NTS LogoSkeptical News for 10 July 2009

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, July 10, 2009

Leading Advocate of Intelligent Design Challenges Criticism of Science Exam in Britain


Update: An earlier version of this release mistakenly attributed a quote from lecturer James Williams to the Daily Telegraph to Archbishop Rowan Williams, also cited in the article as critical of intelligent design.

SEATTLE—Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph reported attacks on the inclusion of intelligent design in a British science exam, provoking a sharp response from the intelligent design research community, led by Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge University-trained philosopher of science whose just-released book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne) is already drawing praise from leading U.K. scientists.

Lecturer James Williams of Sussex University complained to The Telegraph, "This gives an unwarranted high profile to creationism and intelligent design as ideas of equal status with tested scientific theories."

"Mr. Williams apparently knows very little about the scientific case for intelligent design," said Dr. Meyer, who also directs the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in the United States. "The exam board should be commended, not attacked, for exposing students to competing ideas about the origin and development of life."

Williams made his remarks in the context of a controversy in Britain around a science test given last month to thousands of teenagers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. One question asked students to compare Darwinian evolutionary theories with Lamarckian evolutionary theory, the theory of intelligent design and Biblical creationism.

"Unlike creationism, intelligent design is an inference from scientific evidence, not a deduction from religious authority," countered Meyer. "Intelligent design proposes that certain features of the universe and life are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection."

Meyer argues in his new book that compelling scientific evidence for intelligent design exists in the digital code stored in the DNA molecule.

"DNA functions like a software program," he explains. "We know from experience that software comes from programmers. Information--whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book or encoded in a radio signal--always arises from an intelligent source. So the discovery of digital code in DNA provides evidence that the information in DNA also had an intelligent source."

Scientists who have endorsed Meyer's book include one of the U.K's top geneticists, Dr. Norman C. Nevin, O.B.E., Emeritus Professor in Medical Genetics, Queen's University, Belfast, who has praised Signature in the Cell as "a landmark in the intelligent design debate."

Posted by CSC on July 7, 2009 9:05 AM | Permalink

Breaking the Cease-Fire Between Science and Religion


By David Klinghoffer
Published July 08, 2009, issue of July 17, 2009.

What is portrayed as the debate between religion and science feels increasingly like watching the very bitter dissolution of a doomed marriage. The relationship started out all roses and kisses, proceeded to doubts and regrets, then fights and silences, a mutually agreed separation, and finally to curses and maledictions: "I wish you were dead!"

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss declared "the inconsistency of belief in an activist god with modern science." Krauss's essay was the latest eruption of a vituperative argument going on in the scientific community over "accommodationism."

Accommodationists hold that even atheists should present science to the public as an intellectual activity compatible with religion. Critics of this position include those like University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne, who lashes out at the accommodationists because, as he wrote in an essay in The New Republic, "a true harmony between science and religion requires either doing away with most people's religion and replacing it with a watered-down deism, or polluting science with unnecessary, untestable, and unreasonable spiritual claims."

On the accommodationist side, there are forlorn figures like science journalist Chris Mooney. In a new book, "Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future" (Basic Books), Mooney chides popular blogger and University of Minnesota biologist P.Z. Myers, an ebullient atheist, for publicly desecrating a Catholic communion wafer — an "incredibly destructive and unnecessary" act, Mooney complains, "exacerbating tension between the scientific community and many American Christians."

Anti-accommodationists like bestselling atheist biologist Richard Dawkins, meanwhile, charge the accommodationists with hypocrisy. Says Dawkins in a recent documentary, "They are mostly atheists, but they are wanting to — desperately wanting to — be friendly to mainstream, sensible religious people. And the way you do that is to tell them that there's no incompatibility between science and religion." The debate seems to come down to whether religious people are potentially useful idiots, or simply idiots.

Of course, it wasn't always like this. The origins of modern science, from about 1300 onward, were overwhelmingly religious. Isaac Newton regarded the universe "as a cryptogram set by the Almighty," in John Maynard Keynes's phrase. Scientists from Copernicus to Kepler, Boyle, Linnaeus, Faraday, Kelvin and Rutherford all sought to understand God through His creation. Because nature was the product of a mind acting freely, it made sense to them to try to understand that mind through its actions.

In his new book "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design" (HarperOne), my Discovery Institute colleague Stephen Meyer writes about his days as a Ph.D student at Cambridge University, contemplating the entrance to the great Cavendish Laboratory where Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of DNA's double helix. In 1871, Christian physicist James Clark Maxwell had instructed that the great door be ennobled by an inscription in Latin from the book of Psalms: "Great are the works of the Lord, sought out by all who take pleasure therein."

On a crash course with this tradition, however, was the Enlightenment narrative, with its insistence that science is destined to push religion to the margins of intellectual life. A turning point came with the triumph of Darwin's evolutionary theory, purposefully excluding God, over the evolutionary thinking of Darwin's contemporaries, including such scientific allies as Charles Lyell, Asa Gray and Alfred Russel Wallace, who saw a role for divine creativity in life's history. In another new book, "The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin" (Regnery), Benjamin Wiker tells this story well. With Darwin's victory, envisioning a universe without design or purpose, God seemed on the way to being banished from scientific thought.

Over the ensuing century and a half, tension built as the logical consequences for religion became harder to deny. Yet a détente was generally upheld. In 1999, Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould summed up its terms as a kind of truce under the acronym NOMA, or "Non-overlapping magisteria."

In this view, science and religion occupy totally separate realms of inquiry. Science is about facts, about reality, while religion is about values. Religion should be respected if it makes no claim to describe anything real and agrees not to challenge any idea accepted by most scientists.

Yet even the terms of NOMA are now being withdrawn. Today in academia, a believer like Evangelical Christian genome scientist Francis Collins, or like Catholic biologist Kenneth Miller at Brown University, can count on being ridiculed by the anti-accommodationists. In academia, where reputation is everything, you would not want to be an ambitious young scientist in their mold.

This is despite the fact that both men strenuously deny that there can be any empirical evidence of God's creativity in nature. Still faithful to NOMA, they affirm that the history of life could have produced intelligent creatures very different from human beings for God to enter into a relationship with. Perhaps "a big-brained dinosaur, or… a mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities," as Miller has speculated, surrendering the basic Judeo-Christian belief that the human face and body mysteriously reflect the image of a non-corporeal God.

That may sound as if we've come to a final parting of the ways between science and religion. However, it all depends on what you have in mind when you speak of "science."

Must religion indeed accommodate any scientific idea — even if the idea is wrong, even if it's bad science, ideologically motivated in its origins, intended to explain nature specifically with the view of keeping God out? If that's what science requires, then of course there can be no reconciliation.

But remember — alongside the secular Enlightenment view of science, there runs a parallel tradition, seeking to explain nature without preconceptions, secular or otherwise. That way of thinking still exists among individual scientists, though it is in need of a good revival. With that tradition — older, grander, more open-minded, even more enlightened, you could say — there is no need for a truce with faith, no need for a separation, no need for a divorce.

David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, writes the Kingdom of Priests blog at Beliefnet.

Debate: Evolution vs. creation. What do you believe?


July 9, 8:38 PM

Which do you believe, the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of Intelligent Design? Most people, particularly of the non-Christian variety, would have us believe that believing Intelligent Design is mixing faith with science and that only Evolution is purely science. Yet, the question remains a matter of which one you believe.

Can anyone absolutely prove today that either the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of Intelligent Design is the absolute truth? With man's limitations the answer is sadly, no. No person on this planet can recreate our origins by either means. So what do we do? We must look at the evidence and see which theory the evidence fits. In studying the debate we will see some of the evidence seems to point toward Evolution, some of the evidence points toward Intelligent Design and some of the evidence can be reasonably argued to fit either.

As for myself, I absolutely believe Intelligent Design as stated in the Bible. I believe that true science (the pursuit and discovery of truth) will ultimately prove the word of God to be true. This, however, should not deter me from seeking the truth regardless of where any evidence leads me. I believe in the truth of the word of God, and we have seen that over time the Bible has been proven true.

Many people, even non-Christians, can accept the historical accuracy of the Bible, but when it comes to a belief of theirs the Bible challenges or says is false, they strive to discredit the accuracy of the Bible because of their disagreement with it.

We also see an attempt to compromise the biblical account of creation with evolution. I am sorry folks, but either we believe the word of God or we do not. Evolutionary theorists see this as a vain attempt to choose to believe in God while attempting to avoid ridicule for that faith. While some of the creation story appears "questionable" to the people who have compromised the two theories, belief in God, his ability to tell the truth, and his ability to do what he says he did requires that we make choices.

This category of writing "Debate: Evolution vs. Creation" will explore the evidence and see how that evidence fits with both theories. I know it would be much simpler if Almighty God would just appear and prove it. About 2,000 years ago, an historical Jesus did walk this earth, and even the Jewish leaders of the day did not deny his resurrection but tried to hide it. The people of that day could have easily shut up Jesus' disciples by going to the grave and showing them the body. It should also be noted that the Roman soldiers guarding Jesus' tomb did not deny his resurrection, but that the religious leaders bribed them with instructions to lie.

After literally hundreds of people saw Jesus alive after he was crucified and put into the tomb with a Roman guard, it would have been difficult to maintain that lie. It is rather amazing that we are still being asked to forget the veracity of the word of God today.

Author: Jim Pappas

Jim Pappas is an Examiner from Indianapolis. You can see Jim's articles on Jim's Home Page.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Our 'caveman logic' embraces ESP over evolution


Contact: Jennifer Kovach
Prometheus Books

Psychologist urges critical thinking to cure 'primitive' notions

We see the face of the Virgin Mary staring up at us from a grilled cheese sandwich and sell the uneaten portion of our meal for $37,000 on eBay. We believe in ESP, ghosts, and angels over the scientific theory of evolution. While science offers a wealth of rational explanations for natural phenomena, we often prefer to embrace the fantasies that reassured our distant ancestors. And we'll even go to war to protect our delusions against those who do not share them.

These are examples of what evolutionary psychologist Hank Davis calls "Caveman Logic." Although some examples are funny, the condition itself is no laughing matter. In CAVEMAN LOGIC: THE PERSISTENCE OF PRIMITIVE THINKING IN A MODERN WORLD (Prometheus Books, $19.98), Davis encourages us to transcend the mental default settings and tribal loyalties that worked well for our ancestors back in the Pleistocene age. Davis laments a modern world in which more people believe in ESP, ghosts, and angels than in evolution. Superstition and religion get particularly critical treatment, although he argues that religion, itself, is not the problem but "an inevitable by-product of how our minds misperform."

