NTS LogoSkeptical News for 11 December 2005

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

American "Rapture"


Vanity Fair December 2005 American "Rapture" By CRAIG UNGER

On a scorching afternoon in May, Tim LaHaye, the 79-year-old co-author of the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic thrillers, leads several dozen of his acolytes up a long, winding path to a hilltop in the ancient fortress city of Megiddo, Israel. LaHaye is not a household name in the secular world, but in the parallel universe of evangelical Christians he is the ultimate cultural icon. The author or co-author of more than 75 books, LaHaye in 2001 was named the most influential American evangelical leader of the past 25 years by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals. With more than 63 million copies of his "Left Behind" novels sold, he is one of the best-selling authors in all of American history. Here, a group of about 90 evangelical Christians who embrace the astonishing theology he espouses have joined him in the Holy Land for the "Walking Where Jesus Walked" tour.

Megiddo, the site of about 20 different civilizations over the last 10,000 years, is among the first stops on our pilgrimage, and, given that LaHaye's specialty is the apocalypse, it is also one of the most important. Alexander the Great, Saladin, Napoleon, and other renowned warriors all fought great battles here. But if Megiddo is to go down in history as the greatest battlefield on earth, its real test is yet to come. According to the book of Revelation, the hill of Megiddobetter known as Armageddonwill be the site of a cataclysmic battle between the forces of Christ and the Antichrist.

To get a good look at the battlefields of the apocalypse, we take shelter under a makeshift lean-to at the top of the hill. Wearing a floppy hat to protect him from the blazing Israeli sun, LaHaye yields to his colleague Gary Frazier, the tour organizer and founder of the Texas-based Discovery Ministries, Inc., to explain what will happen during the Final Days.

"How many of you have read the 'Left Behind' prophecy novels?" asks Frazier.

Almost everyone raises a hand.

"The thing that you must know," Frazier tells them, "is that the next event on God's prophetic plan, we believe, is the catching away of the saints in the presence of the Lord. We call it 'the Rapture.'"

Frazier is referring to a key biblical passage, in the first book of Thessalonians, that says the Lord will "descend from heaven with a shout. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air."

The words "caught up" are sometimes translated as "raptured." As a result, adherents cite this as the essential scriptural depiction of the Rapture.

"Christ is going to appear," Frazier continues. "He is going to call all of his saved, all of his children, home to be with him."

In other words, "in the twinkling of an eye," as the Rapturists often say, millions of born-again Evangelicals will suddenly vanish from the earthjust as they do in LaHaye's "Left Behind" books. They will leave behind their clothes, their material possessions, and all their friends and family members who have not accepted Christand they will join Christ in the Kingdom of God.

Frazier continues. "Jesus taught his disciples that he was going to go away to his father's house, but that he was not going to abandon them, because while he was gone he was going to prepare for them a suitable dwelling place. And when the time was right, he would come back to claim his own. Jesus is going to come and get his bride, which comprises all of us who are born again.

"I have no question that right now, as we stand here, Jesus the son is saying to the father, I want to be with my bride. In the same way that we wanted to be with our mates he wants to be with us. He wants us to be with him."

Frazier is a fiery preacher, and as his voice rises and falls, his listeners respond with cries of "Amen" and "That's right."

"I'm going to tell you with zeal and enthusiasm and passion Jesus is coming on the clouds of glory to call us home. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know, if you've read the 'Left Behind' books, [but] more importantly, if you've read the Bible, you know that Christ is coming, and we believe that that day is very, very near."

For miles around in all directions the fertile Jezreel Valley, known as the breadbasket of Israel, is spread out before us, an endless vista of lush vineyards and orchards growing grapes, oranges, kumquats, peaches, and pears. It is difficult to imagine a more beautiful pastoral panorama.

The sight LaHaye's followers hope to see here in the near future, however, is anything but bucolic. Their vision is fueled by the book of Revelation, the dark and foreboding messianic prophecy that foresees a gruesome and bloody confrontation between Christ and the armies of the Antichrist at Armageddon.

Addressing the group from the very spot where the conflict is to take place, Frazier turns to Revelation 19, which describes Christ going into battle. "It thrills my heart every time that I read these words," he says, then begins to read: "'And I saw heaven standing open. And there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire.'"

Frazier pauses to explain the text. "This doesn't sound like compassionate Jesus," he says. "This doesn't sound like the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This is the Warrior King. He judges and makes war."

Frazier returns to the Scripture: "He has a name written on him that no one but he himself knows. He is dressed in a robe that is dipped in blood and his name is the word of God."

This is the moment the Rapturists eagerly await. The magnitude of death and destruction will make the Holocaust seem trivial. The battle finally begins.

Those who remain on earth are the unsaved, the left behindmany of them dissolute followers of the Antichrist, who is massing his army against Christ. Accompanying Christ into battle are the armies of heaven, riding white horses and dressed in fine linen.

"This is all of us," Frazier says.

Frazier points out that Christ does not need high-tech weaponry for this conflict. "'Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword,' not a bunch of missiles and rockets," he says.

Once Christ joins the battle, both the Antichrist and the False Prophet are quickly captured and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. Huge numbers of the Antichrist's supporters are slain.

Meanwhile, an angel exhorts Christ, "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap." And so, Christ, sickle in hand, gathers "the vine of the earth."

Then, according to Revelation, "the earth was reaped." These four simple words signify the end of the world as we know it.

Grapes that are "fully ripe"billions of people who have reached maturity but still reject the grace of Godare now cast "into the great winepress of the wrath of God." Here we have the origin of the phrase "the grapes of wrath." In an extraordinarily merciless and brutal act of justice, Christ crushes the so-called grapes of wrath, killing them. Then, Revelation says, blood flows out "of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."

With its highly figurative language, Revelation is subject to profoundly differing interpretations. Nevertheless, LaHaye's followers insist on its literal truth and accuracy, and they have gone to great lengths to calculate exactly what this passage of Revelation means.

As we walk down from the top of the hill of Megiddo, one of them looks out over the Jezreel Valley. "Can you imagine this entire valley filled with blood?" he asks. "That would be a 200-mile-long river of blood, four and a half feet deep. We've done the math. That's the blood of as many as two and a half billion people."

When this will happen is another question, and the Bible says that "of that day and hour knoweth no man." Nevertheless, LaHaye's disciples are certain these eventsthe End of Daysare imminent. In fact, one of them has especially strong ideas about when they will take place. "Not soon enough," she says. "Not soon enough."

If such views sound extraordinary, the people who hold them are decidedly not. For the most part, the people on the tour could pass for a random selection culled from almost any shopping mall in America. There are warm and loving middle-aged couples who hold hands. There is a well-coiffed Texas matron with an Herms scarf. There's a ducktailed septuagenarian and a host of post-teen mall rats. There are young singles. One couple even chose this trip for their honeymoon. A big-haired platinum blonde with a white sequined cowboy hat adds a touch of Dallas glamour. There is a computer-security expert, a legal assistant, and a real-estate broker; a construction executive, a retired pastor, a caregiver for the elderly, and a graduate student from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. They hail from Peoria, Illinois, and Longview, Texas, as well as San Diego and San Antonio. Most are fans of the "Left Behind" books. Some have attended the Left Behind Prophecy Conference on one of its tours of the U.S.

And while their beliefs may seem astounding to secular Americans, they are not unusual. According to a Time/CNN poll from 2002, 59 percent of Americans believe the events in the book of Revelation will take place. There are as many as 70 million Evangelicals in the U.S.about 25 percent of the populationattending more than 200,000 evangelical churches. Most of these churches are run by pastors who belong to conservative political organizations that make sure their flocks vote as a hard-right Republican bloc.

A fascination with Revelation, the Rapture, and Christian Zionism has always been a potent, if often unseen, component of the American consciousness. More than three centuries ago, Puritans from John Winthrop to Cotton Mather saw America as a millennial kingdom linked to both the apocalypse and ancient Israel in a divine way that prefigured the Second Coming of Christ. America was to be the New Jerusalem, the Redeemer Nation, a people blessed with divine guidance.

Imagery from the book of Revelation has inspired poets and writers from William Blake and William Butler Yeats to Joan Didion and Bob Dylan. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" draws references from Revelation. Elements of the book of Revelationsecularized or otherwiseturn up in movies starring Gary Cooper (High Noon), Gregory Peck (The Omen), Clint Eastwood (Pale Rider), and Mimi Rogers (The Rapture), as well as in NBC's Revelations. Already, there have been two "Left Behind" moviesavailable mostly on videoand a third is in production. LaHaye's "Left Behind" series of books, co-authored with Jerry Jenkins, has brought in $650 million to Tyndale House, its now affluent Christian publisher.

On the Internet, raptureready.com put its Rapture Index at 161 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; anything over 145 means "fasten your seat belts." A number of Christian Web sites sell clothing emblazoned with Rapture logos. There was even a team of NASCAR drivers, Randy MacDonald and Jimmy Hensley, whose souped-up Chevy proudly displayed "Left Behind" insignianot the most propitious message for a driver vying for pole position.

For all that, the new wave of Rapturemania is more than just another multi-billion-dollar addition to America's cultural junk heap. In the 60s, how you felt about the Beatles and Rolling Stones, marijuana and LSD, and civil rights and the Vietnam War told people whose side of American society you were on. Likewise, Jerry Falwell and Tim LaHaye, the pro-life movement and marriage-protection amendment, and the book of Revelation and George W. Bush are equally reliable gauges through which evangelical Christians today can distinguish friend from foe.

As befits the manifesto of a counterculture, the "Left Behind" series is a revenge fantasy, in which right-wing Christians win out over the rational, scientific, modern, post-Enlightenment world. The books represent the apotheosis of a culture that is waging war against liberals, gays, Muslims, Arabs, the U.N., and "militant secularists" of all stripeswhom it accuses of destroying Christian America, murdering millions of unborn children, assaulting the Christian family by promoting promiscuity and homosexuality, and driving Christ out of the public square.

It's a counterculture that sees Jews as key players in a Christian messianic drama, a premise that has led to a remarkable alliance between Christian Evangelicals and the Israeli right. As a result, political views drawn from an apocalyptic visiononce dismissed as extremist and delusionalhave not merely swept mass culture but have shaped the political discourse all the way to Jerusalem and the White House. And if they are taken too seriously, the geopolitical consequences could be catastrophic.

The city of Jerusalem has a profound significance in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And to all three religions no place in Jerusalem is more full of apocalyptic and messianic meaning than the Temple Mountthe massive, 144,000-square-meter platform, 32 meters high, built by King Herod as a base for the biggest and most grandiose religious monument in the world, the shining white stone Temple of the Jews.

To Jews, the Temple Mount marks the holy of holies, the sacred core of the Temple, where Jews worshipped for centuries. Beneath it, Orthodox Jews believe, is the foundation stone of the entire world. The Mount is the disputed piece of land over which Cain slew Abel. It is where Abraham took his son, Isaac, when God asked him to sacrifice the boy. At its outer perimeter is the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, where Jews worship today. And messianic Jews believe the Mount is where the Temple must be rebuilt for the coming Messiah.

To Christians, the Temple is where Jesus threw out the money changers. Its destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D. came to symbolize the birth of Christianity, when a new Temple of Jesus, eternal and divine, replaced the earthly Temple made and destroyed by men.

And to Muslims the Temple Mount's Dome of the Rock is where Muhammad ascended to heaven nearly 1,400 years ago, making it the third-holiest site in Islam, behind Mecca and Medina.

After its victory over Arab forces in the Six-Day War, in June 1967, Israel briefly seized the Temple Mount, thereby realizing the dream of restoring Judaism's holiest place to the Jewish people. But Moshe Dayan, the venerated Israeli defense minister who won the battle, soon voluntarily relinquished control of it to the Waqf, a Muslim administrative body.

Over the next generation, some 250,000 mostly Orthodox Jews, citing God's promise to Abraham in Genesis"all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever"moved into West Bank territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, and vowed to keep the government from giving the land back to the Palestinians.

Since Dayan's historic decision, Muslim authorities have usually allowed non-Muslims to come to the Temple Mount, as long as they don't move their lips in ways that suggest they are praying. As a result, the Temple Mount is one of the most explosive tinderboxes on earth. A visit to the site in September 2000 by Ariel Sharon inflamed tensions that soon erupted into the second intifada.

To evangelical Christians, the Mount is an elemental part of messianic theology, because a complete restoration of the nation of Israel, including the rebuilding of the Temple and the reclaiming of Judea and Samaria, is a prerequisite to the Second Coming of Christ. Likewise, to Orthodox Jews, nothing is more important to their messianic vision than reclaiming the Temple Mount and rebuilding the Templeyet no single event is more likely to provoke a catastrophe.

No one knows this better than Yitshak Fhantich, an independent security, protection, and intelligence consultant who spent 28 years in Israeli intelligence, many as head of the Jewish Department of Shin Bet. From 1992 to 1995, he was the man in charge of investigating right-wing extremists, many of them strongly religious, who posed a threat to the Temple Mount.

"The vast majority of settlers in the West Bank are positive people with sincere religious beliefs," says Fhantich. "But when you combine religious beliefs with right-wing political views, you have a bomb. The hard core among them will go to any extreme. They are ready to do anythingfrom killing Yitzhak Rabin to blowing up the mosques at the Temple Mount."

Indeed, in 1984, Fhantich and his team of 25 Shin Bet members assisted in the arrest of 26 Jewish terrorists for planning to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount in an attempt to disrupt the peace process with Egypt, and in hopes that the Jews would then rebuild the Temple so that the Messiah would come.

And in 1995, Fhantich personally warned Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin about the danger he faced from militant groups outraged by his agreement, as part of the 1993 Oslo accords, to relinquish the West Bank and Gaza territories to the Palestinians. "I told him, on the hit list, you're No. 1," Fhantich says. On November 4, 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a young Orthodox law student named Yigal Amir, whose activities Fhantich had been monitoring for more than a year.

In the 90s, Fhantich says, Israeli intelligence began watching Christian Evangelicals. "As the millennium approached, you had many people waiting for the appearance of Jesus Christ. And Jerusalem, of course, is the home of the Jerusalem syndrome," he says, referring to the phenomenon whereby obsessive religious ideas can trigger violent behavior. "If someone believes God told him to do something, you cannot stop him.

"The mosques on the Temple Mount are like the red flag for the bull. You have to be prepared minute by minute. These Christians, they believe what they are doing is sacred. Some of them are so nave they can be taken advantage of. If something happens to the Temple Mount, I think these American Evangelicals will welcome such an act. After all, religion is the most powerful gun in the world."

Moreover, a potential attack on the Temple Mount, as disastrous as it would be, pales in comparison to the long-term geopolitical goals of some right-wing religious groups. Orthodox Jews, Christian Evangelicals, and the heroes of the "Left Behind" series share a belief that the land bordered by the Nile and Euphrates Rivers and the Mediterranean Sea and the wilderness of Jordan has been covenanted to Israel by God. Taken to its literal extreme, this belief obliges Israel not only to retain control of Gaza and the West Bank but also to annex all or parts of Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Such a campaign of conquest would be certain to provoke a spectacular conflict.

The Carter Glass Mansion, in Lynchburg, Virginia, is a handsome manor house that serves as an administrative office for Liberty University and offers a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Inside is the office of Jerry Falwell, chancellor of the university, founding father of the Christian right, and longtime friend and colleague of Tim LaHaye, one of Liberty's most generous donors.

Recently recovered from a respiratory illness, Falwell, 72, is as serene and self-confident as ever, answering questions with the disarming candor that has enabled him to build personal friendships with even his fiercest ideological foes, from the Reverend Jesse Jackson to pornographer Larry Flynt. Behind his desk is a mounted page from the Palestine Post, dated May 16, 1948, headlined STATE OF ISRAEL IS BORN.

