NTS LogoSkeptical News for 11 January 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Scientologist director slams psychiatry


Posted on Wed, Jan. 11, 2006 Associated Press

WASHINGTON - When Joseph Feshbach, a Scientologist, joined QuadraMed Corp.'s board in 2001 he didn't think the health-care information technology company would ever involve itself with the "pseudo-science" of psychiatry.

So when the company decided to market its pharmacy software to psychiatric hospitals, Feshbach quit.

"Psychiatry is a pseudo-science and its practices, including the widespread use of psychotropics, is leaving widespread misery and even death in its wake," Feshbach told the board in his resignation letter filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A spokeswoman for the Reston, Va., company declined to discuss Feshbach's decision.

Feshbach, a member of the Church of Scientology, told Dow Jones Newswires "I didn't expect something like this to happen."

Like other adherents to Scientology, Feshbach is opposed to the practice of psychiatry, including drug treatments for depression and other psychological disorders.

Scientology's objections to psychiatry got mainstream exposure in June 2005 with a denunciation of the profession by Scientologist Tom Cruise on The Today Show. Feshbach, however, said his resignation was a result of his personal belief and not his adherence to Scientology.

"(Quadramed's decision) conflicted with a moral standard of mine," he said.

Feshbach has been a Scientologist since he was 18 years old, and attributes his successes in life and business to the religion, according to his personal Web site. For over 20 years, Feshbach has also been an investor, both personally and as a fund manager.

From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, he managed an investment fund based on a method he describes as "informational short selling." Investors who sell securities "short" borrow stock and sell it, betting the stock's price will fall, allowing them to buy the shares back later at a lower price for return to the lender.

In April 2005, Feshbach launched Joe Feshbach Partners, an investment fund that focuses on troubled companies in a strategy he calls "Crisis Investing," which he has been using for investing his own money since 2000.

Feshbach said all investors have moral standards, and he uses his own standards in his investments, just as he did in deciding to step down from QuadraMed's board.

"It is important to align one's strategy for making money with one's own standard for what's right or wrong," he said.

Intelligent Design: Skeptical Thoughts about the Skepticism (2)


by Gordon Brumm

In my last column I distinguished between evolution and natural selection, which is the supposed mechanism by which evolution is accomplished. Evolution is established beyond question, in my opinion, but not natural selection. The crucial question is: What is the cause of evolution—natural selection? Intelligent Design? something else?

I bemoaned the weakness of some of the arguments put forth by those scientists who argue for natural selection against Intelligent Design, and I critically examined three of their claims: that Intelligent Design is inherently unscientific; that to abandon natural selection would be to abandon the basic framework of biology; and that we see natural selection all around us as in the genesis of new strains of germs.

In this column I will look at some other points that make me dubious about the natural-selection position.

The Case of the Peppered Moth. As a theory, natural selection has an obvious weakness, namely, that it is difficult if not impossible to prove. To demonstrate decisively that natural selection is the cause of evolution, we have to manipulate nature in such a way as to show that evolutionary change occurs when, and only when, natural selection occurs. That is a tough assignment.

So the world of biology was thrilled to learn of a set of experiments performed in 1953 by an English doctor-turned-naturalist named Bernard Kettlewell.

Kettlewell's experiments involved the peppered moth, of which there were two forms. The more usual (called the "typical") is cream-colored. The other form is black (melanic). This melanic form had first appeared in Manchester, England, during the mid-1800s when the Industrial Revolution produced enormous clouds of pollution that literally blackened the atmosphere and the landscape. The melanic form thrived in these surroundings, and it seemed logical to suppose that it became predominant over the cream-colored form because in the dark soot-covered environment it was better able to survive and reproduce—in other words, through natural selection.

Kettlewell aimed to prove the truth of this supposition in a scientifically rigorous manner. His hypothesis was 1) the melanic moths would be better camouflaged on tree trunks that had been darkened by pollution, while the lighter cream-colored moths would be better camouflaged on trees in their original state, and 2) birds would eat a larger percentage of uncamouflaged moths. (Birds were the "agent of selection.") Therefore more melanic moths would survive in a polluted area, and more cream-colored moths would survive in a pristine area.

He conducted his experiment in two stages, one in a polluted area and one in a non-polluted area. First he marked a number of each kind of moth. Then he placed the moths of each kind on tree trunks. Finally, he recaptured the moths, noting how many of the marked and recaptured moths were lighter-colored and how many were melanic. (He assumed that the proportion of each kind of moth recaptured was equal to the proportion of that kind that had survived the assaults of birds.)

And sure enough, in the dark soot-covered environment, about twice as many melanic moths were recaptured, while in the pristine environment, about three times as many of the lighter-colored variety were recaptured! Each variety of peppered moth had won out (i.e. had been "selected") in its favored environment!

So the peppered moth became the prime exhibit for natural selection. Kettlewell's experiments were hailed as demonstrating natural selection in action and thereby proving that natural selection was indeed the engine of evolution. They became standard fare in textbooks, and biologists and biology teachers cited them as the proof of evolution through natural selection.

Let's pause and assume that these experiments are trustworthy. Then let's ask whether they do indeed prove that natural selection is the engine of evolution. Two points are worth noting:

1) A single set of experiments regarding a single instance of natural selection is cited as proof of the entire theory. This is a weak reed to rest the theory on, and the fact that the one set of experiments is made to bear such a heavy burden should be cause for suspicion.

2) The experiment shows us the proliferation of the melanic form of peppered moth, but tells us nothing about its origin. According to evolutionary theory, a new species begins with a random mutation that provides the means for an individual organism to thrive. But Kettlewell's experiments have nothing to do with the origin of the melanic peppered moths. These moths are already on the scene when he begins his experiments; for all we know, they could be the product of Intelligent Design.

So the Kettlewell experiments do little to prove the theory of natural selection, but they do much to show how the supporters of natural selection can jump to conclusions.

I get the impression that the scientists who support natural selection against Intelligent Design are very good at doing science, but not very good at thinking about science.

But in any case, Kettlewell's experiments were not what they seemed. Recent scrutiny has shown them to be deeply flawed at best, as described in Of Moths and Men by Judith Hooper. Here are some of the main defects, as described in her book:

The number of moths Kettlewell set on the trees was far above the number that would settle on the trees naturally (he set up a "bird feeder"); thus birds were much more attracted to them than in a natural setting. (pp. 243, 254)

The natural resting place for moths is not on the tree trunks, where Kettlewell placed them, but on the undersides of branches, where they would be less vulnerable. (p. 260)

Kettlewell twice changed his methodology during the course of the experiment when the results he was getting failed to match the results he expected and desired. (p. 254)

These flaws were summed up in the quip that Kettlewell's experiments demonstrated "unnatural selection." (pp. 267, 284)

Finally, the experiments have not been satisfactorily replicated. (p. 262-263)

In short, Kettlewell's experiments are not reliable, and even if they were reliable they would serve at most as an illustration of how natural selection might occur, not as proof that it is responsible for the entire process of evolution.

Random mutations. The theory of natural selection holds that new species originate when random mutations in the genes of one or a few individuals make these individuals better adapted to their environment.

But random mutations hardly ever occur. We don't see people or animals randomly born with two noses or three eyes. Could there be someone who engineers mutations to get just the ones that He, She, or It wants?

A scientist supporting natural selection might well reply by pointing to DNA and saying that mutations are not completely random but rather can occur only at some definite point on the DNA chain, within well-defined boundaries (e.g. lengthening a bird's bill, not creating a second bill). OK—that sounds reasonable. But let's keep the matter of random mutations in mind.

Then there's the flounder. The flounder is a fish that has both eyes on the same side of its head. That is to say, both eyes are on the same side when the flounder is an adult; when born, its two eyes are on the two sides of its head, and one eye migrates to the other side as the flounder grows up, thus recapitulating its evolution.

Both eyes on one side! If that isn't random mutation, what could be? So where are we on this matter of random mutation? If mutations aren't random, then how explain the flounder? If they are random, then why don't we see more of them?

What I have been trying to point out in these two columns is that opponents of Intelligent Design, in trying to dismiss that viewpoint out of hand, are in danger of replacing religious dogmatism with their own kind of scientific dogmatism. But perhaps this is because they are attacking Intelligent Design at the wrong point.

Although proponents of Intelligent Design may well be sincere in their claims to be doing science, it is clear that they have an extended agenda—they want to prove the existence of an Intelligent Designer because they believe the Intelligent Designer is the Christian God.

Their argument, in effect, is twofold: An Intelligent Designer is responsible for the existence of the species AND the Intelligent Designer is the Christian God. (I would be willing to bet that the proponents' scientific zeal would diminish radically if they had to abandon the second step of their argument.)

In fairness, we should consider the second step as well as the first. Proponents say that the facts of the world imply that there is an Intelligent Designer. If this is true, then what kind of world has the Designer designed? Do the facts of the world also imply that the Intelligent Designer is the Christian God?

I hesitate to go down this road, because in the back of my mind I hear voices saying that I will be attacking the main fabric of many people's lives. But perhaps we have been over-reticent in matters concerning organized religion, and thereby have not only discouraged frank discussion but also provided a sanctuary from which the Religious Right can sally forth to ravage our civic life. So maybe it's time to put truth above courtesy.

At issue is the hypothesis that the characteristics of the world around us show that the Intelligent Designer—assuming there is one—is the Christian God.

There is one insurmountable difficulty with this hypothesis. It is usually termed the Problem of Evil.

The Problem of Evil arises from the supposition that God is all-powerful and all-loving. In addition, He (or She or It) is presumed to be just and, as the Intelligent Designer, supremely intelligent. But these attributes—in particular being all-powerful and all-loving—are inconsistent with the presence of evil in the world. For if the Designer-God could abolish evil but does not, then He is not all-loving. If the Designer-God would like to abolish evil but cannot, then He is not all-powerful. However you look at it, the existence of the Christian Designer-God cannot be squared with the presence of evil in the world.

(For a much more eloquent statement of the problem, read the section titled "Rebellion" in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.)

