NTS LogoSkeptical News for 6 October 2009

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kansas teachers aren't anti-evolution

http://www.kansas.com/opinion/story/1000802.html By John Richard Schrock

A new survey shows Kansas secondary biology teachers have the lowest rates of creationist belief of teachers in any of the states surveyed. The survey results — presented at a September conference of the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers and due to be published in an upcoming Kansas Biology Teacher journal — verify that the general press image of Kansas being backward on evolution is completely opposite of the facts.

The percentage of biology teachers from different states who thought that creation has a valid scientific foundation were: Kentucky teachers, 69 percent; Oklahoma, 48 percent; South Dakota, 39 percent; Ohio, 38 percent; Illinois, 30 percent; Georgia, 30 percent; Louisiana, 29 percent; and Kansas, 24 percent.

Creationist belief that contradicts science may actually be substantially lower than these percentages suggest. In a 1991 survey, 85 percent of Kansas biology teachers said they thought "the modern theory of evolution has a valid scientific foundation." But 25 percent also indicated that they thought "creationism has a valid scientific foundation."

After that survey, I chatted with teachers in the field. Some explained that they marked both answers because they were not literalist and saw 3.5 billion years of evolution as no problem. But they did believe in a supernatural creation of the universe in the beginning and, in some cases, a supernatural instilling of the soul on the evolutionary route from ape-men to humans. In neither case would their beliefs interfere with teaching modern evolutionary biology.

The 2009 study showed similar overlap. Of those who believe creationism has a valid scientific foundation, half do not think creationism should be taught in public schools.

A big divide remains between small rural schools and larger Kansas schools. Today, 36 percent of biology teachers at small rural schools (fewer than 100 students) are creationist, while this drops to 15 percent in schools with 100 to 399 students. Rural teachers are more likely to be trained in biology as a "second field" and are less likely to pursue an advanced degree, as they have to teach across many disciplines. Other research finds that small rural Kansas schools are more subject to influence from a few local personalities, while larger schools can pay more attention to state and national standards.

Some media perpetuate the perception that science and religion are not compatible. But most Christian denominations have no difficulty with evolution. In 1998, Molleen Matsumura in the National Center for Science Education Reports found that "of Americans in the 12 largest Christian denominations, 89.6 percent belong to churches that support evolution education."

Hard-core opposition to evolution among Kansas biology teachers is probably about 6 percent, dramatically lower than for any other state surveyed.

Sadly, that will not stop late-night talk shows from portraying Kansans as anti-evolution hayseeds.

John Richard Schrock of Emporia trains biology teachers.

Richard Dawkins: I've got the evidence to convince unbelievers that Darwin was right


Interview by Emma Townshend
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Related Articles

With his latest book, creationist-basher Richard Dawkins believes he has amassed all the evidence he could ever need to convince unbelievers that Darwin was right. Now he just has to get them to read it...

Richard Dawkins is in the middle of London's Natural History Museum, telling me about the applications on his iPhone. Sitting in the museum café, he holds the phone up to his mouth and tips back his head to show me how he can drink a virtual "pint" of Carling on screen, the beer draining as the phone tips further. Which is not exactly what I was expecting.

Dawkins has the enthusiasm of a teenage geek for new technology. "I love my iPhone," he confesses. "I'm on my third already." Then he shows me another phone app, this time simulating Darwinian natural selection. As each generation of a populace is born, the appearance of the group of individuals on screen varies. As Sir David Attenborough walks past and says hello, I feel secretly relieved we aren't still laughing at the lager trick. "Do you find it difficult to switch off from technology?" "Aha, yes," he says with a dark chuckle, straightaway. And do you ever get in trouble for that? He laughs again.

To most observers, Dawkins is the textbook aggressive champion of evolutionary theory. His new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, is intended to amass the scientific testimony for evolution in one place, answering creationist critics who say there is no evidence that evolution by natural selection has ever taken place. In person, Dawkins fails to live up to the "aggressive" label.

More rightly described as "dapper", he is today wearing a pale-grey suit whose stitching and cut look deliciously Savile Row. The smartness is tempered by a touch of English whimsy: the outfit is completed by a hand-painted tie featuring the birds of the Galapagos, with wings outstretched for flight, and talons spread to snatch prey. "My wife painted it for me," he explains proudly.

All in all, he is an intriguing combination. He has the beady-eyed, fiercely scrutinising gaze of the Oxford professor inviting you for interview, and at the same time a warm and generous enthusiasm for science and all its manifestations (including those of Steve Jobs and the Apple corporation). But his greatest wonder is reserved for the natural world.

Walking through the gallery that contains skull casts and bones from our ancestors, he greets each as if they were old friends. "Ah, dear boy!" he exclaims to one skeleton. (It turns out "Dear Boy" is the nickname given by celebrated anthropologists the Leakeys to Paranthropus boisei, a skeleton they carried around for a time in a biscuit tin. It is now recognised as one of our most distant relatives.)

Then, moments later, he says more sadly, "Ah, the Taung baby": a child snatched from its mother by eagles some 2.5 million years ago. The child died after having its eyes pecked out, as evidence from the skull shows. In his new book, Dawkins spends a whole chapter discussing human evolution, including a touching passage on the Taung baby and its bereft mother. It's this ability to be deeply imaginative that captures his readers in their millions. As we walk through a gallery hung with gibbon skeletons, articulated as they would be in their jungle home, he stops and sighs: "It must be a wonderful experience to swing your way through the forest like that, at extremely high speed. They actually take off for a moment when they swing from one branch to the next. Very much like flying," he adds, wistfully.

The Greatest Show on Earth tackles more controversial matters, too. Included is a transcript of his 2008 interview with Wendy Wright from Concerned Women for America, an out-and-out creationist who simply denies the existence of evidence for human evolution. As Dawkins urges her repeatedly to visit any museum and see the skulls and skeletons for herself, she simply ignores him and repeats her own orthodoxy. "Why is it so important to you that everyone believes in evolution?" she asks, almost plaintively. "I am a lover of truth," he simply tells me.

So he is genuinely puzzled by people calling him aggressive. "Well, I'm nothing like as aggressive as I'm portrayed. And I'm always being labelled 'strident'. In the bestseller lists it always has a little one-line summary of the book, and for my new one it says 'strident academic Richard Dawkins'. I'm forever saddled with this wretched adjective. I think I'm one of the most unstrident people in the world. I'd like to think my books are humorous at points," he adds, pensively. "I'd like to think people laugh when they read them."

There are moments in the new book which do make the reader laugh, not all of which concern Wendy Wright and her views about the morning-after pill ("a paedophile's best friend"). Dawkins quotes in full Eric Idle's Monty Python parody of "All Things Bright and Beautiful," a hymn he has clearly enjoyed seeing rewritten. His books also have whimsical moments: in this one, a full-page colour photograph of one biologist's naked back, bearing a large evolution-themed tattoo.

But most importantly his writing radiates an intense sense of fascination. He is a great explainer, taking complex biological processes and making them accessible. Here, that includes the development of the embryo in early pregnancy, the wonkiness of giraffe anatomy, and our own fishy ancestry.

Born in Africa during the Second World War, Dawkins had parents who were both keen naturalists – his father worked for the British government of Kenya, a biologist specialising in agriculture. Africa was an exotic environment for a small child. Walking around the insect gallery, he suddenly sees a large scorpion preserved in a mahogany case, its tail raised as if about to sting, and stands back. "I was badly stung by one of them as a child," he reveals. "I'm quite frightened of large spiders and scorpions still."

But young Dawkins also spent time in England. "My grandparents lived at Mullion in Cornwall, so we always used to go there for our holidays. It was idyllic." Holidaying at their home on the Lizard, he developed a lifelong passion for walking the cliff path. "All the way down from Mullion, past Kynance, to the Lizard," he says, with a smile. "Lovely flowers, sea pinks on the cliffs."

He has a clear sense of his debt to a series of inspiring mentors. An old headmaster at his school, called Sanderson, had been enormously enthusiastic about natural history. "And his spirit lived on there. My old biology teacher Ioan Thomas had come to the school specifically because of it. There was one time he came into class and asked: 'What animal feeds on hydra?' We didn't know. He went right around the whole class asking. Everybody was guessing, and then, finally, we said, 'Sir, Sir, what animal does?' And he waited and waited, and then he said, 'I don't know. And I don't think Mr Coulson does either.' He burst into the next room, got Mr Coulson and dragged him out by the arm, and he didn't know either! It was a wonderful lesson, I never forgot it and neither did anyone else: it's OK to not know the answer."

He is proud of his career so far: "All my books have sold very well, and none has ever gone out of print. The Selfish Gene has sold as many as The God Delusion, but over a longer time span, of course. My books do make a lot of money, and I don't want to keep it myself, so I wanted to find something to put the money into. I started my charitable foundation, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, to promote a sceptical, critical, enlightened view of the world." So, I ask, you never splash out on anything? He pauses. "Actually we do have a swimming pool," he admits, bashfully.

He remains passionately interested in the world around him. At one point he stops in front of a display on dung beetles rolling up balls of faeces in their burrows. "I never knew they did that," he says, wonder in his voice. Today, Dawkins divides his time between writing and campaigning, fighting what he feels is an essential battle. The Greatest Show on Earth is simply the latest weapon in his armoury. So finally I have to ask him, does he honestly think any creationists will read it?

"Hardline, mind-made-up creationists, no. But there are lots of people, people who think they are creationists but who haven't thought about it very hard, people who grew up in some religion or other, who are just beginning to question what they were taught. And all of a sudden they are reading about evolution and saying, wait a minute, this makes sense. I get a lot of letters from people thanking me, saying, 'You've changed my life.' That is very, very gratifying." So you have actually converted people? "Well, for example, I was at one point teaching in Oxford, and we had an animal-behaviour student who was a creationist from some out-of-the-way Bible college in America. He came dutifully to all my lectures, every week, and after the last lecture, he came down to the desk where I was packing up my notes and he said, 'Gee, this evolution, it really makes sense!' So yes, yes, I do believe that people can change their minds, be convinced by the truth. And I thought, yes, that's what I'm here for."

