Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Feb 13, 2006
By Marilyn Stewart Baptist Press
MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)--Should religious motivations of a theory's proponents disqualify that theory from receiving a hearing in the public square? It's a point that has become a central issue in the Intelligent Design-evolution debate.
Francis J. Beckwith, associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University, told a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary forum that the striking down of a policy based solely on the religious motives of its adherents is "logically fallacious and constitutionally suspect."
Beckwith spoke on "Intelligent Design, Public Schools and the First Amendment" during the closing session of NOBTS' 2006 Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum Feb. 4 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.
"Religious belief is one of the few rights absolutely protected under the Constitution," Beckwith said. "The government may penalize actions, not beliefs.
"Beliefs that propel a citizen to embrace particular policies may not be used by the government to limit a citizen's legitimate liberties or powers," he said.
Beckwith's comments followed the presentation of evolutionary biologist Wesley R. Elsberry, a representative of the National Center for Science Education.
A focal point of Beckwith's remarks was the December 2005 decision handed down by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. Beckwith said it appeared the judge relied heavily on the religious motivations of the Dover Area (Pa.) School Board in his decision.
In that case, the judge ruled for the plaintiffs and the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who brought suit against the school district for a policy requiring ninth-grade biology students to hear a disclaimer on the inadequacies of evolution.
The disclaimer referred to evolution as a "theory, not a fact" and presented Intelligent Design as an alternative explanation for the origin of life, referencing the book, "Of Pandas and People."
In the question-and-answer period that followed Beckwith's presentation, Florida State University philosophy and zoology professor Michael Ruse said that while he applauded the judge's ruling he wondered if what the judge perceived as a lack of forthrightness by the school board contributed to his ruling. The Dover case, he said, would not represent "the final word" on the subject.
Beckwith chose to focus on Kitzmiller v. Dover because of the significant role religious motives played in the case and because, in his opinion, other cases cited in the decision do not apply to Intelligent Design.
Jones found for the plaintiffs based on two primary criteria: the endorsement test, which examines whether a casual observer considers a statement by a government-sponsored agency to be an endorsement of a religious viewpoint, and the Lemon test, derived from the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the court articulated a three-part test for constitutionality, including a test of purpose. It stated that a statue or government-sponsored message violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment if it fails to show a secular purpose.
Jones' decision also cited the cases of Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) and Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), two cases in which laws restricting the teaching of evolution were struck down because the defendants failed to give non-sectarian reasons for the teaching of creation science, but rather, were found to be advancing a religious viewpoint.
To show why these cases should not be applied to the Intelligent Design debate, Beckwith pointed out that it appears the U.S. Supreme Court in both the Epperson and Edwards cases was not ruling out the teaching of scientific theories that are at odds with the philosophical presuppositions of naturalism. Rather, the court, was striking down the teaching that advanced a religious viewpoint.
Though the question awaits a court test, Beckwith explained, the Supreme Court ruling apparently "does not prohibit the teaching of scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and that other scientific theories could be taught if a "clear secular intent of enhancing science education" for children is demonstrated.
"Intelligent design is not stealth creationism," Beckwith said.
Rather, ID is a name for a cluster of arguments that reasons the universe to be the result of intelligent agency rather than of unguided matter, Beckwith explained. The theory lacks the accompaniment of religious authority or sacred Scripture.
To focus on the religious motives of citizens involved in a legal dispute, Beckwith said, commits a logical error and may in fact be a violation of the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment.
"Labeling one's motives as religious or non-religious contributes nothing to one's assessment of the quality of the argument," Beckwith said.
To reject an argument because of the religious convictions of its proponents is to commit the "genetic fallacy," Beckwith explained. The error is in rejecting an idea because of its source or a flaw in its origin.
"Either the argument works or doesn't," Beckwith said. "Either it is plausible or implausible."
Segregating citizens from the public debate based on motive "violates our nation's long tradition of absolutely prohibiting government inspection of its citizens' beliefs," Beckwith said.
Motive is distinct from the content of the argument, he said, noting that citizens with very different motives may support the same legislative policy.
As an example, Beckwith cited the Danbury, Conn., case in which Baptists in the 1800s were burdened with a state tax designed to help the Congregationalist church. Their motives for objecting to the tax could have been construed as advancing a personal tenet of faith, that any type of coerced faith is not genuine faith.
Although religiously motivated, Beckwith pointed out, their objection would have been in line with the secular notion of resisting any forced participation in a state church.
Citing the case of Reynolds v. United States (1878) that prohibited the practice of polygamy in spite of a religious duty defense, Beckwith reiterated that government may penalize actions, but not beliefs themselves.
Many of the adherents of ID do have religious motivations, Beckwith concluded, but that is not enough to limit a "modest, fair and non-sectarian introduction to non-naturalistic views in the public school classroom."
Judging the value of a proposal based on a proponent's personal motives would build a political culture in which citizens would fear the rejection of their proposals regardless of the content or validity of the argument.
"This test [of religious motives] would act as an instrument of subtle coercion..." he said. "It would result in political exclusion based on belief, something the Supreme Court has held is de facto, not just prima facie, unconstitutional."
Audio recordings of the Greer-Heard Forum are available at http://www.greer-heard.com.
Moss David Posner, M.D. is a physician currently in practice in the California Department of Corrections. He is prolific as well as versatile, and writes on a number of subjects, including philosophy, religion, and the state of medical care in the California Department of Corrections. Dr. Posner has published articles in a variety of publications, including a Journal of Transcription and the Department of the Navy. He lives in Fresno with his son Aaron, a budding Mechanical Engineer.
By Moss David Posner February 14, 2006
I concluded my previous article with the following:
"The evidence appears to be narrowing the gap between the sides of this issue. So perhaps the answer is to home school our kids. To do this, however, parents will have to educate themselves to the fundamentals of science—as well as religion. What basic tenants of science would be most helpful for a spiritually oriented parent to know?
That, dear reader is the subject of a coming article."
Let's define our terms, and let's start with the terms "science" and "scientific method:"
"Science" is an organized integrated body of knowledge derived empirically with respect to a specific subject. The term "empirical" here refers to knowledge obtained directly, either by observation, or indirectly, by experimentation.
When a person using their five senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching or smelling) simply observes something and records their observations, they are obtaining information by direct observation, or awareness. A detective investigating a crime uses this method. He scouts around for the evidence of the crime, asking questions and writing down answers, reviewing data or crime scenes, obtaining evidence and taking it to the crime lab.
When a person obtains information by experimentation, they are also using some of their five senses; but in this case they are setting up a test situation and then observing the results. The question asked and answered by an experiment is related to questions answered by direct observation, but it is slightly different in that it is a question related to the general—or average--behavior of something, under given conditions.
Let's say that a scientist wants to ask a question: What is the temperature at which water boils? The answer is whatever that temperature turns out to be. So he sets up a beaker of water and inserts a thermometer. Then he turns up the heat source, say, a Bunsen burner, and then observes the temperature at which the water boils. Then he writes down the results.
Note that he can repeat this experiment several times so as to confirm the accuracy of the results. Now he can make a general statement about the boiling point of water under given conditions. The more times he does this, the more confidence he has in the results.
Let's expand on this basic method. Let's say he repeats the experiment at 1000 feet above sea level. Here, he has introduced a new condition—a change in the altitude. Under these circumstances he will observe that the water boils a lower temperature. Note that he keeps two things constant: the stuff he is boiling (water,) and the point when he makes his measure (boiling point.)
If he continues to repeat this experiment every thousand feet, he may (and will) see a connection between the actual temperature at the boiling point and the altitude. From this he derives a function—an ongoing relationship, a connection between altitude and boiling point temperature.
He notes a continuous drop in this boiling point temperature as a result of—or function of--an increase in altitude. And because this change is continuous—occurring in a consistent way, at a particular temperature, at every point between the altitudes, this is called a "continuous function."
Now he doesn't have to measure the boiling point of water every inch of the way up a mountain. That's because the connection, or function, is continuous: It continues from any point to any other point.
Let's say that, for every thousand feet in height, the boiling point temperature drops one degree. He can predict what the boiling point will be at any given height. He can even predict what he will find at altitudes that he cannot reach. He keeps some things unchanged—observed boiling point, and water. He varies altitude, and watches the resulting variation in temperature at the boiling points at each altitude.
Boiling point temperature and altitude vary in this example, don't they? But there is a difference: He personally varied the altitude. Nature varied the resultant boiling point temperature. The variable that he controlled, the altitude, is called the independent variable. The result on the other variable, the boiling point temperature, is not under his control, and is called the dependent variable, because it is "dependent" upon the change in the first variable.
Take a moment out here and pat yourself on the back. You now understand the terms "constant," "independent variable" "dependent variable," and "function."
A word about measurement: To measure something usually is to express the thing in terms of numbers. Sometimes we can be pretty precise about this; sometimes we can't. More on measurement and its requirements later.
Now, we note these correlations in everyday life, don't we? We most often make these connections but don't think much about it: If we drive around long enough without fueling up, our car stops. This doesn't happen more than once or twice. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to make the connection between gas in the tank, measured in gallons, and miles traveled, as a measure of distance.
So distance traveled in a car in this instance is a function of amount of gas. More gas results in more miles traveled. And most of us have taken the time to measure the connection, haven't we? We note the miles traveled and the amount of gas we put into our cars. More gas results in more miles traveled. Here, the independent variable can be the amount of fuel needed to fill the tank. The dependent variable then will be the number of miles traveled.
When our cat or dog scratches at the door, we soon figure out he or she wants to go out. This usually becomes obvious when the animal has a few accidents in the house. If we were foolish enough, I suppose we could set up an experiment to see how long the dog can go before—well, you know. We could call it the "poop point," like boiling point, and measure the "poop point" as a function of time in the house. I'll let somebody else run this experiment.
Every parent knows that there is a correlation between amount of food in the house and the point in time that it takes to run out, as measured in days or weeks.
When we are late to work, we note the boss is not amused. We could call that the "Teed-off point." We make the connection.
When we leave the food out, as time passes we note it gets cold. Let's take the temperature at fifteen minutes intervals and write it down. We could measure the drop in temperature of the food as a function of the time it is left out. We would find that this drop in temperature is a continuous variable—the longer the time left out, the greater the drop in temperature.
We all know that if we leave food out long enough, it will spoil. If we wanted, we could set up a couple of experiments, back to back:
Now let's repeat the experiment and measure those temperature drops as a function of time food is left out—until it spoils. The time it takes to spoil we could call the "spoiling point." By the way, this is done routinely. What does it say on your milk container? "Use before such-and-such a date? Aha! And you thought you couldn't understand science?
To make you look really smart to your kids, let's divide these connections into two groups: In the case of boiling point temperature as a function of altitude, we see that the greater the altitude, the less the boiling point temperature. As one gets bigger, (altitude) the other gets smaller (boiling point temperature.) This is called an "inverse correlation."
The other is called a "direct correlation:" The greater the amount of gas we put in the car, the greater the miles we can travel in the car. When the thing we change, the independent variable gets bigger, and the other, the dependent variable, also gets bigger, we say the correlation is "direct."
Well terrific. Who care? When do we—or does anyone—decide to measure a connection? There are at least two answers, and they are related:
We may be brought to do an experiment when we have a hunch there is a connection, and for some reason or another it is important to us to know if this is so. If the cat poops, or the car stops, or the boss is mad, we are motivated to discover if in fact there is a connection, and in some cases, we need to know what exactly is the extent or amount of the connection. So we set up experiments to find out, as we have discussed.
The other reason may be simply intellectual curiosity: We may have a hunch that there seems to be a connection between two things, and we're just curious, for whatever reason, to find out. With either reason for doing an experiment, we want to discover first, if this is connection is really true, and second, the extent of the connection.
I say, "If this connection is really true," because sometimes things appear to be connected, but really are not. This occurs because we are only human and do not do our thinking automatically and precisely, and because we are creatures of emotion, which can distort our perceptions.
It's amazing how wrong we can be—until we measure something. Years ago, it was thought (by those who want to do so) that some minorities had less intelligence. So experiments were set up to measure the connection between race and intelligence. It was quickly discovered that there was no correlation—that the distribution of range of intelligence was generally the same for all races.
This is a perfect point to use the above example to talk a little bit about different kinds of experiments and different kinds of measurements, or measures. Let's take the last one first: What do we mean when we say, different kinds of measures?
We can consider the various races; but they are not numerical, are they? These don't vary numerically, then. There is no "race one," or "race two." There are Negroid, Caucasian, Oriental, etc. They are all different, but they are all races.
These variables on race, then, are independent variables, but simple numbers cannot define them, nor can they be measured to be different from one another by using numbers or a scale consisting of numbers. We call such variations on a "cardinal" scale. This is a scale where all of the variables—races, in this case—are different but cannot be reduced to numbers.
When different variables only can be expressed numerically, we say they exist on an "ordinal" scale. Surely, we can express altitude in this way: "altitude one" could stand for an altitude of one thousand feet; and "altitude two" would truly be twice that of altitude one.
There's a third kind that's sort of in-between these two. (Aren't you glad?) If this is more than you care to digest, just skip this section. This is called a "semi-ordinal scale."
A gaggle of girls or guys sitting at a bar can do this. They rank the others in order of attractiveness or looks. Here, the variables are only "somewhat" different in degree or amount, but it's hard to measure them numerically. This is so because in these cases we don't yet know how. We haven't figured out how to do so yet.
It's like an ordinal scale because the differences can be graded, or ranked in an order, but not in multiples. It's not a cardinal scale, because often the experiment, or measurement, can be reproduced with similar—but usually not identical—results.