The first line of defense against the Problem of Evil is that evil arises from mankind's misuse of the wonderful gift of free will. There are two fatal flaws in this defense, corresponding to the two types of evil—moral evil (arising from human choice) and natural evil (arising from natural events apart from human choice).

The first flaw is that this line of defense cannot explain natural evil. A six-year-old boy dies of leukemia. What choice has he made– or has anyone else made—that explains or justifies his suffering and death?

And as for moral evil, the suffering that follows from evil choices is all too often inflicted not on the evil-doer but on innocents. To take one gross and obvious example, the Nazis in World War II made many evil choices. Because of these choices the Germans bombed London and the Allies bombed Hamburg, Dresden and other German cities. Many innocent men, women and children were killed as a result. Are we to say that the death of these innocents is justified by the evil choices of the Nazis?—If so, where is the justice, and where is the love in a God that would allow the slaughter of innocents?

Original sin may be proposed as justification for the slaughter of innocents. The implication is that we are poor benighted creatures who deserve whatever affliction we may suffer, in total disregard of what we have done. Where is the loving God in this scenario? And where is the justice?

The second line of defense against the Problem of Evil is the claim that our earthly life is really unimportant; it is just a waiting-room, or testing-room, for the Afterlife. Thus it doesn't matter that innocent children die totally undeserved deaths, for they are merely going more quickly to their Heavenly reward. If you really believe this, you will get rid of your worldly possessions and retire to a monastery to prove your worthiness while awaiting your time. But more to the point, a God who would test some of us with overwhelming afflictions is a cruel God indeed.

The third line of defense is that the ways of God are a mystery. Bravo! I agree wholeheartedly. The trouble is that some (not all) who proclaim that God is a mystery turn right around and confidently assert that they know exactly how God wants us to live and whom he wants us to oppress.

Why can't those on both sides of the fence simply admit that we don't know?

08.29 AM / 11th January 2006.

AP Interview: Gov. repeats call for teaching intelligent design


Posted on Tue, Jan. 10, 2006

JOE BIESK Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The concept of "intelligent design" is not a question of religion and Kentucky's public school districts should consider teaching it along with other ideas of how the world began, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said Tuesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fletcher said he encouraged schools to teach the concept because it's "the foundational principal of our nation."

"Our inalienable rights are based on the self-evident truth of those endowed inalienable rights. And all I was saying is that from my perspective that's not a matter of faith and it's not a matter of religion," Fletcher said. "It's a matter of something called self-evident truth."

It was during the governor's State of the Commonwealth speech Monday night when Fletcher threw in a quick mention asking rhetorically, "What is wrong with teaching 'intelligent design' in our schools?" Fletcher said it was a matter of "self-evident truth."

Intelligent design attributes the existence of complex organisms to an unidentified intelligent cause. Meanwhile, the theory of evolution maintains that life evolved over time through natural selection.

"I think clearly there are some changes that have occurred over a period of time," Fletcher said. "Personally, I think that we were designed to improve based on our environment. It seems like we do have the capacity for adaptation."

The issue has led to lawsuits in other states, including Pennsylvania where last week a school district rescinded a policy requiring that intelligent design get equal billing with evolution in the classroom. A judge ruled the policy unconstitutional in December, saying the local school board's real purpose was "to promote religion in the public school classroom."

Fletcher said he wants school districts in Kentucky to approach the issue from a historical prospective, not a religious one. He said that's why he briefly mentioned intelligent design in his Monday night speech.

"What we have from our founding fathers is there was a creator and the assumption there and from self-evident truth was that that creator was an intelligent creator and that he endowed us with certain inalienable rights," Fletcher said, loosely quoting from the Declaration of Independece. "If you take away the fact of this basic understanding of our nation, what basis do you have inalienable rights placed on, which was the foundation of our nation? That's all I'm raising."

Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said state law specifically allows public schools to teach creationism, a concept similar to the intelligent design theory.

"But having said that, the decisions on what to teach in the classroom are made at the local level," Gross said. "Really, there are no limitations on the state level on what teachers teach."

State law says teachers dealing with evolution in the classroom may include instruction on Biblical creation, and may read passages from the Bible related to the belief of creation.

The law prohibits teachers from stressing any particular denominational religious belief.

Gross said the courses dealing with intelligent design aren't necessarily limited to science classes. Sometimes, she said, it is included in comparative religion courses.

"The folks who support intelligent design say it is not biblically based, that it does not relate specifically to the Christian faith," Gross said.

Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said arguments could be made that the terms creationism and intelligent design are interchangeable.

"It depends entirely on the definition used by the teacher," Hughes said. "It could mean the same thing.

Hughes said it appears few school districts are taking advantage of the law, which was first adopted in 1976 and readopted in 1990 under the Kentucky Education Reform Act. The state law has never been tested in the courts, he said.

A recent e-mail survey turned up no school districts where intelligent design was a routine part of the curriculum.

"If it's going on, it's very limited," Hughes said. "We've gotten no phone calls in our legal section on this issue. I feel like if it was going on much at all, we would have had inquiries."

Jerry Gels, a science teacher at Lloyd Memorial High School in Erlanger, said he deals with the issue of intelligent design and creationism with his students in a sophomore biology class. But he said he doesn't know of other teachers who do the same.

"Because it is a sensitive issue, teachers want to avoid it," he said.

Gels said it's only natural that he discuss intelligent design with his students when he begins teaching the theory of evolution. That, he said, is because they are predominantly Christian and often have strong beliefs about the genesis of life. Last year, he said, one of his students was a 13-year-old ordained minister.

"They've got a lot of questions, and if you can answer those questions and have open discussions about those things, then you can really move forward," Gels said.

Gels said many of the students in his classes have been taught at home and at church that evolution is a false theory.

"It's imperative that my students understand the concept of evolution," he said. "If they don't understand evolution, they're not going to be very successful in the realm of science. If they're ignorant of evolution, they're not going to be ready for college."

Associated Press writer Roger Alford contributed to this report.

Intelligent Design and the Public Schools



By Ross S. Olson, MD

Note: The following is from a recent "College in the Schools" issues forum for high school students presented by Dr. Olson in the Twin Cities.

"Should intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in biology classes in Minnesota's public schools? Why or why not? What policies, if any, should local school boards or the state legislature enact? What role, if any, should elected officials' religious beliefs play as they consider this issue?"

This is a huge topic involving science, philosophy and law. I am not an academic in any of these subjects but a pediatrician, trained at this University and indoctrinated to believe that evolution was proven beyond any doubt. But about 30 years ago I began to question that premise, to research the subject and discuss it with people of all opinions. In the process, I discovered that much of the disagreement is philosophical. Let me try to give a quick overview.

But first, I want to commend you for attending today because by your presence at a conference like this you indicate a belief that there are right answers to the questions that have been posed. This means that you do not blindly follow the post-modern view that there is no truth, or that every person can have his or her own truth, or that arguments are only attempts to exercise power over others.

Second, I commend you for sticking with a topic that some might feel has already been decided by Judge John Jones of Pennsylvania. (Well, maybe you picked it because you thought the work was already done for you.) But in case you think that judicial decisions are the last word on any subject, let me take you back about 150 years ago to the 1857 Dred Scott decision of the US Supreme Court, when the Court threw out the case of a slave who had lived in free territories and was suing for his freedom. They ruled that a slave is property and not entitled to the rights of a citizen. It was "the law of the land!"

Is anyone here willing to say that the Supreme Court of 1857 had the final word on that subject? (Be careful because you may be implying that you are judging by a standard higher than the Supreme Court!) The Dred Scott decision galvanized the abolition movement – which sought to end slavery – and eventually hastened the bloody Civil War. It was a very controversial subject, with the power and prestige of the government apparently on the side of slavery. Also, most of the abolitionists had a religious motivation – they believed that all people really were created equal. That would have caused them to fail the so called "Lemon Test" used by courts today to determine if a point of view affecting public policy or judicial decisions violates the constitutional provision against "establishing religion."

But, of course, it can be fairly stated that the Court of 1857 was a creature of its age, and I agree. I maintain that it is the same today. Abolitionists of that day knew that they were right and the Court was wrong. I claim that the Court of today is wrong again and its errors need to be exposed.

You might say though, it is not just judges who reject Intelligent Design (ID) but scientists, who really ought to know. Yet the opposition I have seen from scientists is most often based on exclusion of the supernatural from science by definition.

So you can see that the problem rests on definitions. What is science? What is the establishment of religion? What is education? And those definitions flow out of their underlying philosophies.

Science in its root meaning is knowledge, and has come to mean that kind of knowledge gained by observation and repeatable experimentation, which, by the way, does not apply to past non-repeatable events, like origins. Methodological naturalism is the idea that science looks for natural mechanisms to answer its questions, which is reasonable. But philosophical naturalism goes far beyond that to say that natural mechanisms are all there are! Now first of all, that is not a scientific statement but a philosophical assumption. And it is not even logical. Actually to say it with assurance, a person would have to be omniscient – knowing everything – otherwise the supernatural could exist outside of his or her knowledge. (That person would thus be God and we would have the strange situation of God being an atheist.)

When there is no natural explanation and not even a plausible natural explanation anywhere on the horizon, is it permissible to postulate a supernatural one? For example, if a certifiably dead person came alive again and this was confirmed with rigorous assurance, is it not logical to suppose that a miracle had taken place? Or must one say that the only acceptable explanation is that physiological processes just might reverse themselves by chance?

And if the structure of living things is found to be so complex and interrelated that no plausible natural mechanism can be found to explain it, is it not permissible to state that, at least as a working hypothesis an Intelligent Designer was involved?

What are some typical objections to the concept of ID? One is that the argument from design is invalid and we only recognize design when we know of the designer. But I maintain that if you were a visitor from some distant galaxy you would still recognize a low tech object like an arrowhead as being designed and be able to pick it out of a pile of pebbles. We do this by comparing what we see with what we know happens naturally and can tell the difference. Think about it, if the letters in your alphabet soup began arranging themselves to write the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, you would suspect that something was messing with your soup – or with your mind. And by the way, if to recognize design we must know of concrete examples, look at computerized information storage and retrieval systems. We DO know that intelligent human beings can design hardware and software to do this. And the DNA system is far more miniaturized and sophisticated than anything that humans have designed!