"Caveman Logic is a whirlwind tour through the deeper recesses of our evolved mind. Hank Davis brings to bear cutting edge research from the cognitive sciences to reveal how mental tools designed to serve the needs of our ancient ancestors continue to exert an influence, both subtle and powerful, on human thought and behavior today," said John Teehan, Associate Professor of Religion, Hofstra University and author of In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence.

Davis says CAVEMAN LOGIC: THE PERSISTENCE OF PRIMITIVE THINKING IN A MODERN WORLD is the product of more than two decades of pondering, teaching and writing about "the powerful influence of irrational, delusional thinking that is anchored to our Pleistocene-era brain circuitry." He asserts that much of this primitive thinking is supported by modern social institutions. For example, a 2007 poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believe angels and demons are active forces in the world, while a 2009 survey concluded that only 39 percent believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. Even non-religious persons often thank God or "the heavens" in response to good news.

"Ways of thinking that were both reasonable and advantageous in caveman days become illogical—and potentially destructive—when they are overextended to modern times," says Madeleine Van Hecke, author of Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things.

Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age adds, "Hank Davis reveals the deep roots of humanity's weakness for superstitions, blind assumptions and primitive thinking, and shows how we can start to overcome 'caveman logic.'"

Davis advocates a world in which "spirituality" is viewed as a dangerous rather than an admirable quality, and suggests ways in which we can overcome our innate predisposition toward irrationality. Davis points out that, "biology is not destiny." Just as some of us succeed in watching our diets, resisting violent impulses, and engaging in unselfish behavior, we can learn to use critical thinking and the insights of science to guide individual effort and social action in the service of our whole species.


About the Author: Hank Davis (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) is an award-winning professor of psychology who teaches at the University of Guelph. He is the author of several books and more than one hundred scientific papers.

MEDIA NOTE: Hank Davis is available to discuss his thoughts on primitive thinking in a modern world. Contact Prometheus Books at publicity@prometheusbooks.com or 1-800-853-7545 for author contact information or to request press materials or a review copy of CAVEMAN LOGIC: THE PERSISTENCE OF PRIMITIVE THINKING IN A MODERN WORLD (ISBN 978-1-59102-721-8)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The god mob


Posted on: June 22, 2009 4:57 PM, by PZ Myers

Speak the name "Templeton" and the prim, dutiful servants of the foundation will appear. If you look at the recent articles from Coyne, Dawkins, and me, you'll discover the same comment, shown below, from a representative of the Templeton Foundation. I've seen these guys in action before. They are very serious, somber fellows in their nice suits, with the dignitas of boodles of cash behind them, who will calmly state their position with an air of dispassionate certitude.

They remind me of Mafia lawyers.

A.C. Grayling and Daniel Dennett have refused to talk to a serious journalist (Edwin Cartlidge of Physics World) about a serious subject (philosophical materialism) because the journalism fellowship under which he is pursuing this subject is sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. They will have nothing to do with the Templeton Foundation, they say, because our aim is somehow to "muddy the waters" about the relationship between science and religion.

That's not how we see it at all. First-rate, peer-reviewed science is essential to our work at the Foundation and to the progressive vision of the late Sir John Templeton, who was deeply committed to scientific discovery. Many of our largest grants go to pure scientific research (like our support for the Foundational Questions Institute in Physics and Cosmology, the Godel Centenary Research Prize Fellowships, and the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard).

But, yes, we do like to include philosophers and theologians in many of our projects. Excellent science is crucial to what we do, but it is not all that we do. We are a "Big Questions" foundation, not a science foundation, and we believe that the world's philosophical and religious traditions have much to contribute to understanding human experience and our place in the universe. For Grayling and Dennett to compare this rich, expansive discussion to a dialogue with astrologers is silly. They know better.

Gary Rosen
Chief External Affairs Officer
John Templeton Foundation

Materialism, philosophical or otherwise, is a serious and useful subject. The bit he left off, though, is that the Templeton Foundation opposes it. For instance, they give a series of prizes, many of which reward people for making the best excuses for inserting superstition into research: the Templeton Prize, for "affirming life's spiritual dimension"; the Award for Theological Promise, for the best thesis on "God and spirituality"; the Religion Reporter of the Year; the European Religion Writer of the Year; the Religion Story of the Year; the Epiphany Prize, for shows that "increase man's understanding and love of God"; the Kairos Prize, for movies that "result in a greater increase in either man's understanding or love of God"; you get the idea. Let's have no illusions. First and foremost, the Templeton Foundation's purpose is the promotion of religion…they have simply chosen to pursue that goal by dressing up as philanthropists supporting a certain kind of science. They are what the Discovery Institute wishes they could be, if they were staffed with grown-ups and had $1.5 billion to play with.

They do aim to muddy the waters. They want to blur the boundaries between legitimate science, which questions traditional dogma, and religion, which is traditional dogma, by playing favorites with religion in a game that apes scientific institutions. Yes, they certainly do spend money on real science projects; it's part of their aim to entangle valid, secular science in the financial webs of a religiously motivated agency. Again, look at the Mafia for a model. Diversify and get your hands in real businesses like trucking or garbage collection or construction, and when someone asks difficult questions, just say "Hey, look — fleet of garbage trucks!" And meanwhile, build up a network of obligations — do a little, perfectly legal favor for some little guy, and when the time comes, you can ask him to return the favor, to your advantage.

Now of course, the Templeton Foundation is doing nothing illegal, and the comparison to a criminal organization does not extend to actual criminality. The only place it holds up is in the way they maintain a pretext of doing one thing, while actually profiting most off another activity altogether. Look at Mr Rosen's comment. Nowhere does he admit outright that what they fund is the introduction of a religious perspective in science. Instead, we get euphemisms. They are a "Big Questions" foundation, whatever that means. He will not come right out and state plainly that what they think is a "Big Question" is the role of a god in creating and maintaining the universe and humankind.

That's not a big question. It's a bad question.

I have never found a discussion with a theologian about their favorite deities to be "rich, expansive" — just saying it is so doesn't make it so, but is actually the crux of the argument. They are trying to buy their way into the debate, rather than earning it. I don't think they know Grayling and Dennett very well at all, either, because they do know better, and the comparison with a dialog with astrologers is spot on — they won't be disavowing it any time soon.

I'll stand by my Mafia comparison, too. It's an organization that gets a lot of mileage out of making offers people can't refuse.

Creationism = Evolution?


By Kenneth Chang

Mark Lyons for The New York Times

While John Tierney is on vacation, other science reporters are contributing to TierneyLab.

The most amazing thing about the Creation Museum is that it espouses evolution.

In this week's Science Times, I wrote about a group of professional paleontologists visiting the Creation Museum, which fits into all of cosmic history into the 6,000 or years of a literal reading of the Bible.

The key event for the young Earth creationist interpretations of geology and biology is the great flood, which the museum places at 2348 B.C. Obviously, Noah's ark could not fit two of every single land animal. The exhibit notes that the Bible says two of every "kind" of animal, so there weren't two dogs, two wolves, two dingo dogs, etc., but rather one pair of wolf-like dogs. After the flood, the two wolf-like dogs multiplied and "diversified" into a panoply of species.

The descendants of the ark dog include foxes, states one of the museum signs. This is pretty incredible if you don't accept the theory of evolution. Dogs (and wolves) have a genome of 78 chromosomes. The red fox has 34 chromosomes. By most any measure, dogs and foxes are different species and yet here in the Creation Museum, it was stated that foxes had diversified from dogs, with major changes in appearance and genetic make-up, in an incredibly short time of less than 4,500 years — far, far faster than an evolutionary biologist would claim.

Usually, creationists make a distinction between "microevolution" — antibiotic resistance among microbes, for instance, which they accept — and "macroevolution" — the appearance of new species, which they dispute. If dog to fox is microevolution, then it seems that hominid to human would also be microevolution.

In reporting the article, I talked with Andrew Snelling, the museum geologist who helped put together the flood exhibit. He said the rapid diversification occurred because of the open ecological niches after the flood and the geographical isolation of small population groups.

His explanation fit with the usual biological explanation of how evolution works.

Kentucky Creation Museum Defies Science, Common Sense


By Brantley Hargrove in Hargrove, Hicks From the Sticks

Wednesday, Jul. 1 2009 @ 2:55PM

Did you know Noah's Ark had dinosaurs? They didn't eat everyone and everything onboard 'cause of God!

Really? So you're saying dinosaurs were around less than 6,000 years ago, which is the approximate age of the earth? And I suppose carbon dating is backing you up on all this? No? Just a book written by unreliable narrators and filtered through the discriminating lens of the church?

I see. This is science, according to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, just a three-hour drive northeast from Nashville. A group of paleontologists attending the North American Paleontological Convention in Cincinnati took a little field trip to this Kentucky museum to gawk at these ignorant hicks and their funny little fairy-tale filtering of our planet's history.

The New York Times was there to document the hilarity that ensued.

Just imagine what REAL scientists think when told things, straight-faced, like this: That different dinosaurs from different geological periods all, somehow, met their demise on the same date, which is the date of Noah's flood. Noah had dinosaurs on the ark. But they died out later. Does God hate dinosaurs? Anyway, I digress. Dinosaurs met their demise on the same date, despite the fact that their fossils are found in different layers of the earth. Well, the museum says that all the layers, for some reason, were laid down at the same time. God thought that different dinosaurs needed to be contained in different strata. Don't ask me about the inscrutable wisdom behind all of this.

When this group of venerable paleontologists entered the museum, there was an animatronic girl feeding a squirrel, with dinosaurs in the background. Nope, not separated by millions of years of evolution after all.

One scientist was hilariously quoted by the NYT reporter thusly: "I'm speechless," said Derek E.G. Briggs, director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, who walked around with crossed arms and a grimace. "It's rather scary."

When asked by the scientists how the few creatures aboard the ark were able to multiply and diversify to the multitude of organisms that exist today in such a short period of time, they received this non-answer from the Creation Museum: "God provided organisms with special tools to change rapidly."

"Thus in one sentence they admit that evolution is real," said Dr. Stefan Bengston, professor of paleozoology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History," and that they have to invoke magic to explain how it works.