In such cases, we say that something is "more than" or "greater than" as compared to "less than," or "smaller than." Sometimes we use numbers, but we know they are not strictly ordinal. Ever rate someone of the opposite sex as a "ten," or worse? Ever been asked to grade an instructor along a scale of, say, "great," "outstanding," fair," or "poor." These are semi-ordinal scales. Sometimes later on they can be replaced with more precise measurements, sometimes not.
The important point to remember that there are different types of measurement scales, but one is not more "true" or "real" than another, but rather is expressed differently.
I said we were going to talk about different kinds of measurement scales. This, we've done. Now let's talk about different kinds of experimental methods. Let's use the same example I referred to above—race.
It's a good example. We can go out and measure intelligence as a function of race, as I related in the experiment earlier. The other option is to review the available research literature and then correlate the results with race, if such information—or measurements—is available. Such "experiments" or studies are referred to as "sociological" or "anthropological" because their expressed goal is to be able to make statements about a group of people, so defined.
Similar conclusions can be reached in the physical sciences. We can take what we know about the properties of metals, stars, etc. and attempt to generalize about what conditions exist—or may exist—at a different time, past or present, or at a great distance from us.
It is very important to note that these results, or measurements, may have originally been derived from some prior formal experiments, they can used to draw conclusions in a different setting, say, for example, the present, as compared to the past, or about distant planets, as compared to our own.
The other important to note about such measures is that unfortunately they cannot always be repeated, for obvious reasons. And although the conclusions drawn may be the most reasonable, given the available information, the conclusions can never be considered as certain.
When we gather a large amount of information collected from different sources in an attempt to come to conclusions either about a larger group in our time, such as the studies on race, or conclusions about a remote time, say the distant past, this organization of a vast amount of information is defined as a scientific "theory." As mentioned, we are not as secure in our conclusions in theoretical constructs because of the enormity of the information and because the theory does not lend itself to re-testing in all aspects.
Despite the above limitations, we are often able to confirm, reject, or revise aspects of scientific theories as more information becomes available. This information comes to us in two forms: additional information from the past (or from a distance,) or new methods of testing or evaluation produced in the present.
An example of new information from the past would be the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which incredibly confirmed many of the writings in the Old Testament. Another example would be the writing of Josephus, the Roman historian, writing about Jesus of Nazareth.
An example of new information from the present would be the advances in acoustic technology, which allowed us to confirm the fact that shots came from behind the famous grassy knoll involved in the Kennedy assassination. In this case, tape recorded shots recorded from one of the motorcycle police was reevaluated.
Another example of new information from the present is the study of the acoustical events and of the videotaped explosions emanating from the Twin Towers prior to plane impacts on those buildings. I'll leave it to you to decide what to conclude regarding this tragedy.
One other characteristic of scientific theories is that, in some instances, it is possible to have two or more theories available to explain the available factual information. Assuming that one or more theories are available to explain most or all of the available facts, and assuming for the moment that there is not some glaring internal inconsistency in the available theories, how does one determine which theory best fits the available facts?
Before attempting to answer this question, it is important to keep in mind the following two points:
First, the fact that there are two or more scientific theories does not exclude either of them from consideration—even if one appears somewhat more comprehensive in its explanation than the others. This is because, as more information becomes available, like a horse race, one theory might be seen to be "pulling ahead" of the others. Even so, the relative thoroughness of the various theories should be noted out of respect for all of them.
Second, a scientific theory can only be considered with regard to scientific data and scientific data only. A theory can be noted to be incomplete in its explanation of various phenomena. This is only—and every—reason to look for more data, not a reason to discard the theory.
This basically is the answer to the question of which theory is "best." The only way in which scientific theories can compete is in some measure of the extent to which each explains the available, or accepted, factual information.
Finally, let us consider (not without trepidation) the question of the Origin of Species:
It is not necessary or appropriate to compare Evolution to religious theories on this subject. Evolution is a scientific theory, or construct; Creationism is not—nor is there reason to believe it was intended as such. If it is to be so regarded, then it is incumbent upon its supporters to show how that theory explains the available data considered by Evolutionary theory better than the Theory of Evolution does this.
Whatever gaps Evolution has—or is believed to have—as a scientific theory cannot properly be spliced or suffused with elements of religious thought—much less supplanted by an entire, non-scientific theory which, by its own admission, makes no attempt to explain at all, in scientific terms, the Origin of Species. In this regard, it is significance that the supporters of Creationism do not attempt to substitute parts of Evolutionary Theory with their own constructs, but rather would prefer to reject any attempt at scientific explanation completely.
This unfortunate treatment of a scientific theory by some religious people is akin to campaigning for a contender for a public office by drawing attention to his limitations, and by so doing making the claim that an unproven candidate is automatically preferable. I don't see these very same people campaigning vigorously on the part of other apparently disenfranchised groups, such as the Hindus or Brahmins, who have their own notions on how the world began.
Despite all of the above, I do understand the profound concern religious people have, and I agree with their concern to this extent:
There is a great lack of a spiritual nature and the associated respect for—and of—the pragmatic necessity for a code of ethics, of morality. Without this urgent necessity of concern our culture and civilization as we know it is lost.
The Founding Fathers—all—were imbued with this urgency. This is why their constant referral to what Providence or God Himself would have us do. They had no conflict or problem in inserting such insights because they were imbued with a deep and apparent, self-evident awareness of the Moral Force and Power in the universe, without the necessity of proving formally, or scientifically, the obvious presence of such. And the foundation of such awareness is to discover this Force as inevitable and indispensable to making any sense of the "why" of life itself.
It comes from a dispassionate yet impassioned look at The Whole and sensing the wonder derived wherefrom. And it is precisely in this endeavor that Science and its intricate and elaborate explanations of Nature yields us, creatures from a Technological age, an unanticipated opportunity—to realize that, in all of its complexity, in the details of its elaborate and contrived measurements, there is the gift of an amused Creator, who waits patiently for us to discover in those moments of weariness and exhaustion in our attempts to explain to ourselves His creation in merely human terms, that we have only to grant that He Is, and in so doing put our burdens down. Keats said it in the last line of "Ode to a Grecian Urn,'
"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"
If you can teach this to your children, then they will truly understand Science—and Religion.
Feb 13, 2006
By Gary D. Myers Baptist Press
MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)--Proponents of Intelligent Design claim the theory explains complexity in nature that evolution cannot. Detractors dismiss ID as religion in disguise.
Both sides of the debate presented their case at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum "Debating Design" Feb. 3-4. Hosted by Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., the forum featured leading ID proponent William Dembski and one of his key critics, Michael Ruse.
Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.
Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and professor of zoology at Florida State and editor of the "Cambridge University Press Series in the Philosophy of Biology."
Dembski opened the forum Feb. 3 with a defense of Intelligent Design as viable science. He began by defining what he means by the term "evolution."
"We are not talking about a guided form of evolution in which God or some intelligence is guiding the process in some sustentative way," Dembski said. "Evolution is a process that, for all we know, did not require any intelligence."
Darwinian naturalists deny the presence of design in nature, he noted; instead, they attribute the diversity and complexity they observe to natural, but random processes.
The scientific community has a double standard when it comes to ID and evolution, Dembski said. If scientists can imagine any natural process to explain something, it immediately "trumps" ID, he said, whereas facts are demanded of design researchers.
Observable evidence, Dembski said, points to a designer.
On the cellular level, organisms exhibit the "hallmarks of design," he said, citing the bacterial flagellum as an example of the complexity and design researchers have discovered.
Scientists have called the flagellum "the most efficient machine in the universe," Dembski said, recounting that Michael Behe first drew attention to the bacterial flagellum in his 1996 book "Darwin's Black Box." Since then, the complex and efficient flagellum often has been called the "icon of ID."
Evolutionists do not have a good explanation for the flagellum, Dembski said. Darwinists have pointed to a subsystem embedded in the flagellum which they speculate could be a precursor to the full system, he said.
"What you have here is not a fully articulated [evolutionary] path," Dembski said. "What you have here is an island and you have a huge jump to the next island. The problem is unresolved."
ID researchers are not simply defaulting to design, Dembski noted; they believe that intelligence best describes what is happening in the flagellum.
"Intelligent design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence," Dembski said, defining ID theory. He cited archaeology and forensics as special sciences that already operate under this definition.
ID is not just creationism in disguise, Dembski maintained. Creationism focuses on the "doctrine of creation," while ID seeks to detect design through something Dembski calls the design inference.
While Dembski sees much evidence pointing to an intelligent designer, he said ID theory does not identify the nature of the designer.
Dembski, who identified himself as a Christian, said believers must utilize theological resources to point to the Christian God. However, he sees apologetic value in ID. He said the theory can clear away objections to Christianity and make faith "plausible." Darwinian naturalism, he said, is still the leading cause of disbelief.
Michael Ruse began by saying that he grew up as a Quaker in England. He stopped attending Quaker meetings at the age of 20 and became an evolutionist.
"If you grow up a Quaker, it's very hard to hate Christianity," Ruse said. "[But] I think people like Bill Dembski are completely mistaken, I don't want to mince words about that."
Ruse explained how Charles Darwin, whom he credits for changing the biological science paradigm, developed his ideas about natural selection. While visiting the Galapagos Island, Darwin observed great diversity in turtles and birds. The birds and turtles differed significantly from one island to another.
One finch species exhibited a beak uniquely fitted for eating cactus, others had beaks fitted for eating insects, with one finch species even using twigs as tools to obtain food, Ruse said.
"These are all examples of adaptation -– things the natural theologians before Darwin had said obviously had to be designed," Ruse said. "What Darwin said was, 'No, I think that these can be explained through unbroken law and there is no need for a designer to get them' -– natural selection can do it."
Darwin did not say that a designer was impossible, only that a designer was not necessary, thus making made it possible to be a non-believer, Ruse said.
Ruse compared Darwin's argument for natural selection to a court case with no direct eyewitnesses. Courts often convicted people for crimes that no one witnessed. For Darwin, Ruse said, all the clues pointed to natural selection.
"I am an evolutionist because of that kind of legal argument," Ruse said. "I am also a believer in natural selection because, like Bill Dembski, I think the world is very much as if designed."
Ruse claimed that Intelligent Design is the product of Protestant evangelicalism bent on literal interpretations of the Bible, describing this approach as a unique development of the American South and West.
From the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial throughout the 20th century evangelicals have promoted creationism in their struggle against evolution, he said, linking Intelligent Design to creationism.
"To say that Intelligent Design has nothing to do with religion is to miss the elephant in the room," Ruse said. "I see Intelligent Design as part of the overall American, indigenous Protestant and evangelical sort of position."
Ruse offered one analogy of how a pathway to the origin of an organism could be undetectable. A scaffold is used while building a bridge, he said. After construction is complete, the scaffold is removed leaving only the finished product. Ruse suggested that processes leading to the development of organisms could fade when no longer needed.
With all of his objections to Intelligent Design, Ruse said he has an even greater theological objection. He pointed to the many genetic disorders in the world. Ruse said he wonders why a designer would not "clean up the defects."
Ruse said Dembski is not a traditional creationist, but deemed ID as "creationism-lite." ID supporters, he said, are generally moralists who oppose abortion and gay marriage and support capital punishment.
In conclusion, Ruse said, ID is a matter of the "red states and the blue states" of the past presidential election, reflecting the deep cultural divide facing America.
The forum continued Feb. 3 with a question-and-answer session with Dembski and Ruse and a panel of scholars: William Lane Craig, research professor at Talbot School of Theology; Martinez Hewlett, professor emeritus of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona and adjunct professor of philosophy and theology at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, Calif.; Francis Beckwith, associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University; and Wesley Elsberry, information project director for the National Center for Science Education.
Craig, Hewlett, Beckwith and Elsberry each presented papers Feb. 4. Dembski and Ruse responded after each presenter.
"I was pleased with our ability to bring together two sides and disagree agreeably," said Robert Stewart, director of the Greer-Heard Forum at NOBTS.
"I think Dembski showed what his project is and that it is substantial," Steward said, describing Intelligent Design as a serious attempt to "find a better way to do science." Ruse, meanwhile, "largely argued that Darwinism is a better explanatory hypothesis than Intelligent Design."
Established through a gift from Bill and Carolyn Heard, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said the forum is designed to help students and ministers learn to think critically about issues in secular society.
"It is because of our theological convictions that we have [the Greer-Heard Forum]," Kelley said. "We believe it is important for believers to not shy away from the discussion on any issue."
The exchange of ideas, he said, helps prepare Christians to engage and share the Gospel with individuals with a secular worldview.
Next year's topic for the Greer-Heard Forum, set for Feb. 16-17, 2007, will be atheism. Oxford scholar Alister McGrath, a defender of Christianity, will dialogue with Daniel Dennett, a professor at Tufts University and an outspoken atheist.
Audio recordings of the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum are available at www.greer-heard.com.
(February 14, 2006)
Karl Giberson's "Intelligent design's long march to nowhere" (Science & Theology News, December 2005) seems a bit unfair. He quotes Michael Behe as saying that "ID 'explains' things that appear to be intelligently designed as having resulted from intelligent activity." So far so good; but then Giberson goes on to suggest that such explanation is "tautological" and, hence, apparently of no interest.
Can he be serious? A tautological explanation of apparent design would "explain" apparent design by pointing out that apparently designed things are apparently designed. That would indeed be uninteresting. But of course it is not at all like explaining apparent design in terms of real design. Explanations of the latter sort, obviously, are often wholly correct. Often the explanation of the way things seem is that they are that way.
