NTS LogoSkeptical News for 7 December 2007

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Friday, December 07, 2007

Evolution education update: December 7, 2007

The news about Chris Comer's being forced to resign from her post at the Texas Education Agency is still reverberating. Plus a call for papers for a special Darwin anniversary issue of Science & Education.

THE LATEST ON THE COMER CONTROVERSY

The forced resignation of the Texas Education Agency's director of science curriculum continues to attract attention and comment.

Writing in The New York Times (December 3, 2007), Ralph Blumenthal reported, "After 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the Texas Education Agency's director of science, Christine Castillo Comer said she did not think she had to remain 'neutral' about teaching the theory of evolution. But now Ms. Comer, 56, of Austin, is out of a job, after forwarding an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism -- 'a subject on which the agency must remain neutral,' according to a dismissal letter last month that accused her of various instances of 'misconduct and insubordination' and of siding against creationism and the doctrine that life is the product of 'intelligent design.'"

The e-mail message that Comer forwarded, which was originally sent by NCSE, announced a talk in Austin by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors, on the history of the "intelligent design" movement and her expert testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional. "I don't see how I took a position by F.Y.I.-ing on a lecture like I F.Y.I. on global warming or stem-cell research," Comer told Blumenthal. "I send around all kinds of stuff, and I'm not accused of endorsing it." The article added, "But she said that as a career science educator, 'I'm for good science,' and that when it came to teaching evolution, 'I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination where I stand.'"

"We were actually told in a meeting in September that if creationism is the party line, we have to abide by it," Comer subsequently told the Austin American-Statesman (December 6, 2007), which originally broke the story about her being forced to resign. Over the past year, she said, the TEA began increasingly to scrutinize and constrain the activities of its employees in the curriculum department: "We couldn't go anywhere. We couldn't speak," she said. "They just started wanting everything to be channeled." According to the newspaper, Comer maintained "that her ouster was political and that she felt persecuted for having supported the teaching of evolution in Texas classrooms."

A spokesperson for the TEA was quoted by the American-Statesman as saying, "Obviously, there was a concern about the forwarding of that e-mail ... that she was supporting that particular speaker and [how] that could be construed ... as taking a position that could be misinterpreted by some people," and as contending that Comer evinced a lack of professionalism in other ways. Until her resignation, as the Times's Blumenthal noted, Comer served for nine years at the TEA, following a twenty-seven-year stint as a public school science teacher.

Comer is scheduled to appear during the first hour of NPR's "Science Friday" show, hosted by Ira Flatow, on December 7, 2007. The description for the show summarizes, "The education official responsible for the science curriculum in the state of Texas resigned last month saying she was forced to step down after being reprimanded for informing colleagues of a talk on the conflict over the teaching of evolution. ... Comer's supervisor said the email was grounds for termination as the 'FYI' email 'implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.' In this segment, Ira talks with Christine Castillo Comer about the case and about evolution, 'intelligent design,' and creationism in Texas."

The controversy comes shortly before Texas is about to embark on a revision of its state science standards. The new chair of the Texas state board of education, Don McLeroy, told the American-Statesman that although he is a creationist, "he doesn't necessarily think creationism should be taught in schools. Rather, he said, he supports current curriculum standards that say students should 'analyze, review and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses.'" Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science retorted, "This 'teach the controversy' and 'weaknesses of evolution' is nothing more than an attempt to distort and disparage what really is one of the most highly corroborated explanations in science."

Editorial opinion, both within and outside Texas, has been critical of the TEA and worried about the implications of the case for the integrity of science education in Texas and across the country.

The Austin American-Statesman (December 1, 2007) commented, "from all appearances, Comer was pushed out because the agency is enforcing a political doctrine of strict conservatism that allows no criticism of creationism. ... Forcing Comer out of her job because she passed on an e-mail about the critic's presentation is egregiously wrong." The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (December 4, 2007) concluded, "apparently state education officials want educators to perpetuate an academic scam on the state's schoolchildren in service to special interests." And the Waco Tribune's columnist John Young sarcastically commented (December 4, 2007), "Imagine. Someone devoted to real science forwarding an e-mail about someone devoted to the same thing."

Adding to the chorus, the Houston Chronicle (December 4, 2007) editorially commented, "Comer was simply alerting people to a relevant presentation by a reputable education writer. ... Since Texas policy supports the inclusion of evolution in science curriculum, it's hard to see how Comer was violating state policy by circulating an event notice sent out by a group that also endorses teaching evolution." Echoing Barbara Forrest's description of the TEA's stance as "just sad," the editorial added, "It will be more than sad if the Texas Education Agency is leaning toward taking an anti-evolutionary stance and allowing religious doctrine to be taught side by side with valid science in the state's classrooms."

In a similar manner, the Waco Tribune's editorial (December 6, 2007) suggested that "Texas parents, teachers and lawmakers should be extremely upset over the recent dismissal of the Texas Education Agency's director of science curriculum," and warned, "Because the State Board of Education will review the state science curriculum next year and set standards for classroom instruction and textbook selection, Comer's abrupt removal could signal an opening for the insertion of creationism or intelligent design into science classrooms in Texas. Texas parents, teachers and lawmakers should be on guard that the state avoids the mistakes that led to the 2005 Dover, Pa., lawsuit."

And in its editorial, the Dallas Morning News (December 7, 2007) commented, "We hope this isn't the beginning of a worrisome trend within the new leadership of the TEA and State Board of Education," adding, "If Ms. Comer was incompetent, it's certainly not reflected by her 27-year career as a teacher and nine years of service as director of science. The impression we get is that her bosses were gunning for her, and the forwarded e-mail was the most expedient excuse they could find. This action could not have sent a worse message to our state's educators, when we should be doing everything possible to encourage people to choose teaching as a career, not frightening or bullying them into leaving."

Writing in the Wisconsin State Journal (December 4, 2007), columnist Bill Wineke commented, "If proponents of this scientific quackery can terrorize a state education agency and force the resignation of a veteran science teacher, they will establish a precedent that will cripple serious science education not only in Texas but around the country." The Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard's editorial (December 6, 2007) commented, "So if, as it appears, the director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency was forced to resign for forwarding an e-mail message about a presentation by an author critical of the intelligent design approach to science education, then it's appropriate to be both afraid and ashamed."

And the New York Times (December 4, 2007) itself expressed concern about Comer's termination on its editorial page, writing, "Is Texas about to become the next state to undermine the teaching of evolution? That is the scary implication of the abrupt ousting of Christine Comer, the state's top expert on science education. ... It was especially disturbing that the agency accused Ms. Comer -- by forwarding the e-mail message -- of taking a position on 'a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.' Surely the agency should not remain neutral on the central struggle between science and religion in the public schools. It should take a stand in favor of evolution as a central theory in modern biology. Texas's own education standards require the teaching of evolution. ... We can only hope that adherents of a sound science education can save Texas from a retreat into the darker ages."

Those concerned for the integrity of science education have also been voicing their concern.

As NCSE reported earlier, Texas Citizens for Science released a detailed statement on November 29, 2007. Moreover, Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued a press release dated November 28, 2007, calling on the TEA to rehire Comer. AU's executive director, the Reverend Barry W. Lynn, remarked, "It's a sad day when a science expert can lose her job merely for recommending that people hear a speaker defend sound science ... Officials in Texas seem intent on elevating fundamentalist dogma over academic excellence and common sense."

Barbara Forrest herself released a statement through NCSE on December 5, 2007, deploring the situation. "In forcing Chris Comer to resign as Texas Director of Science, the Texas Education Agency has confirmed in a most public, unfortunate way the central point of my Austin presentation, 'Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse,' the mere announcement of which TEA used as an excuse to terminate her: the intelligent design (ID) creationist movement is about politics, religion, and power," she wrote. "If anyone had any doubts about how mean-spirited ID politics is, this episode should erase them. ... For the last nine years at the TEA, after twenty-seven years as a science teacher, Ms. Comer was doing her part, and she got fired for doing it."

And the American Institute for Biological Sciences issued a press release on December 6, 2007, expressing outrage at the fact, expressed in the memorandum recommending Comer's termination, that "the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism." "When it comes to science education, we absolutely cannot remain neutral on evolution. Evolution is the unifying principle of modern biology," asserted Douglas J. Futuyma, president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences and distinguished professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University. "Within biological science, the reality of evolution is not controversial."

For the story in The New York Times, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/us/03evolution.html

For the text of the e-mail from NCSE, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/TX/950_texas_education_official_force_11_29_2007.asp

For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/12/06/1206science.html

For information about Comer's appearance on Science Friday, visit:
http://www.sciencefriday.com/
http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200712071

For the cited editorials, visit:
http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/editorial/entries/2007/12/01/is_misdeed_a_creation_of_polit.html
http://www.caller.com/news/2007/dec/04/official-forced-out-for-telling-the-truth-on/
http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2007/12/04/12032007wacyoung.html
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/5352284.html
http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2007/12/06/12062007wacedit.html
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/editorials/stories/DN-comer_07edi.ART.State.Edition1.36b74e2.html
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/column/index.php?ntid=260370&ntpid=1
http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/dt.cms.support.viewStory.cls?cid=32284&sid=5&fid=1
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/opinion/04tue3.html

For the cited statements of concern, visit:
http://www.texscience.org/reviews/tea-science-director-resigns.htm
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/TX/270_barbara_forrest_on_chris_comer_12_5_2007.asp
http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071206_aibs_president_1.html

For the memorandum recommending Comer's termination (PDF), visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/Comer_firing_memo.pdf

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX

CALL FOR PAPERS: SPECIAL JOURNAL ISSUE OF SCIENCE & EDUCATION

Darwinian Anniversary Year, 2009

The year 2009 is a double anniversary: 200 years since Darwin was born (February 12, 1809) and 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species (November 24, 1859). To celebrate this anniversary, a special issue of Science & Education will be published.

Researchers working on areas related to Darwinism and evolution education are invited to contribute to this special issue. Conceptual, theoretical, empirical, and position-based manuscripts are welcome. Examples of topics may include (but are not limited to) the following:

* Darwinism in the history and philosophy of science
* Darwin's methodology and theorizing
* Historical treatments of the Origin
* Darwinism and politics
* Darwinism and religion
* Current status of evolutionary theory
* Public understanding and acceptance or rejection of evolution, especially in non-Western cultures
* Evolutionary explanations
* Evolution and teleology
* Empirical research in evolution education
* Evolution and the nature of science
* Creationism and "intelligent design"
* Cognitive barriers in understanding evolution
* Rationales and strategies for teaching evolution when it is controversial
* The teaching of evolution in cultures where Darwinism is rejected
* Other appropriate topics

Submission Date: December 31, 2008
Anticipated Publication Date: November 2009

Manuscripts, with abstract, should be submitted for review directly via www.editorialmanager.com/sced/.

Notification of intention to submit and subject matter is appreciated as it assists coordination and planning of the issue. Questions and inquires should be directed to either of the guest editors:

David W. Rudge
Biological Sciences & the Mallinson Institute for Science Education
Western Michigan University
3134 Wood Hall
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5410
david.rudge@wmich.edu

Kostas Kampourakis
Geitonas School
PO Box 74128
Vari Attikis 16602
Athens, Greece
kkamp@ath.forthnet.gr

For the on-line version of the call for papers, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/US/955_call_for_papers_special_journ_12_4_2007.asp

For information about Science & Education, visit:
http://www.springerlink.com/content/102992/

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.

Sincerely,

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
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp

Biologist fired for beliefs, suit says

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/12/07/biologist_fired_for_beliefs_suit_says/

Woods Hole states creationist stance at odds with work

By Beth Daley

Globe Staff / December 7, 2007

The battle between science and creationism has reached the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where a former researcher is claiming he was fired because he doesn't believe in evolution.

Nathaniel Abraham filed a lawsuit earlier this week in US District Court in Boston saying that the Cape Cod research center dismissed him in 2004 because of his Christian belief that the Bible presents a true account of human creation.

Abraham, who is seeking $500,000 in compensation for a violation of his civil rights, says in the suit that he lost his job as a postdoctoral researcher in a biology lab shortly after he told his superior that he did not accept evolution as scientific fact.