Explaining his affinity for Israel, Falwell says, "Long before I became a political activist, I'd been taught that the Abrahamic CovenantGenesis 12 and Genesis 15is still binding, where God told Abraham, 'I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you.'

"It was obvious to me, beginning with the birth of the Israeli state, in 1948, and the Six-Day War, in 1967, that God was bringing his people back home. So I came to believe that it was in America's best interest to be a friend of Israel. If America blessed the Jew, Israel in particular, God would bless America."

The special political relationship between the Israeli right and Evangelicals dates back to 1977, when, after three decades of Labor rule in Israel, Menachem Begin became the first prime minister from the conservative Likud Party. A romantic nationalist and serious biblical scholar, Begin pointedly referred to the lands of the West Bank by their biblical names of Judea and Samaria, and he reached out to American Evangelicals at a time when they were just coming out of a political hibernation that dated back to the Scopes trial of 1925 and Prohibition. "The prime minister said a person who has got the Bible in his home and reads it and believes it cannot be a bad person," recalls Yechiel Kadishai, a longtime personal aide to Begin. "He said the Evangelicals have to know that we are rooted in this piece of land. There should be an understanding between us and them." One of the first people Begin sought out was Jerry Falwell, who was achieving national recognition through his growing television ministry.

In 1980, Begin presented Falwell with the prestigious Jabotinsky Award, gave his ministry a private jet, and shared vital state secrets with the televangelist. Begin even called him before bombing Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, in June 1981. "He said, 'Tomorrow you're going to read some strong things about what we are going to do. But our safety is at stake,'" Falwell recalls. "He said, 'I wanted you, my good friend, to know what we are going to do.' And, sure enough, they put one down the chimney."

In the early days of his ministry, Falwell, like other Evangelicals, had made a policy of not mixing religion and politics at allmuch less on a global scale. "I had been taught in the seminary that religion and politics don't mix," he says. "Conservative theologians were absolutely convinced that the pulpit should be devoted to prayer, preaching, and exclusively to spiritual ministry.

"But in the 60s the U.S. Supreme Court had decided to remove God from the public square, beginning with the school-prayer issue. Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court had ruled 7-to-2 in favor of abortion on demand. And I wondered, 'What can I do?'"

Several years later, Falwell got a call from Francis Schaeffer. An electrifying Presbyterian evangelist and author, Schaeffer is probably the most important religious figure that secular America has never heard of. Widely regarded by Evangelicals as one of their leading theologians of the 20th century, Schaeffer, who died in 1984, was to the Christian right what Marx was to Marxism, what Freud was to psychoanalysis. "There is no question in my mind that without Francis Schaeffer the religious right would not exist today," says Falwell. "He was the prophet of the modern-day faith-and-values movement."

A powerful influence on Falwell, LaHaye, Pat Robertson, and many others, Schaeffer asserted in the wake of Roe v. Wade that Evangelicalism could no longer passively accommodate itself to the decadent values of the secular-humanist world, now that it had sanctioned the murder of unborn babies. Almost single-handedly, he prodded Evangelicals out of the pulpit and into a full-scale cultural war with the secular world. "I was in search of a scriptural way that I, as pastor of a very large church, could address the moral and social issues facing American culture," Falwell says. "Dr. Schaeffer shattered that world of isolation for me, telling me that, while I was preaching a very clear gospel message, I was avoiding 50 percent of my ministry. He began teaching me that I had a responsibility to confront the culture where it was failing morally and socially."

In 1979, Falwell was still "looking for a plan to mobilize people of faith in this country" when Tim LaHaye, then a pastor in San Diego, called him. LaHaye had just founded Californians for Biblical Morality, a coalition of right-wing pastors who fought against gay rights and even sought to ban the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons in a Glendora community college on the grounds that it was an "occult" game.

When he visited San Diego, Falwell was impressed with how LaHaye had organized the pastors to confront the state government on moral and social issues. "When he told me how he did it, I wondered why we couldn't do it on a national basis," says Falwell.

And so, in 1979, Falwell launched the Moral Majority with LaHaye and other leading fundamentalist strategists to lobby for prayer and the teaching of creationism in public schools and against gay rights, abortion, and the Equal Rights Amendment. LaHaye's wife, Beverly, also entered the fray that year by founding Concerned Women for America, to "bring biblical principles into all levels of public policy" and oppose the "anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-children, anti-man" feminism put forth by the National Organization for Women.

Courtly, genteel, and soft-spoken, LaHaye hardly looks the part of a ferocious right-wing culture warrior. In public or in private, LaHaye is understated, the antithesis of the fire-and-brimstone preacher one might expect to deliver prophecies of the apocalypse and Armageddon. Yet even Falwell has said that LaHaye has done more than anyone to set the agenda for Evangelicalism in the U.S.

LaHaye's belief in the Rapture dates back to his father's funeral, in Detroit, when he was just nine years old. "The minister at the funeral said these words: 'This is not the end of Frank LaHaye,'" he told The Christian Science Monitor. "'Because he accepted Jesus, the day will come when the Lord will shout from heaven and descend, and the dead in Christ will rise first and then we'll be caught up together to meet him in the air.'"

Then the pastor pointed to the sky and the sun unexpectedly came out. "All of a sudden, there was hope in my heart I'd see my father again," LaHaye said.

From then on, LaHaye was entranced with Rapturist theology, which was popularized in the U.S. in the 19th century by a renegade Irish Anglican preacher named John Nelson Darby. A proponent of a prophetic branch of theology known as premillennial dispensationalism, Darby asserted that a series of signsincluding wars, immorality, and the return of the Jews to Israelsignal the End of Days. Once the end is nigh, all true believers will be raptured to meet Christ. After that, Darby taught, the world will enter a horrifying seven-year period of Tribulation, during which a charismatic Antichrist will seize power. But in the end, he prophesied, the Antichrist will be vanquished by Christ at Armageddon, and Christ's 1,000-year reign of peace and justice will begin. This, in brief, is the theology taught by evangelists such as Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, and many othersincluding Tim LaHaye.

After graduating from the ultra-conservative Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina, LaHaye began preaching in nearby Pumpkintown at a salary of $15 a week. For 25 years, he served as pastor at Scott Memorial Baptist Church, in San Diego, transforming it from a congregation of 275 into one with 3,000 members.

Along the way, LaHaye avidly read Francis Schaeffer. "Schaeffer taught me the difference between the Renaissance and the Reformation," he says during the tour of Israel. "And you know what the difference is? The Renaissance was all about the centrality of man. The Reformation was all about clearing up the ways the [Catholic] Church had mucked up Christianityand getting back to the centrality of God."

In The Battle for the Mind, his 1980 homage to Schaeffer, LaHaye lays out his worldview far more forcefully than he does in person, depicting America as a Bible-based country under siege by an elite group of secular humanists conspiring to destroy the nuclear family, Christianity itself, and even "the entire world." There are no shades of gray in this Manichaean tract, which asserts that secular humanism is "not only the world's greatest evil but, until recently, the most deceptive of all religious philosophies."

Life, LaHaye argues, has always been a battle between good and evil. "The good way has always been called 'God's way,'" he writes, and evil has been the way of manspecifically, the post-Renaissance, post-Enlightenment world of art, science, and reason. And, in his view, nothing man has come up with is worse than secular humanism, which he defines as "a Godless, man-centered philosophy" that rejects traditional values and that has "a particular hatred toward Christianity."

"LaHaye writes as if there's a humanist brain trust sitting around reading [American philosopher and educational reformer] John Dewey, trying to figure out ways to destroy Christianity," says Chip Berlet, a senior analyst with Political Research Associates and the co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort.

In truth, while tens of millions of Americans might accurately be called secular humanists, very few characterize themselves as members of a humanist movement. But to LaHaye that only proves the deviousness of the humanist project. Instead of openly advocating their point of view, he writes, humanists have used the mass media and Hollywood, the government, academia, and organizations such as the A.C.L.U. and NOW to indoctrinate unsuspecting Christians.

As a result, LaHaye argues, good Evangelicals should no longer think of humanists as harmless citizens who happen not to attend church. In The Battle for the Mind, he spells out his political goals: "We must remove all humanists from public office and replace them with pro-moral political leaders."

"In LaHaye's world, there are the godly people who are on their way to the Rapture," says Berlet. "And the rest of the world is either complicit with the Antichrist or, worse, actively assisting him. If you really believe in End Times, you are constantly looking for agents of Satan. [And if] political conflicts are rooted in the idea that your opponent is an agent of the Devil, there is no compromise possible. What decent person would compromise with evil? So that removes it from the democratic process.

"Conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation want to roll back the New Deal. LaHaye wants to roll back the Enlightenment."

Like Schaeffer's writings, LaHaye's book went largely unnoticed by the secular world, but the Christian right heartily embraced its declaration of war against secularism. Presbyterian televangelist D. James Kennedy hailed The Battle for the Mind as "one of the most important books of our time." Falwell wrote that all Christians must follow its tenets if America is to be saved from becoming "another Sodom and Gomorrah."

In 1981, LaHaye took up the challenge, resigning his pastorship to devote himself full-time to building the Christian right. He began by meeting with moneyed ultra-conservatives including Nelson Bunker Hunt, the right-wing oil billionaire from Dallas, and T. Cullen Davis, another wealthy Texas oilman who became a born-again Christian after being acquitted of charges of murdering his wife's lover and his stepdaughter.

Though still in its infancy, the Moral Majority had more than seven million people on its mailing list and had already played a key role in electing Ronald Reagan president. Beverly LaHaye's Concerned Women for America was on its way to building a membership of 500,000 people, making her "the most powerful woman in the new religious right," according to the Houston Chronicle. She and her husband also co-authored a best-selling marriage manual for Christians, The Act of Marriage, full of clinical advice such as the following: "Cunnilingus and fellatio have in recent years been given unwarranted publicity [but] the majority of couples do not regularly use it as a substitute for the beautiful and conventional interaction designed by our Creator to be an intimate expression of love." And in the mid-80s, LaHaye created the American Coalition for Traditional Values, which played an important role in re-electing Ronald Reagan, in 1984. He later became co-chairman of Jack Kemp's 1988 presidential campaign but was forced to resign when anti-Catholic statements he had written came to light.

With right-wing groups expanding at such a dizzying pace, LaHaye helped to found the Council for National Policy (C.N.P.) as a low-profile but powerful coalition of billionaire industrialists, fundamentalist preachers, and right-wing tacticians. Funded by Hunt and Davis, among others, the organization set out to create a coherent and disciplined strategy for the New Right.

Though its membership is secret, the rolls have reportedly included Falwell and Pat Robertson; top right-wing political strategists Richard Viguerie, Ralph Reed, and Paul Weyrich; Republican senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth (both of North Carolina), Don Nickles (Oklahoma), and Trent Lott (Mississippi); and Republican representatives Dick Armey and Tom DeLay (both of Texas). The late Rousas John Rushdoony, the right-wing theologian who hoped to reconfigure the American legal system in accordance with biblical law, was said to be a member, as was John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, who was co-counsel to Paula Jones in her lawsuit against Bill Clinton.

"Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, senators and Cabinet membersyou name it. There's nobody who hasn't been here at least once," says Falwell, who confirms that he is a member. "It is a group of four or five hundred of the biggest conservative guns in the country."

The C.N.P. has access to the highest powers in the land. In 1999, George W. Bush courted evangelical support for his presidential candidacy by giving a speech before the council, the transcript of which remains a highly guarded secret. And since the start of his presidency, Falwell says, the C.N.P. has enjoyed regular access to the Oval Office. "Within the council is a smaller group called the Arlington Group," says Falwell. "We talk to each other daily and meet in Washington probably twice a month. We often call the White House and talk to Karl Rove while we are meeting. Everyone takes our calls." According to The Wall Street Journal, two high-ranking Texas judges who spoke to the Arlington Group in October at the suggestion of Karl Rove allegedly assured its members that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Sometime in the mid-80s, Tim LaHaye was on an airplane when he noticed that the pilot, who happened to be wearing a wedding ring, was flirting with an attractive flight attendant, who was not. LaHaye asked himself what would happen to the poor unsaved man if the long-awaited Rapture were to transpire at that precise moment.

Soon, LaHaye's agent dug up Jerry Jenkins, a writer-at-large for the Moody Bible Institute and the author of more than 150 books, many on sports and religion. In exchange for shared billing, Jenkins signed on to do the actual writing of the "Left Behind" seriesa multi-volume apocalyptic fantasy thriller composed in the breezy, fast-paced style of airport bodice rippers but based on biblical prophecy.

The first volume, Left Behind, begins with a variation of what LaHaye observed in real life. While piloting his 747 to London's Heathrow Airport, Captain Rayford Steele decides he's had just about enough of his wife's infuriating religiosity. Thanks to Christian influences, she now believes in the Rapture. He puts the plane on autopilot and leaves the cockpit to flirt with a "drop-dead gorgeous" flight attendant named Hattie Durham.

But Hattie advises him that dozens of passengers have suddenly and mysteriously vanished. They have left behind their clothes, eyeglasses, jewelry, even their hearing aids.

The Rapture has come. Millions of Christians who have accepted Christ as their saviorincluding Rayford Steele's wife and young sonhave been caught up into heaven to meet Him. Left behind are the vast armies of the Antichristthose ungodly, evolutionist, pro-abortion secular humanistsand a smaller group of people like Steele, who are just beginning to see that Christ is the answer.

So begin the seven years of Tribulation forecast in the book of Revelation. Rayford Steele and his band of Tribulation warriors are mostly ordinary folks right out of the heartlandnot unlike the participants in LaHaye and Frazier's tour of Israel. Doubters no more, they begin to form the Tribulation Force, to take on the armies of the Antichrist and win redemption.

Soon, the Force learns that the Antichrist is none other than Nicolae Carpathia, the dazzlingly charming secretary-general of the United Nations and People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive." Carpathia turns the U.N. into a one-world government with one global currency and one religious order. Try as they might, the Force can't stop him from killing billions by bombing New York, Los Angeles, London, Washington, D.C., and several other cities, or from establishing himself as dictator and implanting biochips that scar millions of people with the number of the beast.

In fact, Carpathia and his Unity Army seem all but unstoppable until Glorious Appearing, the last volume in the series, when it becomes clear that God has another planthe Second Coming of Jesus. The battles between the forces of Christ and of the Antichrist begin in Jordan, with Carpathia urging his troops to attack, only to be confronted with the ultimate deus ex machina: "Heaven opened and there, on a white horse, sat Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus' eyes shone with conviction like a flame of fire, and He held His majestic head high. On His robe at the thigh a name was written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."

LaHaye is not the first author to cash in on the apocalypse. Hal Lindsey's 1970 Christian End Times book, The Late Great Planet Earth, which predicted that the world would come to an end around 1988, was the No. 1 nonfiction best-seller of the 70s. Nevertheless, LaHaye, Jenkins, and their aptly named literary agent, Rick Christian, had a tough time interesting publishers in their concept. Finally, LaHaye's nonfiction publishing company, Tyndale House, put up $50,000, boasting that it could market the book well enough to sell half a million copies.

Kicking off the series in 1995, as the millennium clock ran down, provided a convenient marketing device. According to The Washington Post, by 2001, 27 million copies of "Left Behind" books had been sold, along with 10 million related products such as postcards and wallpaper. Thanks to the astounding growth of Evangelicalism in America, even the uneventful passing of the millennium failed to dampen sales, which increased so greatlyto a pace of 1.5 million copies a monththat the series, originally planned to be 7 books, was extended to 12. By now, according to BusinessWeek, the "Left Behind" series has brought in more than $650 million to the Illinois-based Tyndale House, the largest privately owned Christian publisher in the country. Not surprisingly, LaHaye has sought to extend his brand with children's versions, a prequel (The Rising) written with Jenkins, and a new series, "Babylon Rising," about an Indiana Joneslike hero who uncovers the secrets of biblical prophecies.