Why is it that the oak trees in my back yard appear to be without leaves? Because, in fact, they are without leaves. There is nothing remotely tautological about such explanation. And such explanations need not be uninteresting. On the contrary, sometimes they're of great interest. You attend a lecture on a subject you know little about; the lecturer seems to you to be talking nonsense. At least two explanations present themselves: You don't know enough to understand what she says, and she really is talking nonsense. Learning the latter would certainly be of interest.
Giberson also complains that ID hasn't generated further research or research projects. This may be true. At any rate the proponents of ID haven't, as far as I know, actually come through with much by way of further research. Perhaps even the central claims of ID are by nature not fecund. They are not such as to suggest further lines of research, at least of the sort George Gamow came up with. Perhaps that's true. Still, their conclusions might very well be "scientific." They might very well be true, and they might very well be of great importance, very much worth knowing.
Consider the proposition that living beings on Earth have in fact been designed by an intelligent designer. Isn't this proposition of enormous — even Earth-shaking — intrinsic interest and very much worth knowing, if true? And suppose, as the friends of ID claim, this Earth-shaking proposition could be established as part of science. Wouldn't that too be of enormous interest, even if no further research projects were forthcoming?
— Alvin Plantinga
Professor of philosophy, University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN
Karl Giberson responds:
Alvin Plantinga, as I would have expected, makes some incisive observations and criticisms of my analysis of ID, none of which I would reject outright.
Regarding the characteristics of good scientific explanations, I would respond that explaining intelligent design in nature as caused by intelligent activity does not provide the sort of explanations that natural scientists find interesting. I suspect that such explanations might pass muster in sciences like anthropology that invoke "intelligent activity" to explain things but, when I compare this sort of response to other explanations in the natural sciences — gravity, electricity, quantum mechanics, conservation of energy — it just does not seem adequate.
While I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all model for scientific explanation, by far the majority of scientific explanations "explain" complex phenomena in terms of simpler phenomena. Robust scientific theories explain more and more with less and less. The piecemeal epistemological plug-ins proposed by ID seem entirely ad hoc and explain nothing beyond the particular problem at hand — and don't really explain that. I would concede that "tautological" is probably too strong a term, however, for some of the ID examples. Perhaps "insufficiently illuminating" would be a better, if somewhat clunky, label to capture my dissatisfaction with ID explanations.
I share with Plantinga a deep conviction that human beings, and the rest of the natural world, are indeed the products of the creative activity of God, who is, of course, intelligent. But, all my scientific intuitions recoil from ID as hopelessly inadequate and without scientific promise. Exactly how God created the rich panoply of life forms that graces our remarkable planet remains mysterious. But I don't think the evidence supports the idea that God stepped in, here and there, and installed "irreducibly complex" structures in the natural order.
Evolution and biology are not the anti-Christ
Try as I may, I cannot get myself to begin my prayers, "Dear Intelligent Designer." The current debate and quasi-warfare between religion and science has taken drastic turns in the ousting of eight pro-intelligent design school board members in Dover, Pa., and the Kansas State Board of Education mandate for all public school biology classes to include intelligent design vis-à-vis Darwinian evolution.
One is reminded of a remark attributed to the wife of the Bishop of Worcester after Darwin's theory of evolution was explained to her: "Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known."
Pat Robertson chimed in recently, warning that Dover people who voted to "reject God" had better not turn to God when and if a disaster hits them as divine retribution for what they did. I would remind Robertson that the title "evangelist" means "bringer of Good News." He does not deserve that title.
Evolution and biology are not the Antichrist some seem to think they are. Thank God for people who do not try to drag educators and education itself into a new Dark Ages.
— L. A. Jake Jacobson
Gingerich defense of random mutations raises reasonable doubt
Owen Gingerich in the Science & Theology News November 2005 issue ("Disrupting the design debate: Taking the ID debate out of pundits' playbooks") makes it quite clear that he believes in a Creator and Designer of the universe. A designed universe implies the next step that it is a universe fine-tuned for the appearance of life.
Why would the Gingerich Creator not be involved in life's evolutionary mechanism, a next step after evolution of a life-creating universe, which is the approach of the ID folks? In fact, Gingerich implies that both atheistic and theistic evolution are reasonable philosophic ideologies. Gingerich even implies that he is kindly disposed to a philosophy of theistic evolution. But then he jumps to a defense of random mutations and natural selection by stating: "[leading theorists of ID] fall short in providing mechanisms for the efficient causes that primarily engage scientists in our age. ID does not explain the temporal or geographical distribution of species, or the intricate relationships of DNA coding."
Well, neither does the Darwinian theory. Neither ID nor Darwinism is falsifiable. Evolution, as a historical process, was not observed when it happened, and its mechanisms cannot be recreated beyond a reasonable doubt.
Gingerich is tilting at the windmill of the Discovery Institute. Behe, Dembski and Gonzalez all accept the scientific age of the universe and that life evolved by a mechanism not fully explained by Darwin. Those of us with a scientific background can accept that evolution happened with some manner of common descent, but we also can use the objections to Darwin found in the writings of the Discovery Institute fellows to conclude that an input of intelligence was required along the way. The Discovery Institute may desire to do away with evolution. That is their problem, not mine.
ID is science. Science does experimentation and produces results. Those results must be interpreted and conclusions reached. ID conclusions are just as acceptable as "scientific conclusions" as the conclusions of Darwin scientists.
— David J. Turell
Release science from shackles of faith and religion
I was very interested in the comments of Richard N. Ostling on Huston Smith's new directions ("Unlocking tradition," Science & Theology News, December 2005). I am one of those folks who has several graduate majors and teaching areas. Like many of us, my first course in religion was World Religions and my first book as a student of religion was Smith's book. Decades later, when I taught World Religions, I used Smith's book.
I have great respect for Smith as a man, his work and his life. However, as a biologist/ecologist I come at the religion/science question from a different direction. Where Smith wants to release faith from the shackles of science, I am more concerned about releasing science from the shackles of faith and religion.
We are in a time when the ignorance and superstition companion to much of religion and faith could submerge science. Smith has every right to be an ardent foe of the bond between religion and politics. This bond isn't something new but at this time in the United States it is extremely dangerous to science and, thus, to the welfare of humanity.
— Tom Baugh
ID is not good for Christianity
As the debate has raged, the side that seeks to require schools to teach intelligent design overwhelmingly is represented by Christian leaders. Aside for the merits of the argument, obviously they think it is good — some may think crucial — for Christianity to win this battle. But, it seems not to be.
First, let's be clear about what the dispute is. It is not about whether God exists, how he created things, or about whether evolution proceeded with or without the hand of God. Rather, it is whether our schools should be forced to say in biology classes that science has found evidence for ID. Would success in getting ID into the curriculum even help the students' faith? What of some tender souls who had felt so good about ID when it was taught and then in college-level science courses realize they had been misled, partly by the church?
Rather than find themselves in a modern version of arguing that the Earth is not at the center of the universe, creating ridicule and disdain for believers, isn't a stronger and more appealing position to say that God created all there is and — to a degree — he lets us learn how he makes things work. Scientists study his creation, and at any one time their explanations — while certainly not foolproof — are the best available explanations of how God makes things work.
— Michael Harder
By JODI RUDOREN
Published: February 14, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 13 — A majority of members on the Board of Education of Ohio, the first state to single out evolution for "critical analysis" in science classes more than three years ago, are expected on Tuesday to challenge a model biology lesson plan they consider an excuse to teach the tenets of the disputed theory of intelligent design.
Martha W. Wise of the Ohio Board of Education listening to arguments on teaching evolution.
A reversal in Ohio would be the most significant in a series of developments signaling a sea change across the country against intelligent design — which posits that life is too complex to be explained by evolution alone — since a federal judge's ruling in December that teaching the theory in the public schools of Dover, Pa., was unconstitutional.
A small rural school district in California last month quickly scuttled plans for a philosophy elective on intelligent design after being challenged by lawyers involved in the Pennsylvania case. Also last month, an Indiana lawmaker who said in November that he would introduce legislation to mandate teaching of intelligent design instead offered a watered-down bill requiring only "accuracy in textbooks." And just last week, two Democrats in Wisconsin proposed a ban on schools' teaching intelligent design as science, the first such proposal in the country.
Here in Ohio, pressure has been mounting on board members in recent weeks to toss out the lesson plan and the standards underpinning it.
Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, called this month for a legal review of the plan, while newly revealed documents of Ohio's Department of Education linking it to treatises of the intelligent design movement have renewed threats of a lawsuit by opponents of the movement.
At the same time, a national group of evolution defenders has bombarded 5 of the 19 board members considered crucial to a vote against the lesson plan with 30,000 e-mail messages over the past week, and just Monday, the president of the National Academy of Sciences urged the board to change the lesson and the underlying curriculum guidelines to "conform to established scientific standards."
"All of that adds up to a sense of urgency and a sense of now is the time to clean up our act," said Robin C. Hovis, a stockbroker from Millersburg who is one of two board members pushing an emergency motion on Tuesday to delete the "critical analysis" language and the lesson plan. "There is an atmosphere among the board, at least a growing atmosphere, that this is a misguided policy and we better get rid of it."
Though the lesson plan is optional and never uses the words "intelligent design," its explanation of concepts like homology, the fossil record and endosymbiosis parallel those in the texts "Icons of Evolution" and "Of Pandas and People," written by proponents of intelligent design.
The Discovery Institute, in Seattle, the intellectual home of the design movement, had distanced itself from the Dover case but has long heralded Ohio's "critical analysis" approach as a model for the nation, and is ardently defending the lesson plan.
On Monday, the institute released a Zogby International poll it had commissioned showing that 69 percent of Ohio voters believed that scientific evidence against evolution should be included in curriculums, and 76 percent agreed that "students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life." The institute has also proffered letters from two science professors supporting Ohio's standards and model lesson plan.
John G. West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the institute, said: "This just shows the extremism of the other side. They think Dover is their wedge to try to stop any even voluntary critical analysis of Darwin's theory in the classroom. They obviously don't think they can win in the court of public opinion on the issue, and that's why they're using scare tactics."
Local supporters of the standards echoed Mr. West's confidence that, unlike the Dover curriculum, the one in Ohio could pass constitutional muster. The Pennsylvania ruling is not binding elsewhere.
"If I had the money, I'd pay for the lawsuit," said David Zanotti, president of the conservative American Policy Roundtable in Strongsville, Ohio. "They should sue or shut up."
Debate over evolution here dates to 2000, when the board began developing statewide academic standards, which do not dictate curriculum to the 613 local districts but provide a blueprint for standardized tests.
A proposal to teach intelligent design alongside evolution was rejected. Instead, the board in December 2002 unanimously adopted standards requiring that 10th graders be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory," with a parenthetical note that "this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design."
Since then, New Mexico, Minnesota and Kansas have adopted similar standards, and Pennsylvania lists evolution among half a dozen theories to be critically analyzed. But only Ohio has a model lesson plan, adopted by a divided board in 2004, that provides teachers a practical how-to guide. It is unclear how frequently it is used.
Besides the Dover decision, the disclosure in December of documents detailing internal discussions of the lesson plan helped revive debate here. Obtained by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a group considering a suit on the plan, the documents show that department scientists and outside experts condemned the lesson as "a lie," "crackpot," "religious," "creationism" and "an insult to science."
Asked whether the lesson connects skills to the real world, an external reviewer wrote: "Not the real scientific world. The real religious world, yes, the real world based on faith, yes, the real world of fringe thinking, yes!"
Patricia Princehouse, an evolutionary biologist and historian of science who has led the charge against the lesson plan, said, "Basically critical analysis is intelligent design relabeled, just as intelligent design was creationism relabeled."
Governor Taft entered the fray in early February, telling newspaper reporters and editors that the board should ask the attorney general to review the lesson; that intelligent design should not be taught or tested; and that he should have questioned candidates more vigorously on the issue before filling the eight board seats he controls.
Tuesday's expected showdown comes a month after the board voted 9 to 8 against an emergency motion to delete the lesson plan. Martha W. Wise, a board member who sponsored that motion, said that this time she would propose removing both the lesson plan and the critical analysis benchmark, while also restoring a fuller definition of science to note that its theories "while not 'believed in' through faith may be accepted or rejected on the basis of evidence."
Ms. Wise said she was unsure whether she had secured 10 votes for the emergency motion, but expressed confidence that a majority would at least call for a reconsideration of the lesson plan by the board's lawyers and a committee.
But Deborah Owens Fink, the board member who originally supported the dual study of evolution and design and has been the leading defender of the standards, said, "The lesson has been in use for two years, and certainly a hole hasn't been cut in the ozone or anything."
A BBC series on unorthodox therapies was devoid of scepticism and rigour, says Simon Singh
Scotland's Herald television reviewer, Ian Bell, was stunned when he saw "a 21-year-old Shanghai factory worker undergoing open-heart surgery with only the needles to control her pain". It seemed to be one of the most amazing bits of television this year, but did he really witness the amazing power of acupuncture or was he, like the rest of us, misled?
Many studies have shown that acupuncture is nothing more than a placebo
The three-part BBC series Alternative Medicine, presented by Kathy Sykes, was supposed to be a rigorous scientific examination of the claims of alternative therapies. Although the second programme was indeed a rational look at the placebo effect, the other two episodes were little more than rose-tinted ads for the alternative medicine industry.
For example, the scene showing a patient punctured with needles and undergoing heart surgery left viewers with the strong impression that acupuncture was providing immense pain relief. In fact, in addition to acupuncture, the patient had a combination of three very powerful sedatives (midazolam, droperidol, fentanyl) and large volumes of local anaesthetic injected into the chest.
