can write a book about science and make mistakes but the errors are systematic," Miller says. He also argued that the latest version of the book is a reworking of an original with the words "creation science" replaced by ID.

In cross-examination, the defence tried to make Miller say that evolution is "just a theory", that there are "gaps" in it and that evolution does not fully explain the origins of life. The trial is expected to run until December.

From issue 2519 of New Scientist magazine, 01 October 2005, page 4

Intelligent Design gloves are off in Pennsylvania court case

http://www.bloggingbaby.com/entry/1234000320061149/

Posted Sep 30, 2005, 8:00 AM ET by Jennifer Creer

Eleven families have brought suit against the local school board of Dover High School. The Pennsylvania board decided that kids should be taught Intelligent Design in their science classes. The parents are arguing that Intelligent Design is synonymous with creation science. Basically, if you teach kids that the universe was designed by something intelligent, that has religious connotations. Unless you propose that the intelligent forms were white mice, and that earth was made to be a giant supercomputer to determine the question to "42."

The defense argues that evolution is merely "theory" and has flaws, gaps, etc., so why shouldn't the theory of intelligent design be taught alongside it?

Well. There are fossils. There are dinosaur skeletons. There is carbon dating. There is mounds of evidence that evolution is a viable theory. A scientific theory, if you will. To teach children that there is intelligence at work in the creation of the world is to cross a distinct line that our government has drawn: separation of church and state.

If I, as a religious person, do not want my children to believe that evolution is a viable theory, then I will tell them teach them what I believe. They don't need to be taught at school that there is an alternative theory to evolution. It's called religion, and it permeates our culture.

Understanding Bias in Coverage of Intelligent Design:

http://us.f603.mail.yahoo.com/ym/ShowLetter?Search=&Idx=0&YY=72508&order=down&sort=date&pos=0&view=a&head=b

Follow-up on Columbia Journalism Review article and New York Times Series
Matthew Nisbet
September 30, 2005

Have the efforts of the intelligent design movement been thwarted by a secular and liberal news media? Across coverage of politics, many conservative leaders believe that the overwhelming majority of reporters, editors, and media producers favor a liberal point of view. In terms of evidence, however, conservatives rarely cite verifiable data indicating systematic patterns of liberal bias in coverage of public affairs. Instead, conservatives rely on selective anecdotes and examples as support for their claims. Still, over the past twenty years, the consistent drum beat from conservatives about the dangers of an allegedly liberal press, in combination with the news media’s own tendency to critically reflect on such a possibility, have contributed to a growing belief among the general public that the news media is indeed biased.

Social scientists, however, have had difficulty in reaching a consensus about the ideological nature of political coverage. One group of scholars infer liberal media bias from surveys that indicate journalists favor the left in their political preferences, and are more likely than the public to vote Democratic in elections. Yet, as others point out, surveys of reporters’ political preferences do no offer direct evidence of bias in coverage. In fact, it is more likely that professional norms that dictate balance and impartiality, combined with the need to maintain credibility with audiences, override the personal political preferences of journalists. Some scholars point to various methodological problems in reliably assessing ideological bias specific to social issues like abortion where it is difficult to define a clear objective standard by which to evaluate coverage.

To Read More of This Column Visit: http://www.csicop.org/scienceandmedia/id/

To Read More Columns By Matt Nisbet Visit: http://www.csicop.org/scienceandmedia/

Comments on the column should be address to Matt Nisbet at nisbetmc@gmail.com


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Academic Freedom Under Attack in NCSE Letter Seeking to Limit Teaching of Evolution, says Discovery Institute

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/09-29-2005/0004135186&EDATE=

Letter to Governors Urges Them to Outlaw 'Teaching the Controversy' That Clearly Exists in Science Over Darwinian Evolution

SEATTLE, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- "Once again, academic freedom is under attack and an attempt is being made to censor scientific thought," Robert Crowther, Director of Communications for the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute said today in response to a letter from the National Center for Science Education and others urging all 50 state governors to restrict teaching the controversies of Darwinian evolution. "We want students to learn more about evolution, not less, including the evidence for it as well as the scientific evidence against it," added Crowther.

"Over 400 accredited scientists from renowned universities and National Academies of Science worldwide have signed a statement of dissent against Darwin's theory of evolution," continued Crowther. "To try and censor their research and ideas is an outrageous violation of free speech and thought." The Scientific Dissent from Darwinism that scientists signed reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." It does not advocate any alternative theory.

This issue has been brought to the center of national attention this week as the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District opened in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday. The ACLU is suing the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania for adopting a policy that requires students to listen to a three-paragraph statement about the theory of intelligent design. The ACLU alleges that the Dover policy violates the separation of church and state.

Discovery Institute strongly disputes the ACLU's effort to make discussions of intelligent design illegal. At the same time, the Institute opposes on policy grounds the science education policy adopted by the Dover School District. Discovery holds that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo- Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common sense approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

To speak with a Discovery Institute spokesperson, please contact Kristina Grabosky (703-683-5004 x132) or Robert Crowther (206-292-0401 x107), rob@discovery.org.

SOURCE Discovery Institute
Web Site: http://www.discovery.org

Issuers of news releases and not PR Newswire are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
Terms and conditions, including restrictions on redistribution, apply.
Copyright 1996-2005 PR Newswire Association LLC.

Design advocates fire back at laureates

http://cjonline.com/stories/092905/bre_evolution.shtml

Published Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Associated Press

They may be Nobel Prize winners, but they didn't do their homework before criticizing how proposed Kansas science standards would handle evolution, intelligent design advocates argue.

Thirty-eight laureates, led by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, sent a letter to the State Board of Education earlier this month criticizing the proposed standards and defending the theory of evolution. Intelligent design advocates who helped draft the proposal fired back in a letter they made public today.

The intelligent design advocates say the laureates apparently didn't review the proposed standards. They also said the criticism is part of a larger campaign to discredit intelligent design advocates and suppress debate over flaws in evolutionary theory.

"We all want good standards," the letter said. "However, demeaning rhetoric that does not address specifics but serves only to belittle and misrepresent the changes is not helpful."

The letter is signed by Bill Harris, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Greg Lassey, a former middle school science teacher, who backed the language criticized by the laureates.

The laureates said evolution is the foundation of biology and "Its indispensable role has been further strengthened by the capacity to study DNA."

The state board expects to vote later this year on proposed standards, which will be used to develop tests for students but leave it up to local boards to decide how science is taught in their schools.