"Woods Hole believes they have the right to insist on a belief in evolution," said David C. Gibbs III, one of Abraham's two attorneys and general counsel of the Christian Law Association in Seminole, Fla.

Evolution is a fundamental tenet of biology that species emerge because of genetic changes to organisms that, over time, favor their survival. Creationists reject the notion that humans evolved from apes and that life on Earth began billions of years ago, but Gibbs said Abraham "truly believes there was no conflict between religion and his job."

Woods Hole officials released a statement saying, "The Institution firmly believes that its actions and those of its employees concerning Dr. Abraham were entirely lawful," and that the center does not discriminate on the basis of religion.

In a 2004 letter to Abraham, his boss, Woods Hole senior scientist Mark E. Hahn, wrote that Abraham said he did not want to work on "evolutionary aspects" of the National Institutes of Health grant for which he was hired, even though the project clearly required scientists to use the principles of evolution in their analyses and writing.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of cases pitting creationists against scientists in academic settings. Last year, a University of Rhode Island student was awarded a doctorate in geosciences despite opposition after it became known that he was a creationist. Earlier this year, an Iowa State University astronomer claimed he was denied tenure because he did not believe in evolution.

Like these cases, the Abraham lawsuit pointedly raises the question: Can people work in a scientific field if they don't believe in its basic tenets?

"I have a cleaning woman who is a Seventh-day Adventist and neither of us feel any tension," said Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University who has written extensively on creationism and evolutionary biology. "Yet, what is a person doing in an evolutionary lab when they don't believe in evolution . . . and didn't tell anybody they didn't believe in evolution?"

Abraham did not return a telephone call seeking comment. An Indian citizen, he now works at Liberty University, a Christian university in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

He has a master's degree in biology and a philosophy doctorate, both from St. John's University in New York, a university spokeswoman said. He was hired by Hahn's marine biology lab in March 2004 because of his expertise working with zebra fish and in toxicology and developmental biology, according to court documents. He did not tell anyone his creationist views before being hired. Hahn's lab, according to its website, studies how aquatic animals respond to chemical contaminants by examining ". . . mechanisms from a comparative/evolutionary perspective."

In October 2004, both agree, Abraham made a passing comment to Hahn saying he did not believe in evolution.

"My supervisor appeared angry and asked me what I meant," Abraham wrote in a 2005 complaint he filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. "My supervisor and I had a follow up meeting during which my supervisor informed me that if I do not believe in evolution, then he was paying me for only 7 to 10 percent of the work I was doing under the grant."

Abraham said he told Hahn he would do extra work to compensate and "was willing to discuss evolution as a theory."

But on Nov. 17, Hahn asked him to resign, pointing out in the letter that Abraham should have known of evolution's centrality to the project because it was evident from the job advertisement and grant proposal.

". . . You have indicated that you do not recognize the concept of biological evolution and you would not agree to include a full discussion of the evolutionary implications and interpretations of our research in any co-authored publications resulting from this work," Hahn wrote in the letter, which the commission provided to the Globe. "This position is incompatible with the work as proposed to NIH and with my own vision of how it should be carried out and interpreted."

Abraham's last day at the lab was Dec. 14, 2004.

The commission dismissed his complaint earlier this year. The commission said Abraham was terminated because his request not to work on evolutionary aspects of the project would be challenging for Woods Hole because the research was based on evolutionary theories.

But Gibbs said that Abraham, after disclosing his religious beliefs to Hahn, was subjected to a hostile work environment. "There was a systematic attempt for him to change his beliefs or resign," Gibbs said. "His life has been turned upside down by this."

Eugenie C. Scott, executive director for the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, said Abraham was clearly being disingenuous when he applied for the job because he was hired to work in the field of developmental biology.

"It is inconceivable that someone working in developmental biology at a major research institution would not be expected to deal intimately with evolution," she said. "A flight school hiring instructors wouldn't ask whether they accepted that the earth was spherical; they would assume it. Similarly, Woods Hole would have assumed that someone hired to work in developmental biology would accept that evolution occurred. It's part and parcel of the science these days."

Todd Wallack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Beth Daley can be reached at bdaley@globe.com.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Ames Tribune Not Interested in News

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/12/ames_tribune_not_interested_in.html

The Ames Tribune editorial today tries to make out that Discovery Institute is more interested in headlines than in truth. Ironic, coming from a news organization that hasn't even reported all of the news on this story. The piece sounds like it was ghost-written by the press office at ISU (or at least is based on ISU's talking points).

The news at the press conference this week was that a hostile work environment was created at ISU for Dr. Gonzalez – and then covered up by his colleagues, his department, the university, and now the Board of Regents. This thing stinks from top to bottom.

That's a big story. They tried to cover up what amounts to a crime – viewpoint discrimination in a personnel and hiring issue. Dr. Gonzalez's academic freedom was trampled, and now the news media in Iowa are largely ignoring it, along with the cover up. Instead they raise red herrings like the grant issue, which is old news.

The Ames editorial board can't even seem to be consistent in the same editorial. Trying to justify an egregious example of persecution, they report that Dr. Gonzalez didn't raise enough grant money, yet they acknowledge the Discovery Institute gave him $50,000 for research. Don't know about you, but for a non-profit with a tiny staff, that is not chump change.

Then they go on to smugly advise:

Maybe if the Discovery Institute would have given Gonzalez the dollars it's now spending before the tenure decision was made, he'd still have a job.

We did, you pinheads! Don't you read your own editorials -- while you're writing them, even?

This isn't about money or about job performance. It's about the fact that Dr. Gonzalez holds a minority view that his colleagues don't like, and so they bounced him out of the department with complete disregard for his academic freedom and the processes in place at the university.

As for whether ISU really grants tenure based on fundraising rather than scholarship and teaching, the fact remains that the stated tenure and promotion policies of Dr. Gonzalez's own department never mention grant money. In addition, ISU bestowed tenure on many professors this year who raised less grant money than Dr. Gonzalez, according to information supplied by ISU.

It is revealing that even an outside scientific reviewer—a professional hand-picked by the university to review Dr. Gonzalez's tenure application—observed that ISU's Department of Physics and Astronomy does not consider grants as a criterion for gaining tenure, and stated that "Dr. Gonzalez is eminently qualified for the promotion according to your guidelines of excellence in scholarship and exhibiting a potential for national distinction. In light of your criteria I would certainly recommend the promotion." (emphasis mine)

The internal e-mail traffic generated by Dr. Gonzalez's colleagues provides further evidence about the real agenda behind the expulsion of Dr. Gonzalez. In those e-mails, Gonzalez's colleagues were not obsessed with his funding (or lack thereof), they were obsessed with his views about intelligent design.

The clear majority of outside reviewers ISU sought recommendations from agreed that Dr. Gonzalez should receive tenure. The University ignored them and instead opted to make this an ideological issue. Money had nothing to do with it.

Posted by Robert Crowther on December 6, 2007 4:57 PM | Permalink

Intelligent Design Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez the Victim of Academic Persecution, Says Discovery Institute

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/467295/intelligent_design_astronomer_guillermo.html

By Brant McLaughlin

On Monday, the Discovery Institute announced that it is making public a record of secret e-mails exchanged among faculty at Iowa State University about noted ISU astronomer Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez. The e-mails, according to the Institute, show forth the fact that an orchestrated campaign was organized and conducted against Gonzalez by his colleagues, with the intent to deny him tenure because he is a supporter of the philosophy of Intelligent Design (ID).

Faculty involved in the tenure decision knew very well that Gonzalez supports ID. Over a year before his tenure evaluation was scheduled, one ISU professor wrote an e-mail that left no doubt that Gonzalez's tenure application would never receive a fair evaluation.

In private e-mails, Gonzalez's colleagues deliberated about his tenure and collaborated to express their contempt for his views by asserting that ID is "intellectually vacuous and that "embalming is more of a science" than ID.

What's more, they asserted that Gonzalez should be lumped with "idiots" and "religious nutcases." They laughed at and ridiculed Gonzalez's ID work, saying they would only study it "[u]nder medication."

Members of ISU's department of Physics and Astronomy desired for Gonzalez to understand "that this is not a friendly place for him to develop further his IDeas" and they hoped "he may look for a better place as a result."

Flying in the face of his public statements and those of ISU President Gregory Geoffroy, the chairman of ISU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Eli Rosenberg stated in Dr. Gonzalez's tenure dossier that Dr. Gonzalez's support for intelligent design "disqualifies him from serving as a science educator."

Casey Luskin, the Discovery Institute's attorney for public policy and legal affairs, states, "Dr. Rosenberg misled Dr. Gonzalez, the public, and the media when he said ID barely played a role in the decision...[ISU department faculty] at secret and inappropriate tenure deliberations held via e-mail a year before the official process started, they decided that they wanted Gonzalez out of ISU because he supported intelligent design...The e-mails prove that Dr. Gonzalez lost his job because of views on ID, not because of his job performance...It is extremely disconcerting that[the Board] are closing their eyes to the fact that Gonzalez was a victim of academic persecution, a clear First Amendment case."

Intelligent Design asserts that complex life-forms, including human beings, are so "irreducibly complex" that it is impossible that they were created through the process of evolution, or if they were created by such there had to have been a divine guiding Hand at work behind the scenes. Many ID supporters are also biblical Creationists, which means they believe that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old. They say that scientific dating methods that show the Earth to be billions of years old are too flawed to give accurate information and thus skew the results.

The vast majority of scientists who are ID supporters are Christians and they say that "irreducible complexity" can be used to prove the existence of God.

Many parents are outraged over the permission given by courts to public schools to teach the theory of ID in biology classes, as long as Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is also taught. They say that these teachings are motivated by religion, not by science, and have no place in the public classroom because public schools are not permitted to mix the promotion of religious views in with their academic programs.

Scientists who do not support ID are very much in agreement that the concept makes students less scientifically literate and does not adhere to the scientific methodology.

The Discovery Institute says of itself, "The point of view Discovery brings to its work includes a belief in God-given reason and the permanency of human nature." The non-partisan Institute produces, among many other things, media for Congressional testimony.

Supporters of ID say that those opposed to the teaching of ID in the classroom are "Darwinian fundamentalists" who are afraid to have their views on evolutionary theory challenged, and that since Darwin's concept is just a theory, not 100% proven, students should be exposed to an alternative point of view.

Origional Newswire Source:

http://prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/12-03-2007/0004715524&EDATE=

2007 © Associated Content


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Texas the next battle in evolution wars

http://blogs.kansas.com/weblog/2007/12/texas-the-next.html

Texas' longtime science curriculum adviser, Christine Comer, was ousted by Texas Board of Education officials last month for forwarding an e-mail about a talk by a professor who debunks "intelligent design" and creationism. The board members accused Comer of not being "neutral" in the evolution debate.

Why should she be?

As the New York Times argued, "Surely the agency should not remain neutral on the central struggle between science and religion in the public schools. It should take a stand in favor of evolution as a central theory in modern biology. Texas' own education standards require the teaching of evolution."

Those standards are up for review next year, and intelligent design proponents on the board are expected to fight to insert ID views into the curriculum, another likely reason Comer was forced out.

Posted by Randy Scholfield

E-mails Reveal Darwinian Conspiracy to Deny Intelligent Design Professor from Tenure

http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/dec/07120605.html

Thursday December 6, 2007

By John Connolly

DES MOINES, December 6, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - An intelligent design think tank has revealed a conspiracy to deny an Iowa State University astronomer tenure on the basis of his belief that God created the universe.

Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, a member of the Iowa State faculty and author of the book The Privileged Planet, was decried as an "idiot" and "religious nutcase" in private faculty e-mails made public by the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think-tank based in Seattle.

The e-mails brought to light a secret campaign among the other Iowa State faculty to deny Gonzalez tenure because of his belief that science shows proof of an intelligent designer of creation, and his refusal to follow a strictly Darwinian atheism.

Gonzalez's tenure was denied in May, and a subsequent appeal was denied by Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy in June. Free speech advocates and intelligent design intellectuals want the Iowa Board of Regents to reconsider Gonzalez's tenure.

"Dr. Gonzalez's rights to academic freedom, free speech and a fair tenure process were trampled on by colleagues who were driven by ideological zeal when they should have made an impartial evaluation of Gonzalez's notable accomplishments as a scientist," said a spokesman for the Discovery Institute.