Secondly, some think that it is a false dichotomy to say that a weakness of evolution is a point for ID. But let's look at logic for a moment. Either there is a natural mechanism for something or there is not. If there is no natural mechanism, then the mechanism must be outside of nature – supernatural. You might say you want to keep looking for natural mechanisms and that is fine, but at the moment, you have to admit that the working hypothesis is a supernatural one.

Thirdly, some say that ID has no predictive value. Of course they have already rejected, with a wave of the hand, the significance of finding irreducibly complex structures – ones that cannot be made by adding pieces one at a time. Yet living things are full of them.

Evolutionists have come up with all sorts of very speculative solutions to this problem – the parts could have been used for some other purpose in the cell before coming together in the new structure, or the conditions were different in the past or there was some sort of "simpler" life form in which this was all possible. They do not do the math on any of these proposals, however, because if they did, it would be obvious that the chance of any favorable mutation is vanishingly small, even over billions of years. These fanciful and highly speculative solutions are only plausible if you already believe that evolution must have taken place.

But ID also predicts that structures of unknown significance will be found to have functions, and this has come true. A century ago there was a long list of "vestigial organs" which evolution predicted were junk left over from the evolutionary past, useless structures "on the way out." Even though some textbooks still list them, they are all scientifically known to be useful. The same thing is happening with so called "junk DNA." Evolutionists thought that DNA that does not code for genes was debris from ruined genes and only useful as a pile of spare parts that might mutate into something useful. Yet new functions are being discovered constantly, including embryological development and regulation.

Does ID "stop science" as some claim? No, in fact it is evolution that has sometimes slowed the search for functions. And also, many of the great names in science could be labeled as ID advocates, such as Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Louis Pasteur.

But, you might say, if all this is so obvious, why do not more scientists accept it? Why are the refereed journals not full of it? Can you believe that there could be persecution? Investigate what happened to Dr. Dean Kenyon, distinguished professor at San Francisco State University, removed from teaching introductory biology when he expressed doubts about Darwin. Or consider Forrest Mims, science writer of impeccable credentials, fired after being hired to write "The Amateur Scientist" column for Scientific American when it was discovered that he did not accept evolution, even though that concept never came up in the columns. Thomas Kuhn got at part of the reason for this sort of behavior in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. A ruling paradigm tends to oppose change and there is a tremendous herd instinct in science. You don't get tenure and grant money by disproving your chairman's life work.

And, for the sake of illustration, let us suppose that there really is an Intelligent Designer and that there really are features of life that cannot be explained naturally. The people who refuse to consider supernatural causes will never be able to discover the truth! They will continue to propose mechanisms and patiently wait for what they consider confirmation. But because they are desperate, they accept things such as finding some parts of one molecular machine – little literal machines that fill living cells – used in another. That is no proof of evolution because even human designers do that.

And if evolutionists are so confident of their case, why do they oppose airing it out for all to see? Why do they so rarely debate Intelligent Design advocates? Why do they not let the evidence for both sides be available to students so they can learn to think critically? Why have they consistently opposed the very minimal step of allowing the weaknesses in evolutionary theory to be taught? Why do they use character assassination and intimidation as weapons? For example, Dr. P.Z. Myers proposed "firing and public humiliation" for advocates of ID. Rather than education, evolutionists seem to want indoctrination.

Actually, abiogenesis, the origin of the first living things would require so many incredibly improbable events, that most evolutionists no longer even claim to have a theory on the topic. Origin of life would have to happen without the benefit of natural selection to weed out the losers – since natural selection only works with a living, reproducing organism. There is actually not enough matter and time in the universe to come up with one simple protein molecule, much less a living cell. And they then pretend that they do not need a theory and will just patiently wait for science to come up with some new law that creates information out of chaos. This turns science on its head, with theory trumping evidence! It essentially calls for a naturalistic miracle!

If you want to do a calculation you can try to construct a 100 unit protein molecule from a primordial soup of the 20 different amino acids used in life. Even if you allow them to all be the left handed isomers instead of the mixture that would occur naturally, there is only one chance in 10130 of getting it right. And there are only about 1080 atoms in the universe and 1018 seconds in 30 billion years. And the simplest cell needs at least 230 proteins with their controlling DNA, all put together in the proper configuration to function. It is an incredible assumption to say that it could all happen by natural mechanisms. And deceptively, evolutionists try to pretend that natural selection somehow reduces the odds when the truth is that natural selection only selects, it does not create and the creating in evolution must be done by random mechanisms.

But what of "establishing religion?" This subject would take another hour to develop but let me try to whet your appetite. I think the Founders of this nation would be flabbergasted at the spin put on that phrase – without precedent – by our courts beginning about the middle of the last century. Think about it, the whole structure of the government from chaplains in the legislature to the Ten Commandments on the wall of the Supreme Court building and the use of the Bible in taking oaths all give very strong clues that religion, specifically the Christian religion, was understood to be foundational. Looking at the writings of the Founders, something rarely done today, confirms this. They did not, however, want to have a national church as so many European nations did. They wanted the people to be free to practice any or no religion, which is what the Constitution said.

Yet even a conservative judge, a church-going man, such as Judge Jones, in his decision mentioned "the Constitutional separation of church and state." Actually that phrase is not in the Constitution but in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury stating that the government would not interfere in the affairs of the church. Yet the current view grows naturally out of a philosophical assumption that religion is a matter of personal preference, like taste in art, for which there is no right or wrong answer. If so, it has no place in public policy. Yet if there is objective evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being, to whom we may all be responsible, this will be very confusing and disturbing to people who thought they had isolated religion to the private life of believers.

And look at the rational rabbit hole you fall down if you accept the current take on the subject. Even if there is evidence for an Intelligent Designer, it could not be taught in the public schools, certainly not by people who believe it, because it might cause the students to believe in God, which would establish religion and thus be unconstitutional.

Incredibly, Judge Jones even said it was unconstitutional for teachers to tell students that they could research the topic in the library!

Is there a religious side to this issue? Indeed there is – on both sides. As Richard Dawkins said, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." It is true, atheism cannot live without evolution, or some other natural mechanism to account for life – and indeed, the entire universe. Religion can live with evolution, to be sure. But if the evidence says that evolution could not have happened, then atheism changes from a dispassionate search for truth to a rebellion against the conclusion.

A person will necessarily bring his or her own religious bias to public issues, whether it is belief in a supreme being, a belief in no supreme being, or the belief that religion should not influence "real life." And many evolutionists have an anti-religious bias, such as Dr. P. Z. Myers who has stated that he wishes he could go back in a time machine and assassinate Abraham, or Dr. Richard Dawkins who says religion is like smallpox, but harder to eradicate.

In summary, there is a strong intellectual case for Intelligent Design. It cannot be excluded from science by philosophical fiat and to withhold the evidence from students is a betrayal of education. I agree with the Discovery Institute that Intelligent Design should not be mandated, but as a start it should at least be permitted. Certainly teachers who do discuss it should not be punished.

And finally, the current understanding of "establishment of religion" needs to be re-examined by going back to where the Supreme Court got off the constitutional track. Otherwise it leads to the absurdity of denying potential truth, and because by forbidding everything else, the courts have now established atheism as the national religion.


On the Founders: WallBuilders www.wallbuilders.org

On Intelligent Design: Discovery Institute www.discovery.org

Ross Olson is a recently retired pediatrician, trained at the University of Minnesota. He is a former evolutionist who began to look critically at evolutionary theory after reading the works of Dr. Arthur E. Wilder-Smith. He is on the board of Twin Cities Creation Science Association and runs their web site (www.tccsa.tc) . He writes on social issues and posts all his unpublished, politically incorrect op ed pieces on his own web site (www.rossolson.org). He is considering starting a chapter of Workaholics Anonymous when he has the time.

Dr. Olson will discuss further at ross@rossolson.org

Intelligent design bill fails to materialize


January 11, 2006


Revised proposal mandates 'accuracy in textbooks'

By Robert King robert.king@indystar.com

Last fall, state Rep. Bruce A. Borders, R-Jasonville, said he would introduce a bill this year seeking to make intelligent design a required subject in Indiana's public schools if no other lawmaker did.


"In adopting textbooks for each subject . . . the state board shall not adopt a textbook if the state board knows the textbook contains information, descriptions, conclusions, or pictures that are false."

What Rep. Bruce Borders said about his bill:

"Many of the things that have been used to support macroevolution have been proven to be lies. . . . It will take those out."

What Fran Quigley, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, said in response:

"I can't imagine that the state board (of education) needs to be told by the General Assembly not to give false information to our schoolchildren. But if this is an effort to run evolution out of the science curriculum, it fails to take account . . . that the scientific theory of evolution has been corroborated by hundreds of thousands of observations. No persuasive evidence has been put forth . . . to contradict the theory of evolution."

-- Robert King

On Tuesday, Borders, who considers much of the theory of evolution to be built on false claims, tried to keep his promise but submitted a bill that didn't go nearly as far as he had hoped.

Instead, he offered House Bill 1388, which mandates "accuracy in textbooks" but makes no mention of intelligent design.

His about-face, he said, was the result of a Dec. 20 ruling by a federal judge in Pennsylvania that denounced intelligent design as "relabeled creationism" and a violation of the separation of church and state.

As a result, Borders' bill, offered just before Tuesday's deadline for proposals in this year's General Assembly, may be as close as the legislature will come to approaching intelligent design in this session.

A few months ago, intelligent design seemed destined for a lively debate.

Legislators who in the fall talked up intelligent design -- which maintains that an intelligent designer is the best explanation for certain features of the universe and living things -- were instead talking Tuesday more about the need for the "gaps" in evolution to be explored in public schools.

"In the future, I think that is increasingly going to dominate the creationism-evolution landscape," said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, which has been one of the most ardent defenders of evolution.

Branch said legislators in several states have filed bills since the Pennsylvania ruling that put evolution under greater scrutiny in the name of objectivity and balance. He said the same thing happened after the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that deemed the teaching of creationism in public schools to be unconstitutional.

