NTS LogoSkeptical News for 4 November 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thoughts on atheistic evolution and morality



Posted: Nov. 2, 2007

I might as well get it out of the way to begin with. Yes, I am a creationist. I actually believe God created the universe and everything in it. I don't believe macroevolution ever occurred. Macroevolution refers to one species changing into a completely different species, as opposed to microevolution, which refers to genetic change within a species.

All creationists believe in genetic variation within a species because that's empirically observable. We just don't believe a frog can turn into a prince, no matter how many billions of years and physical stimuli are brought to bear on it.

But my argument here is not for creationism. I'm not trying to prove there is a supreme being and that it created the universe. All I want to do is discuss the moral implications of atheistic evolution.

So let's say there's no creator and focus on what it means to us humans morally if evolution is true.

If we humans are animals like any other - only more evolved - there is no basis for us to act any differently from other animals.

There is a bird called the kookaburra where I grew up in Australia. Baby kookaburras commonly kill the weakest sibling among them. So why shouldn't my older son be able to kill his little brother? We don't hold baby kookaburras morally accountable for killing their sibling. We say it's just the harsh reality of nature and evolution - survival of the fittest.

If two male animals fight over a female and one of the males is killed, we don't condemn the killing as immoral and pursue justice. We take it as part of the natural order. So if we are just highly evolved animals, on what basis do we condemn a man who kills another in order to take his wife? He has done nothing that other animals don't do with impunity. And hasn't he done our species a favor by removing the weaker man?

If atheistic evolution is true, what basis do we have for prosecuting murderers as criminals? They're acting just as naturally as any other animal that kills. For that matter, why prosecute rapists? You can see animal rape every day on the Discovery Channel, yet we don't morally despise animals that don't ask for consent before engaging in sex.

If evolution is true, and we are just more highly developed animals, then violence and rape cannot be condemned on moral grounds. There is no such thing as right and wrong in the animal world, so why should there be in the human world if we are just another animal?

Thank God (forgive the expression) that few people who believe in atheistic evolution are actually willing to live a life consistent with its moral implications.

I'm not saying religious people are morally superior. Most who espouse that we are just highly evolved animals are decent people who don't live out the moral implications of that belief. I hope they never do.

Philip Bramblet lives in Waukesha. His e-mail address is philbramblet@yahoo.com

From the Nov. 3, 2007 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

© 2005-2007, Journal Sentinel Inc.

Defend Creationism Without Shame


Friday, November 2, 2007 1:42 PM

By: Jonathan Falwell

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Within that simple phrase, the Bible informs mankind the manner in which God miraculously generated our world and universes we cannot even imagine.

"The book of Genesis is a fitting introduction to the rest of the Bible," the "LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible" states. "From the grandeur of God's creative acts to the beginnings of marriage, sin, sacrifice for sin, family, work, murder, races, civilization, and God's chosen people (Israel), the book of Genesis lays the foundation of God's revelation of Himself to man. Genesis answers basic questions about the origin of all living things, the origin of evil in the world, and the beginning of God's plan to redeem the human race."

Yet, in this age of secularism and co-called diversity, it has become uncool to believe the biblical account of the world's foundation.

And while Christians wholeheartedly believe that God created the heavens and the earth, recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans at least moderately believe that God created us.

These Americans' beliefs, however, are generally ignored by the mainstream, including the national media, academia and popular culture. Subsequently, Christians who adhere to biblical foundations of creation are routinely met with a barrage of secularist dogma that is designed to refute their core convictions.

And so it is up to Christians to be able to express their biblical beliefs in order to effectively represent the cause of Christ in this cultural debate.

Dr. David DeWitt, Liberty University professor of biology, wants to help Christians understand the nature of creationism and teach them how to ably counter mainstream arguments.

His new book, "Unraveling the Origins Controversy," is a crash course in biblical creationism and examines assumptions on both sides of the origins debate with clear biblical teachings.

The veteran professor, who is director of Liberty's Center for Creation Studies, notes that there are new scientific findings in terms of the earth's foundations almost every day and Christians need to have a framework for understanding these alleged evolutionary breakthroughs

Dr. DeWitt, who recently received a large National Institutes of Health grant to support his Alzheimer's disease research, said, "We live in the same world and use the same facts as evolutionists. We simply use different assumptions and reach creation conclusions."

Included in Dr. DeWitt's scientific refutation of evolutionary theory, he incorporates Scripture throughout his book to support the science of creationism. He believes the value of his book is that it is written by a scientist who integrates up-to-the-minute findings with a biblical worldview.

Asked if there is any argument an evolutionist can make that a creationist cannot effectively answer, Dr. DeWitt smiled wryly and offered a simple, "No."

"We have nothing to worry about in defending our beliefs," he confidently stated.

Dr. DeWitt is following the model imagined by my dad in 1971, when he founded Liberty with three teachers (including him). He dreamed that Liberty would one day become a bastion of Christian thought and apologetics, providing leadership for Christianity worldwide. Professors like Dr. DeWitt are propelling that dream to new heights as we seek to instruct Christians how to fully live out their faith, without compromise or fear.

Readers may order Dr. DeWitt's book at www.creationcurriculum.com.

© 2007 Newsmax.

Evolution education update: October 19, 2007

The attempt to funnel $100,000 of public funds to a Louisiana religious right group with a long history of promoting creationism and attacking evolution education ended when its proponent, Senator David Vitter, withdrew his proposal on the Senate floor -- thanks in part to all of you who got in touch with your senators to express your concern! And the California Academy of Sciences reaffirmed its support of evolution education.


Speaking on the Senate floor on October 17, 2007, Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) withdrew a controversial $100,000 earmark that he previously added to the appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The earmark was to the Louisiana Family Forum, a religious right group with a long history of promoting creationism and attacking evolution education in the state, including backing a "strengths and weaknesses" policy in Ouachita Parish.

The earmark was the topic of instant controversy after the New Orleans Times-Picayune (September 22, 2007) reported on it, explaining, "The money in the earmark will pay for a report suggesting 'improvements' in science education in Louisiana, the development and distribution of educational materials and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Ouachita Parish School Board's 2006 policy that opened the door to biblically inspired teachings in science classes."

Critics were quick to note the inappropriateness of devoting public funds to efforts to undermine the integrity of science education and to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A coalition of concerned organizations, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and NCSE, circulated a letter protesting the Vitter earmark to the members of the Senate; People for the American Way circulated its own letter. NCSE also urged its members to lobby their senators.

The objections of the critics were apparently heeded, even though on the floor of the Senate, Vitter insisted that the money was not aimed at promoting creationism and described the concerns as "hysterics." According to the Congressional Record, Vitter said:


The project, which would develop a plan to promote better science-based education in Ouachita Parish by the Louisiana Family Forum, has raised concerns among some that its intention was to mandate and push creationism within the public schools. That is clearly not and never was the intent of the project, nor would it have been its effect. However, to avoid more hysterics, I would like to move the $100,000 recommended for this project by the subcommittee when the bill goes to conference committee to another Louisiana priority project funded in this bill.


Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), the floor managers of the appropriations bill, accepted Vitter's proposal and agreed to move the funds to a different project in Louisiana when the bill is in its conference committee.

Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, applauding the removal of the earmark in a press release dated October 18, 2007, commented, "If Sen. Vitter's aim was to improve science education in Louisiana, I have to wonder why he did not direct these funds to a scientific group or a museum." He added, "Boosting science education is an odd task for a religious group."

"Senator Vitter's defense of the earmark is obviously disingenuous, given the Louisiana Family Forum's record of fighting tooth and nail against evolution education," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. "But I'm glad to see that, with the removal of his earmark, public funds are not going to be misused to miseducate the children of Louisiana about the science of evolution."

For the Times-Picayune's story, visit:

For the coalition's letter calling for the removal of the earmark (PDF), visit:

For Americans United's press release about the coalition's letter, visit:

For PFAW's letter calling for the removal of the earmark (PDF), visit:

For PFAW's press release about its letter, visit:

For the Congressional Record's transcript of Vitter's remark (PDF), visit:

For Americans United's press release about the withdrawal of the earmark, visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of the earmark, visit:


In its new official statement on evolution, adopted on March 28, 2007, the California Academy of Sciences reaffirmed that "Evolution is a central concept in modern science, including biology, geology, and astronomy. The California Academy of Sciences, with its broad mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world, recognizes that evolution is fundamental to understanding biological diversity and is a critical organizing principle for both scientific research and science museums." Commenting on evolution's place in the science classroom, the statement adds, "The California Academy of Sciences recognizes the importance of understanding evolution for both scientists and the public, and we emphasize that evolution belongs in school curricula and textbooks as one of the fundamental concepts of modern science."

The Academy's previous statement on evolution, adopted in 1994, similarly emphasized "the fundamental role that evolution plays in our understanding of humanity's place in nature" and "the central role that scientific principles must take in the teaching of evolutionary biology." According to its website, "the California Academy of Sciences is the oldest scientific institution in the [American] West. Over the past 154 years, the Academy has grown to become the fourth largest natural history museum in the country. Home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, and the Kimball Natural History Museum, as well as world class research and education departments, the Academy's mission is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world."

For the Academy's new statement, visit: http://www.calacademy.org/evolution_statement.php

For the Academy's previous statement, visit:

For Voices for Evolution, NCSE's collection of statements supporting the teaching of evolution, visit:

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.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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!

Some Christian pastors embrace ScientologyStory Highlights


TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- Some Christian congregations, particularly in lower income, urban areas, are turning to an unlikely source for help -- the Church of Scientology.

Rev, Charles Kennedy uses Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's book during a Friday night sermon.