Conservatives have a 6-4 majority, and the board is expected to adopt most or all of the language sought by intelligent design advocates.

Many scientists see intelligent design as another form of creationism, which the U.S. Supreme Court banned from being taught in public schools. It says some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause because they are well-ordered and complex.

Intelligent design advocates attack evolutionary theory that natural chemical processes could have created the basic building blocks of life on Earth, that all life had a common ancestor and that man and apes shared a common ancestor.

Copyright 2005 CJOnline

Demonstrating design

http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/letters/story/2805801p-9249567c.html

Published: Sep 29, 2005
Modified: Sep 29, 2005 3:00 AM

I am sad to see that N.C. State University is associated with such a narrow-minded, no, closed-minded individual as emeritus professor of philosophy as Tom Regan (Sept. 27 Point of View article, "So, how intelligent is design?".

Regan's mind can apparently accept the fact that his finite existence on this Earth is the result of random acts of evolution, stemming from the one-celled beings in the primordial soup. That's fine. Once upon a time people accepted as fact that the world was flat, that man would never fly and that man would never run the four-minute mile.

With the utter lack of fossil evidence linking any one species to the next higher up on the "evolutionary ladder," Regan's defense of the theory of evolution requires considerably more "faith" than those who defend the theory of Intelligent Design.

One can demonstrate the theory of gravity by allowing one of Regan's books to drop from a height of 3 feet down into a waiting trash bin, and one can demonstrate the notion of Intelligent Design by showing how specialized and complex are the rods and cones within an eyeball, allowing anybody to see the truth.

Chris Kling

Vanceboro

State schools chief stands fast against teaching intelligent design

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2005/September/29/local/stories/09local.htm

September 29, 2005

By JEFF TOBIN Sentinel Staff Writer

The state's top education official assailed intelligent design Wednesday, saying the controversial alternative view of the origin of life on Earth has no place in California's public schools.

Teaching intelligent design would be a "blow to the integrity" of the state's school curriculum, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

Speaking after a Los Angeles news conference where he told reporters he would fight the issue "tooth and nail," O'Connell said students are best served if they graduate knowing the difference between scientific knowledge and religious beliefs.

A court in Harrisburg, Pa., started hearing a case Monday about a local school district that required teachers to include intelligent design in their lessons.

O'Connell said he's paying attention to the case, but he's not sure if the outcome will affect other states.

"I think this certainly could be a threat," O'Connell told the Sentinel on Wednesday. "The president has said recently that he supports intelligent design and creationism in the classroom and I thought I needed to clarify our position."

Intelligent design states that some life on Earth is too complex to be explained through natural selection.

The state Department of Education has received "many phone calls from parents and educators asking what they're supposed to be teaching," O'Connell said. "I told them to continue teaching the state's world-class science standards, which includes evolution."

Science teachers in Santa Cruz County schools have said they plan to stick with the state's approved standards, but will not suppress discussion of any type.

"We're going to follow state standards," said Santa Cruz High School biology teacher Michele Whizin. "If students are going to ask questions, nobody's going to stop that, but what we teach is the science."

National scientists sided with O'Connell.

"California's unsurpassed state science standards treat evolution appropriately as the central, powerful, unifying principle of the biological sciences that it is," Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said in a statement.

"I am gratified that superintendent O'Connell recognizes the need to defend the teaching of evolution against religiously motivated and scientifically unwarranted attacks," Scott said.

UC Santa Cruz will host a panel on the issue Oct. 11, organized by the Veritas Forum, a national group that sponsors university forums and has a religious background.

Pamela Urfer, director of the UC Santa Cruz chapter of Veritas Forum, was not surprised by O'Connell's remarks.

"Most people feel that way," Urfer said. "There's also a lot of people who feel both should be taught, but the Darwinists continue to say intelligent design is not science."

Evolution is too easy an explanation for the extreme intricacy and complexity in humans, Urfer said, necessitating the need for more theories.

"Just because you can see evolution in bacterium doesn't mean you can prove it in something as complex as humans," Urfer said.

"Science has evolved to the point where we can see the design," Urfer said. "We're way more complex than scientists initially thought."

Contact Jeff Tobin at jtobin@santacruzsentinel.com.

Have you ever really looked at intelligent design?

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/87427/

MIKE ARGENTO Thursday, September 29, 2005

HARRISBURG Wednesday morning, as day three of the Dover Panda Trial meandered into discussions of stoner logic and street cred, one of the lawyers for the school district, Patrick Gillen, asked Robert Pennock, a philosopher of science from Michigan State University and a serious, serious brainiac, whether the idea of "intelligent design" was a Big Ten theory.

Pennock who, I can't stress this enough, is an incredible brainiac looked puzzled. It was clear that he had never heard of any connection between the idea of intelligent design and what some consider the best college football conference in the country. He paused for a moment and then spoke, kind of haltingly.

"As a member of a Big Ten school, I should know that," he said.

Gillen clarified.

"I said 'big tent,'" he said.

But when you think about, in the context of Pennock's testimony and his academic cred, intelligent design really isn't a Big Ten idea. It's more of a Conference USA idea.

Think about it. On the surface, intelligent design seems like a credible scientific theory. It sounds scientific. The people pushing it say it's scientific.

But if you apply the rules of science, the notion that the idea has to be supported and tested using credible, tangible evidence, it really isn't. It's like a Conference USA school playing, say, Michigan State and being exposed as a mere facsimile of a major college football team.

Later, Gillen asked Pennock a question about what someone would believe about design when they saw a computer model of evolution that he and other scientists have created.

I'll get to that, but first, this computer model is kind of hard to explain. Pennock explained, well, how it worked and what it demonstrated and just how incredibly amazing it is. And it really sounded amazing. As best as I can describe it, it starts with a line of computer code that can replicate itself. Then, it replicates and mutates. And here's where the mechanisms of natural selection come in. Most of the mutations are bad and those codes don't do anything. Some, though, evolve and grow more and more complex.

In the end, the scientists have a digital organism for want of better expression that can perform complex tasks and by examining the record of its creation, they can figure out how it happened.

Really, it's a lot more amazing than I make it sound.

Did I mention that Pennock is a brainiac? Anyway, back to Gillen's question about whether somebody looking at the computer program could believe that it was created by a programmer. Pennock explained how the program worked, and that during the process as the code evolves, and at the end of the process, you can't really tell who or what created it because it essentially created itself.