When Jerry Falwell reflects on the past 25 years, even he is astounded at how far the Christian right has come. "I was not at all sure in 1979 when I started Moral Majority that we really could make a difference. But I knew we had to try," he says. "A quarter of a century later, I'm amazed at how a huge nation like America could be so affected and even turned around by the New Testament Church.

"We're gaining ground every time the sun shines. I don't think this phenomenon is cresting, because there is a spiritual awakening in America right now."

When he started out, Falwell recalls, he was thrilled if 35 people came to church and left more than $100 on his offering plate. Today, revenue at his Thomas Road Baptist Church tops $200 million a yearand is likely to exceed $400 million in the near future.

The evangelical market is so big now that mainstream corporate America doesn't dare ignore it. The Purpose-Driven Life, by California pastor Rick Warren, published in 2002, has already sold 23 million copies, making it the fastest-selling nonfiction book of all time. Now religion is the hottest category in publishing, bringing in more than $3 billion a year. Time Warner, Random House, and HarperCollins have all put together religious imprints. There are more than 2,000 Christian radio stations. Christian music now outsells all classical and jazz releases combined. The EMI Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment have acquired religious labels.

And the peak is nowhere in sight. "This is just the beginning," says Tim LaHaye. "Now we have media like we've never had beforealternative media, the Internet, and Fox News."

Throughout America, especially the South, a massive, fully developed subculture has emerged. In Greenville, South Carolina, more than 700 churches serve just 56,000 people. On a highway not far from town, a billboard reads, LET'S MEET ON SUNDAY AT MY HOUSE BEFORE THE GAME. GOD.

And it's not about just going to church. There are movie nights for Christians, summer camps for Christian kids, Christian "poker runs," Christian marriage-counseling sessions, Christian Caribbean vacations, Christian specialty stores, and Christian ministries for singles, seniors, and the divorced.

"It plays exactly the same role in shaping your beliefs that the counterculture of the 60s did for the left," says a former Evangelical. "Politically, you end up voting for that which reinforces your belief system. How you will appear in the eyes of the God you believe inthat's your anchor."

It is an insular world that is almost completely segregated from the secular world, including the mainstream media. "No one in our family read newspapers," says another former Evangelical, who left her church in Yuba City, California, and eventually moved to New York. "Growing up, our only source of information in my life was the pastor. We believed in what God had told him to say because we were children, and he was our shepherd, and he had been chosen by God."

A crucial part of that theology dictates a love for Israel, an affection based on faith more than on information. "When I grew up, I did not know Jews walked the face of the earth," she says. "I thought they lived only in biblical times. They were my brothers and sisters in the Lord, but I didn't know they still existed."

That love of Israel is sometimes accompanied by racist hatred of Arabs. On several occasions, an Israeli guide on LaHaye and Frazier's tour told the group that Arabs "breed like fleas" and would soon be forced into the desert. LaHaye's followers responded with warm laughter and applause.

From Israel's point of view, there are many reasons to welcome American Evangelicals, regardless of how well-informed they may be. Tourism is one. Last year, 400,000 Christian tourists visited Israel, where they spent more than $1.4 billion. "During the intifada, loyal Christians still came as tourists. We have to go to the grass roots. It is so important to make them lovers of Israel," says Benny Elon, Orthodox leader of the right-wing National Union, former tourism minister, and a frequent guest of the Christian Coalition's in the U.S.

And given that there are more than 10 times as many Evangelicals in America as Jews, it is understandable that Israel might seek their political support. "Israel's relationship with America can't be built only on the AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and the 2.5 percent of the population in America who are Jews," says Elon.

"When Israel enjoys support because it is the land of the Bible, why should we reject that?" adds Uzi Arad, who served as foreign-policy adviser to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and now heads the Institute for Policy and Strategy, a think tank in Herzliya, Israel. "Whether it is because of expediency or because on some level we may be soulmates, each side offers the other something they want. And the Christian right is a political force to be reckoned with in America."

But Evangelicals have also played a role in disrupting the peace process. "I was ambassador for four years of the peace process, and the Christian fundamentalists were vehemently opposed to the peace process," says Itamar Rabinovich, who served as Israeli ambassador to the U.S. between 1993 and 1996, under the Labor governments of Rabin and Shimon Peres. "They believed that the land belonged to Israel as a matter of divine right. So they immediately became part of a campaign by the Israeli right to undermine the peace process."

No one played that card more forcefully than Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who as prime minister used the Christian right to fend off pressure from the Clinton administration to proceed with the peace process.

On a visit to Washington, D.C., in 1998, Netanyahu hooked up with Jerry Falwell at the Mayflower Hotel the night before his scheduled meeting with Clinton.

"I put together 1,000 people or so to meet with Bibi and he spoke to us that night," recalls Falwell. "It was all planned by Netanyahu as an affront to Mr. Clinton."

That evening, Falwell promised Netanyahu that he would mobilize pastors all over the country to resist the return of parts of the occupied West Bank territory to the Palestinians. Televangelist John Hagee, who gave $1 million to the United Jewish Appeal the following month, told the crowd that the Jewish return to the Holy Land signaled the "rapidly approaching final moments of history," then brought them to a frenzy chanting, "Not one inch!"a reference to how much of the West Bank should be transferred to Palestinian control.

The next day, Netanyahu met with Clinton at the White House. "Bibi told me later," Falwell recalls, "that the next morning Bill Clinton said, 'I know where you were last night.' The pressure was really on Netanyahu to give away the farm in Israel. It was during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Clinton had to save himself, so he terminated the demands [to relinquish West Bank territory] that would have been forthcoming during that meeting, and would have been very bad for Israel."

In the end, no one played a bigger role in thwarting the prospect for peace than the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, who rejected a deal with Netanyahu's successor, Ehud Barak, in 2000. In general, the Christian right has not gone to the mat to fight a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But when the peace process finally resumed during the Bush administration, the Christian right made certain its theology was not ignored. In March 2004, according to The Village Voice, a delegation from the Apostolic Congress, a religious group that believes in the Rapture, met with Elliott Abrams, then the National Security Council's senior director for Near East and North African affairs, to discuss its concern that Israel's disengagement from Gaza would violate God's covenant with Israel. As it happens, Netanyahu, for non-theological reasons, shared the Christian right's concern about the Gaza pullout to such an extent that he resigned from Sharon's cabinet last summer and has vowed to challenge him for the prime minister's post.

But this intrusion of End Times theology is of deep concern to Israelis who are not as hawkish as Netanyahu. "This is incredibly dangerous to Israel," says Gershom Gorenberg, a Jerusalem-based journalist and the author of The End of Days, a chronicle of messianic Christians and Jews and their struggle with Muslim fundamentalists over the Temple Mount. "They're not interested in the survival of the State of Israel. They are interested in the Rapture, in bringing to fruition a cosmic myth of the End Times, proving that they are right with one big bang. We are merely actors in their dreams. LaHaye's vision is that Jews will convert or die and go to hell. If you read his books, he is looking forward to war. He is not an ally in the safety of Israel."

Far from being a Prince of Peace, the Christ depicted in the "Left Behind" series is a vengeful Messiahso vengeful that the death and destruction he causes to unconverted Jews, to secularists, to anyone who is not born again, is far, far greater than the crimes committed by the most brutal dictators in human history. When He arrives on the scene in Glorious Appearing, Christ merely has to speak and "men and women, soldiers and horses, seemed to explode where they stood. It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin." Soon, LaHaye and Jenkins write, tens of thousands of foot soldiers for the Antichrist are dying in the goriest manner imaginable, their internal organs oozing out, "their blood pooling and rising in the unforgiving brightness of the glory of Christ."

After the initial bloodletting, Nicolae Carpathia gathers his still-vast army, covering hundreds of square miles, and prepares for the conflict at Megiddo. As the battle for Armageddon is about to start, Rayford Steele climbs atop his Hummer to watch Christ harvest the grapes of wrath. Steele looks at the hordes of soldiers assembled by the Antichrist, and "tens of thousands burst open at the words of Jesus." They scream in pain and die before hitting the ground, their blood pouring forth. Soon, a massive river of blood is flowing throughout the Holy Land. Carpathia and the False Prophet are cast into the eternal lake of fire.

According to LaHaye and Jenkins, it is God's intent "that the millennium start with a clean slate." Committing mass murder hundreds of times greater than the Holocaust, the Lordnot the Antichrist, mind youmakes sure that "all unbelievers would soon die."

One of Steele's colleagues decides he'll have to talk to God about what to do next. After all, now that the secular humanists are gone and only believers remain, America is a very, very sparsely populated country. But if enough people are left, he wonders, isn't this the perfect opportunity "to start rebuilding the country as, finally for real, a Christian nation?"

This is Craig Unger's second piece for V.F. His article "Saving the Saudis," from the October 2003 issue, evolved into the best-seller House.

INTELLECTUAL CURRENTS: Biologists Here Join PR Offensive To Counter Critics

Published On 11/29/2005 2:14:25 AM By ANTON S. TROIANOVSKI Crimson Staff Writer

Professor of Biology James Hanken used to tell story about rabbits in his organismic biology course that has gained new significance in recent years.

Until the teaching schedule for the team-taught Biological Sciences 51, "Integrative Biology of Organisms," changed this year, Hanken would talk about rabbits' digestive systems in lecture. The animals can absorb the nutrients from plant matter only in the small intestine, but food is digested in a part of the gut that's farther "downstream." So how do plant nutrients finally get into the rabbit's bloodstream having already passed through the small intestine undigested?

"They secrete these things through their anus, eat them," and pass them back through the small intestine, Hanken explains.

And then he adds, "Now you tell me, where's the intelligence in that design?"

It's an instance of how the rising nationwide debate over intelligent design—the notion that life evolved through a process guided by a divine "designer"—has made its way into the halls of Harvard's scientific establishment.

As proponents of intelligent design are going to court to force their brainchild to be taught in public school classrooms alongside Darwin's well-established theory of evolution, evolutionary biologists here are joining colleagues across the country in becoming more forceful public advocates of the foundation of their own science.

The growing movement into the public arena comes as many researchers worry of a chilling effect that the ongoing public-relations effort against evolution might have on their science.

"You've got to hand it to the creationists," Hanken says. "They have been much more effective at packaging their ideas in ways that are very seductive and very palatable to the average American."

Now, a growing number of biologists at Harvard and elsewhere are striking back more and more with a campaign of their own—in the form of books and articles for popular consumption, visits to public schools and advice for schoolteachers, and even frequent interviews with the press. Hanken and some of his colleagues say they see a professional obligation to impart their convictions about evolution to an increasingly skeptical public.

Otherwise, says Professor of Biology Brian D. Farrell, "I think we're shirking our duties."


Several recent public-opinion surveys have found skepticism about evolution running high in the United States. One poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center in July, found that only 26 percent of Americans believe that humans evolved by natural selection. That process is the foundation of Darwin's theory, universally accepted by mainstream biologists today.

And earlier this month, the Kansas Board of Education voted that students will be expected to study "alternatives" to evolution in biology classes.

Scientists here point out that they have been able to continue their research on evolution unrestrained by the increasingly hostile attitude toward that theory outside of science-friendly Harvard. But there's no guarantee, professors say, that their future work will not suffer—most directly in the form of a drop in government funding—if alternatives to evolution continue to take hold.

And so, scientists at Harvard and across the country are abandoning their traditional resistance to direct dialogue with the general public and joining an organized offensive to counter creationists and proponents of intelligent design.

It's an effort that, many biologists readily admit, is proceeding with a growing sense of urgency.

"We now have the situation where some really good scientists are wondering whether they should be using the word 'evolution' in the titles of their papers," says Marvalee H. Wake, president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

The institute, which represents more than 250,000 scientists, barely engaged in issues of public school education until about six years ago, Wake says. It has since embarked on several initiatives to help educators teach evolution effectively and to prepare schoolteachers for more challenges like the ones that have taken the stage in Pennsylvania and Kansas.

Wake, a biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is also helping form a committee of scientists, lawyers, and media experts to respond to challenges to evolution.

"Frankly none of us, with a few exceptions, are very good" at public relations, Wake says. "We come across as ivory tower snobs."


The fight over how evolution is taught is now being waged most directly in a federal courtroom in Pennsylvania, where an ongoing trial will decide whether ninth-graders in the Dover school district should be required to learn about intelligent design.

As judicial challenges are cropping up across the nation, Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser isn't waiting for a similar lawsuit to be filed here.

Hauser, who teaches the popular core course many students know as "Sex"—Science B-29, "Evolution of Human Nature"—has been calling school district superintendents around Boston in an effort to "preempt" campaigns that would push the subject into local public school curricula.

Hauser advocates a spirited and pro-active campaign on the part of his colleagues to influence school-age children who might doubt evolution.

"Rather than go after and attack intelligent design," Hauser says, "what you want is an education system that takes every kid growing up and teaches them the beauty of discovery in science generally, and more particularly, evolutionary biology."

As an example of a way to reach youngsters, Hauser suggests a "kind of traveling show."

"Imagine you have a day in downtown Boston, in a huge venue," he muses. "You have a lottery of tickets to public school kids, terrific people who lecture, who are eloquent about the nature of the science, and there are also free books."

In fact, some Harvard biologists—including Hanken, Farrell, and Hauser —see a duty in educating the lay public about the foundations of their research and countering theories like intelligent design that, they say, aren't based on science.

"You almost have a professional obligation, at this point, to do what you can to dispel this misinformation that's being perpetrated on the American public," Hanken says.


But Gonzalo Giribet, an associate biology professor who teaches several undergraduate courses on evolution, isn't sure if reaching out to the public is the best use of scientists' time.

"Most scientists don't do that because their work is to produce science," he says. "There should be other people whose work is to disseminate that science among the public."

Giribet adds that repackaging evolutionary biology for popular consumption is very important. But, he says, "if all scientists spend their time trying to make popular articles or writing popular books, science wouldn't get done."

In addition, Giribet notes that he "refuses" to engage proponents of intelligent design in a debate about science. Echoing many other biologists, Giribet says he does not believe that claims based on "metaphysical ideas such as faith" qualify as science.

It is, many admit, a fine line biologists walk when they take on intelligent design directly in the public sphere. Not only are they concerned about legitimizing those ideas by challenging them from a scientific standpoint, but they also worry about being drawn further into a public relations battle they have little appetite to fight.

The intelligent design proponents "sort of win," Farrell says, "by forcing us to spend our resources...on something other than our science."

—Staff writer Anton S. Troianovski can be reached at atroian@fas.harvard.edu.


Alternative medicine treatment using pulsing magnetic device may offer benefits for some MS patients


Apr. 10, 1997 | Health and Medicine CONTACT: Julie Rathbun

Alternative medicine treatment using pulsing magnetic device may offer benefits for some MS patients

A small electromagnetic device thought to help supplement the body's electrical energy has shown some beneficial effects for patients with multiple sclerosis, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

Results of a small double-blind study of MS patients showed that 9 of 15 patients treated with the device reported subjective improvements ranging from 22 to 38 percent in combined self-reported scores rating eight different symptoms, said Dr. Todd Richards, associate professor of radiology at the University of Washington and principal investigator. Those symptoms most responsive to treatment appear to be bladder control, cognitive functioning, spasticity and fatigue.

"Why would pulsing magnetic fields have an effect on MS? Because the brain is an organ that emits electrical energy," researchers from the University of Washington and elsewhere wrote in the Spring, 1997 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The electromagnetic device, approximately the size of a wristwatch and powered by a 3-volt battery, emits a pulse of magnetic energy at a power of 50 to 100 milliGauss ? roughly equal to the energy emitted from a hair dryer, Richards said. The 30 MS patients in the study wore the device, attached to their hip, shoulder or back, for 10 to 24 hours a day for a period of two months. Half of the patients received devices which were activated, while the other half received inactive devices.