1 of 2 Scientologists do not worship God, much less Jesus Christ. The church has seen plenty of controversy and critics consider it a cult. So why are observant Christians embracing some of its teachings?

Two pastors who spoke recently with CNN explained that when it comes to religion, they still preach the core beliefs of Christianity. But when it comes to practicing what they preach in a modern world, borrowing from Scientology helps.

The Rev. Charles Kennedy, of the Glorious Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal church in Tampa, Florida, and the Rev. James McLaughlin, of the Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, are among the theological hybrids. Watch Rev. Kennedy preach »

They say they are not scared off by programs with ties to a church that critics say has aggressive recruiting, secretive ways and rigid theology. As men of God rooted in Christian values, they do not see Scientology as a threat to their faith, but rather as a tool to augment it.

Scientology was founded in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer. Followers are taught that they are immortal spiritual beings called thetans. Although the church says there is a supreme being, its practices do not include worshipping God.

"I'm looking for solutions, and the people that I help, they don't ask me who L. Ron Hubbard is," said McLaughlin, who works with addicts. "You know what they say? 'Thank God.' "

Critic Rick Ross, a court-certified Scientology expert, sees something more sinister at work. He warned that mainstream acceptance makes it easier for the Scientologists to achieve their ultimate goal -- new recruits.

"Their hope is that through these programs, people will become more interested in L. Ron Hubbard, what else Mr. Hubbard had to offer, and this will lead them eventually to Scientology," Ross said.

The church has long been in the headlines for practices critics say are little more than cult-like mind control. It is also known for its stable of devout celebrity followers.

And according to published reports, Scientology has been recently diversifying its outreach to include other religions and ethnic groups.

Kennedy, McLaughlin and a handful of other Christian church leaders -- no one can say how many -- are finding answers to their communities' needs in Scientology's social programs.

For Kennedy, it began two years ago when he attended a meeting at the Church of Scientology's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. He was introduced to a book called "The Way to Happiness" -- Hubbard's 64-page, self-described "common sense guide to better living."

In the book, which lays out ways to maintain a temperate lifestyle, Kennedy found a message he believed could help lift his predominantly lower income African-American congregation. He said the book's 21 principles help them with their struggle in an urban environment where there is too much crime and addiction and too little opportunity.

Kennedy knew that before he could introduce any Scientology-related text to his congregation, he would have to prove that it did not contradict his Christian beliefs. And so, he found Scripture to match each of the 21 principles.

Now Kennedy uses "The Way to Happiness" as a how-to supplement to his sermons. He believes it is easier to understand and clearer to follow than ancient Scriptures taken from the Bible.

When asked whether Scientology's values contradict the religion of Jesus Christ, Kennedy replies, "Sometimes yes. Sometimes no." But he says his congregation can relate to "The Way to Happiness."

Kennedy admits other pastors have criticized him, but the disapproval is not enough to discourage him. He insists that he has witnessed the changes "The Way to Happiness" has inspired in people. He also maintains that the Scientologists, many of whom he calls friends, are successful at outreach and getting desired results.

At Kennedy's C. L. Kennedy Center, free tutoring based on Hubbard's "study tech" philosophies is provided to dozens of children and some adults. Kennedy's daughter, Jimirra, is one of the instructors. She said "study tech" and the Scientology orientation classes she attended helped her graduate from high school and become a poised woman.

Though Jimirra Kennedy insists she does not ascribe to the religious side of Scientology, she still considers herself, at least in part, Scientologist. "We say this all the time and I know my father says this, but I am like a Pentecostal Scientologist, that's what we are."

Critics like Ross are alarmed by such a blurring of the lines. They consider it a marketing win for Scientology.

In Houston, McLaughlin says he is not one to argue with success. Driven by a need to address the rampant drug problem in his community, McLaughlin spent years searching for a solution before he discovered "Narconon," Scientology's nonprofit drug rehab center, in 2001.

McLaughlin trained at Narconon and brought the techniques back to his community to launch "First Step Faith Step," a program that combines Hubbard's methods with the teachings of Christianity.

He claims a 70- to 80-percent rehabilitation success rate.

Kennedy and McLaughlin said they have never lost a member of their congregations to Scientology.

"I think that they truly believe that this may help their communities, but in my opinion, they're naïve," Ross said. Scientologists, he added, "have their own agenda."

The Church of Scientology would not grant CNN an interview, nor would its representatives answer questions about the Hubbard-based programs.

Friday, November 02, 2007

'55 'Origin of Life' Paper Is Retracted


Librado Romero/The New York Times By CORNELIA DEAN Published: October 25, 2007

In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.

In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, "one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive."

Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.

So after 52 years, he has retracted it.

The retraction came about when, on a whim, Dr. Jacobson ran a search for his name on Google. At age 84 and after 20 years of retirement, "I wanted to see, what have I done in all these many years?" he said. "It was vanity. What can I tell you?"

He found many entries relating to his work on compounds called polymers; on information theory, a branch of mathematics involving statistics and probability; and other subjects. But others were for creationist sites that have taken up his 1955 paper as scientific support for their views.

Darwinismrefuted.com, for example, says Dr. Jacobson's paper "undermines the scenario that life could have come about by accident." Another creationist site, Evolution-facts.org, says his findings mean that "within a few minutes, all the various parts of the living organism had to make themselves out of sloshing water," an impossible feat without a supernatural hand.

"Ouch," Dr. Jacobson said. "It was hideous."

That is not because he objects to religion, he said. Though he was raised in a secular household, he said, "Religion is O.K. as long as you don't fly in the face of facts." After all, he said, no one can disprove the existence of God. But Dr. Jacobson said he was dismayed to think that people might use his work in what he called "malignant" denunciations of Darwin.

Things grew worse when he reread his paper, he said, because he discovered errors. One related to what he called a "conjecture" about whether amino acids, the basic building blocks of protein and a crucial component of living things, could form naturally.

"Under the circumstances I mention, just a bunch of chemicals sitting together, no," he said. "Because it takes energy to go from the things that make glycine to glycine, glycine being the simplest amino acid."

There were potential sources of energy, he said. So to say that nothing much would happen in its absence "is totally beside the point." "And that is a point I did not make," he added.

Another assertion in the paper, about what would have had to occur simultaneously for living matter to arise, is just plain wrong, he said, adding, "It was a dumb mistake, but nobody ever caught me on it."

Vance Ferrell, who said he put together the material posted on Evolution-facts.org, said if the paper had been retracted he would remove the reference to it. Mr. Ferrell said he had no way of knowing what motivated Dr. Jacobson, but said that if scientists "look like they are pro-creationist they can get into trouble."

"There is an embarrassment," Mr. Ferrell said.

Dr. Jacobson conceded that was the case. He wrote in his retraction letter, "I am deeply embarrassed to have been the originator of such misstatements."

It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.

So Dr. Jacobson's retraction is in "the noblest tradition of science," Rosalind Reid, editor of American Scientist, wrote in its November-December issue, which has Dr. Jacobson's letter.

His letter shows, Ms. Reid wrote, "the distinction between a scientist who cannot let error stand, no matter the embarrassment of public correction," and people who "cling to dogma."

New Mammal Fossil Sheds Light on Teeth Evolution


Anne Casselman for National Geographic News

October 31, 2007

A newly discovered species of fossilized mammal from the Jurassic era shows that the basic tooth template shared by all mammals today evolved independently at least twice in the past.

The find also adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that early mammals were much more diverse than previously thought.

Fossilized skeletal remains of the new species, Pseudotribos robustus, were found recently in 165-million-year-old lakebeds in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China. (See a map of the find location.)

From the creature's build and makeup, paleontologists believe that the 4.7-inch-long (12-centimeter-long) creature was a very strong digger that ate insects and plants.

But the biggest news is its choppers.

"This thing is very advanced in terms of its tooth structure," said Richard Cifelli, a paleontologist at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, who was not part of the study.

"It has departed considerably from the ancestral pattern where it could only cut up things; now it can grind things up."

This is the same dental adaptation that is believed to have blossomed in today's mammal lineages. The advent of the cut-and-grind tooth is generally considered the driver for the vast diversity of mammals alive today.

But since Pseudotribos robustus belongs to a different and long-lost lineage, it must have evolved the cut-and-grind tooth independently. (Related: "'Popeye' Jurassic Mammal Found, Had 'Peculiar Teeth'" [March 31, 2005].)

This is an example of a process known as convergent evolution.

"It shows that this key feature ... evolved in two completely different ways but with the same functional outcome," said Hans-Dieter Sues, associate director for research and collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He was also not involved in this work.

The study appears in this week's issue of Nature and was partly funded by the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.

Today two types of mammals dominate the world: marsupials and placentals. Together they account for the vast majority of species diversity seen in mammals.

While they differ vastly in body shape and lifestyle, the niche they fill in nature boils down to their teeth.

"It has long been supposed that the adaptation that allowed them to be so successful was a multifunction molar that can both cut and grind," Cifelli explained.

"For mammals you are what you eat with," added Zhe-Xi Luo, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one of the study's authors.

"Essentially all mammalian diversity is broken down pretty much by the different dental design that we each have."

Whether it be hyenas that can grind bone or horses that eat hay, all teeth in today's mammal species are derived from this basic dental template.

Colorful Crew

The finding also suggests that early mammals were beginning to diversify much earlier than previously thought.

The first two-thirds of mammalian history takes part in the age of the dinosaurs. During that time it has been thought that mammals remained in much the same form: small, furry, nocturnal, insect-eating animals that skirted around dinosaurs. (Related: "Dinosaur Extinction Spurred Rise of Modern Mammals, Study Says" [June 20, 2007].)

"Our general view of what happened is that they didn't really go into any extravagant ecological niches until dinosaurs became extinct," Cifelli said. "Now we're finding that wasn't the case."