Borders, who calls himself an "unashamed creationist," said both evolution and creation are religious beliefs because they each have unknowns and each require faith. But he said evolution has been "given a free pass" when it comes to scrutiny.

Borders also acknowledged the Pennsylvania ruling forced him to alter his strategy. "I'm pragmatic about it," he said. "You deal with the hand you are given. So this is what I'm doing."

Fran Quigley, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, said he is sure the state Board of Education already values accuracy in its textbooks.

"If this is an effort to run evolution out of the science curriculum, it fails to account for the fact that the scientific theory of evolution has been corroborated by hundreds of thousands of independent observations," he said. "No persuasive evidence has been put forth in 150 years to contradict the theory of evolution."

House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Tuesday that news media reports have exaggerated legislators' interest in intelligent design, which he said was "certainly not on the list of the top 50 things that need to be improved in the state."

That lack of support was what kept Rep. Jerry Denbo, D-French Lick, away from the intelligent design issue. Denbo had a bill drafted that would have let intelligent design be taught in schools. But moments before the filing deadline, he decided to keep the draft in his pocket. It simply was an idea with no chance, he said.

"There's no hope."

Call Star reporter Robert King at (317) 444-6089.

Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com

California high school sued over 'intelligent design' class


By Juliana Barbassa ASSOCIATED PRESS

12:17 a.m. January 11, 2006

FRESNO – A rural high school teaching a religion-based alternative to evolution was sued by a group of parents who said the class should be stopped because it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec violated the separation of church and state while attempting to legitimize the theory of "intelligent design" in a philosophy course taught by a minister's wife, according to the U.S. District Court suit filed by parents of 13 students.

"The course was designed to advance religious theories on the origins of life, including creationism and its offshoot, 'intelligent design,'" the suit said. "Because the teacher has no scientific training, students are not provided with any critical analysis of this presentation."

The suit was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which successfully blocked Dover, Pa., schools last month from using science courses to advance the theory that living things are so complex they must have been designed by a higher being.

Similar battles are being fought in Georgia and Kansas over the controversial subject.

The suit filed on behalf of 11 parents against the El Tejon Unified School District names its superintendent, the course teacher and school board members as defendants.

Superintendent John Wight, who did not return a phone call for comment, said last week that the class, "Philosophy of Design," was not being taught as science and was an opportunity for students to debate the controversial issue.

Defendant Kitty Jo Nelson, one of two school board trustees who opposed the class, said the costs of the lawsuit would ultimately deprive students. The regional school draws about 500 students from tiny communities to Lebec, a town of 1,285 straddling the Tehachapi mountains between the agricultural Central Valley and Los Angeles 75 miles to the south.

"I'm extremely disappointed and saddened," she said.

Phone messages left at district offices for other trustees were not returned.

The five-member school board was divided when it learned about the class last month and discovered three guest lecturers were scheduled to speak in support of intelligent design, but none in favor of evolution.

One pro-evolution speaker listed on the syllabus declined to participate because he disagreed with the class topic, and another – Nobel laureate Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of DNA – had died more than a year earlier.

An initial description sent to parents in December said the course would examine "evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid."

Teacher Sharon Lemburg, who is married to an Assembly of God pastor, could not be reached by phone for comment.

The El Tejon district's Board of Trustees approved the course 3-2 with a revised syllabus in a Jan. 1 special session, during which board members had to vote up or down on the entire winter session curriculum.

Fifteen students were enrolled when classes started two days later, with a less scientific and more philosophical class plan that relied solely on videos, not guest speakers.

Still, the Washington, D.C.-based group said that with only one exception the course "relies exclusively on videos that advocate religious perspectives and present religious theories as scientific ones."

"This is clearly intended to introduce religion into a public school," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to halt the four-week class in its second week.

The case is Hurst v. Newman, 06-00012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Shaking faith in 'scientific' standards


Posted on Mon, Jan. 09, 2006

A touted study on prayer and pregnancy is crumbling.By Faye FlamDespite the gravity of the recent scientific fraud emerging from a cloning lab in South Korea, some watchdogs of science say dumber and more obvious cases of skulduggery remain, like old garbage stinking up the scientific literature.

What does this have to do with sex? As an example, physicist Robert Park points to Columbia University, where several years ago "scientists" published a study purporting to show that prayer can help you get pregnant. Why hasn't someone rewritten all the biology texts? The sex-ed manuals?

This is either very big or very wrong.

The researchers assembled Christian praying teams in the United States and Australia and gave them pictures of the Korean women undergoing in-vitro fertilization at a clinic in South Korea. In a three-tiered system of prayers and meta-prayers, some prayed directly for the pictured women, others prayed for the prayers to work, and still others prayed to have the will of God fulfilled.

The results - of 199 women, about half of the prayed-for group got pregnant, compared with about 20 percent of the control group. The Columbia team published their results in the peer reviewed Journal of Reproductive Medicine in October 2001.

In addition to supplying evidence for God's existence, the findings raised important questions, such as whether or not you can pray to avoid getting pregnant. Or, could you steal a rival's picture and use it like a voodoo charm to get her knocked up? If my enemies do this to me, can they override the birth control pill?

The study suggests that scientists have been working under a false assumption that the universe is ruled by predictable natural forces. "We have no evidence from other domains that there's a non-natural power affecting the natural world," said University of Pennsylvania philosopher of science Michael Weisberg. "The history of science has been a progression of taking away the role of the supernatural."

Findings that point to the supernatural, therefore, should raise a red flag. As Carl Sagan used to say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

When an Ob-gyn named Bruce Flamm dissected the matter in an article for the Skeptical Inquirer, he started to suspect the prayer groups didn't even exist. Eventually the lead author, Columbia's Rogerio Lobo, took his name off the paper.

According to Columbia's official statement, "At the time, he [Lobo] was listed as a senior author, although he had not been involved in the research itself." But that wasn't the impression Lobo gave when touting prayer and pregnancy on Good Morning America.

The main architect of the study was apparently not Lobo but Daniel Wirth - a specialist in paranormal studies who has no medical background. Dabbling in the supernatural apparently wasn't lucrative enough for Wirth - in 2004 he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud and is now serving a five-year sentence in federal prison.

Just because someone doesn't have any medical background and his hobby happens to be bank fraud doesn't automatically disqualify him as the founder of a scientific revolution. It's just looking unlikely.

Columbia University and the Journal of Reproductive Medicine have yet to publicize any real investigation or retract the paper, in contrast to the flurry of investigations and retractions that followed the first hints that something was amiss in the cloning/stem cell scandal. Perhaps it's because the cloning and stem cell work was taken seriously in the scientific community. Few outside the paranormal community cared about the prayer work.

But maybe scientists should care. Members of the public trust Columbia and the Journal of Reproductive Medicine with serious women's health issues. What if an equally corrupt study got through on a drug, or the safety of hormones? One commentator for Slate magazine argued that the incident shows the whole peer-review process must be rotten to the core.

Let's pray that's not the case.

Contact staff writer Faye Flam at 215-854-4977 or fflam@phillynews.com.



Tehran, 5 Jan. (AKI) - Iran has decided to rewrite and revise the history of the Holocaust. Following the repeated declarations by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other senior government officials on the need to re-examine the history of the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War, the association of Islamic Journalists of Iran has been tasked with quickly putting together an international conference on the Holocaust.

"President Ahmadinejad has placed at the centre of international attention, a very important question on the truthfulness of the version that Europe and the Zionists have imposed on the world on the murder of Jews during the years of the great war, and therefore we are of the opinion that it is useful and necessary to organise an international conference on that theme, where all the historians and researchers, even those that do not believe in the official version, will be able to express themselves freely," Mehdi Afzali, spokesperson of the Association of Islamic Journalists told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"We want to offer a free and democratic platform to the historians to examine in-depth this myth, seeing that in different European countries there exist laws against democracy and freedom that to do not allow intellectuals who believe in a version distinct from that which is officially pronounced on the Holocaust," added Afzali.

"We will invite those who believe in the imposed version as well as all those who have spent years of their lives in the study of documents related to the Holocaust and have come to the conclusion that the history books in schools and universities do not correspond to the truth," said Afzali, who however refused to supply the names of the revisionist historians who have been contacted to appear in the conference in Tehran. Revisionists are those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.

In Iran, books by the English historian, David Irving, currently in custody in an Austrian jail after having been accused of denying the Holocaust, are very popular.

Among the names of possible guests at the conference are the Israeli journalist lsrael Shamir, a convert to Christianity, and Horst Mahler from Germany, a former member of the the terrorist group, the Red Army Faction. Other revisionist scholars, such as the French Robert Faurisson and the American Arthur Butz, are also some of the other possible participants of the conference in Tehran.

Explaining the unexplainable


With intelligent design, scientists are challenging evolution and questioning the origins of humans.

By: Tony Chiorazzi
Issue date: 1/10/06 Section: Lifestyle

Evolution or God? Some professors argue that intelligent design will help advance the theory of evolution by forcing scientists to better define and articulate it.

Remember that drawing in high school that showed an ape evolving - in step-by-step stages - into a walking erect man? Well, it's probably bogus, according to a growing number of scientists.

Since 2001, more than 300 scientists have endorsed the "Scientific Dissent from Darwin" declaration, which says, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."

A popular advocate of intelligent design is Michael J. Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and author of "Darwin's Black Box." Behe, a former neo-Darwinian evolutionist, said that what changed his mind about evolution was not religion, but science.

"We find in nature many sub-cellular systems that are irreducibly complex … and … they involve a number of interrelated parts or subsystems all of which are necessary for the system to function," Behe said in an interview given to a church group.

"This fact is a huge problem for neo-Darwinism since, by hypothesis, there is no plan or purpose or intelligence in biological change that can direct the development of the parts in order to be assembled later into the whole."

Behe is also a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, a research association that boasts more than 40 fellows, including prominent biologists, biochemists, chemists, physicists and advocates for a position known as intelligent design, ID, which "holds that certain features of the universe of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

ID is not just an attack on evolution, but all sciences, said David Bottjer, a USC professor of earth science.

"Just because we don't understand something doesn't mean God created it," he said. "If someone wants to look at a tree and its leaves and think that God created it, that's fine - but that's not science."

