NTS LogoSkeptical News for 21 September 2006

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mars Face Makeover: Controversial Formation Observed from New Angles


By Robert Roy Britt Senior Science Writer

posted: 21 September 2006 10:22 am ET

NASA started it all back in 1976 with an image of an interesting mountain on Mars and a caption that described it as appearing to have eyes and nostrils.

Thirty years later, the Face on Mars still inspires myths and conspiracy theories.

New images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter will confirm for many that the features are natural, while no doubt offering tantalizing "clues" to others of an ancient intelligent civilization at work.

The spacecraft's High Resolution Stereo Camera provides data the researchers turn into colorized perspective views, which simulate the scene as though you were flying high over the region in an aircraft. The data was obtained in July and the images released today. [Images 1, 2]

"They not only provide a completely fresh and detailed view of an area so famous to fans of space myths all around the world, but also provide an impressive close-up over an area of great interest for planetary geologists, and show once more the high capability of the Mars Express camera," said Agustin Chicarro, ESA Mars Express project scientist.

The feature known as the Face, along another skull-like feature and pyramid-looking hills in the vicinity, are in an area called Cydonia in the Arabia Terra region. It is a transition zone between the southern highlands and the northern plains, and it contains wide valleys and ancient remnant mounds, called massifs, of many shapes and sizes.

The massif that became the infamous "Face" was first seen in a photo taken on 25 July 1976 by NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter. NASA scientists thought it looked like a human head, and although they knew it was just an illusion, the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory issued this caption:

"The speckled appearance of the image is due to missing data, called bit errors, caused by problems in transmission of the photographic data from Mars to Earth. Bit errors comprise part of one of the 'eyes' and 'nostrils' on the eroded rock that resembles a human face near the center of the image. Shadows in the rock formation give the illusion of a nose and mouth. Planetary geologists attribute the origin of the formation to purely natural processes." [Read the full caption.]

A strong myth developed, holding that the Face was an artificial structure built by some ancient civilization. Surrounding pyramids—also just interesting-looking massifs—fueled the myth. Last year, a study helped explain why: People see faces that aren't there—on Mars or in clouds—because we have "over-learned" to recognize the human face.

Other photographs of the Face taken more recently show that from different angles, it does not look much like a face.

ESA scientists are interested in the geology of the region. Landslides and broad debris aprons show how the heavily eroded surface has changed over time, helping them piece together the real Martian past.


From: Terry Colvin

David T. Lykken, a psychologist who did pioneering research and public education on the limits and abuses of polygraph testing, died last week at age 78.

With exceptional clarity he demonstrated that the polygraph is not a "lie detector" but simply a recorder of physiological responses to verbal stimuli. And, he explained, there is no set of physiological responses that corresponds uniquely to deception.

That does not mean the polygraph is worthless. There is empirical evidence to support its use in the investigation of specific incidents, where "guilty knowledge" of particular details may be usefully revealed by the polygraph.

"The use of the [polygraph] by the police as an investigative tool, while subject to abuse like any other tool, is not inherently objectionable," Lykken wrote.

(Not only that, "It seems reasonable to conclude that whether O.J. Simpson did or did not kill his wife could have been determined with high confidence using a Guilty Knowledge Test administered within hours after he was first in police custody.")

On the other hand, he said, the use of the polygraph for security screening of personnel, as is commonly done by U.S. intelligence agencies, cannot reliably achieve its purported goal of identifying spies or traitors and in many cases becomes counterproductive.

"I think it is now obvious that polygraph testing has failed to screen out from our intelligence agencies potential traitors and moles. On the contrary, it seems to have served as a shield for such people who, having passed the polygraph, become immune to commonsense suspicions."

Lykken produced a body of work that is prominently cited in every bibliography of polygraph-related research. And he addressed the interested public in a highly readable 1998 book called "A Tremor in the Blood" (an allusion to Defoe), which is full of colorful observations as well as analytical rigor.

So, for example, he reports that Pope Pius XII condemned polygraph testing in 1958 because it "intrude[s] into man's interior domain" (Tremor, page 47).

And "when Bedouin tribesmen of the Negev desert were examined on the polygraph, they were found to be far less reactive than Israeli Jews, whether or Near Eastern or European origin" (page 273).

Dr. Lykken was profiled in a September 20 obituary in the New York Times here:


It is a sign of our times that the scientific critique of polygraph testing has gained almost no traction on government policy. To the contrary, the use of the polygraph to perform the sort of screening that Lykken termed a "menace in American life" is actually on the rise.

"From FY 2002 through 2005, the FBI, DEA, and ATF conducted approximately 28,000 pre-employment polygraph examinations" as well as tens of thousands more for other purposes, according to a major new report from the Justice Department Inspector General.

See "Use of Polygraph Examinations in the Department of Justice," September 2006:


Characteristically, the new Inspector General report did not even consider the question of the polygraph's scientific reliability.

In particular, as George Maschke of AntiPolygraph.org told CQ Homeland Security, the Justice Department report failed to grapple with a 2002 finding of the National Academy of Sciences that "[polygraph testing's] accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."


Aldrich H. Ames, the former CIA officer whose years of espionage against the United States went undetected by the polygraph, reflected on the mythology of the polygraph in a letter that he wrote to me from federal prison in November 2000. See:


Skeleton sheds light on ape-man species


POSTED: 1:13 p.m. EDT, September 20, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- Scientists have discovered a remarkably complete skeleton of a 3-year-old female from the ape-man species represented by "Lucy."

The discovery should fuel a contentious debate about whether this species, which walked upright, also climbed and moved through trees easily like an ape.

The remains are 3.3 million years old, making them the oldest known skeleton of such a youthful human ancestor.

"It's pretty unbelievable" to find such a complete fossil from that long ago, said scientist Fred Spoor. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime find."

Spoor, professor of evolutionary anatomy at University College London, describes the fossil in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature with Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and other scientists.

The skeleton was discovered in 2000 in northeastern Ethiopia. Scientists have spent five painstaking years removing the bones from sandstone, and the job will take years more to complete.

Judging by how well it was preserved, the skeleton may have come from a body that was quickly buried by sediment in a flood, the researchers said.

The creature was a member of Australopithecus afarensis, which lived in Africa between about 4 million and 3 million years ago. The most famous afarensis is Lucy, discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, which lived about 100,000 years after the newfound specimen.

Most scientists believe afarensis stood upright and walked on two feet, but they argue about whether it had ape-like agility in trees.

That climbing ability would require anatomical equipment like long arms, and afarensis had arms that dangled down to just above the knees. The question is whether such features indicate climbing ability or just evolutionary baggage.

Spoor said so far, analysis of the new fossil hasn't settled the argument but does seem to indicate some climbing ability.

While the lower body is very human-like, he said, the upper body is ape-like:

The shoulder blades resemble those of a gorilla rather than a modern human.

The neck seems short and thick like a great ape's, rather than the more slender version humans have to keep the head stable while running.

The organ of balance in the inner ear is more ape-like than human.

The fingers are very curved, which could indicate climbing ability, "but I'm cautious about that," Spoor said. Curved fingers have been noted for afarensis before, but their significance is in dispute.

A big question is what the foot bones will show when their sandstone casing is removed, he said. Will there be a grasping big toe like the opposable thumb of a human hand? Such a chimp-like feature would argue for climbing ability, he said.

Yet, to resolve the debate, scientists may have to find a way to inspect vanishingly small details of such old bones, to get clues to how those bones were used in life, he said.

Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who didn't participate in the discovery, said in an interview that the fossil provides strong evidence of climbing ability. But he also agreed that it won't settle the debate among scientists, which he said "makes the Middle East look like a picnic."

Overall, he wrote in a Nature commentary, the discovery provides "a veritable mine of information about a crucial stage in human evolutionary history."

The fossil revealed just the second hyoid bone to be recovered from any human ancestor. This tiny bone, which attaches to the tongue muscles, is very chimp-like in the new specimen, Spoor said.

While that doesn't directly reveal anything about language, it does suggest that whatever sounds the creature made "would appeal more to a chimpanzee mother than a human mother," Spoor said.

The fossil find includes the complete skull, including an impression of the brain and the lower jaw, all the vertebrae from the neck to just below the torso, all the ribs, both shoulder blades and both collarbones, the right elbow and part of a hand, both knees and much of both shin and thigh bones.

One foot is almost complete, providing the first time scientists have found an afarensis foot with the bones still positioned as they were in life, Spoor said.

The work was funded by the National Geographic Society, the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, the Leakey Foundation and the Planck institute.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Putting Wikipedia On Notice About Their Biased Anti-ID Intelligent Design Entries


We received this e-mail recently from a friendly engineer. He gave us permission to post his letter but only if we put his name in bold.

I am an engineer. I am not a biologist. I became interested in Intelligent Design recently and decided to investigate it a bit. Naturally I consulted Wikipedia for information on the subject and was stunned by the one sided tone of the material I found there. When I was in college I learned that the best way to defeat an opponent in a debate is to take on their strongest arguments demonstrate the flaws in them.

If evolutionists truly believe in "survival of the fittest", they should have employed this tactic rather than those methods I saw in the ID article on Wikipedia. The proponents of ID were not allowed to even present their arguments, rather, they first attempted to kill the messenger, and then only arguments against ID were presented.

May I suggest that you would be better served to use a debate format for subjects of controversy.

Let each side present their case, sticking to the facts, and afford both sides the opportunity to engage in rebuttal and to rebut the rebuttal. Rulings from a judge ... will not impress any who don't already agree with it.

If evolution is indeed the fittest, it will survive such a test. The fact that other tactics were employed to defeat ID indicates to me that perhaps the ID folks have the stronger argument, an argument that established scientific circles do not care to face.

May the strongest argument survive!

Paul R. Stone
Materials and Process Technology

I know of numerous people who have tried to suggest changes to Wikipedia to lessen the current bias of the ID entries -- including staff of Discovery Institute. They were rebuffed. The moderators of Wikipedia's ID-pages have repeatedly rejected and censored changes that would provide some semblance of balance or objectivity to the discussion. Basic accuracy on dates and names have suffered, never mind the downright falsehoods about the science.

If you would like to contact Wikipedia to express your feelings about the biased nature of the entries on intelligent design, e-mail them at: "info-en@wikimedia.org".

