Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
Main Category: Biology / Biochemistry News
Article Date: 14 May 2007 - 18:00 PDT
Sometimes, it pays to be rare - think of a one-of-a-kind diamond, a unique Picasso or the switch-hitter on a baseball team.
Now, new research suggests that being rare has biological benefits. Professor Marla Sokolowski, a biologist at the University of Toronto Mississauga who in the 1980s discovered that a single gene affects the foraging behaviour of fruit flies, has identified the benefit of rarity in populations of fruit flies with two different versions of the foraging gene. This gene is of particular interest because it is also found in many organisms, including humans. The new study appears in the journal Nature.
"There's considerable genetic variation in nature and we haven't been able to explain why it persists, since natural selection ensures that only the best survive," says Sokolowski, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Genetics. "In some cases, individuals with characteristics that differ from the rest of the population are more likely to survive since their rarity makes them less conspicuous to predators. However, to date we haven't understood this type of survival advantage at the level of the gene."
The findings involve a phenomenon known as "negative frequency-dependent selection." Essentially, it suggests that rare variants have a better chance of survival - just as a rare strain of the flu has a better chance of spreading through a population that is already immune to more common strains of the virus. In this case, flies carry one of two versions of the foraging gene (either the "rover" or "sitter" type). Rover larvae move around more than sitter larvae while feeding and they are also more likely to explore new food patches than sitters. The researchers explored the evolutionary mechanism that favours the persistence of both of these types in nature.
Doctoral student Mark Fitzpatrick raised colonies of flies with different ratios of rovers to sitters and different concentrations of nutrients in their food, and assessed their fitness - how many survived to the end of their larval stage. To distinguish between the rovers and the sitters, which are physically identical, Fitzpatrick "tagged" one of the types with a green fluorescent protein that glows under ultraviolet light. Then, over the course of a year, Fitzpatrick sat in a darkened room for several hours a day counting glowing larvae under a microscope.
The researchers found that when the fruit fly larvae were competing for food, those that did best had a version of the foraging gene that was rarest in a particular population. For example, rovers did better when there were lots of sitters, and sitters did better when there were more rovers.
"If you're a rover surrounded by many sitters, then the sitters are going to use up that patch and you're going to do better by moving out into a new patch," says Sokolowski. "So you'll have an advantage because you're not competing with the sitters who stay close to the initial resource. On the other hand, if you're a sitter and you're mostly with rovers, the rovers are going to move out and you'll be left on the patch to feed without competition."
More generally, Fitzpatrick says these results may help explain why genetic variants such as these are common in nature. "In the case of fruit flies, one variant encourages the survival of the other. In essence, there is not one best type of fly," he says. If this process is common in nature, it may offer one explanation for why individuals, in general, vary so much from one to another in almost all species.
The researchers' next step is to show that this phenomenon is also taking place in the wild. In addition, since the foraging gene is found in many animals, including honeybees, mice and humans, the researchers are examining how variations in the human foraging gene may be linked to food-related disorders.
The research was funded by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs program to Sokolowski and fellow author Locke Rowe - a biology professor at the University of Toronto.
Department of Biology
University of Toronto Mississauga
Department of Biology
University of Toronto Mississauga
University of Toronto
Anti-evolution billboards point viewers to website announcing $5,000 contest and new 'Let's See How Evolution Works' game
MINNEAPOLIS, May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Four months after displaying their test market "Opinion" billboards, Who Is Your Creator launched their new national public service campaign to call attention to the lack of proof for the theory of evolution. By using billboards to direct the viewers to their website, the site presents a concise step-by-step summary of the theory of evolution and the challenges to it. Beginning on May 14th, their forum will host the Let's See How Evolution Works game, where the hypothetical stages of specific evolutionary transitions commonly used as proof for evolution will be presented and critiqued.
Who Is Your Creator is also offering $5,000 for the winning submission of a four-part legal opinion that will present the scientific and legal aspects of teaching evolution and creation in public education. After contacting Who Is Your Creator to sponsor billboards around the nation, a retired attorney donated the prize money and framed the contest rules. The contest is meant to educate the public on the urgent need of a critical analysis of evolution. "Evolution needs to be assessed by empirical scientific standards - not by the current philosophical standards based on 'naturalism,'" claims Who Is Your Creator's founder, Julie Haberle.
While U.S. Constitutional law permits "teaching the controversy," school boards, judges, and legislators are systematically prohibiting educators and schools from presenting any critical analysis of evolution. However, according to a August 2005 Pew Research Center survey, Americans believe in creation over evolution by a 60% to 26% margin and "nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools."
Receiving worldwide attention from their previous billboard campaign, Who Is Your Creator considers their status listed under "Threats to Evolution Education" by the American Institute of Biological Sciences their most prized accomplishment. "How silly that they would think we are a threat unless they don't what the public to know the truth," commented Haberle.
After reading about the previous "Opinion" campaign, Revelation Outdoor Management contacted Who Is Your Creator to offer free billboard rental and donated six locations currently displayed in Oregon and Georgia. Additional billboards will be progressively displayed in other states and targeted fundraising has begun to display boards in controversial legislative states such Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri. Who Is Your Creator is a 501(c)3 public charity based in Minnesota that uses media, including display advertising, to raise awareness of the serious misrepresentations and lack of scientific proof for the theory of evolution.
Who Is Your Creator
PO Box 1736
Minnetonka, MN 55345
For more information, please contact Julie Haberle at 952-935-2105 or email email@example.com
High-resolution photo available here:
This release was issued through eReleases(TM). For more information, visit http://www.ereleases.com.
SOURCE Who Is Your Creator
By Doug Huntington Christian Post Reporter
Tue, May. 15 2007 08:39 AM ET
A collaboration of Intelligent Design (ID)supporters has accused Iowa State University (ISU) of denying tenure to one of its professors despite his surpassing of benchmark requirements that would "ordinarily" demonstrate "excellence sufficient to lead to a national or international reputation."
The Discovery Institute has voiced frustration over the refusal because it believes the school rejected the application of Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, author of The Privileged Planet, due to his promotion of ID thought. The organization is accusing ISU of being biased and extremist against ID "theory."
"The denial of tenure to Dr. Gonzalez is a blatant violation of both academic freedom and free speech," said Dr. John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, in a statement. "The denial of tenure is all the more incredible given the fact that Dr. Gonzalez exceeds by 350 percent the number of peer-reviewed journal publications required by his department to meet its standard of excellence in research."
Last week, Gonzalez filed an appeal with ISU President Greg Geoffroy, and is still awaiting a response. The president has 20 days to respond, and has refused to comment on the reason why his tenure was denied.
"Since an appeal is on my desk that I will have to pass judgment on, it is not appropriate for me to offer any comment," explained Geoffroy to the Ames Tribune.
ISU is one of many schools that have previously drafted statements against the use of ID in science. In 2005, one of Gonzalez's colleagues, Hector Avalos, had even expressed his concern with the ID professor teaching at ISU because the college had started to get the reputation as being an "intelligent design school," according to the Ames Tribune.
The Discovery Institute is strongly disagreeing with the school's outlook on Gonzalez, however. It has noted that his advocacy of ID has been done outside his work as a professor, and that he does not teach ID in class.
The organization says that it is not fair that he is targeted for his beliefs while overlooking his credentials.
"The basic freedom of scientists, teachers, and students to do scientific research and question the Darwinian hegemony is coming under attack by people that can only be called Darwinian fundamentalists," added West. "Intelligent design scientists are losing their jobs, and their professional careers are being torpedoed by these extremists."
Currently, the department of astronomy and physics that Gonzalez works for requires "excellence sufficient to lead to a national or international reputation." according to the department's guidelines. This excellence, the guidelines add, "would ordinarily be shown by the publication of approximately fifteen papers of good quality in refereed journals."
Gonzalez has already written 68 peer-reviewed journals, and 25 of those have been written while teaching at OSU, where he has been since 2001.
"I was surprised to hear that my tenure was denied at any level, but I was disappointed that the president at the end denied me," explained Gonzales, who is also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, to the Ames Tribune. "I believe that I fully met the requirements for tenure."
Other achievements for the ID proponent include authorizing a college-level astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University, helping in the discovery of two new planets, and building technology that helped discover extrasolar planets.
Gonzales was one of three faculty members that were denied tenure or promotion by ISU out of the 66 total professors that applied.
Generally, those individuals that are denied tenure leave the university.
3 books trace evolution of Dover controversy Sunday, May 13, 2007
BY DAVID DEKOK Of The Patriot-News
A large mural of a type common to public schools once hung in a biology classroom in Dover Area High School in York County.
Painted in 1998 by a student, it showed the evolution of man from prehistoric to modern times. In the summer of 2002, it was removed and burned in anger by the 68-year-old chief custodian, who said it offended his Christian faith and was full of lies. He didn't want his granddaughter to see it.
Larry Risser was not alone when he burned the mural in the school parking lot, Dover's version, 70 years on, of Berlin's Bebelplatz and its book pyres. With him was a gleeful Bill Buckingham, a former Roman Catholic turned Protestant fundamentalist. He was on the Dover Area School Board
It was a telling incident, part of a drift toward bullying religious extremism in the district led by Buckingham and board member Alan Bonsell that culminated in a directive in 2004, adopted over bitter opposition from science teachers, to require reading of a statement to ninth-grade biology students suggesting that Darwin's theory of evolution was flawed.