Gillen persisted and Pennock explained he couldn't really answer the question. "You're asking me a psychological question about what somebody believes. They could believe all sorts of things," he said.

He got into what some people believe later. Young Earth creationists, for instance, believe our planet is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, based on analysis of Scripture. Sure, you can believe that, Pennock said. But it ignores the evidence or claims that the evidence was placed there by God to fool us, which, when you think about, is a kind of odd way to describe the deity, as some kind of cosmic prankster.

And that's when Pennock unloaded this: "For all we know, the world may have been created five minutes ago and we've all been implanted with memory chips."

Whoa.

Dude.

And thus did intelligent design somehow join the wow-have-you-ever-looked-at-your-hand-I-mean-really-looked school of stoner intellectual epistemology.

Later, the trial took a fun turn, if your idea of fun is watching a lawyer badger some woman.

You knew it was going to be fun when Richard Thompson, another of the lawyers for the school district, referred to "a bit of street wisdom" while questioning Julie Ann Smith, one of the plaintiffs in the case and the mother of two.

Thompson, a white guy in a dark blue suit on the descending side of middle age, is all about the street, homey.

The street wisdom was "don't believe everything you read in the newspapers."

Word, Home-Slice.

And yet, that wasn't the most entertaining aspect of Wednesday's proceedings.

That came when Robert Muise, the third member of the school district's legal team, rose to object when plaintiff Beth Eveland began to testify about a letter to the editor she had written.

"Hearsay," he intoned.

In general legal terms, hearsay is essentially a witness testifying to something they learned from a third party, and, except for some exceptions, is not permitted in court since the person repeating the words has no idea whether they are true because they were obtained third-hand. (And some people say this column has no educational content.)

In this case, Muise was objecting to Eveland testifying about her own words.

Judge John E. Jones III, the federal jurist hearing the case, looked at Muise, bearing an expression that he couldn't really believe what he just heard.

The judge asked Muise, "Who wrote the letter?"

Muise said, "She did," and sat down.

As they say on the street, the judge punked him.

Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at mike@ydr.com. Read more Argento columns at ydr.com/mike.

CHECK OUT MIKE'S BLOG

Mike Argento is now a blogger as well as a columnist. Check out his new Web log, Argento's Front Stoop, at http://www.yorkblog.com. The site will include links to his columns, allowing readers to comment quickly and easily, as well as shorter observations on life in general.

Grow Some Testables

http://slate.msn.com/id/2127052/

Intelligent design ducks the rigors of science.

By William Saletan
Posted Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005, at 4:30 AM PT

Four months ago, when evolution and "intelligent design" (ID) squared off in Kansas, I defended ID as a more evolved version of creationism. ID posits that complex systems in nature must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The crucial step forward is ID's concession that "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building"not scriptural authoritydefine science. Having acknowledged that standard, advocates of ID must now demonstrate how hypotheses based on it can be tested by experiment or observation. Otherwise, ID isn't science.

This week, ID is on trial again in Pennsylvania. And so far, its proponents aren't taking the experimental test they accepted in Kansas. They're ducking it.

The Pennsylvania case involves a policy, adopted by the board of the Dover Area School District, that requires ninth-grade biology teachers to tell students about ID. According to the policy, "A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations." So far, so good.

Under the policy, "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." Notice the "of" before "other theories." The policy doesn't tell teachers to discuss gaps and problems in ID. It tells them to discuss gaps and problems in Darwinismand then to discuss ID as an alternative "theory." The board's brief makes clear that the policy's aim is "informing students about the existing scientific controversy surrounding Darwin's Theory of Evolution, including the fact that there are alternative scientific theories."

The first half makes sense: Students should be made aware of gaps and problems in Darwinism. But what's with the second half? Once you've outlined the limits of Darwinism, what more does ID offer? What does it say? What does it explain?

So far, nothing.

The board names two scientists who advocate ID "as a scientific theory": Michael Behe of Lehigh University and Scott Minnich of Iowa State. Minnich's expert testimony in the Dover case refers to Behe's work. Behe's testimony refers to a 2001 article in which he claims to have shown "that intelligent design theory is falsifiable." A longer version of the article explains,

In fact, intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin's Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can't be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellumor any equally complex systemwas produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

Behe is right that such an experiment, by showing that random mutation and natural selection can produce the flagellum, would disprove the claim that they can't. He calls the latter claimthat Darwinism fails to produce the flagellumthe "flip side" of his claim that the flagellum required intelligent design. But the Darwinism-fails claim isn't just the "flip side" of the design-is-necessary claim. It's the whole thing. The theory that's being tested in the experiment is Darwinism. If Darwinism succeeds, ID would be disproved, but only to the extent that ID consists of saying Darwinism would fail. And to that extent, ID isn't an explanatory theory in its own right. It's just a restatement of the first half of the Dover School Board's policy: a discussion of gaps in Darwinism.

Behe's article makes clear that ID is purely negative, with no explanatory mechanisms of its own.

The claim of intelligent design is that "No unintelligent process could produce this system." The claim of Darwinism is that "Some unintelligent process could produce this system." To falsify the first claim, one need only show that at least one unintelligent process could produce the system. To falsify the second claim, one would have to show the system could not have been formed by any of a potentially infinite number of possible unintelligent processes, which is effectively impossible to do.

The complaint that Darwinism can resort to an "infinite number" of processes misses the key word: processes. What makes Darwinism finite and falsifiable is its commitment to explain processes of evolution. Debunk one process, and Darwinists are forced to propose and test another. (For an excellent review of Darwinism's performance under empirical challenge, see Rick Weiss and David Brown's article in Monday's Washington Post.) What makes ID infinite and unfalsifiable is its refusal to explain intelligent design. You send your kids to biology class to learn by what processes living things evolve. ID doesn't even try to answer that question.

Don't take it from me. Take it from Behe. "By 'intelligent design' I mean to imply design beyond the laws of nature," he writes. Or take it from the Dover School Board, whose brief flatly denies "that Intelligent Design Theory sets forth a thesis concerning the nature of the intelligence responsible for the apparent design in nature." In his testimony, Behe even asserts that "the necessity for a 'scientific' theory to be falsifiable is disputed."

So here's what ID proponents are offering to teach your kids: They won't say how ID works. They won't say how it can be tested, apart from testing Darwinism and inferring that the alternative is ID. They won't concede it has to be falsifiable. All they'll say is that Darwinism hasn't explained some things. But that's what the first half of the Dover policy says already. So there's no need for the second halfthe part that mentions ID.