Each device, manufactured by Energy Medicine Developments Inc. in Vancouver B.C., was individually programmed by researchers using a special instrument to identify weak bioelectrical fields produced by the body. After detecting areas of low frequency levels in a patient, researchers programmed the device to emit compensating frequencies in an attempt to compensate for the energy deficit. Richards said the research shows that there are certain frequencies that are consistently low in patients with MS.

Before and after the trial, researchers assessed patients' status by means of a clinical rating (standard physical examination); a patient-reported performance scale (rating bladder control, cognitive level, fatigue level, hand function, mobility, sensory, spasticity and vision); and an EEG reading during which a language comprehension test was administered.

Results showed that two of the three types of testing had positive results. The third (clinical rating) was unchanged. Richards said these clinical tests were not sensitive to patient symptoms such as fatigue, bladder control and cognitive function. In addition to improvements in combined patient-reported subjective scores, results of the EEG tests for these patients showed an average 19 percent increase in alpha wave readings during the language task, a finding which Richards said may indicate improvement in the brain's ability to process information.

Three patients showed no improvement following the study.

Dr. George Kraft, professor of rehabilitation medicine and director of the University of Washington MS Clinical Center, said that this preliminary study, of which he is a co-author, offers "encouraging" results on the management of MS patient symptoms. "However, while (the devices) may relieve some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, patients must not expect that they will in any way alter the disease course," Kraft said. "At the present time, immunomodulating medications are available which have been scientifically proven to slow down the course of the disease, and patients should seek care from physicians familiar with the management of MS disorder in order to take advantage of these."

Richards explains the concept behind the pulsing device ? readjusting the body's bioelectrical signals ? is one not readily accepted by American medical professionals. He likens body frequencies to vitamins and minerals ? the body needs them to be healthy and people could benefit by supplementing the frequencies where they are deficient.

"This magnetic device acts like a vitamin supplement by giving back to a person those frequencies his or her body is deficient in," he said.

Multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system affecting more than 300,000 Americans, is characterized by a breakdown in the myelin sheath which surrounds the nerve fibers of the brain. This results in the inability of nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain, leading to problems with speech and motor control. Richards theorized the pulsing device might help to synchronize the electrical circuits in the brain.

The Enermed device used in the study is just one of the electrical pulsing devices on the market. These devices may or may not have patient-specific frequencies. While unavailable in the United States, electronic pulsing devices have been offered in Europe and in Canada for several years and are best known for use in the treatment of migraine headaches.

Richards noted that further testing is needed to measure the effects of the magnetic pulsing device on MS patients. Future studies will involve the use of more objective measurement devices to detect possible effects on sensory perception, memory and accuracy.

The study was supported by grant funds of $100,000 (including both indirect and direct costs) from the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In addition to Richards and Kraft, study researchers included Dr. Juan Acosta-Urquidi, Thomas E. Merrill, Genevieve Melton and Catherine Cunningham of the University of Washington Department of Radiology; and Dr. Martha Lappin and Fraser Wilson Lawrie of Energy Medicine Developments, Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia.

AiG's views on the Intelligent Design Movement


by Carl Wieland

30 August 2002


The argument of 'intelligent design' (ID) has a long history going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.1 It was persuasively articulated by William Paley (1743–1805), who put forward the argument of an inferred divine Watchmaker in his book Natural Theology (1802). Modern Biblical creationists have also used the design argument in their opposition to evolution.2 But the works of modern scholars such as Michael Denton (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1985) and Phillip Johnson (Darwin on Trial, 1991) have led to the formation of an association of scientists and other scholars, which has become known as the 'Intelligent Design Movement' (IDM or ID movement).

Many of our supporters have asked us repeatedly for our position on the IDM, so this document is in response to that. It is not intended to be a hostile review by any means. Many in the creation movement, including AiG and me personally, have friendly relations with, and personally like, some of the people prominent in the IDM.

The modern concept of intelligent design has been simply formulated as the belief that certain biological lines of evidence (e.g., the 'irreducible complexity' of features such as the bacterial flagellum) are evidence for a designer and against blind naturalistic processes.

The modern Intelligent Design Movement (IDM)

The Intelligent Design Movement's motivation appears to be the desire to challenge the blind acceptance of the materialistic, godless, naturalistic philosophy of Darwinian evolution. They confront many of the philosophical underpinnings of today's evolutionary thinking. As a movement, they are unwilling to align themselves with Biblical creationism.

The informal leadership of the IDM has more or less come to rest on Phillip Johnson, a distinguished retired (emeritus) Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley who is a Presbyterian. Philosophically and theologically, the leading lights of the ID movement form an eclectic group. For example, Dr Jonathan Wells is not only a scientist but also an ordained cleric in the Unification Church (the 'Moonie' sect) and Dr Michael Denton is a former agnostic anti-evolutionist (with respect to biological transformism), who now professes a vague form of theism. However, he now seems to have embraced evolutionary (though somehow 'guided') transformism. Dr Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, is a Roman Catholic who says he has no problem with the idea that all organisms, including man, descended from a common ancestor.

The IDM's general approach

Among the IDM's leading proponents, there are some commonly shared beliefs and stances:

The concept of the ID movement has attracted a number of evangelical Christians, including believers in literal Genesis, who see it as a helpful new strategy to crack the foundation of evolution, which undergirds most of the world's cultures and schools.

Evidence of ID's growing activism was the effort to add the Santorum amendment to the 2002 US education bill (an amendment that encouraged schools to inform students about the 'continuing controversy' over 'biological evolution'). ID leaders have also been active in ongoing efforts to include ID in the educational standards of the US state of Ohio.

The IDM's perceived and potential strengths

Many Biblical (or Genesis) creationists (BCs, who by historically sound exegetical standards are convinced of recent creation) realize that the IDM 'doesn't go as far as we like', but think that this is a reasonable price to pay for what they see as a potentially effective 'thin edge of the wedge' strategy. They reason, 'Let's just get the camel's nose inside the tent, then we can concentrate on these other issues. Let's win one battle at a time.'

IDM sympathizers among BCs, frustrated by the failed legislative attempts to force the teaching of 'two models', generally think that this tactic has a better chance of getting them a hearing in the social/legislative arena. (AiG has never supported compulsion to teach creation, by the way, and does not support the artificial separation into the categories of 'scientific' vs 'Biblical' creationism that characterized much of the 'two-model approach.) They probably believe that this is because:

AiG's perception of the positives of the IDM

It has produced some materials and arguments which, though not necessarily designed to help the battle for Biblical creation, have been very useful in this cause.

It has kept the anti-creationists occupied on another flank of the battle, i.e. it has drawn some of the fire which might otherwise have distracted us from allocating our full efforts to spreading our message.

It correctly draws attention to the fact that the teaching of Darwinism is not philosophically/religiously neutral, but is squarely based upon the presuppositions of naturalism (another word for philosophical materialism or atheism, i.e., that there is no supernatural, but that this material world is all there is).

AiG's perception of IDM's weaknesses

Despite incorporating some extremely bright thinkers, the movement as a whole seems to have a recurring philosophical blind spot. Though they often correctly point out the religious foundations of Darwinism, the fact that all scientific reasoning is ultimately based on axioms/presuppositions (which are unprovable, hence metaphysical/subjective/biased by definition) should have alerted them to the fact that there is no such thing as a 'neutral' scientific arena within which to interpret the evidence related to the past.

Since the only thing in their platform which comes close to being a commonly-shared presupposition is a negative (naturalism is wrong), they can provide no coherent philosophical framework on which to base the axioms necessary to interpret evidence relevant to the historical sciences (paleontology, historical geology, etc). So they can never offer a 'story of the past', which is one more reason why they must continually limit the debate to one of mechanism—and then only in broad, general terms (designed vs undesigned).

They generally refuse to be drawn on the sequence of events, or the exact history of life on Earth or its duration, apart from saying, in effect, that it 'doesn't matter'. However, this is seen by the average evolutionist as either absurd or disingenuously evasive—the arena in which they are seeking to be regarded as full players is one which directly involves historical issues. In other words, if the origins debate is not about a 'story of the past', what is it about?

Their failure to identify themselves with a story of the past (e.g. Genesis) is partly tactically-driven, but is also a necessity, because they do not agree within themselves on a story of the past. However, this failure only reinforces the perception by the establishment that they are really 'creationists in disguise'. The attacks on the IDM have thus been virtually as ferocious as any on Genesis creationists. Thus, the belief that agreeing to 'keep the Bible out of it' would serve to keep anti-religious hostility out of the arena has not been confirmed in practice.

Some who are prominent in the IDM appear to be sympathetic to the Bible's account of Creation. However, if the movement should ever make the strategic inroads it hopes for, then our concern would be that any of its leaders who might later identify themselves with Genesis belief would lay themselves open to charges of having been publicly deceptive.

Ironically, despite already drawing the fire aimed at Genesis, the Bible and Christianity, many other prominent figures in the IDM reject or are hostile to Biblical creation, especially the notion of the recent creation of a good world, ruined by man's Fall into sin. For tactical reasons, they have been urged (especially by their coolest and wisest head, Phil Johnson, who does not himself share that hostility) not to publicly condemn their Genesis-believing fellow travelers, although this simmering opposition has burst forth from time to time. Were the IDM to partially succeed in its initial aims, some of the strongest opponents of literal Genesis may well arise from its recently-victorious ranks. For instance, Dr Michael Denton, though an amiable fellow, was nevertheless part of a broadcast forum in Australia which recently told a largely Christian audience that belief in literal Genesis was foolish and unscientific.

The IDM's refusal to identify the Designer with the Biblical God, and in particular with the history in the Bible, means that:

In fact, these points are not just hypothetical. Historically, the 'intelligent design in isolation' argument has achieved just these sorts of negative results. In other words, it's been tried before and failed. The 'natural theology' approach (using design, but keeping the Bible out of it) by the deists of former centuries led to an increase in deistic belief, i.e. 'a different god' just as in point i) immediately above, with its attendant rejection of the Bible and the Gospel. The deists' driving force was the rejection of God's Word and, concomitantly, His right to exercise rule over our lives.

Urged to deduce the existence of the Creator God from 'design alone', and thus leaving out the Fall and the real history of the world, thinkers concluded that any creator God must be cruel, wasteful, etc. Charles Darwin himself wrote in exactly that vein. He also provided another example of the negative effects of leaving the Biblical history out of the discussion. When he came across obvious examples of adaptive radiation from mainland populations onto islands, the only 'concept' of creation he had in his mind, in association with most of his deistically-influenced scientist contemporaries, was in situ creation, which his observations spoke so strongly against. But of course if he had built into his thinking dispersal of all land vertebrates from one central point after the global Flood, the alleged problem would have vanished. So, intelligent design arguments that 'left the Bible out of it' actually aided and abetted, in a major way, the rising rejection of the Bible. Far from countering atheism, it actually pushed thinkers into a non-design explanation, hence further into naturalism and atheism.

This is not surprising. The Apostle Paul acknowledges the power of the design argument in Romans 1:20: God's eternal power and divine nature can be clearly understood from the things that have been made (i.e. evidence of design in nature). Because of this, the ungodly are 'without excuse.' But he maintains that people willingly reject this clear evidence. Peter likewise says in 2 Peter 3:3-6 that those who reject the supernatural Creation and the global Flood are 'willingly ignorant' (KJV) or 'deliberately forget[ful]' (NIV). Evidence of design in nature is enough to condemn men, but it is not enough to save them. The Bible makes it overwhelmingly clear that the scientific aspects of creation ministry cannot, in the end, be separated from the preaching of the Gospel, to enable people to be reconciled to their Creator. Deducing the details of creation from nature alone, unguided by His revealed Word, ignores the fact that nature is fallen and cursed. The great theologian Louis Berkhof wrote: ' ... since the entrance of sin into the world, man can gather true knowledge about God from His general revelation only if he studies it in the light of Scripture … .'4

The IDM as a whole does not come to grips with the historical background of naturalism in the sciences. Biblical creationists have long argued that the millions-of-years concepts (which the majority of leading IDMers either support or say they have 'no problem with') in fields like astronomy/cosmology and historical geology were squarely based on, derived from, and fueled by, naturalism—i.e., the deliberate rejection of God's Word and its authority in relation to the history of the world.5 These naturalism-underpinned conclusions of geology/astronomy were the seedbed for Darwinism. That is, naturalism was there long before Darwinism and led directly to its dominance. It is therefore ironic to observe IDers telling people that fighting 'naturalism' is the important issue, when at the same time they tell people that the very naturalism-based issues which were the seedbed of Darwinism are 'unimportant.'

Interestingly, a recent book produced from within the IDM, Darwin's God by Cornelius Hunter, argues powerfully that Darwin was really trying to distance God from natural evil, by removing Him from having anything to do with His creation. In other words, Darwin was in that sense an ultra-deist, rather than an atheist. Hunter shows how the problem is a particular view of God, of what He would or would not do. But indirectly, this would appear to argue against one aspect of the ID platform, since the only way to have a correct view of God and what He would do (and did do) would be if God revealed it to us, as indeed He has through Scripture. And Hunter's book often refers obliquely to Biblical passages.

What about public education?

We tend to blame 'the world' for what has happened to our educational institutions. We don't usually stop to think of how the church itself has aided and abetted this tragedy as it has so often compromised on the authority of God's Word in relation to real-world issues such as science and history. AiG's major 'strategy' is to boldly, but humbly, call the church back to its Biblical foundations in such matters, reforming the thinking of Christians, who are then to be salt and light to our culture. This is how it worked in the days of the Great Awakening in England and America, when the light of the Gospel diffused horizontally through the educational, political and social institutions, transforming positively just about everything we take for granted in our modern world.

We have always felt that teachers should at least be able to critically examine arguments for and against evolution, and we don't think that the constitutional arguments in the USA supposedly preventing that have ever been strong, i.e., how can any Christian teacher who wants to do so be prevented from giving arguments for and against evolution? What reasonable person could logically defend the notion of shielding any scientific theory or idea from all critical analysis?

At the same time, we have never supported compulsory teaching of Biblical creation (imagine any teacher being forced to teach that which they don't believe, and which in effect points the finger at them as sinners).

As indicated earlier, we also don't believe that one can, or should attempt to, artificially separate 'Biblical' from 'scientific' creation in order to gain a hearing in the public arena. This has been attempted by Biblical creationists, again for tactical reasons, with good motives. But, like the IDM's broader but ultimately similar stratagem, it appears to us to be philosophically flawed.

The origins issue has never been about facts and evidence as such—we all have the same world, the same evidence, the same facts. It is the philosophical framework within which facts are interpreted which differs. And philosophical frameworks are based on axioms (presuppositions, or starting beliefs). The scientific conclusions of Darwinism are squarely based on anti-Biblical (naturalistic) axioms, while those of creation are based on Biblical axioms. We believe that axioms need to be openly 'on the table', and it should be realized that one can discuss them in a secular setting without teaching religious doctrine as such, but without hiding or running away from the implications. The evidence concerning origins can be discussed through a critical comparison of axiom-based models6 without fostering the secular myth of 'neutrality,' i.e., that evidence 'speaks for itself' in some mysterious way.

What about the constitutional barriers?

US courts have consistently 'reinterpreted' the Constitution, and the US public mood has become increasingly secular. Why has this societal shift occurred? Because the church en masse has had its eyes shut to the foundational philosophical/worldview shift in Western culture. For this failure to adequately defend the authority of Genesis the church bears grave responsibility. Again, we see that the pressing need and priority is to reform the church in order to 're-salt' the culture; the legal/political battles will then become totally reframed. We fear that Christians who play 'let's pretend the Bible isn't part of it' risk alienating the culture still further.