With such a cocktail of chemicals, the needles were merely cosmetic. In short, this memorable bit of television was emotionally powerful, but scientifically meaningless in building a case for acupuncture. I have spoken to several experts who say that the procedure was neither shocking nor impressive, but it was unconventional because the Chinese surgeons seemed to have used a higher level of local anaesthetic to compensate for the lack of general anaesthetic.
When I put this to Professor Sykes, she replied: "The suggestion that the operation could have taken place without the acupuncture and it would have been fine is an interesting idea and might possibly be the case."
Even though the television commentary was technically accurate, by omission and emphasis, viewers were left with a false impression. Everyone I have spoken to, including Ian Bell, believed they had witnessed acupuncture providing major pain relief, so they felt misled when I explained what was really going on.
Of course, recent scientific studies have hinted at tentative evidence that acupuncture might provide limited pain relief, but this is still far from proved and many other studies have shown that acupuncture is nothing more than a placebo. However, the programme makers seemed to have focused on whatever positive evidence was available and then added a dollop of impressively irrelevant heart surgery to cast acupuncture in the best light.
The final programme in the series was equally devoid of scepticism and rigour. Kathy Sykes gave the impression that scientists hated herbs and that there was untapped wisdom in the natural world. In fact, scientists readily admit and welcome the fact that nature has a rich pharmacy, such as aspirin from willow, digitalis from foxglove and penicillin from mould. So the challenge for scientists is to find what works, how it works and is it safe.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the bulk of herbal remedies, like the majority of acupuncture remedies, are unproved or have been shown to have no significant effect beyond placebo.
The BBC has a great reputation for science and I have huge respect for Kathy Sykes, so what went wrong? Professor Sykes has a background in physics, so maybe she was not the best person to present a series about medicine. And perhaps the BBC was influenced by its partner, the Open University, which was promoting its course on alternative medicine alongside the series.
The OU is the only well-established university running such a course, which troubles Professor David Colquhoun of University College London. "The OU's first vice-chancellor, Walter Perry, who had been professor of pharmacology in Edinburgh, must be turning in his grave over the new course," he says. "The description sounds harmless enough ['This course provides an accessible, but rigorous introduction to complementary and alternative approaches to health'], but just how rigorous is it? The tutors are mostly true believers, some of whom seem to make their living from alternative medicine."
Why does any of this matter? The NHS will always have a limited budget and as individuals we have to make decisions about how we spend our money to improve the health of ourselves and our families. This series clearly waved the flag for acupuncture, herbal remedies and alternative medicine in general, building on the general media sympathy for such therapies.
Nevertheless, the truth is that the vast majority of claims in the alternative medicine industry are uncertain, untested or have been shown to be ineffective. In the worst cases, alternative medicine can have side effects or delay patients with serious illnesses from using proved scientific treatments.
This series purported to be scientific and had the chance to set the record straight, but instead it chickened out of confronting the widespread failure of alternative medicine.
Simon Singh is a bestselling science author and broadcaster.
by Stella Shaffer
Advocates of alternative medicine lobbied at the statehouse yesterday for a "Health Freedom Act." They want it to give Iowans the right to seek out holistic medicine, and protect its practitioners from being prosecuted, as long as they disclose that they're not a licensed healthcare provider.
Patricia McHenry of Marion says she's a master of Reiki but right now cannot practice the Japanese art of restoring proper energy balance for a client. If you have a block in any of your energy fields, she says she moves it to allow your body to heal itself. McHenry explains, "I am basically a vessel."
McHenry says she isn't opposed to Western medicine, and in fact goes to a University of Iowa doctor herself. But she says Iowans should have the freedom to seek out alternative medicine as well. To be the healthiest person, she says you'd want every avenue available.
Holistic healthcare advocates offered massages to visitors at the state capitol and even a puff from a Native American sacred pipe. State law prohibits people from diagnosing or treating any pain, injury, or disease if they don't hold a valid license. McHenry says she thinks people have the right to ask for "the healthiest avenues," whether that's a doctor at the University of Iowa, or a Reiki practitioner like herself who'l help you align your body. She says, "That's not illegal to me."
At the statehouse she offered some of that energy balancing, while explaining what she was doing is technically illegal in Iowa. "They say that I am telling people and treating them like a doctor would. But I'm not."
The "Health Freedom Act" the natural healers want would allow practitioners to offer alternative treatments to Iowans as long as they're up-front about not being licensed in a standard specialty -- but even its advocates admit it'll be an uphill battle in the legislature.
A special midweek evolution education update with good news from Ohio.
According to early reports, the Ohio Board of Education voted 11-4 at its February 14, 2006, meeting to remove both the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan and the corresponding indicator in the state standards. The board's vote follows in the wake of a motion to remove the lesson plan during the board's January meeting, which failed 9-8. Following that vote, Governor Taft issued a thinly veiled rebuke to the board, and a large majority of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee described the lesson plan as "a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio's science classrooms."
"This is a stunning triumph for the students of Ohio's public schools," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "and a stunning repudiation of the all-too-successful attempts of creationists to undermine evolution education in the Buckeye State. Let's hope that all such attempts to introduce creationism by the back door meet the same fate." But the Associated Press reported (February 14, 2006) that "three board members who voted in January to keep the plan in place were absent Tuesday, and supporters of the science material pledged to force a new vote to return the material soon." NCSE will provide further details as they become available.
Since its introduction in 2004, the "critical analysis" language was copied elsewhere, including Arizona, Kansas, and, recently, South Carolina, where language similar to Ohio's indicator 23 was incorporated in a draft of the state science standards. Not content with that compromise of the treatment of education, the Education Oversight Committee -- which includes state senator Michael Fair, the sponsor of several antievolution bills in the past -- is attempting to expand the "critical analysis" language. The state board of education will consider the committee's latest proposal on March 8, 2006, three weeks after the Ohio board's historic vote.
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Published: February 9, 2006
The Bush administration long ago secured a special place in history for the audacity with which it manipulates science to suit its political ends. But it set a new standard of cynicism when it allowed NASA's leading authority on global warming to be mugged by a 24-year-old presidential appointee who, quite apart from having no training on that issue, had inflated his résumé.
In early December, James Hansen, the space agency's top climate specialist, called for accelerated efforts to reduce industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming. After his speech, he told Andrew C. Revkin of The Times, he was threatened with "dire consequences" if he continued to call for aggressive action.
This was not the first time Dr. Hansen had been rebuked by the Bush team, which has spent the better part of five years avoiding the issue of global warming. It was merely one piece of a larger pattern of deception and denial.
The administration has sought to influence the policy debate by muzzling the people who disagree with it or — as was the case with two major reports from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and 2003 — editing out inconvenient truths or censoring them entirely.
In this case, the censor was George Deutsch, a functionary in NASA's public affairs office whose chief credential appears to have been his service with President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee. On his résumé, Mr. Deutsch claimed a 2003 bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas A&M, but the university, alerted by a blogger, said that was not true. Mr. Deutsch has now resigned.
The shocker was not NASA's failure to vet Mr. Deutsch's credentials, but that this young politico with no qualifications was able to impose his ideology on other agency employees. At one point, he told a Web designer to add the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang.
As Dr. Hansen observed, Mr. Deutsch was only a "bit player" in the administration's dishonest game of politicizing science on issues like warming, birth control, forest policy and clean air. This from a president who promised in his State of the Union address to improve American competitiveness by spending more on science.
Thursday, February 9, 2006; Page A22
IT IS A RARE thing for the biography of a 24-year-old NASA spokesman to attract the attention of the national media. But that is what happened this week when George C. Deutsch tendered his resignation. Mr. Deutsch had, it emerged, lied about his (nonexistent) undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University. Far more important, several New York Times articles over the past week or so have exposed Mr. Deutsch as one of several White House-appointed public affairs officers at the agency who tried to prevent senior NASA career scientists from speaking and writing freely, especially when their views on the realities of climate change differed from those of the White House.
Mr. Deutsch prevented reporters from interviewing James E. Hansen, the leading climate scientist at NASA, telling colleagues he was doing so because his job was to "make the president look good." Mr. Deutsch also instructed another NASA scientist to add the word "theory" after every written mention of the Big Bang, on the grounds that the accepted scientific explanation of the origins of the universe "is an opinion" and that NASA should not discount the possibility of "intelligent design by a creator."
The spectacle of a young political appointee with no college degree exerting crude political control over senior government scientists and civil servants with many decades of experience is deeply disturbing. More disturbing is the fact that Mr. Deutsch's attempts to manipulate science and scientists, although unusually blatant, were not unique. Just before Christmas, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued "talking points" to local environmental agencies. These suggestions were intended to help their spokesmen play down an Associated Press story that -- using the EPA's own data -- showed that impoverished neighborhoods had higher levels of air pollution.
At the Food and Drug Administration, the director of the Office of Women's Health recently resigned because she believed that the administration was twisting science to stall approval of over-the-counter emergency contraception. Off the record -- because they fear losing their jobs -- some scientists at the Department of Health and Human Services say that Bush administration public affairs officers screen their appearances and utterances more carefully than anyone ever did. Scientists at places such as the Agriculture Department, not a part of the government known for its publicity hounds, have made the same claim.
In every administration there will be spokesmen and public affairs officers who try to spin the news to make the president look good. But this administration is trying to spin scientific data and muzzle scientists toward that end. NASA's Mr. Hansen was right when he told the Times that Mr. Deutsch was only a bit player. "The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies," he said. We agree.
By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 11, 2006; A07
NEW YORK, Feb. 10 -- James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.
Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.
"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," said Hansen, prompting a round of applause from the audience. He added that while NOAA officials said they maintain the policy for their scientists' protection, "if you buy that one please see me at the break, because there's a bridge down the street I'd like to sell you."
NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher denied Hansen's charges, saying his agency requires its scientists to tell its press office about contacts with journalists but does not monitor their communications.
"My policy since I've been here is to have a free and open organization," Lautenbacher said. I encourage scientists to conduct peer-reviewed research and provide the honest results of those findings. I stand up for their right to say what they want."
Hansen prefaced his speech, which focused largely on how quickly humans must act in order to prevent irreversible climate change, by saying he was speaking as an individual. "I'm not speaking for the agency or the government," he said.
Most scientists who study climate change have concluded that Earth's current warming is being driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The administration does not question the link between human activity and climate change, but it has called for more research and supports solutions other than mandatory limits on carbon emissions.
After the panel discussion -- which also featured Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, American Enterprise Institute fellow Steven Hayward and Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich -- Hansen said he knows of NOAA scientists who are chafing at the administration's restrictions but are afraid to speak out.
New School President Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, said he invited Hansen to speak because he was "very concerned" about what he called the administration's efforts to steer the debate over global warming: "It's not only inappropriate; it stifles the very debate we're trying to have today, and that we need to have on this issue."
Kerrey said of Hansen, "He's not a radical; he's a scientist who's studied the issue. Let the disagreement occur without stifling one side of the argument."
After Hansen told the New York Times and The Washington Post in late January that political appointees at NASA had made it hard for him and other researchers to convey their findings on climate change to the public, NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin e-mailed agency employees last week and vowed to support "scientific openness."
Griffin, who had been chastised by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) over the issue earlier in the week, said he would draft a new policy that would respect scientists' right to speak out.
In an interview Friday, Boehlert -- who has met personally with Griffin and spoken on the phone with him several times since the controversy erupted last month -- said he was satisfied Griffin was taking the necessary steps.
"The administration should make it abundantly clear, as Michael Griffin did in his letter to NASA employees, that there will be no effort, in any way, shape or form, deliberate or hinted at, that would stifle a respected scientist working for the government, doing research paid for by the American taxpayers, from talking about their work," Boehlert said.
He added that he had not received "outpourings from the scientific community" alleging government censorship and that, to his knowledge, "there are no plans in place to intimidate or stifle science."
Also Friday, George C. Deutsch, 24, a NASA spokesman who resigned this week after allegations that he had edited scientists' writings to conform to administration views and tried to limit reporters' access to Hansen, e-mailed reporters to say there is a "culture war" in the government over climate change. Deutsch's resignation came after it was learned he had not graduated from Texas A&M University, as he claimed on his résumé.
"There is no pressure or mandate, from the Bush administration or elsewhere, to alter or water down scientific data at NASA, period," Deutsch said, adding that after being tasked to work with Hansen, "I quickly learned one thing: Dr. Hansen and his supporters have a very partisan agenda and ties reaching to the top of the Democratic Party.
"Anyone perceived to be a Republican, a Bush supporter or a Christian is singled out and labeled a threat to their views. I encourage anyone interested in this story to consider the other side, to consider Dr. Hansen' s true motivations and to consider the dangerous implications of only hearing out one side of the global warming debate," Deutsch said.
February 11, 2006
Those who believe in creationism -- children and adults -- are being taught to challenge evolution's tenets in an in-your-face way.
By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.
"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent.
"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
A former high-school biology teacher, Ham travels the nation training children as young as 5 to challenge science orthodoxy. He doesn't engage in the political and legal fights that have erupted over the teaching of evolution. His strategy is more subtle: He aims to give people who trust the biblical account of creation the confidence to defend their views — aggressively.
He urges students to offer creationist critiques of their textbooks, parents to take on science museum docents, professionals to raise the subject with colleagues. If Ham has done his job well, his acolytes will ask enough pointed questions — and set forth enough persuasive arguments — to shake the doctrine of Darwin.
"We're going to arm you with Christian Patriot missiles," Ham, 54, recently told the 1,200 adults gathered at Calvary Temple here in northern New Jersey. It was a Friday night, the kickoff of a heavily advertised weekend conference sponsored by Ham's ministry, Answers in Genesis.
To a burst of applause, Ham exhorted: "Get out and change the world!"
