NTS LogoSkeptical News for 30 December 2005

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, December 30, 2005

I.D. ruling called unlikely to deter Iowa district


Debate on intelligent design in science classes may begin soon, says a Muscatine board member.


December 21, 2005

Muscatine school board member Paul Brooks said he believes his district will continue to discuss whether intelligent design should be included in science classes despite a federal judge's decision in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to ban mention of the idea in public school biology classes.

Brooks said the discussion of intelligent design and its place in the district's science curriculum is likely to begin in the next three to eight months.

He said he questions the durability of Tuesday's court decision.

"We have laws, and one week they (are) a law, and the next week they are not," he said. "I have a hard time having one judge in one state tell all the teachers across the nation what they can do and what they can't do. I don't think that is right."

He added: "If Darwin's theory of evolution is mentioned, the fact that something else could've happened needs to be presented, too."

Intelligent design is the concept that an unidentified force is responsible for certain features in nature. Many scientists accept the view that evolution is the process by which living species today have descended from a common ancestor with modifications through different mechanisms to adapt to their environments.

Brooks said the topic emerged in Muscatine after it became a national issue and after university professors in Iowa also began speaking out about it.

Iowa State University assistant professor of astronomy Guillermo Gonzalez gained notoriety for his advocacy of intelligent design as a legitimate science in his book, "The Privileged Planet."

That book generated national attention after the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., agreed to schedule a June screening of a film based on the book, which was co-written by Jay Richards of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that supports discussing intelligent design in science classes.

This fall, more than 100 ISU professors signed a petition opposing the teaching of intelligent design as a scientific fact.

Gonzalez said Tuesday that he won't be affected by Judge John Jones' decision because the ruling is limited to a public school biology class.

His research deals with astronomy, not biology, which is discussed in the Dover trial, Gonzalez said. He said he doesn't teach intelligent design at ISU nor is he an advocate of including intelligent design in public schools.

ISU associate professor of religious studies Hector Avalos said Tuesday's decision should make Muscatine board members think twice about introducing intelligent design in the district.

"Intelligent design miserably failed its first big federal court test," he said. "The decision reiterated powerfully what intelligent design critics in Iowa have been saying all along: Intelligent design is a religious concept and not a scientific one."

Even so, he said, signs still point to continued advocacy on the issue.

In a news release, leaders from the Discovery Institute said interest in intelligent design will continue despite the ruling, and the validity of it will be determined not by the courts but by scientific evidence.

Gonzalez, who is also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, echoed those thoughts.

"Certainly, a judge doesn't get to determine what's science and what isn't science," he said.

In Muscatine, another school board member, Clyde Evans , said he thinks the Dover decision would be appealed.

"I imagine it's a wait-and-see attitude," he said of district discussions regarding intelligent design.

He also contended that intelligent design had as much relevance as Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"People should present all sides of the issue," he said. "It should be open to discussion."

Darwin Victorious


TIME's Michael Lemonick assesses the theory of evolution after Intelligent Design is defeated in Pennsylvania


Posted Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005

"Breathtaking inanity" is how U.S. District Judge John Jones characterized the Dover, PA school board's attempt to cast doubt on the theory of evolution—but in fairness, the recently ousted members of that board were relative unsophisticates, snookered by the intellectual scam that calls itself "intelligent design," or ID.

Where to begin? Well, first of all, proponents of ID point to what they insist are serious flaws in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. The truth is that the theory is not only an overwhelmingly powerful explanation for how life on Earth manages to come in such a bewildering array of different types, but the only such theory in science. Like any scientific theory, it can't explain how every aspect of every organism came to be, but each time scientists find new evidence—fossils of dinosaurs bearing feathers; fossils of the mammals whose descendants are whales; the molecular structure DNA that carries traits from one generation to the next; the mutations that can alter DNA to introduce new traits—the case for Darwin's theory has gotten stronger.

Do any gaps remain? Sure. Shall we throw up our hands and say "Since we don't know all the details at this moment, God"—oops, I mean, "an Intelligent Designer must be invoked?" The Discovery Institute, a pro-ID think tank favors teaching the controversy over evolution, but that's the scam. There is no controversy, or at least, not the scientific controversy Discovery says there is..

That's not to say there isn't a tiny handful of actual scientists who back ID. Yes, evolution explains a lot, they say, but some things—the eye, for example, or the whiplike tails on some bacteria—are just too complex to have evolved. To which the vast majority of biologists say nonsense. We don't have remotely enough information to make such a statement. Moreover, if ID is a valid theory on its own, it has to make testable predictions. "It's too complex to explain" is not a prediction.

So ID isn't science, and by that measure alone the Dover school board's attempts to make it so were indeed inane. But beyond that the board insisted that by leaving out the G-word you remove the religious connotation from ID, thus evading a 1987 Supreme Court ban on religion in science classrooms. Again, the board bought the story of people like Lehigh University biologist Michael Behe, an ID proponent, who says that ID doesn't assume the existence of God (although Behe admitted he thinks the Intelligent Designer is God). Judge Jones didn't buy that loophole (and for that matter the Discovery Institute stayed out of this case entirely, evidently realizing that it was a legal stinker).

Alas, ID isn't going away. The Kansas school board recently endorsed new educational standards that downplay evolution, and new assaults on Darwin's brilliant and unsettling idea are sure to continue. Meanwhile, there are still gaps in Einstein's theory of relativity and the germ theory of disease and the theory of plate tectonics. However, none of these contradict the sacred text of any religion—and so no school board is likely to be looking for some way to counter them.

Discovery Institute falls back on right wing talking points in reaction to ruling


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

As expected, Seattle's Discovery Institute is pretty unhappy about today's ruling against "intelligent design":

"Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion and evolution," John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said in a news release. "He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur."


"We're not heartbroken about the policy being struck down," West told The Associated Press. "We do have concerns about the judge getting on his soapbox ... and trying to stifle debate by court order."

How predictable. They fell back on the "activist" judge rhetoric. They're going to keep trotting out that tired excuse until the judiciary is controlled completely by the ultra right wing.

But Discovery Institute board member Mike Vaska wasn't happy with senior fellow West's reaction to the ruling:

Vaska said he was dismayed by the institute's response to the ruling.

"It's very troubling to me when people, every time they lose in court, blame it on an 'activist judge,'" Vaska said. He added in an e-mail: "I also read the judge's opinion (most of it at least). He's not a 'judicial activist.'"

Vaska, a Lutheran and a moderate Republican, said he supports the Discovery Institute because it supports those who wish to challenge orthodoxy. Board members don't necessarily agree with every position the institute takes, he said.

It's refreshing to hear a Republican debunk the "activist judge" mantra. Good for Mike Vaska to come out and disagree. Though he may be a Republican, Vaska is one of the good guys, someone who we can at least respect even if we disagree on political ideology.

# Posted by Andrew : 4:52 PM

Discovery Institute's Silver Lining


Posted by Brendan Maher [Entry posted at 21st December 2005 11:36 AM GMT]

The Discovery Institute, a well funded Intelligent Design mouthpiece, offered a scathing review of Judge John E. Jones III's decision in Kitzmiller vs. The Dover Area School District. This is the same Discovery Institute that had all but deserted the school board in an effort to distance themselves from proceedings admonishing the board for stepping so early into the fray of teaching their fledgling hypothesis to minors. The distance and static they put up indicated that they expected the Dover school board to lose. So, why are they so angry at this so-called "activist judge?" Basically because he went beyond the bounds of simply ruling whether or not the school board had religious motivations for injecting ID into the curriculum and stated quite clearly in his opinion that ID is not science and is clearly a derivative of creationism, creation science, and any other hypothesis that dispatches with the rules of engagement in the natural sciences.

The Institute once again impugned the American Civil Liberties Union (which represented the plaintiffs) for trampling First Amendment rights of free speech even as they defended the First Amendment Establishment clause. They further chastised Jones (the so-called "activist judge" appointed by George Bush) for confusing the Dover school board's position with the ideals of ID. One would think Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, star witnesses for the defense and both fellows at the Institute could have cleared up the disparities. And they argue that Jones' ruling puts a federal gag order on voluntary discussion of ID. Voluntary discussion is a far cry from mandating a statement discrediting a foundational aspect of biology. But that's no matter. As angry as they appear, the Institute has found the silver lining to this December cloud. In a prepared statement Discovery's John West is credited as saying, "Americans don't like to be told there is some idea that they aren't permitted to learn about… It used to be said that banning a book in Boston guaranteed it would be a bestseller. Banning intelligent design in Dover will likely only fan interest in the theory."

Brendan Maher

Discovery Institute 0, Intelligence 1


Editor: Dan Gonsiorowski Publisher: Gothamist December 21, 2005

This week, federal judge John Jones knocked down the mandate from a Pennsylvania school board that their science teachers present Intelligent Design as a valid alternative to evolution in their classrooms. While he was at it, he smacked the Dover School board for being a bunch of disingenuous liars. Scientists, teachers, and intelligent people from all walks of life, religious or otherwise, rejoiced.

The Discovery Institute responded with...diatribe. Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, is really ticked. Further illustrating his ability to suspend reality and spin a story however it fits his organization's needs, Dr. West accused the ruling judge of being "an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur" and is intent on stopping the "spread of a scientific idea". Everyone else not smoking whatever West was smoking has already noted that Judge Jones was appointed to the court by President Bush. Yeah, that guy. The one who isn't sure that the science really supports global warming, that the current line of stem cells will support all the research necessary for the next few decades, and who created an entire White House Office for aiding "faith-based" organizations.

In reading the Discovery Institute's response, it quickly becomes apparent who possesses actual intelligence in this debate, and who is skilled merely at verbal trickery, cliched expressions, and downright misuse of the English language to confuse people. According to West:

A legal ruling can't change the fact that there is digital code in DNA, it can't remove the molecular machines from the cell, nor change the fine tuning of the laws of physics...The empirical evidence for design, the facts of biology and nature, can't be changed by legal decree.

So what West is trying to say is that there are scientific facts that can't be countered by law, but apparently evolution isn't one of them? Dr. West apparently needs some science education of his own, to better understand what the term "scientific theory" actually means. Thankfully, Jones proffers this explanation in his Opinion:

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

Amen. Er, QED. You can read Judge Jones' Opinion in its entirety on the Pennsylvania District Court site.

Discovery Institute work figured in ruling


By David Postman

Seattle Times chief political reporter

Seattle's Discovery Institute, a major force in promoting intelligent design, is mentioned throughout a judge's decision barring a Pennsylvania school district from teaching the controversial concept.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones said intelligent design is creationism in disguise. And in a 139-page decision, he repeatedly pointed to the work of the Discovery Institute to back up his ruling.

He said a document prepared by the institute's Center for Science and Culture is dramatic evidence of intelligent design's "religious nature and aspirations."

In fact, Jones relies on the 1999 manifesto as evidence the intelligent-design movement "seeks nothing less than a complete scientific revolution in which ID [intelligent design] will supplant evolutionary theory."

The Discovery Institute says it repeatedly urged the Dover Area School Board and district officials not to mandate teaching intelligent design. That's because the group doesn't want to "politicize what primarily should be a scientific and intellectual dispute," John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture, said Tuesday. "We think ultimately intelligent design has to win based on the scientific evidence, not in the courtroom or the school district."

The Center for Science and Culture opened in 1996 as part of the already-established Discovery Institute. The think tank was founded by former Washington Secretary of State Bruce Chapman to study such topics as transportation, economics, technology and bioethics.

West said Jones wrote an "angry decision" that ignored facts presented by the Discovery Institute about its role and about the existence of peer-reviewed articles backing intelligent design.

"In his grandiose effort to try to answer all the questions, he may have undermined the authority of his opinion because he really comes off as someone with an agenda," West said.

"He just ignored any facts that didn't fit his little theory. He simply mouthed the script the [American Civil Liberties Union] gave him."

In addition to relying on Discovery Institute work to back up claims that intelligent design is creationism in disguise, the judge outlined specific work the institute did with Dover school officials.

Testimony, according to Tuesday's decision, showed the Discovery Institute provided Dover officials with a DVD, videotape and books, which were given to science teachers.

Two lawyers from the institute made a presentation to the school board.

Jones said the only outside organizations the board consulted were the Discovery Institute and a conservative legal foundation, "and it is clear that the purpose of these contacts was to obtain legal advice, as opposed to science education information."

The judge called those groups "two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural and legal missions."

West said that ignores the evidence that the Discovery Institute urged the board not to mandate intelligent design in the classroom, and when that happened anyhow, urged the board to repeal its decision.

The Discovery Institute maintains it wants schools not to teach intelligent design, but to "teach the controversy": tell students there is a debate about evolution.

But a lawyer with the conservative law center that advised the board said last fall that the Discovery Institute backed off its support of teaching intelligent design, which he said is spelled out in the group's literature, and hurt the board's legal case.

The institute agreed with one of the court's conclusions Tuesday: Dover school-board members didn't understand intelligent design.