The Dover School Board thinks it's getting a bum rap. All it asked its teachers to do was to mention ID. It never ordered them to teach it. "The theory of Intelligent Design shall not be taught to the students," says the board. Of course not. There's nothing to teach.

William Saletan is Slate's national correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War .

Witness bashes intelligent design

http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/87429/

A philosopher of science said the controversial idea rejects science.
By LAURI LEBO
Daily Record/Sunday News
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Paul Kuehnel - YDR

Intelligent design proponents' ultimate goal is to create a revolution in science, taking it back to the days when epilepsy was believed to have been caused by divine possession and gravity was thought to be the result of "spooky action at a distance," an expert testified in the third day of Dover school district's trial over biology class.

A philosopher of science said Wednesday in U.S. Middle District Court that intelligent design is "a rejection of science."

The long-term strategy of the concept's proponents, said Robert Pennock, a Michigan State University professor of philosophy and science, is not just to get intelligent design into science class, but to change the very definition of science to include the supernatural.

Pennock said the people behind intelligent design are attacking methodological naturalism, the accepted procedures of science that limit observations and hypotheses to the natural world.

It essentially says to scientists, Pennock said, "We can't cheat."

As examples of the movement's intentions, Pennock showed the court a number of articles written by the movement's leaders, including two by William Dembski, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

Discovery has been part of efforts to change wording of Kansas state education standards to be more open to the supernatural in the definition of science.

"The scientific picture of the world championed since the Enlightenment is not wrong, but massively wrong," Dembski wrote in an article titled "Building bridges between science and theology."

In another article, titled "What every theologian should know about creation, evolution and design," Dembski wrote, "In the words of Vladimir Lenin, What is to be done? Design theorists aren't at all bashful about answering this question: The ground rules of science have to be changed."

In the first test case on the concept, Judge John E. Jones III is being asked to rule whether intelligent design amounts to teaching students about God in science class. Plaintiffs' attorneys say it's merely revamped creation science. Dover Area School District attorneys say that it's a legitimate scientific theory and that the four-paragraph statement read to students isn't actually teaching them about it.

In the first three days of testimony, plaintiffs have brought two science experts into the courtroom to discredit the concept and outline what they have characterized as a misinformed attack on evolution.

After the school board voted to include intelligent design in the high school's biology curriculum, 11 parents filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the district.

Dover attorneys also argue that because intelligent design doesn't specifically identify the designer, it's not religiously motivated.

But Pennock pointed to examples where its supporters have named the designer. And he is God.

He cited examples of articles written by Phillip Johnson, known as the father of the intelligent design movement.

In one, Johnson wrote of "theistic realism."

"This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that this reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology," the article said.

Johnson is a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley and author of books including "Darwin on Trial" and "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds."

As a philosopher of science, Pennock said he has closely followed the intelligent design movement from its inception in the late '80s following the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of the teaching of creation science in public school science classes.

In cross-examination by Dover's attorney Patrick Gillen, Pennock also said in some ways, creation science the idea that life's literal blueprint is the Book of Genesis is more scientific than intelligent design.

Even though its tenets have all been refuted by the scientific community, creation science puts forth ideas that are testable, such as the idea the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that the geological record was formed by the Great Flood.

But, he said, intelligent design is no more testable than the "matrix hypothesis."

"For all we know, the world may have been created five minutes ago and we've all been implanted with memory chips," Pennock told Gillen.

WEDNESDAY

Quote of the day

"So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, (intelligent design) has no chance (in) Hades." William Dembski, senior fellow at the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute.

Plaintiffs testify

Christy Rehm, an English teacher, remembers hearing Dover Area School Board members talk about teaching creationism in June 2004. Nine months pregnant at the time, Rehm said she went home that night thinking of her students and their differing faiths.

"I thought of how difficult it would be to tell one student, 'We can't express your belief,'" she said. " 'But we can teach yours.' "

Four months later, she sat with her infant daughter at another school board meeting, listening to an argument that had evolved into intelligent design a concept she believes is still creationism in disguise.

Three of the parents suing the Dover Area School District testified Wednesday about their belief that a four-paragraph statement read in ninth-grade biology class is harmful to them.

Julie Smith said she became concerned after her daughter came home from school and told her that evolution is a lie. Her daughter asked her how she could be a Christian and believe man descended from apes.

Intelligent design, Smith said, "goes against my religious beliefs."

Beth Eveland said not only is it a problem for students learning about science, but it interferes with religious education at home.

To establish their case that the school district has not abandoned its core mission of educating students, attorneys for Dover asked each plaintiff if they thought the school district was still teaching the theory of evolution in accordance with state standards. All the parents agreed.

Richard Thompson, an attorney for Dover, asked Smith how she learned about controversies surrounding the curriculum change, including remarks made by board members about creationism.

"Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers," he advised her.

THE TRIAL

The latest: Robert Pennock, a philosopher of science at Michigan State University, testified Wednesday to religious references made by leaders of the intelligent design movement.

What's next? Former school board member Casey Brown, who quit the Dover board after its decision to include intelligent design in biology class, is to testify today.

Science vs. Intelligent Design

http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/1928/1/122/

By Norman Markowitz

Early in the 19th Century, Napoleon asked a prominent scientist about the existence of God. The scientist's famous response was that that was not a question that we had to ask.

He didn't mean that it was a question that couldn't be answered by science. He didn't mean that religion, faith, etc., was bad, good, or indifferent. He meant that the questions that science asks and builds upon have nothing to do with religion.

He also "believed " that religion at the dawn of the nineteenth century could no longer prevent science from developing theoretical constructs, organizing controlled experiments and amassing empirical data through research to prove or disprove and advance or discard its theoretical constructs.

"Intelligent Design" is essentially a marketer's strategy to distort science with a theologically influenced pseudo science, using sophistry, the ancient art of talking around something and inundating questions with high sounding but inaccurate or irrelevant information, to advance the interests of right-wing religionists.

Religion, even when it uses belief systems to encourage people to struggle to change society in a positive way can never do that. Institutional religion as a part of feudal power structures, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, fought against science often as ferociously as feudal lords fought against merchants and artisans of the emerging capitalist class. Feudal society was based on repetition and tribute, on conserving goods for the benefit of the rulers. Institutional religion, whose leaders were part of the ruling class in many places in a direct way, was organized around conserving, in the form of rituals, the faith and maintaining tribute to the leaders of the Church. When the Papacy, for example, fought "temporal rulers," the real fight was over wealth and power.