Emma Townshend's new book, 'Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution', is published by Frances Lincoln on 5 November

The extract

The Greatest Show on Earth, By Richard Dawkins (Transworld £20)

'...Imagine you are a teacher of recent history, and your lessons on 20th-century Europe are boycotted... by politically muscular groups of Holocaust deniers. The plight of many science teachers today is not less dire. When they attempt to expound the central principle of biology they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied'

Source: Independent

Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/books/richard-dawkins-ive-got-the-evidence-to-convince-unbelievers-that-darwin-was-right-14522360.html#ixzz0TDMQ24P8

Leading Darwinist Richard Dawkins Dodges Debates, Refuses to Defend Evolution as The Greatest Show On Earth


Posted : Tue, 06 Oct 2009 16:31:19 GMT
Author : Discovery Institute
Category : Press Release

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 DC-Darwinian-debate

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Richard Dawkins, the world's leading public spokesman for Darwinian evolution and an advocate of the "new atheism," has refused to debate Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, a prominent advocate of intelligent design and the author of the acclaimed Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, according to the Discovery Institute.

"Richard Dawkins claims that the appearance of design in biology is an illusion and claims to have refuted the case for intelligent design," says Dr. Meyer who received his Ph.D. in the philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge in England.

"But Dawkins assiduously avoids addressing the key evidence for intelligent design and won't debate its leading proponents," adds Dr. Meyer. "Dawkins says that there is no evidence for intelligent design in life, and yet he also acknowledges that neither he nor anyone else has an evolutionary explanation for the origin of the first living cell. We know now even the simplest forms of life are chock-full of digital code, complex information processing systems and other exquisite forms of nanotechnology."

In Signature in the Cell, Dr. Meyer shows that the digital code embedded in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence and helps unravel a mystery that Darwin did not address: how did the very first life begin? Signature in the Cell has just entered its third printing according to publisher HarperOne, an imprint of Harper Collins, and has been endorsed by scientists around the world, including leading British geneticist Dr. Norman Nevin, Alastair Noble, Ph.D. chemistry, formerly Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools for Science, Scotland, and Dr. Philip Skell, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Meyer challenged Dawkins to a debate when he saw that their speaking tours would cross paths this fall in Seattle and New York. Dawkins declined through his publicists, saying he does not debate "creationists."

"Dawkins' response is disingenuous," said Meyer. "Creationists believe the earth is 10,000 years old and use the Bible as the basis for their views on the origins of life. I don't think the earth is 10,000 years old and my case for intelligent design is based on scientific evidence."

According to Discovery Institute, where Dr. Meyer directs the Center for Science & Culture, the debate challenge is a standing invitation for any time and place that is mutually agreeable to both participants.

SOURCE Discovery Institute

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The 4.4 Million-Year-Old Blow To Intelligent Design


Peter Hyman
October 2, 2009 Peter Hyman

The 4.4 Million-Year-Old Blow To Intelligent DesignIt's always encouraging to see a science story on the front page of The New York Times (above the fold, no less!). And it's even better when it's a piece about the discovery of a specimen that now serves as the earliest known relative of the human branch of the primate tree (in this case, the story involves a skeleton dating back 4.4 million years, making it much older than its 3.2 million year old cousin, Lucy).

Why? For a variety of reasons, but mainly because it, yet again, supports the notion of Darwinian evolution, which means it is another serious chink in the already weak armor of the Intelligent Design movement. For those unfamiliar with ID, it is essentially creationism re-branded with a name that sounds less biblical (but no less unintelligent, oddly). Despite the name swap, the two share the same core idea–that the earth and every living thing therein was created by an "intelligent" cause all at once, and not by random natural selection that occurred over billions of years.

The ID movement is driven by the Center for Science and Culture, an arm of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based conservative Christian think tank. And, like the global warming denial movement, it is a shining example of junk science. In lieu of presenting legitimate, peer-reviewed science, both movements seek to obfuscate the truth by creating ambiguity and taking advantage of legitimate scientific debate. They are PR efforts, not actual science. And while it's tempting to dismiss them both as crackpot theories that rely on argumentum ad ignorantiam, the danger on the ID front is that it has a well-organized political agenda: they want to brainwash our children.

As outlined in an internal CSC memo leaked in 1999 (the so called "Wedge Document"), the ID movement's ultimate goal is the replacement of "materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." In other words, in lieu of evolution they want Intelligent Design taught in American public schools (if Intelligent Design has any place in schools, it is in a class on religion, not science).

So how would an Intelligent Design proponent explain the discovery of a hominid that is 4.4 million years old? I'm not quite sure, since one of the main tenets of Creationism is that the earth is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, as per the New Testament (though even this gets murky as some Creationists argue that "years" in the biblical sense are not the same as "years" as we currently view them). Geologists generally agree that the earth is roughly 4.6 billion years old. And now we have another piece of evidence in the fossil record that links humans to primates, and that dates back to 4.4 million years.

In the spirit of open and honest dialogue, we here at The Faster Times invite those from the ID camp to explain the important scientific finding, and to square it with the tenets of Intelligent Design.



Published: October 2, 2009

Richard Dawkins's "Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" enters the hardcover non­fiction list at No. 5, while Karen Armstrong's book "The Case for God" lands at No. 10. Neither Dawkins nor Armstrong has much patience for religious fundamentalists, but that doesn't mean the pugnacious atheist and the former nun are rushing to blurb each other's books. Last month, The Wall Street Journal asked both authors to respond independently to the question "Where does evolution leave God?" Armstrong argued that Darwin had done Western religion a favor. Early Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers, unlike their benighted and literal-minded successors, she said, understood "that what we call 'God' is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle." A true appreciation of Darwin could help us turn "away from the idols of certainty and back to the 'God beyond God.' "

This column will appear in print in the Oct. 11, 2009 issue of the Book Review. On the Web, the best-seller lists and the "Inside the List" column are available one week early.

Dawkins, writing in typically slashing form, was having none of it. "If that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling up a very lonely creek. . . . Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right." As for the Creator himself, Dawkins wrote: "God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place."

DOG KNITS SWEATER: If it wasn't written by a popular television host, Glenn Beck's "Arguing With Idiots" — new at No. 1 on the hardcover nonfiction list — might be a good candidate for the annual Diagram Prize for odd book titles. The folks at the British magazine The Bookseller, which created the prize at the 1978 Frankfurt Book Fair, have collected the covers of 50 entries in "Do-It-Yourself Brain Surgery and Other Implausibly Titled Books." A sampling: "Beyond Leaf Raking," "Nuclear War: What's in It for You?" "Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers," "Reusing Old Graves" and "What to Say When You Talk to Your Self." (Maybe that will be the name of Glenn Beck's next book.)

At least one of the titles, "Knitting With Dog Hair," from 1994, attracted some notice in the Book Review. Here's what our reviewer, Tom Ferrell, had to say: "The authors do not teach knitting; aspiring dog knitters will have to learn that skill however it is that people learn it. But they do provide an extensive catalogue raisonné of the various breeds, spelling out which animals yield the most useful fuzz, as well as inspirational photographs of the eventual products. Dog hair, the authors say, is warmer than wool, and it is certainly more permanent than Fido himself, who would surely approve of being memorialized after his passing by a handsome sweater or a pair of cuddly baby bootees."

NOTES: Dan Brown is still at the top of the hardcover fiction list. Diana Gabaldon, who enters at No. 2 with "An Echo in the Bone," promises to try harder next time.

The greatest show on earth



Last Updated: 11:54 PM, October 3, 2009

Posted: 11:46 PM, October 3, 2009

Bible crusaders beware. The man nicknamed "Darwin's Rottweiler" is setting out to definitively refute creationism with his new tome on evolution.

Oxford don Dawkins lays out his task: "More than 40% of Americans deny that humans evolved from other animals, and think that we . . . were created by God within the last 10,000 years." Dawkins is clearly sick and tired of these "history-deniers," likening their ignorance to that of Holocaust-deniers.

Proof, Dawkins says, is in the fossils — but that's not all. "Even if not a single fossil had ever been found, the evidence from surviving animals would still . . . force the conclusion that Darwin was right."

Common ancestors, he says, are the "missing links" so often demanded by creationists. Like the Tiktaalik, which he describes as having "a crocodile's head on a salamander's trunk, attached to a fish's rear end and tail. Unlike any fish, Tiktaalik had a neck. It could turn its head."

He continues: "Tiktaalik is the perfect missing link — perfect, because it almost exactly splits the difference between fish and amphibian, and perfect because it is missing no longer."

Filled with fascinating details, his treatise is clear, clever and convincing. Dawkins states that Darwin "thumped the Victorian solar plexus and drove out the wind of centuries" with his book "On The Origin of Species." But his own book is a thorough, often poetic, endeavor in keeping creationism from catching its breath.

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution

by Richard Dawkins

Free Press

Bible crusaders beware. The man nicknamed "Darwin's Rottweiler" is setting out to definitively refute creationism with his new tome on evolution.

Oxford don Dawkins lays out his task: "More than 40% of Americans deny that humans evolved from other animals, and think that we . . . were created by God within the last 10,000 years." Dawkins is clearly sick and tired of these "history-deniers," likening their ignorance to that of Holocaust-deniers.

Proof, Dawkins says, is in the fossils — but that's not all. "Even if not a single fossil had ever been found, the evidence from surviving animals would still . . . force the conclusion that Darwin was right."