Jones wrote that there was a "collective failure to understand the concept."

West said "we had a real problem with a school board that doesn't even know what it is they are adopting. ... And the people who suffer from what they did are the scientists and scholars who are trying to make this argument in academia."

The Discovery Institute submitted some briefs in the case to make legal arguments but was not a party to the lawsuit.

David Postman: 360-943-9882 or dpostman@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

Scientist's work: in defense of evolution



EUGENIE SCOTT first heard of "creation science" in the early 1970s, when she was in a Missouri graduate school studying anthropology.

As Scott tells it, she was fascinated by the way creation science — a religious belief that God literally created humans as described in the Bible — was presented as actual science.

"From the day I first heard this phrase, I was hooked," Scott wrote in an essay called "My favorite pseudoscience."

Still, Scott had no way to know that the fight to keep creationism out of public school science classrooms — and the fight to retain estsablished science such as evolution — would eventually become her life's work.

As head of the Oakland-based National Center for Science Education the last two decades, Scott has been on the front lines of that battle — a battle that has helped define American society since the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," and one that is still being fought in 2005 in places such as Kansas and Pennsylvania.

The NCSE headquarters on 40th Street is an office cluttered with books, flies, newspaper clippings and a display of hominid skulls. It has a U.S. map showing dozens of areas where controversy has erupted over the teaching of evolution during the last several years — including about 10 places in California.

Teaching biology, Scott uses a sense of humor and an ability to make any scientific concept sound interesting.

Scott, who has a doctorate in anthropology, helped block a Kentucky school board in 1980 from including creationism in the curriculum. Since then, she has been involved in similar cases across the country, and has become a national spokesperson for the teaching of evolution.

In recent years, Scott and the NCSE have seen old creationist arguments gain new ground under the name "intelligent design," a religious theory that has been described as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo" by some in the scientific community.

Intelligent design states that certain biological systems, most famously the flagellum of some bacteria, are too complex to have evolved naturally. Therefore, those systems must have been "designed" by some higher power.

Intelligent design advocates say they believe that higher power is a Christian version of God. But they also say intelligent design is not tied to Christianity, because people are free to believe in any higher power they choose — space aliens, for example.

For the last year, the NCSE has been involved in a lawsuit challenging the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover, Pa. school district.

NCSE experts helped lawyers with depositions, researched arguments and arranged for the testimony of expert witnesses including a theologian.

"Intelligent design is just a way to avoid the legal problems that creation science found itself in," Scott said. "Creation science was crushed so fully (in court) that a number of creation scientists decided that they needed an alternative."

President Bush, who has endorsed the teaching of Christian creationism in public schools, also came out for intelligent design in an August interview.

"Both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about," Bush said.

Intelligent design has been harder to fight than creationism, in part because the term "intelligent design" sounds vaguely scientific, Scott said.

Also, experts say intelligent design seems more rational because it tends to accept some basic scientific concepts, including the notion that the universe is a lot older than the Bible indicates.

"They've eliminated all the goofy things about creation science that most people wouldn't accept," Scott said.

Caleb Cheung, a veteran science teacher at Frick Middle School in East Oakland, said teaching evolution has never been an issue for him.

"It is clearly part of the state science standards for seventh grade," Cheung wrote in an e-mail.

Still, Cheung said, up until the last few years, there were very few good lesson plans for evolution on the market. Three years ago, Cheung wrote his own six-week unit on evolution and genetics, and that curriculum is now used by teachers in Oakland and other cities.

"As you know, the main (arguments against evolution) arise from very conservative churches that use a literal interpretation of the Bible," Cheung wrote. "Here in the Bay Area, the Christians are relatively liberal."

However, in other parts of the country, there is still plenty of work for Scott and the NCSE.

According to a CBS poll last year, the majority of Americans — 55 percent — believe that God created human beings in their present form — in other words, that evolution does not exist, at least for

humans. Among Bush voters, that number goes up to 67 percent.

The poll also found that about two-thirds of Americans want creationism taught alongside evolution in public classrooms.

No one would say Bush has helped the case for evolution. As Bush himself put it during his first presidential campaign, "On the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the Earth."

"Even his supporters say George Bush is not a thoughtful person," Scott said. "I don't think he thinks about science. Maybe he is aware that there is a controversy in society (over evolution), but he might not be aware that there is no (such) controversy in science."

Winning Intelligent Design Case Puts Plaintiffs Attorneys in Public Eye


Gina Passarella The Legal Intelligencer 12-29-2005

On the morning of Dec. 20, Pepper Hamilton attorneys Eric Rothschild and Stephen G. Harvey were concerned with one thing.

The decision for the case they invested over a year handling -- a case the country spent weeks watching unfold -- was about to be issued by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III.

"We were cautious because you have to be cautious," Harvey said.

He and Rothschild had represented 11 parents in the case who fought to keep the teaching of intelligent design out of their schools.

Although they didn't throw caution to the wind, the attorneys felt confident that they presented a strong case over the course of the six-week bench trial.

"Our primary concern was what time the ruling came down," Harvey said.

People in the firm created a pool to guess what time the opinion would be issued, but no one actually got around to laying down the money to back up the bet.

That turned out to be unfortunate for Harvey, who guessed 10:30 a.m. The opinion came down at 10:36 a.m.

It is probably safe to say that the ruling was the bigger reward.

They may joke around in Pepper Hamilton's Philadelphia office, but the attorneys take the message of the case now just as seriously as they did before the judge.

When given the chance to talk about their efforts in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board, Rothschild and Harvey quickly reiterate the plaintiffs' argument -- one they seem to hold just as strongly.

"The science is just a façade, a Potemkin village," Rothschild said.

He said the biggest challenge for his team was deconstructing the defense's argument that intelligent design is a science.

"The argument that intelligent design qualifies as science is incredibly weak," Harvey said. "Intelligent design doesn't even qualify as bad science -- it's not science."

"They have manufactured a controversy in the public arena and then insisted that it should be taught," he said.

The public arena is exactly where these two attorneys can be found in the coming weeks and months.

They said they have been spending their time since the trial doing interviews for radio, TV and newspapers. Their calendars are now full with speaking engagements.

The next scheduled talk, and by no accident, will be in Kansas, where an intelligent design battle is brewing.

Both attorneys have a strong place for religion in their personal lives and said this case was meant to protect religion. For them it was about protecting the First Amendment and separation of church and state, they said.

"The right to believe includes the right not to believe," Harvey said.

Rothschild and Harvey dismiss the arguments by intelligent design supporters that say Jones' strongly worded decision in the case is supportive of dogmatism.

"There is nothing about this judge's decision that will stop experts from doing whatever they want in their labs," Rothschild said, but he added that only the fundamentals should be taught in public schools.

"Nobody is teaching alchemy in chemistry class so students can get another viewpoint," he said.

The wording of Jones' opinion attracted just as much attention at times as the decision itself.

Jones criticized the school board for its policy and bringing the community into this "legal maelstrom."

He also went into a lengthy discussion of the history and meaning of intelligent design, which some groups criticized as being activist.

Rothschild and Harvey were quick to jump to the judge's defense.

"Both sides really asked this judge to decide whether intelligent design was science or religion," Rothschild said.

"He did not reach out," Harvey said. "The parties put that in front of him."

Rothschild said that other harsh wording in the opinion was a reaction to the dishonesty of the school board throughout the trial.

With most of the original school board voted out, Harvey said the possibility of an appeal is very unlikely. There could be an intervening party that would bring the appeal, but he thinks that is doubtful as well.

That means that this case will most likely stand as a trial court opinion that is not binding on any other state.

Rothschild said he hopes it will be a message, however, for other school districts attempting to implement intelligent design into the curriculum.

"This is a lesson in bad civics the way the school board acted through this whole process," Harvey said.

There are a few cases, in Kansas and Georgia, where intelligent design could soon be tested.

Harvey said even if someone brought a more cautious case that excluded the discussion of flaws of evolution, they would face the same strong evidence.

"There is virtually no dissent in the scientific community," Harvey said. "They're still going to be faced with the overwhelming evidence that this is wrong."

"We certainly know where all the bodies are buried now in terms of these creationist arguments," Rothschild said.

There are certainly a lot of people who know where to find Rothschild and Harvey as well. Rothschild said he gets an e-mail about every hour from scientists expressing their gratitude.

He also received a call from Ellory Schempp, the boy at the center of the school prayer controversy in 1963 in the local case Abington v. Schempp. Now grown, Schempp called to thank the plaintiffs counsel for their efforts.

"Are we a little bit famous now?" Rothschild asked. "Yeah," he answered, "and it's amazing."

"We are getting very good notoriety out of this, and we enjoy that," Harvey said, adding that they hope to get additional important cases from their work on this case.

Both agreed that they would take on other cases of this magnitude, but for now they have their paying clients to attend to.

Rothschild said what he was proudest of throughout this whole trial was his cross-examination of defense expert Michael Behe, a professor at Lehigh University and proponent of intelligent design.

Rothschild said he knew what he was talking about when he moved to the witness stand, and he owes that to the National Center for Science Education, which thoroughly explained intelligent design to the plaintiffs team.

The attorneys said the plaintiffs in the case felt incredibly vindicated. There were hugs all around when they filed into a Harrisburg press conference.

The case changed the lives of those directly involved.

Some of the plaintiffs now vacation together, the attorneys' families now have more of an education on intelligent design than they ever expected, and the books usually on Harvey's nightstand have been replaced by one authored by Charles Darwin.

Rothschild and Harvey said they feel connected to this controversy and will not stop their involvement with it now that the case is over.

"It's not the last you've heard from me and Steve on this," Rothschild said.

Intelligent design is as much science as evolution

December 29, 2005

Dana Haynes (column, Dec. 22) enthusiastically approves of the recent highly flawed decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania to reject the inclusion of intelligent design in science classes. But his basis, like the judge's, lacks credibility.

If we agree with Mr. Haynes that "science is a set of theories that can be tested ..." then evolution is disqualified because it can't be tested, either. By its demand for eons of time, it isn't verifiable by experimentation, something recognized by some advocates of evolution. Like intelligent design, it is a theory of origins and interpretations of past events. (Seen any ape men lately?)

Second, if evolution is one of the "true sciences," then why did Mr. Haynes refer to an experiment from observable physics, not "evolutionary" biology, to make his point?

Bottom line? Intelligent design is just as much science as evolution, and evolution can be just as religious in its motivation as intelligent design and both deserve consideration in the same classroom.

-- John Slivkoff, Dallas

Other views: Judge Jones was wrong about intelligent design


By Ken Koehler, Published Thursday, December 29, 2005

With all due respect for his position, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones was wrong to rule that the theory of intelligent design should not be taught alongside the theory of evolution in our school classrooms. Here are at least two reasons why:

First, the judge stated that he based his ruling on his belief that introducing the theory of ID was equivalent to "promoting religion in public schools," and that this would be "unconstitutional." But this is not necessarily so. When the term "separation of church and state" was first used by Thomas Jefferson in his 1802 letter, it was a clear reference to keeping the newly formed government of the United States from selecting any of the then-established denominations of the Christian faith as the "official religion" of the nation, as had been done back in England. This principle has since been generally understood to include any and all "religions."

But deciding to not establish an official state religion is in no way equivalent to declaring that there is also no God or no creator; nor that the Constitution in any way prohibits all teaching about the existence of God or the creation. In fact these very things, and the reading of the Bible itself, were unquestionably part of the curriculum in all our public schools, until fairly recently in our nation's history.

I certainly understand why the theory of ID is easily equated to the teaching of "creation." And I state right up front that I believe that God is the "intelligent designer" that created this universe and the first human beings as well. But I say again for emphasis: This is not equivalent to the establishment or promotion of a state religion. It is rather re-introducing the students of our nation to a historically established belief – or even call it a theory if that makes a difference – which has been taught in public schools as long back as history is recorded. It belongs in our schools, and where there are competing beliefs or theories regarding our origins, they need to be introduced and examined side by side – regardless of which classroom they find themselves in.

Secondly, some say that the theory of intelligent design is welcome in our public schools, but not in any of the science classrooms. The reason given is that they cannot meet the "scientific method" of repeated measurement and observation. But wait a minute – if that's the case then the theory of evolution, as it is normally understood, doesn't belong there either. While a degree of variation within any species is an observable and verifiable fact, and while technologies are now available which allow for a variety of changes through the direct intervention of genetic engineering; still where is the measurable and verifiable scientific proof of the origin of life or the development of all the different species through the process of evolution? Answer: There is none.

Yes, some scientists have theorized that it all happened through evolutionary genetic mistakes and natural selection. And there have been nice-looking charts made up showing how the many different species might have all evolved from one another – but that's all it is, a theory. There are no repeatable scientific measurements and observations to verifiably prove that any of these species developed from a different one. And there is no scientific proof that it all started when an electrical charge struck a soupy mixture of water, mud and chemicals. And also no way to scientifically prove that an intelligent designer does or does not exist!