I'm sure it is all very entertaining, and I'd consider going myself, if for no other reason than to have a good laugh. But you gotta admit, the very existence of this place is disturbing. Imagine the children and the simple-minded adults who enter this museum and leave it in possession of preposterous ideas they believe are gospel. Scary, indeed, Dr. Bengston. Scary, indeed.

Evolution education update: July 3, 2009

A survey of opinions on evolution from ten countries was released. And paleontologists took a trip to the Creation "Museum" and were dismayed by what they saw.


A recent international survey conducted by the British Council investigated awareness of Darwin, acceptance of evolution, and attitudes toward evolution and faith. In a June 30, 2009, press release, Fern Elsdon-Baker, the head of the British Council's Darwin Now program, commented, "The international Darwin survey has thrown up some very interesting results, especially as it includes data from countries not previously covered before. The most encouraging aspect of the survey shows that whilst there are diverse views on Darwin's theory of evolution, there appears to a broad acceptance that science and faith do not have to be in conflict. Whilst the results show that there is some way to go in communicating the evidence of evolutionary theory to wider audiences, it is evident that there is clear space for dialogue on this sometimes complex area of debate."

The survey was conducted in April and May 2009 in ten countries: Argentina, China, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. For the question "Have you heard of Charles Darwin?" Russia led the list with 93% of respondents saying yes, with Great Britain and Mexico tied for second at 90%, and China a close third at 90%; the United States was fifth at 84%. For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that it is possible to believe in a God and still hold the view that life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection?" India led the list with 85% of respondents agreeing, with Mexico second at 65% and Argentina third at 62%; the United States was fifth at 53%, just behind Great Britain, Russia, and South Africa, which tied for fourth at 54%.

For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that enough scientific evidence exists to support Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution [sic]?" -- posed to respondents who had heard of Charles Darwin and knew something about the theory of evolution -- India led the list with 77% of respondents agreeing, with China second at 72% and Mexico second at 65%. The United States was ninth at 41%, just behind South Africa at 42% and well ahead of Egypt at 25%. In keeping with reports on previous international surveys on public attitudes toward evolution, such as Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article in Science in 2006, the United States was also conspicuous for the level of disagreement with the theory of evolution: 30%, second only to Egypt's 63%. Only 29% of respondents in the United States indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed or didn't know.

Respondents were also asked which of the following was closest to their own view: "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which no God played a part"; "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time in a process guided by a God"; and "life on earth, including human life, was created by a God and has always existed in its current form." (Respondents were also offered the response, "I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list.") The first view was preferred in China by 67% of the respondents, in Mexico, Great Britain, and Spain by 38%, in Argentina by 37%, and in Russia by 32%; the third was preferred in Egypt by 50% of the respondents, and in India, South Africa, and the United States by 43%. In no country was the second view held by a plurality of respondents.

For the press release (PDF), visit:

For information about Darwin Now, visit:

For NCSE's report on the 2006 Science article, visit:


Paleontologists took a trip to Answers in Genesis's Creation "Museum" -- and were dismayed, unsurprisingly, by what they saw. The Ninth North American Paleontological Convention was held June 21-26, 2009, at the University of Cincinnati, attracting several hundred paleontologists from around the world to present their latest research, as well as to attend a plenary session on evolution and society featuring NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. The organizers of the convention also offered a side trip to the nearby Creation "Museum," explaining that "it is essential for professional paleontologists to become better aware of how their work and their roles in society are portrayed by creationists, themes that are conveyed vividly at the museum."

Reporters accompanied the bemused paleontologists on their excursion, with stories subsequently appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer (June 24, 2009), The New York Times (June 30, 2009), and Agence France-Presse (June 30, 2009). A few representative reactions from those stories: "I'm not offended, just annoyed" (Julia Sankey of California State University, Stanislaus); "I think they should rename the museum -- not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum" (Lisa Park of the University of Akron); "This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it's just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science" (Daryl Domning of Howard University).

Scientific criticism of the Creation "Museum" is nothing new. When it opened in 2007, over 800 scientists in the three states surrounding it -- Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio -- signed a statement sponsored by NCSE expressing concern about the effect of the scientific inaccuracies of its exhibits on local students. Shortly thereafter, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology issued a press release contending that "the museum presents visitors with a view of earth history that has been scientifically disproven for over a century" and accusing it of "undermining the basic principles of science, eroding the public's confidence in science, and causing a general weakening of science education in the country."

For the announcement of the trip, visit:

For the stories, visit:

For the NCSE-sponsored statement, visit:

For the SVP press release, visit:

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition!

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

10 confessions of Young Earth Creation scientist, Keith Wanser, PhD part 1 of 2


July 1, 12:59 PM

Dr. Wanser's research interests include fiber optic sensing techniques as well as other areas of basic and applied optics. He also has interests in experimental and theoretical condensed matter phyysics, and basic theories of matter. Dr. Wanser is professor of physics, California State University, Fullerton. He holds a B.A. in physics from California State Unversity, Fullerton, an M.A. in physics from the University of California, Irvine, and a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from the University of California, Irvine.

Dr Wanser has some confessions about young earth creationism.

"I was ridiculed for believing that the earth was young." Operative word is 'was.'

"I am firmly convinced that there is far more scientific evidence supporting a recent, six-day creation and global Flood than there is an old earth and evolution."

"...there is not one theory of evolution, but a body of opinions, speculations and methods for interpretation of observational facts so that they fit into the philosophy of naturalism."

"...creationists are beginning to make testable predictions based on their theories, as well as become more quantitative in their modelling."

"The catastrophic plate tectonics model that has been developed4 has served to help explain several geologic features that are associated with the Flood, as well as geomagnetic reversals and the post-Flood Ice Age."

"Predictions based on this recent and biblical creation model (catastrophic plate tectonics model) were made about rapid geomagnetic reversals and planetary magnetic fields, which have been verified experimentally."

"The explanation of the planetary magnetic fields is in surprising agreement with the creationist theory and there is no evolutionary counterpart to it."

"...the predictions of rapid geomagnetic reversals have been verified by analysis of lava flows in Steen's Mountain in Oregon, which indicate geomagnetic polarity reversals occurring in a matter of a few weeks, much to the bewilderment and surprise of evolutionary scientists."

" One very interesting problem occurs right at the beginning in theories of quantum cosmology, which predict that the big bang originated from a quantum fluctuation of the vacuum. ...speculation is nothing more than that, since in all experimentally observed processes involving elementary particles and nuclear reactions, something called Baryon number is conserved. The conservation of Baryon number insures that when particles are brought into existence from energy, they occur in equal numbers of matter/anti-matter pairs. ... as far as we are able to observe, the universe appears to have an extreme dominance of matter over anti-matter, which contradicts the notion that a big bang produced the matter that we see in the universe around us."

"The fact that there is no experimental evidence for violation of Baryon number conservation strongly calls into question any big-bang scenario for the origin of matter in the universe."

The entire essay and references can be found


See also:

No more sweeping statements by scientists on the origin of life, evolution and old earth creationism

12 more insights of young earth creation (YEC) scientist - Jerry Bergman, PhD, 2 of 2

12 more insights of young earth creation (YEC) scientist - Jeremy Walter, PhD, part 2 of 2

16 insights of young earth creation (YEC) scientist - John K. G. Kramer, PhD Profile. Jason Rosenhouse received his PhD in mathematics from Dartmouth College in 2000. He subsequently spent three years as a post-doc at Kansas State University. Observing the machinations of the Kansas Board of Education led to his unhealthy obsession with issues related to evolution and creationism. Currently he is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, VA.

Cincinnati, Part Two


Posted on: July 1, 2009 6:29 PM, by Jason Rosenhouse

Thursday morning started bright and early, since the first talk was at eight. It goes against my grain to be out of bed at that hour, but sometimes in life you just have to make sacrifices.

I was at the big meeting room by 7:45. Got to schmooze with some of the big shots, like Genie Scott and Ken Miller:

Keith Miller (no relation to Ken), a geologist at Kansas State University was there. I met him a few times during my post-doc at K-State, so it was nice to see him again. My fellow Panda's Thumbers Richard Hoppe and Art Hunt were there as well.

The morning's session was called, "Evolution and Society" and featured six, thirty-minute talks. Mark Terry of the Northwest School, a private high school in Seattle, WA, got the ball rolling by giving some background material about the Wedge Strategy and the Discovery Institute. He also spoke a bit about the thorough grounding students at his school receive in evolutionary biology. You can get the gist of his remarks from this faculty profile.

Next up was Ken Miller, who gave a typically excellent talk bashing the ID folks. His religious views aren't my cup of tea, but when the subject is science there is no one better. He brought up William Dembski's ill-fated prediction:

In the next five years, molecular Darwinism--the idea that Darwinian processes can produce complex molecular structures at the subcellular level--will be dead. When that happens, evolutionary biology will experience a crisis of confidence because evolutionary biology hinges on the evolution of the right molecules.

Dembski made that prediction five years ago. It hasn't come to pass. Surprise! Miller made the point in dramatic fashion by discussing the conference on molecular evolution he attended just prior to coming to this one.

Near the end of his talk Miller addressed the big accommodationism debate. I was gratified by his blunt statement that everyone should be speaking for evolution, not just theists and not just atheists. I think that's exactly the right note, and is one I have expressed here many times. I'll have more to say about this momentarily.

There were three more talks that morning. Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography interrupted an otherwise solid talk about promoting science literacy to take some pot shots at P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins, but I didn't care enough to make an issue of it during the Q and A. By that time I was mostly in the zone, thinking about what I wanted to say during the panel.

The big panel, "Countering Creationism" started at 12:15. That, alas, did not leave time for lunch, so I countered creationism on an empty stomach. It was really more of a group discussion than a panel. Art, Dick and myself made some introductory remarks, but after that things were thrown open to a group that got ever larger as people returned from lunch. I was hoping to have a transcript of what I said, but my miserable voice recorder chose that moment to run out of space. As if more proof were needed, this shows there is no God. (Not one of love and justice, anyway). Here's the paraphrase.

After giving a little background about how I got interested in this topic I made four main points. The first is that I think there is a useful distinction to be made between the leaders and the followers in creationism. The leaders are precisely the dishonest charlatans they are alywas made out to be. But the people in the audiences listening to this are often a different story. Many of them aren't really fire-breathers and are genuinely interested in learning more about the subject. I've been thanked many times at creationist gatherings for offering a contrary view, and not just by other undercover types like me. Simply put, I usually like the people I meet at these conferences, even while hating everything they stand for.