Common ancestors, he says, are the "missing links" so often demanded by creationists. Like the Tiktaalik, which he describes as having "a crocodile's head on a salamander's trunk, attached to a fish's rear end and tail. Unlike any fish, Tiktaalik had a neck. It could turn its head."

He continues: "Tiktaalik is the perfect missing link — perfect, because it almost exactly splits the difference between fish and amphibian, and perfect because it is missing no longer."

Filled with fascinating details, his treatise is clear, clever and convincing. Dawkins states that Darwin "thumped the Victorian solar plexus and drove out the wind of centuries" with his book "On The Origin of Species." But his own book is a thorough, often poetic, endeavor in keeping creationism from catching its breath.

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Evidence for Evolution

Storming the Beaches of Norman


Norman, Oklahoma, that is.

Okay, so there aren't any real beaches in Norman, Oklahoma. But when Steve Meyer and I went there recently, the Darwinists who have installed themselves as absolute dictators at the University of Oklahoma (OU) made our arrival feel like D-Day.

On September 28, Steve gave a talk on his best-selling book Signature in the Cell at the Oklahoma Memorial Union on the OU campus. The following evening, September 29, Steve and I answered questions after a showing of the new film Darwin's Dilemma at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, again on the OU campus.

Darwinists at OU are still gloating over the abuse to which they subjected Dr. William A. Dembski in 2007. On September 14, 2009, one of the organizers of that abuse, OU graduate student Abbie Smith, announced on her foul-mouthed blog that Steve and I were coming to OU and urged her readers to give us the same treatment.

The day after her announcement, retired OU zoology professor Victor Hutchison, of the militantly Darwin-only Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE), posted the following on Smith's blog: "

Folks at OU are experienced in how to put down such events. An example is the thorough dismantling of Dembski about three years ago. I expect that there will be plenty of students and others well-prepared with good questions and comments at both scheduled events—especially on the crap the film will have about the so-called 'Cambrian Explosion.'… However, opponents should get to the events EARLY."

The same day, Darwinist blogger P.Z. Myers scolded OU for allowing Darwin's Dilemma to be shown.

"Shame on the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History," Myers wrote. "This will put a little spot of schmutz on their glossy reputation, I fear. And they're planning to turn it into a real kookfest, with both Jonathan Wells (whose book, Icons of Evolution, revealed that he was an ignorant maroon on the subject of the Cambrian) and Stephen Meyer, the philosopher-creationist with his own book on molecular biology (hah!) to peddle, there to lecture at the opening. I guess any clown can rent the integrity of the U of Oklahoma for a day."

In response, Sam Noble Museum Director Michael A. Mares issued an "Open Letter" of appeasement, stating:

"Although the museum does not support unscientific views masquerading as science, such as those espoused by the Discovery Institute, the museum does respect the religious beliefs of all people. Moreover, the museum is obligated to rent its public space to any organization that is engaged in lawful activities, free speech and open discourse. The museum does not discriminate against recognized campus organizations based on their religious beliefs, political philosophy, scientific literacy, or any other factors."

In an attempt to counter the impact of Darwin's Dilemma, Mares announced that the museum would open its evolution exhibit to the public, free of charge, until 11 PM on September 29. In addition, the museum would sponsor a free public lecture at 5 PM that day by Dr. Stephen Westrop, its curator of invertebrate paleontology, titled "The Cambrian Explosion and the Burgess Shale: No Dilemma for Darwin."

On September 18, Smith applauded Mares's letter, the extension of the museum's hours, and Westrop's planned lecture. She wrote:

"If you live in the OKC [Oklahoma City] area, you've got a problem. Sure, you want to go see the TARD [short for retard] parade at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, you can always count on Creationists for a good time. But the problem is, Wells and Meyer are incredibly stupid. While recreational exposure to Creationists can induce euphoria and irrepressible giggles… long-term exposure to pure TARD from DI [Discovery Institute] fellows can cause seemingly irreversible brain damage." Smith also announced that she would "be around, completely uninvited," at the showing of the film. "I'll even talk to Johnny Wells about HIV-1 evolution, since he thinks neither of my research topics exists."

(Not true, of course, though I question the relevance of HIV microevolution to Darwinian macroevolution.)

A few days later, Oklahoma Daily columnist Jelani Sims criticized Mares's letter on the grounds that it "assumes that those presenting the documentary and supporting it must be religious, have conservative political views and lack scientific literacy, while disguising the museum's malicious shot at those people and groups as tolerance." According to Jelani,

"the museum should not have opposed the event in this way. Rather than hijacking the night of the documentary presentation with an opposing seminar and free extra hours of operation, it should have let the event stand on its own. And, rather than releasing a statement of vehement opposition, thinly veiled in tolerance, it should have said nothing.
OU and the surrounding halls of learning and education should be places of academic freedom and the open exploration of ideas. Instead of fostering and working toward this ideal, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History has chosen to align itself with the many mean-hearted voices that wish no one would hear any alternative outside of evolution."

On September 28, Steve spoke to an audience estimated at 300 in the Meacham Auditorium at the Oklahoma Memorial Union. (I had not yet arrived from Seattle.) "If you apply Charles Darwin's method of reasoning to what we know now that he didn't, you come to exactly the opposite conclusion that he did," Meyer said. "There is evidence of design in nature, and you find that evidence most obviously on display in the digital code that is stored in the DNA." The evidence shows that DNA is not only complex, but also highly specified to encode functional proteins. To people who claim that intelligent design is not science, Steve said, "It's important to amend the rules of science to allow scientists to follow the evidence to wherever it leads." [8,9]

The ensuing Q&A was surprisingly friendly, with the exception of one man who insisted that most human DNA is junk and who persisted in this claim even after Steve pointed out that recently published scientific research shows that most so-called "junk DNA" is not junk at all. Abbie Smith was there, but she spent the entire time blogging on her laptop. Her entries included the following:

7.10 -- Meyer is clueless on origin of life and Darwin.

7.27 -- 'Origin of information in DNA'. HAHAHA I made all the mathematicians facepalm [place their hands over their eyes and shake their heads].

7.40 -- Bored. Now watching porn.

Despite her earlier threats to expose publicly how "stupid" Steve is, Smith left abruptly after the lecture and did not stay for the Q&A.

On September 29, The Norman Transcript announced the 5 PM lecture by Professor Westrop and the 7 PM showing of B002MZTSRM. The article mentioned Steve's position that the pairing of events was good because it allowed for students to get two views. "I think it's great that students will be party to that," Steve said. "That's what an academic experience is all about."

I attended the lecture by Professor Westrop, which was informative and entertaining. Westrop began by saying that the Cambrian explosion was no dilemma for Darwin. Indeed, if Darwin knew what we now know he would have celebrated the fossil record and written about it at length. Westrop disputed the idea that most of the animal body plans ("phyla") emerged "almost overnight" in the Cambrian. Instead, he argued that they began to emerge much earlier, in the pre-Cambrian period known as the Ediacaran. He mentioned trace fossils (signs of worm burrows) and the "small shelly fauna" that are older than the two most famous sites for Cambrian explosion fossils, the Burgess Shale in Canada and the Chengjiang beds in China—both of which show exceptional preservation of even the soft parts of early animals.

Professor Westrop mentioned pre-Cambrian sponges and the fossil Kimberella, which most paleontologists think was an early mollusc. He went further, however, and claimed that the Ediacaran fossils Vernanimalcula, Parvancorina, and Arkarua were early bilaterians (bilaterally symmetrical animals), arthropods (the phylum that includes crabs and insects) and echinoderms (the phylum that includes sea urchins and starfish), respectively. This would push back the beginning of the Cambrian explosion and make its duration 40 million years instead of the 5-10 million years mentioned in Darwin's Dilemma. (Steve later addressed this in the Q&A after the film; see below.)

Professor Westrop suggested that the explosion might have been due to an increase in atmospheric oxygen and/or the opening of ecological niches by a mass extinction event at the end of the pre-Cambrian. (I thought to myself that increased oxygen and new ecological niches may have been necessary for the Cambrian explosion, but they were far from sufficient. New body plans need new information, not just air and space.) Westrop concluded by taking exception to J.B.S. Haldane's claim that finding a fossil rabbit in the pre-Cambrian would prove Darwin's theory wrong. If such a fossil were found, Westrop said, paleontologists would simply revise their reconstruction of the history of life.

During the Q&A, one student asked him whether any fossil find could falsify Darwin's theory, and Professor Westrop said "No," since Darwin's theory is really about natural selection, which operates on a much shorter time scale than the fossil record. Another student asked him whether he had seen the movie Darwin's Dilemma; he said he hadn't, but his lecture was not intended to be a response to the movie.

During the lecture I caught several people glaring at me; the tension was palpable. After Westrop's lecture I toured the museum exhibit on evolution and the Cambrian explosion. It seemed factually accurate for the most part, emphasizing (among other things) that many of the Cambrian explosion fossils were soft-bodied—which puts the lie to the common explanation that their precursors are absent from the fossil record because they lacked hard parts. The exhibit also made it clear that the Ediacaran fossils went extinct at the end of the pre-Cambrian, so (with a few possible exceptions) they could not have been ancestral to the Cambrian phyla.

One particular panel in the exhibit caught my attention. It showed over a dozen of the Cambrian phyla at the top of a branching tree with a single trunk, but none of the branch points corresponded to a real living thing. Instead, the branch points were artificial technical categories such as "Ecdysozoa," "Lophotrochozoa," "Deuterostomia," and "Bilateria." The artificiality of the branch-points emphasized that the branching-tree pattern imposed on the fossil evidence was itself an artificial construct.

By 7 PM the auditorium was filled to standing-room-only capacity with about 200 people. During the film Steve and I waited outside; we came in for the Q&A as the film was ending and the audience was applauding enthusiastically.