Of course, in practical terms, starting with the powerful design arguments which the IDM has helped to reawaken (and has formalized in modern terms) can be a very useful tool for 'opening discussion', especially in circles where mentioning the Bible would instantly plug the hearer's ears. Many of us in AiG have actually been partially using the 'wedge' tactic of the IDM for years individually. That is, we may, in certain settings, seek to gain a more ready hearing through initially focusing on less controversial aspects of Biblical Creation. However, unlike the official stance of the IDM, when that opening comes, or when questioned, we will unhesitatingly affirm that we start our thinking based squarely on the real history in the Bible. Used properly, such a tactic is almost inevitably more effective than acting as if there is a neutral 'science' arena for determining truth. Most people get the point when one shows them how evidence is not neutral and does not speak for itself but must be interpreted. Even unbelievers are often willing to follow an argument when asked to temporarily alter their presuppositions (i.e., to 'put on a different pair of glasses') to see how the evidence might fit a Biblical worldview. So, while it may be useful on occasion to focus on the evidence and avoid references to the Bible and religion, it is counterproductive if one does so to an extent that reinforces the myth that it is somehow less 'scientific' to base one's models on God's revelation, the Bible.

Summary and conclusion

AiG supports the ID movement's efforts to promote academic freedom and to question evolution. When we call into question (hopefully with humility) aspects of their strategy, we do so not to seek to undermine or oppose their efforts, but to encourage careful thinking by all concerned believers (including ourselves) concerning the ways to achieve the most good, and to give most honor and glory to God. In the end, we in AiG are concerned about the truth and authority of the Word of God, the Bible. This is an issue which ultimately transcends and overrides matters such as local school politics and the like.

God, who used even the pagan king Cyrus for His purposes, may use the IDM in spite of the concerns we have raised. We would be delighted to see it make real inroads in the areas of its interest, and are positive about many aspects of its existence, including some of the useful materials it produces. Where we can be natural allies, if this can occur without compromising our Biblical stance in any way, we want to be.

Our friends in the IDM will hopefully understand that when we discuss these problems and issues, we do so not to discourage or obstruct, but simply to make it clear where we are coming from, why we do so, and why we neither count ourselves a part of this movement nor campaign against it.

References and notes

  1. Cicero, for example, used design in support of the Greek pantheon of gods. See also A brief history of design.
  2. A.E. Wilder-Smith, The Creation of Life (Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1970), Robert Kofahl and Kelly Segraves, The Creation Explanation (Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1975) and Henry Morris and Gary Parker, What is Creation Science? (El Cajon: Master Books, 1982).
  3. See the 2004 book by AiG speaker Gary Bates: Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection.
  4. Louis Berkhof, L, Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1938, p. 60.
  5. See two relevant articles by Dr Terry Mortenson on this point:
    'Defining Boundaries on Creation and Noah's Flood: Early 19th Century British Scriptural Geologists,' which discusses these writers who perceived the then-developing old-Earth geology to be based on naturalism (order it free by email from Zondervan's Web site: http://www.zondervanchurchsource.com/convention/parallel.htm#DB) and
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/magazines/tj/docs/TJv11n3_Granville_Penn.asp (especially the section entitled 'The Philosophical Foundation of Comparative Estimate'), which discusses the philosophically astute writings of one of the Scriptural geologists.
  6. What about the common objection, 'Why not then teach e.g. Australian Aboriginal creation stories in science lessons?' One could ask such objectors whether they are aware of any origins teaching outside of the Abrahamic stream which:
    Claims to be absolute revelational truth from the Creator in documentary form
    Has been held and believed consistently for many centuries in essentially its modern form.
    Has been held to offer a serious historical explanation for all of reality and the origins of man and the universe.
    Is supported by a significant group of qualified scientists and other intellectuals who are convinced that it does indeed explain the data at least as well as evolution/long ages.

The First Psychic: The Peculiar Mystery of a Notorious Victorian Wizard


Peter Lamont
2005, Little, Brown; 320p.
conjuring:history, psi:history

Daniel Home got messages from the departed, but by the help of spirits, he also levitated furniture, made hovering musical instruments play in the air, and floated himself in and out of three- story windows. Or at least that is what he claimed, and more importantly, that is what people (including scientists) who saw the performances claimed for him. Charlatan or ambassador to the Spirit World, Home created a sensation that was the international talk of all levels of society. Peter Lamont, who has worked as a magician, thinks that Daniel Home was the most interesting person who ever lived. The book is also an examination of how we know what we know, and how we have to deal with incredible anomalies. Home had serious detractors who were conjurors. It has to be said, though, that many of the effects which Home was able to achieve, or which were remembered as being achieved by him, were unique and remain unexplained. Skeptics will say this merely shows he was better at the tricks than others, while believers will assert that the only explanation was help from the spirit world. It is a shame that the conjurors did not join in the scientific investigation of Home's powers. Lamont gives an entertaining account of a man who performed remarkable feats and gained widespread fame, and throughout gives a fair assessment without insisting that Home was genuine or fraudulent (only if you get to the notes does he state frankly his own belief that "Home was a charlatan whose feats have never been adequately explained.") Nevertheless, there are many mysteries enjoyably presented here, and many performances, and behaviors of performers and observers, at which to wonder.

[ Reviewed by Rob Hardy, robhardy@earthlink.net ]

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

U of I 'intelligent design' controversy continues


Edition Date: 12-10-2005

The Associated Press

MOSCOW — It's been two months since University of Idaho President Tim White forbade teaching of intelligent design as part of the school's science curriculum.

Even so, White says the controversy hasn't died down: He gets at least one letter on the topic every day.

Most have been supportive, though some people feel White unfairly curbed free speech and academic freedom, he said.

White told students and staff in an Oct. 5 letter that the alternate theory of how life developed on Earth — branded as neo-creationism because of its contention that life is too complex not to have been designed by a higher power — wouldn't be tolerated as part of the school's science programs.

White said evolution is the only theory appropriate for U of I's biophysical science courses.

The prohibition, similar to restrictions in place at the University of Kansas and Cornell University in New York, doesn't limit intelligent design from being taught in social sciences or philosophy classes.

"Anytime there's this kind of public debate, it helps advance society," White said at a Thursday news conference at U of I offices in Coeur d'Alene.

Speakout: 'Design' critics often employ straw men


December 10, 2005

Ever since President Bush advocated that the intelligent design critique of Darwinism be allowed in public schools, a riot of public pronouncements has condemned the design perspective as retrograde, unscientific and downright ominous.

A number of logical fallacies are routinely employed in efforts to debunk intelligent design. In such cases, intelligent design is criticized and dismissed on the basis of an argument that is illogical and therefore false. One need not be an expert in Darwinian biology to sniff out these basic blunders. In this brief space I will note just one: the straw man argument.

In the straw man argument a position is made to look ridiculous and then the caricature is knocked down. Intelligent design is repeatedly presented as a plan to institute religious and unscientific dogma in the public schools. The facts, however, speak otherwise. Intelligent design's think tank, The Discovery Institute, says this: "The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." The controlling premise is the effort to discern the best explanation for a natural phenomenon, given the available empirical evidence: a fundamental precept of scientific investigation. Unlike creationism, intelligent design makes no appeal to religious texts, but invokes empirical evidence, as well as the principles of design detection, which are already used in sciences such as cryptography, archaeology, forensics, and in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Mathematician and philosopher William Dembski argues that certain features of the natural world exhibit patterns that are best explained on the basis of design (or intelligent causes), rather than on the basis of mindless nature (or unintelligent causes).

For example, even if we didn't know from history that an eccentric artist was responsible, we would identify the presidential faces carved into Mount Rushmore as designed because natural patterns of erosion cannot explain them. The complexity of the phenomenon fits a specifiable pattern: the faces of the presidents, which we recognize from other sources. Similarly, archaeologists distinguish ancient artifacts from naturally occurring objects on the basis of design detection. The complexity discovered in certain objects fits a specifiable pattern indicating that intelligent causation was at work.

Intelligent design proponents argue that some organisms indicate specified complexity, and that these organisms are better explained by intelligent causes than by natural law and chance alone. The DNA code is an example of specified complexity. It contains a language that is not reducible to the laws of chemistry and physics, which do not specify its content. The odds against all the factors required for DNA to come together through the operations of mere matter and chance are vanishingly small.

Similarly, biochemist Michael Behe argues in Darwin's Black Box that certain molecular machines are irreducibly complex, which means that all of its basic parts are required for its function, as with a mousetrap. The bacterial flagellum, for example, is a highly complex outboard motor attached to a bacterium. A gradual process of mere chance and natural law is insufficient to explain this irreducible complexity, Behe argues, since the motor function could not exist in evolutionary predecessors that lacked any of the many necessary parts.

However, Darwinists insist that intelligent design invokes God to cover ignorance of natural processes. This is exactly wrong. The design inference is not based on ignorance, but on increased knowledge of the microscopic realm and on the well-established principles of design detection. When Darwinists refuse to admit intelligent cause as a possible explanation for specified complexity, this only reveals that they define science such that intelligent causes are disallowed in principle. But this approach is not a discovery of science itself. It is rather a philosophical commitment to materialism (the belief that reality is reducible to impersonal physical laws).

May these few considerations spur readers to assess rationally intelligent design's actual arguments and to avoid the logical fallacies so often employed in place of intelligent thought about life's origins.

Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary.

Intelligent Design Supporter to Run for Wagnon's Seat



A Lawrence Republican who supports intelligent design says he will seek a Kansas Board of Education seat now held by a member who defends evolution.

Alan Detrich, 58, said, "These evolutionists are saying that Jesus was half-chimpanzee...''

Detrich said he wants to challenge Bill Wagnon, a Topeka Democrat whose seat isn't up for election until 2008. Wagnon was one of four board members who voted last month against new science standards that critique evolution using an intelligent design perspective.

The new standards, which treat evolution as a flawed theory, were approved on a five-to-four vote.

Detrich is a fossil hunter who has made some well publicized finds, among them a triceratops skull that was displayed at the Lawrence Public Library last spring.

Intelligent Design: More than Dogma


by John Komkov

Deputy Editor

On November 8, the Kansas Board of Education passed a bill to establish science standards that seek to teach Darwin in a fuller light. The measure aims to eliminate philosophical presuppositions from the evolution debate. If evolution is to be regarded truly as theory, then it is necessary that contrasting viewpoints be considered in its study. In a significant way, lambasting intelligent design as a cop-out "yokel" solution to the problem of biological development is to affirm that evolution is something more than pure theory. Expanding the parameters of evolution to say it is irrefutably correct is to make it a new kind of religion. Reformers in Kansas do not have an agenda in backing Intelligent Design, but rather want to make certain that students in Kansas get a "macro" sense of evolution that takes into account its possible weaknesses. In a news release published by the Intelligent Design Network, Managing Director John Calvert explains how the changed curriculum will be structured:

"School children in Kansas will now learn that evolutionary theory can be understood as resting on a three-legged stool. One leg is microevolution (change within a species)…another leg is macroevolution (the appearance of complex cellular structures and new body plans), and the third is chemical evolution (the origin of life from non-living chemicals."

In the changes approved by the Board, the first leg of Calvert's stool will be taught as scientific fact. There is no doubt that random mutation and natural selection serve to initiate microevolutionary changes, and consequently there will be no margin of uncertainty in the course materials that cover the topic in classes. That said, concerning the stool's second and third legs, the newly-adopted syllabus allows for the possible inadequacy of those mechanisms to provide a comprehensive explanation for many natural phenomena. The theory will still be taught, but it will be clearly presented as theory. The hope is that with an unambiguous understanding of the different aspects of evolutionary conjecture, students will be informed to make their own decisions about a controversial concept.

On paper, Kansas' reforms are practical and unbiased. Far from rebuking rationality, the changes uphold "good science" in the sense that they aim to focus studies on data rather than the overarching philosophical and religious implications of that data. Which begs the question, why are so many people so mad? What about intelligent design inherently steams the scientific world and why is the notion of some "higher order" necessarily anti-logical?

For a possible answer, we turn to the University of Kansas class bulletin. In the Spring of 2006, a new course titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies" will be offered through Religious Studies Department. According to Department Chair Paul Mirecki:

"Creationism is mythology. Intelligent design is mythology. It's not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not."

Proponents of standard evolutionary theory argue that intelligent design is little more than biblical dogma dressed up in lab coat. KU Chancellor Bob Hemenway defines the emerging movement as an affront to truth:

"The attack on evolution continues across America. The United States cannot accept efforts to undermine the teaching of science."

If we boil it down, the problem of evolution is the problem of how the spirit functions in an unspiritual age. Evolution is flawed inasmuch as its supporters want it to be more than it is. Positivistic America, where not a thing can be said credibly that cannot be empirically proved, still craves philosophy. The spirit still functions flawlessly, but with no clear manner of expression. In a society that refuses to acknowledge a reality that cannot be perceived by the senses or demonstrated by mathematical proof, our modus operandi is to treat evolution as a legitimate philosophy.

But it would be totally wrong to grant positivist thought the status of philosophy. True philosophy relies on a unitary body that is shattered in the face of "empirical philosophy". For empirical philosophy, originating in the 17 th century with such laymen experts as Voltaire ( Philosophie de l'historie ) and Lamarck ( Philosophie de la Nature ), supplants extra-scholastic modes of verification with countless inductive hypotheses about disparate fields. Ultimately, the contempt for any idea of God makes for an ungrounded world. When the focus of an argument does not lie within itself nor in God, it is impractical because it is subject to every external dictate.

Rather than being "stupid", Kansas' reforms reflect a deeper understanding of the nature of science. This is because the reforms account for an innate spirituality in the human mind that cannot stand to be extinguished. If it is forbidden to seek truth beyond the directly perceivable, then the spirit will extend the scope of the directly perceivable beyond its accurate limits. In this way, the spirit fulfills its original goal, and in this way evolution becomes a new kind of faith where traditional faith is barred. Semantically, evolution can never be rigorously "true" because innate in the definition of "theory" is the ability of "theory" to be disproved. Granted it is practical and granted it will still be taught, but at least in Kansas, evolution will no longer be a quasi-religion that fosters complacency where science could otherwise advance.

©2005 Stanford Review

Scientology Presented With Human Rights Abuse Award


Published on: December 10th, 2005 12:01am by: NCHRA

For Immediate Release

(OPENPRESS) December 10, 2005 -- The Scientology corporation won the award after NCHRA membership last August examined ten private United States businesses and organizations that have the worse reputation for human rights abuses, and voted on fifteen criteria regarding the worse offender for each criterion. NCHRA media liaison for California, Dr. Jessica Wells, presented the award in front of NCHRA-California members.

"We present this shameful but well-earned award to the Scientology business with much regret and sorrow," Dr. Jessica Wells told the audience, "as it represents thousands of Scientology customers and staff who have been consistently and perniciously denied their human rights by the Scientology corporation." The votes were based upon hundreds of court documents, declarations, affidavits, and transcripts sworn to under oath by Scientology customers victimized by the business.

"The Scientology corporation must cease its human rights abuses against Scientologists," Dr. Wells said, "and also cease its abuses against the larger community. We do not want to have to present the Human Rights Counter-Achievement Award to the same business again next year."

In Greece and Germany the Scientology corporation is officially considered a threat to the citizenry and a danger to democracy. Several other countries monitor the sinister organization as they do other crime syndicates.

The president of the NCHRA was unable to attend the ceremony, but he sent a video tape which was played for the NCHRA membership. In the tape, Mr. Rice outlined some of the many human rights abuses Scientologists are subjected to and demanded that the Scientology corporation cease abusing their customers and staff.