This is why the school boards in Kansas and Pennsylvania and an increasing number of other states have properly attempted to bring some reasonable balance back to the teaching of origins. They have not directed teachers to stop teaching evolution as a theory; nor have they instructed them to teach either creation or intelligent design as a fact. They have simply stated the fact that where there is no clear and verifiable proof of origin, evolution or creation; and that students should be presented with the various competing theories, instead of establishing an unintelligent barrier to their investigation by declaring that all competing theories to evolution cannot be presented. And they are right to do so.

Koehler lives in West Fargo.

Martinez: Intelligent design is not science


By LEONEL MARTINEZ, Contributing columnist

Posted: Wednesday December 28th, 2005, 5:37 PM Last Updated: Wednesday December 28th, 2005, 5:37 PM

One day in First Communion class at St. Augustine Church in Lamont, Sister Ann Theresa told us the secret of the origin of life.

If you wanted to find out why God created humanity, the good sister said, you should read your Bible. If you wanted to find out how he did it, you should read your public-school science textbook.

Sister Ann Theresa was always convinced I would become a priest. She was wrong about that, of course, but she was right about the origin of life. I wish she were around today to shed some light on the arguments surrounding the theory of intelligent design. I think she would echo my own thoughts.

I believe the universe was created by an intelligent designer most people call God. That's a major reason why I've taught religion classes for decades, and that's why my family and I go to church every week. I just don't think that teaching belongs in a public-school science class.

Why would someone who believes in God want to keep him out of the science classroom?

The same reason you don't study trigonometry in history class. Intelligent design is not science.

A scientific theory has to rely on explanations that can be tested. The theory of evolution can be tested. Intelligent design, which attributes life to an unnamed intelligence, cannot.

How do you test for the existence of an unnamed intelligence? And if we drop that criterion, what "theory" will wind up in science classrooms next? That the universe was created by angry Greek deities from Mount Olympus?

That was essentially the reasoning behind a federal court decision issued a few weeks ago that ruled intelligent design cannot be taught in public school as an alternative to evolution. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones III, a church-going conservative who was appointed by President Bush, issued the 139-page ruling in a case in Dover, Pa. The judge essentially ruled that intelligent design can't be included in the science classroom because it is religion masquerading as science.

Despite that, some intelligent-design supporters try to appear broad-minded. What's wrong with exposing students to alternatives to the theory of evolution, they ask. Isn't this type of exposure what education is all about?

Sure, if those theories are scientifically sound. Intelligent design is not.

The theory's supporters also argue that the definition of science should be changed to include the possibility of a creator, but even they admitted in the recent court ruling that this new definition also would include beliefs like astrology. And I hope my son's science teacher never asks him whether he is a Virgo.

Having said all that, I think intelligent design can be discussed in school, but if you want to do it right, here's how: Administrators at Frazier Mountain High School did it right last week when they announced plans to discuss intelligent design not in a science class, but in an elective philosophy class, where it belongs.

The district superintendent said the course will explore that theory as well as evolution in an evenhanded manner. The Bakersfield Californian reported last week that so far, the classroom syllabus includes only speakers on creationism and intelligent design and not evolution, but in theory, this type of class could work.

Does religion belong in public schools at all? Of course.

In my junior year at Arvin High School, a teacher recruited me and a bunch of other students for a new class. There was no set curriculum. The students would simply pick a topic and learn about it.

So we chose to learn about world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. This wasn't science, it was religious studies, and everyone knew it.

Most of us came from a Christian background, and as far as I know, no one switched religions. But we developed a better appreciation of other faiths. I learned a lot in the class, and I remain a big believer in exposing children to different religious beliefs.

But I am just as convinced of something else: Science class is not the place to do it.

Leonel Martinez's column appears every other Thursday. Readers may send comments or suggestions to lmartinez@bakersfield.com or leave a voicemail at 395-7631.

Evolution in Action


Each year, the editors and news staff of Science look back at the big science stories of the past 12 months, and dub one of them the Breakthrough of the Year. In 2005, the top prize went to "evolution in action" -- a host of genetic studies and field observations that have shed light on how living creatures evolve. Notable strides included sequencing of the chimpanzee genome, reconstruction of the 1918 flu virus, and insight into the driving forces of speciation in stickleback fish and small birds called European blackcaps. A special section of the 23 Dec 2005 Science highlighted these accomplishments, and other advances worthy of runners-up commendation, including a host of successful planetary missions, genetic clues to brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome, insights into the turbulent lives of neutron stars, and the best look yet at the molecular structure of voltage-gated potassium channel. Not all the news was good, unfortunately. Budget woes brought U.S. particle physics research to a halt, thus affording it the onerous distinction of "Breakdown of the Year." But more exciting science is sure to follow in the coming year: influenza studies, gravitational waves, and RNAi-based treatments are among the fields chosen by our editors as areas to watch in 2006.

Science Online offered array of multimedia enhancements to round out its year-end tribute. A streaming-video presentation ( http://www.biocompare.com/science/btoy2005 ) highlighted the year's top breakthrough; a podcast ( http://www.sciencemag.org/about/podcast.dtl ) featured discussions about the runners-up; and each article was accompanied by a set of links to selected papers and relevant Web resources. Finally, ScienceCareers.org profiled some of the researchers who are applying new technology to the advancement of evolutionary science.

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design in Science Class; How About Neither?


December 29, 2005

Jim Jordan

We live in an era of pretzel logic. The debate over Evolution and Intelligent Design (call it Creationism) is evidence of this reality. Parts of both theories are self-evident. My daughter is the evolution of my wife and myself. On the other hand, where we all came from originally is a mystery that science cannot explain. When it comes to this question of origins, the debate heats up. This is where the scientific arguments wane and the disputes over faith begin.

I say faith because that is all we have at the moment. The creationist says that the universe was created at some point in time. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity reinforced that view. The universe is not infinitely old. The Evolutionist says that's ok, Life could evolve in the mere 4.3 billion years the earth has been here. These two view points must be believed first in order for them to make sense. That is the difference between faith and science. Faith reigns where the truth has not or cannot be proven. Science reigns where the truth can be known through mathematics or by observation. To put it another way, in faith, you believe, and then you see. In Science, you see, and then you believe.

The truth is that Public Schools have been terribly sloppy in separating these two methods. I still recall my science class in the late 70s where we were shown a picture of a psychedelic pond. The next picture showed a bolt of lightning striking the supposedly gooey liquid. The last picture showed little Mr. Franken-cell, newly formed thanks to the electrical charge, bobbing along in the muck. "Scientists believe that this is how life started on earth." That, my friends, is not science. The scientists believed, and then they saw. That's faith. While they were still getting paid for being scientists, this conclusion had nothing to do with science.

This is the problem with Evolution as an explanation of origins: no matter how often you say it is, it isn't scientific. Evolutionists pine that after 150 years of Evolution we should be beyond this stage. Isn't a century and a half of Stentorian repetition enough, they ask. To their frustration, the battle against Evolution is heating up, not disappearing like it should. But this is due to the simple fact that the evidence for evolutionary origins was never there in the first place, and it's promises are getting old. Now we have a more complete picture of the fossil record and the single cells themselves that do Evolution no favors.

First, the fossil record shows a sleepy planet inhabited by bacteria from approximately 3.8 billion years ago to 500 million years ago. Bacteria sprouted up right away. There is no evidence that it evolved from a lower form. As soon as the earth became habitable for bacteria, bam, there they were. Then came the Cambrian "explosion" 500 million years ago, when all of the phyla we see today come from. Evolutionists have been doing back flips fine tuning their theory to make major evolutionary changes possible in the span of a few generations.

Second, the discovery of DNA was a terrible blow to Evolution. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a string of amino acids that determines every detail about the creature that it comes from, or the creature that will come from it. Evolution is the visible result of this complex computer program. Richard Dawkins, Evolution's most famous current apologist, hypothesizes that DNA started out as something much simpler which evolved into DNA. This pre-DNA then disappeared without a trace. There is no evidence for this. Of course, it might help direct scientists to where to look for primordial DNA-like substances. But that's what faith does. We believe, then we seek, and if it's true, we'll find what we're looking for.

For the sake of disclosure, I believe that religion should be taught in the classroom, but not in science class. The argument for God is religious, as is the argument for Evolution as an explanation of origins. Microevolution can be taught in science class because we know about it. But what we don't know about, what we have to believe by faith alone, should not be taught in science class. How could any teacher teach something they don't know? As Wittgenstein stated, "What we do not know, we must pass over in silence."

The problem our country has with education has one common denominator. Some time ago our educational system began to stray from teaching empirical data and sound logic. In the rush to shape our children into modern thinkers, we have stumbled into the gray area of indoctrination by teaching them to feel rather than to think. We have children who cry when a tree is cut down, but who can't distinguish Brazil from Peru on a map. We have children who feel they need dogs and cats around them to survive, yet don't know who was president during the Korean War. Are these related? I believe so. Our schools are teaching myths rather than facts. Evolution as origin being one myth, the one-sided telling of the Native American story is another, the supremacy of any environmentalist argument is another, and the myth that the State can fix anything is yet another, and so on.

In conclusion, Evolution as an origin is an opinion. Much of what is taught today in our schools and universities is opinion and not fact. There is an old saying that goes "you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts." The message; facts are more important than opinions. But the truth here is that the superiority of facts has been compromised in our educational institutions. This has resulted in the opposite of what we wanted; we teach what we do not know and pass over what we do know in silence.

Creationism is faith, not science


Article Last Updated: 12/28/2005 07:02:01 AM

U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III barred the Dover, Pa. school district from offering "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolutionary theory last week.

The Republican judge, appointed by President Bush, also blasted local school board members for lying under oath and for their "breathtaking inanity" in trying to inject religion into science classes.

Intelligent design, a belief system that tries to pass itself off as science, argues that life is so complex as to require the hand, subtle or not, of a supernatural creator. This theory, the judge said, relies on the unprovable existence of a Christian God and therefore is not science.

"The overwhelming evidence is that Intelligent Design is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory," Jones wrote in a 139-page decision. "It is an extension of the Fundamentalists' view that one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution."

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that nothing like creationism could be taught in public school science courses. Jones found that creationism had just evolved into intelligent design.

Voters in Dover threw out eight of nine school board members in November. The new school board, which seems to be a much more sensible group and favors teaching evolution, will not appeal the ruling.

While Jones' decision is being labeled the successor to the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which Darwin's theory lost, school boards from Kansas to Florida that are challenging evolution watched the Dover case closely.

Opponents of evolution now face a very tough task.

"The court has held that it's not a scientific theory," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and one of the trial lawyers for parents who sued the school board.

John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, the intelligent design "think tank" in Seattle, agreed the decision is a heavy blow. "There's no doubt that people will trumpet this and that now they can say a federal judge agrees, and that doesn't help," he said.

Jones allowed both sides to fully air their arguments in court under oath. The judge could have just ruled on whether the school board had a religious motive. He found that school board members had committed "outright lies under oath" and displayed a "striking ignorance" of intelligent design.

But Jones went on to write, "Intelligent Design is not science. Proponents ... occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist (but) no serious alternative to God as designer has been proposed."

How about a fifth-grade boy's science fair experiment? Maybe L. Ron Hubbard was on to something.

Is this the last challenge to evolution? Not likely. Many polls show that 40 to 55 percent of Americans believe in strict biblical creationism, which is a fine belief. But it is not science.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

'Skeptics vs Psychics' Larry King Live

The psychics: Sylvia Brown and James Van Praagh.

The skeptics: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (!) and Dr. Bryan Farha, who teaches a course called 'Science and Pseudo-Science' at Oklahoma City University.

Here's the complete transcript:


FARHA: Sylvia here's what it is. You asked me. You lied to me on May 16th of 2003 on Larry's show and when I was a caller. I asked you why you keep promising to be tested by the James Randi Educational Foundation for...

BROWNE: Because it's -- no.

FARHA: ...your alleged psychic -- wait a minute, Sylvia. Sylvia, stop.


FARHA: Sylvia, Sylvia you interrupted me three times that night on the program and I'd like to finish, please. I asked you why you did -- why you've been avoiding his test. You said Randi can't verify that he has the money. Randi and I both -- you said if I send you or Randi sends you verification of the money that you would take the test. You said that on Larry's show on May 16th.

KING: Yes, you did.

BROWNE: Yes, I did.

FARHA: Yes, you did Sylvia. Wait a minute, Sylvia, I'm not finished. So the next week Randi and I both sent you...

KING: You will be in a minute. I got to break doctor. What did you send her?

FARHA: We sent you, we sent you verification of the money, Sylvia and you refused the mail and returned it to sender, so I thought I'd show it to you tonight so that you can't avoid that any longer.

BROWNE: Oh, that's good.


FARHA: Did you see that Sylvia?

KING: Let me take a break.

FARHA: There's $1 million.

KING: OK, why wouldn't you...

FARHA: There's $1 million Sylvia.