The principle of Separation of Church and State and/or subordination in matters of socio-economic policy of Church to state was an important feature of the rise of capitalism in Europe and globally. Capitalists used and continue to use legions of "pork chop" preachers and priests, not to mention rabbis and mullahs with different dietary preferences, but they can no more take religion seriously than P.T Barnum could take the midgets, Siamese twins, and bearded ladies he paraded in his entertainment as business associates. Their system is based on a limitless expansion and exploitation of the productive forces, which in turn requires an expanding understanding of the material world and a population of workers and consumers that will respond to material carrots and sticks and have the education and skills to run the machinery efficiently.

I am not going to use this article to launch a polemic against religion and religious believers, anti-materialists in the philosophical sense, because that is not the relevant issue. Science and religion can co-exist as they long have, but not in a political supermarket as Coke and Pepsi co-exist.

Nor can education function as a series of commercials for different products if it is to be something more than a place to warehouse young people. When I took a woodworking shop class as a teenager because shop classes were required in my school, we weren't taught that the bookends that I made existed only in my mind and could become anything or nothing depending on my consciousness. Actually, there were schools of philosophy that would make such a point, which might have been interesting in another setting but very counterproductive to my learning the skills of woodworking.

Marxism for example is a science of society not a "religious faith," as some of its secular enemies contend. While it does not advocate suppressing various theoretical constructs and world views, it seeks to test them, not to have them represented based on their commercial popularity. That which cannot be verified in material life is discarded as theory, although aspects of it may be upheld as contributing to social progress.

No one I know would advocate teaching Marx's general theory in a course on Biology, although it, unlike "Intelligent Design," complements, from a social science perspective, Darwin's theory of evolution.

Science cannot be dispensed with in any modern society. When the Soviet scientist Trofim Lysenko developed an environmental theory of acquired characteristics that rejected Mendelian genetics in the 1930s, he did so because of his administrative position and because the theory strengthened the aspirations of Soviet society to transcend rapidly all natural and social impediments to the construction of socialism and communism. The theory fit in with what Soviet Communists wanted to be, not reality. Besides the fact that some individuals who challenged Lysenko were the victims of terroristic purges (a significant fact that partisans of socialism should acknowledge if they are to separate socialism from the abuses that have been carried out in its name) these views undermined both science and the construction of socialism in the USSR until they were finally discarded.

While it is a long way from Trofim Lysenko in the USSR in the 1930s to the Dover, PA school board, the board, whose mandating that "Intelligent Design" be taught in science classes alongside Darwinian evolution threatens to undermine science, education, and religion in one small Pennsylvania School District.

Like Lysenko's theories, which distorted the development of a scientific outlook in the USSR in the name of a pseudo-science that freed nature from genetic laws, "Intelligent Design" is essentially a marketer's strategy to distort science with a theologically influenced pseudo science, using sophistry, the ancient art of talking around something and inundating questions with high sounding but inaccurate or irrelevant information, to advance the interests of right-wing religionists. Anyone who believes that "Intelligent Design" advocates are interested in anything beyond resisting the development of a scientific outlook in education can only do so on faith.

No one expects terroristic purges to be carried out against the enemies of mandated "Intelligent Design" teaching, but there may be McCarthyite purges in right-wing dominated school districts, that is the firing of teachers who refuse to teach the subject just as the Dayton Tennessee School Board dismissed and the government prosecuted John T. Scopes in 1925 for teaching evolution.

The sophists who argue that Scopes is closer to the "Intelligent Design" advocates today in that his was fighting to teach something ignore the fact that the "theory" of Intelligent Design has no serious scientific standing and is put forward by groups either directly created by or allied to the religious-political right. Many of these people may sincerely want to see a scientific appreciation of a Supreme Being creating the universe and guiding it according to a grand moral ethical design, which wouldn't be so bad if it were true, but in regard to science and the material universe, isn't and can't be.

The Bush administration has given support to "Intelligent Design" advocates to squeeze more votes out of its religious right base at a time when polls show that the public is more sympathetic to "Intelligent Design" as an abstraction than it is to the administration's concrete policies. Since the administration doesn't seem to care about science education, education in general beyond its empty "no child left behind" commercial for itself, or any scientific policy that conflicts with its corporate agenda, it doesn't think it has anything to lose by backing "theory" that lead literate people in developed countries to heap scorn on the U.S. But there are reasons that we all should oppose the Dover school board and support the parents who are fighting for their children's education beyond resistance to the Bush administration, which is a good general reason in itself.

First, there is education. A former student of mine from the Deep South in a discussion concerning modern politics mentioned sadly that in an area where his relatives live there are half a dozen churches and one school. In other cases, friends who live in Bible belt communities inform me that teachers are chosen because they are regarded as "good Christians." Intellectually, these public schools, while they may not have the discipline problems associated with urban slum schools, are dead ends in terms of the intellectual and skill development of their students and the bottom of the barrel nationally. A political culture that luxuriates in concepts like "Intelligent Design" has little need to build new schools and upgrade existing ones. People who are taught such concepts will be clueless as they observe more and more professional jobs "outsourced" to countries, including developing countries, where the labor may be cheaper but the science and the education is more modern.

Second, "Intelligent Design" is of course about bringing religion into the public schools at the center of its curriculum. Introducing students to a wide variety of scientific and social scientific theories is of course a good thing for student's intellectual development. Giving a pseudo-scientific theory great legitimacy and attempting to put it on an equal footing with science will, at best, waste resources and create confusion among students.

At worst, it will create a repressive political atmosphere in the schools for science teachers similar to the atmosphere that government scientists now face from the Bush administration. As such it will drive science teachers out of teaching and greatly undermine public education in the U.S., where test scores of elementary and secondary school students currently lag behind students in other countries in a number of areas concerning science education. And of course it will further erode the separation of church and state which is now and always has been a pillar of the constitutional Republic.

--Norman Markowitz is a contributing editor of Political Affairs and maybe reached at pa-letters@politicalaffairs.net.

State school chief: No intelligent design here

http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/Stories/0,1413,91~3089~3074513,00.html

Article Last Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 9:00:39 AM PST

Local teachers weigh in

By LAURA CLARK/The Daily Journal

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell at a news conference Wednesday defended California's science standards from efforts to inject the theory of "intelligent design" into natural science curriculum.