This sort of incident is not unusual on campuses everywhere, as atheistic academics do not hesitate to persecute anybody who does not subscribe to a purely materialistic worldview. The film "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed," due for release in February 2008, explores the intolerance rife in today's universities and colleges, exposing mistreatment much like that of Gonzalez.

The film features interviews with scientists including biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their ideas suppressed for questioning the materialist theory.

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Atheist Scientists in Uproar over Movie Showing Intolerance of Evidence for Intelligent Design
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/oct/07100505.html

New Film Investigates Crushing of Dissent from Darwinian Orthodoxy
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/aug/07083009.html

"Brilliant" Pro-Life Professor Denied Tenure at Prominent Baptist College
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/mar/06033107.html

E-Mails Reveal Plot to Deny Tenure over Intelligent-Design Views

http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000006059.cfm

12-5-2007

Private e-mails between Iowa State University faculty and administrators revealed plans to deny tenure to professor and astronomer Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez for his belief in intelligent design.

The e-mails, made public record by the Discovery Institute, showed a campaign was organized against the distinguished astronomer to deny his tenure because of his views that science points to an intelligent designer. The faculty also wrote that Gonzalez should be lumped with "idiots" and "religious nutcases" and mocked Gonzalez's intelligent-design work, saying it would study it "(u)nder medication."

Gonzalez published his theories in his book The Privileged Planet, which he researched and wrote on his own time.

Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin, who is defending Gonzalez, said the e-mails prove Gonzalez lost his job because of his views, not because of his job performance.

"Dr. Gonzalez's rights to academic freedom, free speech and a fair tenure process were trampled on by colleagues who were driven by ideological zeal when they should have made an impartial evaluation of Gonzalez's notable accomplishments as a scientist," the Discovery Institute said.

Gonzalez and his attorneys are appealing to the Iowa Board of Regents, which has the authority to overrule the university's president.

Barbara Forrest on Chris Comer's forced resignation

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/TX/270_barbara_forrest_on_chris_comer_12_5_2007.asp

Statement Regarding Texas Education Agency's Termination of Chris Comer, Texas Director of Science

Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.

Co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design & Expert witness for plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District

December 5, 2007

In forcing Chris Comer to resign as Texas Director of Science, the Texas Education Agency has confirmed in a most public, unfortunate way the central point of my Austin presentation, "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse," the mere announcement of which TEA used as an excuse to terminate her: the intelligent design (ID) creationist movement is about politics, religion, and power. If anyone had any doubts about how mean-spirited ID politics is, this episode should erase them. Texas school children depend on the adults at the TEA to protect the quality of their education. For the last nine years at the TEA, after twenty-seven years as a science teacher, Ms. Comer was doing her part, and she got fired for doing it. The children are ultimately the losers.

The fact that this current episode has happened in Texas is not at all surprising given Texas Board of Education chair and ID supporter Dr. Don McLeroy's statements in a 2005 pro-ID lecture at Grace Bible Church:

Creationists have been making these design arguments, but the birth of the intelligent design movement probably did start at SMU [Southern Methodist University, site of the ID movement's first conference], [in] 1992. It was here that [Phillip Johnson] and Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, and William Dembski, debated with . . . influential Darwinists the proposition that neo-Darwinism [depends] on a prior commitment to naturalism. Johnson . . . states, 'Once it becomes clear that Darwinism rests on a dogmatic philosophy rather than on the weight of the evidence, the way will be opened for dissenting opinions [i.e., intelligent design creationism] to get a fair hearing.' They hadn't got there yet. We don't have a fair hearing yet. But, we gotta keep working on it. This is not something that happens overnight. (The transcript and the audio recording of McLeroy's speech are available here: http://www.tfn.org/publiceducation/textbooks/mcleroy/index.php.)

With Ms. Comer's termination, the process of gaining that hearing appears to have advanced quite a bit.

The rationale given by TEA employee Monica Martinez, who wrote the memo recommending Ms. Comer's termination, is not credible. Ms. Martinez contends that "Ms. Comer's email implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral." First, Ms. Comer's merely passing along an "FYI" about a public lecture implies nothing of the sort. (For the text of the announcement from the National Center for Science Education that she sent, see http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/TX/950_texas_education_official_force_11_29_2007.asp.) But that point notwithstanding, since my Austin talk was about the intelligent design creationist movement, one wonders why TEA would even want to remain "neutral" concerning the ID movement's goal of undermining the integrity of science education in the very public schools that TEA should be protecting from that movement's efforts.

Ms. Martinez continued, "Thus, sending this e-mail compromises the agency's role in the TEKS revision process by creating the perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly related to the science education TEKS." But why would the TEA be concerned about being biased in favor of teaching children the truth about science? The TEA's proper role is to ensure the quality and integrity of what is taught in Texas science classes. My Austin presentation was most certainly not a threat to that role, but in fact highly supportive of it. I presented the truth about ID as established by years of scholarly research. Has the process of administering the public education system in Texas become so politicized that even the truth is a threat to people's jobs? One can only conclude that it has.

Ultimately, the TEA's firing of Chris Comer is a by-product of the relentless promotion of ID for more than a decade by creationists at the Discovery Institute. In the wake of court decisions ruling that it is unconstitutional to teach creationism in the public schools, ID creationists, a significant number of whose central figures live in Texas, launched the effort that they formalized in their 1998 "Wedge Strategy" document, which outlines their twenty-year plan to "wedge" ID into the cultural and educational mainstream. (See http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html.) First Kansas, then Ohio, and most recently Dover, Pennsylvania, have experienced firsthand the attacks on their school systems that were produced, either directly or indirectly, by the Discovery Institute's campaign, as stated in that document, "to see [intelligent] design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life."

In 2003, Discovery Institute creationists tried, unsuccessfully, to influence the adoption of Texas biology textbooks. Texans should now prepare themselves for an attempt by the same people (and/or newly recruited supporters) to influence the upcoming review of state science standards. In order to be ready, the good citizens of Texas who value their public schools and the U. S. Constitution must familiarize themselves with the ID code terms they are likely to hear, all of which signal the ID movement's attack on the teaching of evolution. ID supporters will declare that they certainly do not favor eliminating evolution or teaching intelligent design, but rather that they simply want children to hear "both sides" of the "controversy" and to learn to "critically analyze" evolutionary theory, so that they can understand the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, and all of this will be for the sake of "fairness" and "academic freedom." (For an explanation of these ID code terms, see my article, "Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals," pp. 19-22, at http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/intelligent-design.pdf.)

In fact, some members of the Texas Board of Education seem to have already mastered the Discovery Institute's code language. Dr. McLeroy recently stated that "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community -- and intelligent design does not." (Dallas Morning News, August 23, 2007, http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/082407dntexevolution.36418e1.html) He added, however, that he was dissatisfied with the fact that current biology textbooks don't cover the "weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. His reference to the "weaknesses" of evolution is creationist code talk. Board vice chairman David Bradley also avowed that he would not support the teaching of ID in science classes. However, Mr. Bradley also appears to know the terminology: "I do want to make sure the next group of textbooks includes the strengths and weaknesses of evolution." (Dallas Morning News, August 23, 2007)

Dr. McLeroy and Mr. Bradley are overlooking the fact that evolutionary theory has survived one hundred fifty years of scientific scrutiny for its "strengths and weaknesses," whereas ID could not survive even six weeks of legal and scientific scrutiny in a Pennsylvania courtroom. Stephen Meyer and William Dembski, who, according to Dr. McLeroy's lecture, are seeking a "fair hearing" for ID, were given a chance to present their best pro-ID arguments in that very courtroom. They just didn't show up. (See Barbara Forrest, "The 'Vise Strategy' Undone: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District," at http://www.csicop.org/intelligentdesignwatch/kitzmiller.html.)

Dr. McLeroy's 2005 ID church lecture is much more instructive than his more recent comments to the Dallas Morning News. In this lecture, he declared himself to be in the "big tent" of intelligent design: "Whether you're a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it's all in the tent of intelligent design. . . . And that's one thing that I really enjoyed about our group is that we've put that all in the big tent, we're all working together." (This "big tent" is the political alliance that ID leader Phillip Johnson has tried to forge among the creationists with whom Dr. McLeroy has enjoyed working.)

McLeroy then professed his wonderment that during the 2003 textbook adoption process, "all the arguments" by "all the creationist intelligent design people" speaking before the Board of Education (among whom he specifically named "our good friend Walter Bradley," a Texas resident and long-time Discovery Institute fellow) were not taken seriously by "my fellow board members who . . . were not impressed by any of this. . . . Amazing." McLeroy was further amazed that "all the arguments are dismissed like this here is a subversive, secret attempt to force religion into science." Now, why on earth would anyone draw that conclusion? Amazing.

The incident now involving Ms. Comer exemplifies perfectly the reason my co-author Paul R. Gross and I felt that our book, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, had to be written. (http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com) By forcing Ms. Comer to resign, the TEA seems to have confirmed our contention that the ID creationist movement -- a religious movement with absolutely no standing in the scientific world -- is being advanced by means of power politics. In December 2005, Judge John E. Jones III validated our contention that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, when he ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf) that the teaching of ID in public school science classes is unconstitutional. Judge Jones recognized that ID has nothing whatsoever to do with science; its proponents are merely using public education -- the public education of other people's children -- as the vehicle for their plan to undermine the teaching of evolution.

The one thing that should not be forgotten in this episode is that Ms. Comer herself has been injured, and Texas children have lost a valuable advocate for quality science education. I regret deeply that the TEA chose to use my work as an excuse to hurt Ms. Comer. Even more, I am incensed by it. However, what happened to her may be just the tip of the iceberg. This country has reached a sorry state of affairs when one of the largest, most prominent departments of education in the country fires a public servant for doing her job. But while I regret that the information I related in my presentation in Austin and in my book has been confirmed in such a sad way, my co-author and I have every intention of continuing our efforts as scholars and citizens to inform the American people about the threat that the intelligent design creationist movement continues to pose to public education and to the constitutional separation of church and state.

Barbara Forrest
December 5, 2007


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Regents asked to consider e-mails

http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071204/NEWS02/712040375/1001/NEWS

December 4, 2007

By LISA ROSSI REGISTER AMES BUREAU

Advocates for Iowa State University professor Guillermo Gonzalez, who was turned down for tenure, called on the Iowa Board of Regents Monday to consider the e-mails that show faculty members at ISU were uncomfortable with promoting someone who advocated the idea of intelligent design.

Gonzalez, an assistant professor in physics and astronomy, learned this spring he did not achieve tenure at ISU, essentially a lifetime appointment. His position expires at ISU in May of 2008.

Members of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that supports the discussion of intelligent design in classrooms, said the Board of Regents refused to allow certain e-mails between physics and astronomy professors into the official review of the tenure denial.

The e-mails the Discovery Institute refers to are several among physics and astronomy faculty members who said Gonzalez's support of the theory of intelligent design damaged his prospects for tenure long before his peers voted on the job promotion.

"What we've seen is a campaign to suppress evidence of the anti-intelligent design prejudice that exists at Iowa State University, because Guillermo Gonzalez is a supporter of intelligent design" said Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute's attorney for public policy and legal affairs.

Intelligent design is an idea that disputes parts of the theory of evolution. A Board of Regents staff member said the board had no response to the e-mail issue and would consider the appeal at a future board meeting, at a date that has not yet been set.

The Discovery Institute held a press conference on the e-mails in Des Moines Monday.

R. Ben Stone, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Iowa, said the organization will be "very interested observers" in the Gonzalez tenure case.

He stopped short of saying whether or not Gonzalez is being treated fairly.

"We believe fervently in academic freedom, and professor Gonzalez is entitled to a procedurally fair and objective analysis of his academic abilities and achievements, and if he doesn't get that, then that's a problem," said Stone, who was in attendance at the press conference. "We're obviously expressing no view expressing whether or not that's happened."

ISU President Gregory Geoffroy upheld the decision in June to reject Gonzalez's bid for tenure. He said he focused the review on Gonzalez's overall record of scientific accomplishment, and said that intelligent design was not a factor in his decision to turn down the request.