KING: ...take him up on that offer? We'll tell him. We'll take a...


KING: OK, let's get a break and we'll come back. Calmness prevails. I see -- I see commercials. We'll be right back.


KING: OK, Sylvia Browne, in March of 2001, James Randi on this program offered you $1 million if you passed his psychic challenge, why not do it?

BROWNE: OK. Well first of all I agree with the whole fact of what Arbach (ph) says that there's a no win situation.

KING: Why?

BROWNE: You see. Well because you're not going to ever convince anyone. It's the same thing as what he did...

KING: But why didn't you take the test?

BROWNE: OK, let me tell you something about what Randi did. He ran away from the whole experiment in Bali when they actually knocked all these people down and he backtracked. It's all over the web. The other thing he did was when they really tried to do the German guy that came over, you know who it is, Zerbrowski (ph), no he said it was -- no, they changed everything.

KING: OK. What if...

BROWNE: So, why would I put myself in that situation?

KING: What if we did it on this show?

VAN PRAAGH: Larry, can I just jump in here for a second?

KING: What if we did it on this show with $1 million check sitting, you pass it, it's over?

VAN PRAAGH: Let me just say something. The skeptics (INAUDIBLE) use this thing about taking a test and proving it, the emphasis should be on them to prove it to us this is not real and I would say they always raise the bar.

KING: Oh, no, I don't think that. Why?

VAN PRAAGH: Oh, I think so. They got to change their tactics.

KING: You're making the claim. They're not making the claim. You're making the claim.

VAN PRAAGH: Prove that we're wrong though. Prove that we are wrong. The things we get people understand.

KING: You can't prove a negative.



by Pat Buchanan

December 27, 2005 10:27 PM EST

"Intelligent Design Derailed," exulted the headline. "By now, the Christian conservatives who once dominated the school board in Dover, Pa., ought to rue their recklessness in forcing biology classes to hear about 'intelligent design' as an alternative to the theory of evolution," declared The New York Times, which added its own caning to the Christians who dared challenge the revealed truths of Darwinian scripture.

Noting that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III is a Bush appointee, The Washington Post called his decision "a scathing opinion that criticized local school board members for lying under oath and for their 'breathtaking inanity' in trying to inject religion into science classes."

But is it really game, set, match, Darwin?

Have these fellows forgotten that John Scopes, the teacher in that 1925 "Monkey Trial," lost in court, and was convicted of violating Tennessee law against the teaching of evolution and fined $100? Yet Darwin went on to conquer public education, and ACLU atheists went on to purge Christianity and the Bible from our public schools.

The Dover defeat notwithstanding, the pendulum is clearly swinging back. Darwinism is on the defensive. For, as Tom Bethell, author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science," reminds us, there is no better way to make kids curious about "intelligent design" than to have some Neanderthal forbid its being mentioned in biology class.

In ideological politics, winning by losing is textbook stuff. The Goldwater defeat of 1964, which a triumphant left said would bury the right forever, turned out to be liberalism's last hurrah. Like Marxism and Freudianism, Darwinism appears destined for the graveyard of discredited ideas, no matter the breathtaking inanity of the trial judge. In his opinion, Judge Jones the Third declared:

"The overwhelming evidence is that (intelligent design) is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory. ... It is an extension of the fundamentalists' view that one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution."

But if intelligent design is creationism or fundamentalism in drag, how does Judge Jones explain how that greatest of ancient thinkers, Aristotle, who died 300 years before Christ, concluded that the physical universe points directly to an unmoved First Mover?

As Aristotle wrote in his "Physics": "Since everything that is in motion must be moved by something, let us suppose there is a thing in motion which was moved by something else in motion, and that by something else, and so on. But this series cannot go on to infinity, so there must be some First Mover."

A man of science and reason, Aristotle used his observations of the physical universe to reach conclusions about how it came about. Where is the evidence he channeled the Torah and creation story of Genesis before positing his theory about a prime mover?

Darwinism is in trouble today for the reason creationism was in trouble 80 years ago. It makes claims that are beyond the capacity of science to prove.

Darwinism claims, for example, that matter evolved from non-matter -- i.e., something from nothing -- that life evolved from non-life; that, through natural selection, rudimentary forms evolved into more complex forms; and that men are descended from animals or apes.

Now, all of this is unproven theory. And as the Darwinists have never been able to create matter out of non-matter or life out of non-life, or extract from the fossil record the "missing links" between species, what they are asking is that we accept it all on faith. And the response they are getting in the classroom and public forum is: "Prove it," and, "Where is your evidence?"

And while Darwinism suggests our physical universe and its operations happened by chance and accident, intelligent design seems to comport more with what men can observe and reason to.

If, for example, we are all atop the Grand Canyon being told by a tour guide that nature, in the form of a surging river over eons of time, carved out the canyon, we might all nod in agreement. But if we ask how "Kilroy was here!" got painted on the opposite wall of the canyon, and the tour guide says the river did it, we would all howl.

A retreating glacier may have created the mountain, but the glacier didn't build the cabin on top of it. Reason tells us the cabin came about through intelligent design.

Darwinism is headed for the compost pile of discarded ideas because it cannot back up its claims. It must be taken on faith. It contains dogmas men may believe, but cannot stand the burden of proof, the acid of attack or the demands of science.

Where science says, "No miracles allowed," Darwinism asks us to believe in miracles.

To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.


The Flying Spaghetti Monster and I


December 28, 2005

04:27:11 pm, Categories: I.D. and Creationism, 777 words

Let me confess something. I do so with trepidation because it will surely mark me as a humorless dweeb, and may even be cause to have my membership in the Loyal Order of Anti-Creationists revoked. But the time has come to bare my soul, and I can only hope that my apostasy meets with mercy at the hands of my betters.

Ladies and gentlemen, does it make me a bad person if I don't love the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

A bit of background for any readers unfamiliar with the grace of His Noodly Appendage: The Flying Spaghetti Monster first surfaced in a satirical open letter from Bobby Henderson to the Kansas Board of Education around the time of its bogus "hearings" on evolution and I.D. in mid-2005.

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I'm writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I'm sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Since then, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has exploded in popularity and become an emblem of the anti-creationism resistance. Inestimable thousands are proudly calling themselves Pastafarians. As of today, Google lists 686,000 Web pages and Technorati lists 7,045 blog posts referring to the FSM. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will be published in paperback next spring. Throughout the evolution-defending world, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is revered and adored.

Except, apparently, by me.

Don't get me wrong. The FSM makes me smile. It's good pointed satire in service to an important cause, and it drills home what's wrong with the dumb arguments that I.D. should be taught as an alternative to evolution out of "fairness." It's wonderful that the FSM is helping to raise money for organizations like the National Center for Science Education. I'm even glad to see that Bobby Henderson seems to be cashing in on his brainchild.

But my misgivings are essentially the same ones that I have about the famous Darwin fish insignia: the FSM may antagonize many religious people to whom it registers primarily as a slap at their faith, not at I.D. Many of those people have already been misled into thinking that evolution is intrinsically anti-religion, or is some kind of belief system that's equivalent to a religion that seeks to unseat Christianity. In the long run, if these frustrating evolution-vs.-creationism arguments are going to end, we are going to need the understanding or good will of those religious millions--or at least their tolerance, to put a worse face on it. My concern is that the FSM might postpone that day.

Just to further clarify, I'm absolutely not arguing for a strategic moratorium on anti-religious arguments. Some critics have suggested that outspokenly atheistic evolution advocates such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers should censor themselves for the greater good. I disagree: the scientific community encompasses many points of view and there is no reason to hide that fact. At the same time, let's not play into the hands of the creationists by unintentionally sending the message that science is automatically derisive of religion.

Am I wrong? Could be. And I'd surely like to join in with the Pastafarian fun. If you disagree, write to me at editorsblog@sciam.com and let me hear your arguments. If you can put my mind at east, I'll gladly join in with a "RAmen!"

Posted by John Rennie

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Intelligent design fails biggest test



Posted December 28 2005

The pushers of intelligent design creationism have done a masterful job convincing the general public that evolution is "a theory in crisis." With a nearly endless stream of scientific-sounding arguments, these snake oil salesmen have won great popularity for what they claim is a scientific alternative to evolutionary theory. They have lawyers, school board members, and even the president on their side and their popular support grows every day. Intelligent design creationism has become a hot topic around the country, yet despite all the support they command, the creationists have wholly failed to win over the only group that counts in establishing the validity of a scientific concept -- the scientists.

Scientific matters are not settled by majority opinion. They are settled in peer-reviewed publications where claims are judged on the basis of their evidentiary support by those most qualified to judge them. Intelligent design creationism, this purported "scientific" alternative to evolutionary theory, has not managed to have a single paper in its support published in those journals. Ever. If the creationists had anything of scientific relevance to say, why have they not published in scientific forums?

Intelligent design creationism has failed to convince the scientific community of its validity because it is not science. Even in the very words of its supporters, in order to brand creationism as science, the very definition of science must be changed. Evolutionary theory is taught in our schools because it is sound science. In the nearly 150 years since Darwin published it, it has withstood more rigorous testing than any other scientific principle. It continues to be tested around the world on a daily basis, and continues to pass those tests while every proposed alternative has failed them. Evolutionary theory survives on the strength of the evidence supporting it; in contrast, devoid of evidentiary support, creationism survives only through ignorance and dishonesty.

Evolution and Intelligent Design


According to InterVarsity Press, "The intelligent design theory has become the center of a growing controversy among state boards of education around the country as school board members and parents ask their local school boards to allow intelligent design to be taught in their science classrooms." Intelligent design is a truth-claim about the origin of the universe that employs mathematical, scientific, and biological evidence to derive data from nature to help prove and conclude that an intelligent cause is responsible for the order, harmony, complexity, and design in nature.

To evolutionists, intelligent design simply is another version of "scientific creationism" and a way to use the guise of scientific enterprise to bring religion into the public schools. Proponents of intelligent design, on the other hand, insist that their theory is indeed scientific and is buttressed by a wealth of evidence that the universe simply could not have come together on its own.

Phillip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California (Berkeley) and author of The Right Questions (InterVarsity), observes that "the intelligent design movement started in 1993….The ID movement started in order to explore ways to bring to public attention scientific and philosophical weaknesses in Darwinian theory."

Can someone be both a proponent of evolution and of intelligent design? Johnson responds: "A design can be executed gradually, but the Darwinists who control scientific publication define evolution as entirely purposeless and undesigned, involving no intelligence. Under that definition, evolution excludes intelligent design.".

An informative and thought-provoking 2001 Gallup poll revealed that 45 percent believe God created human beings and the universe in its present form; 37 percent think God used the evolutionary process to make humans and the world the way they are today; and 12 percent insist that evolutionists are correct and that God had no role in the creation of humanity and the world. The same poll found that only 33 percent accept the theory of evolution as correct, while 57 percent said they believe in creation (10 percent said they were undecided).

Writing in the February 2002 Scientific American, science writer Michael Shermer sharply rebuked efforts to promote in natural science classes in the public schools such concepts as "creation science" and "intelligent design." Shermer observed that "it is not enough to argue that creationism is wrong; we must also show that evolution is right." He quoted, with approval, Charles Darwin's statement that "it appears to me…that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds which follows from the advance of science."

Conversely, Charlie Reese, a conservative social critic and syndicated columnist, argued in the January 9, 2002, Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, that "when we consider the size of the galaxies and the vast distances that separate them, when we consider how exactly everything had to be just so without even one atom's difference to produce us and our habitable planet, then it seems…more superstitious to believe it is all a meaningless accident than to believe in intelligent design and an intelligent designer."

According to Reese, "There is evidence of a caring God. [Our planet] has everything we need. It is beautiful. It was not created by God with either killing fields or Auschwitzes. If we defile and despoil it, that's not God's fault."

Reese added: "I prefer mystery and God to materialistic dogma wearing the false mantle of science. Wiser men than I have observed that if there indeed is no God, then anything goes and everything is pointless."

In my view creationism is a legitimate point of view, but it does not belong in natural or physical science classes; rather, it should be taught in history, literature, religion, and philosophy of science classes. This is because creationists use scientific data to buttress the theological and philosophical propositions that God, a Supreme Being, exists in objective, extramental reality, and that He created humanity and the universe in which we live.

Creationists are admirable and well-intentioned; they seek to demonstrate that there is order, meaning, and purpose in the universe, and that there is something sacred about human beings and the world in which we live. The problem with creationism is that physical science, because of its own limitations and restrictions, simply cannot deal with God and creation. When scientists either affirm or negate the objective reality of God and creation, they step outside their field of expertise and enter different, though no less intellectually respectable and defensible, branches of knowledge, namely, theology and the philosophy of science.

Scientists as scientists are concerned solely with descriptive reality and empirically verifiable phenomena; they use the techniques of the laboratory to seek truth and knowledge of external reality. We simply cannot and must not supply theological and philosophical answers to scientific questions, even as we cannot and must not provide scientific answers to philosophical and theological questions.