Students were told they might want to also consider the so-called theory of intelligent design, which argued that some parts of living organisms were so complex that a "designer" must have created them. They were urged to turn to a textbook called, "Of Pandas and People," for further information.
Eleven Dover parents sued, and the case was heard in the fall of 2005 by Judge John Jones III in U.S. District Court, Harrisburg, who gave each side great leeway to make its case. Evolution was shown to be accepted and embraced by the vast majority of the world's biologists, and its supposed flaws the realm of myth.
The school board and its supporters in the national religious right, unlike in the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," lost utterly. Both intelligent design and "Of Pandas and People" were found to be warmed-over creationism, long banned from public schools as a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Three books on the Dover controversy have come out this year. Gordy Slack writes the best account of the Dover controversy itself. Edward Humes does a masterful job of placing the controversy in the larger context of the decades-long battle between creationists and scientists. Matthew Chapman, great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, writes with ironic detachment about himself, Dover, and the trial.
A fourth book, "The Devil in Dover," by former York Daily Record reporter Lauri Lebo, is due out early next year. A Hollywood film with a script by Ron Nyswaner of "Philadelphia" fame and produced by Lynda Obst, also is in the works.
To understand what happened in Dover, it is necessary to look at the stealth strategy employed by some in the religious right. Gone is the admonition in the old gospel song, "This Little Light of Mine," not to hide one's "light," i.e., conservative Christian beliefs, under a bushel. Instead, some run as fiscal conservatives, as Bonsell did, then reveal their real agenda.
excellence sufficient to lead to a national or international reputation is required and would ordinarily be shown by the publication of approximately fifteen papers of good quality in refereed journals.
So how many refereed articles has Gonzalez published? Ten? Twelve? Fifteen? Twenty? Actually, he has published 68 articles in refereed journals, thus exceeding his own department's normal standard for research excellence by 350%! (Unfortunately, the Ames Tribune story about the denial of tenure to Gonzalez wrongly reports that this standard is a "minimum" requirement for tenure in his department. In fact, it is offered as the usual and ordinary benchmark for meeting his university's research excellence standard.)
Since Gonzalez clearly far exceeded his university's stated standard for research, the question again arises: Why was he denied tenure? It seems obvious that it was due to ideological bias against intelligent design--which has been on clear display at Iowa State during the past few years, as Gonzalez has been publicly attacked and demonized by faculty colleagues for his support of ID.
Posted by John West on May 13, 2007 1:06 AM | Permalink
by Babu Ranganathan May 13, 2007 01:00 PM EST
Evolutionary theory teaches that millions of years ago a reptile, such as a lizard, evolved into the first bird. Imagine a lizard evolving into a bird. The lizard's front limbs are evolving into wings. The process will be completed over some millions of years. In the mean time, the lizard cannot run from its predators or fly away either.
How would it survive? Why would such a creature be preserved by natural selection over millions of years? Imagine such a species surviving in such a miserable state over many millions of years waiting for fully-formed wings to evolve!
Millions of people are taught in textbooks all over the world that the fossil record furnishes scientific proof of Darwinian evolution. But, where are there fossils of half-evolved lizards or other creatures?
The fossil record contains fossils of only complete and fully-formed species. There are no fossils of partially-evolved species to indicate that a gradual process of evolution ever occurred. Even among evolutionists there are diametrically different interpretations and reconstructions of the fossils used to support human evolution from a supposed ape-like ancestry. In fact, all of the fossils used to support human evolution have been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human. Evolutionists once reconstructed an image of a half-ape and half-man (known as The Nebraska Man) creature from a single tooth! Later they discovered that the tooth belonged to an extinct species of pig! The "Nebraska Man" was used as a major piece of evidence in the famous Scopes Trial in support of Darwin's evolutionary theory.
Even if evolution takes millions and millions of years, we should still be able to see some stages of its process. But, we simply don't observe any partially-evolved fish, frogs, lizards, birds, dogs, cats among us. Every species of plant and animal is complete and fully-formed.
Another problem is how could partially-evolved plant and animal species survive over millions of years if their vital organs and tissues were still in the process of evolving? How, for example, were animals breathing, eating, and reproducing if their respiratory, digestive, and reproductive organs were still incomplete and evolving? How were species fighting off possibly life-killing germs if their immune system didn't exist yet?
Scientist Dr. Walt Brown, in his fantastic book "In The Beginning", makes this point by saying, "All species appear fully developed, not partially developed. They show design. There are no examples of half-developed feathers, eyes, skin, tubes (arteries, veins, intestines, etc.), or any of thousands of other vital organs. Tubes that are not 100% complete are a liability; so are partially developed organs and some body parts. For example, if a leg of a reptile were to evolve into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing."
Some evolutionists cite the fossil of an ancient bird known to have claws as an example of a transitional link. However, there are two species of birds living today in South America that have claws on their wings, but even evolutionists today do not claim that these birds are transitional links from a reptilian ancestry. These claws are complete, as everything else on the birds.
What about all those spectacular and popular claims reported in the mass media of evolutionists having discovered certain transitional forms in the fossil record? Such claims have not been accepted by all evolutionists and, after much investigation and analysis, these claims have been found to have no hard basis in science. This has been the case of every so-called "missing link" and "transitional" form discovered since Darwin.
Recently it was thought they had discovered fossils of dinosaurs with feathers until they found out that the so-called feathers were really scales, which only had the appearance of feathers. Scientists theorize the scales took upon a feather-like appreance during some brief stage of decomposition before being fossilized. Even if they were feathers, this still wouldn't be any kind of evidence to support macro-evolution unless they can show a series of fossils having part-scale/part-feather structures as evidence that the scales had really evolved into feathers.
Many times, evolutionists use similarities of traits shared by different forms of life as a basis for claiming a transitional link. But, the problem for evolutionists is that all the traits which they cite are complete and fully-formed.
Evolutionists claim that the genetic and biological similarities between species is evidence of common ancestry. However, that is only one interpretation of the evidence. Another possibility is that the comparative similarities are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes in all the various forms of life. Neither position can be scientifically proved.
Not only are there no true transitional links in the fossil record, but the fossils themselves are not in the supposed geological sequential order as evolutionists claim in their textbooks. Of course, evolutionists have their various circular and unsupported arguments or reasons for why this is so.
If macro-evolution (evolution across biological kinds) actually occurred then we should find millions of indisputable transitional forms in the fossil record instead of a few disputable transitional forms that even evolutionists cannot all agree upon. And, again, the point needs to be emphasized that species cannot wait millions of years for their vital (or necessary) organs and biological systems to evolve.
In fact, it is precisely because of these problems that more and more modern evolutionists are adopting a new theory known as Punctuated Equilibrium which says that plant and animal species evolved suddenly from one kind to another and that is why we don't see evidence of partially-evolved species in the fossil record. Of course, we have to accept their word on blind faith because there is no way to prove or disprove what they are saying. These evolutionists claim that something like massive bombardment of radiation resulted in mega mutations in species, which produced "instantaneous" changes from one life form to another. The nature and issue of mutations will be discussed later and the reader will see why such an argument is not viable.
The fact that animal and plant species are found fully formed and complete in the fossil record is powerful evidence (although not proof) for creation because it is evidence that they came into existence as fully formed and complete which is possible only by creation.
Although Darwin was partially correct by showing that natural selection occurs in nature, the problem is that natural selection itself is not a creative force. Natural selection is a passive process in nature. Natural selection can only "select" from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. Natural selection itself does not produce biological traits or variations.
The term "natural selection" is simply a figure of speech. Nature, of course, does not do any conscious or active selection. If a biological variation occurs which helps a member of a species to survive in its environment then that biological variation will be preserved and be passed on to future offspring. That we call "natural selection".
The evidence from genetics supports only the possibility for limited, or horizontal, evolution (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) but not vertical evolution (i.e. from fish to human). Unless Nature has the ability to perform genetic engineering vertical evolution will not be possible.
The early grooves in the human embryo that appear to look like gills are really the early stages in the formation of the face, throat, and neck regions. The so-called "tailbone" is the early formation of the coccyx and spinal column which, because of the rate of growth being faster than the rest of the body at this stage, appears to look like a tail. The coccyx has already been proven to be useful in providing support for the pelvic muscles.
Modern science has shown that there are genetic limits to evolution or biological change in nature. Again, all biological variations, whether they are beneficial to survival or not, are possible only within the genetic potential and limits of a biological kind such as the varieties among dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc. Even if a new species develops but no new genes or new traits
Variations across biological kinds such as humans evolving from ape-like creatures and apes, in turn, evolving from dog-like creatures and so on, as Darwinian evolutionary theory teaches, are not genetically possible. Yes, the same chemicals to make entirely new genes exist in all biological "kinds", but the genetic program in each kind of plant or animal will only direct those chemicals into making more of the same "kind".
Usually what is meant by the term "biological kind" is a natural species but this may not always be the case. The key to keep in mind here is that in order for evolution in nature to occur from one biological "kind" to another biological "kind" entirely new genes would have to be generated and not just merely modifications and/or recombinations of already existing genes. If, for example, offspring are produced which cannot be crossed back with the original stock then there is, indeed, a new species but if no new genes or traits developed then there is no macro-evolution (variation across biological kinds) and the two distinct species would continue to belong to the same "kind".