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 6, 2006 9:15 AM | Permalink

The Behe Cross Examination and DI Revisionism


Category: Dover Lawsuit
Posted on: September 15, 2006 10:09 AM, by Ed Brayton

As Wesley and I work on our book on the history of the Dover trial, one of the things we will have to incorporate and comment on is the absolutely frantic attempts by the DI to rewrite that history after the ruling came down. Watching their reaction evolve has been a source of great amusement to me. They were all for the school passing a pro-ID policy, sending lots of material to school board members to encourage them further. Once they realized that the board members had been so brazen about calling ID creationism and deliberating the issue in starkly religious terms (like Buckingham's statement that it was time to "stand up" for someone who "died on a cross 2000 years ago"), they backed away and urged the board not to pursue it.

What most of the public doesn't realize, but those of us who are active behind the scenes of this issue do, is that both sides had been actively looking for a test case on whether ID could be taught in public schools. The ID movement had launched in the aftermath of the 1987 Edwards ruling with a new legal strategy of removing all of the overtly religious elements of creationism to sneak the core unifying ideas of creationism passed the courts. That strategy had not yet been directly tested in court, but both sides were actively on the lookout for possible test cases. In so doing, obviously, we wanted one where the facts of the case were more friendly to the case we had to make in court. Dover fit the bill for our side but, clearly, not for the ID side; but since our side was acting as plaintiff, we got to choose.

It was pretty clear from the start that the bigwigs in the DI were not at all happy with this. They clearly understood that they might only get one shot at the courts, that a major loss in the first ID test case might spell the end of their entire strategy. And they knew, as we did, that the facts of the Dover case were strongly against them. That's why they tried to talk the school board out of passing the policy, and it's why they urged the Thomas More Law Center not to take the case.

But even after the suit was filed in Dover, there was still much bravado from some corners of the ID camp, particularly from the Dembski blog. In the midst of discovery and depositions in the trial, Dembski himself openly fantasized about finally having his day in court to get those evil Darwinists under oath and squeeze the truth out of them. He outlined it in a post where he rolled out his Vise Strategy. In it, he declared that he could hardly wait for "the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas that compel evolutionists to be deposed and interrogated at length on their views."

And then there's DaveScot's attempt at prophecy, as he gleefully noted that the case has been given to a conservative Christian judge with close ties to prominent ID advocates:

Judge John E. Jones on the other hand is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks. He was state attorney for D.A.R.E, an Assistant Scout Master with extensively involved with local and national Boy Scouts of America, political buddy of Governor Tom Ridge (who in turn is deep in George W. Bush's circle of power), and finally was appointed by GW hisself. Senator Rick Santorum is a Pennsylvanian in the same circles (author of the "Santorum Language" that encourages schools to teach the controversy) and last but far from least, George W. Bush hisself drove a stake in the ground saying teach the controversy. Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn't going to rule against the wishes of his political allies. Of course the ACLU will appeal. This won't be over until it gets to the Supreme Court. But now we own that too.

That bravado was shared by the folks from the Thomas More Law Center, but I frankly think that was just a ruse. They are good enough attorneys to know that the facts were strongly against them. They were also good enough, at least, to know that they were seriously overmatched by the legal team the plaintiffs had put together for the trial; if not, they quickly found out once the trial began. Only the DI, however, really knew how badly the case was going to go for them and once the case was filed they put most of their energy into minimizing the scope of the loss.

That we would win was a safe bet, but we could win big or win little. Winning little would have meant a narrow ruling based solely on the purpose prong of the Lemon test, without any legal analysis of the nature of ID as unscientific. Winning big would be a comprehensive ruling on the effect prong of the Lemon test with direct reference to the unscientific and religious nature of ID itself. From the start, the DI seemed to focus on minimizing the scope of the win, on prevailing on the judge to issue only the narrowest possible ruling in the case.

DI fellow David DeWolf filed an amicus brief on behalf of a group of pro-ID scientists urging the judge not to rule on the scientific validity of ID or on whether it was essentially religious, arguing that "intelligent design should not be stigmatized by the courts as less scientific than competing theories." DeWolf also authored a brief on behalf of the DI itself that argued that if the judge did rule on that question, he should rule that ID is scientific and not religious. Clearly this was the key to the DI's trial strategy.

When the ruling came down, it turned out that we didn't win little or big, we won huge. Despite the judge's political alliances with ID proponents, we prevailed on every single argument we made in the case. It was a thorough rejection of the ID legal strategy. But of course, they couldn't admit that publicly. Instead, they would try and downplay the signficance of the ruling. Indeed, some of them had begun to lay the groundwork for that claim a couple months earlier.

In a September 30th post on his blog, Dembski was in the mood to make predictions. He offered three possibilities: 1) ID wins; 2) the other side wins little; 3) the other side wins big. He put the odds at 20%, 70% and 10% respectively (one would think the Isaac Newton of Information Theory could do a bit better than that; let's just say I'm not counting on Dembski to tell me whether Baylor is gonna cover the spread this weekend). But, he noted optimistically, even if the 3rd outcome was to happen, life would go on. After all, God himself was in charge:

Thus, unlike outcome 1., which would be a Waterloo for the other side, I don't see outcome 3. as anything like a Waterloo for our side. It would make life in the short-term more difficult, and it certainly would not be pleasant to have to endure the gloating by the other side, but the work of ID would continue. In fact, it might continue more effectively than under outcome 1., which might convince people that ID has already won the day when in fact ID still has a long way to go in developing its scientific and intellectual program.

To sum up, we might say that outcome 1. would be a recipe for complacency, outcome 2. would encourage us to take greater care and try again, and option 3. would inspire us to work that much harder for ID's ultimate success. I trust that Providence will bring about the outcome that will best foster ID's ultimate success.

This is a standard PR trick of reducing expectations to help one control the spin, and the spin came fast and furious the day the ruling came down. On that day, the DI released a statement that tried in several ways to minimize the importance of the ruling. But the primary line they were peddling that day was that, despite the huge loss they had taken in court, ID would still prevail in the end. After declaring the judge whose appointment to the case they had greeted with such hope an "activist judge with delusions of grandeur" - gee, that was a shock - they said:

"Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world," continued West. "Americans don't like to be told there is some idea that they aren't permitted to learn about.. It used to be said that banning a book in Boston guaranteed it would be a bestseller. Banning intelligent design in Dover will likely only fan interest in the theory."

"In the larger debate over intelligent design, this decision will be of minor significance," added Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin. "As we've repeatedly stressed, the ultimate validity of intelligent design will be determined not by the courts but by the scientific evidence pointing to design."

It was a brave face to present to the public, but that's all it was. There is no doubt that they understood just how devestating this loss was to their movement and to the legal strategy they had poured such resources into. The fact that they recognized just how bad it was is supported by their subsequent behavior. They've thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Judge Jones' ruling, keeping up a steady stream of criticism going for nearly 9 months now, including an entire book. In the process they have engaged in a great deal of revisionism. The latest example is this post by Logan Gage on the DI blog concerning the Behe cross examination.

He begins by saying that "every American" should be "troubled" by the following quote from Judge Jones in an interview:

I think that some of the cross-examination was absolutely fabulous," said Jones. "It will endure, and I think it will be excerpted for advocacy classes. ... I would say, in particular, Eric Rothschild's cross-examination of Professor [Michael] Behe -- the intelligent design proponent -- that might be as good a cross-examination of an expert witness as I have ever seen. It was textbook.

And he uses this as a jumping off point to, once again, beat the dead horse with more complaints about the fact that Rothschild had presented some 50 books and articles on the evolution of the immune system to Behe on the stand:

I was there. The cross examination was pure sophistry. Rothschild did nothing more than twist Behe's words. He then proceeded to do a theatrical literature dump on Behe--piling up the papers and books before the professor--and act as though because many scientific papers had the words "evolution" and "immune system" in the title then evolution by natural selection must have built the immune system. This was not an argument refuting Behe's work. This was a stunt.

Bear in mind, folks, that the cross examination of Behe began early afternoon on October 18th and ended early afternoon on October 19th. An entire day was spent just on the cross examination of Behe, all of which Gage ignores except for one tiny portion of the questioning that took maybe 15 minutes. And his complaints about that portion of the question prove, under examination, to be hollow.

Every discerning person in attendance that day was surely asking himself, "If one of these papers or books has a piece of overwhelming evidence that the immune system was built by random mutation and natural selection, then why doesn't Rothschild just open one of them and point to such a passage?"

Only a person wholly unfamiliar with how such research is done would think that. A truly discerning person would understand that the evolution of the immune system is a massive subject that has spawned, and continues to spawn, an enormous amount of research to work out the details. Only an ignoramus would expect or demand that there would be one "piece of overwhelming evidence" that would settle the issue once and for all. It simply doesn't work that way. There is no single "crucial test" that proves such a theory, there is only the slow accretion of more and more detailed explanations, more and more experimentation to confirm discrete aspects of how the system might have developed. As usual, the IDers demand a ridiculous level of proof, one that they know cannot be met, and they demand that it be encapsulated in a single, easy proof, like a math problem. Science simply does not work that way.

What mainstream science has over ID, particularly in this area, is that those who study of the development of the immune system can actually do science. They can propose hypotheses for how a particular aspect of the immune system evolved, derive predictions from those hypotheses and test those predictions. And they do so, every day, in labs all over the world. Can you even imagine hypothetically how a scientist guided by ID would try and confirm the "god poofed it into existence" theory? It's not even hypothetically possible.

For a good description of current research on the development of the immune system, look at this post at the Panda's Thumb by Nick Matzke, or at this article in Nature Immunology by Matzke, Andrea Bottaro and Matt Inlay. Both articles trace the development of the transposon hypothesis and how it is being confirmed by ongoing research in comparative immunology. Is it slam dunk proof, wrapped up in a neat little package the way Behe demands? Of course not. But it's the kind of research that can only be done within an evolutionary paradigm; ID offers no hope of ever confirming an explanation for its development. And the results of dozens and dozens of studies have continued to give weight to the evolutionary explanation, and all of the evidence found so far is consistent with it. That's how science of this sort is done, not by a single geometric proof but by the slow accumulation of evidence and the step by step confirmation of a compelling explanation for that evidence.

Gage takes Judge Jones to task for praising this cross examination because of his misrepresentation of one tiny portion of it, but he ignores a great deal of brilliant work by Rothschild. There is a reason why observers of the trial, including myself, pointed to the cross examination of Behe as a key moment in the trial. Rothschild had Behe on the run from the start and extracted one crucial admission after another out of him. Here's a short list of those admissions:

1. That there are many complex biochemical systems that he accepts as having evolved without any intelligent intervention, including systems that require multiple interacting parts in order to function (like hemoglobin or the antifreeze protein system in Arctic fish).