Perhaps our schools can incorporate into their physical science classes a two-week examination of the philosophy of science so that creationism may be legitimately discussed.

Haven Bradford Gow is a TV and radio commentator and writer who teaches religion to children at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Greenville, Mississippi.

Editor's Note: The intelligent design versus evolution debate is heating up. While we are not quite seeing a repeat of the Scopes trial fight of last century, there are serious issues of authority, societal religious norms, church-state separation, and the nature of inspiration at play. Look for more articles on this in the coming months.

Science and Intelligent Design


Posted by: Dale Franks on Tuesday, December 27, 2005

University of Colorado Boulder Law prof and Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos is peeved that a Federal court has rejected intelligent design. And, he thinks the arguments against ID aren't compelling.

—Science has refuted theories such as intelligent design, because science is based on the postulate that theories such as intelligent design cannot be true. It says a great deal about the power of orthodox thought that many people of normal intelligence are apparently incapable of seeing what's wrong with this argument. To quote the philosopher Bertrand Russell: "The method of 'postulating' what we want has many advantages. They are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil."

Actually, science doesn't claim to refute ID at all, so, where Prof. Campos gets this idea is unclear. Indeed, science can't ever claim to refute a theory of Intelligent Design, because ID isn't provable or disprovable by science. ID posits the existence of a supernatural designer. Science, being a search for naturalistic explanations—about which, more in due course—cannot address whether a supernatural agent exists or not.

—Intelligent design is not a scientific theory, because it cannot be refuted. This claim is true only in the trivial sense that no scientific theory can be refuted from within the theory itself. Consider the theory of naturalism, which undergirds the argument in the previous paragraph. Naturalism assumes that all events have natural causes. Is there any evidence that could refute this theory in the eyes of someone who adheres to it? Obviously not, since any evidence such a person examines will always and already be interpreted within a framework that excludes the possibility of a supernatural cause.

Science is useful precisely because it seeks naturalistic explanations for phenomena. The trouble is, that ID cannot be refuted from outside science either. God, or, if you prefer, The Designer, is immune to proof or disproof, scientifically or otherwise.

Moroever, naturalism isn't, or shouldn't be, a dirty word. Science cannot address non-naturalistic phenomenon. The whole point of science is that it seeks to find natural explanations for how the world works. And, really, what else can it search for? Supernatural phenomena cannot be explained. They cannot be reproduced. They cannot be disproved. They exist in a realm outside of the natural world. As such, how can they be accessible by science in any way that can provide a useful and reliable explanation? If science must incorporate supernatural phenomenon, then, essentially, we are back to explaining thunderstorms by explaining that the lightning gods are angry.

And science is useful precisely because it seeks naturalistic explanations for phenomena. I mean, look, if you come down with a urinary tract infection, you can pray for healing, or you can take amoxicillin for 18 days. I'm not saying that prayer is useless...but amoxicillin is the way I'd bet.

—Metaphysical orthodoxies about the origins of life, the universe, and everything become something other than a form of religious belief when you use the word "science" instead of the word "God." Even more preposterously, it's asserted that requiring one particular form of metaphysical orthodoxy to be presented in public schools as The Truth allows the government to maintain "neutrality" toward religion.

This is the fundamental confusion about what science is. Science doesn't posit a metaphysical explanation for anything. All science is, is a search for the natural laws and phenomena that we observe in everyday life. Science is silent about whether or not there is a Designer, because the existence of a Designer—or, for that matter, any answers about the purpose and meaning of life—are beyond the realm of science. Science is about what we can observe, can reproduce, and can falsify. Once you have admitted, as Prof. Campos implicitly does, that the Designer belongs in the realm of metaphysics, then you have admitted that the existence of a Designer isn't a matter for science to address.

So, then, why be upset that a court recognizes that, too?

James Q. Wilson's Wall Street Journal Op/Ed makes much the same points. Interestingly, though, RealClearPolitic's Jay Cost thinks that Prof. Wilson's critique gives ID too much credit.

Mr. Costs' analysis is, by the way, absolutely brilliant, and you should read the whole thing. It's too good for excerpting here.

Olbermann Attacked Intelligent Design Proponents


Posted by Brad Wilmouth on December 28, 2005 - 05:41.

As a follow-up to today's NewsBusters posting on MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who on his December 27 Countdown show made a comparison between the radio show of conservative host Janet Parshall and an "Al-Qaeda Show on Al-Jazeera talking about infidels," a further example of Olbermann's hostility to religion occurred on his November 23 show. On his Countdown show on Wednesday November 23, the MSNBC host attacked proponents of intelligent design theory, which he labeled as "nonsense," and compared its supporters to those who believed the world is flat and who supported burning scientists at the stake.

During his "Worst Person in the World" segment, in which the Countdown host normally lists three nominees for the dishonor of the same name, Olbermann awarded the top dishonor to "those fine folks behind the intelligent design nonsense" because corporate sponsors refused to donate to an exhibition devoted to Charles Darwin in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He then mocked those who "dreamt up intelligent design" as "the same people who brought you 'the world is flat, the earth is at the center of the universe, and let's burn a scientist at the stake today.'" A complete transcript of the relevant portion of the November 23 Countdown show follows:

Olbermann: "But the winners, those fine folks behind the intelligent design nonsense. Because of them, the new exhibition of the work of Charles Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History in New York cannot find any corporate sponsors. The corporations are afraid they might tick off the intelligent design guys. The folks who dreamt up intelligent design: The same people who brought you 'the world is flat, the earth is at the center of the universe, and let's burn a scientist at the stake today.' Today's 'Worst Persons in the World'!"

N.D. bans intelligent design debate


FARGO, N.D., Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Students in North Dakota debating programs have been banned from broaching the topic of intelligent design.

"We're doing this because we don't want to exclude any students from public forum debate at state," said Robert Hetler of the North Dakota High School Activities Association. "Some schools were afraid parents wouldn't allow their kids to do this one."

The National Forensic League recommended debating intelligent design in January, but instead, North Dakota students will debate the national topic for February, which will be released Jan. 1, the Fargo Forum reported.

Intelligent design holds that living things are so complex that they must have been created by a higher being. Earlier this month, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district from teaching the theory in biology class, saying it was a variation on creationism.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

The stigmata of "intelligent design"


By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D. Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 28, 2005, 00:52

Stigmata: the "spontaneous manifestation of bloody wounds on a person's hands, feet, forehead and back -- similar to the wounds of the crucified Jesus. Those who describe stigmata categorize these experiences as divine or mystical. History tells us that many ecstatics exhibit on hands, feet, side, or brow the marks of the Passion of Christ with corresponding and intense sufferings. These are called visible stigmata. Others only have the sufferings, without any outward marks, and these phenomena are called invisible stigmata."

Problem is, when Yeshua was crucified -- like other people the Romans executed in this manner -- the spikes were not driven into the palms of the hands, but through a small block of wood placed about 2-3 inches below the wrists. Yet stigmatics bleed from the middle of their palms in accord with the false icons and imagery created by the same folks whose theocratic dogma perverted "Christianity" and led to the Dark Ages when knowledge and science were heretical.

Federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled on December 20 that "intelligent design" (ID) could not be taught as science in Dover, Pa.'s public school science and biology classes. His 139-page decision was well argued and solidly based in law and common sense.

Spin it any way you like, ID is motivated by and based on what Judge Jones called "a particular version of Christianity." That "particular version of Christianity" has traditionally advocated "creationism." Today that "particular version of Christianity" is the bedrock of Young Earth Creationism that claims dinosaurs played with human children in Eden and that Mr. and Mrs. Tyrannosaurus rex -- and presumably all the other dinosaurs alive at the time -- were passengers on Noah's ark.

Aside from the fact that T. rex went extinct some 64-plus million years before Noah allegedly lived, according to the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California at Berkley, "Tyrannosaurus rex is known only from western North America. However, an extremely close relative, Tarbosaurus bataar, lived in Mongolia at the same time that T. rex terrorized North America." One has to wonder how Noah trapped and then transported Mr. and Mrs. T. rex et al to his ark in the Middle East . . . from the North American continent he didn't even know existed.

Like misplaced stigmata wounds, intelligent design is misplaced in science and biology classes, although it -- and the stigmata -- would be appropriate topics in religious studies, American Studies, pop culture, and a number of other elective courses, including science fiction classes where other forms of "intervention theories" could be discussed. Those theories use much of -- if not all -- the same "evidence" cited by religion-based intelligent design theory: the so-called "Cambrian Explosion," the rapid evolution of homo sapiens from earlier prototypes, and the biotech advances that come with "irreducible complexity." Would Discovery Institute and ID backers support teaching the "scientific theories" that extraterrestrials were the intelligent designers of life on earth?

The reaction from the Christian Right to Judge Jones's ruling was predictable. Brannon Howse, president and founder of Worldview Weekend, said the ruling was "more federal judicial tyranny."

Ho-hum, more tedious rants about liberal "activist judges." Just to set the record straight, Judge John Jones III is a lifelong Republican, appointed to the bench by President Bush, and has been praised for his integrity and intellect.

The Traditional Values Coalition website posted several "responses" to the Dover decision. The one from Discovery Institute, the primary organization promoting ID, was most noteworthy in its befuddlement. The brief statement was issued by Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

Eighty years ago the ACLU went to court in Tennessee to defend the right of John Scopes to teach his students about evolution. Today, the ACLU is betraying the principle of academic freedom by seeking a government-imposed gag-order on teachers and students that would prevent even voluntary discussions of intelligent design in the science classroom. All Americans who cherish free speech should reject the ACLU's effort to decide the debate over evolution through court orders rather than the free marketplace of ideas.

Eighty years ago the battle was the same: teach science in science class, not one particular religion's beliefs. Dr. West's misappropriated use of "academic freedom" makes the point. Would it be "academic freedom" to teach -- or even introduce -- the Hindu version of creation and evolution in science class? Or would that be deemed "teaching religion as science" and, therefore, a violation of the separation of church and state? Would it be deemed "freedom of speech"? Not likely. What should be taught in science classes are the best scientific theories, that is, those motivated by scientific inquiry not religious beliefs and mythologies.

Dr. West's plea to "the free marketplace of ideas" is equally tainted. Is he saying that if enough people buy into an erroneous idea -- say flat earth theory -- then it should be taught as science? Should science be a popularity poll? That would seem to be the purpose of Discovery Institute's campaign.

On the December 23, 2005 edition of his national radio talk show, Rush Limbaugh agreed that ID is simply an attempt to get creationism into the public school curriculum:

I think that the people [pushing intelligent design] -- and I know why they're doing it, but I still think that it's a little bit disingenuous. Let's make no mistake. The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum . . .

Nevertheless, when responding to a caller's question about the Dover decision, Limbaugh intoned the usual "judicial activism" mantra and seemed to suggest that science should indeed be a popularity poll:

I think it's [the Dover decision] another great example of how we need different kinds of judges. . . . You got to understand who we're dealing with here, and they have now structured things such as this: When 95 percent of the people of the country agree with something, 5 percent of the country disagrees, the liberal will say the 5 percent must win because we can't hurt their feelings, we mustn't offend them.

Dr. West argued that "the debate over evolution" should not be decided "through court orders," yet that's exactly what some ID supporters intend. Stephen Crampton is the chief counsel for the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy. Mr. Crampton is somewhat notorious for what could be called hysterical, irrational statements such as the one he made in December 2003 after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that "equality" means "equality," even in relation to civil marriage: "Unless the people of the State of Massachusetts rise up with one voice in opposition to this lawless and socially destructive behavior [same-sex marriage], it will destroy society as we know it."

In a December 20 article posted on the American Family Association website, Mr. Crampton made the following statement in relation to the Dover ID decision:

This case is far from over. It will be appealed. We intend to weigh in with an amicus brief, as will many similar groups around the country. . . . In the final analysis, the stranglehold evolution has on our public schools will not be settled until the Supreme Court addresses the issue.

Dr. West's statement continued with a litany of non sequitur arguments:

Apparently the ACLU has come to believe that some ideas are just too dangerous for students and teachers to discuss. On the one hand, it insists that the First Amendment protects a teacher's right to teach evidence supporting Darwin's theory. On the other hand, it claims that the same First Amendment forbids teachers from discussing dissenting scientific theories. It looks like the ACLU believes that free speech only applies to one side of the evolution debate. This is a blatant double-standard.

Neither the ACLU nor the judge was saying ideas should not be discussed. It's just a matter of the context in which they're discussed. Science should be discussed in science classes and religion in religious studies classes. According to a New York Times editorial, the new Dover school board "is planning to do just that by removing intelligent design from the science curriculum and perhaps placing it in an elective course on comparative religion. That would be a more appropriate venue to learn about what the judge deemed 'a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism and not a scientific theory.'"

Dr. West may believe ID is a "dissenting scientific" theory, but the overwhelming majority of the scientific community does not. Today's "intelligent design" seems little more than a rehash of St. Thomas Aquinas's thirteenth century theological argument that because nature is complex, it must have a designer. Again, a suitable topic for comparative religion and philosophy classes, but not science or biology classes.