Dallas Willard, a USC professor of philosophy, said that it is not an accurate depiction of the intelligent design position to claim - as many do - that ID just advocates a religious point of view or even for a belief in a God. Intelligent design does not postulate a belief in God, only in a higher agency, he said.

Willard said that ID poses fair questions about the scientific validity of evolution. For example, Willard said that the fossil evidence for evolution is far from impressive. And to his defense, Willard might be able to cite evolutionist and author Michael Alan Park, who wrote: "The fossil record has failed to show intermediate forms with fine gradations for all evolutionary lines. Instead, fossil species often tend to remain relatively stable for long periods of time, and changes - new species - show up rather suddenly."

Additionally, Willard and intelligent design advocates note that Henry Gee, the chief science writer for "Nature," wrote that "the intervals of time that separate fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection through ancestry and descent."

Craig Stanford, department chairman and professor of anthropology at USC, said that even though it is true that a period exists in the ape-to-human transition where fossils are limited, their numbers are growing.

"In 10 or 20 years from now there will probably be a whole series of fossils discovered that will help cover the transition from ape ancestor to the earliest humans," he said.

In response, intelligent design advocates argue that interpreting fossils has always been a flawed undertaking. In digging up ancient primate, paleoanthropologists are mostly working with "fragmentary remains, mostly pieces of jaw or sometimes just teeth," wrote Park, the evolutionist. Very rarely - if ever - do paleoanthropologists find fully intact hominid, modern humans and our predecessors, fossilized bodies, said Willard. Consequently, interpreting and drawing conclusions from partial remains leaves plenty of room for subjective speculation, ID scientists said.

For example, biologist and author Jonathan Wells described an incident when Roger Lewin observed paleoanthropologists Alan Walker, Michael Day and Richard Leakey analyzing a skull labeled "1470":

"According to Lewin, Walker said: 'You could hold the [upper jaw] forward, and give it a long face, or you could tuck it in, making the face short…How you held it really depended on your preconception.' Lewin reports that Leakey recalled the incident, too: 'Yes. If you held it one way, it looked like one thing; if you held it another, it looked like something else.'"

This has led famed evolutionist and paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall to say that "in paleoanthropology, the patterns we perceive are likely to result from our unconscious mindsets as from the evidence itself."

Bottjer acknowledges a danger in over-interpreting fossils, and said it's an area with not enough data and too many people studying it. Bottjer, however, said it is important to remember that ID is an extremely minority position today within the scientific community.

ID's status as a minority scientific opinion should not discredit it, Willard said. All major scientifically regarded positions today were at one time minority positions, including Galileo's belief that the planets rotated around the sun, Louis Pasteur's ideas on germs and Einstein's theory of relativity.

Lee Cerling, professor of business communications, said intelligent design can play an important role in advancing science. Cerling, who holds a Ph.D. in rhetoric studies, said that scientists who subscribe to the evolution model might be forced by ID scientists to better define and articulate their theory. Scientific theories evolve best when questioned, Cerling said.

Opining on origins, Rabbi Dov Wagner, leader of USC Chabad, tells a story: "There was once a rabbi and an atheist. The rabbi asked the atheist how the world came into being. The atheist said that it just evolved, without any creator. While continuing to chat, the atheist admired a beautiful painting in the rabbi's study and asked who painted it. The rabbi replied, 'Nobody. Some paint just spilled on the canvas and then later some more paint spilled, and eventually the painting just evolved.'"

Discovery Institute Chides Ohio Activists for Trying to Dumb Down Evolution Education and Censor Science


SEATTLE, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- "Ohio critics of intelligent design now want to dumb down the teaching of evolution by censoring out scientific evidence challenging Darwinism and that is bad for students and bad for science education," said Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs with Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture. "A lot of evidence surrounding evolution isn't typically covered in biology courses. Students need to learn more about evolution, not less."

In the wake of a judge's ruling banning intelligent design from the Dover, Pennsylvania school district, special interest groups opposed to teaching the controversy about Darwinian evolution are trying to pressure the Ohio State Board of Education to repeal an Ohio state science standard which requires students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The standards clearly state that they "do not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design."

"The Dover ruling clearly has no relevance for Ohio," said Luskin. "Ohio is not teaching intelligent design, making this a completely different issue." "The sad truth is that there are some Darwinists out there who want to impose dogmatism in the curriculum, and don't want students to know all there is to know about Darwinian evolution," Luskin added. "It is critically important that students learn about all the most current scientific evidence both for and against the theory."

The state board of education unanimously adopted the current science standards in 2002, after hearing testimony and input from teachers, science educators, and scientists from across Ohio.

Discovery Institute is the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory of intelligent design. In science education, it supports the "teach the controversy" approach to Darwinian evolution. Its Center for Science and Culture has over 40 biologists, biochemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science, and public policy and legal experts, most of whom have positions with colleges and universities.

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

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Marylee: Local school confronted by Intelligent Design haters


By MARYLEE SHRIDER, Contributing columnist

Posted: Monday January 9th, 2006, 3:17 PM
Last Updated: Monday January 9th, 2006, 3:17 PM

Students at Frazier Mountain High School started their philosophy class, which includes instruction on intelligent design, last week, so I called the school Friday half-expecting to hear reports of spontaneous baptisms by the school water fountain and sporadic outbreaks of on-campus prayer.

There were none.

Evolution-only advocates can rest easy. It was business as usual on campus, where the theory of intelligent design — the idea that the world's complexity is evidence of an intelligent source — is part of a four-week, elective philosophy class.

In fact the week's only unpleasant note was the letter received by El Tejon Unified School District Superintendent John Wight from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the organization which, along with the Pennsylvania ACLU, won the court decision against the teaching of intelligent design in Dover, Pa. public schools.

"Pull the intelligent design class at Frazier Mountain High School," was the letter's ominous message, "or we file an injunction."

Whoa. No introductory fact-checking? No "hey, let's talk about this?" Just "pull it or else."

This is not the first time the El Tejon district has been threatened with court action in regard to its decision to include the controversial theory in its curriculum, but there's no denying this latest bark has some bite.

Wight says the district has nothing to fear. An educator who apparently believes students should be encouraged to discuss and debate existing theories, Wight says the school's philosophy class covers components of the intelligent design theory, introductory philosophy, Darwin's theory of evolution and the origins of life according to Greek mythology.

Wight responded to Americans United, informing it the district will not pull the class and sent along a copy of the school's curriculum for good measure. Reports of a pro-religious, anti-evolution curriculum, he says, are greatly exaggerated.

"Yeah, big time," Wight says. "We're not advocating religion at all. This is an overview class where we expect students to come up with their own interpretations and own ideas and write their own convictions."

But such freedom does not sit well with the less tolerant among the pro-evolution crowd, who cringe at the very idea that intelligent design should share the floor in any classroom, be it science, philosophy or otherwise, with Darwin's theory of evolution.

Those who seek to bar intelligent design from schools, including U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, who made the decision to ban the theory in Dover's biology courses, condemn intelligent design as a thinly disguised version of creationism.

Not so, say ID researchers, who simply question evolution's claim that all life evolved from a common ancestral organism and insist their focus is finding evidence of a deliberate design in nature, without regard to who or what the designer might be.

Other schools are watching Frazier Mountain High School to see how this controversy plays out. It's too early to tell how the story will end in Kern County, but one thing's for sure. The decision by Judge Jones is not the final word — not with a growing number of credentialed scientists and intellectuals finding validity in the science behind the theory.

Evolution and intelligent design are theories and will remain theories until they can be proven conclusively, without qualification, gaps or flaws. Until that time, why not invite our bright young minds to join the debate?

Marylee Shrider's column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays. For comments or questions please contact her at mshrider@bakersfield.com or leave a voicemail at 395-7474.

Intelligent Design is Not About Religion


Gregory Rummo

January 10, 2006

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."
–Charles Darwin, "Origins"

If Kansas can be considered Ground Zero in the debate between Darwinists vs. Intelligent Design proponents, a recent explosion rocking the battle zone took place last month at the University of Kansas in its religious studies department. A course titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies," was to be offered.

I suspected, despite the closed-mindedness of the department chairman—Paul Mirecki—and his approach to relegating ID to "mythology," there would have been lively debates in the classroom.

And had this been the case, hopefully more light than heat would have been shed on a debate that simply won't go away between Darwinists, who base their theory more on naturalism—a philosophy—than science, and the proponents of Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is a systematic evaluation of observed biological phenomena resulting in the logical conclusion that design is inherent in living systems. The inescapable implication—and I guess the thing that drives its critics hysterical—is that design implies A Designer. Why this never presents a problem when we admire a work of art by Van Gogh or a musical composition by Claude Debussy escapes me. But logic and common sense dissipates when Darwinists are confronted by an alternate theory to their most hallowed orthodoxy. And instead of dealing with the substance of the arguments for ID, they skewer its proponents, labeling them as "stealth creationists;" a charge that is not altogether fair.

While many Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists support Intelligent Design as a rational answer to Darwinism, Intelligent Design itself stands apart from biblical creationism as a non-religious approach to origins. William Dembski, one of its chief proponents describes it as "the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence."

Tom Burr, a retired biology teacher from Franklin Lakes explains on his blog: "Intelligent Design Theory is not the same as Biblical Creationism. The ID theorists are trying (if the evolutionists, the press and the general public would let them) to approach their ideas as pure science. They are smart people and they know how to separate their science from their theology… Biblical Creationists, on the other hand, openly admit to using God's Word as the basis of their worldview and as their approach to science. In their operational (experimental) science—science in which repeatable experimentation and falsification are the rule—they operate under the belief that God created and sustains His universe by laws that can be discovered by science (thinking God's thoughts after Him.) In studying prehistory, however, Biblical Creationists realize that different rules apply. The past is not subject to repeatable experimentation. Evidence (the same evidence that any scientist has available) must be interpreted according to un-provable (in the scientific sense) assumptions and philosophical (religious, if you prefer) presuppositions. This is where God's Word must take precedence over purely naturalistic assumptions and must act as the guidebook for the interpretation of evidence."