Biological variations are determined by the DNA or genetic code of species. The DNA molecule is actually a molecular string of various nucleic acids, which are arranged in a sequence just like the letters in a sentence. It is this sequence in DNA that tells cells in the body how to construct various tissues and organs.
The common belief among evolutionists is that random mutations in the genetic code over time will produce entirely new sequences for new traits and characteristics which natural selection can then act upon resulting in entirely new species. Evolutionists consider mutations to be a form of natural genetic engineering.
However, the very nature of mutations precludes such a possibility. Mutations are accidental changes in the sequential structure of the genetic code caused by various random environmental forces such as radiation and toxic chemicals.
Almost all true mutations are harmful, which is what one would normally expect from accidents. Even if a good mutation occurred for every good one there will be thousands of harmful ones with the net result over time being disastrous for the species.
Most biological variations, however, occur as a result of new combinations of previously existing genes - not because of mutations, which are rare in nature.
Furthermore, mutations simply produce new varieties of already existing traits. For example, mutations in the gene for human hair may change the gene so that another type of human hair develops, but the mutations won't change the gene so that feathers or wings develop.
Sometimes mutations may trigger the duplication of already existing traits (i.e. an extra finger, toe, or even an entire head, even in another area of the body!). But mutations have no ability to produce entirely new traits or characteristics.
Young people, and even adults, often wonder how all the varieties and races of people could come from the same human ancestors. Well, in principle, that's no different than asking how children with different color hair ( i.e., blond, brunette, brown, red ) can come from the same parents who both have black hair.
Just as some individuals today carry genes to produce descendants with different color hair and eyes, humanity's first parents possessed genes to produce all the variety and races of men. You and I today may not carry the genes to produce every variety or race of humans, but humanity's first parents did possess such genes.
All varieties of humans carry genes for the same basic traits, but not all humans carry every possible variation of those genes. For example, one person may be carrying several variations of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown, green, blue ) , but someone else may be carrying only one variation of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown ). Thus, both will have different abilities to affect the eye color of their offspring.
Science cannot prove how life originated since no human observed the origin of life by either chance or design. Observation and detection by the human senses, either directly or indirectly through scientific instruments, is the basis of science and for establishing proof. The issue is which position has better scientific support. Both sides should have the opportunity to present their case.
If some astronauts from Earth discovered figures of persons similar to Mt. Rushmore on an uninhabited planet there would be no way to scientifically prove the carved figures originated by design or by chance processes of erosion. Neither position is science, but scientific arguments may be made to support one or the other.
What we believe about life's origins does influence our philosophy and value of life as well as our view of ourselves and others. This is no small issue!
Just because the laws of science can explain how life and the universe operate and work doesn't mean there is no Maker. Would it be rational to believe that there's no designer behind airplanes because the laws of science can explain how airplanes operate and work?
Natural laws are adequate to explain how the order in life, the universe, and even a microwave oven operates, but mere undirected natural laws can never fully explain the origin of such order.
There is, of course, much more to be said on this subject. Scientist, creationist, debater, writer, and lecturer, Dr. Walt Brown covers various scientific issues ( i.e. fossils, "transitional" links, biological variation and diversity, the origin of life, comparative anatomy and embryology, the issue of vestigial organs, the age of the earth, etc. ) at greater depth on his website at http://www.creationscience.com.
On his website, Dr. Brown even discusses the possibility of any remains of life on Mars as having originated from the Earth due to great geological disturbances in the Earth's past which easily could have spewed thousands of tons of rock and dirt containing microbes into space. In fact, A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions exactly this possibility.
An excellent source of information from highly qualified scientists who are creationists is the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org) in San Diego, California. Also, the reader may find answers to many difficult questions concerning the Bible (including questions on creation and evolution, Noah's Ark, how dinosaurs fit into the Bible, etc.)at http://www.ChristianAnswers.net.
It is only fair that evidence supporting intelligent design or creation be presented to students alongside of evolutionary theory, especially in public schools which receive funding from taxpayers who are on both sides of the issue. Also, no one is being forced to believe in God or adopt a particular religion so there is no true violation of separation of church and state. As a religion and science writer, I encourage all to read my Internet article "The Natural Limits of Evolution" at my website http://www.religionscience.com for more in-depth study of the issue.
*Especially recommended reading is the author's article "Creationists Right On Entropy, Evolution".
The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, is an experienced Christian writer. Mr. Ranganathan has his B.A. with academic concentrations in Bible and Biology from Bob Jones University. As a religion and science writer he has been recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis Who's Who In The East. The author's articles have been published in various publications including Russia's Pravda and South Korea's The Seoul Times. The author's website may be accessed at: http://www.religionscience.com.
Darwinists lack two traits desirable for scientists: decorum and a developed sense of irony. University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Biology and star Darwinist science blogger P.Z. Myers provides evidence for this observation in a recent scatological tirade on Pharyngula, the popular Darwinist science blog that is read daily by thousands of young scientists and aspiring scientists.
Dr. Myers was commenting on a profile that Dr. Michael Behe, a Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University and a prominent advocate of intelligent design, wrote about famed biologist Richard Dawkins for TIME magazine. Behe disagrees strongly with Dawkins' scientific views on Darwin's theory.
What Dr. Behe actually wrote was very different than what TIME ended up publishing, as he recounted earlier. This is what appeared as Dr. Behe's comments about Dawkins' contribution to the I.D./Darwinism debate:
It is a measure of the artful way Dawkins, 66, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, tells a tale and the rigor he brings to his thinking that even those of us who profoundly disagree with what he has to say can tip our hats to the way he has invigorated the larger debate.
Myers took exception to TIME magazine's decision to ask Behe to write about Dawkins:
The incompetence is stunning. Richard Dawkins makes the Time 100 list, and who do they commission to write up his profile?
Michael F**king Behe.
That's not just stupid, it's a slap in the face. It would have been no problem to find a smart biologist, even one who might be critical of Dawkins' message, to write something that expressed some measure of respect from the editorial staff. But to dig up a pseudoscientific fraud whose sole claim to fame is that he has led the charge to corrupt American science education for over a decade is shameful.
I added the asterisks. Both Behe and Myers are college biology professors who teach young biologists and biochemists the methods of scientific inquiry and, by example, teach students the appropriate standards of scientific discourse.
Which professor is shamefully corrupting American science education?
Posted by Michael Egnor on May 11, 2007 10:03 AM | Permalink
Iowa State University has denied tenure to astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of The Privileged Planet, which presents powerful scientific evidence for the intelligent design of the universe. You can read about the situation in today's Ames Tribune here.
This is a very sad day for academic freedom. Dr. Gonzalez is a superb scholar and a fine human being. His research has been featured in Scientific American, Science, Nature, and many other science journals. Iowa State's decision to deny him tenure is a travesty, and the university should be held to account for its action. This deserves to be an even bigger story than the persecution of evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian.
Ironically, Dr. Gonzalez arrived in America as a child refugee from Castro's Cuba. Unfortunately, he seems to have discovered that the Darwinist ideologues in America's universities can be nearly as unforgiving as the Marxist ideologues of his home country.
Stay tuned for more information as this story develops.
Posted by John West at 12:28 AM | Permalink
'I'm curious: Is there anybody on the stage that does not . . . believe in evolution?"
That was the question put to the 10 GOP presidential hopefuls during a May 3 Republican presidential debate on MSNBC.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) already had said he did. But when the rest were asked the same question, three hands went up: those of Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Ah, the flood of facile jokes!:
Those Luddite Republicans!
They don't believe in evolution because, in their case, it didn't happen!
Et cetera. Hardy har har.
Three candidates do not a party make. But it was a telling moment for those wondering where the GOP is headed.
Why did these three, all of whom wish to be the leader of the most powerful country in history, say they did not believe in evolution? There might be thousands of reasons. Perhaps they misheard: "I'm just curious: Is there anyone on this stage who doesn't believe in elocution?" But two reasons are more likely:
(1) They really don't think evolution exists. As in, it's not happening and never did. We got here some other way. There's no evidence for it.
Uh, yeah, there is. Although technically a theory, Charles Darwin's version of the evolution of species is a theory-with-the-status-of-fact, robust and vigorous, demonstrated in living color each and every day in field and laboratory everywhere. No jury is "out." The verdict's in and everybody's gone home. Way home.
True, the theory can't say how life began. And we haven't traced every branch in the tree of life. We don't have to. A tree doesn't have to fall on us. Evolution is one of the most thrilling and miraculous stories - and one of the best told - ever. It's not something in question.
Nor is it a religious issue - for most people. A minority of Christians do belong to congregations that believe evolution is not how God created life. Some say Genesis is at odds with evolution. Their beliefs deserve respect, as beliefs, not science.
Many other Christians, however, hold views much closer to those of born-again Jimmy Carter, who, while president, said he believed evolution was the expression of God's will in creation. (Things sure have changed!) So here's another possible reason:
(2) These men raised their hands because they knew it would get them votes from religious conservatives.
Tancredo, Huckabee and Brownback know they need the Christian conservative vote to win the Republican nomination. Christian conservatives don't like Rudy Giuliani. They're lukewarm on John McCain, perplexed by Mitt Romney.