The second point was that you shouldn't underestimate the argument from personal incredulity. Evolution is genuinely counter-intuitive, and it is not crazy to cast a skeptical eye on the idea that complex, functional adaptations can form by a fully naturalistic process like natural selection. It is difficult to convince people even that evolution is reasonable, much less that it is true. I mentioned my experience at the Creation Museum the day before, as recounted in Part One.

Point three was that there is far more religious diversity among anti-evolutionists than you might expect. This has been brought home to me especially at ID conferences, where Biblical literalists often seem thin on the ground. On more than one occasion I have had ID proponents lament the harm Biblical literalists had done to the cause of anti-evolution advocacy. If you have this idea that it is only conservative Protestant fundamentalists who oppose evolution then you have not fully grasped the extent of the problem.

The session on theistic evolution that I described in Part One of this report took place in the afternoon after this panel. I prefaced the fourth point by saying it was a preemptive response to some of the New Atheist bashing I saw in the abstracts.

Point four was that Richard Dawkins is not the problem. He is not the reason the message of theistic evolution is such a tough sell and he is not the reason people think there is a connection between evolution and atheism. They think that because evolution genuinely poses challenges for traditional Christian faith, and these challenges should not be minimized. Evolution challenges both the inerrancy and the perspicuity of Scripture, it kills the argument from design in biology, it ratchets up the problem of evil, and it poses difficulties for notions of human specialness. Obviously many people have devised ways of overcoming these challenges, and that's fine. But we shouldn't be surprised that so many people do not accept these reconciliations, and people should not be derided for being theologically ignorant or unsophisticated for not going along with them.

At this point I noted that if there were any super-clever way of countering creationism we all would have done it by now. I said I didn't have any snappy solution to offer, and endorsed the more mundane suggestions others had made before me (be aware of what is going on in local politics, that sort of thing.)

But if I didn't know what the solution was, I was pretty sure I knew what the solution wasn't. The solution was did not involve dividing the pro-science community by suggesting that one portion of it must be quiet for fear of offending others.

That afternoon, Howard University paleontologist Daryl Domning was giving a talk entitled, "Who Should Speak for Evolution: Atheists or Theists?" I suggested this is a question that no one should be asking, since everyone ought to be speaking for evolution. In the abstract for Domning's talk we read, "In order to be helpful in support of science education, rather than just inflaming the controversy, atheists have to decide which they care about more: making our schools safe for evolution, or ridding the world of religion." I suggested that I do not need to make any such choice. On Monday I can support science education, and on Tuesday I can oppose the intrusion of religion into our public affairs. On Monday I am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ken Miller and other theistic evoltuionists, on Tuesday, regrettably, we are on opposite sides.

Promoting science is difficult enough without looking for reasons to split the pro-science side. You can reply that P. Z. Myers and Jerry Coyne are not exactly uniters, and point taken, but I don't see them saying that one segment of the pro-science forces needs to be silent for fear of offending folks who think differently.

With that I wrapped up my remarks. During the Q and A I added that I objected to the implication of Domning's abstract that since many people find evolution threatening at the level of morality and meaning we better go teach them about theistic evolution. The impression was given that it is only theistic evolution that can save people from the perceived moral chaos of accepting evolution. Perhaps a better approach would be to show people how to live moral and meaningful lives without God.

The ensuing discussion was lively and interesting. Daryl Domning was in the room, and when the panel was over we had a pleasant conversation. He told me that his goal was to get theists speaking out more than it was to get atheists to be quiet. I replied that I think that's a fine goal, but that his abstract was a rather confrontational way of making that point.

As it happens, though, we didn't dwell all that much on this, because I mentioned that I had read his book Original Selfishness. This was Domning's attempt to revitalize the idea of Original Sin in the light of evolution. Historically, the dominant understanding of the doctrine in Christendom traced back to a literal understanding of Chapter Three of Genesis. That is, the doctrine referred to a specific sin committed by an actual human couple, a couple representing the only two humans on the planet.

Obviously, any such interpretation is out of the question in the light of evolution and other relevant sciences. The question is whether the doctrine ought to be discarded (my choice), or whether it can be meanignfully reinterpreted in the light of modern science (Domning's choice). In condensed form, Domning's argument is that the original insight was that humans have great capacity for evil and selfishness. Original sin was essentially a description of this aspect of human nature. An understanding of the evolutionary process provides a solid foundation for understanding why that is. For most of evolution you have selfish genes competing with one another for representation in subsequent generations. With the arrival of human-like intelligence something new enters the struggle: the capacity for moral reasoning. Original sin can then be seen as a throwback to our evolution. We have a sinful nature bequeathed to us by our evolutionary history, but we also have the capacity to overcome it. Thinking of original sin in this way is more in keeping with the earliest understanding of the doctrine than is the hardening of the idea around a literal interpretation of the Bible. So argues Domning.

During our conversation I replied that it looked like science was doing all the work, while Christianity wasn't contributing anything. He was simply taking what science was telling us about human nature and then attaching the label "Original Sin" to it. You don't need Christianity to tell you that people have a capacity for evil and selfishness, you learn that by simple observation. Christianity's contribution was to link that condition to the story of an actual sin committed by actual people. With that story shown to be complete fiction, what is gained by keeping the term Original Sin?

We went around in circles on this for a while. It was all very pleasant, but for me it was more frustration. In science, when an idea is discredited it is eventually discarded. When it became clear that phlogistin or the luminiferous ether weren't pulling their weight as scientific theories, those terms disappeared from scientific parlance. No one argued that we should simply reconceptualize phlogistin so that it was consistent with more modern theories of combustion. Old ideas gave way to newer and better ones.

That, to me, seems like the proper resopnse to antiquated pieces of Christian doctrine. Indeed, many modern Christian denominations do just fine without original sin. People like Domning, however, prefer to work very hard to prop up the notion. (Let me tell you, his book is not easy reading.) I don't understand what propels people to undertake such projects. As much as I enjoyed my conversation with Domning, I still don't understand it.

Well, that's about it. I spent much of the afternoon chatting with Ken and Genie and various other people. Ken and I talked religion for a while, but we also ended up talking math and Brown University (my alma mater and his employer) and even math at Brown (Ken was a Brown undergrad.) I had a great time. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to do it again some time.

Werner Arber: Molecular Darwinism


Posted on: July 2, 2009 5:48 AM, by PZ Myers

This talk has me a little concerned: it's proposing something rather radical, for which Arber is going to have to show me some unambiguous evidence to convince me, and I'm coming into it with a very skeptical mindset. Here's the relevant portion of his abstract:

The theory of molecular evolution that we also call "Molecular Darwinism" is based on the acquired knowledge on genetic variation. In genetic variation, products of evolution genes are involved as variation generators and/or as modulators of the rates of genetic variation. These evolution gene products act together with several non-genetic elements that can be assigned to intrinsic properties of matter, to environmental mutagens and to random encounter. We conclude that natural reality takes actively care of biological evolution. The evolution genes must have been fine-tuned for their functions by second-order selection, so that spontaneous genetic variation with different evolutionary qualities occurs at quite low rates. This ensures a relatively high genetic stability to individuals, as well as an evolutionary progress at the level of populations.

The presence of evolution genes points to a duality of the genome: while many genes act to the benefit of the individuals for the fulfillment of their lives, the evolution genes act to the benefit of an evolutionary development, for a slow, but steady expansion of life and biodiversity.

You see the problem, I hope. These hypothetical genes that do not necessarily directly affect the fitness of the individual are assumed to be promoted in lineages by a higher level of selection. This is not easily supported by evolutionary theory: there isn't a mechanism given for individuals to maintain a gene that will only help its many-times-great-grandchildren. It is inferring a kind of foresight to evolution that is doesn't have a mechanism…unless, perhaps, Arber is going to give use one. We'll see. This talk will start in about 15 minutes, and I'll update this post as he fills us in.

A simple history lesson: modern evolutionary biology is the convergence of work that began with Miescher (1874: nucleic acids) which led to molecular biology, Mendel (1876) which led to genetics, and Darwin (1859) that approached the problem at the level of organisms and species. The neo-Darwinian synthesis fused the genetic and Darwinian line, molecular genetics brought together genetics and biochemistry/molecular biology, and molecular evolution brings all three together—he seems to claim some kind of intellectual ownership of the last concept, which is what he calls molecular darwinism.

How do bacteria generate new variants? By transformation, conjugation, or transduction. All are mechanisms that transfer genes from an external source to the bacterium. Work in the 1940s demonstrated that DNA was the carrier of genetic information.

Arber gave a little summary of E. coli gene structure, which I suppose would be helpful to all the chemists here. He defines mutation as an alteration of the nucleotide sequence; in classical genetics, it's defined differently, as an altered phenotype that is transmitted to progeny.

Mutations are rarely favorable; often unfavorable, and very often silent or neutral. There is no good evidence for directedness of spontaneous mutations. Mutations do not appear in response to a need.

He argues that there are three elements to evolution: evolution is driven by genetic variation (mutation), directed by natural selection, and modulated by isolation as a mechanism for speciation. There are multiple mechanisms generating genetic variation: spontaneous DNA sequence alteration, DNA rearrangement or recombination, and DNA acquisition (horizontal gene transfer).

So far, this is all very unchallenging and basic, at least for someone with any background in genetics and cell biology. After sitting through one talk that completely lost me with a failure to explain the basic terms of the work, I can't complain, but I confess, I'm having trouble staying alert through all this.

Some genes can affect the rate of occurence of mutations — these are modulators of the frequency of genetic variation. He calls these evolution genes. He says neatral reality actively takes care of biological evolution, and that this is an expansion of the biological theory of evolution. This leads to an expansion of biological diversity, and, he argues, higher complexity.

I'm not very impressed. This is a combination of the commonplace and some odd interpretations. Of course there is variation in fidelity of replication that is influenced by genetic variation. Some of it is simply thermodynamically necessary: perfect fidelity is impossible to achieve, and greater fidelity has a metabolic cost, so some of that variation is utterly unsurprising. Some is; when we have organisms that have specializations to directly generate greater genetic variation — and sex is the first to come to my mind — we have a problem to explain. I don't see that Arber has proposed anything to explain the real problems.