Access Research Network, (arn.org) a website that showcases books, papers and articles written by scientists in support of ID explains, "Intelligent Design theory—also called design or the design argument—is the view that nature shows tangible signs of having been designed by a preexisting intelligence. It has been around, in one form or another, since the time of ancient Greece. The most famous version of the design argument can be found in the work of theologian William Paley, who in 1802 proposed his 'watchmaker' thesis. His reasoning went like this: 'In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever. ... But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think the answer which I had before given [would be sufficient]. To the contrary, the fine coordination of all its parts would force us to conclude that …the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.'"

"Paley argued that we can draw the same conclusion about many natural objects, such as the eye. Just as a watch's parts are all perfectly adapted for the purpose of telling time, the parts of an eye are all perfectly adapted for the purpose of seeing. In each case, Paley argued, we discern the marks of an intelligent designer."

In order to understand the crux of the issue, one must first understand that the debate between Darwinists and the proponents of Intelligent Design is not about science but a world-view.

Science is that which can be demonstrated in a laboratory by a process involving an idea or hypothesis followed by experiments to verify the hypothesis. When sufficient evidence has been accumulated, a theory can be proposed.

There have been no such experiments providing the evidence in support of evolution as a testable, scientific theory.

The evidence, if we can call it that, is contained in a fossil record filled with gaps and lacking a single, indisputable, multi-cellular transition form demonstrating one species evolving into another. One would conjecture that if evolution were true, there would have been millions of years of the fossilized remains of species evolving into other species. None have been found.

Steven J. Gould, an ardent evolutionist, admits the evidence does not show gradual change, but sudden appearance and stability: Most fossils species appear all at once, fully formed, and exhibit no directional change throughout their stay in the rocks.

Neither side claims to have its own "evidence." The fossil record is what it is. It is the interpretation of that evidence—or the lack thereof—that differentiates the two sides in this debate.

But the fossil record, damaging as it is to Darwinism, is only one part of the debate. An examination of life at the biochemical level sounds its death knell.

The complexity of living systems and their components, from the simplest ones such as the flagellum of a bacteria or the cilium of a paramecium, to the biochemical intricacies of such processes as vision, the immune system and the clotting of blood, coupled with the refinement of the microscope and x-ray crystallography—none of which Darwin could rely on when he proposed his theory in the 19th century—make Darwinism implausible.

Klaus Dose, a prominent worker in the field of origin-of-life research comments, "More than 30 years in the field of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life here on Earth rather than its solution. At present, all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in confession of ignorance."

In the book, "Darwin's Black Box," the author, Michael Behe, echoes this sentiment: "If you search the scientific literature on evolution and if you focus your search on the question of how molecular machines—the basis of life—developed, you find an eerie and complete silence…The question of how life works was not one that Darwin or his contemporaries could answer. They knew that eyes were for seeing but—how exactly do they see? How does blood clot? How does the body fight disease? The complex structures were themselves made of smaller components. What did they look like?"

Behe introduces the idea of "irreducible complexity," best understood by his example of a mousetrap. Composed of five basic elements: a hammer which impacts and kills the mouse, the spring which provides the force to drive the hammer, a trigger upon which the mouse steps, a latch which keeps the trap from springing closed until the right moment and a wooden base upon which the whole contraption is assembled, a mousetrap is irreducibly complex. In order for it to function, all five of its components must be present and assembled correctly.

By extending this notion of irreducible complexity to several biochemical systems—vision in the human eye, the clotting of human blood and the immune system—it quickly becomes apparent that these processes are impossible without all of the components being present simultaneously.

The question then becomes: What random natural, process can account for complex, biochemical systems to come together? Again—the silence on this issue is deafening.

Writing about the immune system, the author explains, "Whichever way we turn, a gradualistic account of the immune system is blocked by multiple interwoven requirements. As scientists we yearn to understand how this magnificent mechanism came to be, but the complexity of the system dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration."

Apparently Darwin himself realized this. Writing in "Origins," he stated, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

As it turns out, there will be no debate in Professor Mirecki's classroom even though twenty-five students had signed up for the class. In a follow-up story, the Associated Press reported Mirecki had sent an e-mail to members of a student organization in which he referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said that his course would be a "nice slap in their big fat face."

The class was cancelled and Mirecki was forced to apologize, saying, "I made a mistake in not leading by example, in this student organization e-mail forum, the importance of discussing differing viewpoints in a civil and respectful manner." The university's chancellor, Robert Hemenway said Mirecki's comments were "repugnant and vile [and] …misrepresent[ed] everything the university is to stand for."

None of this comes as a surprise. The debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design is almost always inimical. Instead of addressing both theories in an atmosphere conducive to learning, Darwinists prefer to avoid the substance of the issue and instead, resort to name calling. By denigrating its proponents as "Bible-thumping, knuckle draggers," they quash any open-minded investigation into an alternate theory of the origin of the species; an approach that is, quite frankly, hardly intelligent.

Edited versions of this article appeared in the Herald News and the New Jersey Herald.

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist and the author of two books, "The View from the Grass Roots," published in July 2002 and "The View from the Grass Roots -Another Look," available in June 2004. Visit his website, GregRummo.com to find out how to purchase autographed copies.


This article is provided as an educational service of Frontiers of Freedom (FOF). The ideas and opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect the thought or positions of FOF or its officers, staff, or directors.

Boynton debate series pits intelligent design advocate against evolution backer


By Nancy L. Othón Staff Writer Posted January 10 2006

BOYNTON BEACH · The national debate over how life came about made its way to a courtside cafe Monday afternoon as skeptical retirees who generally embrace evolution challenged a local creationist making the argument for intelligent design.

In keeping with selecting thought-provoking topics, the committee for "Crossfire at Hunters Run" chose "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design" as its second debate of its season. Stem cell research was featured last month.

The roughly 100 audience members were told at the outset that no moaning or groaning would be allowed, and that perhaps their personal theories would be turned upside down by the end of the debate. But that seemed unlikely considering the majority of people in the audience were clearly on Darwin's side.

"Most of them have taken biology at some point or the other," moderator Jack Rosenberg said before the debate.

Though most of what has been in the news in recent months regarding intelligent design has focused on whether public schools should include a discussion of the concept, Monday's debate was more technical.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that some systems of life are too complex to be explained and must be attributed to a designer. Opponents of the movement say intelligent design is nothing more than creationism in disguise.

Intelligent design is the only answer for the living cell and DNA, said Tom DeRosa, founder of the Creation Studies Institute in Fort Lauderdale and former Broward County science teacher. He debated Doug Broadfield, a physical anthropology professor at Florida Atlantic University.

DeRosa and Broadfield each made opening statements, queried each other and accepted questions from the audience.

DeRosa asked Broadfield to comment on the mechanism of evolution. Broadfield spoke of genetic drift, or the change in the gene pool of population over time.

Broadfield, in turn, asked DeRosa to explain the evolution of the human eye.

"I believe an outside intelligence created the eye," DeRosa said. "When we look in terms of what vision is, you can't even explain it."

While Broadfield presented his views in a straightforward, scholarly fashion, DeRosa was a genial debater who said he believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

"The more we study life, the more we see the wow and the wonder," said DeRosa.

Almost every question from audience members was for DeRosa. He was asked to explain the similarity between chimps and humans. He was asked to explain where dinosaurs fit into the realm of intelligent design, and how they could have fit into Noah's ark.

After the debate, some residents said they didn't change their minds.

"It's really hard for me to accept intelligent design," said Millicent Lopata.

Nancy L. Othón can be reached at nothon@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6633.

They must really think we're morons


Columns Molly Ivins

January 10, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas -- The governor of Texas is despicable. Of all the crass pandering, of all the gross political kowtowing to ignorance, we haven't seen anything this rank from Gov. Goodhair since, gee, last fall.

Then, he was trying to draw attention away from his spectacular failure on public schools by convincing Texans that gay marriage was a horrible threat to us all. Now, he's trying to disguise the fact that the schools are in freefall by proposing we teach creationism in biology classes.

The funding of the whole school system is so unfair it has been declared unconstitutional by the Texas Supreme Court. All last year, Perry haplessly called special session after special session, trying to fix the problem, and couldn't get anywhere -- not an iota, not a scintilla of leadership.

Instead of facing the grave crisis that may yet result in the schools being closed down, Perry has blithely gone off on creationism -- teach the little perishers the Earth is 6,000 years old, that people lived at the same time as dinosaurs and who cares if the school building is falling apart?

Perry faced a potential primary challenge from State Comptroller Carol Keaton Strayhorn. The Texas Republican Party is now so completely dominated by the Christian right, however, that a relative moderate like Strayhorn has no chance against Perry, who has been assiduously kissing the feet, to say the least, of the most extreme elements of the party. So Strayhorn announced she would seek election as an independent, and Perry played the creationism card. Gee, let's all have a big discussion about gays, creationism and covenant marriage -- that'll solve the state's staggering problems with schools and health care.

In case you missed it, the court decision everyone has been waiting for on teaching creationism in the schools came out on Dec. 20, and it explains, quite clearly, why creationism cannot be taught as science in this country. Because it isn't science, it's religion.

The decision in the Dover, Pa., school board case by Judge John Jones III, a Republican and Bush appointee, is well worth reading. It annihilates the case for teaching creationism. Calling creationism "intelligent design" changes nothing and is disingenuous to the point of being painful. Perry emphasized the equally disingenuous notion that there is "controversy" about evolution, supposedly two sides equally worth considering, so we should "teach the controversy." His spokesperson, Kathy Walt, actually said teaching different theories is part of "developing students' critical thinking skills." That's pathetic.

One hears evolution dismissed as "just a theory," as though all of science weren't based on theory and eternally subject to new evidence to the contrary. In science, gravity is "just a theory" -- and if you ever drop something and it falls up, they'll reconsider the whole theory for you. That's just how "theoretical" evolution is -- constantly subject to evidence and proof. But creationism cannot be tested and proved against evidence using the scientific method -- that is why it is not science, it is faith.