"The Scientology business's criminal and abominable 'Rehabilitation Project Force' must be dismantled," Mr. Rice said from the video monitor. "It exists only to punish Scientology staff members who no longer wish to work for the business and who no longer wish to purchase any Scientology. Locking up people and denying them sleep and food is barbaric and criminal--- and in the RPF this behavior is commonplace and per Scientology policy."

Other human rights abuses committed against Scientologists were also denounced by Mr. Rice in his taped speech. Included were demands to end those abuses, such as:

1) Women Scientologist must be allowed to keep their pregnancies and have children if they wish to; mandatory abortions must cease.

2) Children of Scientology staff must be allowed to live with their parents.

3) The policy of demanding the abandonment of children and spouse if those children and spouses object to the crimes and human rights abuses committed against Scientology customers and staff (call "disconnection" by the business) must cease.

4) Scientology customers must be told exactly what they are purchasing before they hand over the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on buying god-like powers and abilities that they never achieve.

5) Scientology customers and staff must be allowed to receive medical health care when they need it.

6) The Scientology business must cease locking up their customers and staff against their will.

7) Scientologists working as staff must be paid at least minimum wage. The practice of paying them $48 a week for over 100 hours of labor must cease.

8) The Lisa Clause, and all similar waivers and disclaimers that customers and staff members are forced to sign and agree to must be revoked. One cannot sign away one's human rights.

9) The Scientology business must cease teaching that black people are inferior to white people.

10) The Scientology business must cease teaching that homosexuality is a disease which Scientology "technology" can cure.

11) The Scientology business must cease using the legal system to punish the business's victims when those victims seek legal redress.

12) The Scientology business must cease practicing medicine without a license. This includes shutting down all of Scientology's NarConon facilities world-wide.

13) Customers and staff who no longer wish to purchase any Scientology must be allowed to quit doing so, and to be free from harassment and abuse after they have quit.

"These items, and many more, must all be achieved by the Scientology corporation before the business will achieve a healthy human rights record," Mr. Rice said. "The time for the Scientology business to cease abusing the human rights of Scientologists is long over-due."

Dr. Wells concluded the presentation by speaking the names of nearly 100 Scientologists who have committed suicide or who had died under tragic or mysterious circumstances.

The ten businesses and organizations that the NCHRA membership examined and voted upon included the Mafia, four White Supremacist groups, one Black Supremacist group, three churches, and the Scientology corporation. United States Governmental agencies were not examined, though the NCHRA recognizes the systemic human rights abuses within the USA government.

The criteria voted upon included the right to life; the right to liberty; the right to security; the right to freedom from servitude; the right to redress of grievances; the right to property; the right of freedom of movement; the right to free expression of opinions; the right of religious faith; the right to religion expression; the right to be free from coercion and compulsion; the right of safe working conditions; the right to unionize; the recognition of child protections; and the right to sunder personal associations.

The next NCHRA Human Rights Counter-Achievement Award will be voted upon August 10th. 2006.

Professional Free Press Release News Wire

Saturday, December 10, 2005

NPR and 'Intelligent Design': Skeptical or Credulous?


NPR Ombudsman By Jeffrey A. Dvorkin

NPR.org, November 29, 2005

Nothing better points out the challenges to journalism than reporting on religion.

Religion is a knotty subject for news coverage. The way in which a responsible reporter approaches a topic, by employing skeptical inquiry and consideration for other points of view, can be perceived as being anti-religious or even bigoted by those whose personal beliefs fall under such scrutiny.

This is never more true than when NPR reports on the latest battle in the culture wars -- the issue around intelligent design and the arguments of its proponents against Darwinian evolution.

Intelligent Design (I.D.) is the belief that the origins of the universe and the development of life on Earth are so complex that they defy rational explanation. Hence, its advocates say, there must be a higher intelligence behind creation. In short, it must be God. I.D. is a more refined expression of what was called "creationism" -- a strict and literal biblical interpretation of how the earth was created and how life developed.

I.D. advocates have had considerable success in promoting their ideas. The Kansas Board of Education agreed that I.D. must be given equivalent teaching time alongside Darwinian evolution. Last summer, President George W. Bush said that he thinks I.D. should be taught in schools. "Both sides ought to be properly taught... so people can understand what the debate is about," he said. Mr. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought... You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

These comments have drawn sharp criticism from opponents of I.D., who argue there is no scientific evidence to support it and no educational basis for teaching it.

Much of the scientific establishment and others who oppose I.D. say that it is not a verifiable scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious -- especially Christian -- thinking to students. They claim that church and other interest groups are pursuing political channels instead of first building support through traditional scientific review. This underscores a reason for the great chasm between advocates of I.D. and its critics. In the final analysis, the I.D. line of argument rests on faith -- something that cannot be tested in a laboratory.

The Dangers of Too Much Balance?

NPR has given a considerable amount of airtime to the arguments for and against intelligent design -- 68 reports over the past 10 months, according to the NPR archives. But as NPR tries to give the matter even-handed treatment, some listeners are concerned that, by trying to be fair, NPR is granting it legitimacy.

Many listeners and -- I sense -- some NPR journalists have complicated and conflicted attitudes when it comes to the public investigation of a religious idea. Many in the public radio community feel that religion is a private matter and that even presenting the debate comes too close to proselytizing.

NPR: A Faith-Free Zone?

Many listeners -- more than I've heard from on one issue in a long time -- encourage NPR to keep reporting on religion and faith. It is an important part of their lives, like public radio itself, and they see no reason why NPR should be a faith-free zone.

This often makes journalists nervous. This is because invariably journalism is at its best when dealing with subjects that have a rational, verifiable explanation.

Religion is about many things, but ultimately it is not about rationalism. It is about faith: if you have it, it defies explanation. Another quality of religion is its evangelical impulse to convert others to the particular ways of belief and practice.

Ex Cathedra Journalism?

Good journalism demands reporters be neutral about many controversial issues, including religion. Whenever religion is expressed at work, it usually evokes nervousness. There is a story (perhaps apocryphal) that at a major national newspaper some years ago, the editor would stroll through the newsroom clutching a Bible, much to the discomfort of his staff. If true, it would be an unusual management practice to have an open expression of faith in what is a traditionally nonpartisan workplace.

For some listeners, such agnosticism is hard to accept because it implies that news coverage in general, and NPR in particular, is hostile to any profession of faith. Other listeners might worry NPR is insufficiently neutral about these same matters.

In my opinion, NPR's approach to every subject -- religion included -- should be as the disinterested yet curious observer. NPR's goal should be to explain what is happening in the world on behalf of listeners hungry for such information and determined to draw their own conclusions. But when it comes to religion, that approach seems inadequate for many.

Dealing Rationally with Religion

NPR, like most mainstream journalistic organizations and unlike overtly religious broadcasters, approaches religion in a rational and non-religious way. That may be a contradiction in terms. But it also may be the only way religion can be understood by a journalistic sensibility that is essentially secular.

Because coverage of religion is so fraught with these conflicts and demands, NPR has, I think, tried hard to keep the lines clear between reportage and advocacy.

I believe that NPR has succeeded for the most part, but not without incurring some accusations that the very fact of its coverage crosses the line into advocacy.

How NPR Covers Religion

First, it has created a religion beat and has assigned Barbara Bradley Hagerty to cover this subject. By the very nature of her assignment, Bradley Hagerty is in a state of perpetual journalistic purgatory. Listeners (inspired partly by Internet allegations) insist that she is either an advocate for religiosity or that she is insufficiently respectful of religious practices and beliefs.

I feel that Bradley Hagerty is taking a solid and professional approach to this complicated issue. In my many discussions with her, I have concluded that these allegations of an agenda on her part are nonsense.

She is as fair a reporter as I have encountered and she brings an understanding to her subject that equals that of other NPR beat reporters. Bradley Hagerty is no more "pro-religion" than, say, NPR's media reporter, David Folkenflik, is "pro-journalism" or NPR newscaster Nora Raum is "pro-news."

There are other approaches to reporting on religion heard on NPR programs. An inventive and compelling approach to religion and faith can be found in the ongoing series called "This I Believe" -- an occasional feature heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

These are personal essays by Americans from all walks of life who state what constitutes their personal credos. This program has a noble pedigree: it was originally a series in the 1950s on CBS Radio under the tutelage of the famed Edward R. Murrow.

Some recent "This I Believe" essays have ranged from magician/entertainer Penn Gillette's profession of atheism to a Buddhist appreciation of mindfulness to Sen. John McCain's discovery of meaning through survival. It's a radio series of unusual power, depth and subtlety in a time of bare-knuckle faith.

Another fascinating series on NPR that explores the realm of religion is called "The Geography of Heaven." NPR's Alex Chadwick has created some significant radio documentaries on how different cultures envisage the concept of "heaven."

These series both capture the best traditions of sound-rich radio journalism using the values of curiosity, respect and tolerance.

But I.D. seems, so far, to be a much tougher subject for NPR because it evokes such strong responses and because its advocates seem to want NPR to endorse their ideas. That is not the role of journalism.

One of the best places where I.D. has been put through some tough and critical scrutiny has been on NPR's Talk of the Nation/Science Friday. Host Ira Flatow has been relentless in revealing the lack of scientific rigor among many I.D. advocates. This has made some accuse NPR of an anti-I.D. bias.

But I think it's just the kind of thoughtful, skeptical journalism that listeners expect from NPR.

Another look at intelligent design


By BOB DRIVER, columnist

Intelligent Design (ID) can be argued in all sorts of ways. For example, the human body.

Did the Big Designer (God) do a good job when he crafted you and me?

When I see a newborn child or a lovely woman, I think yes. But then I remember the appendix.

The appendix is a useless attachment to the human gut. It sits there, doing nothing, for decades. Then it can become inflamed and cause all sorts of trouble. This is intelligent design?

The prostate gland is another good reason for disputing the existence of a Great Mind behind the universe. In young men, the prostate has a purpose. Past age 60 or so, it's mostly nuisance and grief.

Let's assume it was ID that gave each of us two eyes, two ears, two hands, etc., in case one of them gets damaged or lost. Why, then, did the Omniscient Engineer give us only one heart? When that goes kerflooey, so do we. Big mistake in design, I would say.

As we point out flaws in the ID philosophy, we should also take a whack at the theory of evolution. It says all living things are the

product of random happenstance and survival of the fittest. But if that is true, why in the 15 billion years since the Big Bang have humans not become more fit? From the day of our birth we are one heartbeat or one virus away from death. You'd think that, given so much time, fate (or whatever force Darwinians believe in) would have made each of us virtually indestructible.

Here's a theory I'd like to suggest: ID is not the work of one mind, i.e., God. Rather, it's the product of a committee. After a few million years of tinkering with the design of the universe and the creatures in it, God simply got bored with the project. So he called in some cosmic flunkies – angels, devils, cherubims – and ordered them to come up with the final answers.

The result is what we have today – a contradictory mix of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, efficiency and stupidity. Roses and AIDS. Mozart and rap music. Poets and assassins. Penicillin and rat poison.

Religious people would like God to get the credit for designing the world and humankind. But how can anyone be sure God even wants the credit? Who in his right mind would want responsibility for designing a hurricane that wipes out an entire city and a thousand innocent lives?

The ancient Greeks and Romans may have had the right idea. They believed in a variety of gods, not just one. And their gods were not perfect, all-knowing and all-powerful. They were flawed and unpredictable.

If one god or goddess didn't respond to a person's prayer, there were others to choose from. People didn't argue about Intelligent Design. They were too busy trying to pick the right god. It was a celestial lottery, with nothing guaranteed.

Very much the way life is today.

Send Bob Driver an e-mail at tralee71@comcast.net.
Article Copyright © Tampa Bay Newspapers

Teaching theories: Why stop with Intelligent Design?


11/29/2005 10:00:00 PM Byron Lanning, One View

Proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) believe the universe and living things seem so complex that an intelligent agent must have conceived and fashioned them. When these proponents (IDers) say "agent," they do not mean an FBI agent or a secret agent like 007. They mean a deity or an industrious false God or maybe just a boogerman with a knack for puttering around with creation.

These types of agents require a belief in a God or religion. You will never hear IDers mention those words though because they want the public schools to teach Intelligent Design to rebut evolution, but the public schools have prohibitions regarding religion in schools. In some schools, you cannot even say the word God unless it's used in vain.

However, public schools can include ID in their curriculum if schools teach ID's opposite theory ... which is not evolution.

The opposite theory of Intelligent Design is the theory of Doofus Unintelligent Design (DUD). The adherents of DUD (DUDsters) believe that life and the universe were created not by an intelligent agent but by a real cementhead, some agent with an average SAT score of about 37—or worse, a high school dropout.

Because of the public schools' religion restrictions, IDers use the so-called watch analogy as evidence of ID. In this analogy, a man is walking through a field of heather and finds a watch lying there. IDers say the man would not assume an object of such complexity and purpose got there by random chance. He would say an intelligent agent made it and put it there.

DUDsters counter the watch analogy with the wonderbra analogy. In this analogy, a man walks into some heather and finds a wonderbra. He seems unconcerned about its design. He thinks what idiot came up with this thing, and where can I find the woman who wears it? A voice answers, probably the Agent Schmendrick who created the wonderbra. "She's at the race track," it replies, "and she's looking sort of jiggly right now."

The IDers say the complexity of the universe proves it has an intelligent force behind it. DUDsters refer to the occurrence of destructive natural phenomena in the universe—such as the grandiose death and destruction from tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanoes or the mass extinctions caused by climate change—as evidence some Gumbeyhead is running it. An asteroid struck the Earth once and wiped out all the dinosaurs, they point out. Another one eventually will strike the Earth again. "Oh," the DUDsters say, "That's just friggin' brilliant."

According to DUDsters, one of the most compelling proofs of DUD is the existence of man. Human beings possess more intelligence than any creature on the planet. What do they do with that intelligence? They are making their planet unlivable by their pollution. The obtuse agent who created them seems just as guilty. It litters the heather with wonderbras. If that's not undeniable evidence of DUD, the DUDsters say, then God is not named Yahweh.

No matter the merits of ID and DUD, health experts will make the decision to teach the theories in public schools. They oppose teaching ID and DUD because the backpacks of students have become so heavy with textbooks that if another theory is added to them the kids could fall backwards on the way to school and leave them flailing on the sidewalks like beetles turned on their backs.

IDers and DUDsters disagree, saying we can add more theories to the curriculum if we lighten them with the proper summarization, no more than 12 words per theory, including footnotes and bibliographies.

Intelligent design also rational explanation based on study


November 30, 2005

A recent letter writer ("Must scientists be derided in debate?" Nov. 12) sorely misses the point.

He is right when he defines a theory by saying that it is "a rational explanation based on sufficient empirical evidence that has been weighed and considered over a long period of time by a significant number of professionals in that particular field of study."

That's true. But that fact does not rule out the existence or legitimacy of other competing theories.

He says that intelligent design does not meet all of the criteria for scientific theories. My question is: "Which of these criteria does it not meet?"

I mean, intelligent design (or creationism — take your pick) is a rational explanation, of the same empirical evidence, which has been weighed and considered by a substantial number of scientists in the fields of biology, etc., over a long period of time.

What we have is a difference of outcomes as two groups evaluate and try to explain the same evidence from differing perspectives. That does not, in and of itself, make one of them illegitimate.

The second point he makes is that creationists, or intelligent design advocates, continue to use religious principles to judge evolution advocates. That simply is not true.

But when a columnist calls God the "Big Guy" or some such other name, that is taking His name in vain, and I make no apology for pointing that out in my earlier letter ("Creation/evolution 'debate' not between science, religion," Oct. 23). But that does not mean we "judge all evolutionist advocates by religious principles."

I did not at all intimate that "all evolutionists are heathen blasphemer," as the letter writer said.