Reporter Lisa Rossi can be reached at (515) 232-2383 or lrossi@dmreg.com

Young Earth Creationism Makes Life Difficult for Everyone

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2007/12/young_earth_cre.html

December 4, 2007 9:55AM

The NYT on the First Conference on Creation Geology

Rob Moll

Young earth creation science is out of the front page, with the Dover decision on its way into the history books alongside the Scopes trial. But creationism is still the view of 45 percent of Americans; and with that many supporters, every time any school board discusses science standards advocates for and against evolution will come out of the woodwork.

The argument against creation science is usually that it's not science, it's religion, philosophy, theology. Whatever it is, it isn't science.

The New York Times took a look at a group of young earth creationists who are trying to change that. In Rock of Ages, Ages of Rock author Hanna Rosin (who has a chapter on young earth creationism in her book God's Harvard) visits the First Conference on Creation Geology. (Full disclosure: the conference was held at Cedarville University, my alma mater.)

Creationist geologists are now numerous enough to fill a large meeting room and well educated enough to know that in rejecting the geologic timeline they are also essentially taking on the central tenets of the field. Any "evidence" presented at the conference pointing to a young earth would be no more convincing than voodoo or alchemy to mainstream geologists, who have used various radiometric-dating methods to establish that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. But the participants in the conference insist that their approach is scientifically valid. "We're past the point of being critical of evolutionists," Whitmore told me. "We're trying to go out and make new discoveries and actually do science."

Obviously, the 3,300-word article is sceptical of the idea that scientists could believe in creation as described in Genesis as well as science. Perhaps the most telling example of the compartmentalized mind these scientists with Ph.D.s from major research universities need to have is the story of "Marcus Ross, 31, the latest inductee into the movement, who got his Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Rhode Island last summer."

Ross subsequently wrote a 197-page dissertation about a marine reptile called a mosasaur, whose disappearance he tracked through the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. Fastovsky described the paper as "utterly sound," and the committee recommended very minimal edits.

At the conference I asked Ross whether he still believes what he wrote in his graduate thesis. His answer confirmed him as the product of the postmodern university, where truth is dependent on the framework: "Within the context of old age and evolutionary theory, yes. But if the parameter is different, portions of it could be completely in error."

Ross and other scientists are working on providing scientific legitimacy for the significant percentage (45) of Americans who believe in the Genesis account of creation. But they're rather patronizing toward their fellow believers without Ph.D.s. Rosin writes,

Like any group of elites, they were snobs about their superior degrees. During lunch breaks or car rides, they traded jokes about the "vulgar creationists" and the "uneducated masses," and, in their least Christian moments, the "idiots on the Web." One leader of a creationist institute complained about all the cranks who call on the phone claiming to have seen dinosaurs or to have had a vision of Noah's ark.

And their scientific method leaves Rosin skeptical. "'We don't subscribe to this idea of the 'God of gaps,' meaning if you can't explain something, then blame God," [John] Whitmore [a professor at Cedarville] told me before describing a method that hardly seemed more scientific. "Instead, we think: 'Here's what the Bible says. Now let's go to the rocks and see if we find the evidence for it.' "

Their work is likely to cause only more headaches for proponents of evolution on school boards across the country. Armed with whatever evidence these scientists come up with, creationism proponents (or teach-the-controversy proponents) will be crashing the gates of school boards for decades to come.

But it's not only secular evolutionists who are playing defense. In fact, "The new creationists are not likely to make much of a dent among secular scientists, who often just roll their eyes at the mention of flood geology." Rosin writes, "But they have become a burden to many geologists at Christian colleges around the country."

Christian evolutionists are the ones really bugged by this movement. "Geology at Wheaton is presented and practiced much the same way as at secular universities," Stephen Moshier, the department chair, says. However, young earth creationists have a lot of influence, Moshier says. "It can get so frustrating," he said. "Many of us at Christian colleges really grieve at what a problem this young-earth creationism makes for the Christian witness. It's almost like they're adding another thing you have to believe to become a Christian. It's like saying, You have to believe the world is flat to be a Christian, and that's absolutely unreasonable."

Rosin's full article is worth reading. The characters, quotes, and stories she tells give an illuminating look at this movement that keeps rearing its head, to the chagrin of Christians and atheist evolutionists alike.

Posted by Rob Moll on December 4, 2007 9:55AM

Bad science

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/5352284.html

Ouster of science curriculum chief suggests religious doctrine might be infecting education agency.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

It would appear that even hinting that intelligent design is religion masquerading as science is forbidden at the Texas Education Agency.

Chris Castillo Comer, a veteran science teacher and for nine years the TEA's director of science curriculum, was forced to resign for what seems like the most trivial of offenses: forwarding an e-mail announcement to her contacts of an upcoming talk by an author of a book critical of the intelligent design movement.

With a State Board of Education review of the science portion of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills scheduled early next year, Comer's ouster could portend a renewed effort to establish creationism and intelligent design as science class fare.

Creationism contends that the natural world was created by a deity, while intelligent design seeks to explain evolution as a process set in motion by that creator. The writer whose presentation was mentioned in the e-mail is Barbara Forrest, the coauthor of Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse, and a key witness in a Pennsylvania case that challenged the inclusion of intelligent design in a school district's curriculum. In forwarding the event announcement sent by a pro-evolution group called the National Center for Science Education, Comer was simply alerting people to a relevant presentation by a reputable education writer.

That's not how Lizzette Reynolds, a former U.S. Department of Education employee saw it. Reynolds, the TEA's senior adviser on statewide initiatives for less than a year, fired off a memo calling for Comer's termination less than two hours after the e-mail had been sent. "This is something that the State Board, the governor's office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject the agency supports," Reynolds wrote.

Since Texas policy supports the inclusion of evolution in science curriculum, it's hard to see how Comer was violating state policy by circulating an event notice sent out by a group that also endorses teaching evolution. Although TEA officials later cited Comer's attendance at a meeting of the same group, that seems a bogus rationale for dismissal and a violation of academic freedom.

"Maybe [the TEA] must remain neutral to whether or not to lie to students about evolution — but if so, that's just sad," Forrest said.

It will be more than sad if the Texas Education Agency is leaning toward taking an anti-evolutionary stance and allowing religious doctrine to be taught side by side with valid science in the state's classrooms. If intelligent design is a Trojan horse for creationism, the Comer episode indicates Texans need to be wary of TEA bureaucrats bearing undesirable gifts.

Americans reveal belief in UFOs, witches

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/05/2109870.htm

Posted Wed Dec 5, 2007 8:30am AEDT An overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God and significant numbers also think that UFOs, the devil and ghosts exist, a poll has shown. The survey by Harris Online showed that 82 per cent of adult Americans believe in God and a slightly smaller percentage - 79 per cent - believe in miracles. More than 70 per cent of the 2,455 adults surveyed between November 7 and 13 said they believed in heaven and angels, while more than 60 per cent said they believed in hell and the devil. Almost equal numbers said they believe in Darwin's theory of evolution (42 per cent) - the belief that populations evolve over time through natural selection - and creationism (39 per cent) - the theory that God created mankind. Seventy per cent of Americans said they were very (21 per cent) or somewhat (49 per cent) religious, while around one-third of those polled also said they believe in UFOs, witches and astrology.

Sub-standard science standards

http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/8150.article

Editorial
By JAMES A. SMITH SR.
Executive Editor
Published December 6, 2007

It's an understatement to say much has been written about evolution since Charles Darwin articulated the theory in his groundbreaking 1859 book, The Origin of Species. Considerable controversy has ensued and in recent decades a compelling body of literature has arisen critiquing the theory, undermining central tenets to natural selection and enraging the overwhelming majority of scientists who continue to cling to Darwinian evolution with a religious-like devotion.

Nevertheless, students will learn nothing of this controversy if proposed new science standards become reality in Florida's schools. Florida's educational establishment is attempting to make evolution dogma the sole means of understanding the origins and development of biological life for students in the Sunshine State, and Florida Baptists — and other concerned citizens — should be participating in this debate.

In October, a 45-member committee appointed by the Florida Department of Education released proposed new standards for teaching science (and other subjects), requiring evolution and diversity knowledge as one of the "big ideas" for elementary students and "bodies of knowledge" for high school students. The standards, which can be viewed and commented upon online at www.flstandards.org, require doctrinaire acceptance of Darwin's theory, without any acknowledgment of evidence to the contrary.

For example, standards for grades 9-12 require students learn that, "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change." One "benchmark" for those grades stipulates that students, "Explain how evolution is demonstrated by the fossil record, extinction, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, biogeography, molecular biology (crosscuts with earth/space), and observed evolutionary change."

The absence of contradictory data is unnecessary as far as committee member Jonathan Smith is concerned. Smith told the Lakeland Ledger the new standards "closed the door on any ambiguity" concerning evolution. "There isn't both sides. There is only one side as far as science is concerned." How open-minded.

Interestingly, the Ledger reports Smith is a representative of the National Center for Science Education, an organization opposed to intelligent design (ID), an alternative theory on origins of life which asserts that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection," according to the Discovery Institute, a major force behind the ID movement.

Smith knows better — there is indeed great controversy in the scientific academy over the tenets of natural selection, even if a large majority of scientists continue to hold to Darwinian evolution. The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture sponsors a Web site, "Dissent from Darwin" (www.dissentfromdarwin.org), that boasts the affirmation of more than 700 highly credentialed scientists to the simple statement, "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."

Not in Florida's schools, if the new science standards become reality.

The Discovery Institute plainly states what's at stake in this debate: "Since the controversy over microevolution and macroevolution is at the heart of Darwin's theory, and since evolutionary theory is so influential in modern biology, it is a disservice to students for biology curricula to ignore the controversy entirely. Furthermore, since the scientific evidence needed to settle the controversy is still lacking, it is inaccurate to give students the impression that the controversy has been resolved and that all scientists have reached a consensus on the issue."

At least one member of the State Board of Education (SBOE) is concerned about the new science standards. Donna Callaway, in an e-mail interview with me, explained why she will vote against the new standards, as currently written, when the matter is put to the seven-member board in January.

"I agree completely that evolution should be taught with all of the research and study that has occurred. However, I believe it should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life," Callaway told me.

Callaway, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Board in 2004, agrees that the science standards need updating. The veteran public school educator resigned from her middle school principal post to serve on the SBOE.

Evolution "is like no other subject we teach. Therefore, it is of supreme importance," she said. "This has the possibility of confirming or denying for a child who he/she really is. This strikes to the meaning, the value, and the core of life itself. I firmly believe that a child can deal with the proof of science along with a personal belief in God as the Creator of the universe at the same time. The classroom should allow him, openly, that opportunity. Teachers should be allowed the leeway to acknowledge that there are other theories."

Although Callaway does not believe intelligent design should be taught, it should be "acknowledged as a theory which many people accept along with others. Students need to have any proof, scientific evidence that is there. But the fact that there are other theories about certain parts, at least needs to be pointed out, footnoted. I believe this is true education."

Indeed, it is. Unfortunately, the current science standards are sub-standard when it comes to educating our kids about evolution.

Callaway told me that the Department of Education is getting a growing amount of correspondence from parents, teachers, local school board members and other citizens who are concerned about the narrow, pro-evolution standards. Comments may be made through Dec. 14 at a special Web site for the standards (www.flstandards.org) and members of the State Board of Education should also be contacted. A list of the members and contact information is provided on its Web site (www.fldoe.org/board/default.asp).

Although she is not attempting to "arouse controversy," Callaway told me she is concerned about what's best for children. "I want an informed public so that when these and other similar decisions are made that affect all of us that they are reflective of how the people feel."

A longtime, active member of First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Callaway added, "My hope is that there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue. As a SBOE member, I want those prayers. I want God to be part of this. Isn't that ironic?"

Not at all, as far as I'm concerned. Indeed, Florida Baptists should pray for the State Board of Education — as well as let their opinions be heard on this vital matter.

Denied Tenure, Astronomer Alleges Intelligent Design Witchhunt

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/12/denied-tenure-a.html

By Brandon Keim December 05, 2007 | 3:24:22 PM

Guillermo Gonzalez, an Iowa State University astronomer allegedly denied tenure because of his belief in intelligent design, has announced his plans to sue the university.