"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. Intelligent design is thus a specific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion," states the Web site of Intelligent Design Network, Inc., a nonprofit organization that seeks to challenge current thinking in origins science. Intelligent design theorists say evolution and current science does not do enough to explain the creation of the universe, that some higher intelligence had to have a hand.

O'Connell feels the introduction of intelligent design theory in natural science courses would "be a blow to the integrity of education in California."

"Our state has been recognized across the country and around the world for the quality and rigor of our academic standards. Just like I will fight tooth and nail to protect California's high academic standards, I will fight to ensure that good science is protected in California classrooms," he said.

California science standards include the teaching of evolution theory, but not the teaching of intelligent design.

President George W. Bush has been quoted recently saying that students should be exposed to intelligent design theory. A trial on the legitimacy of teaching the concept of intelligent design in science courses is currently underway in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, according to O'Connell.

"In a class of religious studies or philosophy (teaching intelligent design) may be appropriate; but science is an inappropriate venue. Our science standards are designed to help students succeed in our global economy," O'Connell told the Daily Journal Wednesday.

Mendocino County Office of Education Superintendent Paul Tichinin echoed O'Connell, stating from everything he has seen, intelligent design is "not scientific; it's spiritual-based and not appropriate for the state standards."

Eagle Peak Middle School science teacher Bunny Edwards, too, feels the theory of intelligent design does not belong in science curriculum.

"The intelligence-based theory may be very appropriate in a philosophy class, but it's not appropriate for seventh-grade standard-driven life science classes," Edwards said. "I am required by the state of California to teach the state standards-driven theory of evolution," she added.

Mendocino College philosophy teacher Joe Fry -- who believes in the theory of intelligent design -- feels if one theory is taught, then both theories should be taught.

"I think both theories ought to be taught. Evolution is a theory; intelligent design is a theory, and to be fair, I think both should be taught," he said.

Based on probability, it takes more to believe in evolution than it does to believe in intelligent design, Fry said.

"Some of the key paleontologists are beginning to move away from evolution for two reasons. One reason is there is no evidence of the missing link in the fossil record or the living record. There is evolution within the species, but no one has shown evolution from species to species; that is the problem," Fry said. "The other reason is the alternative. Very few paleontologists want to admit, if we find flaw in evolution, what the other possibilities might be. ... The primary alternative would be intelligent design," he said, noting he teaches three theories: evolution, infinite regress (meaning the universe has no beginning, it was always here), and intelligent design.

Fry said some paleontologists have said they are reluctant to move away from the evolution model because "if we are moving away from infinite regress and there are holes in evolution, then the next theory we need to look at from the academic view is intelligent design."

"The moment you connect intelligent design to religion it raises the issue of are we violating the concept of separation of church and state," Fry said, noting he does not think so.

"It's intellectual freedom. In philosophy, I give them the three theories. I teach all with three with passion. I give them the concept of evolution, the concept of infinite regress, and the concept of intelligent design. About 90 percent of the people in the world believe in some type of divine influence. That's a lot of people. To just ignore that assertion from that many people is absurd to me. That's not intellectual competence. We should let people make up their own minds; it's terribly biased at this point," Fry concluded.

O'Connell, on the other hand, concluded his news conference by saying: "In California schools we are trying to educate students, not change their belief system. We will best serve students if they graduate understanding the difference between scientific knowledge and values, faith or religious beliefs."

Laura Clark can be reached at udjlc@pacific.net

"Intelligent Design" on Trial

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1111626,00.html

A Pennsylvania court is asked to decide what is, and isn't, science. TIME science writer Michael Lemonick weighs the issues

By MICHAEL LEMONICK/NEW YORK

Posted Thursday, Sep. 29, 2005

The Pennsylvania trial over the place of evolution in school curricula has been called "Scopes II," after the infamous "Monkey Trial" of 1925 and 80 years after a Tennessee teacher was indicted for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution, the issue is hotter than ever. New challenges to the teaching of evolution have sprung up all over the country, but the focus this week is on the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, PA, where 11 parents from the town of Dover have sued the local school board over its mandate that students hear a statement insisting that evolution is a theory rather than a fact, and that another theory called "intelligent design" (ID) is one viable alternative. The plaintiffs argue that ID is not actually science, but simply religion by another name, and that teaching it would therefore violate a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that banned the teaching of "creation science" in public schools.

Proponents of intelligent design insist that it is founded on science, because evolution can't fully explain some of the complexities of living things the structure of the eye, for example which they argue follow a conscious design. And while some critics maintain this argument is but a ploy to avoid the Supreme Court's ruling, advocates of ID avoid identifying who or what that designer might be. Could be Klingons, even.

The thrust of the ID argument that there are many things not yet explained by the theory of evolution will be challenged by expert witnesses, on the grounds that it holds true for a variety of other widely taught scientific theories. Plate tectonics, for example or even Einstein's General Theory of Relativity fail to cover all bases. Still, ID'ers will counter, failing to teach kids about the scientific controversy over evolution is tantamount to keeping them ignorant. Except that there is no significant scientific controversy. ID proponents are correct in maintaining that there are legitimate scientists a relatively tiny handful who maintain that evolution is bogus science. But you can also find an equivalent handful of legitimate scientists ready to challenge relativity, or quantum physics, or the idea that HIV causes AIDS, or pretty much any widely accepted idea in modern science. A handful of doubters does not a controversy make.

So the Dover plaintiffs are bringing in scientists to try and persuade the court that ID isn't really science, but rather the exact opposite. If they lose, they will likely take consolation from the fact that back in 1925, Scopes was actually convicted. But he won a moral victory, because publicity from the trial made a laughingstock of anti-evolutionists for most of a century, anyway.

Intelligent design left Dover out

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/29/BAGK2EVDAE1.DTL

Joan Ryan Thursday, September 29, 2005

With weary regularity, my 15-year-old son flips aside his pencil and, slumping in his chair, asks why a person with no intention of becoming a physicist or mathematician should be tortured with science and algebra. He doesn't yet see the value in learning the principles of logic, or the orderliness of the scientific method to test hypotheses.

I wipe my son's sweaty brow.

"It's so you don't grow up to be an idiot like the school board members in Dover, Pa.,'' I tell him.

Arguments opened this week in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., in a case that has the feel of a grainy black-and-white movie starring ladies with velvet pocketbooks and men in bowties. The court will decide whether the Dover school board can require biology teachers to present "alternative'' explanations for human creation besides evolution.