But any candidate who would ignore science to attract conservative votes has made a lousy calculation.
Truth is, few conservatives reject science. They fly airplanes, use cell phones, get vaccinated, leverage mass media to push their ideas.
So, while pundits are calling the evolution flap an embarrassment to the GOP, what it really is is a call to the Republican faithful: "We're in trouble. If we don't rally on the wedge issues now, by 2008, a Republican majority may seem as far away as the Planet of the Apes."
May. 12, 2007 12:00 AM
Regarding "3 GOP candidates doubt evolution - imagine that" (Opinions, Wednesday): It is important to explain what is meant by the term "evolution."
Many Christians believe that evolution, if the meaning of the word refers to the origins of man or the creation of the universe, cannot be true because it conflicts with the creation account of the Bible. That is, humans and animals did not evolve from the same primordial goo.
In fact, we would argue that there is no evidence to support that one species ever evolved into another. This type of evolution is often referred to as macroevolution.
However, there is evidence of adaptations within species. This is referred to as microevolution, and many Christians would agree (or believe) that there is a plethora of evidence for this type of evolution.
The GOP candidates should know better than to respond to the question of evolution without clarifying the meaning of the term as intended by the questioner.
Columnist Tom Teepen should know better than to claim that virtually all scientists believe in "evolution" (whatever it might mean). In fact, there are many, many scientists who question the validity of macroevolution.
Even Einstein, not known as a Christian but rather a deist, held a sincere belief in a "God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists."
If one is honest with himself and looks at the amazing design of the smallest systems within the cell or the largest systems of the universe, he or she would see the order and purpose that was put into each. The world as we know it could not function by random, haphazard chance.
Carl Sagan once said, "We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads." What if it leads to the intelligent design by God? - Scott Adamson,Gilbert
Last Updated: May 12, 2007, 02:28:23 AM PDT
A zookeeper came across an orangutan reading two books. One was the Bible and the other was Darwin's "Origin of Species."
"Why are you reading such opposite books?" he asked. The answer came, "I'm trying to figure out whether I'm supposed to be my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."
Evolution is on our minds -- again! This newspaper's readers have followed the national trend in debating the truth of evolution against the truth of Scripture. Court cases dealing with the concept of "intelligent design" have raised the furor of advocates of both sides of this question and the letters to the editor show the passion on both sides on this issue. It seems that most people claim that either the Bible or science is correct. There is no way, they write, that both are compatible.
I disagree and believe that both the Bible and science can coexist -- even on as touchy a subject as evolution. Let me lay out my thesis.
Evolution is a scientific principle, like gravity or electricity. To scientifically test a religious belief one first must find some empirical test that gives different results depending on whether the belief is true or false. These results must be predicted beforehand and not pointed to after the fact.
Most faith beliefs in God don't work this way. Religion usually presupposes that God is the driving intelligence behind our world, and, as an intelligent being, is often not predictable. Since experiments judging religious beliefs cannot have predictable results and may give different results under the same circumstances, faith is not open to scientific inquiry.
We who believe in God base our faith on Scripture and on the revelations contained therein. Scripture cannot usually be objectively verified. It speaks the why, not the how. Also, religious beliefs are not subject to change as easily as scientific beliefs. Finally, a religion normally claims an exact accuracy, something which scientists know they may never achieve.
Many of us do not understand that there are two parts to creationism. Evolution, specifically common descent, tells us how life came to where it is, but it does not say why. If the question is whether evolution disproves the basic underlying theme of Genesis, that God created the world and the life in it, the answer is no. Evolution cannot say exactly why common descent chose the paths that it did.
If the question is whether evolution contradicts a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis as an exact historical account, then, of course, it does. This is the main, and for the most part the only point of conflict between those who believe in evolution and creationalism.
We people of faith must proclaim that our theology of the Scriptures elaborate God's plan of revelation. For people of faith a 'theology of creation' is no more or less than the church's understanding about the relationship between God and his world as it is informed through the pages of the Bible. It expresses in human words the mystery of this relationship. It is not a theory about the universe but a doctrine about the one and only God who was its creator.
As to science, it can't prove that God doesn't exist. That's not what science is about. But for far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. People don't have to choose. Go to church. Love God. Believe in religion. But respect science. And keep science and religion separate.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Opalek, an ordained minister, is chief executive officer of the Merced County Rescue Mission. He is a frequent contributor to the Perspective page.
By ANDREW DeMILLO Saturday, May 12, 2007 12:51 PM CDT
LITTLE ROCK - Mike Huckabee isn't running against Charles Darwin, but he may feel like it.
Instead of talking up his health care plans or views on Iraq, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential hopeful has found himself talking about the earth's creation.
The Baptist minister has sought over the past week to clarify his thoughts on evolution after he was one of three candidates in a recent GOP debate to indicate he didn't believe in it. Since then, he has noted that he is not against teaching evolution in the classroom but would prefer that creationism be taught alongside.
"Our schools should teach children to think for themselves, not indoctrinate them, so we have to expose them to different theories and ultimately let them decide. Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism. I would not support public schools teaching only creationism," Huckabee said last week.
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo joined Huckabee when moderator Chris Matthews asked who did not believe in evolution.
Huckabee said he didn't get a fair chance to explain his position, but has also said he is "not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States."
Quite a bit, political observers and historians say.
Although Huckabee may not like the attention or the ribbing he has received from late night comedians, his evolution stance may actually boost his profile in the crowded Republican field.
Lagging behind his rivals in fundraising and polls, Huckabee may be able to use his thoughts on intelligent design to woo some conservatives to his side, political scientist Jay Barth says.
"Considering where he is in this race, it probably helped him," said Barth, a Democrat. "I think it got him some attention and it got him some attention among a subgroup of voters who are really going to matter in Iowa. ... And it is not as extreme a position in terms of American public opinion as some who might ridicule the answer may say."
Recent polls show that Huckabee's attitude may not be that far off of what many other people think.
A 2006 Gallup poll found that about half of Americans reject an evolutionary explanation for the origin of humans and believe that God created humans at one time, "as is." That poll found that those who identify themselves as Republicans are more likely to believe in the biblical creation story.
A poll by Zogby also found last year that 69 percent of Americans favor presenting both the evidence for Darwinian evolution as well as the evidence against it.
Historian Edward Larson said that, while Huckabee may not have appreciated the question, his views on evolution are relevant to the presidency.
"While typically what is taught in schools and what people believe regarding evolution is not a presidential matter, the president does set a tone," said Larson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion."
"When a president speaks out on the matter of evolution, that resonates in the country and becomes a talking point for people who are trying to include evolution or exclude evolution for public schools," Larson said.
It's an argument that Huckabee's home state has grappled with over the years.
In 1981, a federal judge who cited separation of church and state struck down a new law requiring teachers to include a creation theory based on the Bible if they taught Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Ten years later, the Arkansas House rejected a bill to prohibit state money for educational materials that present scientific theories _ including evolution _ as fact.
Former state Sen. Jim Holt, that measure's sponsor, said that he still thinks enough public support exists for such a restriction and that a candidate's stance on creationism is relevant.
"It goes back to the premise of can a person separate his beliefs from his actions," said Holt, a Republican who at times clashed with Huckabee during the governor's tenure.
The question popped up during last year's gubernatorial campaign, when Mike Beebe said intelligent design "should be available to Arkansas students" and that he didn't believe intelligent design and evolution were mutually exclusive.
Beebe, now governor, said last week that he disagreed with his predecessor on evolution.
"I don't think that believing in God and believing in evolution are mutually exclusive. I think you can believe in both," Beebe said. "Obviously, I believe in God. I think he started it but then I think there's all kinds of scientific evidence that we've had evolution. That's just my belief. I guess he's entitled to his."
Larson said he's not surprised that three of the 10 Republican hopefuls said they don't believe in evolution. While not doubting their sincerity, he noted the political benefit for the three lesser-known candidates.
"Anything can get attention. It sort of reminds me of the old Scopes trial," Larson said, referring to the 1925 trial of a Tennessee schoolteacher for teaching evolution. "It does get one some attention if one is already low and needs to be differentiated."
DeMillo covers Arkansas government and politics for The Associated Press
A service of the Associated Press(AP)
NCSE'S SCOTT TO BE HONORED BY RUTGERS
NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is to receive an honorary degree from Rutgers University, on May 16, 2007, in recognition of her dedication to promoting the sound teaching of science in schools across the country. She was described in a Rutgers publication as:
a physical anthropologist and internationally recognized advocate of scientific literacy. Scott is the founding director of the National Center for Science Education, established in  to defend the teaching of evolution in public school science classes. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. She is a leading expert on creationism --including intelligent design -- and one of its strongest critics. Deeply committed to the separation of church and state, she believes that while instructors must respect their students' religious views, science and evolution are not de facto antireligious, and schools should only allow science to be taught in science classes. One of her most visible recent efforts has been the six-year fight against the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to remove evolution from that state's testing standards.
The honorary degree will be Scott's fifth; she received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from McGill University in 2003, the Ohio State University in 2005, and Mount Holyoke College and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, in 2006.
For information about the honor, visit:
Please feel free to circulate the following job announcement to qualified candidates!