Over the last two decades, this type of "creation evangelism" has become a booming industry. Several hundred independent speakers promote biblical creation at churches, colleges, private schools, Rotary clubs. They lead tours to the Grand Canyon or the local museum to study the world through a creationist lens.
They churn out stacks of home-schooling material. A geology text devotes a chapter to Noah's flood; an astronomy book quotes Genesis on the origins of the universe; a science unit for second-graders features daily "evolution stumpers" that teach children to argue against the theory that is a cornerstone of modern science.
Answers in Genesis is the biggest of these ministries. Ham co-founded the nonprofit in his native Australia in 1979. The U.S. branch, funded mostly by donations, has an annual budget of $15 million and 160 employees who produce books and DVDs, maintain a comprehensive website, and arrange more than 500 speeches a year for Ham and four other full-time evangelists.
With pulpit-thumping passion, Ham insists the Bible be taken literally: God created the universe and all its creatures in six 24-hour days, roughly 6,000 years ago.
Hundreds of pastors will preach a different message Sunday, in honor of Charles Darwin's 197th birthday. In a national campaign, they will tell congregations that it's possible to be a Christian and accept evolution.
Ham considers that treason. When pastors dismiss the creation account as a fable, he says, they give their flock license to disregard the Bible's moral teachings as well. He shows his audiences a graphic that places the theory of evolution at the root of all social ills: abortion, divorce, racism, gay marriage, store clerks who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
The science Ham finds so dangerous holds that the first primitive scraps of genetic material appeared on Earth nearly 4 billion years ago. From these humble beginnings, a huge diversity of species evolved over the eons, through lucky mutations and natural selection.
The vast majority of scientists find no credible evidence to dispute this account and a tremendous amount to support it. They've identified thousands of transitional fossils, such as a whale that lumbered on land; a bird with reptilian features; and "Lucy," a remote cousin of modern man who walked on two legs but swung from trees like a chimp.
Still, millions of Americans find evolution preposterous. Polls consistently show that roughly half of Americans believe the biblical account instead.
In the 1970s, Ham taught evolution and creationism side by side in Australian public schools. Raised in a Christian family, Ham trusted God's account over Darwin's; the more he studied Genesis, the more he felt moved to defend it. He quit teaching after five years to take up evangelism full time.
A father of five who bears an uncanny resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, Ham moved his family to the U.S. in 1987. He worked for the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego and in 1994 founded the U.S. branch of Answers in Genesis in northern Kentucky. America sorely needed someone to stand up for the Bible, he reasoned. With a network of Christian radio and TV, the U.S. also offered Ham a launch pad to take his movement global.
The gamble paid off. Ham's daily 90-second broadcasts — on themes such as life in the Garden of Eden — are heard on more than 1,000 radio stations worldwide. He's building a $25 million Creation Museum near the Cincinnati international airport. He has produced dozens of books and videos for all ages, including a top-selling alphabet rhyme that begins: "A is for Adam, God made him from dust / He wasn't a monkey, he looked just like us."
At the heart of this vast ministry are the speaking tours — so popular that many are booked three years in advance. Ham, who earns about $120,000 a year, might address a few dozen men at a small-town service club or a packed family service at a suburban mega-church. His multimedia presentations swing in tone from revival meeting to college lecture.
About 6,000 adults and children attended at least some of the recent conference in this suburb north of Newark. (Tickets for the weekend cost $25 per family, though several events were free.)
In six hourlong lectures, Ham and his colleague David Menton, an anatomy professor retired from Washington University in St. Louis, laid out their best arguments for creationism. Ham described the fossil record as "billions of dead things … laid down by water" — proof, he said, of Noah's flood. Menton marveled at the mechanics of the human eye, far too intricate, he said, to have evolved by random mutation.
"We often come across to the world as if we have blind faith: 'The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it,' " Ham said. In his view, creationists need more than faith to win over the world. They need answers to the questions skeptics toss their way.
"We're giving you answers," Ham said. "We're like bulldozers, coming in to reclaim the ground."
In two 90-minute workshops for children, Ham adopted a much lighter tone, mocking scientists who think birds evolved from dinosaurs ("if that were true, I'd be worried about my Thanksgiving turkey!").
He showed the children a photo of a fossilized hat found in a mine to prove it doesn't take millions of years to create ancient-looking artifacts. He pointed out cave drawings of a creature resembling a brachiosaur to make the case that man lived alongside dinosaurs after God created all the land animals on Day 6.
In a bit that brought the house down, Ham flashed a picture of a chimpanzee. "Did your grandfather look like this?" he demanded.
"Noooooo!" the children called.
"And did your grandmother look like that?" Ham displayed a photo of the same chimp wearing lipstick. The children erupted in giggles. "Noooooo!"
"We are not just an animal," Ham said. He had the children repeat that, their small voices rising in unison: "We are not just an animal. We are made in the image of God."
As the session ended, Nicole Ableson, 34, rounded up her four young children. "This shows your kids that there are other people who are out there who believe what you believe, and who have done the research," she said. "So they don't think 'This is just my parents believing in fairy tales.' "
Emily Maynard, 12, was also delighted with Ham's presentation. Home-schooled and voraciously curious, she had recently read an encyclopedia for fun — and caught herself almost believing the entry on evolution. "They were explaining about apes standing up, evolving to man, and I could kind of see that's how it could happen," she said.
Ham convinced her otherwise. As her mother beamed, Emily repeated Ham's mantra: "The Bible is the history book of the universe."
Ben Watson wasn't quite as confident. His father, a pastor in Staten Island, N.Y., had let him skip a day of second grade to attend. Ben went to public school, the Rev. Dave Watson explained, "and I thought it would be good for him to get a different perspective" for an upcoming project on Tyrannosaurus rex.
"You going to put in your report that dinosaurs are millions of years old?" Watson, 46, asked his son.
"No…. " Ben said. He hesitated. "But that's what my book says…. "
"It's a lot to think about," his dad reassured him. "We'll do more research."
Ham encourages people to further their research with the dozens of books and DVDs sold by his ministry. They give answers to every question a critic might ask: How did Noah fit dinosaurs on the ark? He took babies. Why didn't a tyrannosaur eat Eve? All creatures were vegetarians until Adam's sin brought death into the world. How can we have modern breeds of dog like the poodle if God finished his work 6,000 years ago? He created a dog "kind" — a master blueprint — and let evolution take over from there.
Accountant Paul Ingis, 43, has been studying such material for years, and looks for opportunities to share the answers he's mastered. When clients ask what he's been up to, Ingis responds that he's been studying creation science. If they express interest, he launches into his routine.
"It's fishing. You never know when you might meet the one in 1,000 who will listen," Ingis said.
It's impossible to measure the success of the one-on-one evangelizing inspired by Answers in Genesis. But Glenn Branch, who defends evolution for a living, does not doubt it's having an effect.
Ham and his fellow evangelists "do a lot to promote a climate of ignorance, skepticism and hostility with respect to evolution," said Branch, deputy director of the nonprofit National Center for Science Education.
Evolution has scored a few high-profile victories. A federal judge ruled in December that the school board in Dover, Pa., could not require teachers to discuss intelligent design (the concept that some life is so complex, it could not have evolved by random chance). And in Cobb County, Ga., a federal judge ruled that disclaimers pasted onto science textbooks were illegal. (The stickers, removed last year, called evolution "a theory, not a fact.")
Still, those who teach and promote evolution say the challenges are multiplying.
Several Imax theaters in the South — including a few in science museums — have refused to show movies that mention evolution or the Earth's age.
Bills that would allow or require science teachers to mention alternatives to evolution have been introduced in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah. State boards of education in Kansas and Ohio adopted guidelines that single out evolution for critique. The governor of Kentucky used his State of the Commonwealth address to encourage public schools to teach alternative theories of man's origins.
A national conference for science teachers in the spring will focus on helping them respond to creationists' challenges. In an informal survey, the National Science Teachers Assn. found that nearly a third of its members felt pressured to play down evolution.
Ham's dream is to increase that pressure.
He will evangelize in Rocky Mount, N.C., next weekend and in Bossier City, La., after that. The month of March will take him to Modesto; Avon, Ind.; and a college retreat outside Cincinnati. His colleagues from Answers in Genesis will match his pace, preaching over the next few weeks in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.
At every stop, they will recruit men, women and children to stand up for God as the creator.
Feb 8, 2006
By Art Toalston Baptist Press
MADISON, Wis. (BP)--In an unprecedented political move to protect evolution, a Wisconsin state representative -– backed by 13 professors from the University of Wisconsin -– has introduced a bill that could ban the teaching of Intelligent Design and creationism in the state's public schools.
The bill would stipulate that "any material presented as science within the school curriculum ... is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes [and] ... is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."
The three-paragraph measure was announced by state Rep. Terese Berceau, D.-Madison, in a Feb. 7 news conference attended by the 13 university professors.
Berceau said her bill is "designed to promote good science education and prevent the introduction of pseudo-science in the science classroom."
Intelligent Design holds that various features of the universe and of living organisms are best explained by an intelligent cause; creationism more directly holds that the cause is God.
Under her bill, Berceau said Intelligent Design and creationism could be discussed in non-scientific school contexts. "You can even include it in a science class if you want to say why it's not a science," she told The Capital Times in Madison. "Otherwise it should be taught in a history of religion class or social studies or philosophy."
"We can be the un-Kansas," biochemistry professor Alan Attie told the newspaper in reference to Kansas' science standards, adopted in 2005, that set forth a neutral definition of science as a discipline that seeks "more adequate explanations of natural phenomena" without specifically mentioning Intelligent Design or evolution.
William Dembski, one of the leading proponents of Intelligent Design, described Berceau's proposed legislation as "a clear sign that we are winning." Critics of Intelligent Design "look foolish when they have to take political action to quash ID," he stated on his weblog. "Materialistic evolution already holds a de facto monopoly over public school science education" in what Dembski described as "a fundamental inequity in public school science education."
Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture; and author of several books on Intelligent Design, including "The Design Revolution" and "Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing.".
Some ID proponents have resorted to political measures in order "to break up that monopoly," Dembski acknowledged, but "for materialistic evolution to require legislation to preserve its monopoly will in the end be seen as heavy-handed and self-serving....
"[F]or academics with stellar reputations like [Elliott] Sober and [Ronald] Numbers [who attended Berceau's news conference] to be actively supporting such political interference signifies that they are losing not only the war of ideas but also their position of cultural dominance," Dembski said.
Both University of Wisconsin faculty members are among the leading opponents of Intelligent Design. Sober is a philosophy professor; Numbers is a professor of the history of science and medicine.
Dembski compared the Wisconsin proposal to a federal judge's December ruling against the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools in Dover, Pa.
"Unlike Dover, where the focus was on ID's legitimacy as science, such a trial [in Wisconsin] would focus on the exclusive right of evolutionary theory to maintain its monopoly over the teaching of biological origins.... [T]his will be a much more difficult case for the ACLU to win. In Dover, ID needed to defend itself. In such a case [in Wisconsin], evolution will need to defend itself....
"Dover certainly wasn't ID's Waterloo. Wisconsin may well be evolution's Waterloo," Dembski said.
Also on his Internet site, Dembski responded to Berceau's proposed legislation by stating, "I'm offering $1000 to the first teacher in Wisconsin who (1) challenges this policy (should it be enacted) by teaching ID as science within a Wisconsin public school science curriculum (social science does not count), (2) gets him/herself fired, reprimanded, or otherwise punished in some actionable way, (3) obtains legal representation from a public interest law firm (e.g., Alliance Defense Fund), and (4) takes this to trial.
"I encourage others to contribute in the same way," Dembski stated, though he acknowledged to Baptist Press, "My offer of $1,000 is more symbolic than anything. The personal cost of engaging in such litigation will be huge and in no significant way offset by the $1,000 I'm offering."
The Alliance Defense Fund, he noted, "knows the issues and has a proven track record in handling such cases. Also, they have a good working relationship with the ID community."
The school district's science teachers on Wednesday selected biology books for next year.
By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2006
Pinellas County biology students will find no mention of intelligent design in their new science textbooks next fall.
With four biology books to choose from - one of which included a description of the idea that life was produced by an unidentified intelligent agent - the district's science teachers picked Prentice Hall Biology, Florida Edition. That book was co-written by a Brown University professor who testified recently against the teaching of intelligent design during a trial in Dover, Pa.
"I feel very confident that our science teachers looked the books over from cover to cover," said Robert Orlopp, the K-12 science supervisor in Pinellas. "I don't think anyone voted for or against that particular book because of that passage."
[Last modified February 8, 2006, 19:16:35]
February 09, 2006
Editor, The Auburn Plainsman:
Many discoveries of science over the last 30 years of the intelligent design of life are as momentous as the discovery that the Earth goes around the sun. The magnitude of those discoveries is so significant, and so profound, that they should be ranked as some of the greatest achievements in the history of science.
This should be a time of great celebration. However, there are many in the greater scientific community who, because of their naturalistic doctrine, refuse to celebrate.
This apathy lies in the fact that the Darwinism doctrine is an undirected, purely naturalistic process, which can somehow, when given enough time, turn non-living chemicals into extraordinary complex living things.
That is the reason that its adherents exhibit such a strong anti-religious determination to repress any idea of intelligent design by describing it as a by-product of biblical creation.
Actually, those representing the intelligent design community worldwide are highly reputable scientists whose primary interest is in presenting evidence supporting their discoveries — nothing more.
If evolution cannot adequately explain their findings, they have no choice but to follow that which makes the most sense from a purely scientific perspective.
These scientists are presently busy observing those amazingly incredible complex systems that have yet to be explained by any naturalistic means, complexity with profound metaphysical implications — positive evidence of a "transcendent" force — that is, an intelligent force existing and operating above and independent of the natural world.