Steve led off with a short statement explaining that we were not challenging the facts, but only the Darwinian interpretation of them. He acknowledged that there are disagreements over the duration of the Cambrian explosion—even among Darwinian paleontologists—but the real issue is the origin of information. Even if the Cambrian explosion had lasted 40 million years, as Westrop had claimed, there would not have been enough time for unguided processes to produce the enormous amount of specified complexity in the DNA of the animal phyla. Then Steve opened the floor to questions, as the moderator walked around the room with a hand-held microphone.

The first "question" came from Victor Hutchison of the OESE, who claimed that the filmmakers had deceived Simon Conway Morris and James Valentine into granting interviews that were now 9-10 years old. Steve responded that he had had tea with Simon just a few months earlier, and although Conway Morris was not a supporter of intelligent design (nor did the film make him out to be), his views on the Cambrian explosion were accurately portrayed in the film. Steve said he had not spoken with Valentine recently, and that the latter had every right to distance himself from the views promoted by the film; but both Conway Morris and Valentine had signed releases and accepted payment for their participation. (In fact, Illustra Media interviewed Conway Morris and Valentine for this project in October and November of 2006—less than three years ago. Both Morris and Valentine knew they were being interviewed by Illustra Media, which was well known for having previously produced two pro-intelligent design films, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet. They were not deceived in any way.)

The second question came from a man who was concerned that the film said nothing about the role of viruses in changing DNA. The retrovirus-derived gene PEG10, he argued, explains how mammals evolved placentas millions of years ago. I replied that biologists can establish that certain genes are necessary in the formation of specific organs, but they have never established that genes alone—much less any one gene—can account for any organ. Indeed, I pointed out, we can (and have) mutated the genes of fruit fly embryos in every possible way, and there are only three known outcomes: a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly, or a dead fruit fly. Not even a new species, much less a new organ. So the fact that PEG10 may be necessary for the development of a placenta does not justify the claim that a retrovirus caused the evolution of the first placenta. The questioner persisted, pointing out that PEG10 is widespread among mammals (which is irrelevant to whether it caused the origin of placentas), and when the moderator moved to another person the questioner got up and stalked out of the room with his hands in the air.

The next person—apparently a professor of developmental biology—objected that the film ignored facts showing the unity of life, especially the universality of the genetic code, the remarkable similarity of about 500 housekeeping genes in all living things, the role of HOX genes in building animal body plans, and the similarity of HOX genes in all animal phyla, including sponges. Steve began by pointing out that the genetic code is not universal, but the questioner loudly complained that he was not answering her questions. I stepped up and pointed out that housekeeping genes are similar in all living things because without them life is not possible. I acknowledged that HOX gene mutations can be quite dramatic (causing a fly to sprout legs from its head in place of antennae, for example), but HOX genes become active midway through development, long after the body plan is already established. They are also remarkably non-specific; for example, if a fly lacks a particular HOX gene and a comparable mouse HOX gene is inserted in its place, the fly develops normal fly parts, not mouse parts. Furthermore, the similarity of HOX genes in so many animal phyla is actually a problem for neo-Darwinism: If evolutionary changes in body plans are due to changes in genes, and flies have HOX genes similar to those in a horse, why is a fly not a horse? Finally, the presence of HOX genes in sponges (which, everyone agrees, appeared in the pre-Cambrian) still leaves unanswered the question of how such complex specified genes evolved in the first place.

The questioner became agitated and shouted out something to the effect that HOX gene duplication explained the increase in information needed for the diversification of animal body plans. I replied that duplicating a gene doesn't increase information content any more than photocopying a paper increases its information content. She obviously wanted to continue the argument, but the moderator took the microphone to someone else.

The next questioner suggested the film might have been better if it had included some Darwinists skeptical of its conclusions. (I learned later that the producer/director had invited several such critics to be interviewed, but they had declined.) Steve agreed that the film might have been better if it had done that. I chimed in that there seemed little need for the producer to pay for such views when the University of Oklahoma was spending so much public money to provide them. (I wished later I had said that if OU were doing its job it would be providing students with both sides of the story in the first place, and there would have been no need to make the film.)

Someone asked why the film refers to "designers" in the plural. Steve answered that this merely followed from the application of Lyell's explanatory method of inferring past causes from those known to produce comparable effects in the present. We can infer the need for intelligence, but single or multiple designers could be responsible. In response to another questioner who noted that the film apparently assumes the standard geological time scale, Steve said that both he and I hold to the antiquity of the Earth.

An emeritus professor of immunology pointed out that the immune system is essentially the same in all vertebrates, but the supposedly primitive lamprey has a completely different immune system. He regarded this as evidence of a molecular explosion comparable to the Cambrian explosion that also pointed to design.

Then someone suggested that there is a fundamental distinction between the time organisms first arise and when they appear in the fossil record. He said there is abundant fossil and molecular evidence that many animal body plans arose before the Cambrian. I pointed out that three of the pre-Cambrian fossils cited by Professor Westrop as precursors to Cambrian animals were disputed by other paleontologists. According to Stefan Bengtson and Graham Budd, the bilaterian interpretation of Vernanimalcula is "not well-founded" but an "artifact" of changes in the organism after death and changes in the sediment after deposition. [Bengtson, S. & G. Budd, "Comment on 'Small Bilaterian Fossils from 40 to 55 Million Years Before the Cambrian'," Science 306 (2004): 1291a.] According to James Valentine, Parvancorina is not "convincing" as an arthropod ancestor; it lacks a head, jointed limbs, compound eyes and antennae. Also according to Valentine, without more shared features with echinoderms the relationship of Arkarua "remains uncertain." [Valentine, J.W., On the Origin of Phyla (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), pp. 287, 397.]

I then pointed out that molecular evidence comes entirely from modern organisms; no biomolecules have been recovered from Cambrian fossils. The molecular data are fed into a computer that has been programmed to generate a branching-tree pattern; the computer is not given the option of concluding that the organisms may not share a common ancestor. Even then, different molecules—or the same molecule analyzed by different labs—can give different trees. So molecular phylogeny is riddled with inconsistencies, and when applied to the Cambrian phyla it is speculative at best.

Finally, someone mentioned Thomas Kuhn's book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and asked whether the current controversy over Darwinism and intelligent design fits Kuhn's description. Steve answered that in many respects it does—not only in the way the Darwinian scientific establishment is using all means at its disposal to suppress the new theory of intelligent design, but also in the way the very definition of science has become part of the controversy.

The formal Q&A ended, but many people came up afterwards to continue the conversation. Both we and the organizers—the courageous students of the OU Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club—were pleased with the outcome. As IDEA Club secretary Trevor Clark wrote in the student newspaper on October 1, "One of the most spectacular features of these events was the broad spectrum of people who attended. I am thrilled that so many people with different viewpoints could converge to join a discussion about intelligent design."

Darwinist blogger P.Z. Myers, who had scolded the museum for letting us show the film, did not come all the way from the University of Minnesota, Morris, to attend. Yet he wrote afterwards about Steve's September 28 lecture:

"I knew ahead of time exactly what it was going to be: complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, therefore, DESIGN. It doesn't follow. The logic is nonexistent. It's the kind of thing you'd expect a competent person with a Ph.D. in philosophy to recognize, but no, it's the same ol' thing, trotted out every time they get up to speak."

Of course, Myers is absolutely correct: Complexity, therefore design, doesn't follow. And yes, "you'd expect a competent person with a Ph.D. in philosophy" to know this.

That's why Steve Meyer devoted an entire chapter to it in his book. In fact, it's the chapter from which the book takes its name (Signature in the Cell HarperOne, 2009, Chapter 4.). If Myers had bothered to read Steve's book, he would have known this. Indeed, you'd expect that a competent person with a Ph.D. who's paid by the taxpayers of Minnesota to teach their children would read a book before ridiculing it. But no, it's the same ol' thing, trotted out every time Myers blogs on the subject.

Oh, and porn-watcher Abbie Smith was a no-show. In a blog post the day after Darwin's Dilemma showed, she called Steve a stupid idiot, and gave as her reasons for not coming (1) "I'd be trapped in a theater!" and (2) "I got no response to my debate request re: Wells HIV/Evolution Denial... I just don't understand why ID Creationists don't want to debate me."

A debate about HIV? I don't know what relevance HIV has to the Cambrian explosion, and I didn't receive any "request" to debate it, but I would have been willing to discuss the matter with Smith if she had had the guts to show her face.

So our landing at Norman was a success. Despite all their taxpayer-funded professors and museum exhibits, despite all their threats to dismantle us and expose us as retards, the Darwinists lost. We're now moving inland, and the end of the war may be coming into view.

Posted by Jonathan Wells on October 3, 2009 12:13 PM | Permalink

Friday, October 02, 2009

Evolution education update: October 2, 2009

More bad news from Louisiana as the state continues to implement the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. Meanwhile, Judge Jones is honored by the Geological Society of America, a new publication from Americans United for Separation of Church and State summarizes the law governing religion and the public schools, and a chance to hear Jonathan Weiner discuss variation on-line.


The Louisiana Science Education Act opened the door for creationism to be taught in the state's public schools, and now the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is propping the door open, the Louisiana Coalition for Science charges. In a September 28, 2009, press release, the LCS noted, "On September 16, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) ignored the recommendations of science education professionals in the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) and allowed the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a Religious Right lobbying group, to dictate the procedure concerning complaints about creationist supplementary materials used in public school science classes under the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA)."

Enacted in June 2008 over the protests of scientists and educators across the state and around the country, the LSEA (enacted as Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1) provides that "A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education."