Previous fossil finds at the same lakebed show that mammals were already gliding around and swimming as far back as about 165 million years ago.

Along with the new find, the discoveries suggest that mammals underwent tremendous diversification during the middle of the Jurassic period, Cifelli said.

"We're seeing a host of skeletal adaptations that say, hey, mammals were doing these wild and crazy things—they weren't just lying around in their little hidey holes," he added.

"[Pseudotribos robustus] helps to show that the earliest mammals coexisted with the dinosaurs are far more diverse than we ever have imagined," study author Luo said.

Free Email News Updates

Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample). Evolution education update: November 2, 2007 Judgment Day is nigh -- a special documentary about Kitzmiller v. Dover will be aired on PBS on November 13, 2007. Meanwhile, in Florida, the applause continues for the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards, while in the United Kingdom, the Association for Science Education issued a firm statement on science education, "intelligent design," and creationism.


Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, a special two-hour documentary about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional, is to air nationwide on PBS at 8:00 p.m. on November 13, 2007. "Judgment Day captures on film a landmark court case with a powerful scientific message at its core," explains Paula Apsell, NOVA's Senior Executive Producer. "Evolution is one of the most essential yet, for many people, least understood of all scientific theories, the foundation of biological science. We felt it was important for NOVA to do this program to heighten the public understanding of what constitutes science and what does not, and therefore, what is acceptable for inclusion in the science curriculum in our public schools."

In addition to the documentary itself, there is a generous website, featuring interviews with Kenneth R. Miller on evolution, Phillip Johnson on "intelligent design," and Paula Apsell on NOVA's decision to produce the documentary; audio clips of Judge John E. Jones III reading passages from his decision in the case and of various experts (including NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott) discussing the nature of science; resources about the evidence for evolution and about the background to the Kitzmiller case; and even a preview of the documentary. Teachers will be especially enthusiastic about the briefing packet for educators; further resources for educators, including a teacher's guide, a two-session on-line course, and a number of lesson plans, are to be released shortly.

For information about Judgment Day, visit:

For the preview, visit:

For the briefing packet for educators (PDF), visit:


Support for the inclusion of evolution in Florida's draft science standards continues to amass. Writing in the Orlando Sentinel (October 25, 2007), Mike Thomas quipped, "We are moving toward intelligently designed science curriculum in public schools. And by that I mean we are leaving intelligent design out of classrooms. By golly, Florida is evolving." The standards are presently open for public comment for sixty days; Thomas reported, "Of 1,400 respondents to date, more than 80 percent support evolution." A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education told Thomas that the draft standards are based on "[w]hat research says should be in the standards" and that nothing would be deleted from the standards in the absence of a research-based argument for the deletion.

Following previous editorials in Florida Today, the Tallahassee Democrat, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel (October 27, 2007) opined, "It's taken seven years, but Florida is on its way to developing a science curriculum for the new millennium -- one that requires teachers openly and vigorously to teach about evolution," adding, "it's important that the state Board of Education and Gov. Charlie Crist fully endorse these changes to ensure Florida's children can compete in the increasingly technology-driven global marketplace." Noting that evolution is one of the so-called Big Ideas of the science standards, the editorial concluded by proposing, "Let's add one more big idea. In Florida, science should win out over politics when it comes to educating children."

Subsequently, Education Week (November 7, 2007) reported that "[a]s of last week, an estimated 3,000 people had weighed in online. ... In an early count of online comments submitted so far, a majority of respondents agreed with how evolution was presented in individual Florida benchmarks." But the support for evolution was, unsurprisingly, not unanimous; one comment quoted by Education Week recommended, "Do some research of creation science. ... Evolution 'facts' have been disproven." While applauding the inclusion of evolution in the draft standards, NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch warned, "I expect to see some of kind of organized effort [by opponents] to deprecate the standards," citing such efforts elsewhere.

After the public comment period is over, on December 14, the writing committee is expected to review the public comments, although it is not obliged to revise them in response, and then to forward a final version of the standards to the state board of education for approval. Jane Pfeilsticker, a member of the committee, told the Bradenton Herald (October 28, 2007), that the committee was "100 percent" agreed that evolution ought to be included, adding, "I do teach evolution, and I also teach Sunday school ... I do not feel or see a conflict." And high school biology teacher Brian McClain, a member of the committee, was quoted by Education Week as saying that not discussing evolution "would be comparable to teaching earth science without talking about plate tectonics, or chemistry without the periodic table."

For Mike Thomas's column in the Orlando Sentinel, visit:

For the Orlando Sentinel's editorial, visit:

For the story in Education Week, visit:

For the story in the Bradenton Herald, visit:

For the website and blog of Florida Citizens for Science, visit:

For the opportunity to comment on the draft standards, visit:

And for NCSE's coverage of previous events in the Florida, visit:


The Association for Science Education -- a professional association for teachers of science in Britain and around the world, with over 15,000 members -- recently issued a statement on science education, "intelligent design," and creationism, reading in part:


it is clear to us that Intelligent Design has no grounds for sharing a platform as a scientific "theory". It has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations to support it. Furthermore it is not accepted as a competing scientific theory by the international science community nor is it part of the science curriculum. It is not science at all. Intelligent Design belongs to a different domain and should not be presented to learners as a competing or alternative scientific idea. As such, Intelligent Design has no place in the science education of young people in school.


The statement also cautions against presenting "intelligent design" as a case study of a controversy in science, commenting, "Intelligent Design ... cannot be classed as science, not even bad or controversial science," and recommends that "it should not be presented as an alternative scientific theory" if it is presented in religious education classes.

The statement cites the Interacademy Panel's statement on the teaching of evolution, to which the Royal Society of London and the National Academies of Science are signatories, as well as the recently issued guidance to British teachers on the place of creationism in the science classroom.

For the Association for Science Education's statement (PDF), visit:

For NCSE's coverage of previous events in the United Kingdom, visit:

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.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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!

Strange beast found near Cuero is a coyote


Roger Croteau Express-News

Biologists at Texas State University announced Thursday that they've identified the hairless, doglike beast whose carcass was discovered near Cuero in late July.

The mystery creature gained fame as possibly the mythical "chupacabra." But thanks to DNA testing, science has gone beyond legend and provided a definitive answer.

It's a coyote.

"The DNA sequence is a virtually identical match to DNA from the coyote," Mike Forstner, a Texas State University biologist, said in a news release Thursday night. "This is probably the answer a lot of folks thought might be the outcome. I, myself, really thought it was a domestic dog, but the Cuero chupacabra is a Texas coyote."

Rancher Phylis Canion found the carcass on her property, and many in the area claimed the bluish-colored road kill was responsible for their missing cats, and chickens found with their blood sucked out in recent years.

San Antonio television station KENS 5 paid for the DNA testing, which was performed as a lab assignment by two of Forstner's students, Jim Bell and Jake Jackson.

The main mystery — its species — has been solved, but the DNA match does not explain why this coyote looked so weird.

"That is the best part about science. The first answers often lead to more questions and then better explanations of the world in which we live," Forstner said. 'We've taken additional skin samples and we will try to determine the cause of the hair loss."

Forstner said the project has drawn a lot of attention. He'd been contacted by more than 60 schoolteachers whose students are interested in the creature. Plenty of news organizations wanted to know the answer.

An Italian TV news crew was even on the scene as he announced his findings the night after Halloween.

"Folks fear what they don't understand, and a big part of the goal in science is to explain the natural world," Forstner said.


Stop in the name...


Nov 1st 2007 From The Economist print edition

Religion and modernity have a love-hate relationship

WILLIAM BUCKLEY, the grand old man of the American right, once argued that a conservative's duty was to stand athwart history shouting "Stop!" So far this special report has argued that modernity has been surprisingly helpful to religion. The reverse is not necessarily true. Pious people are shouting "Stop!" (or at least "Slow down!") to things liberals regard as progress. The three main battlefields are culture, science and economics.

You say you want an evolutionSuch a sweeping generalisation requires an immediate caveat. The three battlefields are reasonably well defined, but the people fighting on them are not. On the secular side, progressive Parisians and New Yorkers may both be modern, but often have very different attitudes to economics. The religious side is even more fragmented. Conservative American churches tend to embrace modern capitalism, but are suspicious of biotechnology and modern culture; by contrast, leftish American evangelicals are much more bothered about globalisation than about stem cells. The technophobic Catholic hierarchy in Europe is mildly hostile to modern culture, science and capitalism, and technophile Muslim fundamentalists loathe all three.

Slowly a phenomenon that America knows as "the culture wars" is going global. Abortion, gay marriage, stem cells and euthanasia are popping up all over the place as rallying calls for religious people. In many developed countries politics is increasingly driven by problems of identity and values rather than economics.

Another export from America is secular overreach. For instance, liberal-minded judges and politicians from Colombia to South Africa have moved to legalise gay unions. That is admirable, but it often does not reflect the views of their countrymen. In Mexico, Red Familia (Family Network), which has ties to conservative businesspeople and politicians, argues that strong family values provide the basis of economic prosperity. Nigeria's Peter Akinola, who runs the largest province in the Anglican Communion, is against gays forming associations. He has a lot of supporters—not least in America, where 35 conservative Episcopalian churches have defected to Nigeria's outfit. Bishop Akinola also illustrates the importance of competition—especially with Islam, a religion that has never been in favour of sexual liberation. The most conservative parts of the Anglican Communion are those fighting hardest for customers.