2. Admitting that when he used the phrase "purposeful arrangement of parts", "purposeful" really only means "functional". As I wrote at the time, using quotes from his cross examination:

So according to Behe, we know that a system was designed if it has a "purposeful arrangement of parts", and we know that an arrangement is "purposeful" if the parts are "ordered to perform some function." But wait a minute...when it comes to the antifreeze protein, a system that is obviously ordered (the development of the system involves a gene for a related protein, trypsinogen, being expanded, then duplicated, to produce a sequence of 41 tandem repeat segments) to perform some function (keeping the fish's blood from freezing at low temperatures), Behe does not infer design. In fact, we have multiple examples of antifreeze proteins in different species of fish, all derived independently of one another through different pathways, controlled by different genes and resulting in different sets of proteins, all of which Behe apparently accepts as being well explained by evolution without the need for the intervention of a designer. Yet these systems show the same trait - multiple parts ordered to perform a function - that he claims is a positive test for design.

3. Getting Behe to claim that his book, Darwin's Black Box, had undergone even more rigorous peer review than a journal article because it was a "controversial topic" and getting him to name one of the reviewers as Dr. Michael Atchison. They then pointed out that Atchison had in fact written that he had never even seen the book and that the full extent of his "peer review" was a 10 minute phone conversation with the editor, wherein the editor described the book and asked him if he thought the book was "a good risk for publication." Furthermore, the other two reviewers were Robert Shepiro and K. Scott Morrow, both of whom have publicly said that they panned the book in their reviews. So much for that more rigorous peer review.

4. Getting Behe to admit that the computer simulation he published with David Snoke showed that an irreducibly complex protein binding site could evolve in less than 20,000 years even though they rigged the experiment to make it as unlikely as possible. I went into great detail on that particularly brilliant portion of the cross examination in a blog post the day after the cross examination.

And those are just a few examples. Judge Jones was absolutely right to call Eric Rothschild's cross examination of Behe a textbook example of effective cross examination. It was all of that and more, and it was an extremely important reason why the judge ruled the way he did. Remember, Behe was one of only two scientific witnesses the defense had in the case. The fact that he was shredded on the stand was a huge blow to their cause, and all the after-the-fact revisionism they've done in the last year doesn't change that a bit.

'Religion and science are both about knowing and wondering'


Story by Patrick Russell

Editor's note: This article is a response to Mark Hollabaugh's article.

As a boy I sang "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, How I Wonder What You Are"—and meant both. They kept resonating as I became both a physicist and Lutheran pastor. Living in both worlds I find no conflict between them, only mutual reinforcement to my faith and my God-given curiosity.

For children, religion and science are both about knowing and wondering—there is no distinction. As adults we inherit a historical division between religion and science as ways of knowing, and, unfortunately, we pass this division to our children in churches and schools. The intelligent design movement exploits this division to introduce what Mark Hollabaugh calls bad science and bad theology into the science classroom, as at Dover, Pa.

Hollabaugh describes ID supporters as opposed to evolution on religious grounds, turning to ID in a rear-guard action against Darwinian evolution, which they (mis)understand as the leading edge of a materialistic, godless worldview.

This was certainly the case a generation earlier when so-called "creation science" advocates pressed a literal reading of the biblical creation account in opposition to the scientific picture of an evolving universe.

These efforts were struck down in the courts, and in the Dover case Judge John E. Jones (see "'Not science': Judge John E. Jones") concluded from courtroom testimony that the current ID movement is largely repackaged creationism.

Hollabaugh summarizes the arguments for why ID is bad science. ID proponents market ideas that haven't withstood the test of scientific scrutiny directly to the public through popular books, bypassing scientific literature. Free expression of ideas is one thing; direct-marketing such ideas to school boards is disingenuous.

The "teach the controversy" slogan of the ID community is particularly suspect: By presenting ID as an alternative to evolutionary theory, proponents hope to suggest that the scientific establishment is divided on the question. This is simply not the case: Few theories have enjoyed the long-term success and widespread agreement of Darwinian evolution. Hollabaugh debunks the intentionally misleading statement that evolution is "just a theory."

But there is another argument often missed in recent discussions. As he points out, Isaac Newton's laws have been replaced with a more accurate theory of gravity. Why don't we teach its successor, General Relativity, to high-school students? And for that matter, why not teach the many genuine, fascinating controversies that science does raise?

Simple: Most high school students aren't yet equipped to understand the theoretical complexities and make their own judgment. This will come with graduate education and experience. Asking students to assess the validity of the major theories of science, Einsteinian relativity or Darwinian evolution, is simply inappropriate at the high-school level. Not only is ID bad science, it is also bad education.

What I find most interesting about the ID movement is where it differs from the previous brand of creationism. Most leading ID authors not only accept a 13.8 billion-year-old universe that is evolving but also acknowledge biological evolution.

They are doing what they feel to be genuine science while insisting that natural processes aren't enough to explain nature even within the scientific method, as if God's "Let there be light" must somehow peek through holes in the scientific fabric.

There must be some things in nature (such as the intricacies of the eye or blood clotting) that required literally supernatural help. As Hollabaugh notes, this is a rather limited view of God and, so, bad theology.

And this is where we Lutherans can offer a healthier witness that proclaims the timeless revealed truths of our faith while taking seriously, and even embracing in a holy dialogue, the modern scientific picture.

We can trust the biblical account "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth ..." (Genesis 1:1) without demanding it supply the natural mechanism. When God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind ..." (Genesis 1:24) we may safely gaze through the lens of evolutionary history to see just how fruitfully it did.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star." Instead of seeing the rapidly developing scientific picture as a curtain masking God's handiwork, I believe it's a canvas on which we can see the Creator's artistry. Then, gazing to the heavens for the twinkling stars and to the Earth for our own biological heritage, we'll find no conflict as we sing "Jesus loves me, this I know." We'll catch a glimpse of just how much.

© 2006 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. The Lutheran is the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Letters to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Toledo Blade


It appears the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Toledo Blade have both joined the ranks of Ohio papers in need of correction, like the Akron Beacon Journal. Both the Plain Dealer and the Blade ran stories misrepresenting intelligent design and Discovery Institute, and neither chose to publish my letters to the editor, which follow.

Dear Editor,

In his September 7 article, Scott Stephens wrote that the Discovery Institute "promotes the teaching of intelligent design." In fact, as our website clearly states, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Instead, we think students should learn more about evolution, and that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned.

In contrast, Campaign to Defend the Constitution wants to insure that evolution is taught as an incontrovertible truth, something that students should accept without further thought or consideration. Censorship is a poor way to teach students science, where the controversy over Darwin's theory is very real and, more important for engaging young minds, very exciting.

Here's a suggestion for Lawrence Krauss and his friends at Campaign to Defend the Constitution. Since they are fighting so hard to silence critical analysis in the classroom, perhaps they should try a new name: the Campaign to Protect Fragile Ideas by Censoring Challenging Ones.

Anika Smith
Discovery Institute

While the Plain Dealer misrepresented Discovery Institute's education policy, the Blade misdefined intelligent design in the familiar tradition of straw-man characterizations.

Dear Editor,

In Ignazio Messina's September 7 article, he writes that "[i]ntelligent design generally holds that the creation of life on Earth was too complex to have occurred by happenstance." This may be how our opponents misconstrue our arguments, but that doesn't excuse Messina from doing his homework. As we have clearly stated on our website, intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Unfortunately for your readers, while critics of ID were quoted time and again, filling the page with inaccurate mischaracterizations of intelligent design theory and attacking the straw-man argument which slopping reporting helps them perpetuate, Messina didn't seem to care what supporters of ID might have to say on the subject.

Intelligent design is not creationism, but that isn't even the issue in Ohio. The Ohio School Board is asking students to critically analyze the evidence they are presented. And for allowing students to learn by engaging them in scientific arguments, Patricia Princehouse calls the Board members "extremists."

What is perhaps more accurate to label extreme is the group that calls itself the Campaign to Defend the Constitution. Instead standing up for scientific inquiry and students' freedom to think for themselves, the Campaign is working to silence debate and stifle scientific inquiry. Maybe Patricia Princehouse and her friends should try a new name: the Campaign to Protect Fragile Ideas by Censoring Challenging Ones.

Anika Smith
Discovery Institute

Posted by Anika Smith on September 19, 2006 9:01 AM | Permalink

'God allows the universe to create itself—and evolve'


Editor's note: Read responses to this article by Allen R. Utke and Patrick Russell.

Science, religion and politics collide in public-school classrooms. In the past few years, conservative Christian groups in some communities have gained control of public-school boards.

They replaced the teaching of evolution with intelligent design, or ID. Parents in Dover, Pa., even sued the school board to restore the teaching of evolution to the curriculum—arguing that ID is based on a biblical view of creation and isn't science. They won. (See "'Not science': Judge John E. Jones" for a profile of ELCA member John E. Jones III, the judge who decided the case.)

In some instances, including Dover, the voters ousted conservative school boards and elected members who pledged to remove ID from the classroom.

As an astronomer, everywhere I look in the universe—from the largest galaxy to the smallest organism—I see evolution. As a Lutheran Christian, I also confess that God created me and all that exists. For me, there is no conflict.

But intelligent design proponents believe our universe is too complex to have evolved from simpler forms and so must be the result of some design. ID traces its origins to the 1991 book Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity Press, 1993) by Phillip E. Johnson, a law professor.

Opposition to evolution, especially biological, is a hallmark of many proponents of intelligent design. The ID movement heavily influenced the 1999 Kansas school-board decision to remove references to evolution from science curricula. Those against evolution focus on what ID adherents call "irreducibly complex organisms" that can't be explained by evolutionary theory.

Most curricula influenced by the ID movement don't directly identify the designer, but it's clear that it's God—as God is understood by conservative Christians. In his opinion in the Dover case, Jones said the evidence was overwhelming that ID is "a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

Moreover, ID is poor theology. ELCA member and Minneapolis Star Tribune commentary editor Eric Ringham wrote: "[Intelligent design] attempts to define, and limit, the mind and power of God." Why couldn't God just let the universe evolve?

In Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004), Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross demonstrate how conservative Christian groups promote intelligent design for political purposes. Many of the movement's spokespeople, they claim, spend time influencing public policy and not doing scientific research. Creationism, a much older viewpoint, depends directly on a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.

I am a "genetic" Lutheran. I was always active in church during high school and at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., where I majored in physics. I went on to graduate school to pursue astronomy. I found I had many theological questions.

My academic experiences gave me an interest in campus ministry, and so it wasn't a big surprise that I headed for Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., after earning my degree in astronomy.

But immediately following my seminary graduation, I returned to St. Olaf to teach physics and astronomy where I soon was asked if I would like to teach a section of "Introduction to the Bible." This was the birth of my identity as someone whose career combined both science and religion.

What is a 'theory'?

During a radio news report on the Dover court ruling, an interviewee commented, "Science is facts. Evolution is just a theory." Wait, I thought, he's got that wrong. I realized two things: We scientists need to do a better job explaining the nature of scientific inquiry and what we mean by "theory." And we ELCA members and congregations need to put more effort into understanding the context and interpretation of the Bible.

All science is a vast collection of theories about how nature works. Some theories are biological, some chemical, some physical, some geological and some astronomical. Theories explain the facts. Theories organize and structure the facts. These facts, or data, may be gleaned from observations and experiments.

Sometimes the observations and data are so convincing that we elevate them to the status of a "law." Laws make predictions about phenomena. Scientists devise new experiments to test the predictions.

Based on the results of experiments and observations, scientists modify their theories and laws when change is necessary to explain some new data. We scientists actually relish the contradictions, inconsistencies and unknowns. The essence of being a scientist is curiosity and skepticism—and having an unending drive to solve problems and search for answers.

Isaac Newton's theory of gravitation is adequate to send rovers to the surface of Mars or place satellites in orbit around the Earth. We call this theory the Law of Gravitation.

Albert Einstein had a very different theory of gravitation. If you want the global positioning satellites to give you accurate time and position, you must consider Einstein's theories of general and special relativity. To say that either is "just" a theory, and not fact, fails to recognize that the theories actually work.

I believe biological, geological and astronomical evolution is a fact. I have personally witnessed astronomical and geological evolution.

In 1975 while traveling from Holden Village, a retreat center in Chelan, Wash., to my seminary internship in Denver, I saw the sudden brightening and death of a star known as Nova Cygni. Events like this are evidence of the evolution of stars—responsible for creating the chemical elements necessary for life.

When I visited Costa Rica in 2000, I was awakened at 2:45 a.m. by a moderate shaking of my hotel. The evolution of the Earth's crust had caused an earthquake as continental plates slid past one another. We may owe the existence of life on Earth to such movements, creating ocean basins where water could collect.

Coincidence and life

A remarkable coincidence of events lead to life on Earth. Collisions with comets may have helped fill those ocean basins with water. Our magnetic field protects us from harmful radiation so we didn't end up sterile, like Mars. Our moon causes the tides that are so important to the development of life in the oceans.

Part of the reason evolution doesn't trouble me is because of how I love and view the natural world. The sparkling stars in the night sky awe me. The wildflower display in the Minnesota woods thrills me. But, more important, is how I confess my faith in God.

As a St. Olaf freshman, I took the same "Introduction to the Bible" course that I later taught. I was fascinated as my professor explained the multiple authors of Genesis, why certain books were in the Bible and that every translation is an interpretation. Some other students had a great deal of difficulty accepting the idea that Moses didn't write Genesis or that there were two versions of the creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-3:24).

Learning those things didn't trouble me. In fact, a critical study of the Bible opened for me a deeper level of understanding and led to my interest in theology and biblical interpretation.

As a professor in both the religion and physics departments, I had several students simultaneously in my religion and astronomy classes. The morning discussion of the Copernican revolution in astronomy ranged from the Ptolemaic geocentric model to the effect of the Copernican revolution on science. A few hours later, in my religion class, we read of Martin Luther's dismissal of Copernicus with a reference to Joshua telling the sun to stand still—not the Earth (Joshua 10:12-13). Literalism always gets you in trouble.

Interpreting the Bible

Much of the current debate about ID and creationism in science classrooms is due to different methods of interpreting the Bible. Most of us in the ELCA aren't literalists. We understand the Bible has layers of meaning and importance.

With Luther, we see the Bible as "the manger in which the Christ is found." What the Bible suggests about how the physical universe formed is of much less importance than our understanding that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …" (John 1:14).

We no longer believe those passages that say the Earth is flat and rests on foundation pillars (Job 9:6, 26:11) or that the Earth was created before the sun (Genesis 1:1, 1:16).

We also don't adhere to the biblical chronology of a 6,000-year-old Earth. Instead, using the method of radioactive decay, we know the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Astronomers, using the motion of distant galaxies, know the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

Some of my students have told me that God put fossils in rocks to test our faith. But this is a meager and ineffective test.

A much bigger test of my faith was when my 1-week-old godson, Tanner, was rushed to the emergency room because he stopped breathing.

My favorite part of the day when I was on the St. Olaf faculty was the morning chapel service and faculty coffee time that followed. One day the chair of the biology department, Arnold Peterson, and I sat with Gordon Rasmussen, a beloved religion professor. Gordon told us a student had come to his office in tears because of what she had learned in biology class about evolution. Her faith had been shattered. Arnie, a man I knew had a deep Christian faith, said: "I just can't understand the fuss. Why is it creation or evolution? Why can't it be creation by means of evolution?"

'I believe God created ...'

That's how I, too, see evolution: the means by which God created the universe. Even though astronomers would like to know what happened before time began at the big bang, we can't. In the words of physicist Stephen Hawking, that question is like asking, "What is one mile north of the North Pole?"

When I confess in the words of Luther's Small Catechism "I believe that God has created me and all that exists," I'm making a statement of faith about our God who exists outside of time and space.

I rather like the idea of a God who allows the universe to come into being, create itself and everything in it—and evolve. Moreover, God has given us the intellect and curiosity to figure out how the universe does this.

Those who read the Bible differently, literally, may not come to the same conclusions I have about the evolution of the universe and may, instead, believe in ID or creationism. I respect that, but I also ask that they be acknowledged as religious beliefs—and not be brought into the science classroom.

Many ELCA members don't support the teaching of ID or creationism in the public schools. Many ELCA clergy and seminary professors have signed the Clergy Letter Project, a petition to counter the teaching of ID in the Grantsburg, Wis., public schools.

Now teaching in a public institution, I have little opportunity to discuss religious topics. But I did decide it was time for me to witness to my dual identity as a scientist and a Lutheran Christian. So I hung my seminary diploma on my office wall.

My godson recovered. When I held Tanner at his baptism and looked into his tiny face, I welcomed him into our incredible evolving universe.

As our pastor poured the water over his head, I marveled even more at the unconditional love of God given to us in Christ Jesus. That love and grace—not the scientific inaccuracy of biblical texts—are what really matter in our lives.

Experts Reject Validity of Intelligent Design Theory


William Tomlin Posted: 9/19/06

A panel of Emory scholars agreed on Thursday that the theory of intelligent design is not a science but disagreed on how creationism should be handled in science classes.

The discussion, titled "The Evolution of Creationism," brought together experts from the fields of biology, law, history, theology and political science to discuss the creationism-evolutionism debate.

Proponents of the intelligent design theory, which holds that an intelligent being rather than a random force such as natural selection causes life's development, say the theory is scientifically valid.

Emory Professor of Pharmacology T.J. Murphy, who organized the event, said in an interview that creationism is a "movement of anti-intellectualism that can't continue to be ignored" because creationists hold "weak ideas that have the danger of gaining support."

Seven professors each gave a short lecture, after which they all took questions from the audience.

The first speaker, Senior Biology Lecturer Alexander Escobar, discussed the difference between science and mythology. He said myths point to "deeper truths" rather than literal facts.

"But science is about the material world and having lots of details," Escobar said.

Senior Biology Lecturer Arri Eisen, who followed Escobar, said many people find science alienating because it is taught in an ethical vacuum.

To illustrate, he talked about a student who told him she felt that her science classes "ignored her soul."

Eisen said teachers should debunk creationism the way they debunk the evolutionary theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck rather than ignoring ethical and religious issues altogether.

Professor of Pathology Carlos Moreno, on the other hand, called talking about creationism in science classes "a waste of time."

"It is, I believe, our duty to stand up in defense of science," he said.

Shifting the perspective away from science, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law Michael J. Perry said teaching creationism violates even a "moderate" interpretation of the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from promoting any religion over others.

Despite its proponents' arguments, he said, intelligent design is not a universal religious concept but a sectarian belief.

Professor of History Patrick Allitt discussed the criticism Charles Darwin encountered in his own lifetime.

Despite creationism's rebranding as intelligent design, Allitt said, the arguments of evolution's critics have not changed over the last century.

In his remarks, Professor of Theology Brooks Holifield traced the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalists read the Bible literally and view religion and science as incompatible.

Holifield said the fundamentalists' view has become more common since the 1960s because fundamentalists have more children than "mainstream" Christians.

Barbara Forrest, a professor of history and political science from Southeastern Louisiana University, told the audience about serving as an expert witness in a 2005 federal lawsuit in which a group of parents successfully sued to stop the Dover, Pa, school district from teaching intelligent design.

Forrest said that her role in the case was to explain that intelligent design is "a direct descendant of creationism."

The Dover school board appealed the ruling, but the appeal was dropped after a majority of the school board was replaced in an election which took place shortly after the original case concluded.

In addressing audience questions, Allitt called creationists "pathetically weak" and said they don't represent any real threat to evolution.

But the panelists did acknowledge the creationists' political clout, and Forrest said their ideas have the support of "no fewer than six senators."

- Contact William Tomlin at wtomlin@learnlink.emory.edu

© Copyright 2006 The Emory Wheel

Phil Power: The evolution of a major problem


As if we didn't need one more reason to sigh ... last week the State Board of Education voted, 6-2, to delay adopting the science portion of Michigan's new high school graduation requirements.

What's this all about? You guessed it. Evolution, again. The delay was requested by the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees to placate state Reps. Jack Hoogendyk, R-Portage, and John Moolenaar, R-Midland.

They want language jammed into the standards that would legitimize teaching creationism and so-called "intelligent design."

The standards now direct science teachers to show how fossils, comparative anatomy and other evidence "may" demonstrate evolution. Hoogendyk and Moolenaar want "may or may not," language which allows teaching of creationism or intelligent design as alternative explanations and, thus, credible science.