One of those explanations, the Dover school board stipulated in a 6-3 vote last year, should be a notion called intelligent design. Intelligent design is more or less Genesis, except the role of "God'' is played by an unnamed "intelligent being'' who has, as comedian Jon Stewart puts it, the skill set of somebody who can create the universe. (Intelligent design also leaves out the talking-serpent part of the story.)

It is clear to me that what is on display this week in Harrisburg is not evolution. What is on display is America's spectacular failure to produce citizens with the ability to reason. The fact is the tender-headed folks in Dover are hardly alone.

More than a century after Darwin's findings on natural selection, and after decades of corroborating evidence through fossils and genetics, 55 percent of the public believes that "God created humans in their current form,'' according to a New York Times/CBS poll last year. This majority chose that statement over even this one, which at least gave a nod to evolution: "Humans evolved from less advanced life forms, but God guided this process.'' (Just 27 percent opted for this one.)

Since 2001, 43 states have faced challenges to teaching evolution in public schools. In a widely covered case last year, six parents had to go to court to stop the school board in Cobb County, Ga., from slapping stickers on biology textbooks that warned students that evolution "is not a fact.''

So I should not be surprised that a real judge using actual taxpayer dollars is presiding over testimony about the validity of a scientific theory about which there is no legitimate dispute. But scientist Eugenie Scott certainly is not surprised. She is the executive director for the National Center for Science Education, based at UC Berkeley. I talked to her by phone from Harrisburg, where she is advising the lawyers for the 11 parents who brought suit against the Dover board.

She is more generous than I am. She doesn't categorize the people pushing to teach creationism in public schools as wing nuts or boobs. She does not make judgments about those who believe that an actual Adam was put to sleep by God so that his rib could be excised to create a mate named Eve who fell under the spell of a persuasive snake. Scott does not point out, as some might, that this story of creation is no more or less believable than, say, the Norse creation story about melting ice forming a giant called Ymir and a cow called Audhumia whose incessant licking melted more ice that created more gods whose sons came upon two logs that turned into the first humans.

"People don't show up here (at the courtroom) because they believe evolution is bad science,'' Scott said. "They show up because they believe that if they accept evolution, then they are abandoning their religious beliefs. They see it as an either/or proposition: Either evolution happened, or God loves you.''

But as many others have said, faith and science are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of the clergy accept evolution, and plenty of scientists believe in God. Most Catholics, for example, accept Darwin's theory, believing that God inserted a soul into humans somewhere along the evolutionary time line.

"I think the clergy can do a better job explaining that according to their theology, evolution is OK,'' she said.

Truly, how could it not be OK with their theology? Faith is one thing; ignorance is something else. To reject evolution in teaching biology is as inane as rejecting quantum theory or the theory of relativity in teaching physics. It is discouraging to see, in a federal courtroom in the year 2005, that educated men and women can still be so much like the ancients who sat around the fire and explained the world around them through stories of gods and serpents and magical gardens. It makes me wonder.

For the Dover folks, the best evidence against human evolution might be themselves.

E-mail Joan Ryan at joanryan@sfchronicle.com. Her column will run on Thursdays while she is on assignment.

The NCHRA Warns Hurricane Katrina Victims of Further Victimization

http://www.clickpress.com/releases/Detailed/4120005cp.shtml

The National Coalition of Human Rights Activists warns Gulf Coast communities to be ware of confidence and fraud scams. As food and water shortages continue and as desperation increases in the hurricane disaster areas, victims must raise their awareness and defenses against those who pretend to come to offer them aid and assistance.

[ClickPress, Wed Sep 28 2005] "We saw this after the World Trade Center towers fell; we saw this in the aftermath of last year's tsunami in Indonesia; we are seeing it now in the flooded and desperate streets of New Orleans this week---- hundreds of people rushing to the disaster site to further victimize the victims," said NCHRA President David Rice during a press conference in Gallup, New Mexico. "Disaster areas make a target-rich environment for criminals to prey upon the victims," Mr. Rice added.

Often the abusers come to disaster areas under the pretense of helping the victims; they present themselves as medical doctors offering exams; as sellers of miracle cures for injuries; as sellers of pills or worthless devices that will turn unpotable water drinkable; sellers of "detox" programs; or as religious workers or ministers who are there to offer comfort to the victims in exchange for donations or property.

"In far too many cases," said the NCHRA, "the victim ends up being swindled out of what little money and possessions they have left. Desperate people far too often abandon common sense and fall for scams that appear to solve their desperate situations. The victim becomes victimized over again."

For one example, at present there are approximately 60 fake "ministers" from the Scientology corporation rushing to the Hurricane Katrina disaster site to sell the victims books and to collect donations ostensibly for disaster relief. When the Scientology business sent nearly two dozen salespeople to the World Trade Center in 2001, and a dozen salespeople to Sri Lanka in 2004 [0] (under the pretense of being "ministers"), official relief workers forcefully ejected them from the disaster areas. In an internal Scientology email leaked to human rights activists, one Scientology salesperson even crowed with pride at the Scientology corporations efforts to PREVENT relief workers from helping victims of the disaster. [1]

"It is not just the Scientology corporation rushing to victimize the victims," said Mr. Rice. "Hundreds of people will falsely present themselves as collectors of donations for legitimate organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army; people should indeed give donations to these fine organizations, but those people need to make doubly sure that the people soliciting those donations are truly official representatives for those organizations."

Other possible fraudulent scams include people falsely representing themselves as government officials in the disaster areas, including utility workers and surveyors. The NCHRA urges everyone in hurricane disaster areas to check the credentials presented by people who claim to be working in official government and/or social relief capacities.

"Any victim of the disaster who is asked to buy a book or make a donation, in exchange for relief services or not, should think twice and thrice before surrendering their money," the NCHRA President added. "Valid relief efforts do not cost the victim anything; victims being sold 'The Way to Happiness' or 'Dianetics' books is a sure sign that something sinister is going on. Being sold miracle potions or devices that render dangerous water safe should also be seen as a red flag that something evil is going on."

[0] http://www.holysmoke.org/cos/crime-syndicate-sri-lanka-predators.htm and also http://www.asiantribune.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=60

[1] http://holysmoke.org/vultures/vultures.htm

Company: The National Coalition of Human Rights Activists
Contact Name: NCHRA
Contact Email: nchra@hotmail.com
Contact Phone: 000-000-0000
Related website

[+] Global news distribution by ClickPress.