Religious conservatives have rushed to his aid, and the Discovery Institute -- an intelligent design think tank to which Gonzalez belongs -- released email excerpts of tenure discussions that suggest the university's decision was based on Gonzalez's beliefs, not his science.

We've covered the Gonzalez case before, noting that his research on stellar evolution and extrasolar planetary systems shouldn't automatically be discredited by his scientifically bankrupt belief that some biological phenomena can only be explained as divine handiwork. The Vatican Observatory is well-known for producing solid science; Francis Crick was a fine geneticist despite his support for a crackpot theory called galactic panspermia.

Intelligent design aside, the quality of Gonzalez's production at Iowa State is the subject of much debate. The Neurotopia blog reports that Gonzalez secured just one-tenth as much grant money as his colleagues. However, his publication record wasn't so thin as some bloggers have suggested; compared to other tenured Iowa State astronomers, he was actually more prolific.

So far, science bloggers and defenders of evolution have dismissed Gonzalez's complaints. However, I'm not sure they're being fair. Though out-of-context email excerpts can be misleading, statements like "this is not a friendly place for him to develop further his IDeas" make it sound like Gonzalez was not, as the university insisted, judged solely on the content of his astronomical scholarship.

The Des Moines Register reports that the American Civil Liberties Union will be "very interested observers" in the case. Though they haven't yet taken sides, they want to make sure that Gonzalez received "a procedurally fair and objective analysis of his academic abilities and achievements."

Any researcher deserves that. Did Gonzalez get it? More as the story develops.

Evolution Battling Intelligent Design in Florida Schools

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/12/evolution-battl.html

By Brandon Keim December 05, 2007 | 12:14:07 PM

The next intelligent design showdown will take place in Florida, where opposition is mounting to state -mandated emphasis on the importance of evolution to science education.

The controversy comes on the heels of a Texas education official's firing for forwarding an email critical of intelligent design, which holds that some phenomena are too complex to be explained except by Godly manufacture. In a landmark court case in 2005, intelligent design was officially designated as religion rather than science, but its proponents continue to fight.

In October, Florida proposed new standards for science education, designating evolution as something every student should understand. "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change," read the guidelines.

It was a big step forward: two years ago, when the Fordham Institute, an education think tank, gave Florida's science curriculum a grade of F, the standards didn't even mention evolution by name. But opposition is growing.

Just before Thanksgiving, four Polk County school board members said they don't support the new standards and think intelligent design ought to be taught as a valid alternative to evoultion. Then state Board of Education member Donna Callaway said she'd vote against the standards. Evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of the origin of life," she told the Florida Baptist Witness weekly newspaper, adding her hope that "there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue." A few days ago, state representative Will Weatherford, a leading candidate to become Florida's House speaker in 2011, voiced opposition to evolution. "To show it from just one perspective and say this is more important or more accurate than the rest, I'm not so sure I'm in favor of that," he told the St. Petersburg Times.

The Board of Education will vote on the standards in February. In the meantime, the guidelines can be reviewed and graded here, and board members can be contacted here. Should you happen to speak in favor of evolution and against intelligent design, you might want to pass along information about evolutionary theology -- a theory that allows for both God and evolution.

John Young: Politicization of science

http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2007/12/04/12032007wacyoung.html

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When it comes to explaining human origins and early man, don't forget:

The club came before fire.

Long before man figured out that lumber could be burned to illuminate and heat the cave, he knew that he could wield lumber to clobber his fellow man.

That was the case in Austin the other day in a 21st-century way.

A person whose job was illumination got clubbed.

Some alarmed observers assert that it was way too symbolic. The clubbing, they say, was on the altar of those who insist dinosaurs and man shared the same marshes a few thousand years ago.

Whatever the case, what happened to Chris Comer appears to have set us back a few eons — if we've been here that long.

Comer until last month was the director of science curricula for the Texas Education Agency. In that role she had won high marks for devotion to high standards when science class is ever in the cross hairs of the oh-so-powerful religious right.

Heaven forfend that each of us would be fired for what Comer did. She committed the 21st-century offense of forwarding an e-mail.

Neutrality on this?

The agency says that act alone isn't what cost Comer her job. But according to one TEA official high up in the clubbing order, it was enough unto itself.

The forwarded e-mail was about an upcoming speaking engagement by Barbara Forrest, author of Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse.

Forrest is an expert on the cottage industry devoted to Biblicizing science class by getting a foot in the academic door with the theory of intelligent design.

TEA officials said that Comer's forwarding of an announcement about Forrest's speech was tantamount to endorsing the anti-creation science point of view.

Imagine. Someone devoted to real science forwarding an e-mail about someone devoted to the same thing.

To Lizette Reynolds, this act was unfathomable, "an offense that calls for termination."

The accused, for nine years TEA's science curricular chief, you might call the definition of an education professional. The accuser you might call the definition of a political appointee. A former staffer to Gov. George W. Bush, Reynolds worked a few years in his U.S. Department of Education. As of last January, she's been senior adviser to TEA Commissioner Robert Scott.

Reynolds said Comer violated an agency position of neutrality on intelligent design. I guess you can read anything you want into the act of forwarding an e-mail.

Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education said that she reads "the politicization of science education" into the fact that Comer has lost her job for it.

People who are concerned about this point out that Comer's ouster comes just as TEA prepares next month to rewrite the state's essential elements for teaching science.

Concerns have been expressed that a right-leaning State Board of Education might seek to diminish the current requirement to teach about evolutionary biology.

Instead, the thrust for the creation science-intelligent design crowd is to cast doubt, to require that teachers "teach the controversy."

But there's no controversy about evolution as a process, just as no controversy surrounds the greenhouse effect and what increased greenhouse gases do in an atmosphere.

We can only hope that the state school board is not so inclined as to turn discussions of evolution, as with the greenhouse effect, into the picking of nits that completely undermines and ignores the immense science backing both biological facts.

Steve Schafersman, a PhD and president of Texas Citizens for Science, says Chris Comer now joins the ranks of "martys of science, much like Galileo and Nickolai Vavilov," the latter jailed by Stalinist Russia for studying genetics. Yes, that was a crime.

Imagine what a crime the Stalinists would have assigned to forwarding an e-mail.

John Young's column appears Thursday, Sunday and occasionally Tuesday.

Rock of Ages, Ages of Rock

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/magazine/25wwln-geologists-t.html

By HANNA ROSIN
Published: November 25, 2007

On a muggy afternoon in July, a group of geologists from around the country put on some bug spray and fanned out along one of Ohio's richest fossil beds. The rock walls were slippery and steep at points, and some people came in their dress shoes straight from the conference that brought them together. But no one seemed daunted; when let loose on the rocks they behaved like children with a piñata, filling their pockets with local specimens and cooing over their treasure. "Ahh, that's a beautiful brachiopod!" or "A fine trilobite! Let me see that."

A brightly painted sign in the state park explained that 450 million years ago these ancient creatures lived at the bottom of a warm, shallow sea during the Ordovician period. But none of these geologists believed it. As young-earth creationists, they think the earth is about 8,000 years old, give or take a few thousand years. That's about the amount of time conventional geology says it can take to form one inch of limestone.

Creationist ideas about geology tend to appeal to overly zealous amateurs, but this was a gathering of elites, with an impressive wall of diplomas among them (Harvard, U.C.L.A., the Universities of Virginia, Washington and Rhode Island). They had spent years studying the geologic timetable, but they remained nevertheless deeply committed to a different version of history. John Whitmore, a geologist from nearby Cedarville University who organized the field trip, stood in the middle of the fossil bed and summarized it for his son.

"Dad, how'd these fossils get here?" asked Jess, 7, looking up from his own Ziploc bag full of specimens.

Whitmore, who was wearing a suede cowboy hat, answered in a cowboy manner — laconic but certain.

"From the flood," he said.

What was remarkable about the afternoon was not so much the fossils (the bed is well picked over) but the gathering itself, part of the First Conference on Creation Geology, held on the Cedarville campus. Creationist geologists are now numerous enough to fill a large meeting room and well educated enough to know that in rejecting the geologic timeline they are also essentially taking on the central tenets of the field. Any "evidence" presented at the conference pointing to a young earth would be no more convincing than voodoo or alchemy to mainstream geologists, who have used various radiometric-dating methods to establish that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. But the participants in the conference insist that their approach is scientifically valid. "We're past the point of being critical of evolutionists," Whitmore told me. "We're trying to go out and make new discoveries and actually do science."

Creationist geologists are thriving, paradoxically, at a moment when evangelicals are becoming more educated, more prosperous and more open to scientific progress. And though they are a lonely few among Christian academics, they have an influence far out of proportion to their numbers. They have just opened a state-of-the-art $27 million museum in Kentucky, and they dominate the Christian publishing industry, serving as the credentialed experts for the nearly half of Americans who believe in some version of a young earth. In a sense, they represent the fundamentalist avant-garde; unlike previous generations of conservative Christians, they don't see the need to choose between mainstream science and Biblical literalism.

This creationist approach to science is actually a relatively modern phenomenon, only about 50 years old. When the state of Tennessee put the biology teacher John Scopes on trial for teaching evolution in the 1920s, the creationists did not have a single credentialed supporter. Their main champions were an expert on penmanship, a dropout from homeopathic school and a Canadian surgeon who was billed on his travels as "the greatest scientist in all the world." William Jennings Bryan, noted prosecutor in the Scopes trial, was not overly concerned with the age of the earth; he equated six-day creationism with the flat-earth theory.

Then in 1961, John Whitcomb, a theologian, and Henry Morris, a hydraulic engineer from Texas, published "The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Explanations." The book revived a relatively obscure, century-old theory of Noah's flood as the most violent catastrophe in earth history. The flood, they argued, warped the normal geological processes and caused rapid transformations. Water from the skies and from within the earth ("the floodgates of heaven") slammed into the oceans, killing the sea creatures and covering the "high mountains," as it says in Genesis. For months afterward, the planet convulsed with earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. After a brief ice age, the earth became the ecosystem we know today. Continents shifted; the water receded; the animals left the ark and spread over the earth.

Until then fundamentalists had mostly avoided any close study of geology, because a literal reading of the Bible was too difficult to reconcile with the accepted age of the earth. But "The Genesis Flood" served as their version of "The Feminine Mystique," a generational manifesto that liberated them to explore. In the decades since, a small band of geologists, including Whitmore, have set to work improving on the Morris-Whitcomb model using the modern tools of their field: close examination of rocks and fossils combined with computer models.

Now the movement can count hundreds of scientists with master's or Ph.D. degrees in the sciences from respectable universities. The change started in part when Christian colleges that used to resist mainstream science started premed programs, which meant they needed trained biologists and chemists. Eventually they added courses in physics, chemistry and geology. Most geologists teaching at Christian colleges in the United States today say they do not believe in a young earth; they typically argue that a "day" in Genesis does not necessarily mean a literal 24-hour day, or that there could have been long gaps between the days. But the young-earthers treat the words of Genesis as irrefutable fact.

Their ideas are being showcased in the new Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., opened in May by a creationist group called Answers in Genesis, whose headquarters are nearby. With its wide-open spaces and interactive exhibits, the place feels like a slick museum of natural history, updated for the Hollywood age. Many of the exhibits were designed by Patrick Marsh, who helped create the "Jaws" and "King Kong" attractions at Universal Studios in Florida. Giant dinosaurs guard the courtyard entrance, promising fun and adventure. Inside, a replica of the ark leads you from seaboard to bottom deck, a rumbling theater replicates the flood, James Cameron-style. Lifelike models of Adam and Eve (who looks like the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen) frolic in a lush garden among the animals, including several dinosaurs.

The museum expected about 250,000 visitors in the first year. Instead, despite its $20 entry fee, it has had that many in six months, according to Michael Matthews, the museum's content manager. Almost every day, minivans and buses from Christian schools fill the parking lot, sometimes after 10-hour road trips. The museum's target group is the 45 percent of Americans who, for 25 years, have consistently agreed with the statement in a Gallup poll that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

The museum sends the message that belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation. The failure to understand Genesis is literally "undermining the entire word of God," Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, says in a video. The collapse of Christianity believed to result from that failure is drawn out in a series of exhibits: school shootings, gay marriage, drugs, porn and pregnant teens. At the same time, it presents biblical literalism as perfectly defensible science. A fossil shows a perch eating a herring, evidence, they claim, of animals instantaneously trapped by catastrophic events after the flood. In a video, geologists use evidence from Mount St. Helens to show how a mud flow can cut a deep canyon in a single day. "This is what I see based on science," said Andrew Snelling, one of the many creationist geologists at the conference in July who consulted with the museum.