Here's something that is really credible: If Michigan becomes known as a place with schools unwilling to teach accepted scientific reality, high-tech businesses will avoid us like a new Ice Age. And we can forget about evolving into a prosperous high-tech economy.

There may be better news soon. Topsiders in the Department of Education say the board's delay in adopting standards was a tactical maneuver. It did that to help legislative leaders who want some time to calm down some of the crazier members of their caucus. The board also wants to develop a method for lawmakers to provide "legislative input" in the design of teaching standards. That may sound silly, but that's far less intrusive than a now-sidetracked House bill that would have dictated entire standards.

We'll see. The board meets next on Oct. 10. Board members tell me the votes are there to adopt a clear teaching standard that rules out creationism. We better hope so.

Throwing a bone to legislative leaders may be good politics. But opening the door to teaching wacky "science" is the worst possible thing Michigan could do at this moment in our economic crisis

Come to think of it, though, Reps. Hoogendyk and Moolenaar may be rather more acute than we may realize.

We might even extend their healthy skepticism about prevailing theories to all manner of things previously viewed as certain.

The teaching standards for math could be revised to indicate that two plus two "may or may not" equal four, as appears to be the case in some alternative universes.

The Bible "may or may not" represent literal truth. The allies "may or may not" have won World War II; if so, the curriculum standards for history could stand some revision.

Even the prevailing notion that reducing business taxes automatically leads to economic growth could be subjected to the "may or may not" skepticism test.

But there's no "may or may not" in considering Michigan's economic crisis. We're in a lot of trouble. General Motors Corp. is cutting 30,000 jobs and closing plants. Ford Motor Co. just last week announced 44,000 cuts plus several more plants to be shuttered. DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group says it will lose $1.5 billion this summer, and that may be just the start.

Things are bad now, and they're going to get much worse.

Michigan is going to prosper — if it prospers — by attracting high-value-added companies like Pfizer Inc. and Google Inc. that need a highly educated work force. The highly productive and profitable Chrysler engine plant in Dundee requires even its workers on the line to have at least a community college degree.

Dithering over inserting "may or may not" into the Michigan curriculum with respect to evolution is the easiest way to drive off any companies that need a skilled and educated work force.

The State Board of Education must not fold in the wrong way at what, for our state, would be the worst possible time.

Fury as Scots health boards spend £200,000 on alternative medicine



TENS of thousands of pounds are being spent on complementary and alternative therapies in the NHS in Scotland - despite concerns that they do not work and are a waste of limited resources.

A survey of NHS boards by The Scotsman shows that about £200,000 was spent on treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture in the last financial year.

But the actual figure is likely to be much higher as many boards do not cost such therapies separately from a patient's overall treatment.

Experts warned the NHS could be wasting money on unproven treatments instead of spending it on proven ones.

But others defended complementary medicine, saying it offered relief to those not helped by "conventional" methods.

Earlier this year, a group of leading UK scientists wrote to NHS chiefs urging them to stop paying for unproven alternative therapies and use the money on conventional treatments.

But despite such high-profile opposition, NHS boards across Scotland are still spending thousands of pounds on them.

Glasgow's Homeopathic Hospital, which costs £900,000 a year to run, takes referrals from across Scotland.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran spent £30,000 last year on local homeopathic clinics, with £57,000 spent over three years in referrals to the Glasgow hospital, which last year escaped the closure of its in-patient service.

NHS Highland spent almost £20,000 on homeopathy, while NHS Dumfries and Galloway spent £10,000 on it.

Most boards provided acupuncture but this was offered by physiotherapists, with separate costs not available.

Other treatments funded by the NHS included reflexology, aromatherapy and Indian head massage. In some cases services were provided by volunteers or funded by charity grants.

Dr Bob Leckridge, a specialist at the Homeopathic Hospital, said they treated patients who had failed to get relief from other therapies.

"Around two-thirds of patients who come here get a result which improves their life," he said. "This means they do not take up resources by having to keep returning to the NHS because they are still suffering."

Dr Les Rose, a clinical science consultant, described homeopathy as a "fraud". "I say it is a fraud because it does not have an evidence base and people are making claims about it that they can't back up.

"If you do enough clinical trials of something you will, by chance, get a positive result. But I think with homeopathy we have come to the end of the line - we cannot prove it works."

Professor Edzard Ernst, one of those who wrote to the NHS, said many treatments were "pure quackery".

"The NHS certainly should spend its money on treatments that can be shown to do more good than harm," he said.

"Some complementary therapies do that, others don't, I don't see good evidence for homeopathy in that respect."

'ID remains a legitimate gray area between random evolution and God'


Editor's note: This article is a response to Mark Hollabaugh's article.

In 1859, Charles Darwin advanced the provocative idea that all life on Earth evolves. Since its inception, that theory has usually been interpreted atheistically, with biological evolution viewed as simply being a natural, random process in a purposeless, random universe. And thus, in the West, a complex, polarized controversy erupted early on, between atheistic evolutionists and conservative biblical creationists who believe in a divine, purposive, unchanging creation.

Both sides in the controversy have long, loudly and often arrogantly proclaimed that one must choose, in a black-and-white way, not only between evolution or God but also reason or faith and science or religion. The ensuing din has largely drowned out the voices of less numerous, and less visible, theistic evolutionists, who maintain there is actually a gray area in the controversy that has gone largely unexplored and unexpressed.

In the last decade or so, a small but vocal group of scientists and scholars has claimed that biological evolution is far too complex to have occurred without at least some directive input in the form of theistic "intelligent design."

However, the ID concept has polarized and inflamed the evolution controversy even further. Some creationists have used ID as a wedge to attack the validity and teaching of the theory of evolution. And, in turn, most evolutionists have countered that ID is actually unscientific, thinly veiled creationism.

Mark Hollabaugh addresses the evolution controversy as it stands today. Using insights from his life as an astronomer, teacher and "genetic Lutheran," he effectively outlines and supports his contention that evolution and God, reason and faith and, thus, science and religion are compatible—rather than conflictive—ways of viewing, exploring and explaining reality.

Although Hollabaugh reveals himself to be an advocate of theistic evolution, he apparently doesn't support relating random evolution and God with ID. Citing recent news events involving ID and quoting several pertinent opinions of others, Hollabaugh dismisses ID as being both unscientific and poor theology.

An advocate of theistic evolution, I agree with, endorse and applaud what Hollabaugh says about the compatibility of evolution and God, reason and faith, and science and religion. But I believe it's actually more realistic to view such seeming opposites more subtly—in a holistic, complementary, gray way rather than in a reductionistic, compatible, black-and-white way—in the quest to understand reality.

And thus I believe the ultimate answer to the ultimate question we humans can ask—What is it (really) all about?—can only be sought and found in the complementary answers that together science (How does reality work?) and religion (Why does reality exist?) can provide.

But I have an even bigger problem with Hollabaugh's stance on ID. For if ID isn't somehow involved in random evolution, how is God involved? His reply is that God simply "allows" random evolution to occur. But how satisfying is that vague answer in today's scientific world?

There are three major reasons why I believe ID remains a legitimate gray area between random evolution and God and, thus, deserves further serious analysis and debate. All three remain largely ?unexplored.

First, the concepts of God, revelation, fact, theory and design, and also the basic tenets of ID have often been ill-defined and, thus, often misrepresented by both evolutionists and creationists.

Second, there are a series of complex, interrelated historical, scientific and human considerations that could be explored to not only support ID but even extend the concept to the cosmos itself. Those considerations, ranging from multiverses (rather than a universe) to the human brain, form a spectrum characterized by an incredible, highly improbable, holistic, cosmic fine-tuning that points far more toward ID than to chance.

The third, and most important, reason for taking ID seriously hinges on my belief that without a dramatic infusion of spirituality, responsibility and stewardship in society, the 21st century carries the perilous potential of significant societal decline and even global environmental collapse—possibly before 2050.

But how can that infusion be accomplished? Can it happen without an increased reverence for life and nature? If not, why is it preferable to say that evolution is a natural, random process in a purposeless, random universe rather than that it is an intelligently designed process in a purposive cosmos?

If holiness is replaced by hollowness in reality, what does an individual and society gain? Lose? Until convinced otherwise, I will continue to interpret Exodus 3:5 literally: "The place on which you stand is sacred ground."

© 2006 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. The Lutheran is the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

An Evolving Faith


By Kenneth Silber : BIO| 18 Sep 2006

Angela Rawlett is a college student facing a personal dilemma. Wanting to be a veterinarian, she had planned to major in biology. But this will involve studying evolution, which seems to be in conflict with her Christian faith. Angela's father scoffed at the idea that whales are descended from land mammals that returned to the sea, and pointedly asked his daughter whether college was turning her away from God's word. And in bio lab, Angela is teased about her religion by her oafish fellow student, Lenny.

Angela is a fictional character whose story is interwoven through The Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for Understanding. The book, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is an unusual offering for a scientific society in its focus on religious issues. Targeted especially at Christian adult-education classes, The Evolution Dialogues contributes a thoughtful discussion to the highly charged debate about evolution and its implications. Written by Catherine Baker and edited by James B. Miller, the work was developed with input from scientists and theologians.

The book underscores that there is a substantial middle ground between the polar opposites that dominate much public discussion of evolution and religion. On one side, a number of prominent defenders of evolutionary theory espouse atheism and see the theory as lending support to an atheistic worldview. On the other side, there are the antievolution doctrines of creationism and Intelligent Design; the latter school of thought, though purporting to lack any definite religious commitment, often is presented by its adherents as a bulwark against atheism (often labeled "materialism" or "naturalism").

One might get the impression from such debate that if Darwin was right about biology, then God doesn't exist. Yet a broad and formidable intellectual tradition militates against such a conclusion. Some see evolution and religion as complementary in that they involve different types of knowledge and aspects of existence; the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould argued for this position, which he called "nonoverlapping magisteria." Others make arguments that evolution and religion are not just compatible but interrelated; one such view, stated by Anglican theologian and biochemist Arthur Peacocke, is that God operates "in, with and under" the evolutionary process.