Discovery Institute strongly opposes the ACLU's effort to make discussions of intelligent design illegal. At the same time, we disagree with efforts to get the government to require the teaching of intelligent design. Misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District are likely to be politically divisive and hinder a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design among scholars and within the scientific community, points we have made repeatedly since we first learned about the Dover policy in 2004. Furthermore, most teachers currently do not know enough about intelligent design or have sufficient curriculum materials to teach about it accurately and objectively.

No one is making "discussions of intelligent design illegal." That's an absurd statement. What's being said is that ID is not a scientific theory -- or a theory motivated by scientific inquiry -- and, therefore, should not be taught in public school science classes. Alexander George, professor of philosophy at Amherst College, made the point in a Christian Science Monitor article: "The suspicion that religion is lurking somewhere in intelligent design theory is correct, but its locus is often misidentified. The religion isn't in the claims of intelligent design themselves. Rather, the religion is in the motivation for pushing a poor account of the natural world into the science curriculum."

Dr. West lamented the lack of "curriculum materials to teach about [ID] accurately and objectively." Aside from web resources and articles such as Mark Noll's 'Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield on Science, the Bible, Evolution, and Darwinism,' I've read a few books about ID and by supporters of its underlying religious premise, including Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Ralph O. Muncaster's Dismantling Evolution: Building the Case for Intelligent Design, Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, and Ron Rhodes' The Ten Things You Should Know About the Creation vs. Evolution Debate. All provided vivid lessons in sophistry and demonstrated some remarkable rhetorical skills, but none offered anything even remotely close to the evidence that supports evolution. Indeed, many ultimately relied on the Bible for their "scientific evidence," as did Hugh Ross in his book The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis.

One of the obvious questions raised by Genesis and its version of "intelligent design" is how could two people -- Adam and Eve -- provide enough genetic diversity to populate the planet. Dr. Ross addressed that incestuous problem with this chart:

Table 13.1: Expected Population Growth in Adam's time

Moreover, intelligent design cannot be taught "objectively," as Dr. West wants, simply because it is not an objective theory. It's a subjective theory based on faith, a particular religious faith. The only way ID could be taught "objectively" as science would be to redefine "science" as the Kansas State Board of Education recently did. "Science" in Kansas is no longer defined by natural explanations, but includes supernatural and metaphysical explanations, such as "intelligent design."

The Discovery Institute was quick to applaud the Kansas decision and equally quick to point out that the new standards "do not include intelligent design at all." By name, they don't. By message, they certainly do. Similar equivocation echoes in Dr. West's "misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District" statement.

And speaking of equivocation, consider the comments of Sen. Rick Santorum. The Pennsylvania senator is notorious for his homophobia and championing of every cause the Christian Right concocts. Santorum was on the advisory board of the Thomas More Law Center that defended the Dover school board. He resigned after the Dover decision. In a 2002 Washington Times OpEd, Santorum wrote: "intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes." But Santorum had gone further, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

Santorum raised the national profile of intelligent design in 2001 by introducing a "teach the controversy" amendment to the No Child Left Behind bill.

The Santorum amendment was approved, 91-8, by the Senate and placed in a legislative history report. It validated the push by some school districts to teach alternatives to evolution. But science groups attacked the amendment and lobbied successfully to keep it out of the final version of the legislation.

The amendment, written with the help of Phillip Johnson, an intelligent-design pioneer and a retired law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, stated that "a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science."

That's exactly what Judge Jones's ruling did: assure that quality science education helps students distinguish science "from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science."

But faced with a difficult reelection campaign, sanctimonious Santorum has changed his tune. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 21 the senator said "I do not believe it [intelligent design] should be required teaching."

The concluding paragraph in Dr. West's statement was appropriate but incomplete:

Rather than require students to learn about intelligent design, what we recommend is that teachers and students study more about Darwinian evolution, not only the evidence that supports the theory, but also scientific criticisms of the theory.

He forgot to encourage teachers and students to learn more about how the current ID controversy is not motivated by science and why, therefore, ID is not a scientific theory or even "scientific" criticism, but simply a "particular version of Christianity" that, in other venues, promotes Young Earth Creationism.

Just as stigmatics' wounds are misplaced, so is intelligent design. Stigmatics' bleeding wounds should be below the wrists, not in the palms. The "theory" of intelligent design should be in religious studies or philosophy classes, not in science or biology classes. Aside from the motivation of intelligent design, a religious studies or philosophy class could also consider the history of the idea of "God" and why men with all too human motives would create a "God" who would "bless" his most ecstatic, passionate believers with the pain and suffering of the stigmata.

Copyright © 1998-2005 Online Journal

Tension percolates at U of M over Intelligent Design


by Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio December 27, 2005

University of Minnesota chemical engineering professor Christopher Macasko challenges evolutionary theory. (MPR Photo/Art Hughes)

The supporters of Intelligent Design suffered a significant defeat this month, when a judge banned the concept in Dover, Pennsylvania, science classrooms. But proponents continue their efforts to bolster the idea of an intelligent creator in discussions about science.

A dispute simmers at the University of Minnesota, where an otherwise respected scientist insists on teaching a class questioning the validity of evolution. Intelligent Design is one of the topics he explores. He is under fire from a colleague who sees it as an intrusion of religion into established scientific thinking.

St. Paul, Minn. — Supporters of Intelligent Design find evidence in the lack of evidence. Where science is at a persistent loss to explain certain phenomena, Intelligent Design devotees find nothing less than the hand of God.

"People are recognizing that classical Darwinism is in trouble.. has got a problem," said Christopher Macosko, a professor of chemical engineering and material design at the University of Minnesota.

Macosko is also a devout, born-again Christian. Seven years ago Macosko started teaching a course called "Origins: By Chance or Design," in which he introduces challenges to the established theories every Minnesota public school student learns as the basis of life on Earth.

"In my class we never say, 'It must be this if we don't know that,' because we're trying to look at the science," Macosko said. "I think what we can say is given the probabilistic resources, given the time we think when life began and chemical reactions we know and the complexity of the simplest molecules, there is no theory."

Macosko said he doesn't teach Intelligent Design, or ID, but it's one of several topics discussed. His approach is closely aligned with that of Seattle's Discovery Institute, a Christian-founded think tank which promotes Intelligent Design.

In 2003, Macosko worked to change Minnesota's science standards to address what he contends are scientific weaknesses of modern evolutionary theory. For Macosko, it's a matter of critical thinking.

"The nature of science is to use naturalistic explanations," Macosko said. "The only thing I suggest is, at the right point it is appropriate for an instructor to indicate where science is limited. To admit what we don't know."

This explanation sounds simple enough. But a closer look reveals a radical departure from the keystone of science. If you're not using a naturalistic explanation, then your alternative, as Macosko suggests, is a supernatural one. This is the kind of talk that gets U of M - Morris biology professor P.Z. Myers worked up.

"There is no controversy about Intelligent Design," Myers told a packed lecture hall at the university's physics department. "There is no evidence of Intelligent Design. Period. Intelligent Design is based on assertions."

Myers is generally good-humored and soft-spoken, but he writes a fiery blog called Pharyngula.com. He said what Intelligent Design and other anti-evolutionary attacks have in common is they're not science.

"What Intelligent Designers are doing is short-circuiting the process," Myers said. "OK, the conclusion is: a designer did it. And they justify it by nit-picking at evolutionary biology."

Intelligent Design, while almost always promoted by evangelical Christians, explicitly avoids the mention of God and religion. Either way, Myers said, it's a leap of faith.

"(This is) science with a daddy who's going to help you out," Myers said. "There's just no evidence for dad. Sorry."

We start with the existence of God, and that's irrefutable.
- Bethel University biology professor Tim Shaw

Myers said Macosko lends credibility to such questionable ideas. The university has not acted on his call to censure Macosko for his origins-of-life course.

The public sorely needs educating on the basics of evolution, Myers said. Despite more than a century of study into Darwinian theory, the vast majority of Americans maintain a belief in a more spiritual origin of humans.

A Harris Poll from this year shows 64 percent of adults in the U.S. agree that "human beings were created directly from God". Fifty-four percent think humans did not develop from earlier species. That number is up 8 percent from a decade ago.

Myers said perhaps established theory is too hard for people to face.

"Evolutionary biology is saying there is no directing intelligence, there is no big plan for the human race, we're a lucky accident, that species go extinct and maybe we could go extinct someday," Myers said. "So it's a kind of amplified mortality -- that it's not just, you are going to die, but your entire species may die sometime. I think a lot of people think that's sort of terrifying."

Another U of M professor, Jim Kakalios, attributed the chasm between established scientific thought and people's spiritual beliefs to an inability of scientists to adequately explain themselves.

"Science has gotten so hard and so complicated in the past 100 years," Kakalios said. "We've gotten so beyond the notion of mechanical devices that many people, one or two generations ago, could take apart and tinker with."

Like Myers, Kakalios believes there's no place in science for even the hint of religion. But Kakalios is able to find a bridge between the two.

"The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, contain all the answers we could look for to questions of the heart. But to the question of how the world actually works, it has been shown to be inadequate," Kakalios said. "I would no more look to design a cellphone by consulting scripture than I would ask the question of how I would treat my fellow man by looking in a calculus textbook." Christian instruction is also building bridges from the other direction.

Bethel University, a Baptist General Convention school in Arden Hills, offers a major in biology. Bethel professor Tim Shaw said he wants his students to be competitive with those from other colleges. If not, their credits won't transfer to other schools and graduates will have trouble finding jobs in the sciences.

At the same time, Shaw said, they don't leave their faith at the classroom door. Students and faculty pledge their belief that the Bible is the ultimate authority.

"My bias is you're most likely to believe that (God is the creator), because at Bethel we hold that as central to who we are," Shaw said. "We start with the existence of God and that's irrefutable."

As opposed to Macosko's situation, Shaw would face criticism for leaving religion out of the equation. Shaw said ideas like Intelligent Design are interesting, but its drive to find scientific evidence for a creator is a shaky ladder for a faithful person.

"You have this thing you hang your faith on, this little bit of proof. And then someone comes up with a naturalistic explanation that sounds perfectly reasonable, and all of a sudden that creates a faith crisis," Shaw said. "I think that can be a dangerous thing. A healthy understanding of God's involvement doesn't hinge on a particular scientific proof."

The infusion of religion with science -- like at Bethel -- may not always have the results you would expect.

Recently, college students Becky Eggimann took time to explain a sophisticated mosaic of dots and circles on her computer monitor. They represent molecules she guides through an imaginary obstacle course. The results inform researchers about molecule movement in real life.

Eggimann is a devout Christian and a graduate of the Christian Wheaton College in Illinois. She ended up at the decidedly-more-secular University of Minnesota for graduate work in computational chemistry. As her science education progressed, she wrestled with her own Christian beliefs, instilled while growing up in southwestern Minnesota.

"At the time I was very much like, 'No, evolution has to be wrong, I can't believe I have to learn this,'" she remembered. "But then going to college, and being at a prestigious Christian college and having Christian professors say, 'Yeah, evolution can be OK,' and thinking, 'Oh, wow.'"

Eggimann said she is sympathetic toward people who maintain a biblical view of human creation because she used to be one of them. But, she said, it's just not scientific.

"Christians and other religious people who are not uncomfortable with evolution are not speaking out, are not really showing that as a viable option. They're the quiet ones. The loud ones are the ones who think evolution proves there is no God, and others who say the earth (was made) in six days. Those are the voices you hear a lot of."

Eggimann said she feels a responsibility to share the benefits of her education. In the meantime, she has no problem maintaining her faith alongside her expanding scientific knowledge.

N.C. man was at core of Pa. "intelligent design" debate


12/27/2005 10:58 AM By: Associated Press

(HARRISBURG, Pa.) - A man who now lives in Mount Airy was at the center of the Pennsylvania school lawsuit that ended in defeat for advocates of teaching intelligent design in science classes.

William Buckingham says he has no regrets about pushing the change in science curriculum in the Dover, Pennsylvania, schools that promoted "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution.

He insists the Constitution says nothing about requiring a separation between church and state.

Buckingham served as the Pennsylvania school board's curriculum chairman and admitted in one televised interview that he thought evolution lessons should be balanced with something like creationism.

He was reprimanded by a federal judge for concealing religious motives when the Dover school board adopted the first-in-the-nation policy.

U.S. District Judge John Jones said in his opinion last week that Buckingham and the Dover school board's president tried to conceal the source of some of the money used to buy copies of a book promoting intelligent design.

Buckingham collected money to buy the book for school libraries from members of his church.

Buckingham resigned from the Pennsylvania school board in August. Voters in Dover last month swept out most of the other incumbents.