At the conference, participants got together to tackle some difficult questions: How is radioisotope dating flawed? How was the Grand Canyon formed? If all those animals died in one cataclysmic event, why do their fossils appear in such distinct order? Their discussions recall a pre-Darwinian age, before science and faith became enemies. The old-earthers see their discipline as more pure than intelligent design; the intelligent-design people focus on a notion of a mystery "designer," without specifying who that might be and what the mechanisms are. To the young-earth creationists, this is both unscientific and dubiously religious. "We don't subscribe to this idea of the 'God of gaps,' meaning if you can't explain something, then blame God," Whitmore told me before describing a method that hardly seemed more scientific. "Instead, we think: 'Here's what the Bible says. Now let's go to the rocks and see if we find the evidence for it.' "

The heads of all the leading scientific creationist institutes from several countries showed up for the Cedarville event, along with the movement's other stars: John Baumgardner, a geophysicist who worked for 20 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Kurt Wise, who got his Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard in the '80s as a student of Stephen Jay Gould, the nation's most famous opponent of creationism; and Marcus Ross, 31, the latest inductee into the movement, who got his Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Rhode Island last summer.

Like any group of elites, they were snobs about their superior degrees. During lunch breaks or car rides, they traded jokes about the "vulgar creationists" and the "uneducated masses," and, in their least Christian moments, the "idiots on the Web." One leader of a creationist institute complained about all the cranks who call on the phone claiming to have seen dinosaurs or to have had a vision of Noah's ark. (How Noah fit the entire animal kingdom onto the ark is a perennial obsession.)

Because they have been exposed to so much standard science, the educated creationists like Kurt Wise try not to allow themselves the blind spots of their less sophisticated relations. Some years ago, for instance, fellow creationists claimed to have found fossils of human bones in Pennsylvania coal deposits, which scientists date to millions of years before humans appeared. After examining them, Wise concluded that they were "not fossil material at all" but "inorganically precipitated iron siderite nodules." Wise later pushed to get himself appointed as scientific adviser to the new creationist museum so he could "keep out the scientific garbage."

In a presentation at the conference, Wise showed a slide of a fossil sequence that moved from reptile to mammal, with some transitional fossils in between. He veered suddenly from his usual hyperactive mode to contemplative. "It's a pain in the neck," he said. "It fits the evolutionary prediction quite well." Wise and others have come up with various theories explaining how the flood could have produced such perfect order. Wise is refining a theory, for example, that the order reflects how far the animals lived from the shore, so those living farthest from the water show up last in the record. But they haven't settled on anything yet.

"We have nothing to fear from data," Ross told me. "If we're afraid, it means we don't trust God's word." The older generation of creationists "would come up with an explanation or a model and say, 'This solves it!' I'm a bit more cautious and at the same time more rigorous. We have lines of possibility that we continue to advance but at the same time we recognize that this is science, so the explanations are subject to change with new discoveries."

As the latest recruit into a small elite, and with his clipped dark hair and goatee, Ross was the novelty at the conference. He grew up in Rhode Island, was an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State University and got his Ph.D. under David Fastovsky, a well-known expert in dinosaur extinction at the University of Rhode Island. Fastovsky knew Ross was a young-earth creationist; they'd talked about it after his application came in. "I guess I thought of it as a little bit like Jews playing Wagner," Fastovsky told me. "The science stands or falls, just like the music, regardless of the disposition of the scientist." Ross subsequently wrote a 197-page dissertation about a marine reptile called a mosasaur, whose disappearance he tracked through the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. Fastovsky described the paper as "utterly sound," and the committee recommended very minimal edits.

At the conference I asked Ross whether he still believes what he wrote in his graduate thesis. His answer confirmed him as the product of the postmodern university, where truth is dependent on the framework: "Within the context of old age and evolutionary theory, yes. But if the parameter is different, portions of it could be completely in error."

Outside school, Ross studied what he considered great breakthroughs in creation geology. In 1999, Ross came across John Baumgardner's theory of catastrophic plate tectonics, which was proposed a few years earlier. The theory is the first attempt to describe the mechanism of the flood. It involves a fantastic "runaway" situation in which the ocean floor slides into the earth's mantle in a matter of weeks and then hot rocks come to the surface of the ocean floor, causing ocean water to vaporize and rush out like a geyser ("the fountains of the great deep" described in Genesis). A computer model refining the theory purports to show an earth wobbling crazily on its axis as land masses come together and then break apart, forming the continents we have today.

"Until then, my options were pretty pathetic," Ross said. Now he had something that "accounted for a large body of geological evidence," proposed by a geophysicist trained at U.C.L.A. and supported by three other geology Ph.D.'s.

So which side did he choose?

"I have faith that the Bible is a true and accurate record of the earth," he said. "I also entertain the possibility that I'm wrong. It would be cartoonish to say I don't have doubts from time to time. Everybody has moments of doubt. But I can have those moments without my brain exploding."

The new creationists are not likely to make much of a dent among secular scientists, who often just roll their eyes at the mention of flood geology. But they have become a burden to many geologists at Christian colleges around the country.

In recent years a number of Christian institutions have been undergoing what Alan Wolfe, a sociologist, calls "the opening of the evangelical mind." Instead of teaching a fundamentalist world-view that is always at odds with secular academia, many evangelical colleges are easing their students into the mainstream.

The statement of faith for Wheaton College in Illinois, Billy Graham's alma mater, for example, says that Scripture is "inerrant in the original writing" and that "God directly created Adam and Eve," but when it comes to pinning down the age of the earth, the school balks. Wheaton has a strong geology department. Its professors argue that the Bible makes no specific mention of the age of the earth. They belong to groups like the Geological Society of America and wring their hands about the "geo-literacy" of the church. "Geology at Wheaton is presented and practiced much the same way as at secular universities," the department chairman, Stephen Moshier, said in a recent talk. Other professors have issued long tracts comparing the various methods of radiometric dating and showing that they all agree: The earth is over four billion years old.

Most members of the American Scientific Affiliation, a collection of Christians with degrees in the sciences, qualify as old-earthers, according to Moshier. But the young-earthers have "a lot more influence," he told me. They have "tremendous clout" with Christian publishers and are "very, very successful at getting their word out," he said. "I know so many Christians who have tried to write books from a different perspective and been rejected."

Marcus Ross, meanwhile, is thriving in his teaching job at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971. Like many Christian colleges, Liberty is expanding rapidly to keep up with growing demand; the school adds 800 students a year, and now has a total of 10,000 on campus and 18,000 more distance-learning students. Each semester, Ross teaches a huge, mandatory survey course called History of Life. Most kids in the class are creationists, but Ross finds gaps in their world-view. His aim is to make their creationist logic more consistent, and his surveys show that he succeeds. At the beginning of the class, only 54 percent of students say the age of the earth is less than 10,000 years. By the end, it's 87 percent. The biggest shift? Did dinosaurs and man live at the same time? That one moves to 80 percent from 40.

These numbers make Moshier cringe. "It can get so frustrating," he said. "Many of us at Christian colleges really grieve at what a problem this young-earth creationism makes for the Christian witness. It's almost like they're adding another thing you have to believe to become a Christian. It's like saying, You have to believe the world is flat to be a Christian, and that's absolutely unreasonable."

Given the difficulty of their intellectual enterprise, the creationist geologists often have a story about the time they nearly gave it up. For Wise the crisis hit when he was a sophomore in high school. He was already an avid fossil collector who dreamed "an unattainable dream" of going to Harvard to study paleontology and then to teach at a big university. But as he told a friend, he couldn't reconcile the geologic ages with what he read in his Bible. So he set about figuring this out: every night, for months, he cut out every verse of the Bible he'd have to reject to believe in evolution. "I dreaded the impending end," he writes in a collection of essays called "In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation." "All that I loved to do was involved with some aspect of science."

When he was done, he tried to pick up what was left. But he found it impossible to do that without the Bible being "rent in two," he writes. "Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible." In the end, he kept his Bible and achieved his unattainable dream. But it left him in a strange, vulnerable place. "If all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand."

In "The God Delusion," Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and author, presents Wise as an Othello figure, destroyed by his own convictions. "The wound, to his career," Dawkins writes, "and his life's happiness, was self-inflicted, so unnecessary, so easy to escape. All he had to do was toss out the Bible. Or interpret it symbolically, or allegorically, as the theologians do. Instead, he did the fundamentalist thing and tossed out science, evidence and reason, along with all his dreams and hopes."

If Wise still has doubts, or unhappiness, he has learned to put them aside. When consulting for the Creation Museum, he considered his most important duty to be presenting a "coherent story line about the earth's history," he said. "Even if it's wrong, it's a starting point. We use coherence as a criteria. It ought to fit together not as a set of random processes but something coherent orchestrated by God. And not just coherent but spine-tingling. God is behind this story. I can know it as a single story, and the story can be understood, and the story can be spine tingling. There's a Whoa! factor. And it's there from the first verse: The Lord God is One."

Hanna Rosin, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, is the author of "God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save the Nation."

Why science needs history

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/casey/5352710.html

Dec. 5, 2007, 7:12PM
COMMENTARY
By RICK CASEY
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

A recent flap at the Texas Education Agency demonstrates why we need to teach history better so we can teach science better.

After nine years as the Texas Education Agency's science director, Chris Comer resigned after being suspended for appearing to oppose the "intelligent design" theory of the origins of the universe.

TEA officials say other factors were involved in her firing, but e-mails obtained by the Austin American-Statesman make clear that Comer's scientific orthodoxy and apparent political heresy were a major factor.

Her mortal sin was that in October she sent an e-mail to an Austin online community announcing an upcoming lecture by Barbara Forrest, a Southeast Louisiana University philosophy professor and co-author of Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse.

'Creationism relabeled'

Forrest is hardly alone in her notion that "intelligent design," which argues that gaps in evolution theory means that a Creator must be responsible for the universe, is itself the creation of biblical creationists.

Two years ago a federal judge in Pennsylvania, after listening to six weeks of expert testimony and legal arguments, ruled a school board could not require the teaching of "intelligent design," which he called "creationism relabeled."

Apparently the first call for Comer's firing came from TEA staffer Lizzette Reynolds who had been sent a copy of the e-mail. Reynolds served as a legislative director for then-Gov. George Bush and went on to serve in his U.S. Department of Education. She was hired as the TEA's "senior adviser on statewide initiatives" last January.

A Christian nation

Reynolds e-mailed Comer's bosses, saying Comer's apparent recommendation of the lecture "is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities."

So a science educator should be fired for promoting a lecture by a supporter of science? What kinds of "statewide initiatives" does this senior adviser promote? One possibility: The State Board of Education soon will review our schools' science curriculum.

Promoters of creationism and intelligent design sometimes suggest that the biblical account deserves a special place in our schools (as opposed to, say, Hindu or Hopi creation stories) because the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.

Here are some historical incidents that prove that we were, indeed, founded as a Christian nation:

•In the early 17th century, Sam Maverick, an English immigrant to Boston and an ancestor of the famous Texas Mavericks, was jailed for repeatedly missing church.

•About the same time, Baptist preacher Roger Williams came to Massachusetts to escape religious persecution in England. After being quoted as saying local Puritan authorities "cannot without a spiritual rape force the consciences of all to one worship," he was secretly warned by Gov. John Winthrop that he was in peril.

He fled to live with a group of Native Americans, then purchased what is now Rhode Island from them, setting it up as a colony that honored religious freedom.

•In 1844, a Jesuit priest in Maine advised Catholic families to go to court to block a school board order that required their children to read the Protestant King James version of the Bible in school. The priest was grabbed by a mob while hearing confessions on a Saturday evening, stripped of his clothes, tarred and feathered.

•In 1859, 11-year-old Tom Wall refused to recite the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments in his Boston public school. After consulting with his principal, Tom's teacher hit the boy across the knuckles with a 3-foot rattan stick.