The traditional culture warrior in the West has been the Catholic church. Under John Paul II, the Holy See increased the number of countries where it has diplomatic representation from 85 to 174. The church concentrates much of its political activity on poverty, health care and education; but it also stoutly defends "the sanctity of life", fighting against euthanasia, abortion, the death penalty, cloning and, less aggressively than before, contraception. The church makes less noise about gay issues—possibly because of its own recent troubles with child abuse by clerics.

American Protestants are now rallying to the global fight. Focus on the Family has sister organisations in 54 countries. The Mormons' World Family Policy Centre sponsors pro-family scholarship. Human Life International, a Catholic outfit run from Virginia, opposes contraception as well as abortion, campaigns against sex education in schools and defends traditional marriage "open to the creation of life and to caring for children".

Not all the religious right's crusades overseas are loathsome to liberals. American Christians have helped expose the Sudanese government's atrocities in Darfur and sex-trafficking in Europe. They have also fought hard to get more aid money for Africa and to fight AIDS—even if cash has come with strings attached (notably preventing any dollars going to abortion). But just as in America, much of their fury is aimed at liberal shibboleths.

One target is the United Nations. In Tim LaHaye's wildly popular "Left Behind" series of books the Antichrist returns to earth as the UN Secretary-General. Two UN conferences particularly roused the religious right's fury: one on population and development in Cairo in 1994 and one on women in Beijing in 1995. Both were dominated by liberal NGOs and the language of "reproductive choice". Now the UN's proceedings are monitored by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; and various right-wing organisations including Concerned Women for America (which was founded by Mr LaHaye's wife) have become accredited lobbyists at the UN. In March 2005 the General Assembly voted to ban all forms of human cloning, a non-binding vote that still enraged several European countries, particularly Britain.

Meanwhile, down at the lab

Cloning is a reminder that science and religion remain uneasy bedfellows. The anti-scientific nature of church history is sometimes exaggerated. Galileo, after all, got into trouble precisely because he was sponsored by one part of the Vatican. On the other hand, by discovering evolution, Charles Darwin, a respectable Victorian, probably did more damage to religious faith that any priest-hating revolutionary.

Now religion is fighting back. Perhaps the most dramatic single example of its power was George Bush's curtailing of stem-cell research in America, which prompted a mini-exodus of scientists to Europe. But the longer-running dispute remains over evolution.

Much of it is pretty unsophisticated. For instance, Christians in Kenya recently denounced the exhibition of the Turkana Boy—the most complete prehistoric human skeleton—because he inconveniently lived thousands of years before Adam is supposed to have met Eve. A lavish new $27m Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, aims to set the record straight, showing how huge dinosaurs could have mingled with humans shortly after time began in 4004BC, and how Noah managed to squeeze all the world's animals into a boat only 135 metres long.

The next level up is intelligent design—the notion that evolution does not explain everything, so there must be an intelligent creator. Much of this is refashioned creationism: believers still trying to prove that man might be descended from angels not apes. Intelligent design is now taught in some Turkish schools—thanks in large part to Adnan Oktar, a preacher who set up the Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (Scientific Research Foundation). He claims to have 4.5m followers, and his "Atlas of Creation" has been distributed around the Muslim world and Europe. His organisation also sees links between Darwin and terrorism, fascism and communism.

The battle to get intelligent design taught in schools has suffered a number of legal setbacks—in Russia (where it was supported by the Orthodox church), in Britain and most notably in America, where a judge ruled against a Pennsylvania school board in 2005. But scientists would be wrong to think the issue is dead. In a Newsweek poll earlier this year 48% of those Americans surveyed reckoned that God had created humans in their present form in the past 10,000 years.

Nor is the intellectual argument quite won. Most of the cleverer intelligent-design outfits, notably the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, distanced themselves from the Pennsylvania case, where the defendants were too close to creationism for their liking. And a fierce theological debate is under way in the Catholic Church about how to describe the extent to which man is different from other creatures.

The main underlying emotion, even for religious people, does not seem to be belief in God so much as scepticism about science. The worry is that man is getting arrogant, playing with things he barely understands—such as the climate and his genetic code. "The debate is moving away from evolution to scientific ethics," points out Harvey Cox at Harvard. The fuss about stem cells may have been prompted by abortion, but it has led into a much wider argument about cloning. Crucially, whereas many moderate Christians support stem-cell research, they take a much dimmer view of anything that looks like genetic manipulation. The big battle on science is yet to come.

Learning to love the moneylenders

The last part of progress that some pious people seem bent on restraining is capitalism. Ever since Jesus in the Temple dealt harshly with the hedge-fund managers of his time, many Christians have been suspicious of finance. Some Fabians even hailed Jesus as the first socialist. For a time the Catholic church banned usury; many versions of Islam still do.

But capitalism is also the place where the religious front is least constant. Muslims like to point out that Muhammad was a merchant. Many Protestants claim that the free market stemmed from the reformation. In many countries Pentecostals sell their creed as a way to improve your lot: self-restraint and discipline will make you rich (some churches in Central America even sell management books). The wonderfully named Reverend Creflo Dollar, a New York televangelist, who owns several houses and a private aeroplane, has presumably found his own way to get his camel through the needle's eye.

Rather intelligent, really

Doubts about capitalism have tended to be voiced by liberal Protestants and European Catholics. Thus the Anglican Church denounced Thatcherism, and Pope John Paul II sounded off against globalisation. A straightforward battle against "neo-liberalism" is still being fought in many parts of the world. Evangelicals have backed left-wingers in some of the poorer parts of Brazil. But increasingly the battle is moving away from opposing capitalism per se to restraining its excesses. Hence the number of Christian organisations attached to fair-trade and workers' rights movements.

One cause that could bring many pious people together is the environment. Religious people, argues Mr Cox, are questioning "an economic system based on the infinite expansion of finite resources". The religious left has long been involved in greenery. The big change has come on the right. Conservative Protestants in America originally backed their political allies in the oil industry; now more of them are concerned about "creation care". Biblical disaster seems to suit fundamentalists; hence their interest in greenish books such as Martin Rees's "Our Final Century".

This debate may soon acquire a geographical dimension. Philip Jenkins points out that by 2050, the time when climate change is expected to start biting, most of the largest Christian countries will be located in the global South: Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Philippines, China. He thinks that environmental change could spark inter-communal rivalry, recalling the "little ice age" at the end of the 13th century which caused starvation and pogroms, with Christians turning on Jews in Europe and Muslims turning on Christians in Africa and Asia. Mr LaHaye may yet get his Antichrist.

Council of Europe: Ban Creationism since it may become "Threat to Human Rights" and Democracy


Ominously paints a "war on the theory of evolution" by religious extremists "closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements

By John-Henry Westen

STRASBOURG, November 1, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE) has adopted a resolution to ban creationism from receiving any discussion in schools outside of religion classes. "The Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies," said the resolution adopted on October 4 by the Parliament made up of 626 members elected from each European Member State.

"If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe," said the resolution.

The CoE, an advisory body without power to mandate its resolutions, calls on all nations of Europe "to firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion."

The statement has raised eyebrows of many in the scientific community who reject strict 'dogmatic' adherence to Darwinian evolution, and find scientific basis for belief in creation or in 'intelligent design' of the universe.

Over 700 scientists have signed onto a document proclaiming their skepticism about Darwinian evolution. The statement reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

Moreover, a movie to be released in February of 2008 exposes how atheists in academia have in some cases brutally silenced scientists who have presented research which counters the Darwinian credo.

David Berlinski, a mathematician and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute (a think tank which is open to scientific inquiry into Intelligent Design) has made many scientific critiques of Darwinian evolution. Commenting on the CoE resolution said, "if this is what a threat to human rights amounts to, count me among its supporters; I'm threatening away with the best of them."

The CoE resolution paints those who question evolution theory and find scientific evidence for intelligent design of the universe as if they rejected science altogether. "The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights," says the resolution. It ominously paints a "war on the theory of evolution" by religious extremists "closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements" who "are out to replace democracy by theocracy."

"If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists," said the resolution. "It is part of the role of the Council's parliamentarians to react before it is too late."

Prior to its adoption, the European Center for Law and Justice opposed the resolution arguing: "The result of passing the Resolution would be the prevention of academic and educative discussion between the theory of intelligent design and the theory of evolution. This approach can only hamper the educational progress of students by restricting their examination of competing scientific ideas and will necessarily violate the right to freedom of expression, including academic freedom, and the right to free exercise of religion in education."

A Discovery Institute analysis of the resolution countered, "Isn't science supposed to permit - and even embrace - skepticism and doubt? By equating Darwin-doubting with a thought-crime against humanity, the resolution exposes the CoE as being the very types of dogmatists they claim to eschew."

See the resolution online here:


(c) Copyright: LifeSiteNews.com. Permission to republish is granted (with limitation*) but acknowledgement of source is *REQUIRED* (use LifeSiteNews.com).

NEWS TIPS to lsn@lifesitenews.com or call toll free 1-866-787-9947.

Donate to LifeSiteNews.com at http://www.lifesite.net/contribute/

PBS and NOVA Set to Spin Their Wheels in Dramatization of Dover ID Trial


In 2001 an internal PBS memo titled The Evolution Controversy, Use It or Lose It: Evolution Project/WGBH Boston, revealed an improper political agenda behind PBS's miniseries "Evolution." The memo made very clear how "Evolution" would be used to influence government officials and marketed to the public in an effort to exercise control over how evolution is taught in public schools.

Here they go again. November 13th, PBS's NOVA will air Judgment Day, which PBS describes as "recreations based on court transcripts, NOVA presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as 'What is evolution?' and 'Does intelligent design qualify as science?'" You can bet there won't be any leaked memos about how they plan to spin the Dover trial. (We hardly need one having been inundated with misrepresentation after mistreprsentation of the trial's impact for almost two years now.)