The Pennsylvania town's new school board is considering placing intelligent design in an elective social studies class so that the concept can be taught legally.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

Milk Thistle May Not Cut Liver Disease


Researchers: No Evidence So Far That Herb Offers Benefits for Liver Disease Patients By Miranda Hitti

WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD on Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dec. 27, 2005 -- If milk thistle curbs liver disease, science hasn't adequately proven it yet, according to a report in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Doctors from California and Europe reached that conclusion after reviewing 13 studies of milk thistle. No significant liver benefits were seen in patients with liver disease who took milk thistle.

But, the doctors aren't totally shutting the door on milk thistle. Better studies are needed, write Andrea Rambaldi, MD, and colleagues.

Rambaldi works in Denmark at Copenhagen University Hospital. Other doctors who worked on the report are on staff at the University of California, San Francisco and San Giuseppe Moscati Hospital in Avellino, Italy.

About Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a flowering herb. It is touted for protecting the liver and boosting liver function.

A compound in milk thistle seeds is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules containing powdered herb or seed, extracts, and infusions (strong teas), states the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

The NCCAM is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is funding research on milk thistle. "To date, there is no conclusive evidence to prove its claimed uses," states the NCCAM's web site.

Quality Questions

The 13 trials had a combined total of 915 patients. All of the patients had liver disease caused by alcoholism and/or hepatitis B or C.

The trials, which were completed by December 2003, compared milk thistle to a fake drug (placebo). Treatments lasted an average of six months. The general quality of the trials was described as "low" by the researchers.

Patients taking milk thistle didn't show any liver benefits.

Significantly fewer patients taking milk thistle died from liver problems. But that pattern didn't hold in high-quality trials, write Rambaldi and colleagues.

If milk thistle wasn't helpful, it also wasn't harmful. Milk thistle didn't appear to worsen anyone's liver disease. It wasn't linked to any increased risk of side effects studied by Rambaldi's team.

Many studies were poorly designed, so better trials should be done, they write.

Meanwhile, the NCCAM reminds patients to talk to their doctors about their use of any herbal or dietary supplements, including milk thistle.

SOURCES: Rambaldi, A. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, November 2005; vol 100: p 2583. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, "Herbs at a Glance: Milk Thistle."

Sask. residents turning to alternative medicine


Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Twelve years ago, Leslie Spokes was skeptical about alternative medicine. That was until she tripped on a curb and threw her spine out of whack, leaving her head feeling crooked.

A neighbour insisted she see a chiropractor, and she's been going ever since.

"I think people are getting frustrated with what we call traditional medicine," Spokes said. "They're tired of taking pills for everything. And I'm tired of the waits and non-permanent solutions."

According to statistics compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Saskatchewan, along with Alberta, has the highest utilization rate in the country of complementary and alternative medicine. Sixteen per cent of Saskatchewan residents, about 159,000 people, turn to techniques like acupuncture, reflexology, Reiki, naturopathy and herbal supplements for prevention and treatment of health problems. The national average is about 12 per cent.

Peter Hall, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Saskatchewan and an expert in health psychology, said there's many reasons why Saskatchewan people turn to alternative medicine more than their Canadian counterparts.

For one, the generally accepted view of "medicine" is often limited to conventional western medicine, a view that excludes traditional aboriginal healing.

"Because we have a much larger proportional representative of aboriginal people in this province, it may appear as though we have more people using alternative approaches, but they may not be from other places," Hall said.

Turning to alternative medicine could also be an expression of frustration with how well conventional medicine relieves symptoms. "People sometimes believe that 'natural' medicine is somehow safer or will work better than synthetic, so even if they haven't tried all of the viable alternatives offered by medicine, they will still opt for a substitute by a more natural approach," Hall said.

In an age when busy doctors don't always have the time for a long conversation with patients, some may turn to alternative medicine for more attention, Hall said.

"If there's one thing we've learned about healing over the years, it's that a lot of it is in the relationship between the provider and the patient," he said.

"The relationship seems to have been increasingly sacrificed in our more traditional approaches in the last 50 years to the point where it's fairly minimal, whereas it's the very thing these other approaches will tend to maximize."

Saskatoon Reiki practitioner and reflexologist Mariette Rivard said she often sees patients who feel the medical system isn't meeting their needs or wants. Reflexology is the practice of using pressure points on the feet to stimulate other parts of the body.

During Reiki, Rivard places her hands on her client's head and other body parts and holds it there, feeling warmth and energy tingling into her hand. A session can take as long as an hour. "When you do Reiki, you're not only treating the physical person, you're treating the mental, emotional and the spiritual," she said. "The whole person is always integrating all these levels of healing."

Spokes said she also turned to acupuncture after endless pills she was popping for sinus headaches were ineffective. It worked, she said, and the relief she experienced convinced her to keep seeing an acupuncturist. "I think putting drugs in your body should be a last resort," she said.

Spokes does say she was a little nervous during her first treatment.

"The first (needle) usually goes into the top of your head and that's like, 'Oh, weird,' into your skull, and the other ones (go) around your face and they're on these sinus points, and all these needles are poking out of your face," she said. "You can see some of them out of the corner of your eye and it's sort of weird."

Alana Barmby, a naturopath and president of the Saskatchewan Association of Naturopathic Practitioners, says what draws patients is their approach of examining the body and its environment as a whole. Naturopathy is about maintaining good health rather than treating symptoms as an isolated problem, she said. "I feel that conventional medicine is very reactive," she said. "And I feel that people in Saskatchewan are wanting to be proactive in health care."

Many of the province's early immigrants were Europeans who had longstanding cultural traditions of using natural medicine, she said. "Because of our strong agricultural ties, we're kind of connected to the land," she said. "I think then for our medicine to come from nature, it just feels right."

There's no one right alternative approach for each ailment, practitioners say. Acupuncturist Valerie Pankiw said acupuncture can be used for a range of problems, and most come for treatment when a friend or family recommends it. While acupuncture won't cure a serious disease like cancer, she said it may help a patient with some of the side effects they experience from chemotherapy or radiation.

About 80 per cent of the clients she sees experience relief, and those who don't often aren't following through on their treatments.

"It's expensive," she said, because an initial treatment can cost $50 or more, with additional treatments at about $35.

"They start adding it up and go, 'Holy smokes, that's $300.'Well, yeah, it is, but if you're better, isn't it worth $300?"

Although Saskatchewan Health covers about half the cost of a chiropractor visit, patients are usually on their own to foot the bill. Some private insurance companies do cover some treatments, but it depends on factors such as what the problem is, how it originated and whether the practitioner is licenced.


© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2005

Creationism redux OUR OPINION: RULING KEEPS RELIGIOUS THEORY OUT OF CLASSROOMCalling intelligent design ''creationism relabeled,'' federal Judge John Jones III last week rightly ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Dover, Pa., School Board to require the theory to be discussed in science classes. Intelligent design is the belief that life is too complex to have evolved, that instead it was created an intelligent being. Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by President Bush, ruled that it is based on religion not science. This is fine. But schools should find a way to offer some exposure of the idea.


Posted on Tue, Dec. 27, 2005

The judge's 139-page ruling won't end attempts to get intelligent design taught alongside evolution, but it clearly lays out the case for why these efforts should be vigorously rebuffed. The heart of his ruling is in this paragraph: ``To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.''

By linking intelligent design to creationism, Judge Jones bolsters the case for teaching it in a religious or social-studies class. In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court banned the teaching of creationism, which is based on a biblical account of how life began, in science classes in public school.

Judge Jones chastised the Dover School Board, which was voted out of office in November, writing: ``The students, parents and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.''

School boards should take note of his cautions.

Scopes trial issues remain


Dominated by Katrina, 2005 didn't allow much time to reflect on historical anniversaries. But the closing of the year has brought fresh reminders of at least one such anniversary.

The year 2005 marked the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial. In 1925, in the small Tennessee town of Dayton, schoolteacher John Scopes was brought to trial after he was accused of violating a state law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools.

The ensuing battle between Scopes' defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, and the chief prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan, drew international attention. Bryan, a former presidential candidate known for his populist politics and silver tongue, also had developed a reputation in the autumn of his life as a fiery critic of evolution. Darrow was a renowned agnostic who was famous for defending unpopular causes.

The face-off between Bryan and Darrow also prompted the first modern media trial, as readers have been reminded this season in "Mencken," a biography of the most prominent journalist at the trial, Henry Louis Mencken.

Mencken, a sharp-witted gadfly with little patience for organized religion, threw journalistic convention to the wind by not only covering the Scopes trial, but participating in it as an adviser to Darrow. As "Mencken" author Marion Elizabeth Rodgers points out, the celebrity presence of Mencken, Bryan and Darrow made the Scopes trial a media circus.

"A loft above the hardware store became a makeshift pressroom," writes Rodgers. "Because Dayton was miles from a telegraph line, wires were now strung to accommodate the 30 operators sent by Western Union. The telephone company and post office hired additional staff, and a bank of phone booths for the reporters was installed outside the courtroom. ... WGN, the radio voice of the Chicago Tribune, arranged for the first time to broadcast the entire trial live, through special phone lines costing $1,000 a day."

Scopes was convicted during the trial, but his fine eventually was voided on a technicality. Darrow would continue as a critic of anti-evolution laws, as readers are reminded in a newly published collection of writings, "Clarence Darrow on Religion, Law, and Society."

"The fundamentalist does not quibble or dodge," Darrow wrote in 1927. "He is using every means in his power to place the Bible and his interpretation of religion in the field of learning. The battle has been fought many times in the history of the world. Once more the combat is upon us."

Those skirmishes continue today, as evidenced by this year's highly publicized disputes over intelligent design. The theory of intelligent design, dismissed by critics as warmed-over creationism, holds that living organisms are so complex that a higher force must have created them.

A Pennsylvania public school district recently announced that it will abandon its practice of teaching intelligent design before lessons on evolution after a federal judge ruled that the concept is "the progeny of creationism." The intelligent design movement also is waging prominent battles in Georgia and Kansas.

We believe that intelligent design is a matter of faith that should not be mingled with scientific instruction in the classroom. And we do not believe the late Darrow would be surprised to learn that 80 years after the Scopes trial, the clash between religion and science in American public schools shows no signs of going away.

Schools are not Congress


Article Last Updated: 12/26/2005 10:56:31 PM

Federal Judge John Jones' ruling that intelligent design cannot be taught in public schools in Pennsylvania is flawed and not in the interest of justice. The real issue here is whether or not teaching intelligent design and/or creationism in public schools actually violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in the first place.

The concerned portion of First Amendment simply states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . "

Note that public schools are not the Congress, and science teachers presenting various origin ideas are certainly not the U.S. Congress making any law of any sort. I think Judge Jones' judgment was not wellthought out in this case.

Besides, there is already a theory that covers this issue. It's the second law of the universe entitled "The Universal Law of Creativity" which simply states, "Intelligence is more creative than chance." Chance can't even create a paper cup!

Merlin Ross

Creationism museum on track to open in '07


By Luke E. Saladin Post staff reporter

As donations continue to come in, supporters of a creationism museum in Northern Kentucky say they are still on track to meet their goal of opening in the spring of 2007.

Mike Zovath, a charter member of Answers in Genesis ministry and director of museum construction, said the complex's bookstore and planetarium should be completed by February.

A team of about 40 people, including graphic artists and designers, is also completing another batch of multi-media displays and models.

The museum, located off the Petersburg exit of Interstate 275 in Boone County, will include exhibits, presentations and other events that promote literal interpretations of the Bible.

Many of the exhibits will center on the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, using evidence that the ministry believes supports the view that God created the world in six days about 6,000 years ago.

"The ministry is about proclaiming the absolute authority of the Bible," Zovath said. "The museum focuses on the debate over evolution, which has become a heated topic in recent years."

The museum expects to attract about 100,000 visitors a year.

Because Answers in Genesis is building the museum entirely with donations, construction progresses only as funds become available. But so far, there have been no construction delays due to lack of funds.

Since it announced plans for the museum in the mid-1990s, the ministry has raised more than $19 million for the project. Zovath said another $6 million is needed to complete the work.

In addition to the museum, the complex also includes offices for the ministry and its staff of about 100 people. In total, the complex is about 95,000 square feet, of which 50,000 square feet is devoted to the museum.

The buildings were completed in September 2002, and officials have been working ever since on the interior, including the numerous exhibits. The museum will feature animatronic dinosaurs and state-of-the-art models and graphics, and have about a half-dozen scientists on staff.

One of the displays features baby dinosaurs riding in Noah's ark.

According to a CBS poll of 885 adults conducted in November 2004, 55 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their current form. About 35 percent believed creationism, not evolution, should be taught in school.

Answers in Genesis was founded in 1993 by Australian Ken Ham, after he left the San Diego-based Institute for Creation Research, a think-tank for creationist teachings.

The organization's Web site, answersingenesis.org, is one of the most popular religious sites on the Internet. The ministry's book, "Refuting Evolution" has sold more than 350,00 copies and every year it ships thousands of books and videos on the topic. It also has a monthly newsletter.