Meanwhile, it's heartening to note that political nincompoopery is not limited to Texas. A couple of recent quotes out of Washington, D.C., cause the jaw to drop. Our very own Tom DeLay, upon announcing he would quit as majority leader, said: "During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner, within the rules of our body and the law of our land. I am fully confident time will bear this out." Good grief, the man was sanctioned three times by the House ethics committee last year alone.

Equally stupefying is the attempted emergence of Newt Gingrich, of all people, as an arbiter of ethics. Gingrich has been going about the media, holding forth on the shortcomings of today's Republicans. Let's see, that would be the same Newt Gingrich who originally started using the lobby as an arm of the Republican Party, right? Same Gingrich had the distinction of being the only House speaker to be reprimanded by his colleagues for ethical wrongdoing? Same Gingrich who was accused of misusing nonprofit organizations for political purposes, personally benefiting from political contributions, cutting a sleazy book deal and giving false statements to ethics investigators? Same Gingrich who was fined $300,000 for said lying? I thought it was that Gingrich.

They must really think we're morons.

On the general subject of political corruption, do not fall into the fatal error of cynicism. You do your country a great disservice by saying things like: "Eh, they're all crooks. Nothing anyone can do about it. Money will always find a way."

The answer is perpetual reform. Fix it, and if corruption comes back again, you just whack back at it again. The system as it is encourages corruption and must be changed. Public campaign financing is the best answer in the long-term -- all this "lobby reform" talk is hopelessly inadequate. Hang in, and raise hell -- this is a heaven-sent opportunity to clean it up. Don't blow the chance with cheap cynicism.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Victory for evolution in Dover


Web Extra Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Pennsylvania judge ruled today that the Dover Area School District's science curriculum, which required the presentation of intelligent design (ID) — the belief that the complexity of life is evidence that a superior intellect must have designed it — as an alternative to evolution, is unconstitutional.

The Kitzmiller v. Dover trial began Sept. 26, after parents sued the school district, which had required teachers to read a statement about ID prior to discussions of evolution in high school biology classes (see Geotimes online, Web Extra, Oct.21, 2005). Closing arguments wrapped up the case about six weeks later, and now, after more than a month spent reviewing the case, John E. Jones III, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., appointed by President Bush, announced a decision today.

To preserve the separation of church and state, Dover Area School District teachers may not "disparage the scientific theory of evolution" and also may not "refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID," Jones wrote in his decision. "We find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science."

Thus, this first federal case to challenge ID comes as a victory for the plaintiffs, who were supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). "This is a home-run, grand-slam kind of decision," says Nick Matzke of NCSE, who says that he worked full-time to provide the plaintiffs' lawyers with the history of creationism and scientific information about evolution.

Matzke says that Jones seems to have found the plaintiffs' argument convincing that ID is simply a new label for creationism. In his statement, Jones specifically discussed the district's use of the reference book Of Pandas and People, of which 50 copies were donated to the district in October 2004 (see Geotimes online, Web Extra, Nov. 12, 2004). During the hearing, Jones discovered that soon after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creation science could not be taught in public schools, all occurrences of the word "creationism" in the Pandas book were replaced with "intelligent design." He also said that the school board — the defendants — lied "to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

John West of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based center that promotes ID, announced in a press release today that although Jones found that the Dover Board "acted from religious motives," he went too far in offering his own views of science, religion and evolution. "Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world," West said in the press release.

NCSE's Matzke says that he is interested to see what actions the Discovery Institute takes over the next year. Dover schools may no longer allow the teaching of ID, but Matzke thinks that creationists may continue to promote their ideas under new names. "As long as there's a large number of religious people who take that [creationist] view," Matzke says, "evolution is going to remain controversial in this society." Still, Wesley Elsberry, also of NCSE, says that school boards across the nation will likely look to this case as a "precedence case," and will not view ID with favor.

Kathryn Hansen

"Evolution battles continue ," Geotimes online, Web Extra, Oct. 21, 2005
"More challenges to evolution ," Geotimes online, Web Extra, Nov. 12, 2004
National Center for Science Education
Discovery Institute

U.S. senator cuts tie to Ann Arbor Christian rights group


ANN ARBOR, Mich. Pennsylvania U-S Senator Rick Santorum says he's dropping ties to the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center.

The Christian rights advocacy group defended a Pennsylvania school district that sought to include "intelligent design" in its science curriculum.

The Republican lawmaker earlier praised the district for trying to teach about controversies surrounding evolution.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled the district's policy on intelligent design was an attempt to teach the religious doctrine of creationism.

Now, Santorum says the Thomas More center used poor judgment in pursuing the case.

Messages seeking comment were left by phone and e-mail before business hours today.

On the Net:

Thomas More Law Center: http://www.thomasmore.org

Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

Intelligent design allies keep faith after setback


RACHEL ZOLL; The Associated Press Published: December 22nd, 2005 02:30 AM

A federal judge's ruling that intelligent design is faith masquerading as science is being viewed by those involved with the issue as a setback, though not a fatal blow, for the movement promoting the concept as an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent design advocates say the judge's lengthy, pointed rebuke of the concept Tuesday in a case out of Pennsylvania might energize supporters, many of whom view his opinion as part of a broader pattern of hostility by courts and the government toward religion in public schools.

U.S. District Judge John Jones criticized the "breathtaking inanity" of the 2004 decision by the Dover Area School Board to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum.

He called the concept "a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism" and said the board's policy violated the constitutional separation of church and state. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher being.

Decision Motivates followers

"This galvanizes the Christian community," said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that promotes intelligent design research. "People I'm talking to say we're going to be raising a whole lot more funds now."

From a legal perspective, the decision's immediate consequences are very limited. The school system is not expected to appeal, because several board members who backed intelligent design were voted out of office in November and replaced by candidates who reject the policy.

Yet opponents contend intelligent-design advocates have emerged from the case substantially weakened. The ruling will likely influence judges in other districts and discourage other school officials from pursuing similar policies, said K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee, a Washington group that promotes separation of church and state.

Battles over evolution are already being waged in Georgia and Kansas.

"Because it was a six-week trial, with a lot of testimony from proponents of intelligent design as well as critics from the scientific community, it's going to have a big impact," Hollman said. "It had a pretty full hearing."

Some say it's Philosophy

The court defeat also comes at a time when movement leaders are failing to win support even among scientists sympathetic to their religious world view.

The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, an association of more than 100 U.S. schools, said its members have a wide range of approaches to the issue. In fact, most conservative Christian colleges are far from embracing intelligent design.

Uko Zylstra, a biologist and dean for natural sciences at Calvin College, a Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich., said intelligent design is not catching on at his college and others because it is based on philosophy, not science.

"We don't think this is how the problem should be articulated," Zylstra said. "The strength of intelligent design is as an apologetic — that God is the creator, but not a scientific explanation."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

IN OUR VIEW A court ruling on creationism


Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - 12:00 AM

The Daily Herald

We're devoting more ink than we'd like these days to state Sen. D. Chris Buttars and his quasi-religious moral crusade to force creationism into the public school curriculum.

But there was an interesting development Tuesday that deserves note. A federal court in Pennsylvania threw a monkey wrench into the West Jordan Republican's plan to slip religion into science

class. Buttars says it will make no difference.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones ruled that the Dover Area School Board violated the separation of church and state when it required so-called "intelligent design" to be presented to students as an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent design states that life and the universe are too complex to have come about by random chance; therefore, something must have created it all.

Buttars is right that science cannot explain everything. Religion, by contrast, can explain virtually anything -- and without concrete evidence. But with so many versions of religion in the world, Buttars might exercise a bit more caution. He prefers to call his version "divine design," and says he doesn't want Utah school children hearing that human beings arose from lower primates.

We don't see why Buttars is so concerned as this may be as good an explanation as any. He does not explain why a God would be unable or unwilling to work through natural processes to accomplish his ends. He's simply so sure that his personal view is correct that he's willing to impose it on everybody else.

The Dover school board wasn't as blatant as Buttars in declaring God as the first cause of the universe, but the court saw the point anyway. Judge Jones ruled that intelligent design "is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

He noted that the "secular purposes claimed by the school board amount to a pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public classroom."

We hope Buttars recognizes this shot across the bow. His creationism bill, which he has kept carefully concealed from the public, is on shaky legal ground. Other federal judges are likely to arrive at the same conclusion as Jones -- especially since Tuesday's ruling was based on a Supreme Court case striking down the teaching of creationism (1987). Buttars would do well to leave the science curriculum alone and spare Utah an unwarranted hassle.

While evolution is deemed a theory by scientists, it does not mean there is no basis for it. A scientific theory is based on observation, measurable evidence and the ability to replicate results. A theory is not as definitive as a law, but it is grounded in empirical experience.

Intelligent design, divine design, creationism -- whatever you want to call it -- is based on no external evidence at all. It requires people to make a leap of faith. It is the exact opposite of the scientific process, which demands proof -- at least proof according earthbound human standards.

This is not a criticism of faith. Faith may ultimately prove superior to science as a path to knowledge. Many scientists are religious. But they also understand that science as we know it today is not about believing; it's about measuring.

Would Buttars demand that the University of Utah's medical school teach demonic possession alongside epilepsy as a cause of seizures, or that sin is just as likely to cause depression as chemical imbalance? We hope not. For the same reason, he should not push his own religious explanation for the universe into the public schools.

There is a place for intelligent design, but it is not in the biology lab. It belongs in a philosophy or comparative religion class, where discussions of faith are more appropriate. In those classes, the Judeo-Christian account of the creation can be debated along with various other world views. There is nothing wrong with trying to explain the unexplainable through religion, just not in science class.

Teaching philosophy and science creates well-rounded people. But teaching religious dogma as science debases both religion and science.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A6.

C'mon, why would anyone even think of teaching creationism in science class?


Date published: 12/22/2005

Creationism versus evolution is simply not worth debate.

Please, please try to convince me otherwise. I honestly do not see any validity to any part of the creationist doctrine.

It is an attempt by those in power to break the walls of church and state because theories such as evolution invalidate their antiquated religious values.

If by now you already want to write a letter to the editor, you can do so at fredericksburg.com.