The trailer for the program shows that PBS has turned to the usual suspects to advance their agenda.

One new character, Judge Jones, who presided over the real-life courtroom drama, likes to boast that he allowed all sides of the issue to be aired, even saying: "Margaret Talbot, who wrote after the trial in the New Yorker, 'It was a science class that everybody wished they'd been able to take when they were in school.'"

Kids in Dover are still wishing they could get a full and complete education, without scientific ideas such as intelligent design censored as too dangerous for them to hear about.

Here's how we reported the leaked PBS memo in 2001.

Dated June 15, 2001, the memo bears the title "The Evolution Controversy, Use It or Lose It: Evolution Project/WGBH Boston." The document outlines the overall goals of the ongoing PBS series Evolution and describes the marketing strategy for the series. The complete text of the PBS memo is posted at www.reviewevolution.com.

According to the document, which was leaked by a source within PBS, one of the goals of "Evolution" is to "co-opt existing local dialogue about teaching evolution in schools." Another goal is to "promote participation," including "getting involved with local school boards."

In addition, the document identifies "government officials" as one of the target audiences for the series, and it describes a publicity campaign accompanying the series that will include writing op-eds for newspapers and "guerilla/viral marketing."

"Clearly, one purpose of "Evolution" is to influence Congress and school boards and to promote political action regarding how evolution is taught in public schools," says Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman. "In fact, "Evolution's" marketing plan seems to have the trappings of a political campaign."

"Public television is funded in part by American taxpayers, and it should be held to high standards of fairness. It is inappropriate for public broadcasting to engage in activities designed to directly influence the political process by promoting one viewpoint at the expense of others," said Chapman.

According to Discovery Institute's John West, the political agenda behind "Evolution" is made even more explicit by its enlistment of Eugenie Scott as one of the official spokespersons for the series.

Scott runs the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an advocacy group that by its own description is dedicated to "defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools." According to the group's web site, the NCSE provides "expert testimony for school board hearings," supplies citizens with "advice on how to organize" when "faced with local creationist challenges," and assists legal organizations that litigate "evolution/creation cases."

"The NCSE is a single-issue group that takes only one side in the political debate over evolution in public education," says West, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University. "It is inappropriate for public television to enlist NCSE's executive director as an official spokesperson for this program."

Posted by Robert Crowther on November 1, 2007 7:58 AM | Permalink

Paleontologist Takes on Creationists with Fossil Evidence in "Evolution"


By Jenny Shank, 11-02-07

Thursday night at the Boulder Book Store, Donald Prothero discussed his new book, "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters," in which he lays out the fossil evidence for evolution in passionate and concrete terms. Prothero considers evolution to be the first front in what he sees as religious fundamentalists' attack on all science. Prothero said that in the past when his colleagues have addressed the arguments of creationists, they've done so with "kid gloves." "In the age of the blogosphere," he said, "you've got to go at it with bare knuckles and lots of mud throwing," because the creationists "play dirty."

Prothero began his presentation by suggesting, as Stephen J. Gould had before, that "science and religion are non-overlapping ways of looking at the world, and should not conflict or interfere with each other." He gave a brief chronology of battles against evolution, which began right when Darwin first proposed the theory in 1859. Most educated westerners accepted evolution by the time of Dawin's death in 1882.

In the United States, the first backlash against evolution came in the 1920's, culminating in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Since then, there have been periodic legal challenges to the teaching of evolution, but the courts have rebuffed these efforts, and "legally speaking, it's dead." But creationism is alive and flourishing in America, and Prothero said that depending on the study, 40 to 50 percent of Americans say they believe in creationism.

In recent years, creationists have begun to make an argument they call "intelligent design," which Prothero said is basically the same argument with different wording, "an attempt to sound scientific without obvious parallels to Genesis." William Paley first put forth the idea that became "intelligent design" in his 1802 book, "Natural Theology," in which he wrote that if a person were to find a watch on the beach, its "intricate contrivances" would argue for a designer or watchmaker.

Prothero said that one of the main weaknesses of this argument is that there are many bad designs in nature. He cited humans, whose backs and feet are not meant for bipedalism, and whose genome is "full of non-functioning DNA." "What is the design implication," he asked, "for male nipples?"

The bulk of Prothero's book consists of presenting fossil lines as they evolve from one phylum to another. Creationists, he said, frequently claim that there are no "transitional forms," but Prothero presented several modern examples, such as the Neopilina, which has qualities of both mollusks and segmented worms, and Onychophora, which has wormlike and insect-like features.

"But creationists don't care about invertebrates," he said, so he gave the example of Amphioxus, which has a notochord (a feature all chordates, or vertebrates, share during their embryonic stage). He pointed to the "recent discovery of soft bodied impressions of vertebrates from the lower Cambrian of China," which proves the phylum to which humans belong (chordata) is as old as others, going back to the Cambrian explosion.

Prothero discussed last year's discovery of a fossil called Tiktaalik, known popularly as the "fishibian," which has some amphibian features, such as its head, and some fish features, such as its gills. Archaeopteryx, the fossil depicted on the cover of the book, is the best-known transitional form, with the feathers of a bird, yet the long tail and discrete hand bones of a reptile. One of the best fossil sequences supporting evolution, according to Prothero, is that of land mammals' evolution into whales, which includes several transitional species, such as Ambulocetus Natans, whose name means "walking swimming whale."

One audience member asked what the weakest sequence in the fossil record was, and Prothero replied, "We would love to have better early bat fossils." He explained that because the bat is a delicate creature with parts that don't preserve well, there are gaps in the record that creationists jump on, and say "bats appear with completely modern parts," an assertion Prothero says isn't true. Still, "paleontologists would be orgasmic about it if they could have better early bat fossils."

Judging from the questions, there were no creationists in the audience at the Boulder Book Store, but Prothero argued that it's still important to wage a fight against inroads creationists have made into the educational system. American scientific literacy is already among the worst in the world, he said, citing studies that measure American students as behind much of Asia and Western Europe in scientific knowledge.

He blames "bad textbooks, poor teaching, and the culture as a whole" for the nation's scientific illiteracy problem. The media is partly to blame, he said, because they insist on presenting two dissenting viewpoints even on issues about which there is next to no debate in the scientific community. News programs always "pull in some crank from way out on the fringes." He cited the idea that dinosaurs evolved into birds, which is accepted by almost all paleontologists, but whenever a news program does a story on this, they always feature "the same two or three dissenters."

So in the interest of promoting scientific literacy, I'll conclude without mentioning opposing theories to evolution, such as the belief that humans can arrive on earth fully formed, conveyed by UFOs. Sorry, as a member of the media, I couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Climate is too complex for accurate predictions


19:00 25 October 2007
NewScientist.com news service

Jim Giles

Climate change models, no matter how powerful, can never give a precise prediction of how greenhouse gases will warm the Earth, according to a new study.

The result will provide ammunition to those who argue not enough is known about global warming to warrant taking action.

The analysis focuses on the temperature increase that would occur if levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled from pre-Industrial Revolution levels. The current best guess for this number – which is a useful way to gauge how sensitive the climate is to rising carbon levels – is that it lies between 2.0 C and 4.5 C. And there is a small chance that the temperature rise could be up to 8C or higher.

To the frustration of policy makers, it is an estimate that has not become much more precise over the last 20 years. During that period, scientists have established that the world is warming and human activity is very likely to blame, but are no closer to putting a figure on exactly much temperatures are likely to rise.

Positive feedback It now appears that the estimates will never get much better. The reason lies with feedbacks in the climate system. For example, as the temperature increases, less snow will be present at the poles. Less snow means less sunlight reflected back into space, which means more warming.

These positive feedbacks accelerate global warming and also introduce uncertainty into estimates of climate sensitivity, say Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker of the University of Washington in Seattle.

What is more, they found that better computer models or observational data will not do much to reduce that uncertainty. A better estimate of sensitivity is the holy grail of climate research, but it is time to "call off the quest", according to a commentary published alongside the paper.

Deep uncertainties

That is likely to fuel attacks by critics in the oil industry and elsewhere who argue against investing in measures like clean energy until more is known about climate change. Others say that we need to act even if climate sensitivity lies at the low end of the scale, since coastal areas would still be threatened by rising seas, for example.

Ultimately, the papers also illustrate the limits to which models, even those produced by powerful supercomputers, can help politicians make decisions.

"This finding reinforces not only that climate policies will necessarily be made in the face of deep, irreducible uncertainties," says Roger Pielke, a climate policy expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder, US. "But also the uncomfortable reality – for climate modellers – that finite research dollars invested in ever more sophisticated climate models offer very little marginal benefit to decision makers."

Journal reference: Science (vol 318, p 582)

Climate Change – Want to know more about global warming: the science, impacts and political debate? Visit our continually updated special report.

Climate Change Testimony Was Edited by White House


Published: October 25, 2007

The White House made deep cuts in written testimony given to a Senate committee this week by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on health risks posed by global warming, but the director agreed yesterday with administration officials who said the cuts were part of a normal review process and not aimed at minimizing the issue.

Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, the agency's director, said in a telephone interview that news reports and comments about the changes had made "a mountain out of a molehill."

"I said everything I needed to say," she said.

Dr. Gerberding, who addressed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, said she had freely spoken for more than a year about the implications for public health should warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases proceed as scientists project. Still, cuts made to her written testimony included the only statements casting the health risks from climate change as a problem, describing it variously as posing "difficult challenges" and as "a serious public health concern."

The testimony that remained said, "Climate change is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans and the nation's public health infrastructure." But a line saying "the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed" was gone, and the testimony focused on the ways health agencies were already prepared to tackle any problems.