Subsequently, in January 2009, BESE adopted a policy about what types of supplementary classroom materials will, and will not, be allowable under the LSEA. While the policy echoes the LSEA's requirement that such materials "not promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion," a provision that "materials that teach creationism or intelligent design or that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind shall be prohibited for use in science class" was deleted, according to a report from the Associated Press (January 15, 2009).

Unaddressed by the policy, however, was the question of how to handle complaints about inappropriate supplementary materials. The Baton Rouge Advocate (September 17, 2009) reported, "The department [of education] recommended that any complaints undergo an initial review by a three-member panel named by the agency, then go to the state board for a final decision." But a BESE committee revised the procedure so that "two reviewers will be named by the department to review the science materials in question as well as one reviewer each named by the challenger, the school and the publisher" of the challenged materials.

Thus, the Advocate summarized, "people bothered by materials in a science classroom could file a complaint with the state Department of Education. A hearing would then be set where each side could tell its story. Reviewers, who are supposed to be experts, can ask questions. The five reviewers would file reports on whether the materials violate the rules. The department can also make a recommendation. The state board would then make a final decision." There are conflicting reports about whether the policy was adopted by BESE at its September meeting or whether it will be considered for adoption by the BESE at its October meeting.

In any case, the policy is seriously flawed, according to the Louisiana Coalition for Science: "There is no guarantee that the three non-DOE reviewers, especially the school district's and the publisher's appointees, will have the requisite expertise to evaluate contested materials. A school district that permits the use of creationist materials is likely to choose a creationist reviewer. The publisher of creationist materials is virtually certain to choose a creationist. ... In short, as BESE's complaint procedure is now drafted, DOE's expert reviewers will be in the minority, and DOE staff will not be allowed to independently assess the reviewers' reports but must instead transfer the reports directly to BESE for evaluation."

For the Louisiana Coalition for Science's press release, visit:

For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit:

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


Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools, will receive the Geological Society of America's President's Medal for 2009, according to a September 28, 2009, press release from the GSA. "It is particularly fitting that Judge Jones receive this medal in 2009, the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose work forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory," said Judith Totman Parrish, the past president of GSA. She added, "Using thorough analysis of the law, in-depth analysis of the history and origin of intelligent design theory and acute powers of reasoning, Judge Jones'[s] opinion decisively laid to rest the notion that intelligent design should be taught in science classes, alongside evolution, as an alternative theory to the evolution of life."

Jones will receive his award on October 17, 2009, during the GSA's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. Two days later, he will participate in a five-member panel discussion there on "Overcoming Resistance to the Reality of Evolutionary Change in Nature," part of a day-long 200th birthday celebration of Charles Darwin held in conjunction with the meeting. Also participating will be Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology and Curator, Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, and president of NCSE's board of directors; Jeremy Jackson, Director, Center for Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Randy Olson, the filmmaker behind Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus; and Ray Troll, fish artist extraordinaire and coauthor of Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway (Fulcrum, 2007).

For the GSA's press release, visit:

For information about the GSA's Darwin celebration, visit:


A new book published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State offers educators and families detailed information about the law governing religion and the public schools -- and the topic of teaching evolution is not neglected. Chapter 4 of Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents' Legal Rights, by Anne Marie Lofaso, a professor of law at West Virginia University, contains a detailed review of the legal issues surrounding the teaching of evolution. Its central points:

* Schools can neither outlaw the teaching of evolution nor give "equal time" for discussion of evolution and "creation science"
* The theory of evolution meets the definition of science
* It is long settled that public schools cannot forbid the teaching of evolution as part of their high school science curriculum
* It is equally well settled that public schools cannot compel the teaching of creationism alongside evolution as part of the high school science curriculum
* Public schools may not teach "intelligent design" alongside evolution as part of the high school science curriculum
* Nor may public school teachers claim an "academic freedom" right to teach about "intelligent design"
* Public schools may limit the extent to which students raise religious evidence against evolution in science class discussion in the same manner by which those schools limit other class discussions
* Creationism and intelligent design cannot be taught in public schools, but objective, academic discussion about religion, such as its role in history, is permissible in some contexts as long as the approach is educational and not devotional

"Religion in the Public Schools effectively explains the ins and outs of how religion should be handled in the school setting. A must-read for parents and educators alike!" writes someone who should know -- Tammy Kitzmiller, the lead plaintiff in the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools. Barbara Forrest, a member of NCSE's board of directors, adds, "This book should be on the desk of every public school teacher, principal, and school board member."

For information about the book, including its full text, visit:

For information about Americans United, visit:


Hear Jonathan Weiner, the author of The Beak of the Finch, discuss "Variation" on-line! From 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) on October 7, 2009, Weiner will deliver the second lecture of the 150th anniversary Origin of Species lecture series, hosted by The Reading Odyssey and the Darwin Facebook project -- and the whole lecture will be webcast live.

Sponsors of the lecture series include the National Center for Science Education, National Geographic, Citrix Online and its HiDef Conferencing Division, Campaign Monitor, the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, SquareSpace, the movie Creation, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Future speakers in the series include NCSE Supporter Sean M. Carroll and E. O. Wilson.

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

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Ardi and the human family tree


What the discovery of Ardipithecus ramidus tells us about human evolution—and the link between walking and sex
World News & Opinion

Friday, October 2, 2009

Move over, "Lucy," said Larry Dignan in ZDNet. The "fabled" 3.2 million-year-old fossil was "bumped" out of "science's limelight" Thursday by Ardi—or Ardipithecus ramidus—an earlier human ancestor from Ethiopia's Afar desert, dating back 4.4 million years. Ardi and her peers represent a middle stage in human evolution, which, surprisingly, was "more modern" than today's apes and chimpanzees.

That's important, because for a long time evolutionary biologists thought of chimps as "time machines," said Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post, or a view into what our common ancestor with apes looked like. But Ardi would be a step back for both humans and chimps, a "sort of hybrid" hominid who mostly lived in trees but also walked upright—"if the scientists are correct," that is. "Human origins is a field with high stakes and small bones."

And the bones to this "new alleged missing link" were so fragmented and delicate, said Casey Luskin in the Discovery Institute's Evolution News & Views, that it took the team of scientists and "reconstructionists" 15 years to put Ardi together. So pardon my "initial reaction of skepticism" to their "Rosetta stone"–level claims.

There's room for skepticism about whether Ardi was a biped, said Jamie Shreeve in National Geographic, but not about her importance to the field of human evolution. Assuming Ardi did walk on two legs, though, there's a "provocative theory" as to why: sex. In that scenario, males shifted from fighting each other for mates to a "'food for sex' contract" model in which they earned sex by bringing home food—and you need free hands to carry food.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

150th birthday of 'On the Origin of Species' prompts area colleges to assess Darwin's impact


By The Grand Rapids Press staff
September 26, 2009, 4:30AM

When Charles Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species" in 1859, the British naturalist posited a theory — evolution by natural selection — that dismayed many scientists and theologians who held to the notion of "special creation."

Now, as "Origin" is poised to celebrate its 150th anniversary in November, most scientists and many in the faith community have accepted the basic tenets of the book.

But one area of American society — education — continues to grapple with how to implement Darwin's theory.

Though high schools have been at the center of the controversy, higher education institutions, especially Christian ones, also must make tough choices in determining their science curricula.

In a recent survey of area colleges and universities, The Press found all of the institutions that teach biology teach Darwinian evolution.

Only one, Cornerstone University, questions the theory's validity and spends significant time teaching alternative explanations. Even most of the Christian schools — Calvin, Hope and Aquinas colleges — base their curricula on Darwin's theory.

"Evolution is the paradigm out of which we teach biology," said David Warners, a biology professor at Calvin. "We're not trying to hide things; it's just that we're not looking for a fight."

Much of the controversy, according to Hope biologist Thomas Bultman, is rooted in how Christians interpret the book of Genesis. Many view it as a literal account of creation, which is a mistake, he said. "It's not a story about how the world came to be," he said, "but of what our place in the world is."

Using sensitivity

Bultman notices many students enter Hope with a "creationist/intelligent design" worldview, he said, and are frustrated by the biology curriculum.

Warners said there is a similar trend at Calvin, as many students begin college as strong opponents of evolutionary theory.

"It's a challenge," Warners said of teaching evolution, "and it needs to be done very sensitively."

Reconciling faith and science is less of an issue at secular schools, which have no allegiance to religion or sacred texts.

But even there, educators must tread softly, said Gregory Forbes, a biologist at Grand Rapids Community College.

"Students come from diverse ideological backgrounds," he said, "and you respect that in the classroom."

The dissenters

Despite the controversy, educators must teach evolution, Forbes said, because it is the best scientific explanation. To reject the theory, he said, is like saying the earth is flat.

And yet, dissent persists in academia.

Cornerstone University, for example, incorporates evolutionary theory but does not base its science curriculums on it, said chemistry professor James Fryling.

"It is important — scientifically, politically, culturally," Fryling said of Darwin's theory. "So we do talk about it, but it's certainly not the focus."

Fryling said he believes in a six-day creation that happened less than 10,000 years ago. He readily admits this is not a scientific explanation.

"Science, however, is not the only way we have of knowing or explaining things," he said.

Forbes' problem with teaching creationism, he said, is it breaches the science-religion divide, which is why it is not included in GRCC's curricula.

"In science, we're limited to looking at empirical data," Forbes said. "If it falls outside that realm of empiricism, science can't address it. It might be true, but we can't test it."

The other schools surveyed expressed similar concern over creationism and intelligent design — the notion certain things in nature are best explained by an intelligent cause.

Calvin's Warners said they are "worthy philosophical interpretations," but they shouldn't be considered scientific.

A Christian, a scientist

Though Calvin biology students are immersed in evolutionary theory, not all of them accept it.

Joe Moss, a senior biology major, has had three courses with Warners but remains unconvinced of Darwin's theory, he said.