Information technology technician needed by the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization that defends the teaching of evolution in the public schools, to maintain and expand NCSE's web presence, including maintenance of hardware platforms, determining software needs, and overseeing migration of content to a new web site. NCSE is pursuing open source solutions to information technology services. Qualified applicants will have:
1. Substantial experience with Unix, including installing new OS from scratch, system maintenance, and installation of new software such as web and e-mail servers. FreeBSD is the current OS used at NCSE. Knowledge of networking, including interfacing Unix to Windows through Samba and access to servers from the web, required; knowledge of VPNs and security issues. Knowledge of SMTP and MTAs to create and maintain email lists required.
2. Substantial experience with developing web-based applications, especially with database-driven web sites using Apache, HTML, PHP, and MySQL. Experience with C/C++, Perl, and Unix shell scripting will be considered a plus, as will knowledge of multimedia applications.
3. Experience with maintaining Windows XP workstations and related hardware and software. The job requires keeping backups of shared filesystems and websites.
4. Experience with maintaining and troubleshooting e-mail services (including listserves presently running with majordomo).
5. Proven ability to work with communications personnel in developing the web site and other digital resources to expand our reach to the public.
This is a half-time position, ideal for students and retirees. Conversion to full-time is a possibility. Part-time salary in the $17,500 to $20,000 range, depending on qualifications and experience. NCSE is located in Oakland, California, near the MacArthur BART; telecommuting is not an option. Send resume with three job references by fax to (510) 601-7204, by mail to NCSE, PO Box 9477, Berkeley CA 94709-0477, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Resumes must arrive by June 15 to be considered. NCSE is an equal opportunity employer.
For the job announcement on NCSE's website, visit:
FLOCK OF DODOS TO AIR ON SHOWTIME
Randy Olson's Flock of Dodos, the hilarious documentary that examines both sides of the controversy over the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools, is scheduled to be aired on Showtime's cable channels on five dates in May. The film's website describes Flock of Dodos as:
the first feature documentary (84 mins.) to present both sides of the Intelligent Design/Evolution clash that appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek in 2005. Filmmaker and former Evolutionary Ecologist Dr. Randy Olson tries to make sense of the issue by visiting his home state of Kansas. At first it seems the problem lies with intelligent design -- a movement labeled recently as "breathtaking inanity" by a federal judge -- but when a group of evolutionists convene for a night of poker and discussion they end up sounding themselves like ... a flock of dodos.
New Scientist praised Flock of Dodos as "a film that will appeal to the average person on either side ... without condescension, poking lighthearted fun at everyone." It airs at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 on Showtime, at 3:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on May 19 on Showtime Showcase; at 1:00 p.m. on May 20 on Showtime; and at 8:00 p.m. on May 21 on Showtime Too.
In the meantime, one of the extra features to be included on the DVD version of Flock of Dodos -- to be released on August 28, 2007 -- is now available on-line on YouTube. Entitled "Pulled Punches," the six-and-a-half-minute clip presents and discusses a variety of scenes omitted from the final version of Flock of Dodos. A highlight, at the very end, is Michael Behe's explaining, "My kids don't go to public schools; what do I care?"
Also, Randy Olson appeared on Periodicity, the weekly podcast from the Wisconsin Society of Science teachers, on May 9, 2007. With his trademark humor and insight, Olson discussed his career change from university scientist to independent filmmaker, the development and reception of Flock of Dodos, the necessity to improve science communication across the board -- and what he plans to buy Muffy Moose for Mother's Day.
For Showtime's schedule, visit:
For the Flock of Dodos website, visit:
For "Pulled Punches" on YouTube, visit:
And to listen to Randy Olson on Periodicity, visit:
If you wish to subscribe, please send:
subscribe ncse-news email@example.com
again in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
John Wise, Contributing Writer, email@example.com
Issue date: 5/4/07 Section: Opinion
Because science gives us methods to accurately understand and manipulate the world we live in. Few people would dispute that our present scientific understanding of the physical world has led to a tremendously long list of advances in medicine, technology, engineering, the structure of the universe and the atom, and on and on. The list is nearly endless, but it does not include everything. Science can tell us only what is governed by natural forces. Miracles are extra-ordinary events; gods are super-natural beings.
Are there reasonable philosophical arguments that can be made for the existence of God? Certainly. Are there reasonable philosophical arguments that can be made that God does not exist? Yes. Is there scientific evidence that answers either of these great questions one way or another? None that holds up to close scrutiny. Collins has no more scientific evidence that God exists than Dawkins has that God does not. Their evidence is philosophical, not scientific. Philosophy can encompass these issues, science cannot.
This actually matters and is important. If we call ID science, we will have to redefine science to include supernatural causes and effects. The usefulness of science stems from the predictable action of the laws of nature and the strict rules regarding testable hypotheses. If you modify the definition of science to include unpredictable supernatural forces, magic and miracles, the utility of science will be lost because we won't be able to form reasonable predictions from what we observe in the natural world. No reverent believer would presume to know what goes on in the mind of God, so how can the actions of God be predicted? For science to progress and maintain its usefulness, it needs to be limited to the laws of nature.
The Discovery Institute and the ID proponents that visited our campus this April are busy right now attempting to redefine science to include supernatural causes and effects.
A lawsuit (Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District) brought before a U.S. Federal District Court in Harrisburg, Penn., by parents concerned about these issues has vividly illustrated the direction and the politics behind the Discovery Institute's effort to redefine science. The parents challenged a curriculum change by the Dover Board of Education that "…promotes the religious proposition of Intelligent Design as a competing scientific theory."
In his September 2005 opinion, the judge in this case, John E. Jones III, wrote that the "ID proponents confirmed that the existence of a supernatural designer is a hallmark of ID." Judge Jones, on the three Discovery Institute experts' testimony: "Professor Behe has written that by ID he means 'not designed by the laws of nature,' and that it is 'implausible that the designer is a natural entity.'" "Professor Minnich testified that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered." "Professor … Fuller testified that it is ID's project to change the ground rules of science to include the supernatural." What the ID people propose is a monumental change to the way science is practiced and has far-reaching implications.
Listen further to the transcripts of these hearings - they are astounding. Professor Behe, star witness for the ID proponents and Discovery Institute senior fellow, gave a Discovery Institute-approved definition of scientific theory in his testimony. Unfortunately for both Dr. Behe and the Discovery Institute, Eric Rothschild, the brilliant lawyer for the parents, asked Dr. Behe, "But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in Intelligent Design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?" And Dr. Behe answered, "Yes, that's correct."
Is this what America wants and needs? A definition of science that is so weak and neutered that astrology qualifies?
Judge Jones, a life-long Republican conservative, who was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, spells it out clearly in his opinion: ID "presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere." Intelligent Design is not science, and in order to claim that it is, its proponents admit they must change the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations.
These redefinitions of science will damage the utility of the sciences, medicine and countless other technical fields. This is why it matters and why so many scientists in our country (and at SMU) are worried.
The politics of this "redefinition" movement has a long history. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court in a case referred to as Edwards v. Aguillard "struck down the teaching of creation science … because it embodies the religious belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of mankind." Many ID proponents, including The Daily Campus contributing writers Sarah Levy and Anika Smith, have asserted that "because Intelligent Design does not try to address religious questions about the identity of the designer, this test does not apply to Intelligent Design." This is a critical assertion for the ID proponents. They are saying that ID is different from creationism and therefore the Supreme Court's rulings should not apply.
Judge Jones mentions a "creationist text" in his opinion that has become very relevant to this point. The book, "Of Pandas and People," was intended to be a high-school textbook that presented the Intelligent Design doctrine as science and was proposed by the Dover Board of Education as an alternative to the Dover students' approved biology textbook. In a brilliant move made by Eric Rothschild, a subpoena for all documents and drafts related to the Intelligent Design "Pandas" work and its Creationism predecessor text, "Biology and Origins," was served on the book's Richardson publisher. After losing their bid to quash the subpoena, the publisher surrendered a number of early, unpublished versions of the books to the court. A comparison of these original drafts with the actual published versions shows that the words "creationist" or "creationism" were simply substituted with "Intelligent Designer" or "Intelligent Design" just as if a word processor search-and-replace function did the job.
The date when this "creationism" to "Intelligent Design" big switch happened is absolutely damning to Ms. Levy and Smith's assertion that Intelligent Design and Creationism are not one and the same. The "switch" occurred in 1987, just weeks after the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard ruled that creationism was religion and not science, and could not be taught in public schools. No wonder Judge Jones wrote in his Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion that "ID is creationism re-labeled".
So yes, Edwards v. Aguillard certainly does apply. The ID proponents have literally provided all of the needed evidence themselves. (As Levy and Smith assert, it truly is a good thing when your opponents make your points for you.) Simply changing the name from "creationism" to "Intelligent Design" changes none of the logic, relevance or the impact that the Edwards v. Aguillard decision had on the creationist movement and now has on Intelligent Design. Neither one is science. Both have been determined to be religious because they both require a supernatural creator or designer.
It matters because the utility of science, medicine and technology is at risk.
The Discovery Institute was formed with the purpose of politically furthering the religious beliefs of creationism and Intelligent Design. Philipp Johnson, one of the founders of the Discovery Institute, has made this clear in his writings. The goal is to redefine science in America so that it is friendlier to the concepts of a Christian God.