Once we accept the fact that the world is much too complex to be explained by Charles Darwin's mindless natural forces, our minds will be open to the idea that an "intelligent agent," whose actions in nature are clearly detectable, deserves all the credit.
We will then have opened the door for unimaginable future scientific discoveries. For many, that day has arrived.
Tom Ashby, Owensboro, Ky.
To: National Desk
Contact: Chip Rohlke, Christ is Creator Ministries, 321-773-4020
MELBOURNE, Florida, Feb. 9 /Christian Wire Service/ -- Christ is Creator Ministries begs the question how the Vatican can hold to the historic truths of the Christian faith while publishing an article in the Vatican newspaper that the theory of Intelligent Design is not true science and should not be taught in public classrooms.
As neither theory is subject to the scientific method of observation and testing (Creation was a historic event, macro-evolution supposedly takes millions of years) the Vatican is in error to support the view that Intelligent Design should not be taught in classrooms.
The purpose of education is to teach students how to think critically- to look at the facts and make judgments on your own. To be dogmatic and only teach evolution is to brainwash our children into a world view that ultimately is anti-science and in the end a "Fairy Tale for Adults" as Pierre -Paul Grasse the head of the French Academy of science put it.
The theory of evolution has numerous scientific critics and facts that weigh heavily against it. There are numerous books and articles on the scientific impossibility of evolution working in a real world. To not allow a theory that fits the facts better than evolution is to be prejudiced against the truth- something I guess the Vatican has been doing since even long before Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Issuers of press releases and not the Christian Communication Network are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content. Terms and conditions, including restrictions on redistribution, apply.
Copyright © 1999-2006 Christian Communication Network
Screening airs evolution versus intelligent design debate
By Alvin Powell Harvard News Office
This just in from the front lines of the battle between evolution and intelligent design: evolution is losing.
That's the assessment of Randy Olson, a Harvard-trained evolutionary biologist turned filmmaker who explored the debate in a new film, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution - Intelligent Design Circus," which was screened Monday (Feb. 6) at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Evolutionary biologist and filmmaker Randy Olson greets audience members before the screening of his film.
Featuring Harvard faculty as well as scenes shot within the museum, the 90-minute film strikes a humorous tone as it explores the debate, poking a bit of fun at both intelligent design and the scientific community.
Though Olson is obviously on the side of evolution, he exposes the shortcomings of both sides. He portrays intelligent designers as energetic, likeable people who compensate for their shaky theory's shortcomings through organization, personal appeal, and money. Scientists, on the other hand, squander their factual edge through indifference and poor communication skills.
But Olson said there's something deeper than the surface face-off between those on the front lines. The efforts to teach intelligent design in the schools is backed by media-savvy, well-financed organizations like the Discovery Institute that aren't afraid to hire high-powered public relations firms to advance their cause.
And, though the position of evolution supporters has been upheld by the U.S. courts - most recently last year in the Dover, Penn., case - Olson predicted that the battle isn't over.
"What's going on is not being called 'a culture discussion,' it's being called 'a culture war,'" Olson said in a panel discussion after the screening.
The film is centered on the debate over teaching evolution in the schools of Olson's home state of Kansas and also covers the Dover, Penn., case.
Despite his scientific background, Olson handles intelligent design proponents gently throughout the film, giving them a chance to air their views. He offers some anti-design examples, like the fact that a rabbit's digestive tract is designed such that vegetation breaks down in a portion that comes after the part that absorbs nutrients, forcing rabbits to digest their food twice to get any value from the food. Rabbits do this by eating pellets that they've excreted to pass them through a second time, prompting the film to ask, "Where's the intelligent design in this?"
But rather than offering a detailed explanation of evolution or a point-by-point rebuttal of intelligent design, "Flock of Dodos" probes how it is that, 150 years after Darwin published his theories and 80 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, a debate over evolution is raging in this country.
Though he concludes that intelligent design is a theory that has stalled at what he calls the "intuition stage," Olson says in "Flock of Dodos" that it still appears to have the upper hand.
The movie includes several shots of the inside of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, most recognizably the whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling, complete with remnant pelvic bones attesting to a time when the whale's ancestors had legs.
The movie also includes several Harvard-trained scientists, as well as faculty members Karel Liem, the Henry Bryant Bigelow Professor of Ichthyology, and James Hanken, professor of biology and director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Olson received his doctorate from Harvard in 1984 and was a professor at the University of New Hampshire from 1988 until 1994, when he left the university shortly after receiving tenure to attend film school at the University of Southern California.
Olson participated in a panel discussion after the film with James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, and New York Times science writer Cordelia Dean. The panel was moderated by Douglas Starr, co-director for Boston University's Center for Science and Medical Journalism.
Dean said the debate has remained alive because the scientific community has failed to make the case for evolution to the ordinary person. That is at least partly due to neglect, she said.
"They often see no necessity to do so, and our society as a whole suffers for it," Dean said.
McCarthy said that may be because of the nature of the scientific subculture itself. Scientists are discouraged from drawing too bold conclusions from their research and from not mentioning sometimes multiple caveats on their findings, traits that make it difficult to craft and deliver a clear, persuasive message to the public.
"It's so counter to our training as scientists to give a flip answer or to give an answer without all the caveats," McCarthy said.
Thursday February 9, 7:00 am ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- One day after an elected Fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science urged the Ohio State Board of Education (OSBE) to keep its evolution lesson plan that presents some of the scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution, a member of the National Academy of Sciences also encouraged the board to retain the lesson plan.
Philip S. Skell, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Evan Pugh Professor (Emeritus) of Chemistry at Penn State University, sent a letter to the OSBE stating: "I am writing -- as a member of the National Academy of Sciences -- to voice my strong support for the idea that students should be able to study scientific criticisms of the evidence for modern evolutionary theory along with the evidence favoring the theory. ... Encouraging students to carefully examine the evidence for and against neo-Darwinism will help prepare students not only to understand current scientific arguments, but also to do good scientific research."
Members of the National Academy are elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research; election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer. His research includes work on reactive intermediates in chemistry, free-atom reactions, and reactions of free carbonium ions.
Recently Dr. Skell wrote in The Scientist magazine: "Darwinian evolution -- whatever its other virtues -- does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit. None of this demonstrates that Darwinism is false. It does, however, mean that the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists in fields where theories actually do serve as cornerstones for tangible breakthroughs." ("Why Do We Invoke Darwin?" The Scientist, 29 August 2005, 19(16):10)
Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank dealing with scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution, seeks to increase the teaching of evolution. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. The Institute opposes any effort to mandate or require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education.
Source: Discovery Institute
Festivities include singing, sermons, and badminton
By Kathy Matheson, Associated Press | February 10, 2006
PHILADELPHIA -- Thanks to the ''intelligent design" movement, Charles Darwin's birthday is evolving into everything from a badminton party to church sermons this weekend.
''The people who believe in evolution .. . really just sort of need to stand up and be counted," said Richard Leventhal, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ''Evolution is the model that drives science. It's time to recognize that."
The museum's celebration will include birthday cake, a little badminton (reportedly a favorite game of Darwin's), and a reading of his ''The Origin of Species" by Penn junior Bill Wames, who volunteered to dress up as the 19th-century naturalist. ''Come to my party," Wames bellowed around campus while handing out fliers.
At the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, philosophy students will get a jump-start on Darwin Day today by singing Darwin carols they composed.
Darwin, who was born in England on Feb. 12, 1809, and died in 1882, was 50 when he published ''The Origin of Species." His conclusion that species evolve was based in part on zoological and geological discoveries made during a five-year voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle.
The intelligent design movement challenges Darwin's theory, contending that organisms are so complex that they must have been created by a higher being. Critics of intelligent design say it is creationism camouflaged in scientific language.
Intelligent design proponents suffered legal setbacks last year in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but Kansas education officials have approved science standards that treat evolution as a flawed theory.
To show religion and science are not at odds, more than 400 churches of many denominations -- most of them in the United States -- have agreed to participate in ''Evolution Sunday" by giving a sermon, holding classes, or sponsoring discussions.
Organizer Michael Zimmerman, a biology professor and dean at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, said there is ''no reason that people have to choose between religion and science."
The Darwin Day Celebration was formalized six years ago as a California-based nonprofit organization, but some tributes go back much farther. Salem State College in Massachusetts has had a Darwin festival for 26 years.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
Science advisers want standards changed
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Catherine Candisky THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
More than two-thirds of scientists and educators who initially advised the State Board of Education on science standards are urging the board to scrap a portion of the guidelines.
Ohio's standards for teaching 10 th-grade biology and their accompanying lesson plans undermine Darwin's theory of evolution by singling it out for critical analysis, they said yesterday in a letter to Gov. Bob Taft.
The guidelines also open the door to teaching religion in the public-school classroom, the letter says.
Thirty-two committee members made recommendations on state science standards in 2001, and a second, larger committee was then impaneled to write the standards. Wording questioning the validity of evolution was added in 2002.
Two other committees made recommendations and wrote the lesson plans that were adopted 1½ years later.
State Board President Sue Westendorf said members likely will discuss the issue at their next monthly meeting Tuesday in Columbus, although the issue is not on the agenda.
Some members already are circulating a renewed motion to strip the controversial provi- sion. Others are talking about sending the standards and lesson plan to a review panel.
Twenty-three members of 2001's Science Content Standards Advisory Committee signed the letter condemning the 2002 standards and the 2004 lesson plan.
They said the 19-person state board, of which the governor appoints eight members, has ignored their concerns.
"Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the board sent the message that it believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.
"This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically," the 23 wrote.
The board added the provision to "critically analyze" evolution over objections from many on the advisory committee, a panel assembled by the Ohio Department of Education.
The lesson plan "embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon," the 23 told Taft.
Critics of the lesson plan have said some of the content was drawn from intelligent design literature and it misrepresents challenges of evolution.
The state board is facing increased pressure to repeal portions of the science standards and lesson plans since a federal judge ruled in December that intelligent design is creationism in disguise and such religious beliefs cannot be taught in science class in the Dover, Pa., schools.
Last month, the Ohio board defeated a motion to delete the challenged provisions by a vote of 9-8.
Energized by the razor-thin margin, critics promised to continue their fight.
Supporters also jumped back into the debate, lobbying the board to retain the curriculum guidelines.
Last week, Taft said he is opposed to teaching intelligent design in science class and suggested the school board seek a legal opinion about whether Ohio's standards and lesson plan allow or encourage it.
Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Taft, said yesterday that the governor thought such a review was warranted after the Dover ruling but reiterated that it was a decision for the board to make.
Westendorf, the board president, said the board had the right to make whatever changes it deemed necessary to the standards before adopting them.
"We knew not everyone was happy with us but we felt like we walked down the middle of the road and had a good process," she said.
Westendorf, an appointed member from Bowling Green, said she and other board members have been bombarded in recent days by e-mails and telephone calls from "people from both sides, very passionate people, and we're right back in this again."
Conservative groups from opposite ends of Ohio are advising their members to urge the state board to keep the current guidelines.
"These board members, evolutionists and the media have twisted this debate into something it is not — a mechanism to sneak intelligent design into the schools," wrote Rob Walgate, of the Cleveland-based Ohio Roundtable, in a recent email to supporters.
"DO NOT advocate for intelligent design. Let him know you have seen the lesson and do NOT want it removed/eliminated. Stay on point: students deserve academic freedom — intellectual honesty — freedom of speech."
Phil Burress, president of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, made a similar appeal, encouraging his members to tell board members they "support teaching both sides of evolution theories."
"Classroom lesson plans that teach Ohio students arguments for and against evolution have come under attack by those who support only a pro-Darwin approach to the origin of the universe," Burress wrote.
"But the question that should be asked is why they favor censorship, allowing only one point of view, and are against having students simply learn all theories on this topic."
By ANDREW C. REVKIN Published: February 10, 2006
George C. Deutsch, the young NASA press aide who resigned on Tuesday amid claims that he had tried to keep the agency's top climate scientist from speaking publicly about global warming, defended himself publicly yesterday.
Speaking to a Texas radio station and then to The New York Times, Mr. Deutsch said the scientist, James E. Hansen, exaggerated the threat of warming and tried to cast the Bush administration's response to it as inadequate.
Mr. Deutsch also denied lying about having a college degree and trying to inject religion into some NASA Web presentations.
"I have never been told to censor science, to squelch anything or to insert religion into any issue," he told the radio reporter, Brian Cain.
Parts of that interview were posted on the Web site of WTAW-AM, in College Station (wtaw.com), where Mr. Deutsch attended Texas A&M University until he joined President Bush's campaign in 2004.
After seeing a transcript of some of the criticisms, Dr. Hansen said, "This is so wacky that it deserves little response."
In the radio interview, Mr. Deutsch also criticized others within NASA who supported Dr. Hansen's view that he was being suppressed. Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer who told The Times of several conversations in which Mr. Deutsch said his job was to "make the president look good," said she would not comment on his assertions.
"The House Science Committee is conducting an investigation because they were concerned and I'm just not prepared to stoop to his level," Ms. McCarthy said in a telephone interview last night.
Starting in late January with several interviews in The New York Times, Dr. Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, and several career NASA public affairs officials and scientists complained about what they said were intensifying efforts by political appointees in NASA, including Mr. Deutsch, to control more closely his lectures and Web presentations.
Last Friday, after more NASA scientists and public affairs officers told The Times of other instances in which political appointees altered news releases or Web presentations in ways the workers said were tinged by politics, Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, issued a "statement of scientific openness" to all NASA employees saying, "we have identified a number of areas in which clarification and improvements to the standard operating procedures of the Office of Public Affairs can and will be made."