Moss, 21, went to a Christian high school in Chicago where he learned the flaws in evolutionary theory and was taught creationism.

He sticks to that view, he said, because "God's word is true."

Moss, who is planning a career in naturopathic medicine, said he knew he would be taught evolution at Calvin. But he was surprised at how extensively Darwin's theory is implemented, he said.

"I've had some biology professors," he said, "who say you're not a scientist or biologist unless you believe in evolution."

In the dispute over Darwin's theory, there are polarizing figures on either side: scientists who ridicule alternatives to evolution, and dissenters who mock the theory.

But in the middle are men like Moss and Warners, who recognize their differences but strive for common ground.

"I still respect him," Moss said of his professor, "as a Christian and a man of science."


Professors at seven local colleges and universities recently were asked how they incorporate Charles Darwin's theory of evolution into their science curricula. Here is what they said:

"For a lot of universities, it's the foundation of biology. We don't take that approach ... We discuss the strengths of his theory, we discuss the flaws of the theory. ... We don't buy his theory as far as a molecules-to-man explanation, but we do teach it."
-- James Fryling, chemistry professor,
Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids

"In terms of natural selection, it's definitely integrated throughout the curriculum. I can't think of a course that's offered by our department that isn't going to, in some way, have a connection to natural selection."
-- Karen Strasser, department head of biological sciences,
Ferris State University, Big Rapids

"For us, it's a fundamental guiding principle for understanding the diversity of life on the planet. ... How all these species got here -- the best explanation for that is the theory of evolution."
-- Thomas Bultman, chairman of the biology department,
Hope College, Holland

"All of our coursework is constructed around that as a central foundation, of how we see the biological systems."
-- Neil MacDonald, chairman of the biology department,
Grand Valley State University, Allendale Township

"It's very heavily featured in our science classes. It's essentially the model that we follow when we're talking about the origin of life on earth."
-- Jeffrey McKelvey, chairman of the biology department,
Aquinas College, Grand Rapids

"It's the central theme ... In any biology program, you couldn't teach it without weaving in the theory."
-- Gregory Forbes, professor of biological sciences,
Grand Rapids Community College

"The way we teach ... is very much influenced by Darwin's theory. Evolution is the paradigm out of which we teach biology."
-- David Warners, biology professor, Calvin College

E-mail the author of this story: localnews@grpress.com

'Signature in the Cell'


Information and Intelligence
By Chuck Colson|Published Date: September 24, 2009

A landmark book about intelligent design has hit the bookstore shelves. I'll tell you about it.

In recent years, there have been several important books about intelligent design that go to the debate about evolution and the origins of life. Bill Dembski's The Design Inference was first. Then along came Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe, showing the irreducible complexity of the cell, which casts grave doubts on Darwinian evolution as an explanation for life and higher life forms.

Now we've got Signature in the Cell by the Discovery Institute's Dr. Stephen Meyer.

I'm going to warn you up front: Signature in the Cell is not light reading. If you are not conversant in molecular biology, you might feel a bit overwhelmed at times.

But this is a profound, hugely important book for anybody interested in the scientific debate of our times—the origins of life. I feel it's so important that we have posted an excerpt of the book at our website, BreakPoint.org, along with links to materials that will help you understand the main points of Signature in the Cell.

So what lies at the heart of Dr. Meyer's Signature in the Cell is the concept of information. And, as scientists have learned, the very building block of life—molecular DNA—is a vast storehouse of information. Information in the form of a four-character chemical alphabet that, when precisely arranged, provides the "instructions" for forming proteins and the structures that living cells need to survive.

The key here is "precisely arranged." I take three random English letters, say "O," "G," and "D." The letters are building blocks for words, but they mean nothing unless arranged properly. If you arrange them one way, they spell "God." Arrange them another way, and you get "dog." In order to convey useful information, the letters have to be arranged precisely.

And that's what DNA does. It contains and transmits the extraordinarily complex, precisely sequenced chemical code of life—a code that atheist Richard Dawkins has likened to computer code. Indeed, Bill Gates has said that "DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software ever created."

Could such an "advanced" code, or "software for life," have happened by chance? Well, as Dr. Meyer shows, given the vast complexity of information required to create the 250 proteins necessary to sustain the simplest living cell, the probability that life originated in the primordial soup by chance is beyond astronomically slim—only 1 in 10 to the 41 thousandth power!

But here is your takeaway, and I'll let Dr. Meyer do the talking: "Our uniform experience affirms that specified information—whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, encoded in a radio signal, or produced in a simulation experiment—always arises from an intelligent source, from a mind and not a strictly material process."

"Indeed," Dr. Meyer concludes, "it follows that the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the specified, digitally encoded information in DNA is that it too had an intelligent source."

No wonder most evolutionists refuse to debate intelligent design.

Thanks to Dr. Meyer, the debate about the origins of life is entering a new phase. Maybe we could say, for the chance theory of creation, that is, the writing is on the wall.

David Berlinski on the Darwinian Guild


ENV: Darwinism is fiercely guarded by a scientific guild. What does the guild have at stake in this? Prestige? Money? To some observers, the defense seems impermeable. Do you see cracks in the fortress wall opening up?

DB: Fiercely guarded, but not, mind you, effectively guarded. If the Darwinian Guild, to adapt your phrase (since science has nothing to do with it), was interested in rational self promotion, the Guild would have never allowed its members to display in public their characteristic attitude of invincible arrogance and sheep-like stupidity. Just listen to them as they limber up in the insult room: Dumbski, Little Mikey Behe, Stevie Meyer (a regression to school yard taunts irresistible at both the Panda's Thumb and Talk Reason), the creationist playbook, creationist pablum, creationism in a cheap tuxedo, tired creationist canards, creationist cranks, ID'iots, creotards, creos, sky fairies, liars for Jesus. I've even seen Disco'Tute, this the invention of an elderly fellow at the Panda's Thumb who, like Polonius, imagines that he is the soul of wit. One lunatic named Quick or Quack — or is that simply the sound of his posts? — has become fond of the phrase mendacious intellectual pornography and has so overused it that his fellow bloggers have taken to attacking him. When they do, Quick as a Quack responds that they are guilty of mendacious intellectual pornography. The gabble is as unedifying as it is unending.

What is wonderful, I think, is the way in which membership in the Guild so runs to type, P.Z. Myers, to take the loudest case, reveling in his role as the hearty American rustic, a man prepared as circumstances demand either to desecrate the Catholic wafer or at dinner to immerse his feet in a platter of boeuf bourguignon. If in public he now refrains from withdrawing long spools of lint from his navel and examining them studiously that is because Richard Dawkins has advised him that at Oxford, it is no longer done.

When it is late at night and my old war wounds ache, I very much enjoy chasing down discussions on the Panda's Thumb in which members of the Guild begin to abuse one another, their indignation discharging itself in a series of menopausal hot flashes, the discussion skipping from disagreement to disgruntlement to peevishness and finally to insult, until at last someone stands accused of being a lying scum for Jesus.

I offer nothing as invention. I have made nothing up.

What I find most remarkable about the Darwinian Guild is what is least remarked. There is not a single first rate intelligence in the bunch.

Not one.


Let's go back. At some time in the late 1980s or so, Darwin found himself promoted from the back alley to the Big Tent, where he very profitably employed himself in peddling a universal acid, one said to cure warts as well as it explained speciation. A world view was in prospect. And cheap, too. Academics who had grown weary of being foxes were delighted to become hedgehogs. They turned to radical Darwinism and Richard Dawkins because they could find no other place to turn. Stephen Jay Gould had already straddled so many fences, after all, that friends were concerned for the integrity of his genitals. His supporters were never quite clear whether NOMA designated a position in thought or a wing of the Museum of Modern Art. There was no turning to him.

How much better Darwin's theory; once it had passed through the Dawkins mangler it emerged radical, simple, scientific, easy to grasp, and, of course, free of large wrinkles.

Academics who ten minutes before had been occupied in affirming their allegiance to Mao, and before Mao to Freud, affirmed their allegiance to Darwin. They had sworn — sworn! — never to be swept off their feet again. Darwin swept them up anyway.

Love is like that.

But still, trend setters tend to drop trends the very moment that trends become trendy. If you have taken the trouble to evacuate Cannes in order to become a radical Darwinist in Toulon, the last thing you would wish to see at that darling little restaurant on the Quai is Barbara Forrest preparing herself to barge right in, and my goodness that woman positively honks.

There is a sense, then, that so far as radical Darwinism goes, the tide is beginning to move out. Even David Brooks at the New York Times is persuaded that if someone like Susan Blackmore is now babbling about memes and genes, it really may be time to cough discreetly and withdraw. There is a difference, after all, between favoring the latest fad and indulging the feeble-minded. A number of academics — Tom Nagel and Jerry Fodor come to mind — say now that they knew it all along.

Perhaps this is so.

Is there more in all this than fashion? A little more. It is good for the cause that evolutionary psychology flamed and went. It revealed the gap that haunts all of evolutionary thought, and that is the gap between what life is and what the theory explains. Ideological systems do not crumble from the center; it is the margins that are the first to go.

This sense of a withdrawal from commitment is hardly unique to Darwinism. A retreat from theory is general. For more than thirty years now, bright physicists have very diligently attempted to unify the Standard Model of Particle Physics and General Relativity. The result has been string theory. The hoped-for unification still seems far away.

Peter Woit and Lee Smolin have both made the case to the general pubic. Although physicists were indignant, those with a certain kind of sensitivity began to hedge their bets. Just recently, Steven Weinberg gave a fascinating talk at CERN. A great physicist, Weinberg had during the 1990s offered string theory his support, and using the anthropic principle, he had correctly predicted the positive value of the cosmological constant. At CERN, he was more tentative. Perhaps the world required no more than General Relativity and the Standard Model.