The changes were first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press, and the draft testimony, whose authenticity was not challenged by Bush administration, was disseminated to reporters and posted online yesterday by several private groups, including Climate Science Watch.

This shift in tone prompted criticisms of the administration by some Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the committee's chairwoman.

The cuts, done by the Office of Management and Budget last week, halved the 12-page draft testimony Dr. Gerberding submitted before her testimony.

Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, sided with the administration, said Matthew Dempsey, a spokesman. "All administrations edit testimony through the O.M.B. process," Mr. Dempsey said.

Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, told reporters in a daily briefing yesterday that other agencies questioned whether the testimony adequately reflected the findings on health and climate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that issued voluminous reviews of climate science this year.

"It was not watered down in terms of its science," Ms. Perino said. "It wasn't watered down in terms of the concerns that climate change raises for public health."

Dr. Michael McCally, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, who testified at the same hearing, called the cuts in the written testimony "a misuse of science and abuse of the legislative process."

Lawrence K. Altman contributed reporting.

Evolution education update: October 26, 2007

A draft of Florida's state science standards -- containing the e-word -- is open for public comment. Meanwhile, the McGill Journal of Education features a host of articles on teaching evolution, all freely available on-line. And selected content from a recent issue of Reports of the NCSE is now available, too.


The Florida Department of Education released a draft revision of the state science standards on October 19, 2007, and the e-word -- "evolution" -- is not only included but also prominent. In contrast, the 1999 version of the standards received a score of 0/0 for its treatment of evolution in the Fordham Foundation's report The State of State Science Standards 2005, which observed, "The E-word is sedulously avoided. ... There is little in the way of useful guidance for teachers or others toward appropriate content in the biological sciences and especially in the history of life and the basic mechanisms of change."

The Orlando Sentinel (October 20, 2007) reported, "The draft standards are based on those used in other countries with top science-education programs and the recommendations of national education and science groups. They reduce the number of topics students are taught and push for a deeper understanding of key 'big ideas,' one of which is 'evolution and diversity.'" Joe Wolf, the president of Florida Citizens for Science, told the newspaper that if the standards were adopted as they stand, "the kids will have a better understanding of science, which is what it's all about."

There is a sixty-day period during which the public is welcome to comment on the standards, following which the Florida Board of Education is expected to consider whether to adopt the draft in January 2008. It is already clear that creationists are ready to try to undermine the treatment of evolution in the standards; the Sentinel quoted a local televangelist as contending, "Evolution is an educated guess ... That we came from an ape is absolutely ridiculous." But Florida Citizens for Science's Wolf countered, "In the scientific community, it's not an issue."

The state's newspapers are already applauding the appearance of evolution in the standards. Noting that the standards clearly state that "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence," Florida Today (October 23, 2007) editorially remarked, "the board should approve the frank teaching rules, which are part of a broader revamp to strengthen science education in public schools. Florida's children need strong science skills to compete for jobs in a global workforce, and evolution is a critical part of that package."

In its editorial, the Tallahassee Democrat (October 23, 2007) also stressed the economic importance of the integrity of science education: "World-class science standards include coherence, focus and rigor, and schools that lack them can't honestly contend they're world-class schools. In an increasingly complex, technological world, scientific literacy is not a luxury, but a necessity -- especially if Florida expects to compete successfully in a global economy. For science education in our state to be competitive, it must include the teaching of evolution and the explicit acknowledgment that empirical evidence over the past century and a half strongly supports it."

And in its editorial, entitled, "Florida takes educational leap into 21st century," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (October 24, 2007) wrote, "Florida's public education system has finally evolved to the point where evolution can be taught. Welcome to the real world, Florida," adding, "Proposed science standards say public school students need to learn about evolution, one of the 'big ideas' that need to be taught as part of in-depth, hands-on learning. It's all part of a plan to improve science education, which is woefully lacking in Florida, and get students ready for a technology-based workplace."

For the Fordham Foundation's report on Florida's 1999 standards, visit:

For the Orlando Sentinel's story, visit:

For the website and blog of Florida Citizens for Science, visit:

For the opportunity to comment on the draft standards, visit:

And for the cited editorials, visit:


A special issue of the McGill Journal of Education (vol. 42, no. 2) focusing on evolution education is now freely available on-line. In their preface, the issue's editors, Jason Wiles of McGill University and Anila Asghar of Johns Hopkins University, write:


the teaching and learning of evolution has faced difficulties ranging from pedagogical obstacles to social controversy. These include two distinctive sets of problems: one arising from the fact that many evolutionary concepts may seem, at least initially, counterintuitive to students, and the other deriving from objections rooted in religion. Despite the overwhelming acceptance of evolution among scientists and despite evolution's centrality to modern biology, virtually all national polls indicate approximately one-half of North Americans reject evolution -- suggesting that they think scientists, textbooks, and teachers are simply wrong.


Three themes are emphasized throughout the issue: "the need for improved teacher training in pedagogical techniques and content knowledge with regard to evolution, the need for effective classroom tools for teaching evolution, and the need to confront specific issues related to social controversies surrounding evolution education."

Contributors include Randy Moore, discussing the results of a survey on what high school students are taught about evolution and creationism; Anila Asghar, Jason R. Wiles, and Brian Alters (a member of NCSE's board of directors), examining Canadian pre-service elementary teachers' conceptions of biological evolution and evolution education; Robert T. Pennock, explaining how evolutionary computing and artificial life can aid in the teaching of evolution; Judy Scotchmoor and Anastasia Thanukos, discussing the pedagogical aims and methods of the Understanding Evolution website; Jeff Dodick, explaining how to teach about evolutionary change within the framework of geological time; and NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, answering the question "What's wrong with the 'teach the controversy' slogan?"

Also included are two opinion pieces -- Craig E. Nelson's "Teaching evolution effectively: A central dilemma and alternative strategies" and Massimo Pigliucci's "The evolution-creation wars: Why teaching more science just is not enough" -- and two book reviews, one by NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch of Brian Alters's Teaching Biological Evolution in Higher Education: Methodological, Religious, and Nonreligious Issues (Sudbury [MA]: Jones and Bartlett, 2005) and one by Andrew J. Petto (the editor of Reports of the National Center for Science Education) of Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhardt's The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma (New Haven [CT]: Yale University Press, 2005).

For the special issue of the journal, visit:


Selected content from volume 26, number 6, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website, including Jim Lippard's account of the 2005 schism of the young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis, Nick Matzke's report about the latest creationist textbook to come down the pike, Kevin Padian's review of Donald Prothero's After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals, Lawrence S. Lerner's review of Darwin's Nemesis (a festschrift for the godfather of "intelligent design" creationism), and Carrie Sager's droll review of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron's creationist trivia game -- "a Ken Ham-endorsed, William Dembski-approved cornucopia of bad science and fundamentalist propaganda," she writes.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE? The next issue to go to press will feature articles on the ongoing contretemps at Grand Canyon National Park; articles by Joe Felsenstein and Mark Perakh discussing Dembski's arguments about natural selection and his failure to answer his critics; articles on evolution education policy in the abstract and in the concrete; and the usual slew of reviews, including Lauri Lebo reviewing Matthew Chapman's 40 Days and 40 Nights, Gary S. Hurd reviewing Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross's Origins of Life, and Tim M. Berra reviewing Stanley Rice's Encyclopedia of Evolution -- "broad, interesting, relevant, and informative ... I wholeheartedly recommend this book," he concludes. Why wait? Subscribe today!

For selected content from RNCSE 26:6, visit:

To subscribe to RNCSE, visit:

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.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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!

Poll: 1 in 3 believe in ghosts


Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Those things that go bump in the night? About one-third of people believe they could be ghosts.

And nearly one out of four, 23 percent, say they've actually seen a ghost or felt its presence, finds a pre-Halloween poll by the Associated Press and Ipsos.

One is Misty Conrad, who says she fled her rented home in Syracuse, Ind., after her daughter began talking to an unseen girl named Nicole and neighbors said children had been murdered in the house. That was after the TV and lights began flicking on at night.

"It kind of creeped you out," Conrad, 40, of Hampton, Va., recalled this week. "I needed to get us out."

About one out of five people, 19 percent, say they accept the existence of spells or witchcraft. Nearly half, 48 percent, believe in extrasensory perception, or ESP.

The most likely candidates for ghostly visits include single people, Catholics and those who never attend religious services. By 31 percent to 18 percent, more liberals than conservatives report seeing a specter.

Those who dismissed the existence of ghosts include Morris Swadener, 66, a Navy retiree from Kingston, Wash.

He says he shot one with his rifle when he was a child.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a white ghost in my closet," he said. "I discovered I'd put a hole in my brand new white shirt. My mother and father were not amused."

Three in 10 have awakened sensing a strange presence in the room. For whatever it says about matrimony, singles are more likely than married people to say so.

Fourteen percent - mostly men and lower-income people - say they have seen a UFO. Among them is Danny Eskanos, 44, an attorney in Palm Harbor, Fla., who says as a Colorado teenager he watched a bright light dart across the sky, making abrupt stops and turns.

"I knew a little about airplanes and helicopters, and it was not that," he said. "It's one of those things that sticks in your mind."

Spells and witchcraft are more readily believed by urban dwellers, minorities and lower-earning people. Those who find credibility in ESP are more likely to be better educated and white - 51 percent of college graduates compared to 37 percent with a high school diploma or less, about the same proportion by which white believers outnumber minorities.

Overall, the 48 percent who accept ESP is less than the 66 percent who gave that answer to a similar 1996 Newsweek question.

One in five say they are at least somewhat superstitious, with young men, minorities, and the less educated more likely to go out of their way to seek luck. Twenty-six percent of urban residents - twice the rate of those from rural areas - said they are superstitious, while single men were more superstitious than unmarried women, 31 percent to 17 percent.