Dr. Griffin also said "it is not the job of public affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."
The Times reported on Wednesday that contrary to his résumé on file with NASA, Mr. Deutsch, who is 24, never graduated from Texas A&M. Yesterday, in an interview with The Times, Mr. Deutsch said he had written the résumé in anticipation of graduating.
"When I left college," he said, "I did not properly update my résumé. As a result, it may appear misleading to some. However, I was up front with NASA about my undergraduate status when they hired me."
In an e-mail message, Mr. Deutsch said that remarks about religious views on the creation of the universe sent last October to a Web designer working on a presentation on Albert Einstein were "personal observations" and never were reflected in the material that was posted online.
"We are both Christians, and I was sharing with him my personal opinions on the Big Bang theory versus intelligent design," Mr. Deutsch wrote to The Times. "What I said about intelligent design did not affect the presentation of the Big Bang theory in the subsequent Einstein Web story. This is a very important point, because I have been accused of trying to insert religion into this story, which I was not trying to do."
OHIO'S ANTIEVOLUTION LESSON PLAN UNDER CHALLENGE
Although a proposal to remove the controversial "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan from the Ohio model science curriculum was narrowly defeated at the January meeting of the Ohio state board of education, the proposal is likely to be renewed at the board's February meeting, thanks to both a thinly disguised reproach from Ohio Governor Bob Taft (R) and a stinging rebuke from a large majority of the committee that originally helped to develop the standards. Defenders of evolution education in the Buckeye State are hopeful that the board will finally reverse its previous compromises with the forces of antievolutionism.
The "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan corresponds to a similarly controversial indicator in the Ohio state science standards, which called for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." When the indicator was introduced, it was widely feared that it would provide a pretext for the introduction of creationist misrepresentations of evolution. The lesson plan proved these fears to be warranted. As originally submitted, it was riddled with scientific inaccuracies and pedagogical infelicities, and it even explicitly cited a number of creationist publications.
Facing such criticisms, the proponents of the lesson plan revised it, but only cosmetically -- removing the references to creationist publications and eliminating a number of the glaring errors, but leaving intact the basic structure, the choice of topics (which is indebted to the notoriously misleading Icons of Evolution), and the overall goal of instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. Even as revised, the lesson plan was condemned by the National Academy of Sciences and the Ohio Academy of Sciences, which told Governor Taft that it was "defective because it is not science and has no place in the science curriculum."
Nevertheless, the revision was enough to satisfy a majority of the members of the state board of education. A motion to reject the lesson plan failed by a vote of 10-7, and the whole model curriculum, including the flawed "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, was then adopted by a 13-5 vote. Although teachers are not required to use the model curriculum, because it is based on the standards that also provide the basis for statewide testing, it is expected that they are widely used. Although there was talk shortly after the March 9, 2004, vote of the possibility of a lawsuit over the lesson plan, the public discussion of the plan subsided for a time.
Then, on December 20, 2005, in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover was issued: teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional. Subsequently, the prospect of a lawsuit over the lesson plan was reignited in Ohio. Robin Hovis, a member of the Ohio state board of education, told the Columbus Dispatch (January 8, 2006), "I think the ruling is a wake-up call to our board that we are out of compliance, at least in that judge's opinion," adding, "I think it would be very unfortunate of us to subject the state of Ohio to costly litigation."
Adding to the pressure on the board was the revelation that the lesson plan was adopted by the board despite warnings from the Ohio Department of Education, whose experts described it as wrong, misleading, and even manifesting "fringe thinking." A marvelously detailed article in the weekly Cleveland Free Times (January 31, 2006) reports, "at least one unnamed ODE staff scientist debunked all eight arguments Leonard had used to challenge evolution. The scientist's comments run the gamut of 'the challenging answer oversimplifies' to 'the challenging answer is wrong' to 'off-topic' to 'the underlined sentence about transitional fossils is a lie.'"
These warnings about the flaws in the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan were contained in documents obtained by Americans United for Separation of Church and State pursuant to a public records act request. Joseph Conn, a spokesman for Americans United, told the Dispatch (January 8, 2006), "We've only gotten part of what we've asked for, but we see much of the same pattern of introducing religion through a backdoor means." Patricia Princehouse of Ohio Citizens for Science added, "The documents demonstrate this board had a religious intent and that board members who said they had no idea this was bad science lied."
At the January 10, 2006, meeting of the board, however, a proposal, introduced by Martha Wise, to remove the lesson plan from the model curriculum was narrowly defeated in a 9-8 vote. The meeting was reportedly acrimonious; the Dispatch (January 11, 2006) reported that after Wise observed that it had been the intention of at least two members to introduce "intelligent design" into the state science standards, her fellow board members Michael Cochran and Deborah Owens-Fink -- both firm supporters of the lesson plan -- took umbrage. Robin Hovis reminded the board that Owens-Fink had, in fact, introduced a proposal to teach "intelligent design" previously.
The acrimony was not confined to the members of the board. After reviewing videotapes of the meeting, the Dispatch (January 20, 2006) described a number of board members -- particularly Cochran and Owens-Fink -- as "badgering and berating" the witnesses who testified about the flaws in the lesson plan. At one point, Cochran began to read a newspaper while Brian McEnnis, a professor of mathematics at Ohio State Unversity, was speaking; when McEnnis remonstrated, Cochran interrupted both McEnnis and then the president of the board when she sought to intervene. Interviewed by a Dispatch reporter, Cochran and Owens-Fink offered no apology.
The furor over the meeting evidently sparked the interest of Governor Taft, who told the Dispatch (February 3, 2006) that there should be a legal review of the lesson plan to ensure that the state is not vulnerable to a lawsuit. "The governor also said he should have asked his previous appointees to the State Board of Education more questions about their position on the controversial issue, and that he will be asking about it before making future appointments," the Dispatch also reported. Eight of the seats on the board of education are appointed by the governor, and four of these are due to be vacant at the end of the year; Governor Taft's term expires in 2007.
Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to Governor Taft dated February 7, 2006, a large majority -- seventy-five percent -- of the members of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee, which helped to develop the Ohio state science standards in 2002, protested the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan, describing it as "a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio's science classrooms," "wholly without merit," and "a disservice to Ohio's children and an insult to the intelligence of its good citizens."
The next meeting of the Ohio state board of education is on February 13-14, 2006. A hopeful sign, in addition to the remarks of Governor Taft and the letter from the members of the advisory committee, is that one of the two members of the board who were absent from the January 10 meeting, Virgil Brown, told the Dispatch (January 12, 2006) that he was ready to "withdraw or amend" the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, encouraging defenders of evolution education in the Buckeye State. Although consideration of the lesson plan is not on the agenda for the next meeting, it is clear that pressure is mounting on the board to take action.
For a longer version of this story, visit:
For detailed information about and critiques of the lesson plan, visit:
For the stories from the Columbus Dispatch, visit:
For the story from the Cleveland Free Times, visit:
For the letter from members of the Science Content Standards Advisory
ANTICREATIONISM LEGISLATION IN WISCONSIN
At a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 7, 2006, state representative Terese Berceau (D-District 76) announced her intention to introduce legislation in the state assembly which would, if enacted, prohibit the teaching of supernaturalistic pseudoscience in the science classrooms of the state's public schools. The Madison Capital Times (February 7, 2006) reported that Berceau's bill would "require that anything presented as science in the classroom be testable as a scientific hypothesis and pertain to natural, not supernatural, processes. The material would also have to be consistent with any description of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."
Although neither creation science nor "intelligent design" was explicitly mentioned in the bill itself, they appear to be its primary targets. Michael Cox and Alan Attie, both professors of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, were reported as applauding the prospect of preventing any incursion of the "intelligent design" movement -- which Cox described as attempting "to introduce fake science as science into the school curriculum in public schools" -- in Wisconsin. No explanation of the need for such a bill to prohibit the teaching of creationism, in light of the decisions in Edwards v. Aguillard and Kitzmiller v. Dover, was reported to have been offered.
Berceau emphasized that the bill would not prevent the mere discussion of a pseudoscience, telling the Capital Times, "You can even include it in a science class if you want to say why it's not a science." She added, "Otherwise it should be taught in a history of religion class or social studies or philosophy." Berceau also said that her bill was intended to counteract recent attempts to undermine evolution education around the country and within the state; Grantsburg, Wisconsin, where in 2004 a policy requiring the teaching of "all theories of origins" mutated, under pressure, to a policy requiring the teaching of the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, was cited as a case in point.
The bill was described by the Capital Times as "a first-of-its-kind proposal," a characterization that appears to be accurate. In the last five years, at any rate, the only other anticreationism bill that seems to have emerged was Montana's Senate Joint Resolution 8, introduced on January 7, 2005. As a resolution expressing the legislature's support for local science curricula based on sound science and its opposition to the imposition of "religious interpretations of events and phenomena on local schools under the guise of science curricula," SJR 8 would not have directly affected curriculum and instruction. Also unlike Berceau's bill, it explicitly referred to creationism. SJR 8 died in committee on March 1, 2005.
For the story in the Capital Times, visit:
For NCSE's previous reports on creationism in Wisconsin, visit:
For NCSE's reports on Montana's SJR 8, visit:
CREATIONIST INTERFERENCE AT NASA?
Creationism emerged as a subsidiary theme as allegations of political interference with climate science at NASA were in the news. In a story in The New York Times (January 29, 2006), Andrew Revkin described climate scientist James E. Hansen's allegations that "officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists." In passing, Revkin mentioned a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters named George Deutsch, who reportedly rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Hansen on the grounds that NPR was "the most liberal" media outlet in the country and that his job was "to make the president look good."
In a subsequent story in the Times (February 4, 2006), Revkin reported, "Other National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists and public-affairs employees came forward this week to say that beyond Dr. Hansen's case, there were several other instances in which political appointees had sought to control the flow of scientific information from the agency." Among these appointees was Deutsch, described by the Times as "a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose resume says he was an intern in the 'war room' of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign." Deutsch "told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word 'theory' after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times."
In his e-mail message, Deutsch wrote that the Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator. ... This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most." Revkin added, "The Deutsch memo was provided by an official at NASA headquarters who said he was upset with the effort to justify changes to descriptions of science by referring to politically charged issues like intelligent design. Senior NASA officials did not dispute the message's authenticity."
Deutsch resigned from NASA on February 7, 2006, the same day that Texas A&M University, where he claimed to have received a degree in journalism, confirmed that he in fact did not graduate. The question of Deutsch's degree was apparently first investigated by Nick Anthis, a recent graduate of Texas A&M who runs The Scientific Activist blog; Anthis told the Times (February 8, 2005), "It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated." Hansen, for his part, suggested that Deutsch represented only the tip of the iceberg of the administration's political interference with science: "The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."
For the stories in The New York Times, visit:
For Nick Anthis's blog The Scientific Activist, visit:
SCOTT INAUGURATES SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN PODCASTS
NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott was featured on the inaugural podcast from Scientific American, dated February 8, 2006. Hosted by Scientific American's columnist Steve Mirsky, the new series of audio commentaries explores the latest developments in science and technology through interviews with leading scientists and journalists. Mirsky -- who also wrote the profile of Scott that appears in the February 2006 issue of Scientific American -- asked Scott about both the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be constitutional, and the recent settlement of Hurst v. Newman, the lawsuit over the elective "philosophy of intelligent design" course in El Tejon School District in Lebec, California. Their conversation begins at about 11 minutes, 22 seconds, into the podcast.
For the Scientific American podcast featuring Scott, visit:
For the profile of Scott in Scientific American:
DON'T FORGET DARWIN DAY AND EVOLUTION SUNDAY
Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. And February 12 is also the first Evolution Sunday, with over 400 churches around the country planning sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. These events provide a great opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website and, for Evolution Sunday events, the Evolution Sunday website. (And don't forget to register your event!)
To find or register a Darwin Day event near you, visit:
For the Evolution Sunday project, visit:
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Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
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Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc
GLOBAL WARMING: MAYBE SCIENTIFIC OPENNESS IS "ONLY A THEORY."
Last week, WN reported that top NASA climate scientist James Hansen was under pressure to cool it on global warming. The pressure, we have since learned, was coming from 24-year old White House appointee George Deutsch, who had been an intern in the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Earlier, Deutsch had informed a NASA contractor that the word "theory" had to be added to every mention of the Big Bang. "This is more than a science issue," he declared, "it is a religious issue." On Friday, NASA chief Michael Griffin made it clear to all NASA employees that it's not the job of public affairs to "alter, filter or adjust" material from the technical staff. Wednesday, Deutsch resigned. What was he doing in a sensitive position in the first place? Although his job at NASA was a reward for work in the re-election campaign, he did have a journalism degree from Texas A&M, didn't he? Well, actually no. He lied about that. Deutsch was right about one thing: science issues can also be religious issues.
JOURNALISM? PETROLEUM GEOLOGISTS MOVE TO THE ALTERNATE WORLD.
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists is presenting its annual journalism award to novelist Michael Crichton for "State of Fear," a fictional story in which global warming is not for real. AAPG was presumably unable to find a journalist sufficiently divorced from reality to meet oil company standards.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the University of Maryland, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org
To: National & State Desks
Contact: Dr. Patrick Johnston, Right Remedy Ministries, 740-453-9173
ZANESVILLE, Ohio, Feb. 10 /Christian Wire Service/ -- Your local newspaper's commentary on "Intelligent Design" in public schools expose the misguided attempts of Christian conservatives to repel the state-mandated atheism and humanism of our public education system. We rightly abhor our public institutions teaching things we despise to our children at our expense. It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagations of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." But we have picked a battle-line in this culture war that would not give us victory even if we won.