The Evolution Dialogues traces scientific and religious thinking about evolution from before Darwin's time to the present. (Decades before Darwin's Origin of Species, naturalists were discovering evidence of extinctions and were rethinking the age of the Earth.) The AAAS book provides an overview of evolution and the evidence for it; this evidence ranges from cellular similarities among organisms, to anatomical similarities (such as the common humerus-radius-ulna arrangement of forelimb bones in diverse species), to the presence of transitional fossils indicating cross-species change (such as those showing a gradual shift from early horse species with four toes to later ones with single-toed hooves), to geographic patterns in the distribution of organisms (such as Hawaii having a huge assortment of fruit fly species, the result of the insects filling multiple ecological niches over millions of years).

A key theme of the book is the diversity of Christian responses to evolution over the past century and a half. The Catholic Church placed some evolutionary works on its Index of Forbidden Books in the early 20th century, but later became gradually more receptive to the theory, culminating in Pope John Paul II's 1996 description of evolution as "more than a hypothesis." Mainline Protestant churches generally have been amenable to evolution; the Episcopal Church, for example, defends evolutionary biology in its Catechism of Creation.

Evolution has long received a positive response from some evangelical Christians as well. For example, Princeton Theological Seminary scholar Benjamin Breckenridge (B.B.) Warfield (1851-1921) upheld both biblical inerrancy and evolutionary theory. Warfield argued that evolution occurs through natural laws, which are instruments of God's will. Accordingly, he disagreed with descriptions of evolution as an unguided process, pointing out that these were philosophical, not scientific, statements.

However, Christian fundamentalism, emerging as a distinct movement with the publication in 1910-1915 of pamphlets called The Fundamentals, increasingly came into conflict with evolution. The Scopes Monkey Trial was an early clash over the teaching of evolution in public schools, and controversy resurged when the post-Sputnik emphasis on science education in the late 1950s restored evolution to a prominent place in curricula. Young-Earth creationism, positing a literal six-day creation thousands of years ago, soared in popularity among fundamentalists in the 1960s. Other fundamentalists espoused old-Earth creationism, rejecting evolution but taking various views on creation's timing.

In addition to its Christian focus, The Evolution Dialogues touches upon stances taken within other religions toward evolutionary biology. The book portrays a "relatively placid" reaction by major non-Christian faiths, noting for instance a Jewish tradition of interpreting scripture in light of contemporary science, and an Islamic emphasis on the importance of the natural world. Hinduism's lengthy time cycles can be seen as congruent with evolution, while Buddhism does not focus on accounts of creation.

In the book's fictional interludes, college student Angela Rawlett engages in searching discussions with her biologist faculty-advisor and the campus minister, among others. She contemplates the beautiful orchids studied by the biologist, and the minister's rumination that "whether you credit evolution or not, the lion kills the antelope." The book refrains from stating exactly what spiritual conclusions Angela draws from all this, but it is clear she becomes comfortable with studying evolution. By book's end, she is planning to participate in a paleontology dig, and while there to attend a sunrise service.

Kenneth Silber is a TCS Daily contributing writer who focuses on science, technology and economics.

Anti-ID Legal Scholar Jay Wexler Thinks Judge Jones Made Extraneous Findings


Jay Wexler is one of the most published anti-ID legal scholars, but apparently he would agree with our arguments in Traipsing Into Evolution and in our amicus briefs that Judge Jones should not have extended the judicial arm into areas inappropriate for the judicial branch by finding that ID is not science. While I disagree with much of what Wexler argues, I agree with the emboldened portions listed below in the abstract for Wexler's upcoming lecture at Boston University School of Law:

When Judge John E. Jones, III, a United States District Court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that a Pennsylvania school board's intelligent design (ID) policy violated the First Amendment, supporters of teaching evolution were ecstatic. They had good reason to be. The opinion, which ran to 139 pages in length, was a comprehensive and complete victory for ID opponents. To be sure, the opinion is well-written, painstakingly documented, and mostly right. It is not, however, flawless. The opinion's main problem lies in the conclusion that most evolution supporters were particularly pleased with-namely, the judge's finding that ID is not science. The problem is not that ID is science. Maybe it is science, and maybe it isn't. The question is whether judges should be deciding in their written opinions that ID is or is not science-a question that sounds in philosophy of science-as a matter of law. On this question, the answer is "no," particularly when the overall question posed to the Court is whether teaching ID endorses religion, not whether it is or is not science. The part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous to both science and freedom of religion. The judge's determination that ID endorses religion should have been sufficient to rule the policy unconstitutional.

(emphasis added)

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 18, 2006 11:27 AM | Permalink

Monday, September 18, 2006

Baylor boot


Academia is no friend to conservative Christian views—even at a Southern Baptist university | Mark Bergin

When Francis Beckwith took a job at Baylor three years ago, the accomplished scholar believed the environment would suit his passions well. Beckwith has built a career of rigorous academic study in Christianity's highest intellectual tradition. Accordingly, Baylor's widely publicized mission statement affirms "the value of intellectually informed faith and religiously informed education."

But as it turns out, conservative Christian views may be no longer welcome at this Southern Baptist institution. Baylor denied Beckwith tenure this past spring despite the professor's litany of published works, strong student evaluations, and multiple teacher commendations. This month, after a lengthy appeal process, the tenure committee again voted against Beckwith, leaving his ultimate fate in the hands of newly appointed school President John Lilley. Sources closely tied to the case (granted anonymity by WORLD because proceedings were confidential) said the vote tally was 6-5 with one abstention, suggesting several members of the committee have altered their position since last spring's more one-sided count.

One possible reason for the shift in Beckwith's favor is the recent departure of his department's former chair Derek Davis, who resigned from his seat atop Baylor's J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies amid allegations of academic fraud. Davis, a close personal friend of members of the Dawson family who vehemently opposed Beckwith's presence in an institute known for strict church-state separatism, lobbied against offering Beckwith tenure.

Beckwith is among academia's foremost pro-life advocates and has written articles supporting the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design. The tenure committee accused him of inappropriately focusing on such areas of expertise in his courses on church-state relations. In his appeal of tenure denial, Beckwith responded that "because these ethical issues are central to the most important and disputed questions in church-state studies today, it seems to me to be not only permissible, but obligatory, for a professor in this area of study to address these issues."

The tenure committee further charged Beckwith with assigning only his published works for a class on religion and society. In fact, Beckwith's writings amounted to only 15 percent of the course's required reading.

"It was a kangaroo court," said John West of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which counts Beckwith among its list of fellows. "There is no doubt that he is a superior teacher and a superior scholar. This is a clear case of academic intolerance and persecution. I don't see how parents or alumni of Baylor could continue to support that school."

C. Stephen Evans, a Baylor philosophy professor who often disagrees with Beckwith on political issues, nonetheless told The Chronicle of Higher Education he would consider resigning if Beckwith's tenure denial is not reversed. He confirmed that position to WORLD, adding that "Frank may have been the most qualified person coming up for tenure this last year, certainly among the most qualified."

Beckwith is not the first conservative-leaning voice at Baylor to face such mistreatment. William Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, left the school after anti-ID forces dismantled his study center in 2000. Robert Sloan, the university's former president, faced considerable resistance to his grand vision of restoring Baylor's Baptist heritage while simultaneously elevating the school's academic reputation—a two-pronged strategy dubbed Vision 2012 that many long-time faculty members believed contradictory.

Sloan hired Beckwith as part of that endeavor, a vision to which the school still claims complete allegiance. "Being a tier-one institution with a distinct Christian mission is the thing that really attracted me to this place," Beckwith said. "There are really two different cultures at Baylor, one that affirms this vision and another that doesn't."

Beckwith told WORLD that Baylor's competing factions are not content to coexist, each harboring hopes that the other will dissolve. In the context of such a struggle, Beckwith's fate will likely reverberate well beyond the pages of his resumé. "If anything is worth fighting for, this is," he said, mixing his personal tussle with the fight to preserve Vision 2012. Beckwith added that his denial of tenure "does not bode well for younger faculty who may hold similar views in departments hostile to those views. It sends the message that the quality of work does not matter; what matters is whether you pass a particular ideological litmus test."

Copyright © 2006 WORLD Magazine
September 23, 2006, Vol. 21, No. 36

Evolution debate shows future of science is tenuous in the U.S.


Monday, September 18, 2001906 Volume 17, Issue 33

By Marshall Helmberger

I've hesitated to wade into the ongoing evolution debate that has been raging again in recent weeks in our letters section, in part because it often seems people's minds are made up on the issue. That's unfortunate, because those who take the view that evolution does not occur are, in essence, rejecting biological science as we know it today— since evolution is among the foundations of modern biology.

And when large numbers of Americans reject one branch of science, it is that much easier to sow doubt in their minds about other forms of science. If biology is based on a ruse, why not physics, or chemistry, or astronomy? Why believe the warnings of climate change if all science is political and anti-religious?

This is a concern that is uniquely American, since America is the only western nation where a majority of residents say they don't believe in evolution.

My belief is that a majority of Americans simply do not understand evolution. If they did, they would have to acknowledge that evolution is a reality and that we see the results all around us on a daily basis. Just take the vast array of dogs that we collectively share our lives with. Did a higher power create the Great Dane, or the Pekinese, or the Dachshund? Of course not.

We see all around us, in our homes and in our farm fields, the vast changes in appearance, behavior, and other characteristics that selective breeding can create in plants and animals. In many cases, significant changes can be achieved in just a few generations. That change is the definition of evolution.

Now, I know that evolution opponents will say that the selective breeding I'm talking about is human directed, and that is certainly true. But all Charles Darwin ever claimed was that mechanisms exist in nature that favor characteristics that improve a species' chances for survival. If an omnipotent power created life on this planet, it seems inconceivable that it would have failed to provide its creations with such an obviously critical ability.

That's the point that many evolution opponents appear to miss. Evolution is entirely neutral on the question of the existence of a higher power, and it fits with many of the differing views of creation. While many opponents see belief in evolution as somehow "anti-God," it is no more anti-God than belief in gravity. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, you should believe in evolution, because to do otherwise is to deny the evidence all around us.

Evolution isn't part of some distant past, discernible only in ancient bones. It is a critically important biological mechanism that all Americans need to understand. From a public health perspective, we need to understand evolution because it plays a role in the generation of drug-resistant bacteria. Evolution is what could trigger bird flu to make the leap to a more contagious human form. In agriculture, evolution has allowed insects to develop widespread resistence to many pesticides. These are real things, not speculation from God-hating scientists, as evolution opponents would have us believe.