Robert E. Hays

Experts debate intelligent design at Boston University


William Dembski and James Trefil were among those in Boston debating the role of ID in high school biology

By Matt Donnelly (November 30, 2005)

Supporters of intelligent design, the belief that some aspects of the universe require a supernatural explanation, took center stage at Boston University and battled supporters of Darwinian evolution in front of a standing-room only crowd.

ID supporters included Edward Sisson, a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold & Porter, and William Dembski, Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, and James Trefil, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University, argued against ID.

Also contributing to the debate were BU students Nick Barber, a broadcast journalism major, who joined forces with the pro-ID faction, and Neil St. Clair, a broadcast journalism and political science major, who spoke out against ID.

The event was part of the biannual Great Debate Series, which has been sponsored by the Boston University College of Communication since 1996. The intent of the series is to engage the student body in issues of great significance. Prior debates have involved controversial issues such as same-sex marriage and the abolition of the death penalty.

While recent news reports have focused on the debate over teaching ID in public high school science classrooms, the number of ID-specific classes in colleges and universities in the United States is increasing. Public universities from Georgia to New Mexico have added ID classes, joining those in private schools such as Wake Forest. In most cases, however, ID is taught as philosophy or religion and not science.

"I do not believe in debates because scientific issues are not settled by debates," Scott said in her opening statement at Boston University's ID debate. She added, however, that she agreed to the debate because ID was a "sectarian Christian view that not even all Christians hold." For that reason alone, she added, it should not be taught in high school biology classes because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

"It is impossible to extricate the so-called scientific component of ID from the religious," she said.

Sisson, on the other hand, said that not all ID supporters are religious. "The people who appear on my side of the issue are often painted as closet — or not-so-closet — creationists," he said. He said that students should be exposed to competing points of view as a pedagogical tool.

Scott sought to distinguish between the "big idea" of evolution — descent with modification — and "ancillary theories," which she said involved the process and patterns of evolution. Although there is debate among scientists about issues such as the role of natural selection and the shape of the tree of life, "none of us [scientists] are arguing about descent with modification."

Supporters of ID are wrong to point to questions that are currently unanswered by science and use them as evidence that they are unexplainable by evolutionary theory, said Trefil. He said to Dembski, "You've left out the option that says, 'Hey, we don't known what the laws [for a given biological process or organism] are yet, but I know how to find out.'"

Dembski countered that ID was neither an appeal to ignorance nor a science stopper but rather a recognition that there may be inherent "barriers and limits" to evolutionary processes. He said these limits suggest that design might be the best explanation for some natural phenomena. As examples, he pointed to the familiar examples first introduced by Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe: the bacterial flagellum — the "tail" that allows the bacterium to move — and blood clotting. ID supporters argue that these biological phenomena require so many different components to work together that the step-by-step process of natural selection, by itself, would be inadequate to explain them.

While Dembski and other supporters of ID see their campaign as an effort to convince scientists to follow the evidence of nature wherever it leads, Scott countered that "the burden of proof is on intelligent design" if it wants its views to be accepted as genuine science and not simply as religion.

Matt Donnelly is Web editor at Science & Theology News.

Five Reasons to Keep an Open, Educated Mind


Why Intelligent Design Will Win
by Nancy Pearcey
Posted Nov 30, 2005

To hear some conservatives talk, there is no room for proponents of intelligent design (ID) in the "big tent." In recent months commentators such as John Derbyshire in National Review and George Will and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post have inveighed against ID. Warning that "the conservative coalition" is coming unglued, Will all but called on "the storm-tossed and rudderless Republican Party" to repudiate the ID movement.

Conservatives who hope to be on the winning side, however, may want to put their money on ID, even if they harbor a few reservations at present. Here's why. For starters, the affirmation of design is good for science. Like all knowledge, science is a pattern-seeking project. The human mind inherently seeks intelligible order. Thus the conviction that such an order exists to be found is a crucial assumption. No scientists are going to find their work diminished because they ground it in the search for an inbuilt design in nature.

Indeed, as sociologist Rodney Stark argues in To the Glory of God, modern science could have arisen only in a culture convinced that the universe is the creation of a rational mind--and is thus intelligible to our rational minds. This explains why science arose historically in medieval Europe, a period when western civilization was saturated with Christianity. Steve Fuller, a sociologist of science, offers this as one reason he testified for ID in the recent court case in Dover, Pa. "The idea that religion provided intellectual sustenance for science," he explained on a recent blog, is "obviously borne out by history."

By contrast, Darwinist theory claims that the design in nature is not real but only apparent, a product of blind, mechanical forces. As arch-Darwinian Richard Dawkins said in a recent Salon interview, evolution produces "the illusion of design." The implication for science, as Richard Rorty elaborates so clearly, is that truth is not "out there" to be discovered but is merely a social construction. Such postmodernist notions threaten to undercut the scientific enterprise.

The second reason ID will win is that, contrary to the way it is often portrayed, it does not thrive on "gaps" in science but rather on the growth of science. The argument from design first became popular during the scientific revolution, which revealed that nature is more intelligible than anyone had hitherto imagined. And the current resurgence of ID was spawned by the revolution in biochemistry, which revealed the complex engineering and information processing that goes on within the cell.

We now know that the cell bristles with molecular machinery far more complicated than anything devised by mere humans. Each cell is akin to a miniature factory town, humming with power plants and automated factories, connected by criss-crossing transport rails and directed by a headquarters (the nucleus) housing a library of coded blueprints. The more we learn about life, the less plausible is any evolutionary theory that relies on blind, undirected, piece-by-piece change.

Third, ID will win because it incorporates the insights of the high-tech world of information theory. The revolution in biochemistry revealed that the core of living things is a code, language, information (DNA). The origin of life has now been recast as the origin of complex biological information. This explains why laboratory experiments to create life have failed—because they work from the bottom up, by assembling the right materials. But life is not fundamentally about matter; it's about information.

In today's preferred analogy, the DNA molecule is the hardware, while the information stored and transmitted is the software. "Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube," writes astrophysicist Paul Davies, "is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won't work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level." The paramount role of information strongly suggests that mind preceded matter.

Fourth, ID will win because it recovers the unity of truth. Edward Purcell in The Crisis of Democratic Theory: Scientific Naturalism and the Problem of Value explains how Darwinism led to a naturalistic worldview--one in which the natural sciences were elevated to the only form of objective knowledge while "theological dogmas and philosophical absolutes were at worst totally fraudulent and at best merely symbolic of deep human aspirations." In other words, Darwinism lent scientific support to the fact/value dichotomy, where religion and morality are dismissed as merely subjective and private, or even outright false.

As a result, ID appeals to a broad range of people concerned about overcoming the fact/value split--especially relevant during the Christmas season, when the ACLU and assorted secularists try to impose their gospel of privatized religion onto the rest of the country. As Richard John Neuhaus wrote recently in First Things, not just conservative Protestants but also "Catholics and everyone else have an enormous stake in defending the unity of truth." BBC's Washington correspondent Justin Webb recently asked why American social conservatives "are spending more energy fighting Charles Darwin than cutting taxes," but the reason is clear: At stake is not just a scientific theory but a divided concept of truth that reduces religion and morality to the level of myth.

As though to prove the point, at Kansas University the chairman of the religious studies department, Paul Mirecki, announced a new course subtitled "Intelligent Design, Creationisms, and other Religious Mythologies." Mirecki posted a note on a student atheists website bragging that he was "doing my part to [tick] off the religious right," giving them a "slap in their big fat face by teaching [ID] . . . under the category 'mythology.'" (Mirecki has since apologized.)

Which suggests the final reason ID will win--because it accords with the ideals of a free and open society. In our pluralistic age, schools should train students in critical thinking to prepare them to engage respectfully and intelligently with a wide range of worldviews, both religious and secular. Yet under current rules, public schools may present evidence for scientific theories that imply a strictly materialistic or secular worldview, while they are not allowed to present evidence for scientific theories that imply a non-materialistic or religious worldview (though the latter may be mocked and ridiculed, as the KU course proves).

The public cannot help but notice that many ID proponents are well educated and credentialed. Yet, as attorney Doug Kern writes in Tech Central Station, "the pro-Darwin crowd insists on the same phooey-to-the-booboisie shtick that was tiresome in Mencken's day." It has grown even more tiresome in our own day.

Mrs. Pearcey is the best-selling author of the award-winning Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity . Readers may want to check out her article, "Christianity Is a Science-Starter, Not a Science-Stopper," at www.pearceyreport.com. She can be contacted at Pearcey@pearceyreport.com.

Feeling better? Or is it all in the mind?


Ben Goldacre Saturday November 26, 2005 The Guardian

The moment I saw the press release for the new Bristol Homeopathy study, I knew I was in for a treat. This was a fabulously flawed "survey", no more, in which some doctors asked their patients whether they thought they'd got better a while after having some homeopathy. Not meaningless data in itself, but the action, as ever, is in the interpretation, and the interpretation was at its most cock-eyed in the Daily Telegraph.

"The other reason the survey is causing such delight," gushed Elizabeth Grice, in her public love note to David Spence of the Bristol Homeopathic hospital, "is that it contradicts a scathing report published in the Lancet recently by Professor Matthias Egger." Now scathing is not a word I would use to describe a rather sober and - by design - tedious meta-analysis. But she is also, weirdly, suggesting that a large systematic review and meta-analysis of a huge number of placebo controlled randomised trials is somehow contradicted by a survey from some homeopaths of their customers' satisfaction.

Did she feel there were any flaws in the Bristol study, any need for balance? Yes: "This has led to a medical ding dong in the long-running debate about the value of homeopathy, with Egger (known in the profession as Eggy) accusing Spence and his colleagues of failing to use a 'control group' for comparison and Spence retorting that his huge observational study - the largest of its kind ever published - involving 23,000 consultations with no exclusions and no bias, is a pure measure of achievement. 'It's what I call a 'real world' analysis', he told me. 'It's what happens.' "

Now the first lesson for sceptics here is, if you contradict the enemy, they will give you a funny name. And people call me childish. But on to business. Is it bad not to have a control group? Yes. Read the academic paper via www.badscience.net/?p=188: they were looking at a lot of chronic cyclical conditions, or time-limited ones, like the menopause, where people get better with time. If 70% get better that's meaningless. 99.99% of people who get a graze to their knee will get better and 99% of people who get a cold will get better. It's not enough to know that they got better. We need to know if they got more better, or better faster, than people who weren't having homeopathy.

And what about this business of "no exclusions" and "no bias"? These are simple technical terms from evidence based medicine, and in fact there were stark staring heinous examples of both "exclusions" and "bias" in this study, Grice. Where did the patients come from? They were selected as patients who wanted homeopathy, and so were positively disposed towards it: this is "selection bias", picking subjects who will give you a positive result .

And what about the data collected: did they measure how patients were at baseline, and compare how they were later in time, at follow up? No, they just asked patients later to remember how they were when they first came, and decide retrospectively whether they thought they were any better: this will give you "recall bias", and also another form of "information bias", as patients give the doctors the answer they think they want or deserve.

Lastly, a large number of patients never came back after their first appointment: and so they were simply, er, ignored in the analysis. That "exclusion" is the very opposite of a "real world analysis", otherwise known as an "intention to treat analysis". Did they get worse? Did they get better? Did they go home and die? We will never know.

What's Wrong With Intelligent Design as Science?


Posted: 12/01 From: UniOrb

An intensifying battle over intelligent design (ID) to be taught in science classes has been emerging across the United States, alarming scientists and educators who consider ID as a political ploy to repackage religion under the guise of "alternative science" to undermine the scientific theory of evolution. Policymakers in 24 states are weighing proposals to introduce ID in their public school curricula. Whether ID is a religious belief or a scientific theory is at the heart of the controversy waged in courtrooms and public forums.

Intelligent design holds that some complex developments observed in nature that cannot be explained by natural selection suggest design by an unspecified intelligent agent. Despite the absence of identifying the designer or creator, the theory of ID mimics the biblical account of creation — God created all matter, various forms of life, and the world out of nothing.

Intelligent Design (ID) fails as science

To be considered as a scientific theory, intelligent design must satisfy three criteria: 1) explanatory power; 2) plausibility; and 3) falsifiability. The National Academy of Sciences has declared that ID is not science because its intelligent designer cannot be observed (plausibility) or verified by experiment (falsifiability), and proposes no new hypothesis (explanatory power) on how the world is designed. While the scientific theory of evolution is supported by plenty of observable facts and repeated physical evidence found in the process of mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, adaptation and speciation through natural selection. The failure to meet all three requirements is a compelling argument against ID being considered as science.

Arguments for ID

The ID theory is largely purported by two arguments known as irreducible complexity and specified complexity. Michael Behe, a biochemical researcher and a professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, forwarded the concept of irreducible complexity in his book, Darwin's Black Box (Simon and Schuster, 1996). He claims that the removal of any one of the interactive parts of a cellular system would destroy the function of the entire cell. Therefore, intelligent design is the blueprint for everything to be in its right place to work. In The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press, 1998), William Dembski, a mathematician and a professor of science and theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, argued for the inference of intelligent design based on William Paley's famous "watchmaker" analogy in 1802 Natural Theology. Dembski asserts that patterns exhibited in nature being not only complex but also specified infer some form of intelligent guidance in their formation.

Complex Adaptive System (CAS) vs. ID Arguments

The observations made by Behe and Dembski were inadequate and their conclusions faulty. The explanation for nature to be the way it is lies in the comprehensive theory of complex adaptive system (CAS). As a novel scientific theory, much of what is known about CAS involves a combination of mainly three accepted theories: evolution, chaos, and complexity. To put it simply, CAS is an open network system in which many independent, self-organized, yet interconnected agents (cells, species, individuals, societies, etc.) compete, evolve and adapt to a changing environment, resulting in an order of emergent system properties and a general pattern for the whole system.

As a response to Behe's assertion that a removal of a part would cause the whole system to fail; perhaps so in his example of a mousetrap (man-made contraption) but not so in a living cell that has the tendency to compensate the function of a missing part with another cellular part due to the cell's dynamic evolving system. According to CAS, a cell functions as a cellular system when all its interconnected parts spontaneously interact with one another. In addition, Behe dismisses an important aspect of a cell — organelles (protein, enzyme, gene, etc.) in fact, do evolve through natural selection to be of different types with specific functions.

Although Dembski uses the term "complexity" in his argument on specified complexity, he seems to overlook a crucial point about complexity theory — that order arises from chaos due to complexity. The "order of emergent system properties" appears to be Dembski's description of "design." And he assumes that a design implicates intelligence behind a complex pattern, which is not necessarily so, according to CAS. In the macroscopic world, one can see the natural hierarchy of emergent properties (e.g., from a grain of sand to a beach to a seacoast).

Furthermore, complexity theory could also explain the gaps in the fossil record that proponents of ID hold as evidence against evolution. Fossil record gaps are identified as punctuated equilibrium in evolution — long stable periods interrupted by a series of sporadic durations of rapid radical changes. The fact that the presence of old and new species coexist on our planet speaks as stark proof for evolution.

Moreover, the Miller-Urey experiment, which succeeded in producing basic molecules at the first stage for generating life from non-living matter, establishes the fact that natural processes could produce the building blocks of life from non-living matter. In reality, natural processes of nature can be explained without a divinity or an intelligence equation.

ID Supported by Discovery Institute

Behind the big push for a national dialogue on ID is the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank financed largely by conservative Christian donors. With a $4 million budget, Discovery Institute spends more than $1 million a year for research, polls and media exposure supporting ID. It also uses about 85 percent of its budget to funding researchers at major universities, and the rest of the budget to publishing religious writings and launching political ID campaigns. Since 2003, it has promoted the DVD, "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," which advocates ID shown on PBS stations in major markets and schools.