At the same time, what Arber said here does not make him a friend to intelligent design creationism, or creationism of any kind, despite the claims of some unreliable creationist sources, a claim that Arber has directly rejected.

I'd have to say it was a nice enough overview, but didn't really propose anything novel, and definitely didn't demonstrate anything that can't be explained in the context of modern evolutionary theory.

Opinions on evolution from ten countries


July 2nd, 2009

A recent international survey conducted by the British Council investigated awareness of Darwin, acceptance of evolution, and attitudes toward evolution and faith. In a June 30, 2009, press release, Fern Elsdon-Baker, the head of the British Council's Darwin Now program, commented (PDF), "The international Darwin survey has thrown up some very interesting results, especially as it includes data from countries not previously covered before. The most encouraging aspect of the survey shows that whilst there are diverse views on Darwin's theory of evolution, there appears to a broad acceptance that science and faith do not have to be in conflict. Whilst the results show that there is some way to go in communicating the evidence of evolutionary theory to wider audiences, it is evident that there is clear space for dialogue on this sometimes complex area of debate."

The survey was conducted in April and May 2009 in ten countries: Argentina, China, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. For the question "Have you heard of Charles Darwin?" Russia led the list with 93% of respondents saying yes, with Great Britain and Mexico tied for second at 90%, and China a close third at 90%; the United States was fifth at 84%. For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that it is possible to believe in a God and still hold the view that life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection?" India led the list with 85% of respondents agreeing, with Mexico second at 65% and Argentina third at 62%; the United States was fifth at 53%, just behind Great Britain, Russia, and South Africa, which tied for fourth at 54%.

For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that enough scientific evidence exists to support Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution [sic]?" — posed to respondents who had heard of Charles Darwin and knew something about the theory of evolution — India led the list with 77% of respondents agreeing, with China second at 72% and Mexico second at 65%. The United States was ninth at 41%, just behind South Africa at 42% and well ahead of Egypt at 25%. In keeping with reports on previous international surveys on public attitudes toward evolution, such as Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article in Science in 2006, the United States was also conspicuous for the level of disagreement with the theory of evolution: 30%, second only to Egypt's 63%. Only 29% of respondents in the United States indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed or didn't know.

Respondents were also asked which of the following was closest to their own view: "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which no God played a part"; "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time in a process guided by a God"; and "life on earth, including human life, was created by a God and has always existed in its current form." (Respondents were also offered the response, "I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list.") The first view was preferred in China by 67% of the respondents, in Mexico, Great Britain, and Spain by 38%, in Argentina by 37%, and in Russia by 32%; the third was preferred in Egypt by 50% of the respondents, and in India, South Africa, and the United States by 43%. In no country was the second view held by a plurality of respondents.

Confusion Museum: Kentucky's Creationist Facility Is Unhappy Revelation To Scientists


July 2, 2009

Parents and clergy may espouse creationism in the home or the church, but when it comes to academia and the public school system, our citizenry and our government must ensure the integrity of science.

Washington, D.C., is a great city. In addition to all of the wonderful historical and political landmarks, there are a ton of tourist attractions: we have the Spy Museum, the Museum of Crime and Punishment and our very own Madame Tussaud's wax museum.

Northern Kentucky, however, may have us beat. Petersburg is the home of the nation's largest Creation Museum.

Since its grand opening in 2007, 750,000 people have passed through its doors to be welcomed by an animatronics display of a young girl feeding a carrot to a squirrel as two dinosaurs stand behind her looking on. (It's a strange picture considering that the first human lived no less than 65 million years after dinosaurs became extinct!)

This week a group of paleontologists walked through those doors to be greeted by Bonnie Mills, a guest service employee. "Praise God, we're excited to have you here," she exclaimed.

The University of Cincinnati was hosting the North American Paleontological Convention. Scientists from across the county had the opportunity to present their latest research and their biggest discoveries about the origins of life and our ancient past.

During a break from scientific lectures, about 70 paleontologists boarded a bus to take a trip to the Creation Museum, just across the Ohio River.

"I [was] speechless," said Derek E.G. Briggs, director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale," in an interview with The New York Times, after his visit. "It's rather scary."

According to its Web site, the Creation Museum "brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden's Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of Knowledge and Good and Evil.

"Don't miss a chance to enjoy the wonders of God's creation in our Petting Zoo.… Prepare to Believe," the site advertises.

Inside the museum, dinosaurs are depicted as riding in Noah's ark, and placards explain that it was the biblical flood that broke apart the continents and settled them in their current locations. (Science suggests otherwise, concluding that the ancient supercontinent Pangaea fragmented and shifted over billions of years.)

The paleontologists thought the museum misrepresented history and "ridiculed them and their work and unfairly blamed them for the ills of society." For example, Lisa E. Park, a professor at the University of Akron, was dismayed by what she saw.

"I think they should rename the museum – not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum," she said.

Jason Rosenhouse, a mathematician at James Madison University who frequently blogs on evolution issues "hate[s] that it exists." Tongue in cheek he wrote, "But, given that it exists, you can have a good time here. They put on a very good show if you can handle the suspension of disbelief."

While the paleontologists were able to make jokes about the sheer impossibility of the idea of God creating the world in six days just 6,000 years ago, Briggs expressed his concerns about the implication of the museum on children and public education.

"You worry about the youngsters," he said.

Parents and clergy may espouse creationism in the home or the church, but when it comes to academia and the public school system, our citizenry and our government must ensure the integrity of science. The Religious Right is still working diligently to drive evolution and legitimate scientific study from our public schools and replace them with religious ideas based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

Creationism and "intelligent design" are dogmatic doctrines that are at odds with sound science. While most clergy find no conflict between religion and science, fundamentalist preachers have spoken out in opposition to evolution since Charles Darwin first published his findings. Consequently, our public schools have been a battleground in the fight between secular science and fundamentalism.

We look to the Constitution for a resolution of the conflict. In a number of cases, most recently Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the Supreme Court has made it more than clear that creationism and intelligent design are not constitutionally permissible theories to teach in science classes.

Plain and simple, the Creation Museum has the right to exist as a sort of "Disneyland," according to paleontologists like Dr. Tamaki Sato. But creationism must not be taught as a legitimate scientific theory in our public schools. The Religious Right campaign to do so is one of the greatest challenges to the separation of church and state.

When planning my next vacation, I'll take Disneyland over the Creation Museum. I'd much rather visit Mickey Mouse than an animatronic Noah. At least the guy inside the Mickey costume knows that he's nothing more than an entertainer.

Technology fuels popularity of intelligent design


Pete Chagnon - OneNewsNow - 7/3/2009 5:00:00 AM

A new Zogby poll shows that a majority of Americans support intelligent design.

According to the poll, only 33 percent stated that they believe in Darwinian evolution, while 52 percent stated they believe life was guided by intelligent design.

Steve Meyer is the director for science and culture at the Discovery Institute. In his new book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, Meyers suggests that the digital revolution is fueling the popularity of intelligent design.

"In the book I've written, I discuss the evidence of the digital code that's inside life -- the four-character digital code in the DNA molecule. I call it the signature in the cell. Bill Gates says it's like a software program, only more complex than any we've ever written," he notes. "You have at the base of life not just...matter and energy, but you have information as well, and I think that's very intuitively something that arises from an intelligent source, not from undirected processes."

He adds that as people become aware of the scientific discoveries that show the complexity of life and they compare that with the complexity of the technology around them, they tend to question the "textbook" account of the origin of life that basically states that life arose from an undirected process.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Six Days of Creation: Fact or Fiction?


Jun 25,2009, 9:45PM
By Allen J. Epling
The Six Days of Creation

By Allen Epling

Much discussion has been made of the description in Genesis of all things being made by God in 6 days. For 3 millennia the standard view of this was that the time period was 6 earthly days. It has only been in the last 20 to 30 years that serious consideration has been given to alternative theories of what those passages mean. Many faithful simply dismiss it as an unsolvable mystery. Others reject any scientific explanations of the creation outright simply because to do so, to them, means accepting the idea that the six days are wrong. There are several popular, possible explanations for the 6 days of creation and I will list them for your consideration.

1.God simply willed all things into being through a supernatural event that took 6 earth days to complete and simply aged everything instantaneously to look old. This is the traditional concept.

2. There is the idea that God created all things in 6 days that were not earthly days but heavenly days, which were longer time periods than on earth.

3. Another theory is that there is a gap of billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. and that the 6 days were a later event.

4.There is also an idea among the intelligencia that because the Babylonian Creation describes a 6 day creation also, that the Hebrews, while in exile, took that story and incorporated it into the Torah.

All of these theories have merit but are just theories. I have a problem with number one because it requires an unnecessary supernatural event when God did not have any reason to be in a hurry. Why do so much in 6 earthly days when you control time anyway and 1 billion years is nothing compared to infinity.

Some say it is literal and why not accept it at face value.

Because it would be the least natural way to complete the project and I believe God always chooses natural means over supernatural means when He has a choice. After all he did create the physical laws of the universe for some reason. Why violate them when it is unnecessary. This sometimes causes a problem with man because it is human nature to prefer a miracle over a natural event.

Another reason is that there are clear instances in the Bible of God using figurative language to describe an event, such as the Angel standing on the four "corners" of the earth in the book of Revelations. For many centuries, believers accepted that at face value, "literally", until it was proven that the earth was round.

Also, the first day was a time period before the first "day" happened on planet earth. There was no sun or earth to revolve to cause a "day" as we define it, until the second Genesis "day". How can we be sure that our definition of a day is the same as God's? If He wrote the book of Genesis, as I believe He did, then our definition of a day came later, after His. Our day is based on an earthly event, while God's day is based on Heavenly events. After all it does say, "In the Beginning, God created the HEAVEN and the Earth. Heaven came first.

Theory number 2 has merit simply because the Bible says it does. II Peter 3:8 says that "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years...". This is a clear statement that our days are not the same as the Lord's days, and according to Genesis, His days came first. Even Albert Einstein, probably the greatest pure theorist of the last century, became famous for proving that time is a flexible dimension. If he were not right, all of our revered GPS units would fail to operate.

Theory number 3 describes what some call the "Gap" theory, but that is a stretch that is unnecessary. Why have the gap at all if you still have the same problem with the 6 days after the "gap".