The boy again refused. The punishment was repeated. The boy still refused. After half an hour of the painful punishment, he relented despite fearing that he was betraying his God. His father filed assault charges and went to court to challenge the reading requirement. He lost.

•In 1869, the Cincinnati school board voted 22-15 to honor the request of Catholic parents to end the reading of the Bible in school. Protestant parents filed suit.

A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 for the Protestants, saying the reading of the Bible was necessary for good government.

The doctrine of separation of church and state is not found in the Constitution. It evolved through the courts and through public consensus based on painful experience.

It was not a sop to Jews or Muslims or ACLU atheists. It was developed to keep some Christians from ruling the consciences of other Christians, just as for centuries they had attempted to do in Europe.

Its logic was most forcefully stated by the Christian judges of the Ohio Supreme Court, who overturned the above ruling with these words:

"When Christianity asks the aid of government beyond mere impartial protection, it denies itself. Its laws are divine and not human. Its essential interests lie beyond the reach and range of human governments. United with government, religion never rises above the merest superstition; united with religion, government never rises above the merest despotism; and all history shows us that the more widely and completely they are separated, the better it is for both."

You can write to Rick Casey at P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210, or e-mail him at rick.casey@chron.com.

Huckabee Bristles at Creationism Query

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jVvZcPSHL9_XQajF5pZYfSx-uyNwD8TB0FPG2

By LIZ SIDOTI and LIBBY QUAID – 23 hours ago

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher who has surged in Iowa with evangelical Christian support, bristled Tuesday when asked if creationism should be taught in public schools.

Huckabee — who raised his hand at a debate last May when asked which candidates disbelieved the theory of evolution — asked this time why there is such a fascination with his beliefs.

"I believe God created the heavens and the Earth," he said at a news conference with Iowa pastors who murmured, "Amen."

"I wasn't there when he did it, so how he did it, I don't know," Huckabee said.

But he expressed frustration that he is asked about it so often, arguing with the questioner that it ultimately doesn't matter what his personal views are.

"That's an irrelevant question to ask me — I'm happy to answer what I believe, but what I believe is not what's going to be taught in 50 different states," Huckabee said. "Education is a state function. The more state it is, and the less federal it is, the better off we are."

The former Arkansas governor pointed out he has advocated for broad public school course lists that include the creative arts and math and science. Why, then, he asked, is evolution such a fascination?

In fact, religion seems to be more of an issue in the GOP Iowa caucuses with one month left before the voting.

In recent weeks, Huckabee has moved from the back of the pack in the state to challenge longtime leader Mitt Romney, who would be the first Mormon president. The race is now a dead heat, with the Iowa caucuses — the first contest in the nomination fight — set for Jan. 3. Christian evangelicals, by many estimates, make up anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of Republicans who will attend the caucuses.

Huckabee, at a dinner in Des Moines, told reporters that the theory of intelligent design, whose proponents believe an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex and orderly features of the universe, should be taught in schools as one of many viewpoints. "I don't think schools ought to indoctrinate kids to believe one thing or another," he said.

Earlier Tuesday in Newton, Iowa, Huckabee wouldn't say whether he thought Mormonism — rival Romney's religion — was a cult.

"I'm just not going to go off into evaluating other people's doctrines and faiths. I think that is absolutely not a role for a president," the former Arkansas governor said.

While he said he respects "anybody who practices his faith," Huckabee said that what other people believe — he named Republican rivals Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton — "is theirs to explain, not mine, and I'm not going to."

He also resisted wading into theology when pressed to explain why some evangelicals don't view the Mormon faith as a Christian denomination.

For months, Romney held wide leads in polls in the state, but he also has faced skepticism about his religion. The former Massachusetts governor plans to address his faith in a major speech Thursday in Texas.

Huckabee has consolidated the support of influential religious conservatives, primarily by reaching out to a network of pastors across the state. He spoke privately Monday night to several hundred gathered in Des Moines for a conference, the only presidential candidate to do so.

He appeared with more than 60 Iowa pastors endorsing him at a news conference Tuesday, including best-selling author Tim LaHaye of "Left Behind" fame and his wife, Beverly. Also endorsing him was Chuck Hurley, an influential Iowa conservative who had backed Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a conservative who quit the race in October.

LaHaye called Huckabee "the most electable candidate who shares our commitment."

As he has risen in polls, Huckabee has emphasized his own faith and in recent weeks has sought to draw subtle distinctions with his rivals by running a TV ad on the issue in the state.

"Faith doesn't just influence me. It really defines me. I don't have to wake up every day wondering what do I need to believe," Huckabee says in the ad. "Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody's politics. Not now, not ever."

A group affiliated with Huckabee supporters has begun taking on his rivals directly, organizing caucus-goers in Iowa and making automated phone calls that favor Huckabee and criticize his rivals. Huckabee has urged an end to the calls; Romney on Tuesday asked Iowa's attorney general to investigate the group's activities.

Huckabee said an investigation "would be fine with me."

"As you heard me say, I repudiate anything that attacks another person. It does not help us. I believe it hurts us."

Rio Rancho school board rescinds policy on intelligent design

http://www.kdbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=7447183

Associated Press - December 4, 2007 8:05 AM ET

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) - The Rio Rancho school board has dissolved a policy allowing alternative theories of evolution to be discussed in public school science classes.

The board voted 3-2 last night in favor of rescinding the policy.

The board had voted 3-2 on August 22nd, 2005, to approve the policy.

2 of those board members supporting the policy are still on the board.

Opponents have said the policy was a tactic to teach intelligent design.

That's a theory that life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

Nearly all scientists dismiss it as a scientific theory.

Critics say it's nothing more than religion masquerading as science.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Evolution education update: November 30, 2007

A state education official in Texas is forced to resign over evolution. Plus: Nick Matzke reviews The Edge of Evolution in the pages of Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and creationist geology is bemusedly discussed in The New York Times and on NPR.

TEXAS EDUCATION OFFICIAL FORCED TO RESIGN OVER EVOLUTION

Chris Comer, the director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, was forced to resign after forwarding a short e-mail message announcing a presentation in Austin by Barbara Forrest. The Austin American-Statesman (November 29, 2007) reported, "Comer sent the e-mail to several individuals and a few online communities, saying, 'FYI.'" Less than two hours later, Lizzette Reynolds, the TEA's senior adviser on statewide initiatives, complained to Comer's supervisors, writing, "This is highly inappropriate ... I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities ... it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports."

The e-mail was then cited in a memorandum recommending Comer's termination, the American-Statesman noted: "They said forwarding the e-mail not only violated a directive for her not to communicate in writing or otherwise with anyone outside the agency regarding an upcoming science curriculum review, 'it directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science.' The memo adds, 'Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.'" Other reasons for recommending her termination were listed in addition.

But Comer told the newspaper that she thought that the long-standing political controversy over evolution education in Texas was responsible: "None of the other reasons they gave are, in and of themselves, firing offenses," she said. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott suggested that Comer's termination seemed to be a warning to TEA employees. "This just underscores the politicization of science education in Texas," Scott said. "In most states, the department of education takes a leadership role in fostering sound science education. Apparently TEA employees are supposed to be kept in the closet and only let out to do the bidding of the board."

Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, which advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right, also expressed her concern. "It's important to know whether politics and ideology are standing in the way of Texas kids getting a 21st century science education," Miller told the American-Statesman. Alluding to previous battles over the place of evolution in Texas science standards and textbooks, she added, "We've already seen a faction of the State Board of Education try to politicize and censor what our schoolchildren learn. It would be even more alarming if the same thing is now happening inside TEA itself."

In a report dated November 29, 2007, Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science contended that the real reason that Comer was forced to resign was her defense of the integrity of science education during her long tenure at TEA. Describing Comer as a martyr of science, he added, "But she will not be a victim," predicting that scientists and science teachers in Texas will be "outraged by her treatment by a state agency that is now publicly and officially forgoing accurate and reliable science to serve the ideological and religious biases of a small minority of state public education officials."

Barbara Forrest herself was aghast at the news, telling NCSE, "In my talk, I simply told the truth -- about the history of the 'intelligent design' movement, about the complete rejection of its claims by the scientific community, and about the Kitzmiller trial and my involvement in it. Maybe the TEA can't afford to take a position on what constitutes good science education -- maybe it must remain neutral on whether or not to lie to students about evolution -- but if so, that's just sad." A professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors, Forrest is the coauthor (with Paul R. Gross) of Creationism's Trojan Horse.

Comer's resignation comes a few months before the Texas board of education is expected to review the science portion of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the state science standards that determine both what is taught in Texas's public school science classrooms and the content of the biology textbooks approved for use in the state. In 2003, there were concerted if ultimately unsuccessful attempts to wield the TEKS to compromise the treatment of evolution in the textbooks then under consideration, and it is expected that such attempts will recur -- especially since the new president of the board is himself a vocal creationist.

For the story in the Austin American-Statesman, visit:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/11/29/1129science.html

For the memorandum recommending Comer's termination (PDF), visit:
http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/statesman/pdf/11/112907science_memo.pdf

For the Texas Freedom Network's website, visit:
http://www.tfn.org/

For Texas Citizens for Science's report on Comer's termination, visit:
http://www.texscience.org/reviews/tea-science-director-resigns.htm

For information about Barbara Forrest and Creationism's Trojan Horse, visit:
http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com/

For the text of the e-mail from NCSE, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/TX/950_texas_education_official_force_11_29_2007.asp

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX

MATZKE DRUBS BEHE IN TRENDS IN ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION

Adding to the chorus of informed criticism of Michael Behe's latest book, The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, 2007), is Nick Matzke, writing in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (November 2007; 22 [11]: 566-567). In his brief review, Matzke focuses on Behe's central thesis, that "anything as complex as a three-protein complex is beyond the reach of random mutation aided by natural selection," and contends that Behe's argument "collapses at every step," concluding that "Behe is driven not by a truly scientific investigation, but instead by metaphysics." Writing on The Panda's Thumb blog (October 27, 2007), Matzke commented, "There are a great many things wrong with Behe's book, and attempting to hit the most important points effectively, with just 750 words to work with, was quite a challenge."

Because a preprint version of his review was available on-line, both on the Trends in Ecology and Evolution website and at The Panda's Thumb blog (October 30, 2007), before the official version was published, Behe was able already to respond to Matzke's review on his own blog. In Matzke's rejoinder posted on The Panda's Thumb (November 6, 2007), he summarizes, "By my count, Behe only bothered to give it a try on 3/8 points, only gave it a significant shot on one, and was easily shot down on all three. If anyone wonders why Behe has repeatedly failed to convince when he has informed opposition -- for example, in the scientific community, or in court -- now you have your answer. He gives excuses rather than answers, and when problems are pointed out, he mostly just hopes that his fans will remain ignorant of them."

Now a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Matzke worked for NCSE from 2004 to 2007. While at NCSE, he coauthored articles for Nature Immunology, Nature Reviews Microbiology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), and Not in Our Classrooms, and contributed a chapter to the new edition of But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy (Prometheus Books, forthcoming). Seed magazine profiled him in 2006 as one of its nine "Revolutionary Minds." And he was the lead NCSE staffer working on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, providing a wealth of scientific expertise and practical advice to the legal team representing the ultimately victorious plaintiffs.

For Trends in Ecology and Evolution's website, visit:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01695347

For Matzke's posts about his review on The Panda's Thumb blog, visit:
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/10/behe-review-in-tree.html
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/10/full-text-of-th.html
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/11/behe-replies-to.html

For NCSE's farewell to Matzke, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/ZZ/422_farewell_nick_8_20_2007.asp

And for NCSE's previous coverage of reviews of Behe's book, visit:
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/US/291_behe39s_latest_scrutinized_6_12_2007.asp
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/US/686_miller_drubs_behe_in_emnatur_6_27_2007.asp
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/US/687_dawkins_reviews_behe_in_emth_7_2_2007.asp
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2007/US/645_gross_drubs_behe_in_emthe_ne_10_10_2007.asp

CREATIONIST GEOLOGY IN THE NEWS AND ON THE AIR

Writing in The New York Times magazine (November 25, 2007), Hannah Rosin cast a bemused eye over a group of young-earth creationist geologists, assembled for the First Conference on Creation Geology, held in July 2007 in Cedarville, Ohio. "Creationist geologists are now numerous enough to fill a large meeting room and well educated enough to know that in rejecting the geologic timeline they are also essentially taking on the central tenets of the field," Rosin wrote. "Any 'evidence' presented at the conference pointing to a young earth would be no more convincing than voodoo or alchemy to mainstream geologists, who have used various radiometric-dating methods to establish that the earth is 4.6 billion years old."