The most admitted-to superstition, by 17 percent, was finding a four-leaf clover. Thirteen percent dread walking under a ladder or the groom seeing his bride before their wedding, while slightly smaller numbers named black cats, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors, Friday the 13th or the number 13.

Generally, women were more superstitious than men about four-leaf clovers, breaking mirrors or grooms prematurely seeing brides. Democrats were more superstitious than Republicans over opening umbrellas indoors, while liberals were more superstitious than conservatives over four-leaf clovers, grooms seeing brides and umbrellas.

Then there's Jack Van Geldern, a computer programmer from Riverside, Conn. Now 51, Van Geldern is among the 5 percent who say they have seen a monster in the closet - or in his case, a monster's face he spotted on the wall of his room as a child.

"It was so terrifying I couldn't move," he said. "Needless to say, I survived the event and never saw it again."

The poll, conducted Oct. 16-18, involved telephone interviews with 1,013 adults and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Publication date: 10-26-2007

Creationist to Board of Education


detractors say appointment anti-science

By: Miranda Langlet Issue date: 10/29/07 The institution of a self-proclaimed creationist, Christian and social conservative as chairman of the Texas Board of Education has aroused skepticism within the intellectual community.

Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist, was first elected to the board in 1998 after previously serving on the Bryan school board. His job includes presiding over deliberations on new curriculum standards, as well as implementing new laws such as those regarding textbook selection.

Many fear that McLeroy will not act without adhering to his own personal ethical and religious agenda when residing over a board slated to review and possibly revise not only state-wide English, but science curriculum within the next year.

"Texas parents should be troubled that the governor has appointed as head of the state board a clear ideologue who has repeatedly put his own personal and political agendas ahead of sound science, good health and solid textbooks for students," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which opposes any mixing of church and state.

Fueling this discontent is McLeroy's controversial voting history over the past eight years. In 2001, he voted against an environmental science textbook because he disagreed with its content. When this action was later tried in court, the Texas Public Policy Foundation was said to have claimed the book's explanation of global warming and other such hot issues were "anti-American and anti-Christian."

In 2003, he voted against an advanced placement biology textbook because it did not elaborate on possible weaknesses in the theory of evolution. In 2004, he voted that health textbooks should discuss abstinence from sexual activity as the only preventative measure for pregnancy and the obtainment of sexually transmitted diseases. On all of these issues, McLeroy was supported by the majority of his seven Republican peers.

"In most of the books we are considering adopting, our students are not being presented both sides; the minority viewpoint is being withheld," McLeroy said in an Oct. 30, 2003 letter to fellow board members. "This means that these books do not conform to our standards.

"I don't think I share a common ancestor with a tree. However, most of the books we are considering adopting, claim as a fact that we all share a common ancestor with a tree," he said.

McLeroy has served as a member of the TBE since 1998. He will relinquish the title of "chairman" in 2009, one year before his term as representative expires.

Martin Wise, adjunct professor of biology at ACC, expressed concern at the appointment.

"I'm worried that this person might be applying personal religious beliefs an area where it shouldn't be applied," he said. "These are not necessarily areas that are within the realm of religion."

Wise said that a creationist can make an effective member of the Board of Education and that he presents the ideas of Genesis and creationism in his class, but there "isn't a whole lot to present."

"There is no question that evolution has happened. Understanding the process by which evolution takes place is still open to question and that's what we're researching but that requires you to be of an open mind," he said. "There has to be some skepticism obviously, there should be, but we can't close the door on ideas."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Council of Europe Makes Its Dogmatism Official: Intelligent Design poses "a threat to human rights" (Part 1)


This month the Council of Europe (CoE) adopted a resolution regarding "The dangers of creationism in education," which calls intelligent design (ID) "a threat to human rights." The CoE is a non-governmental body in Europe that aims to protect human rights, but its resolutions carry no force of law. Even if the CoE's edicts did carry the force of law, it's difficult to take this resolution seriously due to its assertion that questioning Darwin somehow threatens human rights. David Berlinski, a mathematician and Discovery Institute senior fellow who lives in Paris and has made many scientific critiques of Darwinian evolution, has given us an insightful analysis of the resolution, here. As Dr. Berlinski puts it, "if this is what a threat to human rights amounts to, count me among its supporters; I'm threatening away with the best of them."

We previously assessed the resolution and the rebuttal from the European Center for Law and Justice here, but it's worth looking closer at this resolution as an example of the fusion of bad science, bad education, and dangerous politics. Additionally, it's worth noting that although the CoE's Parliamentary Assembly has over 640 members, only 48 voted in favor of this resolution (~7%). Two weeks ago I e-mailed the CoE's press office inquiring why so few votes were cast on the resolution; as of yet, I have received no reply to my question.

Misinformation, Beginning with the Resolution's Title

The title of the resolution, "The dangers of creationism in education," inappropriately lumps ID as "creationism." Next, in its first sentence, the resolution wrongly asserts that, "Creationism in any of its forms, such as 'intelligent design', is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning." This statement is blatantly false.

First, intelligent design is different from creationism. Creationism starts with some religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. ID starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what scientific inferences can be drawn from that evidence. Unlike creationism, ID does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural. Michael Behe explains this point:

The most important difference [between modern ID and Paley] is that [ID] is limited to design itself; I strongly emphasize that it is not an argument for the existence of a benevolent God, as Paley's was. I hasten to add that I myself do believe in a benevolent God, and I recognize that philosophy and theology may be able to extend the argument. But a scientific argument for design in biology does not reach that far. Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open. Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel--fallen or not; Plato's demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being. Of course, some of these possibilities may seem more plausible than others based on information from fields other than science. Nonetheless, as regards the identity of the designer, modern ID theory happily echoes Isaac Newton's phrase hypothesis non fingo. (Michael Behe, "The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis," Philosophia Christi, Series 2, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2001), pg. 165, emphasis added.)

The resolution and its accompanying report fail to recognize these basic facts about ID and its differences from creationism. (For further detailed information about why ID is different than creationism, see here or here.)

Second, ID does use scientific reasoning and is based upon empirical data. The scientific method is commonly described as a four-step process involving observations, hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion. ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures to see if they require all of their parts to function. When ID researchers find irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude that such structures were designed.

The charge that ID is "creationism" is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize ID without actually addressing the merits of its case. The CoE has deftly applied this strategy, asserting ID's illegitimacy without making any critique of the actual methods advocated by design proponents for detecting design. Instead, the resolution depends on a report of Parliamentary Assembly member Guy Lengagne, which dismisses ID by wrongly equating it with a supernatural explanation, and making the bald assertion that ID employs "blatant scientific fraud, intellectual deception or communication that blurs the nature, objectives and limits of science." No examples are given to back up the claims of "fraud" or "deception," and ID proponents have in fact long explained why even methodological naturalism does not disbar ID from being science.

Is ID Science?

In its "Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science," the U.S. National Academy of Sciences defines science as follows:

Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data—the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science.

In Traipsing Into Evolution, we demonstrated why ID meets this description of science:

Intelligent causes can be inferred through confirmable data. The types of information produced by intelligent causes can be observed and then measured. Scientists can use observations and experiments to base their conclusions of intelligent design upon empirical evidence. Intelligent design limits its claims to those which can be established through the data. In this way, intelligent design does not violate the mandates of predictability and reliability laid down for science by methodological naturalism (whatever the failings and limitations of methodological naturalism). (Traipsing, page 37)

Yet Mr. Lengagne's report simply makes the bald assertion that ID appeals to the supernatural and engages in "fraud." This report does not engage any of the actual arguments of ID proponents.

Part 2 will further assess the dogmatism in the CoE's resolution.

Posted by Casey Luskin on October 22, 2007 10:52 AM | Permalink

Dr. Pigliucci and Fundamentalism in Science Education


Dr. Massimo Pigliucci is a colleague of mine here at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He's a professor of evolutionary biology and philosophy. I don't know him personally, but by all reports he is a fine scientist and teacher. He's written an essay in the McGill Journal of Education about improving science education in light of the controversy between Darwinism and intelligent design. It's a fascinating essay. Dr. Pigliucci writes well, and he reveals much about Darwinists' approach to the scientific and educational conflict between intelligent design and Darwinism.

His abstract sums it up:

The creation-evolution "controversy" has been with us for more than a century. Here I argue that merely teaching more science will probably not improve the situation; we need to understand the controversy as part of a broader problem with public acceptance of pseudoscience, and respond by teaching how science works as a method. Critical thinking is difficult to teach, but educators can rely on increasing evidence from neurobiology about how the brain learns, or fails to.

He reiterates his conflation of intelligent design and creationism and his dismissal of the scientific controversy early in his essay:

The creation-evolution problem is more acute and difficult to overcome precisely because it is not a scientific controversy.

So far, routine Darwinist boilerplate. But Dr. Pigliucci is being disingenuous. The controversy Darwinists currently face isn't with creationism. Creationism is the belief that the first couple of chapters of Genesis are literally true. It arises from religious belief—a particular interpretation of the Bible, not from scientific evidence. Creationism isn't what all the recent fuss is about.

The real controversy— and it is a raging controversy— is about intelligent design. Intelligent design is the scientific theory that there is evidence for intelligent agency in some aspects of biology, for example in the genetic code and in the intricate molecular machines inside cells. Intelligent design isn't a religious belief. It's a scientific inference. Of course intelligent design scientists are mostly theists, just as Darwinists are mostly atheists.