Unfortunately, many opponents of evolution err in thinking that accepting evolution requires accepting that life arose without the intervention of a higher power. That's utter nonsense. While many scientists have speculated on the origins of life on Earth, and many do believe that life arose without divine intervention, that's a separate issue from evolution. Evolution is about the ability of organisms to change over time— and that ability is not a theory, it is a verifiable fact. And when large numbers of Americans refuse to accept it, it puts our nation at a distinct scientific and educational disadvantage with the rest of the world.

And let me just respond to one recent letter writer, who pointed to a purported lack of fruit fly evolution in laboratories as evidence that organisms can not change form or become new species. The letter revealed a serious lack of understanding about how the mechnism of evolution works. Organisms don't evolve for the fun of it. They evolve due to some kind of environmental cue, and adapt in ways that increase their chances of survival. Waiting for fruit flies in a laboratory to change into something else would be a long wait indeed. Incidentally, the letter writer seems unaware that there are a huge variety of different fruit flies in laboratories, that have been bred for various characteristics. So, in fact, they have evolved, in this case with help from their human lab techs and their selective breeding programs.

Despite all the evidence, it is a disturbing fact that the percentage of Americans who believe in evolution has fallen in recent decades. And that is certainly not the result of any lack of evidence for evolution. Sad to say, organized religion— especially the growing number of fundamentalist sects— must share a good bit of the blame for this trend. These groups are actively engaged in the diseducation of America and it's frightening to think of the long term implications of this organized effort. This is a nation where science and sound education have played key roles in our success. To abandon science, and remove critical information from our student's classrooms is flirting with disaster.

Evolution Attack Goes Global


By | Also by this reporter 02:00 AM Sep, 18, 2006

Religious critics of evolution have trained their sights on one of the world's pre-eminent fossil exhibits -- Louis and Richard Leakey's extensive skeletal collections illuminating the origins of man.

Evangelical Christians in Kenya are demanding that the exhibit at Nairobi's National Museum edit out references to human evolution in order to prevent young African Christians from being taught falsehoods.

"We are objecting to the message that the fossil exhibits represent the scientific evidence of human evolution," said Bishop Boniface Adoyo, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which claims to represents churches of 35 denominations with 9 million members. "They do not. Human evolution is still a theory and this cannot be called as evidence.ā€¯

The Evangelical Alliance's attack targets a giant in the world of evolutionary and primate studies. The Nairobi museum's fossils include the famous Turkana Boy, an almost complete skeleton of a juvenile who lived about 1.6 million years ago that was unearthed by Richard Leakey's team of paleontologists in 1984. It also includes bones of early hominids that are believed to have made and used stone tools.

"The fossil collection in Kenya provides an important set of pieces to the picture of human evolution," says Sean Carroll, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Extinct hominids give us a picture of how human forms have changed, when, at what pace, and what changes were independent and which may be linked."

The museum is currently closed for renovations, and museum officials said they have not yet received any official complaints by local evangelical churches. But they plan to prominently house the collection as "scientific evidence" of evolution when it re-opens in 2007, a representative said.

It's not the exhibit itself the alliance opposes, Adoyo told Wired News, but rather its interpretation. A satisfactory solution, he said, would be to remove the words that would classify the fossils as "scientific evidence," displaying them instead as a history of other creatures, without connecting them to human beings.

"When you use evolution as God's tool in creating man in his image, you have to reckon with the fact at what stage in the evolution process does man attain to that image?" he said. "The conclusion is either God's image is evolving or God Himself is evolving or every creature has God's image. God could be anything and I'm afraid I cannot put my faith in a 'changing God' or an 'anything God'.ā€¯

The alliance's protest is the latest wrinkle in escalating religious-inspired attacks on evolution, considered among secular experts as one of the best confirmed theories of contemporary biological science. The issue has erupted most visibly in the United States, where evangelicals opposed to teaching evolution in public schools wield substantial political power, and have sought to push an alternative theory known as intelligent design into the classroom.

More recently, the debate has expanded to embrace not only evangelicals, but also the Catholic Church, which has become much more visibly active on the issue.

Last week, the Pope slammed evolution, calling it unreasonable. The very next day, a retiring Vatican astronomer was moved to deny rumors that he was sacked over his views on the subject. Earlier this month, meanwhile, the Vatican convened a private seminar to discuss the church's stance on evolution. It plans to publish the results later this year in a move that's sure to add fuel to debate.

The strength of evolution's place in the scientific establishment is reflected in the political strategies of its opponents. Rather than confront evolution directly, evangelicals in the United States have instead begun to advocate accommodation of competing theories in classroom studies. If evolution is taught in schools, they argue, it should be taught alongside intelligent design, which postulates complex organisms could not be created by blind interactions, but only through purposefully imposed order.

Adoyo and the Kenyan evangelicals are also in this camp.

Efforts in the United States to introduce intelligent design in public schools have attracted key support, including a public statement last year from President Bush endorsing the concept. Last year, the Kansas State Board of Education drafted a new science standard that required a critical analysis of evolutionary theory while also providing a definition of science that did not rule out supernatural explanations.

Intelligent design efforts have also stumbled, most notably in a Pennsylvania state court case seeking to force ID onto a schoolā€™s curriculum. The suit, brought by parents against a local school board, was shot down by the judge late last year. Intelligent design organizers said they do not plan to appeal the decision.

Response to Barbara Forrest's Kitzmiller Account Part VI: Three Conspiracy Theories about Pro-ID Expert Witnesses


Barbara Forrest has posted an article documenting her Kitzmiller experience here. In it, she does a lot of namecalling, saying ID-proponents are "creationists," "legal mincemeat," "jaw-droppingly stupid," "evangelical scholars," "part of the Religious Right," "mean-spirited," having "contempt for the judicial system," promoting "warmed-over creationism," having "cocksure confidence," using "nastiness," because "they make things up and/or slander their opposition," using "long-discredited pro-ID arguments," reduced to "peddling ID" and "riding the coattails of conservative pundit Ann Coulter," while arguing using "standard creationist canards," which "highlight the bankruptcy of ID and the blustering cowardice of its leaders, who must capture support with brazen deceit and sarcastic punditry." The previous four parts of this ten-part response discussed her arguments about the religious beliefs of ID-proponents (Part II and Part III), motives and "wedge document" (Part IV), and the origins of intelligent design (Part V). This next section discusses a particular portion of her article which puts forth three contradictory theories about why some ID-proponents did not testify during the Kitzmiller trial.

Which of Forrest's Three Contradictory Theories are We Supposed to Believe?

Barbara Forrest offers three contradictory theories (two of which are conspiracy theories) for why some ID proponents did not testify as expert witnesses in Kitzmiller, yet she writes as if they are all true. It's not my fault that her arguments are confusing; I'm just going to make her respective arguments separately and explain why none of them really make sense. The reader will see that it is impossible for each theory to be true.

Conspiracy Theory #1: They were scared off by my great arguments

Dr. Forrest praises herself writing:

Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell's exodus is explained by their fear of cross-examination. The public shredding that Irigonegaray had given ID creationists in Kansas one month earlier was still fresh [17]. Moreover, Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell knew what the plaintiffs' expert witnesses would say in court because they had our reports. DI must have known that our case would be devastating to the defense —and thus to ID— if it was argued before a judge who respected the truth and the Constitution.


"It probably wasn't difficult for DI and TMLC to figure out that, armed with my work and that of the other witnesses for the plaintiffs, halfway decent attorneys would make legal mincemeat of them."

So Dr. Forrest accuses Dembski, Meyer and Campbell from not testifying because they were afraid of being proven wrong by attorneys "armed" with her "work." Yet Dembski easily dealt with the claims of the Darwinist Experts in his Rebuttal to Reports by Opposing Expert Witnesses. If Dembski couldn't handle the arguments in court, then why did he write this rebuttal? I purposefully spent the first five sections of this response dealing with Dr. Forrest's in-court arguments to show that they cite irrelevant evidence to propose rules which, if applied fairly, would threaten the teaching of evolution. Her arguments aren't hard to deal with at all.

Moreover, if Discovery Institute fellows were all scared of the arguments from the plaintiffs, then why did two DI Senior Fellows -- Michael Behe and Scott Minnich -- remain on as expert witnesses for the trial? Dr. Forrest's "DI was scared off by my arguments" theory might make her feel smart, but it is betrayed by the facts. Conspiracy theory #1 is wrong.

But her claim here is even more amazing: She claims that Pedro Irigonegaray gave a "public shredding" of Darwin-skeptics in Kansas, and that ID proponents didn't show up in Kitzmiller--because they feared a "public shredding." Yet in Kansas, the Darwinists did not show up for the Kansas State Board of Education hearings on evolution. She claims at length that the Darwinists didn't show up because they "boycotted the hearings." (The only Darwinist who chose to show up was the attorney Pedro Irigonegaray.) Perhaps that's true, but perhaps the reasons some ID-proponents didn't testify in Kitzmiller also had nothing to do with being "afraid" of a "public shredding."

Were I to use Dr. Forrest's style, I would easily argue that the Darwinists were afraid of a "public shredding" in Kansas. But I won't make that argument about the Darwinists in Kansas because that would be what Dr. Forrest is doing: making false conspiracy theories designed to boost your own ego.

In the end, it's no wonder that Dr. Forrest praises Irigonegaray's methods as "shredding" the ID-proponents: his primary tactic was to interrogate the scientists testifying at the Kansas hearings about their religious beliefs. That's Barbara Forrest's favorite line of argumentation.

Theory #2: They were fired by Thomas More Legal Center

Ironically, Forrest's own words betray her conspiracy theory #1 about why Campbell didn't participate:

Everything was proceeding on schedule until only minutes before the deposition was to begin, when defense attorney Patrick Gillen announced that TMLC would "no longer retain" Campbell as a witness because Campbell had "retained counsel through Discovery Institute" and had "discussed matters [with DI] to which I am not privy."

But wait—I thought Campbell didn't testify because he was scared of a "public shredding" by lawyers "armed" with Forrest's arguments from Creationism's Trojan Horse (see conspiracy theory #1 above)? But now we learn that Campbell didn't testify because Thomas More fired him, and it had nothing to do with fear of Forrest.

This theory appears to be true, which is why I haven't called it a "conspiracy theory."

So in one breath Dr. Forrest boast that Campbell withdrew because DI was scared of a "devastating" case that would come from lawyers who read Creationism's Trojan Horse, and in the other breath acknowledges that it was TMLC that fired Campbell. Perhaps, as Pat Gillen stated, Campbell's withdrawal had nothing to do with "fear" but because TMLC was angry that one of their witnesses talked to a group they didn't like (Discovery Institute).