Quoting Johnson's own words, "The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God." In other words, don't allow this to be about creationism-ID versus science. Make people think this is all about a choice they have to make between God and science. This is deceptive at best.
Ms. Levy and Ms. Smith in their recent Daily Campus article certainly are up on their Philipp Johnson and Discovery Institute indoctrination tactics. Look how strongly they reacted to my statement that one need not choose between religion and science. They state, "Instead of attempting to understand the arguments …, Wise introduces a red herring, suggesting we don't have to choose between religion and science."
Well, Ms. Levy and Smith, we don't have to choose and I do understand the arguments. We can have both science and religion. Philosophical and religious beliefs do not have to conflict with science. Science simply cannot and should not enter the supernatural realm.
Read the "Language of God." Read "Finding Darwin's God." Ask the authors, Francis Collins (an evangelical Christian) and Kenneth R. Miller (a devout Catholic), if science and evolution diminish their faith. They will tell you that the natural reality is a grand and glorious reality that beautifully complements their strong and devoutly religious beliefs.
The foundations of Intelligent Design are in politics and religion, not science. The nature of what we have learned about our physical world does not have to conflict with our faith and understanding of the spiritual domain. Don't let your faith become dependent on the politics of flawed pseudoscience.
About the writer:
John Wise, Ph.D. is a biology professor at SMU. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Allen 05-11-07
The Southern Baptist Convention's public-policy head estimated Thursday that just a small minority of Southern Baptists believe humans evolved from lower species.
Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also volunteered to MSNBC's Chris Matthews he does not consider the Catholic Church to be a cult.
Asked on Matthews' "Hardball" program if he would support a hypothetical independent presidential ticket composed of Republican Sen. John McCain, a mainline Protestant who opposes abortion on demand, and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Jew, a smiling Land replied, "I have voted against Southern Baptists the last five times I've had an opportunity to vote for a Southern Baptist for president."
"I voted against Carter twice," Land explained. "I voted against Clinton twice, and I voted against Gore."
Land told Matthews he wasn't surprised watching last week's televised presidential debate when three Republican candidates said they did not believe in evolution.
"The first reaction I had when I heard the question--I watched the debate--and I thought well, you know, what do you mean by evolution?" Land said. "Do you mean the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins? That's one question. Are you talking about evolution within species? Are you talking about inter-species evolution?"
"Well, I think most people mean that mankind evolved from lower species," Matthews interjected.
"Yeah, well I don't believe that," Land said.
Asked how many evangelicals would believe that God used evolution as the process to create humans, Land replied: "Oh, it would be a small minority among Southern Baptists, and a slightly larger minority among evangelicals. Sixty percent of Americans across the board say they believe in some form of creationism."
Land said the belief that mankind was created gradually by evolution rather than in seven 24-hour days is "an acceptable belief many Christians have," but that he disagrees.
"Among evangelicals--not to mention Catholics and others--you would have enormous differences and gradations, but you would have a fundamental difference with the idea of the theory of Darwinian evolutionary origins," Land said. "It takes a lot more faith to believe in the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins than it does in a designer."
"By the way," Land volunteered, "I don't think Catholicism is a cult," an apparent reference to another Thursday interview by Matthews with former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton, accused by current GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney of bashing Mormons.
Sharpton came under fire for saying in a debate with an atheist that "those of us who believe in God" would defeat Romney's bid for the White House. Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sharpton's remark could be construed as "a bigoted comment."
A Pentecostal minister, Sharpton said some Christians do not view Mormons as a Christian church but instead a cult, but he is not one of them.
"The problem he [Romney] is now going to have, is he going to say that everyone in the religious world that doesn't recognize the Mormon Church are bigots?" Sharpton said.
"Well, I think he would say that," Matthews said.
"Then you would have to start saying that when you guys question Giuliani about his Catholicism or Senator Obama about his past, now you all are bigots," Sharpton said.
"Let me tell you something, Reverend," Matthews said. "We can agree on one socio-metric overlay. I happen to know some people within our Christian faith think of the Catholic Church as a cult…."
"But that doesn't make them bigots," Sharpton protested. "We do have the right to have theological disagreement. I just happen not to have this one about Mormons."
"Well if somebody calls me a cultist, I may have a problem with their theology, but you're right," Matthews said. "We all believe what we believe, and it's tricky."
Given Land's assurance he doesn't think the Catholic Church is a cult, Matthews, who was raised as a Catholic, said: "We've got to get away from that kind of debate. You know, there's some things we can't debate on this show, and whether some religion is in or out is not our call."
Land agreed. "I think it's preposterous for Americans to say that some religions are kosher and some religions aren't," he said. "Americans have complete freedom of choice in religion."
Matthews voiced the final word. "To believe in any religion is a leap of faith," he said. "It comes with grace and it comes with God's help, and the idea that you can say one is better than the other is a hard case."
Land's denomination officially categorizes the Mormon Church as a non-Christian cult, but he is on record as saying he doesn't believe Romney's church affiliation should be "a deal breaker" for people of faith.
Baptist Press recently reported on Southern Baptists in Utah aiding in distribution of 350,000 DVDs disputing Mormonism to coincide with airing of a two-part series on "The Mormons" on PBS.
The SBC North American Mission Board says Baptists share many common beliefs with Roman Catholics, but differ on essentials like the doctrine of salvation. NAMB offers a pamphlet for "Sharing the Good News With Our Roman Catholic Friends."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
May 12, 2007
Mark Henderson, Science Editor
One of the world's most important collections of human remains has been lost to science, after the Natural History Museum gave up the specimens without first carrying out work that would have preserved vital clues to evolution.
Bones and teeth from 17 Tasmanian Aborigines were handed over to a community group yesterday, after the museum dropped plans for a final research programme.
The museum's trustees approved the repatriation in November but ordered tests to be performed first to ensure that important data was not lost. DNA was to be extracted and sequenced, slivers of bone were to be removed for chemical analysis, casts were to be made, and the remains were to be photographed and scanned.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), which is recognised by the Australian Government as the community group with the best claim on the remains, collected in the 18th and 19th centuries, objected to this work, and in February obtained an injunction to stop it.
The "non-intrusive" tests such as photography and casting were allowed, but the museum agreed to abandon the rest of the programme under a compromise deal agreed this week.
Though no DNA or bone slivers will be removed for fresh tests, samples that were taken before November 2006 will not be destroyed, but will be sent to Tasmania and preserved. Future access for research – or for destruction – will require the consent of both parties.
The museum said that the compromise would ensure that the most valuable scientific data – the DNA – would remain intact for future generations to study. "The fact we have to agree means the DNA cannot now be destroyed," said Richard Lane, the museum's director of research.
Leading scientists, however, said that there was no guarantee that the material would ever become available for research, as the TAC has an effective veto over its use.
Though they welcomed the agreement not to destroy DNA samples, the DNA has not been sequenced, meaning that no useful information has yet been recovered. Analysis of bone samples for isotopes – which can provide clues to diet – can also no longer be carried out.
Some museum scientists and trustees also questioned the decision to back down without defending the research programme in the High Court.Professor Chris Stringer, head of the museum's human origins group, said: "The best solution would have been to keep this collection intact. It is good news that the DNA will not be destroyed, but the arrangements for future study are a concern."
Robert Foley, Professor of Human Evolution at the University of Cambridge, said that the museum appeared to have compromised much more than the TAC. "The museum and scientific communities have moved considerably . . . despite concerns about the impact on science, but there doesn't seem to have been any equivalent move on the other side. We are now losing the potential for scientific information to come to light," he said.
The TAC wants to bury the remains in accordance with religious traditions, and rejects the removal of any material from the specimens as mutilation and sacrilege.
In the vaults
— The Natural History Museum has 19,500 human specimens in its collection, of which 54 per cent are from the British Isles, 12 per cent from Asia, 11 per cent from North America and Hawaii, and 11 per cent from Africa; the others are from Central and South America and Australasia,
— The 24 Tasmanian specimens come from 17 individuals. Most were collected by George Augustus Robinson in the early 19th century.
— There were 4,000 Aborigines living in Tasmania in 1803, when the British first landed. By 1860, only 15 were left alive.
Source: Natural History Museum
May 11, 2007, 10:19 am By Michael Luo
DES MOINES, May 11 — Mitt Romney expanded on his belief in evolution in an interview earlier this week, staking out a position that could put him at odds with some conservative Christians, a key voting bloc he is courting.
Mr. Romney, a devout Mormon, surprised some observers when he was not among those Republican candidates who raised their hands last week when asked at the Republican presidential debate if they did not believe in evolution. (Senator Sam Brownback, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Representative Tom Tancredo said they did not.)
"I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe," Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. "And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body."
He was asked: Is that intelligent design?
"I'm not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design," he said. "But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body."
While governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney opposed the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.
"In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed," he said. "If we're going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that's for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class."
Intelligent design is typically defined as the claim that examination of nature points to the work of an intelligent designer, as opposed to the utterly random, naturalistic processes that are taught as part of evolutionary theory. Critics have called intelligent design a thinly disguised version of creationism, which takes a literal approach to the creation account in Genesis, that the earth was created in six days and is less than 10,000 years old.
Mr. Romney said he was asked about his belief in evolution when he was interviewed by faculty members for highest honors designations before his graduation from Brigham Young University.