Scientists who support intelligent design are a very small fraction of scientists, at least a small fraction of biologists. Yet the controversy between intelligent design and Darwinism is a scientific controversy. Whether a controversy is scientific or not is a qualitative question, not a quantitative question. A scientific controversy is generated when even one scientist asks a perceptive and important question. Dr. Pigliucci knows the difference between creationism and intelligent design, and he knows that the issues raised by I.D. scientists — such as irreducible complexity — are genuine scientific issues. Yet he misrepresents the controversy in the first sentences of his essay. If Dr. Pigliiucci is to improve science education, honesty about the issues is a good place to start.

Dr. Pigliucci goes on to stress the need for science education to eradicate belief in 'unscientific' stuff, such as UFOs and the paranormal. He points out (candidly, to his credit) that training in science is no barrier to such belief. If anything, studies suggest that scientifically trained students are more likely to believe in UFOs and the paranormal than students trained in the liberal arts. The most ardent apostle of S.E.T.I. and of belief in the existence of alien civilizations in the 20th century was atheist astronomer Carl Sagan. Dr. Pigliucci points out, perceptively I think, that liberal arts education is more likely than scientific training to foster effective critical thinking.

Then he makes a point that is, well, jaw-dropping. He proposes better science education as a tonic against belief in Heaven:

In fact, the connection between education (science education in particular) and belief in paranormal phenomena or explanations is an empirical matter...a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (as cited by Goode, 2002) found that belief in heaven as a real (physical) place does diminish according to increasing levels of education from 92 percent among people with less than a high school education to 73 percent among people with a postgraduate education.

Why is Dr. Pigliucci surprised that most people, even well-educated people, believe in Heaven? How does science prove the non-existence of things outside of nature? Paranormal phenomena and UFOs involve events in nature that can be studied using the methods of science, and science provides evidence that paranormal phenomena and UFOs are unlikely to exist. But how exactly does science provide evidence that Heaven doesn't exist? Dr. Pigliucci cites no data or experiments, and it's difficult to see how the scientific method, which is suited to the study of the natural world, applies to inferences about religious beliefs in the afterlife. But Dr. Pigliucci's argument that science is a cure for belief in the afterlife fails even by his own standards of science. To the extent that science can address such issues as the afterlife, there is a large scientific literature on near-death experiences that, while far short of proof, certainly cannot be interpreted as scientifically disproving the existence of heaven or of an afterlife.

Dr. Pigliucci goes on to sneer at the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that Heaven is a place:

...but three out of four people with a college-level education in the US still believe in the physical existence of Heaven!

How exactly would 'improved' science education dissuade students from belief that Heaven physically exists? In what way have scientists investigated Heaven? That would be quite a sabbatical. The natural world is the only domain to which science appertains.

What scientific evidence is there that 'places' don't exist outside of our routine experience with nature? Actually, modern physics and cosmology make liberal inference to places outside of our perception, such as higher spatial dimensions curled up in String Theory and multiverses conjured up to circumvent anthropic inferences. Yet despite abundant scientific inference to places outside of our world as we experience it, Dr. Pigliucci believes that adequate science education would dissuade students from their religious beliefs — from their beliefs in the world outside of nature.

Why would Dr. Pigliucci make such a silly assertion, that science in some way, properly taught, ought to dissuade students from belief in the existence of Heaven? This is why: Dr. Pigliucci conflates methodological naturalism — the systematic data-driven study of the natural world — with philosophical naturalism — the philosophical assertion that nature is all that exists. He conflates science with atheism.

That's standard Darwinist boilerplate as well. Dr. Pigliucci is a 'skeptic' who has written a column for The Freethinker On-Line, and his personal disdain for religious belief is obvious. What influence does his personal metaphysical ideology have on his recommendations for improving science education? Quite a bit, one suspects.

In point of fact, Dr. Pigliucci proposes to teach students philosophical naturalism veiled in scientific naturalism. His purpose is ideological. Ironically, the indoctrination he proposes would raise the same issues of neutrality in religious instruction in public schools that Darwinists invoke about the teaching of biblical creationism. Fundamentalists of all stripes can't seem to keep their religious views out of science. Dr. Pigliucci — a professor of philosophy as well as of evolutionary biology — knows the difference between atheism and science. His choice not to be forthright about the difference is emblematic of the fundamentalist approach — the Darwinist approach — to science education.

Posted by Michael Egnor on October 25, 2007 12:42 AM | Permalink

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Council of Europe Makes Its Dogmatism Official: Intelligent Design poses "a threat to human rights" (Part 2)


In Part 1, I discussed the fact that the Council of Europe (CoE) has recently adopted a resolution alleging that intelligent design (ID) is "a threat to human rights." The CoE resolutions carry no force of law, but regardless, it's difficult to keep a straight face that these European politicians would let their dogmatism shine so brilliantly that they would label the questioning of Darwinism as a threat to human rights. As mathematician and Parisian David Berlinski stated, "if this is what a threat to human rights amounts to, count me among its supporters; I'm threatening away with the best of them." It's also worth noting that only about 7% of the total members of the CoE's Parliamentary Assembly voted in favor of this resolution, making one wonder if the CoE's own members took the resolution seriously. This second installment will assess some of the most dogmatic, intolerant, and undemocratic features of the resolution.

Dogmatic and Unscientific Treatment of Evolution

The resolution treats the debate over evolution in an unscientific fashion, stating: "From a scientific view point, there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of life on Earth." Any sentence which begins with the words "From a scientific view point," should never then go on to say, in contradiction, "there is absolutely no doubt..." The CoE's resolution does not treat evolution as a tentative matter, but rather as a dogmatic faith.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences' "Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science" contains an essay by Ernst Mayr emphasizing the tentativeness of scientific knowledge:

One of the most characteristic features of science is this openness to challenge. The willingness to abandon a currently accepted believe when a new, better one is proposed is an important demarcation between science and religious dogma. ("Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science," pg. 43)

Perhaps the CoE is correct that "evolution is a central theory for our understanding of life on Earth." But many scientists, such as U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Phil Skell, would disagree with that statement, and the 700+ signers of the dissent from Darwinism-list, would stridently disagree. To say that "there is absolutely no doubt" as to the truth of that statement is unscientific and contradicts the scientific mindset described by Ernst Mayr.

The resolution later states that "creationism" is "born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection." Ignoring the "denial" rhetoric, it's worth repeating that many scientists who are not necessarily creationists have doubted the sufficiency of natural selection to produce new biological complexity. Over 700 doctoral scientists have signed a statement agreeing, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." In fact, there are signers of this list who would eschew the label "creationist."

This skepticism and encouraging of "Careful examination of the evidence" seems to be the type of mindset that belongs in science, not the "there is absolutely no doubt" mindset of the CoE.

Finally, the resolution even complains that "creationists seek to … sow doubt" in people's minds regarding evolution. Here the CoE makes its intent clear: It simply wants prevent "doubt" and stop the public from doubting evolution at all costs. By labeling such doubts as a "threat to human rights," this resolution is part of their strategy to make such thoughts unpopular by equating Darwin-skepticism with the highest thought-crime possible. But isn't science supposed to permit – and even embrace – skepticism and doubt? By equating Darwin-doubting with a thought-crime against humanity, the resolution exposes the CoE as being the very types of dogmatists they claim to eschew.

Elevating Science As Superior To Religion

Finally, the resolution states that creationism aims to "impose religious dogma" and asserts we must avoid "the advent of an 'all things are equal' attitude, which may seem appealing and tolerant but is actually disastrous." In other words, "religious dogma" is not "equal" to Darwinian evolution. This reminds of the Orwellian propaganda in the book Animal Farm which famously said: "All things are equal but some things are more equal than others." Whatever you or I may think of that position, there can be no mistaking that they are claiming that religion is less "equal" than science. The CoE has explicitly adopted the position that religion is inferior to science.


Much more could be said about problems with the CoE's resolution, "The dangers of creationism in education." In the end, it appears to nothing more than a recapitulation of Darwinist misinformation about ID that managed to get the endorsement of 48 European politicians, amounting to 7% of Europe's largest human rights body. Since less than 12% of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly apparently showed up to vote on the resolution, this was enough support to pass the resolution. But the resolution carries no force of law, and when closely scrutinized, even less force of persuasion.

It's worth ending this analysis by reiterating the words of the European Center for Law and Justice in its memorandum in opposition to the resolution:

The result of passing the Resolution would be the prevention of academic and educative discussion between the theory of intelligent design and the theory of evolution. This approach can only hamper the educational progress of students by restricting their examination of competing scientific ideas and will necessarily violate the right to freedom of expression, including academic freedom, and the right to free exercise of religion in education. Therefore, the Parliamentary Assembly should reject the Resolution as incompatible with the goals and ideals of the Council of Europe.

Perhaps the passage of this resolution tells us who truly represents a threat to freedom in education and human rights in Europe after all. Don't forget to listen to David Berlinkski's analysis here.

Posted by Casey Luskin on October 26, 2007 8:05 AM | Permalink

Evolution Disproven; Earth Shown to be Just 27 Years Old


Written by Billy Bloom
Story written: 26 October 2007

The battle between evolutionism and creationism finally ended last Friday, when Theo Kratt, a graduate student at Oral Roberts University, declared the earth to be just 27 years old.

"Based on extensive and fatuous studies, I have concluded that the earth did not exist before 1980," stated Kratt. "For starters, I have no memory of any events prior to that date," said the 27 year-old. "Additionally, I think dinosaurs are a hoax. And carbon dating is silly. And that natural selection is dumb."

A spokesman for the Society To Undermine Principles In Darwinism (S.T.U.P.I.D.) generally applauded Kratt's work. "To be honest, we think he may be slightly off. Anyone with a brain knows the earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. But 27 is much closer to the truth than the preposterous 4.5 billion years that those crazy evolutionists believe, so we support his work."

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.