Both theories can't be true, and Barbara Forrest thinks that Discovery Institute was scared of anything she had to say, then she hasn't been reading our extensive responses to her on our Evolution News.

Conspiracy Theory #3: ID proponents didn't testify because Kitzmiller was a poor test case

Dr. Forrest writes:

The problem, however, was that DI did not want this case because the Dover board, urged on by TMLC [15], had explicitly crafted its policy to promote "intelligent design." Having come to view that term as a legal liability after encountering opposition in Ohio, Kansas, and elsewhere, DI tried unsuccessfully to persuade the board to either restate the ID policy in sanitized language or withdraw it [16]. They were scared to death of a case they had not initiated and could not control.

I will give Forrest credit for correctly stating that Discovery did not initiate the policy in this case, as it was started by TMLC. Unfortunately, Judge Jones and the plaintiffs "superb" attorneys disagree with her on this point who stated in closing arguments, "[t]his is the Discovery Institute that advised both William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell before the board voted to change the biology curriculum." (Day 21 Pm, pg. 28) Judge Jones accepted the plaintiffs' argument and canonized into legal cannons the false history that Discovery Institute initiated Dover's policy by writing, "The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the TMLC." (pg. ??)

Thus commentators on this issue have stated that Discovery Institute helped Dover pass its policy and that Dover "worked with the Discovery Institute to promote the institute's agenda of intelligent design":

To determine the purpose of the requirement of teaching intelligent design, the judge examined the statements and actions of the members of the school board, which showed that the members who sponsored the new rule had religious motivations and worked with the Discovery Institute to promote the institute's agenda of intelligent design, including arranging for science teachers to watch a Discovery Institute film entitled Icons of Evolution.

(Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom)

But of course the Icons of Evolution video is not about ID at all, but simply provides scientific critique of evolution. Former Discovery Institute employee Seth Cooper, mentioned by Judge Jones in the opinion, explained what really happened:

To be clear, prior to the filing of the lawsuit I never advised the members of the Dover Board in a privileged, attorney-client capacity. Further, I never advised members of the Dover Board to mandate the teaching of the theory of intelligent design or to adopt the ID policy at issue in the case. Rather, I strongly urged members of the Dover Board to either drop entirely the issue of alternatives to the teaching of evolution, or to only present scientific arguments both supporting and challenging the contemporary version of Darwin's theory and the chemical evolutionary theories for the origin of the first life. The Dover Board had their own legal counsel in their Solicitor and the public-interest law firm that they later hired. Members of the Dover Board who adopted the ID policy acted completely contrary to my strongest suggestions.

But Forrest's statement here shows that the Dover Board did not rely upon the advice of Discovery Institute. Perhaps Judge Jones was wrong and Forrest was right (more on Judge Jones misstatements of facts in the next sections).

But what about the conspiracy theory here? Forrest thinks that Discovery Institute feels that ID is unconstitutional and that it is a "legal liability" so we abandoned the case. But the reasons we recommend not requiring the teaching of ID are distinct from concerns over "legal liability" because they are policy related. This is explained in Discovery Institute's Science Education Policy:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.

Nonetheless, we make it clear that, "Although Discovery Institute does not advocate requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it does believe there is nothing unconstitutional about voluntarily discussing the scientific theory of design in the classroom."

We don't think ID is unconstitutional, but we do think it should not be required because the political climate makes it dangerous to pro-ID scientists when ID is mandated.

For example, when Scott Minnich testified as an expert witness at trial, he immediately faced harsh attacks at his home university--the University of Idaho. An evolution-only speech-code was imposed by the university president, threatening his academic freedom, and Eugenie Scott was brought in by the science faculty to single out Minnich and make him feel uncomfortable during a public lecture. All this occurred despite the fact that Minnich had never even taught his students about ID. Incidents like this threaten the research and careers of pro-ID scientists and validate our claim that the political climate makes it unsafe for school boards to mandate ID and turn it into a political debate, rather a scientific one.

But what of Dr. Forrest's intimation that Discovery feels ID has legal problems? We submitted an extensive amicus brief arguing that ID is constitutional, and two of DI senior fellows still participated. We don't think ID is unconstitutional.

Dr. Forrest is right that from the beginning, Discovery Institute realized that this case was a bad set of facts for teaching intelligent design: it started with a school board that didn't even understand the theory and railroaded an unwise policy past protesting science teachers while having clear religious, and not scientific motives, for passing their ID policy. These are not the kind of cool-headed school board members who genuinely care about science education that we typically encounter. But this conspiracy theory also fails.

The truth

If Forrest wanted to know what really happened and why some witnesses chose not to testify, all she had to do was ask, or look at Discovery's plain explanation on our website:

Setting the Record Straight about Discovery Institute's Role in the Dover School District Case:

Mr. Thompson blames Discovery Institute for the non-participation of Discovery Institute Fellows Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and John Angus Campbell as expert witnesses on behalf of the Dover board. However, the non-participation of these scholars was due to Thomas More, which discharged them.

Meyer, Dembski and Campbell were all willing to testify as expert witnesses. They simply requested that they have their own counsel present at their depositions in order to protect their rights. Yet Thomas More would not permit this. Mr. Thompson has been quoted in media accounts as stating that to permit independent counsel to assert the witnesses' rights would create a "conflict of interest"--a claim for which he can offer no legal justification. When the witnesses refused to proceed without legal counsel to protect them, Thomas More cancelled the deposition of Prof. Campbell and effectively fired all three expert witnesses. After dismissing its own witnesses, Thomas More made an 11th-hour offer to Dr. Meyer alone to allow him to have counsel after all. But Meyer declined the offer because the previous actions of Thomas More had undermined his confidence in their legal judgment.

Since Meyer, Dembski, and Campbell were discharged, it has been reported that two other expert witnesses for the school board have withdrawn from the case. These two witnesses are not affiliated with Discovery Institute, and Discovery Institute had nothing to do with any decisions surrounding their withdrawal.

Final Charges of Abandonment

Finally, Dr. Forrest writes that "like Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell, neither DeWolf nor Cooper was anywhere in sight when they had a chance to defend ID in court." Is this a fair charge? Firstly, as the attorney of record David DeWolf on over 80 pages of amicus briefs submitted to Judge Jones, it seems that David DeWolf was indeed quite busy. Secondly, given that Dr. Forrest admits that there was a falling out between Discovery and TMLC, one would not expect a Discovery lawyer to work on the case. Thirdly, Seth Cooper was not even working at Discovery during the time of the trial, as he had accepted a new job wherein he would not have been able to attend the trial, even if he had wanted. Even if Discovery was assisting TMLC in the courtroom (which they were not), Cooper would not have been there because he was no longer employed by Discovery Institute at the time the trial started.

Apart from her accurate intimation that TMLC fired John Angus Campbell, Dr. Forrest's theories are bankrupt. They contradict one-another, betray the facts, and make unfair allegations of abandonment against people like Seth Cooper who was not even working at Discovery Institute at the time of the trial. One of her theories claims that DI fellows didn't testify because they were scared of attorneys "armed with my work." Her theories seem like an exercise in ego-boosting rather than anything relating to reality.

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 17, 2006 7:02 AM | Permalink

Educators await decision on science courses


September 17. 2006 6:59AM

State Board of Education to decide curriculum in October.


LANSING -- School administrators in St. Joseph County are anticipating difficulties implementing the revised science curriculum that the state Board of Education will try to finalize in October.

These concerns arose as the House Education Committee asked the board for more time to review the curriculum and provide its recommendations.

"The longer the delay, the more difficult for us to implement the changes in curriculum," said Rusty Stitt, principal of Sturgis High School.

Stitt said that any delay makes it harder for his school to prepare students for the new Michigan Merit Examination, a standardized aptitude test based on recently adopted statewide educational standards.

According to William Miller, superintendent of Centreville Public Schools, revising the contents and coverage of a school subject is a serious process that takes time.

"For controversial issues, the process can take up to a year," Miller said. "A tight timetable squeezes us as we try to do what is required by the state and balance that with the values of our community."

One possible source of controversy is whether evolution, intelligent design and creationism all fall within the ambit of the science curriculum, said Shelli Weisberg, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

"At every juncture that this Legislature has looked at science education, they've attempted to put in language that will accommodate the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in science classes," Weisberg said.

State Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, who heads the Education Committee, said that the Legislature is only fulfilling its obligation to parents and students by reviewing the curriculum changes.

"We just need adequate time to make sure that the new content fulfills our goal -- to improve the level of excellence in all our schools -- and get the inputs of our constituents," said Palmer. "That's what the law says and what the public want us to do.

"These changes (in the science curriculum) are going to be implemented statewide. To forgo the inputs of duly elected officials is a big, big mistake."

The Education Committee will try to provide feedback to the education board by Sept. 27, Palmer said.

Miller said, "It's too early to say whether there will be controversial issues in the science curriculum. For all we know, it could be a non-issue. But, if there is something controversial, we must make sure that we are doing what our community wants us to do."

The crafting of a new science curriculum -- which includes earth and space science, biology, physics and chemistry -- comes at the heels of two laws, which took effect in April, setting uniform requirements for high school graduation.

Stitt said, "These laws make us revisit our curriculum, and that's a good thing -- making sure that we're teaching what is supposed to be taught. As far as the timing, we just have to roll with the punches."

Both Miller and Stitt say they're confident about their schools' ability to implement the revised curriculum.

"We will get it done," Miller said.

He added that Centreville has been anticipating and preparing for the change.

Stitt said, "I'm more focused about getting things done and I am optimistic. We're going to make it happen, regardless of when we get the revised curriculum." Healing Therapies for Cancer, Diabetes, Hypertension, Auto-Immune Diseases, Among Topics at Salt Lake City Alternative Health Summit http://www.pr.com/press-release/17951

Alternative Health Summit 2006 at South Towne Exposition Center, Salt Lake City, Utah on November 3-4, 2006

Salt Lake City, UT, September 17, 2006 --(PR.COM)-- Combining the best of alternative therapies and how they are integrated into today's modern medical and healing practices - that is the theme of the Salt Lake City Alternative Health Summit and Conference, to be presented on November 3-4, 2006.

This Summit and Conference will feature exhibits, presentations, lectures, refreshments and health testing. Open to both the public and also to the healthcare community, this is the second summit and conference presented in Salt Lake City by the Alternative Medicine Referral Network.

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