State vs. Religion

On the legal front, a courtroom drama over teaching ID in a public school had made headlines for weeks — a reversal of the famous 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial in which a Tennessee man was prosecuted for violating state law by teaching Darwin's evolution. As the first ID court case followed closely by the media, the Dover Area School District was put on trial for violating the constitutional separation of church and state by teaching ID in science class. The judge is still out on the verdict. Emboldened by the "free speech" approach bolstered by President Bush who had endorsed teaching ID in schools, ID advocates argued that banning ID from science class is a violation of the First Amendment — unconstitutional limit on free speech. However, national science organizations and university faculty groups disputed that claim to mute free speech by pointing out subjects like religion, alchemy and astrology have always been included in the school curricula as non-science courses.

In a recent poll by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 64 percent of Americans believed that teaching ID along side evolution is a simple matter of fairness. The bottom line of the legal issue is not about the First Amendment whether one has the freedom to express one's religious beliefs but rather one's religious beliefs should be imposed as science. Religion has no place in science class. And the voters in Pennsylvania in the November election understood that well to have ousted all the education board members who supported ID in the science curriculum.

Although proponents of ID have claimed that their theory is not tied to religion, Discovery Institute contradicted that declaration with its own 1999 fundraising document for strategy proposal — "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." Even the Vatican's chief astronomer, Rev. George Coyne admitted, "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be." The conclusion is obviously clear — intelligent design is indeed related to religion and has been highly politicized as pseudo-science.

Diana Lee

Intelligent Design could be a bridge between civilizations.


By Mustafa Akyol

When President Bush declared his support for the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) theory in public schools along with Darwinian evolution, both he and the theory itself drew a lot of criticism. Among the many lines of attack the critics launch, one theme remains strikingly constant: the notion that ID is a Trojan Horse of Christian fundamentalists whose ultimate aim is to turn the U.S. into an theocracy.

In a furious New Republic cover story, "The Case Against Intelligent Design," Jerry Coyne joins in this hype and implies that all non-Christians, including Muslims, should be alarmed by this supposedly Christian theory of beginnings that "might offend those of other faiths." Little does he realize that if there is any view on the origin of life that might seriously offend other faiths — including mine, Islam — it is the materialist dogma: the assumptions that God, by definition, is a superstition, and that rationality is inherently atheistic.

That offense is no minor issue. In fact, in the last two centuries, it has been the major source of the Muslim contempt for the West. And it deserves careful consideration.

An Old Wall

The conflict between Christian Europe and the Islamic Middle East has a long history, marked by many crusades and jihads, all of which had both sacred and mundane motives. Yet in the last two centuries, a new kind of West, a modern one, arose, and the relationship between the two civilizations became asymmetrical. Western Europe became overwhelmingly superior to the world of Islam and its sole superpower, the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans' realization of the West's ascendancy led them, in the late 18th century, to initiate a process of Westernization. The process, which began by importing Western technology, broadened throughout the 19th century with the adaptation of Western educational systems and legal structures, including a system of constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. Other than marginal fanatics such as the Wahhabis of the Arabian Peninsula — who launched a revolt against Ottoman rule, asserting that "the Turks became infidels" by abolishing slavery — the Ottoman ulema (religious scholars) and Islamic intellectuals welcomed these reforms.

But it was more than just telegraphs, trains, and constitutions that started arriving from the West; philosophies came as well. And since late-19th-century European thought was predominantly atheistic and anti-religious, these philosophies alarmed Muslim thinkers. When the theories of Comte, Spencer, and Darwin became fashionable among the Westernized Ottoman elite, an intellectual war began. Istanbul, the Empire's capital, became the stage of hot intellectual debates. While Francophile atheists such as Abdullah Cevdet and Suphi Ethem were quoting the works of Darwin and Ernst Haeckel to argue that man is an accidental animal and religion a comforting myth, Muslim scholars were writing tracts to defend the Islamic faith and refute the "theories of disbelief" pouring in from Europe.

Sadly, it was secularist Europe — and especially, theophobic France — rather than the religious United States that the Islamic world encountered as "the West." No wonder, then, that the West eventually became synonymous with godlessness. Moreover, within Muslim societies, Europeanized elites grew in number and were seen — with a lot of justification — as soulless, skirt-and-money-chasing men drinking whiskey while looking down upon traditional believers as ignoramuses.

The Muslim reaction to this kind of Westernization was to erect a wall of separation between the West and their communities. "We will get the technology of the West," declared Said Nursi, a leading Muslim scholar of late Ottoman and early Turkish life, "but never their culture." That culture, according to Nursi, had a major problem: It was "plagued by materialism."

The gap between the West and the Middle East deepened owing to the political faults of the West, such as European colonialism and the American support for Middle East tyrannies, and, more recently, the barbaric terrorism of fanatics who act and kill in the name of Islam. Yet, despite these political conflicts, the perception of the West in the minds of devout Muslims remains the greatest underlying problem. Although they admire its freedom, they detest its materialism.

In a recent Spectator piece, titled "Muslims Are Right about Britain," Conservative British MP John Hayes points to the same problem. "Many moderate Muslims believe that much of Britain is decadent," says Mr. Hayes, and adds, "They are right." He explains that because of the prevailing culture, "Modern Britons . . . are condemned to be selfish, lonely creatures in a soulless society where little is worshipped beyond money and sex," and asks, "Is it any wonder that the family-minded, morally upright moderate Muslims despair?"

The distaste for American culture in the Islamic world is based on similar feelings. The America that people see is one represented by Hollywood and MTV. A recent poll in Turkey revealed that 37 percent of Turks define Americans as "materialistic" while a mere 8 percent define them as "religious." Not surprisingly, 90 percent say that they know the U.S. mainly through television.

From all this, one can see that the much-debated cultural gap between the West and the Muslim world is actually a two-sided coin: While the latter has some extremely conservative or radical elements that turn life into joyless misery, the former has extremely hedonistic and degenerate elements that turn life into meaningless profligacy. And if we look for a rapprochement between Westerners and Muslims, we again have to see both sides of the coin: While Muslim communities need reformers of culture that will save them from bigotry, the Western societies need redeemers of culture that will save them from materialism. Of course, the manifestations of the former (such as support for terrorism) are far more dangerous and intolerable than those of the latter, but as root causes, both must be acknowledged.

Richard Dawkins & the Material Girl

Yes, but what exactly is materialism? Isn't it more obviously represented by the extravagance of pop stars than by the sophisticated theories of atheist scientists and scholars? Isn't the cultural materialism of, say, Madonna, quite different from the philosophical materialism of Richard Dawkins?

Well, it is self-evident that they look dissimilar, but the worldviews they represent are intertwined. Cultural materialism means living as if there were no God or moral absolutes, and all that matters is matter. Philosophical materialism means to argue that there is no God to establish any moral absolutes, and matter is all there is. The former worldview finds its justification in the latter. Actually, in the modern world, philosophical materialists act as the secular priesthood of a lifestyle based on hedonism and moral relativism. The priesthood convinces the masses that we are all accidental occurrences who are not under any Divine judgment; and the masses live, earn, spend, and have relationships according to this supposition. A popular MTV hit summarizes this presumption bluntly: "You and me baby ain't nuthin' but mammals; so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel."

The biological justification for promiscuity — that we are "nuthin' but mammals" — is no accident: The idea that we are all mere animals is at the heart of cultural materialism. And that idea is, of course, based on Darwinism. That's why Darwinism, in the words of Daniel Dennett, one of its hard-core proponents, acts as a "universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview."

That "revolutionized worldview" — in which God is denied, attacked, and ridiculed — is the grand problem we Muslims have with the West. It is true that some fanatics among us hate the West's liberty and democracy, too. Yet for the sane and pious Muslim majority, those are welcome attributes. This majority's only problem is the materialism that encompasses the West. And they would welcome those who would save the West — and thus the whole world — from it.

A Discovery Zone

That's why something called the Wedge Document — although horrifying to America's secularist intelligentsia — offers a message of hope for Muslims. The Wedge Document is a 1999 memorandum of the Discovery Institute (DI), the Seattle-based think tank that acts as the main proponent of ID. In this document, the Institute explains that its long-term goal is "to defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies." Much of the fuss made about the Document by its opponents is absurd; it does not propose the transformation of the U.S. into a theocracy. But, as official DI documents point out, there is nothing wrong in expecting cultural impact from a scientific theory; Darwinians, after all, revel in the cultural impact of their own doctrines.

By its bold challenge to Darwinian evolution — a concept that claims it is possible to be an "intellectually fulfilled atheist" — ID is indeed a wedge that can split the foundations of scientific materialism. ID presents a new perspective on science, one that is based solely on scientific evidence yet is fully compatible with faith in God. That's why William Dembski, one of its leading theorists, defines ID as a bridge between science and theology.

As the history of the cultural conflict between the modern West and Islam shows, ID can also be a bridge between these two civilizations. The first bricks of that bridge are now being laid in the Islamic world. In Turkey, the current debate over ID has attracted much attention in the Islamic media. Islamic newspapers are publishing translations of pieces by the leading figures of the ID movement, such as Michael J. Behe and Phillip E. Johnson. The Discovery Institute is praised in their news stories and depicted as the vanguard in the case for God, and President Bush's support for ID is gaining sympathy. For many decades the cultural debate in Turkey has been between secularists who quote modern Western sources and Muslims who quote traditional Islamic sources. Now, for the first time, Muslims are discovering that they share a common cause with the believers in the West. For the first time, the West appears to be the antidote to, not the source of, the materialist plague.

Is ID True?

Of course, ID — like any other scientific theory — stands or falls not according to its political and diplomatic utility, but according to the evidence. So: Is ID true?

There is a huge and growing body of ID literature produced by some of the world's finest minds, and I won't attempt even to summarize the overwhelming evidence it presents for design in nature. Yet I think an examination of the main premise behind the current opposition to ID might be helpful.

To see that premise, we first have to note how ID theorists criticize Darwin. They do this by applying his own criterion for falsification. "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications," said Darwin, "my theory would break down." ID theorists, such as biochemist Michael J. Behe, apply this criterion to complex biochemical systems such as the bacterial flagellum or blood clotting and explain that they could not have been "formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications" — because they don't function at all unless they are complete.

What is the Darwinian response to this? Here's Jerry Coyne again, in The New Republic: "In view of our progress in understanding biochemical evolution, it is simply irrational to say that because we do not completely understand how biochemical pathways evolved, we should give up trying and invoke the intelligent designer." Note that Coyne is here denying the falsification criterion that Darwin himself acknowledged. According to Darwin, if you demonstrate "that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications," the theory will break down. According to Coyne, you will only be pointing to a system about which "we do not completely understand how [it] evolved."

In other words, Coyne leaves no way that the theory can break down. Whatever problem you find with the theory today will somehow be solved in the future. Actually Coyne, quite generously, does give a criterion to refute Darwinism: Should we "find human fossils co-existing with dinosaurs, or fossils of birds living alongside those of the earliest invertebrates," that would "sink neo-Darwinism for good." But ID proponents aren't questioning the fact that dinosaurs predated humans and invertebrates predated birds; our question, rather, is how they came to be. Coyne sounds like someone who would silence a serious critique of the theory of plate tectonics by saying, "Hey, show me that the Earth is flat and thus sink my theory for good, or shut up forever."

With his solid faith in Darwinism, Coyne also assures us that the gaps in the fossil record — which should have been filled by the 150-year-long desperate search for the fossilized remains of numerous, successive, slight modifications — "are certainly due to the imperfection of the fossil record." But why can't we consider the possibility that the gaps might be real — that forms of complex life might have appeared on Earth in the way they are, as the fossil record suggests? The standard reply to this question is the "god of the gaps" argument: that theists have imagined divine powers behind natural phenomena in the past, and science, in time, unveiled the natural processes behind those phenomena. But if we had seen a cumulative filling of gaps since Darwin, we would have agreed. What we have actually seen is the reverse: Ever since Darwin, and especially in recent decades, the problems with the theory of evolution have been deepening and widening. With the discovery of the unexpected complexity of biology, and the sudden leap forward in the history of life with the Cambrian explosion, the Darwinian theory turns out to be based on an atheism of the gaps, in which lack of knowledge about life led to the wrong assumption that it is simple enough to be explained by a non-design theory.

God & Muslims

There are many other attacks on ID in the media, and they are all useful in that they demonstrate the true intellectual force behind Darwinism: a commitment to materialism. The most common argument against ID, that it invokes God and so cannot be a part of science, is a crystal-clear expression of that commitment. Instead of asking, "What if there really were an intelligent designer active in the origin of life?" the Darwinists take it for granted that such a designer doesn't exist and limit the definition of science according to that unproven premise. Similarly, the evidence for the existence of a pre-Sumerian civilization would not be "a part of history" if you define history as "the discipline that examines the past of human societies starting from the Sumerians and never, ever, accepting the possibility of something else before." A saner approach would be to question the definition of the discipline that is challenged by evidence — not to ignore the evidence in order to save the definition of the discipline. The reason this saner approach is not the mainstream view in biology is the same old dogmatic belief: materialism.

Of course, Darwinians have the right to believe in whatever they wish, but it is crucial to unveil that theirs is a subjective faith, not an objective truth, as they have been claiming for more than a century. This unveiling would mark a turning point in the history of Western civilization, by reconciling science and religion and letting people become intellectually fulfilled theists. Moreover, it would mark a turning point in the history of the world, by changing the meaning of "the West" and "Westernization" in the eyes of Muslims. They have been resisting the influx of godlessness from the West for a long time; they would be much less alarmed in the face of a redeemed West.

Phillip E. Johnson once said that the ID debate is about the question whether the U.S. is a nation under God or a nation under Darwin. We Muslims see the latter as a plague; we have no problem with the former. We might have disagreements, but we agree on the most fundamental truth of all — that there really is a God out there, and He is the One to Whom we owe our very life and existence.

— Mustafa Akyol is a Muslim writer based in Istanbul, Turkey, and one of the expert witnesses who testified to the Kansas State Education Board during the hearings on evolution. His website is www.thewhitepath.com.

Medical school adds lessons in alternative treatments


Last Updated Mon, 05 Dec 2005 14:42:28 EST
CBC News

Medical students in Manitoba are gaining some first-hand experience with alternative medicine through a program that encourages budding doctors to find ways to combine old medical philosophies with modern knowledge.

In the integrative-medicine program, second-year medical students at the University of Manitoba study yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care and homeopathy. In the classroom, students sip ginseng tea while handling bags of dried gecko lizards and jars of toad droppings.

"Students get to touch different things and taste different things and see for themselves what these kind of treatments are like," explains Dr. Greg Chernish, who leads the program.

"They also get to talk with practitioners and see that they're reasonable people, just as they are, and so I think it demystifies everything, and I think they get excited about seeing those treatments first-hand."

VIEWPOINT: Mind-body medicine (Sandra Donaldson)

FROM NOV. 5, 2002: Alternative Medicine makes U of S debut

Chernish says combining the benefits of ancient medicine with modern science provides the best care for patients – a concept that surprised student Heather Nowosad.

"The integration part was surprising for me, because I've always had this belief that it's sort of like people believe in one or the other," said Nowosad, who plans to become a family physician.

Program helps validate use of alternative therapies

Some sort of alternative therapy is sought by more than half of those consulting doctors, studies suggest, although many of the patients never tell their physicians this. Chernish says doctors can provide better care if they know about the alternative therapies and understand them.

The integrative-medicine sessions have also started to change student Magdelena Drewniak's attitude toward alternative practices. However, Drewniak, who also hopes to become a family physician, admits she's still struggling with the idea of integrating the old and new philosophies.

She says she has the "evidence-based thing" drilled into her head. "I don't think I would be necessarily pushing for or advocating for anything unless there were studies that proved it, or backed it up."

Still, Drewniak says the fact that her medical school is now teaching about alternative therapy helps validate its use.

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