He told his interviewers that he did not believe there was a "conflict between true science and true religion," he said.
"True science and true religion are on exactly the same page," he said. "they may come from different angles, but they reach the same conclusion. I've never found a conflict between the science of evolution and the belief that God created the universe. He uses scientific tools to do his work."
The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints has no definitive position on evolution, and church leaders have disagreed on the issue over the years.
Mr. Romney said his answer was satisfactory to faculty members. "They teach evolution at B.Y.U.," he said.
Women with MS who drowned thought hot water might help: families
May 2, 2007
BY LESLIE BALDACCI AND BEN GOLDBERGER Staff Reporters
Two friends from Riverside with multiple sclerosis -- who drowned last week in a hotel hot tub -- were mourned Tuesday as their families drew some comfort that a determination of suicide was withdrawn.
As a funeral was held for Karen Lee, 68, and a wake for Nancy DeLise, 63, the Cook County medical examiner reclassified their deaths as due to drowning "pending further studies."
"Some documents found in the room kind of misled me to believe it was suicide because it mentioned God, doing certain ritual things, and one mentions hot tubs," said Dr. Joseph Cogan, the pathologist who performed the autopsies.
Family members of both women insisted they were pursuing alternative therapies when they died.
"She would meet her friends for lunch, she would go out to dinner, she loved to go shopping in Oak Brook, she took her grandkids horseback riding every week, she drove, she basically did everything," said Lee's daughter, Kimberly Fedorski. "She would never have killed herself."
Aside from the motorized scooter she used to get around, the grandmother of six and former hospital secretary led an active life, Fedorski said. After retiring from the family furniture business, DeLise was active with the Fillmore Center in Berwyn and the Frederick Law Olmsted Society. Bridge partners said she showed no MS symptoms.
"If there were two 20-year-olds who died in the hot tub, they never would have said it was suicide. The fact that they're a little bit older and the fact that they have MS, I think, contributed to the immediate dismissal that they must've killed themselves," Fedorski said. "It's not true."
"There's dignity in death and they did not honor that," said Mariano "Mike" DeLise, husband of Nancy.
Dr. Scott Denton, acting chief medical examiner, said he overruled the finding of suicide after hearing more details. Denton said the initial ruling stemmed, in part, from finding empty pill bottles and literature on holistic and spiritual healing and alternative medicine. Toxicology tests are pending. There were no witnesses and there was no surveillance of the hot tub.
Nancy DeLise swore that drinking colloidal silver mixed with Gatorade had helped reverse some of her MS symptoms. She supplied it to Lee, DeLise's husband said. The two women took the remedy with them last Thursday when they checked into the Countryside Holiday Inn for a soak in the hot tub -- another alternative therapy DeLise believed was helping. It was the first time Lee went with her, Fedorski said.
"Nancy DeLise has done this therapy a lot of times and thought it would be good for my mother, so my mom wanted to try it," Fedorski said. "They were dear friends and Nancy gave my mom a lot of hope."
The two were found by hotel staff in the hot tub by the pool, said Countryside Police Deputy Chief Scott Novak.
"Whatever happened, no one can explain," Mike DeLise said. "Maybe one got in trouble, the other tried to help."
A September 2000 article in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology said people with MS, "if immersed in hot water, develop motor weakness, which may be so severe as to prevent them from getting out of the water."
A hot tub "is definitely not something our help line consultants would recommend," said Amanda Bednar, a Multiple Sclerosis Association of America spokeswoman.
"It was controversial what she did," said Mike DeLise. "This woman wanted to live."
Contributing: Annie Sweeney, Lisa Donovan
By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer
NEW YORK --Many prominent U.S. conservative groups are shifting their attention overseas this week, organizing a conference in Poland that will decry Europe's liberal social policies and portray the host nation as a valiant holdout bucking those trends.
The World Congress of Families is expected to draw more than 2,500 people from dozens of countries to Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science from Friday through Sunday.
The chief organizer is a Rockford, Ill.-based conservative think tank, the Howard Center. Co-sponsors include more than 20 other U.S. groups allied in opposition to abortion, gay marriage and other policies they blame for weakening traditional families in Western Europe.
"Europe is almost lost - to demographic winter and to the secularists," says a planning document for the congress. "If Europe goes, much of the world will go with it. Almost alone, Poland has maintained strong faith and strong families."
Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who will address the congress, heads a conservative government that has tangled frequently with European Union officials over such issues as gay rights and his nation's tough abortion laws. Last month, after Polish officials proposed firing teachers who promote homosexuality, the EU parliament asked its anti-racism center to examine "the emerging climate of racist, xenophobic and homophobic intolerance in Poland."
Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center and founder of the World Congress of Families movement, acknowledges that social trends in Western Europe give conservatives little reason for optimism. Spain last year joined Belgium and the Netherlands in legalizing gay marriage; heavily Roman Catholic Portugal, one of few holdouts banning abortion, last month legalized the procedure up to the 10th week of pregnancy.
"There are some nations that are resisting the trends," said Carlson, citing Croatia, Slovakia and Latvia.
"But with the exception of Poland, they are all small countries, so that makes Poland all the more important," he said. "They're resisting pressure from the EU to get in lockstep with the Swedish model - the secularist, post-family order."
Two long-term trends will be highlighted at the congress - Western Europe's declining birth rates and dwindling church attendance. Carlson expressed hope for spiritual renewal among European youth, but said it was unrealistic to expect institutionalized religion on the continent to return to its historical prominence.
Birth rates are low across Europe, including Poland - where the population is expected to shrink by several million in the next two decades. Kaczynski's government is preparing legislation to encourage larger families.
The congress, even in its planning stages, has been derided by liberal groups.
"It's a jamboree for people who very often find themselves outside the mainstream," said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. "They're living the fantasy for a couple of days of what the world would be like if their ideas prevailed."
O'Brien, a native of Ireland now based in Washington, D.C., said Poland's conservative bent is at odds with most of the continent.
"American conservative groups don't find much succor in Europe," he said. "It's moved on, toward tolerance and respect for how people live their lives, for people who are gay, single parents, different forms of family."
Scheduled speakers at the congress include a Vatican representative, Monsignor Grzegorz Kaszak of the Pontifical Polish Institute of Rome, and Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant U.S. secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
Questioning Sauerbrey's involvement, 19 European Parliament members said in an open letter that her attendance would signal approval for "extremist and intolerant views held by some participants."
Co-sponsors of the congress include the American Family Association, Concerned Women For America, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation and the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes the "intelligent design" concept of the universe's origins.
Bill Saunders of the Family Research Council, who will speak about bioethics, views the congress as pivotal.
"The Eastern European countries are being pushed to move in ways that mirror Western Europe," he said. "We want to help them stand up to the EU bureaucracy."
The congress also highlights an increasingly active alliance between the Protestant evangelicals who lead many U.S. conservative groups and conservative Catholics, such as those governing Poland, who share Pope Benedict XVI's goal of re-Christianizing Europe.
"It reflects the fact that the cultural battle has gone international," Carlson said. "The American religious right, instead of being isolationist, has in fact gone global."
Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes the field of intelligent design (ID), has posted a series of comments on its website accusing Wikipedia moderators of being unfairly biased against their view.
Doug Huntington Correspondent
Wednesday, May. 9, 2007 Posted: 12:56:PM PST
Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes the field of intelligent design (ID), has posted a series of comments on its website accusing Wikipedia moderators of being unfairly biased against their view.
The author of the criticisms, Casey Luskin, a California attorney and co-founder of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, expressed his frustration with the sources cited from Wikipedia's database as well as the group in charge of the online encyclopedia project for pushing their own agenda against ID theory.
"So what's the purpose of the 'encyclopedia' page?" questioned Luskin in an earlier posting. "Is it intended to inform people about what intelligent design actually says or simply to publicize to the world what some critics want it to be, and what they think is wrong with it? It appears the primary aim is the latter."
One of the disputes that is currently going on involves a ban of one of the pro-ID contributors from the web database. Wikipedia moderators will not allow the user's contributions, because they claims that the ID proponent offer disruptive POV (point of view) statements and has made subjective submissions about what ID is.
Specifically, moderators did not accept the submission that intelligent design is a "theory." Instead, they said, it should be treated only as a belief that the world was created by some sort of designer, and that the hypothesis does not stand up to scientific models that would allow it to be called a "theory."
"You obviously have no understanding of what a scientific theory is," read a moderator response on the Wikipedia site. "Please read Wikipedia's article on this subject, 'Theory.' Something can be a scientific theory and also a fact. Please do not make any more such contentious edits on subjects you have an incomplete understanding of."
Luskin is now accusing the people behind the internet encyclopedia of hypocrisy, however, and noted that they are not "the blameless, objective scholars they claim to be."
"Promoting a 'point of view'?" continued the IDEA Center co-founder. "Their hypocrisy is incredible! The editor is clearly banning people because they disagree with his 'point of view.' It seems clear that only certain 'points of view' are acceptable on Wikipedia when it comes to intelligent design."
In his most recent post, Luskin looks specifically at a misrepresentation put out on Wikipedia that skews what the "real data" looks like.