Theory number 4 is illogical because the Torah contains details of the creation never mentioned in the Babylonian description. Those who hold to that theory forget that the Hebrews had a tradition of preserving stories of the creation by word of mouth, such as the lineage of Adam all the way down to Jesus, and it sometimes was more accurate than written text. I would suggest that it was the Babylonians who borrowed the story from the Jews while they were in exile. Daniel did have a tremendous influence on the spiritual beliefs of the rulers. Where is that level of detail and accuracy in the Babylonian Creation Epic, which is a rambling, illogical, though entertaining story.

There is a another way that the 6 days can be true and still be compatible with science as we know it. This is my own unproven, yet possible hypothesis.

At the moment God created the universe, scientists say that an event took place that they call "The Big Bang". This explosion resulted in the universe being instantly created by an enormous expansion of, not only matter and energy, but space itself, so that everything that we can observe today was begun by this event. Space is a dimension, such as length, width, and height. If space is a dimension and expanded, why not time, which is also a dimension, a concept accepted by most scientists and mathematicians?

If time did expand in this way, like space and matter, then time should have expanded much faster in the earlier period of creation than the present. The result would be that time ran faster then and is gradually slowing down as the universe ages, like a balloon that slowly reaches it maximum size.

If time ran faster in the early universe, than now, God's consistent clock could have indicated one day while perhaps 1 billion years were passing in moments just after the creation of the universe. As the universe expanded, and creation progressed further, this difference would diminish to where, perhaps on the seventh day of God's clock, only 1 million years of earth's time passed. This would allow time for all the processes to take place that our science book say happened.

We still have no idea of how our clock compares with God's clock today but the Bible 2000 years ago said that one day of God's time was equal to 1000 years of man's time. God Himself said to Adam, that "in the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die." Adam lived for 930 years, well within a "day" of God. To say a day is 24 of our hours would be to say that God was wrong about that.

If science says that man began as a species on earth 2 million years ago, which could have been the 6th day on God's clock, and then we would have no conflict between the two.

I realize that all of the above ideas are possible and plausible, and any statement on them would be hypothetical at best, as no one can say for sure. The point I would like to make here is that there are explanations for this passage that are compatible with what we know to be true, and anyone looking for the truth should begin with an unbiased, open mind to all possibilities. That is not always true of both scientists and the Christian Fundamentalists.

To say that anything is certain is foolish and for any scientist who believes in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, such a statement would be hypocritical.

This article is part of a continuing feature dealing with the Evolution Vs Creationism debate. Each week a new topic will be dealt with presenting, hopefully, a balanced, educated viewpoint, while ALWAYS upholding the divinity and sanctity of the Bible. The basic tenet of this article is that every word of the book of Genesis is factually, historically, and scientifically true.

For the book from which these thoughts were taken, visit http://beyondgenesis.com

Those who cannot remember the past...


Category: Creationism • Policy and Politics
Posted on: June 25, 2009 9:15 PM, by Josh Rosenau

Via PZ Myers, I learn of a new entrant into the science/religion accomodation fracas. Mano Singham's generally well-grounded historical look at how these arguments have played out historically begins:

The accommodationists argue that it is a mistake to insist that science is antithetical to religion because if science is determined to be an intrinsically atheistic enterprise, then even so-called moderate religionists will turn away from science and not support efforts to oppose the teaching of religious ideas such as intelligent design in science classes. This kind of mistaken solicitousness for the sensitivities of religious people, the fear that they will take their ball and go home if others are mean to them, is not new. During the run up to the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925, there were many accommodationists of that era who did not want Clarence Darrow to defend Scopes because they felt that his scorn for religious beliefs would alienate potential religious allies. We now view Darrow's performance in that trial as one of the high points in opposing the imposition of religious indoctrination in public schools.

However we view Darrow's performance in retrospect, one thing is absolutely true about his work in Scopes. Darrow lost. Scopes was convicted (his sentence – a $100 fine – was overturned on a technicality). Darrow's legal strategy failed.

In fact, it was not until 1968, 43 years after the Scopes trial, that laws like that in Tennessee were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. For over 40 years, science classes in several states could not cover human evolution. Darrow dealt creationism a PR blow, but by the time Epperson overturned the laws of the Scopes era, creationists had moved on to a new legal strategy.

The initial strategy attempted by the ACLU and Darrow was … to present theistic evolution and argue that evolution did not necessarily violate the prohibition on "teach[ing] any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible." The judge forbade the testimony of theologians and scientists about the ways evolution and the Bible could be reconciled, and instructed the jury not to consider anything about the validity of the law, only to ask whether Scopes broke the law. Since he basically admitted he had done so, this left little room for Darrow and the ACLU. They preserved their grounds for appeal, and Darrow gradually became more and more vigorous in attacking the supposedly literal interpretation of the Bible.

And he lost.

In Dover, as in McLean before, theologians were allowed to testify about the compatibility of science and religion, and judges cited their testimony in rulings against creationist laws. Based on the available evidence, then, the accommodationist view works in court, and anti-religious rhetoric fails. Of course, correlation doesn't equal causation. That doesn't seem to stop the anti-accommodationists from claiming that accommodationism has failed since creationism still exists.

But before anyone advocates a return to Darrow's anti-religion tirades, remember that he failed, and that his failure held back science education for decades. And religion didn't go away, so it's not like the anti-accomodationists got their wish, either. I'm fine with the anti-accommodationists proposing their own strategies, but I hope they don't expect me to accept a strategy which would consign thousands of kids to substandard education.

How Evolution's Co-Discoverer Discovered Intelligent Design, Part II


Yesterday, ENV spoke with Michael A. Flannery about his new book Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Intelligent Evolution: How Wallace's World of Life Challenged Darwinism (Erasmus Press). While credited as evolution's co-discoverer, Wallace fell away from the Darwinian faith and came to espouse a view remarkably suggestive of intelligent design. Now, the rest of the interview.

ENV: Scientifically, how does Wallace's culminating work, World of Life, stand up today as compared to Darwin's Origin of Species?

MAF: That's a complex question. Darwin's Origin is really a metaphysical treatise supported by some biological speculations and those speculations give it the appearance of science. The thing that makes this question so difficult to answer is that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was Thomas Henry Huxley's brilliant public relations campaign on behalf of Darwin's theory, Darwinism has lodged itself as the reigning biological paradigm and Origin is its magnum opus. All this means is that everyone has probably heard of (if not read) Darwin's Origin, but few would even know who Wallace is, much less know his World of Life. That's a big reason I wrote this book in the first place.

But that said, Darwin's book had major problems from the start. For one thing, the title simply doesn't deliver. It purports to be a book on the origin of species but tells us nothing of the origin of life itself, the very root of origins. Nevertheless, the book has had an influence far out of proportion to its actual value in moving science forward. For example, I can't think of a single medical advance that is dependent upon it. In fact, Louis Pasteur, who exploded the old view of abiogenesis (biological life from nonliving matter), proved biogenesis — namely, that life must come from life — and gave us germ theory of disease, was a vocal opponent of evolution. Most of the so-called evolutionary "advances" in science we hear about have nothing to do with Darwin's central theory of macroevolution, that random mutation eventually would produce speciation; they are really just examples of microevolution (species variation) which was wholly uncontroversial even in Darwin's day. We could have gotten that from Wallace's World of Life.

In contrast, Wallace's book is a more complete and comprehensive work. It assumes common descent but argues that it is guided and infused with design. Its principle thesis presents what I call intelligent evolution, the idea of common descent based upon natural selection strictly bounded by the principle of utility in which nature is viewed as having design and purpose within a theistic context. Wallace understood that the origin of life could be addressed more simply as a problem of cellular complexity. Haeckel, an early and ardent Darwin supporter, had a very simplistic idea of the cell as merely a mass of protoplasm. Darwin held similar reductionist views. But Wallace knew better; the cell was a far more complex and intricate system. Wallace discusses this at length in The World of Life, thus making it far more prescient than the Origin.

In fact, I'd say that Wallace's understanding of nature as comprising many biologically complex designed mechanisms is being vindicated in the literature. Indeed, the problem of understanding the human intellect in merely Darwinian terms, the issue that initiated Wallace's disagreement with his elder colleague, is increasingly heading towards Wallace's solution. In an April issue of Nature just this year, Johan Bolhuis and Clive Wynne asked, "Can evolution explain how minds work?" While they're careful not to call for an abandonment of the Darwinian paradigm, they admit that recent "findings have cast doubt on the straightforward application of Darwinism to cognition."

Let me conclude by pointing out something very important when considering their respective theories. Darwin came to his "science" (his theory of evolution) by way of his metaphysic; that is to say, he developed his theory from a preconceived materialistic philosophy. Wallace, on the other hand, came to his metaphysic (his teleological worldview) by way of his science; that is to say, his theory led him to seek deeper understanding of the natural world through a transcending, purposeful theism. Why? Because a purely materialistic explanation like natural selection was unequal to the task of answering for the complexity of nature. It remains so.

ENV: In World of Life, Wallace sought to explain the problem of natural evil and ended up anticipating arguments C.S. Lewis would later make about the problem of pain. You write fascinatingly about Wallace's and Darwin's contrasting attitudes to pain and discomfort. Darwin was a hypochondriac and complainer. The pain of losing his daughter Annie confirmed him in his religious unbelief. Wallace lost his son Bertie and this seemingly confirmed him in his spiritual convictions. Are these biographical coincidences, or do they relate to the worldview implicit respectively in Wallaceism and Darwinism?

MAF: I think Wallace was much better at handling adversity because he had to face it throughout his life. At one point Wallace lost most of his precious specimens and notes on his return from the Amazon in a shipwreck and spent ten days and nights in a lifeboat before being rescued. His response was not to rail against his misfortune, but, as he writes in his autobiography, My Life, "to bear my fate with patience and equanimity." Wallace had to earn his living and when he married Annie in 1866, and when they started a family he had the additional burden of providing for them. These were responsibilities wholly unknown to Darwin.

By contrast Darwin lived something of a pampered lifestyle of wealth and privilege. Unfortunately, this didn't translate into emotional stability for Darwin. He was beset by skin rashes, stomach cramps, debilitating nausea, and flatulence, and he used his illness to dodge unwelcome or difficult situations and responsibilities. In short, Darwin didn't handle adversity well and used his illness as a shield.

At some level I think Darwin's problem emanated from an obsession with notoriety and recognition, something he saw his theory could provide. But it literally ate him alive. It didn't help to have only materialism — the here and now — as a comfort. Add to that his wife Emma's fervent Christian belief and Darwin was a lonely man. When his daughter died, that was it. She was gone.