This sort of thing cannot be learned. It is a gift. Some men are born knowing how to tip-toe across the lawn at night, shoes in hand. Leonard Susskind, on the other hand, is not one of them. Just recently, he has proposed uniting the implausible in physics with the absurd in biology, writing dreamily about Universal Darwinism, its role in cosmology, the subordination of chance to the multiplication of possibilities, the anthropic principle, the Landscape.

The physicists who discovered Toulon when it was just a dreary fishing village have already made plans to move on.

Rumor has it that Edward Witten and Steven Weinberg are thinking of Port au Prince.

They believe it is the coming thing.

Be sure to visit www.daviberlinski.org for more information.

Posted by David Berlinski on September 25, 2009 8:28 AM | Permalink

Introducing The College Student's Back to School Guide to Intelligent Design


There are a lot of false urban legends promoted in academia about intelligent design (ID). They often start with myths promoted by misinformed critiques in scientific journals, court rulings, or even talks by activists at scientific conferences. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for this misinformation to then be passed down to college students, who may know very little about ID and lack the resources to correct their professors' misinformed and misplaced attacks on ID. Not anymore.

If you're a college student, recently gone back to school and expecting to hear a lot of anti-ID views from your professors, we're pleased to present this "Back to School Guide" for students as follows:

The College Student's Back to School Guide to Intelligent Design

The guide contains suggestions for helpful pro-ID books, articles, and websites for students to read when investigating the issue. Additionally, it contains "Answers to Your Professor's Most Common Misinformed Objections to Intelligent Design." Nine answers are given to common but false arguments against ID like "Intelligent Design Proponents Don't Conduct or Publish Scientific Research" or "Intelligent Design Is a Science Stopper" or "Intelligent Design Has Been Refuted by the Overwhelming Evidence for Neo-Darwinian Evolution."

There are three easy tips to remember as a student with an anti-ID professor:

# Tip #1: Never opt out of learning evolution. In fact, learn about evolution every chance you get
# Tip #2: Think for yourself, think critically, and question assumptions.
# Tip #3: Proactively learn about credible scientific viewpoints that dissent from Darwinism on your own time, even if your classes censor those non-evolutionary viewpoints.

The Darwinian educational establishment doesn't make it easy to become objectively informed on the topic of evolution and ID. The way around the typical one-sided evolution curriculum is to investigate the issue for yourself. Yes, study and learn about the pro-evolution evolution viewpoint being taught. But also read material from credible Darwin skeptics to learn about other viewpoints. Only then can you truly make up your mind in an informed fashion.

This student's guide will help you to do that—and will help you open up the minds of uninformed critics and skeptics about the facts regarding intelligent design.

Question Everything But Darwin?

Incidentally, we're not the only ones giving some back-to-school tips for studying evolution. The College Board, which produces the SAT exam and organizes Advanced Placement (A.P.) exams, recently released new suggested Science Standards for learning evolution. The College Board's Science Standards contains some great language that pays lip service to critical thinking and inquiry-based science education (see below). However, as it turns out, and I was quite surprised to see this (note: sarcasm), but in the evolution sections all of their standards jettison any implementation of inquiry-based learning, as virtually EVERY SINGLE STANDARD require "Students understand that…" There's nothing wrong with learning about evolution, but in the words of Steve Meyer, such language requires "unqualified affirmation and subtly demand assent" to evolution from the student.

Unfortunately, this approach to evolution education is all too common. Many educators do not encourage students to question neo-Darwinism and basically censor from students any science that challenges neo-Darwinian evolution. Regardless, below is some of the good language in the College Board's new suggested science standards encouraging critical thinking. They probably don't want you to apply these methods when studying evolution, but you might want to do that if you want to truly understand the science behind modern evolutionary biology:

"In the course of learning to construct testable explanations and predictions, students will have opportunities to identify assumptions, to use critical thinking, to engage in problem solving, to determine what constitutes evidence, and to consider alternative explanations of observations."

"Scientific investigations require identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations."

"Teachers and students should be expected to use in their classroom discourse the language, representations and reasoning structures that are accepted by scientists, but science discourse goes beyond proper language. It also engages students in making clear, to themselves and others, not just what they know, but how they know it — claims are made; evidence is produced; and explanations are formulated, revised and extended through science discourse during which claims, evidence and reasoning are discussed and critiqued."

"Students ask scientific questions about phenomena, problems or issues that can be addressed through scientific investigations or with evidence from existing models. All science knowledge is eligible for such questioning. Keeping in mind that each phenomenon or problem occurs under specific conditions, students make predictions based on their science knowledge, observations and measurements of objects and events in the natural world, or data. Their predictions serve as a lens to focus data collection back to the scientific question. Students develop and refine both scientific questions and predictions so that they can be addressed through scientific investigations."

"Students recognize, formulate, justify and revise scientific questions that can be addressed by science in order to construct explanations."

"When posing a scientific question or solving a problem, it is important to identify what is known or assumed about the situation or condition being observed or measured."

"Students are expected to ensure that the explanation is based on accurate information and sound reasoning. In addition to being able to make explicit justifications for their own claims, students should also be able to recognize and refute claims that do not reflect the use of scientific evidence and reasoning."

"Both the evidence that supports the claim and the evidence that refutes the claim should be accounted for in the explanation. Alternative explanations should also be taken into consideration."

"The reasoning that supports an explanation should include a series of logical statements. These interconnected statements should allude to supporting evidence and counterevidence, include an interpretation of data as it relates to the claim, and consider multiple alternative explanations. The explanation might also include an examination of other explanations for which the data might be used and an identification of any anomalous data that was rejected."

"Criteria for the evaluation of a scientific explanation include, but are not limited to, the following: ... Integration of fact and opinion is avoided. ... Making conclusions that do not follow logically from the evidence is avoided. ... Explanation includes an explicit statement about the critical assumptions of the explanation. ... The claim is appropriately aligned to the scientific question or the prediction it is intended to address. ... The quality and quantity of the evidence used to support the explanation is appropriate. ... All of the evidence is used, not just selected portions of the evidence. ... The reasoning linking the claim to the evidence is strong. The reasoning is considered strong if it includes well-established, accurate scientific principles and if the steps of reasoning form a logical progression...."

Students might wish to apply these inquiry-based principles of learning science when studying evolution and ID.

Posted by Casey Luskin on September 25, 2009 3:07 PM | Permalink

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Creation Museum welcomes atheists, critics


Posted on Sep 24, 2009 | by Drew Nichter

PETERSBURG, Ky. (BP)--Mark Looy knows what people are saying.

As chief communications officer for the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, Looy keeps close tabs on what's being said about the museum on websites and blog posts.

"We usually know within hours if something has been posted about the Creation Museum," said Looy, who also is co-founder of the museum and its parent ministry, Answers in Genesis.

Ever since it opened in May 2007, the Creation Museum in Petersburg -- near where the borders of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana meet -- has become an international phenomenon.

According to its website, the Creation Museum is a "walk through history" museum designed to "counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn minds against Scripture and Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe."

The museum promotes young earth creationism, the belief that the world was created by God in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. This belief contrasts sharply with the widely accepted scientific theory that the earth is billions of years old.

The museum has garnered its share of supporters, many of them prominent evangelical Christians.

But those talking loudest about the museum are its detractors, many of whom consider themselves atheists and/or adhere to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"I'm amazed almost every day on a blog or a website someone is critiquing the Creation Museum from an evolutionary perspective," Looy said.

He noted that remarks about the museum typically range from "vile, profane comments to mocking," although some evolutionists acknowledge the museum's high-tech appeal, "even though they disagree with the message."

While most of what is said resides within the relative anonymity of cyberspace, Creation Museum staff do sometimes get an opportunity to meet their critics face to face.

At its grand opening two years ago, Kentucky's chapter of American Atheists organized a "Rally for Reason" near the museum entrance, greeting the first visitors with protest signs and loud music. Looy said the group even had a plane flying overhead pulling an anti-creationism banner.

Even before the Creation Museum's doors opened, more than 2,000 science educators -- most of them on the university level -- signed petitions challenging the museum's teachings. The petitions stated that creationism has no place in science education.

Looy said that occasionally skeptics -- atheists, evolutionists, humanists, etc. -- will visit the museum and cause a small commotion by making comments about the exhibits or presentations. Very rarely is security asked to escort a visitor from the museum due to a disruption, Looy said; never has a confrontation become hostile or violent.

Unless a visitor is wearing something that presents him or her as a skeptic, museum personnel usually do not know about them. When they show up in large groups, that gets the staff's attention, Looy said.

One of the highest profile visits to the Creation Museum came in August when 285 members of the Secular Student Alliance arrived to tour the facility.

Looy said museum staff communicated with SSA organizer, Lyz Liddell, prior to the group's visit.

Leading up to the visit, SSA members threatened all kinds of disruptions at the museum. While most never happened, Looy said the visit wasn't entirely without incident.

Several times, SSA members were asked to keep their voices down when loudly criticizing some of the exhibits as well as a presentation by Jason Lisle, an astronomer and astrophysicist who serves as a speaker and researcher for the Creation Museum.

One SSA member was asked to leave after refusing to stop videotaping a conversation between an atheist student and a family from Virginia who claimed their visit had been disrupted by the students' comments.

Looy said that the 285 SSA members represented little more than one-tenth of the museum's visitors that day. Museum personnel primarily were concerned with making sure the students did not ruin the experience for the other 2,000 people.

Looy said he appreciated the SSA group's visit and welcomed them -- and all similar groups -- to return to the museum.

However, in a vitriolic post-visit rant on his blog, outspoken atheist and biology professor PZ Myers called the Creation Museum a "haunted house" and a "carnival ride."