Despite the continued popularity of young-earth creationism -- as exemplified by the recent opening of Answers in Genesis's lavish Creation Museum, which expounds a version of young-earth creationism -- Rosen writes, "The new creationists are not likely to make much of a dent among secular scientists, who often just roll their eyes at the mention of flood geology," adding, "But they have become a burden to many geologists at Christian colleges around the country." Stephen Moshier, the chair of the geology department of Wheaton College, is quoted as saying, "Geology at Wheaton is presented and practiced much the same way as at secular universities ... Many of us at Christian colleges really grieve at what a problem this young-earth creationism makes for the Christian witness."

Rosin poignantly recounts the religious crisis faced by Kurt Wise, the creationist paleontologist who studied at Harvard University under Stephen Jay Gould: "He was already an avid fossil collector who dreamed 'an unattainable dream' of going to Harvard to study paleontology and then to teach at a big university. But as he told a friend, he couldn't reconcile the geologic ages with what he read in his Bible. ... In the end, he kept his Bible and achieved his unattainable dream. But it left him in a strange, vulnerable place. 'If all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.'"

It was a path not taken by paleontologist Kirk Johnson. Interviewed on NPR's "All Things Considered" (November 24, 2007), Johnson said, "early on in my life, I sort of confronted the fact that fossils existed and that there was a deep history to the planet. Meanwhile, at Saturdays at church, I'd be hearing the planet is 6,000 years old, and when I was 15 years old, I found an outcrop on the side of the road, which had lake varves, little layers of the lake, and I counted a few inches of those and did the multiplication. And right there on the side of the road in British Columbia, there was 30,000 years of time. And I was, like, oh, something's not right there, so I -- and I think just being exposed to it in the negative way made me look at it in the positive way."

Johnson, vice president and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, suggested that there is a certain irony about how evolution is presented in creationist families such as his: "I think that American kids, the ones that hear most about evolution are the ones that grew up in creationist families because they're told over and over about how evolution is wrong. They're also told about other things they shouldn't do, and most of them do the things they're not supposed to do." Johnson was on "All Things Considered" along with the artist Ray Troll (a member of NCSE) to discuss their new book, Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway (Fulcrum Publishing, 2007), which (in the publisher's words) "follows the zany travels of a paleontologist and an artist as they drive across the American West in search of fossils."

For Rosin's article in The New York Times magazine, visit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/magazine/25wwln-geologists-t.html

For Johnson and Troll on "All Things Considered," visit: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16592901

And to buy Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway (and benefit NCSE in the process), visit:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/1555914519/nationalcenter02

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.

Sincerely,

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
800-290-6006
branch@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism
http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!
http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp

Official forced out for telling the truth on intelligent design

http://www.caller.com/news/2007/dec/04/official-forced-out-for-telling-the-truth-on/

Christine Castillo Comer, who was until recently the state's director of science teaching, made the mistake of telling the truth. That is, she intimated that intelligent design is not on the same level as evolution as a natural science. In fact, intelligent design is not science at all, but a stalking horse for an assault on evolution by religious conservatives. Now Comer is out of a job.

State education agency officials told The New York Times that Comer wasn't fired, but resigned.

But the truth is that Comer, who has decades of experience as a science teacher and had been director of science for the Texas Education Agency for nine years, was shown the door.

Her indiscretion was sending out an e-mail in November that informed readers about a lecture in Austin to be given by a prominent supporter of evolution. In turn, this spurred disciplinary action by TEA officials who accused her of misconduct and, most tellingly, for taking sides against intelligent design.

It's no coincidence that Comer's ouster comes before the State Board of Education takes up new science teaching standards early next year.

Intelligent design is no more than Bible-based creationism dressed up as science.

People of faith have a perfect right to hold to their belief within the realm of religion and as part of their individual tenets. But proponents of intelligent design are aiming to supplant evolution, or at least to call it into question, not because there is a scientific basis for questioning the long-held and examined theory of evolution, the basis for all biology and zoology, but to advance their own religious views. In effect, by proposing to insert intelligent design into the schools, they wish to impose their religious views over other students and to undermine science teaching in the bargain.

Texas has managed to avoid the science-bashing exercises that other states have undergone. But the TEA is apparently getting squeamish about its support for evolution with the appointment of a new Education Board chairman who has spoken approvingly of intelligent design.

Education officials say that Comer should have been neutral on evolution. What a shame. Instead of supporting teachers as defenders of truth and scientific inquiry, apparently state education officials want educators to perpetuate an academic scam on the state's schoolchildren in service to special interests.

Evolution and Texas

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/opinion/04tue3.html

Published: December 4, 2007

Is Texas about to become the next state to undermine the teaching of evolution? That is the scary implication of the abrupt ousting of Christine Comer, the state's top expert on science education. Her transgression: forwarding an e-mail message about a talk by a distinguished professor who debunks "intelligent design" and creationism as legitimate alternatives to evolution in the science curriculum.

In most states, we hope, the state department of education would take the lead in ensuring that students receive a sound scientific education. But it was the Texas Education Agency that pushed out Ms. Comer after 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the agency's director of science.

As Ralph Blumenthal reported in The Times yesterday, Ms. Comer forwarded to a local online community an e-mail message from a pro-evolution group announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University. Professor Forrest testified as an expert witness in a 2005 Dover, Pa., case that found intelligent design supernatural and theological and definitely not part of a scientific education.

An hour later, Ms. Comer was called in by superiors, pressured to send out a retraction and ultimately forced to resign. Her departure was instigated by a new deputy commissioner who had served as an adviser to George Bush when he was governor of Texas and more recently worked in the federal Department of Education.

It was especially disturbing that the agency accused Ms. Comer — by forwarding the e-mail message — of taking a position on "a subject on which the agency must remain neutral." Surely the agency should not remain neutral on the central struggle between science and religion in the public schools. It should take a stand in favor of evolution as a central theory in modern biology. Texas's own education standards require the teaching of evolution.

Those standards are scheduled to be reviewed next year. Ms. Comer's dismissal and comments in favor of intelligent design by the chairman of the state board of education do not augur well for that review. We can only hope that adherents of a sound science education can save Texas from a retreat into the darker ages.

Official Leaves Post as Texas Prepares to Debate Science Education Standards

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/us/03evolution.html

By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: December 3, 2007

HOUSTON, Dec. 2 — After 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the Texas Education Agency's director of science, Christine Castillo Comer said she did not think she had to remain "neutral" about teaching the theory of evolution.

"It's not just a good idea; it's the law," said Ms. Comer, citing the state's science curriculum.

But now Ms. Comer, 56, of Austin, is out of a job, after forwarding an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism — "a subject on which the agency must remain neutral," according to a dismissal letter last month that accused her of various instances of "misconduct and insubordination" and of siding against creationism and the doctrine that life is the product of "intelligent design."

Her departure, which has stirred dismay among science professionals since it became public last week, is a prelude to an expected battle early next year over rewriting the state's science education standards, which include the teaching of evolution.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the state's education agency in Austin, said Ms. Comer "resigned. She wasn't fired."

"Our job," Ms. Ratcliffe added, "is to enact laws and regulations that are passed by the Legislature or the State Board of Education and not to inject personal opinions and beliefs."

Ms. Comer disputed that characterization in a series of interviews, her first extensive comments. She acknowledged forwarding to a local online community an e-mail message from the National Center for Science Education, a pro-evolution group, about a talk in Austin on Nov. 2 by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a co-author of "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse" and an expert witness in the landmark 2005 case that ruled against the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover, Pa., schools.

"I don't see how I took a position by F.Y.I.-ing on a lecture like I F.Y.I. on global warming or stem-cell research," Ms. Comer said. "I send around all kinds of stuff, and I'm not accused of endorsing it." But she said that as a career science educator, "I'm for good science," and that when it came to teaching evolution, "I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination where I stand."

Ms. Comer said state education officials seemed uneasy lately over the required evolution curriculum. It had always been part of her job to answer letter-writers inquiring about evolution instruction, she said, and she always replied that the State Board of Education supported the teaching of evolution in Texas schools.

But several months ago, in response to an inquiry letter, Ms. Comer said she was instructed to strike her usual statement about the board's support for teaching evolution and to quote instead the exact language of the high school biology standards as formulated for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test.

"The student knows the theory of biological evolution," the standards read, and is expected to "identify evidence of change in species using fossils, DNA sequences, anatomical similarities, physiological similarities and embryology," as well as to "illustrate the results of natural selection in speciation, diversity, phylogeny, adaptation, behavior and extinction."

The standards, adopted in 1998, are due for a 10-year review and possible revision after the 15-member elected State Board of Education meets in February, with particular ramifications for the multibillion-dollar textbook industry. The chairman of the panel, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist and Sunday School teacher at Grace Bible Church in College Station, has lectured favorably in the past about intelligent design.

Ms. Ratcliffe, of the Texas Education Agency, said Dr. McLeroy played no part in Ms. Comer's departure.

Ms. Comer said that barely an hour after forwarding the e-mail message about Dr. Forrest's talk, she was called in and informed that Lizzette Reynolds, deputy commissioner for statewide policy and programs, had seen a copy and complained, calling it "an offense that calls for termination." Ms. Comer said she had no idea how Ms. Reynolds, a former federal education official who served as an adviser to George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas, had seen the message so quickly, and remembered thinking, "What is this, the thought police or what?"

Under pressure, Ms. Comer said, she sent out a retraction, advising recipients to disregard the message.

But Ms. Comer, the divorced mother of a grown son and daughter and the supporter of an ailing father, was still forced out of the $60,000-a-year job, she said, submitting her resignation on Nov. 7. She and the agency said nothing about her departure until The Austin American-Statesman obtained a copy of the "proposed disciplinary action" and her resignation letter.

Ms. Comer said that Tom Shindell, director for organizational development, had told her to resign or be terminated for a series of unauthorized presentations at professional meetings and other reported transgressions.

"Tom," Ms. Comer said she asked, "am I getting fired over evolution?"


Monday, December 03, 2007

Internal Documents Show ISU Faculty and Staff Conspired to Deny Tenure to Qualified Candidate

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/news_press_release,234115.shtml

Posted : Mon, 03 Dec 2007 13:01:58 GMT
Author : Discovery Institute
Category : PressRelease

SEATTLE, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Iowa State University (ISU) employees engaged in conspiracy and deceit to improperly deny tenure to a distinguished astronomer who supports the theory of intelligent design, according to thousands of pages of incriminating internal documents obtained under the Iowa Records Act by Discovery Institute.

The evidence will be made public at a news conference Dec. 3, at 11 am in Senate Chambers Room 24 at the state capitol building in Des Moines. The news conference is being held the day before the meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents, which is currently considering an appeal in the tenure case, but has refused thus far to allow the incriminating documents into the record. At the press conference, attorneys for Gonzalez and representatives of Discovery Institute will be joined by one or more state legislators concerned about the apparent lack of due process in the way the Board of Regents is handling Gonzalez's appeal.

"These e-mails and other documents reveal a continuing effort to mislead the public -- and reporters -- about what really happened to Dr. Gonzalez," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. "The documents demonstrate that Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez lost his job not because he was in any way deficient as a scholar, but simply because he supports intelligent design."

ISU officials, including President Gregory Geoffroy, have insisted publicly that Dr. Gonzalez's denial of tenure was not due to his views on intelligent design.

"ISU's own internal documents tell such a radically different story that ISU did its best to prevent the release of most of them, including at one point threatening to sue Discovery Institute if it did not drop its public records request," explained Discovery Institute program officer Casey Luskin, J.D. "The documents reveal how Dr. Gonzalez's colleagues were obsessed by their hatred of intelligent design and secretly conspired behind Gonzalez's back to create a hostile environment where his tenure case could not be fairly evaluated no matter how outstanding his qualifications."

Discovery Institute