But Wallace knew Bertie had moved on and that his brief life here on earth was a temporary sojourn toward greater spiritual realms. So I would say that their very different responses to the problem of evil or pain in this world was a product of their backgrounds and their belief systems.

ENV: Wallace became a devotee of spiritualism, in ways that will strike many a modern reader as flaky. Does that invalidate his version of evolutionary theory in contrast with Darwin's?

MAF: Not in the least. Wallace was a man of his times and in Victorian England (America too for that matter) spiritualism was not considered an illegitimate topic. Some of the best scientific minds on both side of the Atlantic believed it to be a valid — and indeed testable — hypothesis. In England the noted physicist William Crookes, anthropologist Andrew Lang, and philosopher Henry Sidgwick were spiritualists; in America there was Henry Bowditch, Dean of the Harvard Medical School and Simon Newcomb, head of the Smithsonian, to name just a few who actively promoted spiritualism.

I would also add that Wallace's evolutionary theory was in no way dependent upon his belief in spiritualism. His theory was derived from what he believed to be the inherent limitations of natural selection. Had Wallace never expressed a belief in spiritualism, if he had never written one word on the subject, his theory of evolution would remain unchanged and intact.

ENV: Thank you for your time. Your book is a fascinating contribution!

MAF: Thank you, David, for your interest and this opportunity.

Posted by David Klinghoffer on June 26, 2009 2:26 PM | Permalink

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Evolutionists Adrift on the Origin of Information


By Bob Ellis on June 25th, 2009

Center for Science and Culture Director Stephen C. Meyer kicked off his new book Signature in the Cell: DNA and Evidence for Intelligent Design yesterday with a presentation at the Heritage Foundation (see video below).

As the accompanying article at the Discovery Institute points out, Dr. Meyer's book exposes the fact that materialists/naturalists/evolutionists have a really hard time explaining the origin of life.

After all, everything in science tells us that it is impossible for life to spring from lifeless materials. Therefore, materialists/naturalists/evolutionists rely on an unscientific event at a pivotal point in their theory of origins, even as they demand that only scientifically verifiable information be considered in any scientific examination.

Some of the usual questions from intelligent design skeptics came up at the presentation yesterday:

Another questioner posed the inevitable "Who designed the designer?" challenge. Meyer answered that if the designer is assumed to be immanent in nature, that could be a strong objection. "But then there's the idea that the intelligence [responsible for the design of life] is transcendent," meaning outside nature, as Meyer himself supposes. What's known by modern science about the origin of the universe, the singularity from which all physical existence burst forth, demands that we suppose exactly such a cause. Before the Big Bang, of course, there was no nature. Whatever caused the Big Bang is, therefore, necessarily transcendent.

It's a good question, but the question itself assumes the designer is a part of the universe and is thus subject to the laws of causation which govern the universe. Whether you believe God created the universe (as I do), or merely believe "a" designer created the universe, intelligent design theory assumes a designer outside and independent of the laws governing the universe."

Meanwhile, materialists/naturalists/evolutionists, by the self-imposed parameters of their own theory, insist that no supernatural cause may be considered…yet their own theories concerning the origin of the universe are impossible (something cannot come from nothing–has it ever been observed in science?) without a super-natural force.

As you see, creation and intelligent design are logical and rational within the framework of their own theory, while materialism/naturalism/evolution are illogical, irrational and impossible within the framework of their own theory.

Finally, as we know, information (rational, meaningful information) doesn't come into existence without an intelligent origin; it doesn't just happen.

Meyer asked, "What cause, based on our experience, is capable of producing information?" The only such known cause is intelligent agency.

No kidding.

Materialists/naturalists/evolutionists insist that something which cannot be observed or tested according to scientific principles (i.e. God) cannot be considered in the world of science.

Yet they expect us to believe in key points of their theory (something from nothing, life from lifelessness, information without intelligence) when these contentions have not been observed or verified in science?

Sounds like a big double-standard to me. Or a lot like hypocrisy. And maybe a lot of hope that the average person won't figure out that their emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

Evolution education update: June 26, 2009

For your summer reading pleasure: new selected content from RNCSE, a suite of papers from the "In the light of evolution III: Two centuries of Darwin" symposium, and the winners of Florida Citizens for Science's cartoon contest. Plus a last-minute chance to run the rapids with NCSE.


Selected content from volume 28, number 4, of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on NCSE's website. Featured are Brandon Haught's chronicle of the recent fight over the place of evolution in Florida's state science standards, Leon Retief's history of creationism in South Africa, and Stephen C. Burnett's "From the World-Wide Flood to the World Wide Web: Creationism in the Digital Age," reporting his investigation of what search engines provide about creationism and evolution. And there are reviews, too: Stephen Matheson discusses Gordon Glover's Beyond the Firmament and Jason Rosenhouse assesses Thomas Woodward's Darwin Strikes Back.

If you like what you see, why not subscribe to RNCSE today? The next issue (volume 29, number 3) features dispatches from Texas by Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science, NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, and Jeremy Mohn, who revealed Don McLeroy's penchant for quote-mining. There's also a story about the the crowning of the kilosteve -- Steve #1000 in NCSE's Project Steve -- and a host of reviews, including Peter Dodson on Donald R. Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, Andrea Bottaro on Kenneth R. Miller's Only a Theory, and Donald R. Prothero on Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Don't miss out -- subscribe now!

For the selected content from RNCSE 28:4, visit:

For subscription information, visit:


A special supplement to the June 16, 2009, issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "In the light of evolution III: Two centuries of Darwin" is now freely available. As the editors, John C. Avise and Francisco J. Ayala, explain in their introduction:


In the articles of this Colloquium, leading evolutionary biologists and science historians reflect on and commemorate the Darwinian Revolution. The authors of these Proceedings canvass modern research approaches and current scientific thought on each of the 3 main categories of selection (natural, artificial, and sexual) that Darwin addressed during his career. Although his legacy is associated primarily with the illumination of natural selection in The Origin, Darwin also contemplated and wrote extensively about what we would now term artificial selection and sexual selection, as reflected for example in two books titled, respectively, The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1869) and The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871). In a concluding section of these Proceedings, several science historians comment on Darwin's seminal contributions. Thus, these Proceedings are organized in 4 parts: Natural Selection, or Adaptation to Nature; Artificial Selection, or Adaptation to Human Demands; Sexual Selection, or Adaptation to Mating Demands; and The Darwinian Legacy, 150 Years Later.


Among the authors represented are NCSE Supporters Francisco J. Ayala, Michael Ruse, and Elliott Sober. Recordings of and slides from a few of the talks are also freely available. A previous "In the light of evolution" volume included "Biological design in science classrooms" by NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Nick Matzke.

For "In the light of evolution III," visit:

For the recordings and slides, visit:

For "Biological design in science classrooms," visit:


The winners of the Stick Science cartoon contest, sponsored by Florida Citizens for Science, were announced on June 19, 2009. "The basic concept here," as FCFS's Brandon Haught explained in announcing the contest, "is to draw a cartoon that educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about science." And lack of artistic ability was no barrier: "all entries must be drawn using stick figures. This is about creative ideas, not artistic ability."

The third place winner was Brooke Lundquist of Niceville, Florida; the second place winner was Benjamin Tichy of Calistoga, California; and the first place winner was Richard Korzekwa of Los Alamos, New Mexico: congratulations to all three! Their winning cartoons, along with those of seven runners-up, can be viewed on the Florida Citizens for Science website.

The entries were judged by NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott; Phil Plait, the author of Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies!; Carl Zimmer, the author of Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea and Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life; and Kate Miller, the founder of the evolution toystore Charlie's Playhouse.

For the announcement of the winners, visit:

For the original announcement of the contest, visit:

For the winning cartoons, visit:


Due to a last-minute cancellation, there is a vacant spot on the upcoming NCSE Grand Canyon raft trip, starting at Marble Canyon, Arizona, on July 2, spending eight glorious days on the Colorado River in the company of NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and geologist Alan Gishlick, and ending at Lake Mead on July 10. The cost is $2480. Call now!

For information on the trip, visit:

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition!

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Creationist science teacher sues school district - What nerve!


June 18, 10:33 AM

John Freshwater, an eighth grade science teacher of the Mount Vernon City School District in Ohio is in the news again. This time he is suing. You may remember that he was sued last year after he was accused of proselytizing to students, placing Ten Commandments and Bible verse posters on classroom walls, having a Bible on his desk, and for burning crosses into the arms of his students. In other words - he inappropriately brought his religion into the classroom.

Along with those accusations, it was also alleged that Freshwater taught creationism (or intelligent design by another name) in his classroom rather than the prescribed science material. At the time of the original lawsuit, Freshwater was suspended from his teaching job without pay while hearings were conducted to determine if he should be terminated.

Now, according to a report on The Columbus Dispatch's Web site, Freshwater has the nerve to file a lawsuit against "the school-board members, Superintendent Steve Short, middle-school principal William White and Thomas and Julia Herlevi of H.R. on Call, who were hired by the board to conduct the investigation" on the grounds that they "violated his constitutional and civil rights."

Reportedly, Freshwater is "seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages" stating that the actions of those named in the suit were "malicious, fraudulent and oppressive and committed with an improper and evil motive." He also wants his job back.

Freshwater maintains that he did not violate district policy, He also said that he did not teach intelligent design in his classroom. Although he didn't deny having a Bible, he defended its presence by saying that other teachers have Bibles on their desks.

Now, alleged religious antics of this teacher aside, there are some people, like PZ Myers, who believed that Freshwater should have been fired because he was a horrible science teacher. Back in April of last year, PZ said, "He's an incompetent science teacher." PZ cited the following to make his case:

In one class, Freshwater used Lego pieces to describe the beginning of the world. He dumped the pieces, then asked students if the Legos could assemble by themselves, said Joe Stuart, 18, assistant editor of the high-school newspaper.

When Freshwater taught students about electrical current, he used a device to leave a red mark in the shape of a cross on the forearms of some students, Stuart said.

"If it were just about the Bible, I don't think people would have a problem with it," Stuart said.

In his evaluations through the 21 years he's worked for the district, Freshwater has drawn consistent praise for his strong rapport with students, broad knowledge of his subject matter and engaging teaching style.

In 2006, he was instructed to remove from his curriculum a handout titled "Darwin's Theory of Evolution — The Premise and the Problem." A parent had questioned its validity and use in a science classroom.