Is there any objective scientific evidence--beyond those of defensive rationalizations--to explain creationism? Moreover, does anyone really know what that term means without the inclusion of God? And why should it be in a science class?

The trouble is, those who see creationism as a valid educational subject fail to recognize that omission of religion in science doesn't mean spiritual beliefs can't coincide with them.

The two fields are best left to their own devices. Religion is founded on ancient writings and on faith in that which is not visible. Science is based on reason, a product of the 18th-century Enlightenment, and focuses solely on that which can be observed.

And, to be blunt, it is clear from any reputable scientist that evolution is the front-running theory as of 2005.

With that said, what lies in store for evolution?

It's hard to believe that nature has reached its productive peak on animals that kill members of their species by the tens of thousands.

What comes next?

The big step we have made in the leap from ape to man is one of self-awareness. It is a trait that has never been seen before, and one that radically changes how animals behave.

According to the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, animals live in a perceptive state. That is to say their lives are all one moment, dictated by instinct and drives to constantly meet immediate goals.

However, humans have knowledge of their own history and have been both blessed and cursed with an ego, which is both our great gift and a terrible burden.

In natural selection, those animals not sentient, those best fit for survival and armed with the best traits, survive.

Following those same principles for humans (a leap that is not too far-fetched, but at the same time unconfirmed), those that are most self-aware are the humans responsible for pushing the boundaries of our race.

Friedrich Nietschze, German philosopher and groundbreaking thinker, published a rough guide through such an evolutionary process in his masterpiece, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra."

I highly recommend it.

What is most important to remember is this transcendence of the most self-conscious is not inevitable.

Although the most scientifically beneficial, evolution toward that of the "Star-child" from Kubrick's "2001" could easily be replaced by a dystopian future like that of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

With the advent of cloning, this scenario is becoming more and more likely. Armies of clones could be established, and life could become dispensable. The entire world would then live an existence solely manufactured to get them through life in the most comfortable way possible.

It is our responsibility to avoid that as best we can.

JOE HOLMES is taking a year off and will be attending college in the fall.

Date published: 12/22/2005

Creationism booted from only one classroom


By Quad-City Times

Here is what Federal District Judge John E. Jones didn't do:

He didn't restrict teachers or students from talking about creationism.

He didn't limit anyone of any faith from teaching their children and anyone else about beliefs regarding intelligent design.

What Judge Jones did was tell the school administration of Dover, Pa., that such teachings cannot be presented as science. They involve culture and faith, important subjects that we've seen taught in most public school districts. Judge Jones wisely ruled it should be kept out of the science curriculum.

Part of the judge's ruling reflects the inability of intelligent design to pass scientific scrutiny. Creationism is a theoretical conclusion based on faith, not evidence. Our world is so amazingly complex, its origins must be from beyond this world. That's a great discussion topic for history, philosophy or any one of a dozen courses of study. It's a core belief for almost anyone involved in a community of faith.

But it's not science.

A major part of the judge's ruling condemned the motivations of the board members. He found evidence that these board members wanted instruction of intelligent design as a lesson in a specific faith. Yet in the trial and elsewhere, many denied that motivation.

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy," the judge wrote.

Notably, voters in Dover, Pa., acted more quickly than the court. They voted the school board out earlier this year.

We hope Quad-City public schools fully encourage discussions of creationism, intelligent design and theories behind Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other theologies.

But not in the science classroom.

Fortunately, parents who want creationism instilled in their children don't have to look far. The beliefs shared by the former Dover, Pa., school board are wonderfully evident everywhere this time of year.

New ruling on intelligent design being taught in public schools


12/21/2005 10:17 PM By: News 10 Now Staff

Tuesday, a federal judge ruled teaching intelligent design in public school science classes is unconstitutional, saying it's a religious view.

Now, many are weighing in on the judge's decision. Intelligent design is the belief an intelligent designer played a part in some aspect of the evolution of life on earth.

New ruling on intelligent design being taught in public schools

Tuesday, a federal judge ruled teaching intelligent design in public school science classes is unconstitutional, saying it's a religious view.

The Museum of the Earth in Ithaca strives to educate visitors about evolution and creationism. Museum docents are many times faced with questions about intelligent design.

Museum officials say this decision gives a clearer answer on how to answer many of those questions.

"This has dented the momentum of the phase of creationism. This phase of intelligent design will encourage a lot of second thought on the part of school boards, state legislators, and people who legislate about curriculum in public schools. That this will give them some second thoughts. This is an immensely thoughtful decision," said Dr. Warren Allmon, Director of the Paleontological Institution.

If you would like to learn more about evolution and intelligent design, just visit priweb.org/museumofthearth.

Intelligent design in Colorado?


December 22, 2005


The debate over the teaching of intelligent design in public schools has not reached the agendas of Colorado Springs-area school boards, but a Colorado lawmaker is considering legislation to encourage boards to join the battle.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Tuesday that teaching intelligent design — the idea that the world is too complex to be chalked up to chance — is unconstitutional. His ruling, which said intelligent design is unscientific and a guise for creationism, applies only to part of Pennsylvania. Still, legal experts have said the ruling is likely to have national implications.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, believes the Pennsylvania ruling and a general culture of "political correctness" will leave school boards afraid to take up the topic. He wants to draft legislation that would allow, not mandate, school districts to teach intelligent design.

Intelligent design is not covered in Colorado statutes. If a school board attempted to add intelligent design to a curriculum, its legality probably would be determined by a lawsuit, as it was in Pennsylvania.

Brophy's idea will receive a chilly greeting at the Statehouse, where Democrats hold majorities in both houses. Rep. Michael Merrifield of Manitou Springs, the only Democrat in the El Paso County delegation, said the notion of using taxpayer dollars to teach intelligent design is in for rough sledding, should it arrive in the House Education Committee, which he chairs.

If the bill reaches his committee, Merrifield said, he would listen to what Brophy says but would vote such a measure down and urge the rest of the committee to follow.

The son of a Baptist minister, Merrifield said he is a Christian, but he believes church is the best place to learn about creation.

"I don't believe it's the job of the Legislature or school boards to teach religious orthodoxy," he said.

Many proponents of intelligent design are careful to avoid naming the Biblical God as the intelligence behind the world's design. In the Pennsylvania ruling, however, Jones said most of the evidence he saw in 21 days of testimony pointed to religion, rather than science.

In Colorado Springs, school boards in major districts have not taken up the subject and have not been approached by parents, teachers or community members to do so, school officials said.

Academy School District 20 has received a few inquiries from parents about the curriculum review process and the possibility of intelligent design being discussed, said spokeswoman Nanette Anderson. The region's largest district, Colorado Springs School District 11, has received no such inquiries. The issue also has not surfaced in Falcon School District 49 and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8.

Brophy said he would be surprised if his legislation goes far in a Democratic-controlled Legislature. "It's up to me to try," he said, "It's up to other powers to see how things work out."

United States: Adventist Educators Ponder Impact of Intelligent Design Ruling


December 22, 2005 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States .... [Mark A. Kellner/ANN Staff]

Dr. James Gibson, (left), director of the Adventist Church's Geoscience Research Institute.

A Dec. 20 ruling from a federal court in the United States finds that "creation science" or "Intelligent Design" cannot be taught in state-sponsored schools because it has a religious base. Seventh-day Adventists are among several faith groups who are questioning that ruling. "Intelligent Design," or "ID" is a scientific theory that postulates a different origin of the universe than Darwin's theory of evolution.

The ruling capped a six-week federal trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who declared Intelligent Design to be religion, not science, and its presentation in state-run schools a violation of America's constitutional separation of church and state.

"We find that, while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science," Jones wrote in his decision, released Dec. 20. After the testimony of several experts on both sides of the matter, as well as evidence that included pro-ID textbooks and a compilation of local newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, Jones said he felt confident he could settle the issue at hand.

"While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six-week trial that spanned 21 days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area," Jones declared in a 139 page ruling.

Where does this leave Adventists, whose church adheres to a strict, literal six-day view of creation and a fervent belief in religious liberty? In the United States, it leaves them pretty much where they were: free to teach as they wish in their own schools.

"As a parochial educational system, in almost every state we have the right to choose our own curriculum," Larry Blackmer, an associate director of education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, said. "So we're not required to teach evolution. What we do is similar: at least make the students aware of what that theory is about and what some of the issues are regarding that theory. We don't as a matter of course teach evolution, but we do present the concepts of evolution and our response to that."

In Britain, Dr. Keith Davidson, education director for the Adventist Church, said, there's freedom for even those church schools receiving state sponsorship to teach a worldview in line with their faith. He believes those seeking to limit public discussion of the theory of origins in school are caught in a kind of intolerance that some have accused Christians of holding.

"They are saying in a sense that only one view should be considered," Davidson told ANN in a telephone interview. "There ought to be freedom for an expression of views for those wanting to understand the origin of life. To say that they should not be considered is, to me, very intolerant behavior, in a way."

Davidson adds, "It's saying we're not prepared to have an open mind, to discuss and debate the issue on merit. If the evolutionist's argument is so persuasive, it should be able to withstand a challenge from another school of thought."

L. James Gibson, director of the Geoscience Research Institute of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California, told ANN the judge's decision was a result of having to chose between two wrong presentations.

"First, it is a misleading exaggeration to claim that mere mention of an alternative hypothesis of intelligent design in the origin of life represents an establishment of religion," Gibson said. "Second, it is hypocritical of the scientific establishment to claim that intelligent design is unscientific because it is untestable, while at the same time failing to acknowledge that many aspects of evolutionary theory are untestable."

He told ANN, "My basic position is that both sides were wrong, and the judge was forced to make a bad decision. Students are entitled to hear a balanced presentation on issues of origins, but politicians, scientists and religious leaders should not be trying to micro-manage the classroom."

web site: news.adventist.org

Copyright (c) 2005 by Adventist News Network. 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA 20904-6600 phone: (301) 680-6306. e-mail address: adventistnews@gc.adventist.org.

ANN World News Bulletin is a review of news and information issued by the Communication department from the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters and released as part of the service of Adventist News Network. It is made available primarily to religious news editors. Our news includes dispatches from the church's international offices and the world headquarters.

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