According to Wikipedia, in a 2005 Harris poll, ten percent of adults in the United States view human beings as "so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them." The site then mentions that the Discovery Institute has more favorable polls, but that they are unreliable because they have expressed interest in the outcome of the results.
"This post looks at merely two sentences out of the long Wikipedia entry on intelligent design," expressed Luskin, "and finds inaccuracy, misrepresentation, bias, and hypocrisy."
The first problem he cited is that the poll had two responses that both favored ID thought, but only one was used for the 10 percent result. The "actual results" would show that around 74 percent of Americans believe there is a creator.
Secondly, Luskin noted that the poll the site used was misrepresented in that it had actually been used to show favor for teaching ID in schools, which reveals inconsistency in its usage. The contributor also only provided partial information from the poll, which had several other statistics in favor of ID.
As a final note, Luskin directed attention to a reference in the article to Paul Kurtz, a leading atheist activist and co-founder for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
"The Wikipedia authors are so biased against intelligent design, they're willing to cite a heavily biased source in order to allege a bias on the part of ID-proponents," concluded the California lawyer. "Chances are, they didn't even notice the logical hypocrisy in what they did."
According to its own definition on the site, Wikipedia does mention that critics see the web-based encyclopedia as being possibly unreliable and inaccurate. It also mentions that, for the most part, it is roughly as accurate as other encyclopedias.
On the web: newest Discovery Institute response article in full.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
By Tim Woods
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Officials at Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist university, say a well-known professor's reversion to the Roman Catholic Church will have no effect on his role at the school.
Francis Beckwith, whose hiring in 2003 sparked some controversy because of his connection to a think tank that has invested in the study of intelligent design, also has resigned as president of a national evangelical society.
Beckwith, a tenured associate professor who was associate director of Baylor's J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, announced on his blog that he "was publicly received back into the Catholic Church at 11 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Waco" on April 29. Beckwith grew up as a Catholic, having received the sacraments of baptism, Communion and confirmation before the age of 14, he notes on his blog.
"Honestly, there's no impact," Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said of Beckwith's decision. "It's a personal decision, and it has no impact on his professional position here at Baylor. . . . We honor individuals' religious convictions here, so his decision on his personal faith journey has no effect or impact."
Fogleman pointed out that Catholicism is the second-most populous religious group on campus among faculty and students. Eighty-one faculty members, or just over 10 percent, and 1,816 students, or just under 13 percent, are Catholic, Fogleman said.
Soon after Baylor hired Beckwith, 29 members of the Dawson family, after whom the church-state institute is named, signed a letter stating displeasure with Beckwith's hire because of his affiliation with the Discovery Institute in Seattle and its connection with intelligent design study.
Intelligent design is the argument that some phenomena observed in nature are so rich and complex that they could not have happened by chance but instead are evidence of a higher power that created them. Critics have likened it to creationism.
Some faculty became disgruntled last year when Baylor President John Lilley granted Beckwith tenure on appeal after initially being denied by the tenure committee.
Beckwith refused an interview request by the Tribune-Herald, saying that travel, recently concluded exams, "not to mention the interviews I've already had with The Washington Post, Dallas Morning News and Christianity Today," have left him worn-out and overbooked.
Last year, German geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig critiqued evolutionary accounts of the infamously complex long neck of the giraffe. He recounts how various Darwinists had claimed things like "the evolution of the long-necked giraffe can be reconstructed through fossils," but Lönnig concluded that "the fossil evidence for the gradual evolution of the long-necked giraffe is — as expected — completely lacking." Lönnig has now written part 2 of his refutation of this evolutionary tall tale, where he now shifts the focus away from paleontology and on to giraffe anatomy, diet, behavior, and zoology, tackling evolutionary hypotheses about giraffe origins. Part 2 can be read at "The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe: What Do We Really Know? (Part 2)" (and see here for Part I). In this second part, Lönnig asks scientific questions that few Darwinists are willing to seriously ask, including:
Lönnig suggests that ID provides fruitful hints for those investigating giraffe research, and these questions demonstrate he is right. Regarding fossils, he further recommends that "[p]aleontological research should be boosted under the ID-viewpoint: paleontological research in Europe and Asia of extinct giraffe species should move forward, considering, among other things, the issue of the postulated morphological-anatomical appearance without transitions, of the basic types and subtypes of the 26 family Giraffidae." Of course Darwinists would retort that one should never give up on finding fossil transitions, because absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. To such a mindset, Lönnig has a sharp reply:
[B]iologists committed to a materialistic world view will simply not consider an alternative. For them, even the most stringent objections against the synthetic evolutionary theory are nothing but open problems that will be solved entirely within the boundaries of their theory. This is still true even when the trend is clearly running against them, that is, when the problems for the theory become greater and greater with new scientific data. This essential unfalsifiability, by the way, places today's evolutionary theory outside of science, one of whose defining characteristics is that theories can only be considered to be scientific if they are falsifiable, and when they set forth criteria by which they can potentially be falsified.
(Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, "The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe, Part 2")
To read the full articles, see:
The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe, Part 1.
The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe, Part 2.
Kelly McClurg The Capital Times
Professor Michael Ruse, a key contributor in the ongoing debate over the divine creation theory of human existence vs. evolution, shared his thoughts on the reasons behind this debate in a lecture at the UW-Madison campus Wednesday, called "The Evolution-Creation Struggle: An American Story."
"I do not see the big battle' as being Genesis versus evolution," Ruse said. "This debate is much more one of providence versus progress."
Ruse, philosophy professor and director of the history and philosophy of science program at Florida State University, has edited or written nearly 30 books on the creation-evolution dispute, including his most recent, "Darwinism and its Discontents."
He stressed that the continuing disagreement among creationists and evolutionists is not simply a result of conflict between the theory of evolution and Bible, or atheists and Bible literalists. It is less about whether a person believes in God, said Ruse, and more about whether they believe in a life of self-directed progress or a life directed by divine providence, in which nothing can be accomplished without God's help.
Ruse illustrated this by tracing the creation-evolution debate to before Charles Darwin even shared his theories on adaptation and evolution, pointing out his ideas were not originally put forth in opposition to religion but rather in support of it, as proof beyond the intangibility of miracles that the world was designed by a higher power.
"When Darwin was pushing adaptation, he was not denying that the world was design-like' -- in fact, he was emphasizing it," Ruse said. "By and large Darwinian theory ought to be pretty acceptable to Christians, and the truth is, it was."
According to Ruse, the theory of evolution was not an issue of contention until scientists and evolutionists stirred debate for the purposes of increasing public scientific education.
As a result of this early push for evolutionary theory, tensions over how it applied to Christianity heightened and society began to split over the question of a literal interpretation of the Bible or a more subjective one that accommodated both evolution and religion. Which brings the issue into the present-day.
"What you start to see more and more," Ruse said, "is that it is not evolution as such; people are not battling over a scientific theory in itself. What they are battling over is what they think evolution stands for."
Such as notions of modernity, industry, science, and liberal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Evolution has become a symbol for an entire system of progressive values rather than a mere scientific theory, which is why it often comes into conflict with religion, Ruse said.
And herein lies the root of the problem. It is now providence or progress, rather than providence and progress. Theories that have risen in opposition to Darwin, such as that of intelligent design, which advocates a divinely created world as scientific theory -- although largely unrecognized as such by the scientific community -- continue to set religion and science at odds and, inevitably, people take sides.
"I see this debate in America as being not about evolution but being reflective of something much deeper," Ruse said. "The evolution-creation struggle is not really a struggle about science or even about religion. It is about human souls -- in a non-theological sense. It is about a fight for the soul of America. And that is why I do not think that this debate will go away very quickly in the future."
Published: May 10, 2007
11 May, 2007
WASHINGTON: Scientists have mapped the genetic composition of a marsupial mammal, the South American gray, short-tailed opossum, gaining insight into the role of "junk DNA" in human evolution and into immune systems.
Because this opossum develops melanoma skin cancer much as people do and its newborns can regenerate a severed spinal cord, scientists hope studying its genome can boost research into treating human skin cancer and neurological ailments.
In research published on Wednesday, the furry creature — twice as big as a mouse and with a prehensile tail — became the first marsupial to have its DNA decoded.
The research, appearing in the journals Nature and Genome Research, was led at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and included scientists from around the world.
Marsupials are closely related to placental mammals, the group that includes humans, but their evolutionary lines diverged 180 million years ago during the dinosaur age.
Using the opossum as a comparison helped identify genetic elements present in placental mammals but absent in marsupials, helping to fill a hole in the understanding of how mammalian genomes have evolved over tens of millions of years and giving a new look at the evolutionary origins of the human genome.
A fifth of the human genome's key functional elements arose after the divergence from marsupials, the research found. Most of these innovations occurred not in protein-coding genes but in areas of the genome that do not contain genes and until recently had been derided as junk DNA, they found.
The findings indicated that mammals evolved less by inventing new kinds of proteins and more by adjusting the molecular controls over when and where proteins are made.
Broad Institute chief Eric Lander said it was surprising to learn that many of these new regulatory controls were coming from "jumping genes" that have bounced around chromosomes for more than a billion years. These "jumping genes", called transposons, also are in areas once believed to be junk DNA.
But Lander said the research demonstrated that "jumping genes", rather than being a sort of genetic parasite that just copied themselves, instead played a positive evolutionary role by spreading genetic innovations.