PZ went on to point out that "his popularity is not an indication that he's a good teacher." He added, "Freshwater can believe whatever he wants. When he decides to use his public school classroom to shove his beliefs down student throats, he's in the wrong and should obey the order to keep his class secular. And when his personal beliefs so scramble his judgment that he can't even teach the evidence and logic of science, his professional duty, fire him." (His emphasis.)

I agree with PZ on this point. But that aside... this man supposedly caused physical harm to the students with whom he was entrusted and as far as I am concerned he should not be allowed to teach children (or be near them in a professional capacity for any reason) ever again. It doesn't matter what it was that he burned into their arms - it could have been a smiley face for all I care. Speaking from the standpoint of a parent, I can say that I would not want this man near my children. In fact, I wouldn't allow it.

It takes a lot of nerve for this man to even consider asking for his job back - let alone suing to get it. Perhaps this move is indicative of his judgment, which seems to be lacking.

The evolution of intelligent design in Texas schools


June 20, 9:36 AM

Members of the scientific community have historically rejected the notion that intelligent design has a place in science curriculums while supporters of intelligent design claim that the theory of evolution lacks enough factual support to be widely accepted. The proliferation of the argument from both sides is staggering and passionate, both often unwilling to see the others' point of view. But, are the two ideas mutually exclusive?

Many people are aware of the heated debate that took place in January of this year over the right to teach intelligent design in public schools. The language that made it into the curriculum in section 7, A-F of chapter 112.34 is that the student is required to "analyze and evaluate" evidence related to evolutionary theory. This could prove to be a beneficial practice in semantics for creationists and textbook authors as well as Texas students.

The Texas Citizens for Science criticized the Texas Board of Education's appointment of anti-evolution proponents to the panel of professional scientists charged with the task of reviewing the issue. The two most heavily criticized members of the panel were Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke who are the co-authors of the textbook Explore Evolution which promotes intelligent design (the book was out of print when I looked for it recently). A news release by the Texas Citizens for Science reported that the book "was written in a way that removes any mention of Creationism or Intelligent Design to make it appear to be a secular, nonreligious evolution text [but has an] underlying message of antipathy to modern biology and a rejection of evolutionary science." In any case, the fact that the co-authors of the textbook served on the review panel does seem grossly unethical at the very least.

What disturbed me the most is that Cynthia Dunbar, who moved to nominate Stephen Meyer (undoubtedly, she was well aware of his ideological leanings), appears to have rigid views about the liberal component of our political system, the transparency of which are unequivocal.

Cynthia Dunbar is the board member residing over district 10, the district in which I live. According to Dunbar's website, she is an "outspoken pro-family conservative activist and [has] been in the trenches fighting for our core American values for over 28 years." Thanks, Cynthia. The most overt part of her political and social ideology is her recent book One Nation Under God: How the Left is Trying to Erase What Made Us Great, published in September of 2009. It is rumored that Governor Rick Perry will tap her to replace Don McLeroy who was ousted as chairman last month—six of one, half a dozen of the other.

What this suggests to me is that Governor Perry along with many other conservatives in Texas are trying to impose the religious ideology of the Republican Party on Texas children. As far as religion is concerned, I believe that it is the job of individual families to decide how and whom they want their children to worship. This latest action by the Texas Board of Education shows how the right-wing political faction in Texas is clearly sidestepping the separation of church and state.

However, the liberal-left is often just as rigid as anyone regarding the issue. Spirituality should play an important role in our society (it matters very little which religion you identify with). I was raised by a Christian family in Central Texas. Throughout my early education I attended parochial school (one Baptist and two Lutheran). I had church on Sundays, chapel on Wednesdays, and a religion class that was part of our educational curriculum Monday through Friday. Growing up, I learned a lot about Christian theology. But, it was always explicit that what I was being taught was religion.

Regardless of my mixed religious philosophy and my sometimes ambiguous political ideology, I think that trying to insinuate one's personal beliefs into a scientific curriculum is unacceptable. The teaching of Christian theology is fine, but call it what it is. The practice of religion is generally based on faith in lieu of empirical evidence; the practice and study of science is based on the gathering of facts through scientific inquiry and analysis. They are not the same thing.

I will admit that the theory of evolution is, up to this point, incomplete, but that doesn't make it wrong. The fossil record is inconclusive and scientists constantly uncover new evidence that leads to the revision and rethinking of currently accepted scientific theory. That's what science is, an ongoing attempt to disprove current theories about how our world operates. Therefore, the new language "analyze and evaluate" that was added to the science curriculum in Texas is redundant. The current adoption of instructional materials through 2010 will not be much affected. However, we will have to wait until the following year to "analyze and evaluate" the content of the textbooks that will be adopted for science curriculums in the state of Texas in the coming years.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Product of teaching on evolution: Godless society


Published June 19 2009

Even though there's no credible evidence for the theory of evolution, and lots of evidence against it, it is taught in our public schools as a fact. You may say, so what? The problem is that the natural conclusion of the evolution theory is that life is a product of chance, an accident, therefore there's no creator God, life is purposeless, meaningless, and therefore morality is manmade, changeable and relative. And since we're not held accountable to a creator God, eat, drink and be merry.

The product of evolutionary teaching is a godless society where narcissism (excessive self-love and self-interest) is the norm. Today, society, government and corporations are largely controlled by greed, dishonesty, arrogance, and self-interest. Could that explain the problems in our society today? Could that explain our current corporate corruption and bankruptcies? Could that explain our federal financial mess and national indebtedness?

If purpose establishes value, and evolution tells us that we're simply accidents, then life has no purpose, other than to reproduce and we already have plenty of people, and therefore life has no value. Having no purpose or meaning to life is the cause of low self-esteem. Remove the creator God, then suicide, murder, disobedience, drug use, promiscuity, and abortion aren't immoral. Could this explain why suicide is the No. 1 killer of our youth? Could this explain why shootings and murders are common? Could this explain why people persist in dangerous, harmful and reckless behaviors — as though their life has no value?

Public schools avoid any references to God, so I don't expect they'll ever change. Ultimately it's the parents' responsibility to teach the Biblical account of Creation, and knowledge of God, to their children. Thus giving them the understanding that they're valuable in God's eyes, they were created with purpose and meaning.

Don Werner

Northfield, Minn.

Infinitely Mind-boggling


At lunch I read Tom Siegfried's piece in Science News about multiple universes, and now I need a nap. Make no mistake, it's a fine piece, especially the top, which elegantly lays out the anthropic principle:

"...there may be many universes, and life occupies one with congenial conditions. In other words, the properties of the universe that physicists measure are "selected" by the fact that physicists exist to begin with."

But about two-thirds of the way through it I got completely lost. I need to brush up on the concept of Boltzmann Brains:

Boltzmann brains are named for the 19th century physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, a pioneer in explaining probabilistic processes in physics. In an infinite universe, all things are possible, even random accumulations of atoms that precisely mimic objects that evolved by cause-and-effect processes -- such as brains. Somewhere in the cosmos, such a random mix of molecules has produced a brain identical to yours in every respect, neurons in identical configurations, with all your memories and perceptions. If enough matter and energy is around to make them, Boltzmann brains could become quite populous, making them, rather than humans, the typical observers of the cosmos.

It is clear that you are not a Boltzmann brain, though. Close your eyes and clear your mind of all unpleasant thoughts. Then open your eyes, and you see all the same stuff, not the newly randomized world that a Boltzmann brain would see.

If Boltzmann brains dominated the cosmos, humans would be rare, so your very existence implies that the average habitable universe must be young enough to restrain the odds of Boltzmann brain formation.

All I know is some days my brain definitely has a "Boltzmann" feel to it.

One of the commenters on the story quotes a line -- "The question is whether life has a starring role in the cosmic drama or is merely an extra, permitted by prevailing conditions but not required to explain them" -- and then declares: "To even consider such a question smacks of creationism! By what possible mechanism could the existence of humans on this tiny planet in the totally non-special location within our universes vast sea of galaxies of stars, most far larger than our sun, have any effect on our universe as a whole?"

But that's a tone-deaf response. Siegfried isn't suggesting in that sentence that humans might be the point, the meaning, the purpose of our universe (which is pretty much the creationist argument), only that the laws of physics in our universe may be directly related to -- constrained by -- limited by -- the existence of physicists. If that makes any sense. And even if it doesn't, who cares -- it's a summertime Friday!

By Joel Achenbach | June 19, 2009; 12:40 PM ET

All creation theories are about principle


Published: June 18, 2009 08:39 pm

Reader's Forum: June 19, 2009

As a professing Christian and follower of Jesus Christ and the person who appears to have started the current science vs. evolution debate, I would like to clarify the Christian position very simply; since those who do not believe in a Creator God are trying to define our beliefs and positions for us.

Simply stated, the Bible is the Christian's ultimate authority in all things including creation, morality and eternal destiny. It is the true history book of the universe. God was there in the beginning, we were not. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 2Ti 3:16.

It is an either or proposition. Either you believe God created the way He said, or you don't. Sadly many Christians have developed compromise positions such as Progressive Creation, Theistic Evolution, Day Age Theory, Gap Theory, etc. All these compromise positions originate from man's opinions outside of the Bible.

There is a war going on; a war of the worldviews. It is not a war between religion and science as most people think. It is a war between religion and evolution.

The definition of science in Webster's 1828 dictionary states this: Science; knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts. Evolution attempts to explain creation by unguided chance processes without a God.

In most cases evolution does not use real science to make its case, it uses faith. They do not know where the matter came from, or how life came about from chemicals, or how the information in the cell originated. But the evolutionists say, given enough time, we have faith that it could happen. This is not logical. It surely is not science. Evolution is a religion. The definition of religion is: a cause, principle or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

I already have a faith. If you're an evolutionist, tell me what your faith has to offer and I'll tell you what my faith in Jesus Christ has to offer.

A building has a builder, a painting has a painter, and a table has a maker. Why would time, space and matter not need a creator? God is the miracle maker who, in six days created the heaven, the Earth, the sea, and all that in them is, Exodus 20:11. Creation cannot be explained by science, only by a creator God, who created outside the physical laws of nature.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20.

When it comes right down to it, what I believe or what you believe is totally irrelevant. What is relevant is this; what is the truth? Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me." John 14:6.

— David A. Brown, Terre Haute