Publication date: 12-27-2005

SPIEGEL Interview with Evolution Philosopher Daniel Dennett


Forwarded by Paul Moor

"Darwinism Completely Refutes Intelligent Design"

Intelligent Design is once again making headlines in the United States. But what is the attraction? Daniel Dennett spoke with SPIEGEL about the attraction of creationism, how religion itself succumbs to Darwinian ideas, and the social irresponsibility of the religious right in America.

Can Darwinism explain the creation of the universe as well?

SPIEGEL: Professor Dennett, more than 120 million Americans believe that Adam was created by God some 10,000 years ago out of mud and Eva from his rib. Do you personally know any of these 120 million?

Dennett: Yes. But people who are creationists are usually not interested in talking about it. Those who are actually enthusiastic about Intelligent Design, though, would talk endlessly. And what I learned about them is that they are filled with misinformation. But they've encountered this misinformation in very plausible sources. It's not just their pastor that tells them this. They go out and they buy books that are published by main line publishers. Or they go on Web sites and they see very clever propaganda that is put out by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which is financed by the religious right.

SPIEGEL: In the center of the debate is the idea of evolution. Why is it that evolution seems to produce much more opposition than any other scientific theory such as the Big Bang or quantum mechanics?

Dennett: I think it is because evolution goes right to the heart of the most troubling discovery in science of the last few hundred years. It counters one of the oldest ideas we have, maybe older even than our species.

SPIEGEL: Which is what exactly?

Dennett: It's the idea that it takes a big fancy smart thing to make a lesser thing. I call that the trickle-down theory of creation. You'll never see a spear making a spear maker. You'll never see a horse shoe making a blacksmith. You'll never see a pot making a potter. It is always the other way around and this is so obvious that it just seems to stand a reason.

SPIEGEL: You think this idea was already present in apes?

Dennett: Maybe in Homo Habilus, the handyman, who began making stone tools some 2 million years ago. They had a sense of being more wonderful that their artifacts. So the idea of a creator that is more wonderful than the things he creates is, I think, a very deeply intuitive idea. It is exactly this idea that promoters of Intelligent Design speak to when they ask, 'did you ever see a building that didn't have a maker, did you ever see a painting that didn't have a painter.' That perfectly captures this deeply intuitive idea that you never get design for free.

SPIEGEL: An ancient theological argument...

Dennett: ... which Darwin completely impugns with his theory of natural selection. And he shows, hell no, not only can you get design from un-designed things, you can even get the evolution of designers from that un-design. You end up with authors and poets and artists and engineers and other designers of things, other creators -- very recent fruits of the tree of life. And it challenges people's sense that life has meaning.

SPIEGEL: Even the spirit of humans -- his soul -- is produced in this manner?

Dennett: Yes. As a multi-cellular, mobile life form, you need a mind because you have to look out where you are going. You have got to have a nervous system, which can extract information from the world fast and can refine that information and put it to use quickly to guide your behavior. The basic problematic for all animals is finding what they need and avoiding what could hurt them and doing it faster than the opposition. Darwin understood this law and understood that this development has been going on for hundreds of millions of years producing ever more android minds.

SPIEGEL: But still, something out of the ordinary happened when humans came along.

Dennett: Indeed. Humans discovered language -- an explosive acceleration of the powers of minds. Because now you cannot just learn from your own experience, but you can learn vicariously from the experience of everybody else. From people that you never met. From ancestors long dead. And human culture itself becomes a profound evolutionary force. That is what gives us an epistemological horizon and which is far, far greater than that of any other species. We are the only species that knows who we are, that knows that we have evolved. Our songs, art, books and religious beliefs are all ultimately a product of evolutionary algorithms. Some find that thrilling, others depressing.

SPIEGEL: Nowhere does evolution become so apparent than in the DNA code. Nevertheless, those who believe in Intelligent Design find the DNA code less problematic than the ideas of Darwin. Why is that?

Dennett: I don't know, because it seems to me that the very best evidence we have for the truth of Darwin's theory is the evidence that arrives every day from bioinformatics, from understanding the DNA-coding. The critics of Darwinism just don't want to confront the fact that molecules, enzymes and proteins lead to thought. Yes, we have a soul, but it's made up of lots of tiny robots.

SPIEGEL: You don't think it's possible to leave life to the biologists, but let religion take care of the soul?

Dennett: That's what Pope John Paul II was demanding when he issued his oft quoted cyclical in which he said that evolution was a fact, but he went right on to say: except of on the matter of the human soul. That might make some content, but it is just false. It would be just as false to say: Our bodies are made up of biological material, except, of course, the pancreas. The brain is no more wonder tissue than the lungs or the liver. It's just a tissue.

SPIEGEL: Darwin's ideas have been misused by racists and eugenicists. Is this also one of the reasons that Darwinism is so energetically attacked?

Dennett: Yes. I think the gentler way of putting it is that the Darwinian idea is very simple -- you can explain it to somebody in a minute. But for that very reason, it is also extremely vulnerable to caricature and misuse. I very patiently teach my students the basics of evolutionary theory and then I have to go back and clean up after myself, because they get very enthusiastic about it and they keep falling into these misunderstandings. Darwinism is mind candy, it's delicious. But the thing is, having too much candy can distract from the truth. And that can play into the hands of people who are racist or sexist. So you have to maintain a sort of intellectual hygiene at all times.

SPIEGEL: It seems that everything -- from adultery to rape to murder -- is being analyzed in the light of evolution these days. How can one separate serious research from the candy?

Religion must be incomprehensible to be successful, says Dennett.

Dennett: You have to be a meticulous gatherer of the relevant facts and you have to marshal those facts in such a way that you have a testable hypothesis that could actually be confirmed or disproved. That's what Darwin did.

SPIEGEL: Your colleague Michael Ruse has accused you of stepping out of the field of science and into social science and religion with your theories. He's even said you are thus inadvertently aiding the Intelligent Design movement.

Dennett: Michael is just trying to put the implications of Darwin's insights into soft focus and to reassure people that there is not as much conflict between the perspective of evolutionary biology and their traditional ways of thinking.

SPIEGEL: And what about the accusation that you are aiding Intelligent Design?

Dennett: There is probably an element of truth to it. I've just finished writing a book in which I look at religion from the perspective of evolutionary biology. I think you can, should, and even must take this route. Others say 'no, hands off! Just don't let evolution get anywhere near the social sciences.' I think that's terrible advice. The idea that we should protect the social sciences and humanity from evolutionary thinking is a recipe for disaster.


Dennett: I would give Darwin the gold metal for the best idea anybody ever had. It unifies the world of meaning and purpose and goals and freedom with the world of science, with the world of the physical sciences. I mean, we talk about the great gap between social science and natural science. What closes that gap? Darwin -- by showing us how purpose and design, meaning, can arise out of purposelessness, out of just brute matter.

SPIEGEL: Is Darwinism at work every time something new is created? Even at the creation of the universe for example?

DNA research, says Dennett, provides the most convincing arguments against creationism.

Dennett: It's at least interesting to see that quasi- or pseudo-Darwinian ideas are also popular in physics. They postulate a huge diversity from which there has, in a certain sense, been a selection. The result is that here we are and this is the only part of this huge diversity that we witness. That's not the Darwinian idea, but it's a relative. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had the idea -- I would guess perhaps inspired by Darwin -- of eternal recurrence: The idea that all the possibilities are played out and if the time is infinite and matter is infinite then every permutation will be tried, not once, but a trillion times.

SPIEGEL: Another idea of Darwin's was that God is dead. Is that also a logical conclusion reached by Darwinism?

Dennett: It is very clearly a consequence. The argument for design, I think, has always been the best argument for the existence of God and when Darwin comes along he pulls the rug out from under that.

SPIEGEL: Evolution, in other words, leaves no room for God?

Dennett: One has to understand that God's role has been diminished over the eons. First we had God, as you said, making Adam and making every creature with his hands, plucking the rib from Adam and making Eve from that rib. Then we trade that God in for the God who sets evolution in motion. And then you say you don't even need that God -- the law giver -- because if we take these ideas from cosmology seriously then there are other places and other laws and life evolves where it can. So now we no longer have God the law finder or the law giver, but just God the master of ceremonies. When God is the master of ceremonies and doesn't actually play any role any more in the universe, he's sort of diminished and no longer intervenes in any way.

SPIEGEL: How is it, then, that many natural scientists are religious? How does that go together with their work?

Dennett: It goes together by not looking too closely at how it goes together. It's a trick we can all do. We all have our ways of compartmentalizing our lives so that we confront contradictions as seldom as possible.

SPIEGEL: But this compartmentalizing has a positive side as well: Natural science talks about life whereas religion deals with the meaning of life.

Dennett: Fine. A boundary. But the trouble is that the boundary moves. And as it moves, the job description for God shrinks. I, too, stand in awe of the universe. It's wonderful, I'm so happy to be here, I think it's a great place for all its faults, I love being alive. The problem is: There's nobody to be grateful to. There's nobody to express my gratitude to.

SPIEGEL: But religion surely gives us moral standards and provides guidance on how to behave?

Dennett: If that's what religion does, then I don't think it is such a silly idea. But it doesn't. Religions at their best serve as excellent social organizers. They make moral teamwork a much more effective force than it otherwise would be. This however is a two-edged sword. Because moral team work depends to a very large degree on ceding your own moral judgment to the authority of the group. And that can be extremely dangerous, as we know.

SPIEGEL: But religion still helps us to set moral standards.

Dennett: But are we only morally good so that we get rewarded in heaven; so that God will punish us for our sins and reward us for good behavior? I find this idea extremely patronizing. It is offensive in that it suggests that that's the only reason people are moral. Do we only, for example, behave well to get 76 virgins in paradise? That's an idea that many in the West would scoff at.

SPIEGEL: Why then do pretty much all cultures have religion?

Dennett: I think the answer to that question is partly historical in the sense that traditions that survive evolve adaptations for surviving. So that religions themselves are extremely well designed cultural phenomena that have evolved to survive.

SPIEGEL: Like a biological species. Does religion provide us a moral roadmap?

Dennett: Absolutely. A religion's design is completely unconscious in exactly the way the design of animals and plants is completely unconscious.

SPIEGEL: Do successful religions have similar features?

Dennett: They all have to have features for prolonging their own identity -- and a lot of these are actually interestingly similar to what you find in biology too.

SPIEGEL: Can you give an example?

Dennett: Many religions started before there was writing. How do you get high-fidelity preservation of texts before you have texts? Group singing and recitation are efficient mechanisms for maintaining and spreading information. And then we have other features too, like you really want to make sure there are some parts of religion that are really incomprehensible.


Dennett: Because then people have to fall back on rote memorization. The very idea of the Eucharist is a lovely example: The idea that the bread is symbolic of the body of Christ, that the wine is symbolic of the blood of Christ, that's just not exciting enough. The idea needs to be made strictly incomprehensible: The bread is Christ's body and the wine is his blood. Only then will it hold your attention. Then it will win in competition against more boring ideas simply because you can't quite get your head around it. It's sort of like when you have a sore tooth and you can't keep your tongue off it. Every good Muslim is supposed to pray five times a day no matter what.

SPIEGEL: You see that too as an evolutionary strategy to keep the religion alive?

Dennett: It's very possible. The Israeli evolutionary biologist Amotz Zahavi argues that behaviors which are costly -- which are hard to imitate -- are those that can best be handed down because non-costly signals can and will be faked. This principle of costly behaviors is well established in biology and it is present in religion. It is important to make sacrifices. The costliness is a feature you tamper with at your peril. If the imams got together and decided to remove that feature they would be damaging one of the most powerful adaptations of Islam.

SPIEGEL: By using this type of argumentation, can you predict which religions will win out in the end?

Dennett: My colleagues Rodney Stark and Roger Finke have researched why some religions spread quickly and others don't. They're adapting supply-side economics to this and saying that there's a sort of unlimited market for what religions can give but only if they're costly. So they have an explanation for why the very bland and liberal Protestant religions are losing members and why the most extreme, intense religions are gaining members.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for why the belief in Intelligent Design is nowhere so widespread as in the United States?

Dennett: No, unfortunately I don't. But I can say, the alliance between fundamentalists or evangelical religion and right-wing politics is a very troubling phenomenon and this is certainly one of the most potent reasons for it. What's really scary is that a lot of them seem to think that the second coming is around the corner -- the idea that we're going to have Armageddon anyway so it doesn't make much difference. I find that to be socially irresponsible on the highest order. It's scary.

SPIEGEL: Professor Dennett, thank you very much for this interview.

Interview conducted by Jörg Blech and Johann Grolle

DANIEL DENNETT Daniel Dennett is considered one of the most passionate supporters of Darwinism. In a number of books, the philosophy professor from Tufts University in Massachusetts has described humans, the human soul and culture as natural products of the primordial soup. In his new book, "Breaking the Spell," which will be published by the New York publishing house Viking in February, Dennett, 63, explains - - from the perspective of evolution - - why radical religions are so successful.

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