Michael Crichton, Novelist, Becomes Senate Witness

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/books/29cric.html

By MICHAEL K. JANOFSKY
Published: September 29, 2005

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 - His last book, "State of Fear," was published more than nine months ago, but the reviews were still pouring in on Wednesday, even as Michael Crichton folded his 6-foot-9-inch frame into a seat to testify before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

A novel that casts doubt on scientific theories of global warming.

"More silly than scary," the flier dropped off by the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

"Notable mainly for its nuttiness," an analysis from the Brookings Institution said.

"Does not reflect scientific fact," the Union of Concerned Scientists said.

For all his previous works as a writer (13 novels, 4 nonfiction books, numerous screenplays) and his prominent career in Hollywood as a writer, producer or director of 13 films and as the creator of the popular television series "ER," little has yanked Mr. Crichton so deeply into political controversy as "State of Fear," an environmental thriller that casts doubt on the widely held notion that human activities contribute to global warming.

It has become a hugely divisive policy issue in recent years, gaining a new urgency, perhaps, by the recent hurricanes that slammed into the Gulf Coast. Many prominent scientists, no friends of Mr. Crichton, to be sure, believe that man-made greenhouse gases are causing the earth to warm and are urging lawmakers to pass new regulations that govern carbon dioxide emissions.

But after considerable study of his own, leading to "State of Fear," Mr. Crichton has concluded that the science is mixed at best, and that lawmakers should take that into consideration when they decide what they might do about it.

His is an unpopular and contrary stance when measured against the judgment of groups like the National Academy of Sciences. But it was not those organizations that asked Mr. Crichton to Washington to counsel Congress on how to consider diverse scientific opinion when making policy. It was the committee chairman, Senator James M. Inhofe, a plainspoken Oklahoma Republican who has unabashedly pronounced global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

In Mr. Crichton, a Harvard medical school graduate who never practiced medicine, he had found a kindred spirit - and a star witness for his committee.

"I'm excited about this hearing," Mr. Inhofe said, nodding toward Mr. Crichton as the proceedings began. "I think I've read most of his books; I think I've read them all. I enjoyed most 'State of Fear' and made it required reading for this committee."

Over the next two hours, Mr. Crichton and four other witnesses offered their thoughts, Mr. Crichton hewing to his firm belief that lawmakers should examine more closely "whether the methodology of climate science is sufficiently rigorous to yield a reliable result."

He took notes. He raised his hand to make points. He responded to criticism evenly and never lost composure. But it seemed like a lot less fun than winning an Emmy, as he did for "ER," or a citation as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People," as People magazine ranked him in 1992. And all he could do was sit there quietly, as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton scolded him for views that "muddy the issues around sound science" and Senator Barbara Boxer said, "I think we have to focus on facts, not fiction."

In an interview later, Mr. Crichton said with a pained expression: "Comfortable with this? I'm very uncomfortable. Who wants this?"

Several of his previous books led to national debates and criticism, he said, recalling "Rising Sun," a murder mystery that suggests that Japan is economically devouring the United States, and "Disclosure," which examines sexual harassment when a woman is the predator. Both became popular movies.

"But this has been worse," he said of the aftermath of "State of Fear."

Still, he retains enough of his scientific background to thrust himself into the debate, insisting that the environmental movement "did a fabulous job in the first 10 years, a pretty good job in the second 10 years and a lousy job in the last 10 years."

As a result, he said, its influence on policy needs to be reined in, at least until alternative views are given equal airing and fair consideration by independent reviewers. Only then, he said, can policy makers make informed decisions.

But he never figured that he would be offering lawmakers an opinion on how they should legislate. His years of writing have taken on a pattern, he said. Research. Write. Move on.

"When I'm finished, I'm done," he said. Except when he's not, which is the case with "State of Fear." But that may not be true for his next book, which is almost complete. "It's extremely uncontroversial," he said, offering no details.

And even though the global warming debate endures, it's not likely that "State of Fear" will, beyond the book. "No studio has optioned it," he said, insisting: "It'll never be made. It's way too red hot."

Scientists debunk quicksand myth

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9516779/

If you stay calm, you can float your way to safety

By Bjorn Carey

Updated: 3:03 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2005

Falling into quicksand isn't quite as bad as some movies make it out to be. Instead of being sucked all the way in, quicksand victims will float once they get about waist deep, according to a new study.

Yet while the risk of vanishing has apparently evaporated, escaping the muck is still a tough task: To pull one leg free requires the amount of force needed to lift a small car. There are tricks, however.

Quicksand is a mixture of fine sand, clay and saltwater. Once perturbed, the mixture transforms from a loose packing of sand on top of water into a dense, liquid soup. Movement by a victim makes things worse.

"The higher the stress, the more liquid the quicksand becomes, so movement by a trapped body causes it to sink in deeply," study leader Daniel Bonn of the University of Amsterdam writes in the Sept. 29 issue of the journal Nature.

After the mix liquefies, the quicksand splits into a water-rich phase and a sand-rich one. The wet sand sediment becomes so densely packed that it's harder to move than cold molasses. Once the victim's foot becomes stuck in it, the situation is dire.

"If you move into the quicksand, this loose packing will collapse," Bonn told LiveScience. "We then have densely packed sand at the bottom, and water floating on top of it. It's the difficulty of getting water into this very densely packed sand that makes it difficult for you to pull your foot out."

How to get out

Bonn and his colleagues found, however, that if a you remain calm, you can actually float your way to safety.

The researchers simulated a quicksand pit in the lab and placed an aluminum ball of greater density than the quicksand on top of the pit. The ball didn't sink until the researchers began to shake the pit, simulating movement and turning the mixture of sand and water more liquid. When they did this, the ball sank right to the bottom.

But when they used an aluminum ball with a density equal to the human body, which is less than the density of quicksand, they found it impossible to sink the ball, no matter how hard they shook the pit.

The density of an average human body is about 62 pounds per cubic foot, which is less than quicksand's 125 pounds per cubic foot.

The advice : Stay calm and eventually you'll float. Stretch out on your back to increase your surface area and wait until your legs pop free. Bonn also suggests moving your legs around at this point, to stir in water, which will help you float.

"You have to introduce water into the sand," Bonn said. "And the easiest way to do that is to make it trickle along your leg into the quicksand, by making a circular motion with your leg."

2005 LiveScience.com.


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