In athletic competition, it is good to play by the rules, but in the war of worldviews, defeat is guaranteed if the truth plays by the rules of the liars. Conservatives have tried to play by the rules as we have insisted that our "intelligent design" theories that we attempted to infuse into scientific curriculum in public institutions were not "creationist" nor theistic in nature. Rather than challenge the validity of the "wall of separation of church and state," we have respected it. The courts were unconvinced: intelligent design, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones wrote , "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious antecedents," and thus it violates the wall of the separation. In his decision, Judge Jones forbade the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board from teaching intelligent design as a viable scientific theory in public schools biology classes.
Bad arguments for good conservative ideas may convince a majority of voters, but they aren't going to convince a Judge and the intelligentsia. What must be shown to the public is that all education is inescapably religious and the question before the courts and the American people is, which religion is true. Even atheists worship: they "worship and serve the creature (nature) more than the Creator, who is blessed forevermore" (Romans 1:25). Rather than play by the rules that tilt the field in the favor of the state-sanctioned religion of naturalism (practical atheism), conservatives must show that the rules are wrong.
Public education, for instance, has proclaimed the standard of scientific truth to be the scientific method, and since an intelligent designer cannot be empirically verified by the scientific method, "it belongs in a comparative religion class and not in a science classroom." Yet if the scientific method is the only way to know truth, then the scientific method cannot be true because the validity of the scientific method cannot be confirmed by the scientific method! The reliability of the scientific method assumes things that are religious in nature – the reliability of the laws of nature and the laws of logic, and the immorality of falsifying data. It can be shown that only Christian theism supports the presuppositions of the scientific method. The false religion sanctioned by the state cannot even support itself, much less science; it falls from the weight of its own internal contradictions.
The religion of naturalism, which accepts naturalistic evolution as its most plausible explanation for the origin of life, cannot accept any theistic theories for the origin of life by definition. Until their religion is toppled then they will never accept as viable any scientific theory we offer as to the origin of life if it includes an Intelligent Designer that cannot be empirically verified in terms that an atheist can accept. This religion must be shown to be false, and we can do it with God's help.
In the battle of worldviews in our public institutions, we must do something novel and defend Christian theism instead of going out of your way to hide it! Christian conservatives must pick a battle-line upon which victory will actually glorify the God we claim to serve. A theory of intelligent design that deceptively goes out of its way to exclude an Intelligent Designer and is consistent with any unbiblical theory of God or gods does not please the authentic Intelligent Designer, the Creator described in the Bible, for He hates Baal as much as he hates atheism. Neither will it please a circuit court Judge who can see through our sophistry.
Until the official state-sanctioned religion of public education is abandoned for the truth of God's Word - which truths were taught to American schoolchildren for two hundred years - as for me and my house, we'll homeschool. We'll also work diligently to force the government to stop stealing our money through coercive taxation to fund the teaching of lies to our children in the name of science (see www.stopschoollevies.org).
Patrick Johnston, D.O.
Family Practice, Zanesville, Ohio
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Copyright © 1999-2006 Christian Communication Network
February 10, 2006
Was the intelligent designer Vera Wang or P. Diddy? I argue it's a rhetorical device.
By Jennifer A. Smith
This is in response to Tom Ashby's Wednesday guest column "DNA evidence of an intelligent designer." Ashby needs to go back and check his Kentucky Wesleyan and Discovery Institute brochures. He also needs to make sure he's spouting the correct party line.
I hear some of those folks at the Discovery Institute are accepting common dissent these days. I'm not really sure which Insight magazine Ashby is using for his "evidence" of intelligent design because there are at least three magazines published under the title Insight magazine. One Insight magazine bills itself as a "current events magazine published by Washington Times;" a second Insight magazine is all about "entertainment" news; and a third calls itself a "weekly publication for high school and college-age kids, put out by the Seventh-day Adventist church." Please, please don't tell me Ashby is getting his science news from a teen magazine.
Well, anyway. None of Ashby's possible sources of scientific information are peer-reviewed science publications, i.e. have any scientific credibility. (Oh, and by the way, a Ph.D. in a scientific discipline and a lack of publications in scientific journals does not automatically make one a credible authority on the origins of life. Many highly educated people have very bad ideas; for example, Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.) Bottom line, Ashby doesn't have any evidence for "intelligent" design. Saying something "looks like" it has been designed is not evidence of design, scientific or otherwise. Michael Behe's fondness for trotting out Cuvier's ancient and discredited "correlation of parts" theory under the guise of "irreducible complexity" is not new or accurate science. "Looks like" is not provable or realistic.
It's the equivalent of finding a basement flooded and then saying it "looks like" some intelligent force has flooded the basement.
Ashby claims that intelligent design does not believe God is the designer of all life. Well then, who, exactly, is Ashby's designer? Is it Vera Wang? Or Ralph Lauren? No, no, let me guess ... the designer for all of life has just got to be Puff Daddy, excuse me, I think he's going by P. Diddy now. Maybe Ashby's "designer" is simply a rhetorical device of the Discovery Institute?
I'll have to think about that. Ashby's last two sentences struck me as very interesting.
He says, "Once we accept the probable existence of a designer, we will have opened the door for unimaginable future scientific discoveries. For many, that day has arrived." Just what are these "unimaginable future scientific discoveries" that you predict?
How is Ashby going to discover these "unimaginable future scientific discoveries" if Ashby can't, well, imagine or prove them? And who are these people whom intelligent design has aided in "unimaginable future scientific discoveries?"
The last time I checked none of those intelligent design people were on the verge of announcing the cure for cancer. How is intelligent design really going to aid or improve science if, 1. it can't prove anything and, 2. it doesn't understand that science requires proof? I guess Ashby will have to go ask P. Diddy.
Jennifer A. Smith is a University student. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Scott De Laruelle
Nearly 80 years after the "Scopes Monkey Trial" brought the battle between teaching evolution and creationism into the nation's consciousness, state lawmakers want to ban teaching "intelligent design" in public schools.
Local science teachers say they would not have a problem with the law, though some say discussing the idea is harmless. Intelligent design holds that life was created by someone or something. This challenges the established theory of evolution through natural selection.
Two state Democratic lawmakers introduced a plan Tuesday that would ban intelligent design as science, saying "pseudo-science" should have no place in the classroom, according to the Associated Press. The proposal is the first of its kind in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
It reads, "This bill directs each school board to ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum is testable as a scientific hypothesis, describes only natural processes, and is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."
Local science teachers have mixed reactions to the proposal. Baraboo High School Science Department Chairperson Bill Bockenhauer said while local teachers and parents have not been talking much about the issue, it comes up in class from time to time, which he said he does not mind.
"I don't think it's something a teacher should promote, but if a student states an opinion, it needs to be addressed," Bockenhauer said. "I don't like shutting the shades on maybe some good conversation within a class."
Jack Young Middle School science teacher Karen Mesmer, who has taught at the school since 1988, said her interest in evolution has gotten her involved in intelligent design and creationism issues over the years. She said she has studied the issue extensively at the university level and participated in state and national groups on this issue.
"It's been a real big national issue, and it's been coming for awhile," Mesmer said.
Mesmer said after teaching creationism was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1987, proponents began using the term "intelligent design" instead.
"I've heard it described as 'creationism in a tuxedo,'" Mesmer said. "They try to dress it up so it seems to not be religion."
She said the ideals of intelligent design do not fit with the standard definition of science normally taught in schools.
"Not that (intelligent design) does not exist, but there is no empirical data to test it at all," Mesmer said. "It is an untestable hypothesis that does not have a research basis, has not been peer-reviewed in journals."
February 9, 2006
BY MELISSA BERTOSH
As part of the "Scientists and Citizens: Public Understanding of Science" lecture series, the Cooper Foundation and the Department of Biology hosted two events yesterday addressing intelligent design and its influence on the teaching of science.
Speaking to a full house, three teachers led a discussion on the recent intelligent design case in Dover, Pa. Later, a lecture by Dr. Kenneth Miller of Brown University, author of "Time to Dump Darwin? Evolution, God, and America's New AntiEvolutionism," rounded out the occasion.
"The science teachers seemed eager to discuss their take on what has been going on in Dover over the last few years. I hope that having both events on the same day will contextualize the issue and provide a complete story about the case to the Swarthmore community" said Adam Roddy '06, who helped organize the events.
The panel discussion, hosted by Dover Area science teachers Bertha Spahr, Ken Miller and Rob Eshbach, featured a PowerPoint presentation with a timeline of the events in the rural town, located 20 miles south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Eshbach and Miller are the children of ministers, and pointed out that religion still plays a role in the town of Dover despite many claims otherwise.
Eshbach also reported that the Dover Area School District had a significant amount of faith-based activities at all levels of education. Next year a Comparative Religion course will be offered as an elective to broaden the minds of students and teach tolerance.
"Intelligent design is not a science. Science is science, you have to be able to test it," Eshbach said, who himself is a Dover Area High School alum.
A brief history of the events in Dover begins in October 2004 when a 6-3 vote by the Dover Board of Education changed the school district's biology curriculum to include intelligent design and Darwin's theory of evolution. The highly controversial outcome resulted in the resignation of the three board members in the minority, as well as the refusal of many of the district's science teachers to read a statement to all ninth grade biology classes explaining that Darwin's theory was not fact.
After school board reelections, the policy was rejected and appealed to a higher court. On December 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones III ruled in favor of the plaintiff and released a 139 page decision stating that the religious nature of intelligent design "would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child" and that the school board's intelligent design policy violated the Establishment Clause.
"It was nice that they gave us a first hand look at the process because I was not very familiar with the exact details, " commented Cynthia Wu '06, following the discussion.
Mikio Akagi '08, was equally as pleased with the presentation, as the problems encountered in Dover hit home for him. "My high school was private while Dover is a public school," he said. "When my brother who is currently a junior in high school, took biology as a freshman, his peers were very religious and there was controversy over the way in which evolution was being taught."
Roddy, a biology major and religion minor, began organizing the events last spring in time to complete Cooper funding applications. By late August, the lineup of speakers started to come together.
As a major organizer of the event, Roddy dealt with any obstacles that occurred leading up to the lectures. "It's [planning an event] not easy, as anyone else who's organized things can attest to," he said. "I did as much as possible last spring, but of course, there's always more to do just before the event."
Roddy secured the speakers by networking in and around Dover. "The
contact in Dover, Rob Eshbach, was actually given to me by Ken Miller. Rob and some other teachers wanted to do a discussion of sorts when Ken would be speaking somewhere, so I pursued the possibility and secured more funding from the Cooper Foundation," he said.
Miller, a witness for the plaintiff in the Kitzmiller et al v. Dover School District court case, spoke yesterday evening to a packed lecture hall about his opposition to the intelligent design and creationist movements.
According to Miller, advocates of intelligent design oppose evolution "not because it is a shaky scientific theory but because it has implications that they just don't like."
He then went on to overwhelm the audience with evidence completely disproving the arguments intelligent design advocates commonly use.
His talk gave listeners a detailed sense of the arguments used in the Dover, PA trial.
Furthermore, Miller emphasized that intelligent design is nothing but religious doctrine masquerading as science, though intelligent design advocates have been trying to disassociate it with religion, currently calling it 'intelligent design' rather than 'creation.'
Miller also made a point of stating that evolution can fall within God's plan for creation, and that evolution should in no way be considered anti-religious.
He said that the Bible should not be read as a scientific textbook. He especially emphasized that students should not be forced to choose between God and science in schools.
Rather, they should be able to embrace science without abandoning their faith
At the conclusion of his lecture, Miller posed the question, "What's at stake?" and said that the answer was everything. America is still the greatest scientific nation in the world, and in order to keep it that way, it is essential that America reject the notion of intelligent design, not religion.
"Evolution Sunday is the height of hypocrisy," says Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute the nation's leading think tank researching scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. "Why do Darwinists think it is not okay for people to criticize Darwin on religious grounds, but it is just fine to defend him on religious grounds?"
Sunday marks the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin and to celebrate 400 ministers have announced they will deliver pro-evolution sermons in conjunction with "Evolution Sunday."
"Our view is not that pastors should speak out against evolution, but that the Darwinists are hypocrites for claiming--falsely--that opposition to Darwinism is merely faith based, and then turning around and trying to make the case that Darwinism itself is faith based," added Chapman.
According to Dr. John West, a Discovery Senior Fellow, Evolution Sunday is part of a much larger campaign by Darwinists to explicitly use religion to promote their theory, a campaign that extends to public schools. "In California, Darwin supporters have spent more than a half-million dollars in federal tax money for a website that directs teachers to use theological statements endorsing evolution in science classes," said West. Noting that the website is now the subject of a federal lawsuit for violating the separation of church and state, West asked: "What secular purpose is served by the government trying to convince students what their religious views on evolution should be?"
Chapman pointed out that increasingly the only time religion is brought up in the debate over evolution is when Darwinists falsely charge that anyone criticizing Darwin's theory is religiously motivated.
"We maintain a list of hundreds of scientists who are skeptical of Darwinian evolution because of the unresolved scientific problems with the theory, not because of any so-called religious motivation," said Chapman. The Scientific Dissent From Darwinism is available on the Institute's website at www.discovery.org.
"This isn't science versus religion, it's science versus science," added West. "It's a standard part of science to raise evidence critical of an existing scientific theory or paradigm. That's what good science is about—analyzing evidence and asking tough questions. Scientists have a duty to raise critical questions about existing scientific theories."
Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank dealing with scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution, seeks to increase the teaching of evolution. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. The Institute opposes any effort to mandate or require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education.
Posted by Robert Crowther on February 9, 2006 02:32 PM | Permalink