Claiming that it presents no scientific evidence to back its claims, Myers said the Creation Museum deserves only "profound disrespect and ridicule."

Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis president and museum co-founder, responded to the criticism on his own blog, saying that Myers "is obviously very angry at God and relishes in mocking Christianity -- spending a lot of time fighting against someone he doesn't believe exists."

Despite the online war of words, Looy emphasized that "we welcome atheist groups and humanist groups because they've probably never heard the other side of the story."

So, why the vehement disdain for creationism?

"They possess a worldview that's far different than ours," Looy pointed out. "They believe that the world -- the universe -- was created without a purpose. Therefore, they can do whatever they want when it comes to morality and how they conduct themselves in this world.

"Their anger clearly indicates that our worldview is in conflict with theirs, and they can't stand people who have a way of living and standards based on the Bible that go contrary to what they want to do."

In an increasingly secular society, Looy said the Creation Museum's mission is "to equip Christians to be able to answer some of the tough questions that our secular world sometimes can throw at them."

While the museum is seen as a place where visitors can get their questions answered through "Scripture and science," Looy said the Creation Museum's overarching function is as an "evangelistic facility."

"The last thing I would want is someone to leave the Creation Museum and say, 'OK, I'm a creationist, I've given up evolution,' but they don't become a Christian," Looy said. "In terms of eternity, that doesn't accomplish anything if they just give up on evolution and believe in a creator.

"They need to accept the fact that Christ is more than just our Creator ... He's our Savior."


Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

The challenge of teaching science in the face of creationism


September 23, 12:38 PMLA Science Education Examiner Gary Hurd

There are many challenges to teaching in today's schools. Many are the sorts of things not taught about in teacher colleges, nor discussed in news articles. Things like how to teach to the little girl who is scared that her father will be hurt while he is in prison. With record numbers of Americans in prison, this is more common that we like to imagine.

But teaching science has the strangest challenge of all; people who actively promote the notion that the sciences are all nonsense.

Ray Comfort and his pal Kirk Cameron have an outfit they call "Living Waters Ministry." Marking the 150th anniversary of its publication, they have taken the public domain text of "The Origin of Species" and tacked on a 50 page regurgitation of common creationist lies and frauds. Ray and Kirk have claimed that;

This introduction gives the history of evolution, a timeline of Darwin's life, Hitler's undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin's racism, his disdain for women, and his thoughts on the existence of God. It lists the theory's many hoaxes, exposes the unscientific belief that nothing created everything, points to the incredible structure of DNA, and the absence of any species-to-species transitional forms.

It would take too many pages to refute every false claim made above, but here are a few;

In and of itself, the selection of The Origin (first edition in 1859) for this shenanigan shows their fundamental ignorance as Darwin carefully avoided mentioning humans in the initial public presentation of his theory. When Darwin published his 1871 book, "The Descent of Man" he was able to directly present the common origin of all humanity without repeating the core evolutionary theory. It is more than odd that creationists should object to this, since at least recently they insist from biblical grounds that all humans share a common origin. Darwin sailed against the wind of popular belief when he wrote that his long personal association with "savages" who impressed on him, "... how similar their minds were to ours..." Darwin was writing to a general population who commonly believed that Africans and Native Americans were not even humans. Famous creationists contemporaries were claiming the Bible supported that ony Whites were true humans, while others justified slavery as the "Curse of Ham."

The Bible demands the execution of a woman raped, that they are inferior to their husbands, and that they must remain silent in church as their opinions are tainted by the Sin of Eve. Oh right, don't forget that all sin and suffering is the fault of women which is why they "deserve" pain and death in childbirth. If we compare the Bible's treatment of women with Darwin, he would seem to be a radical feminist.

There are "transitional" or "intermediate" fossils literally by the ton. Museums and museum warehouses are stuffed with them. If we look for the tiny gradual changes over time in fossils, we need to look at the tiny organisms that preserve these sorts of changes. Examples abound in the marine sediments filled with foramifera, and ostracods. But, when we look at the large familiar critters, the tiny variations that added up over generations to new species are lost against the greater similarities. The scientific definition of many species today is difficult for the scientist, but easy for the sexually active members of the species. A recent example would be the "discovery" that the California Two Spotted Octopus was really two species. The physical difference, a two centimeter variation in their reproductive organs which would never leave a fossil in the first place. This was not news to the octopi. And finally, we do observe new species emerging, both in nature and in laboratory experiments.

Creationists like Ray Comfort harm Christianity by making it seem absurd. This was warned against by Thomas Aquinas (c.a. 1225 - 1274) who wrote, "... one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing." Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q68. Art 1. (1273).

The even greater problem for America's schools is that it makes teaching science to some students nearly impossible.

Kirk Cameron bashed for Darwin campaign


Media gets snarky over effort to debunk evolution on college campuses
Posted: September 25, 2009
12:45 am Eastern

© 2009 WorldNetDaily

A campaign by Ray Comfort and actor Kirk Cameron to give away 100,000 copies of a special edition of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" on 100 university campuses in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the seminal book's publication in November already is drawing a caustic reaction from media.

The special release of the book challenges the theory of evolution with a 50-page introduction that includes an overview of Darwin's life and presents a case for a universe created by God through arguments such as the structure of DNA and the absence of species-to-species transitional forms.

Reacting to a video presentation of the campaign by Cameron, a television writer and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine, David Wild, wrote in the Huffington Post that Cameron "seems like a really nice guy."

"Unfortunately, the Artist Formerly Known as Mike Seaver seems like a really nice guy who's evolved into a willfully ignorant idiot," Wild wrote, alluding to Cameron's role as a teen star in the 1980s TV sitcom "Growing Pains."

Get the special edition of "Origin of Species" free with your purchase of Ray Comfort's "Nothing Created Everything" at WND's Superstore

The introduction to the special "Origin of Species" release, which can be read on Living Waters website, also shows how great scientists of the past such as Nikolas Capernicus, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and Albert Einstein, believed in God's existence

Meanwhile, a TMZ video parody features "the matchup of the century, Kirk Cameron versus Charles Darwin, who is dead."

"Yes, the former 'Growing Pains'-star-turned-religious-fanatic is launching an all-out attack on Darwin's theory of evolution."

The TMZ spoof says, "Kirk has decided to unbrainwash people by teaming up with fellow Bible-thumper Sonny Bono, er Ray Comfort, who literally rewrote Darwin's 'Origin of Species.'"

Cameron is co-host with Comfort of "The Way of the Master" television show, produced by Comfort's Bellflower, Calif.-based Living Waters ministry.

In his video presentation of the Darwin campaign, Cameron says, "An entire generation is being brainwashed by atheistic evolution without even hearing the alternative; and it's radically changing the culture of our nation."

Cameron encourages providing students with an alternative view of life's origin and letting them decide for themselves what to believe.

The Huffington Post published a brief item on the Darwin campaign, coupling Cameron's video with a snarky "response" from a Slavic-accented YouTube user.

The YouTube video, with more than 444,000 views, is accompanied by a robust string of more than 8,800 comments, including, "Sorry, science teaches that people evolved. That means NO Adam and Eve. That means NO first sin, or fall from grace. That means NO need for Jesus to have died on a cross to save us."

The Living Waters video, featuring Cameron, has more than 143,000 views.

Comfort previously told WND "atheists are going crazy" on Internet forums in response to the "Origin of Species" plan, saying, "How can we stop this? We're going to have a book burning."

Comfort's Living Waters is working on the project with Answers in Genesis, Campus Crusade for Christ, Teen Mania and the Alliance Defense Fund.

To critics of the campaign, Comfort points out his edition features the entire publication, with nothing removed, and his name will be on the cover.

"I think that the liberal media need to stand back for a moment, take deep breath and think about what they are saying," Comfort told WND in an e-mail.

He argued there have been more than 140 reprints of "Origin of Species," most have had introductions or forewords, and some were critical of the theory of evolution.

Comfort cited an introduction by Prof. W. R. Thompson in 1956, who said it was "right and proper to draw the attention of the non-scientific public to the disagreements about evolution."

Thompson added: "But some recent remarks of evolutionists show that they think this unreasonable. This situation, where scientific men rally to the defense of a doctrine they are unable to define scientifically, much less demonstrate with scientific rigor, attempting to maintain its credit with the public by the suppression of criticism and the elimination of difficulties, is abnormal and unwise in science."

Comfort contends he hasn't attacked Darwin, "but simply looked objectively at his belief and asked if it's scientific, and then left it up to the reader to make up his own mind."

"What's wrong with that?" he asked. "Charles Darwin, in his own Introduction in 1859, said, 'A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.'"

Comfort also pointed out that, thanks to advice from atheists on his blog and others, the 50-page introduction will address Darwin's "racism" and "reveal how he was truly a gentleman who was adamantly against slavery."

It also qualifies Darwin's apparent disdain for women and argue that his moral character is irrelevant to the theory of Evolution, just as the theory of relativity should stand on its own merits and not on the morality of Albert Einstein.

Comfort said his introduction also makes it clear that Adolf Hitler's attraction to the theory is not relevant to whether or not it's true, pointing out the Nazi dictator also used Christianity for his own political ends.

"I want this introduction to be fair-minded, free from prejudice against Darwin, with no straw men or quote-mining," Comfort said.

Nothing created everything

Comfort notes a survey showed 61 percent of U.S. professors in biology or psychology said they were atheists or agnostics.

"Atheism has doubled in the last 20 years among 19 to 25 year olds. So young people are being brainwashed by this stuff," he said. "All we want to do is give an alternative."

"So many young people are being convinced that atheism is right, that evolution is right, there's no god, there are no moral absolutes," he said. "Who cares if you marry a dog? What's the big deal? And that's what atheism believes, too. It's very sad, and we're going to do our best to fight back in November."

He said the plan includes a trip to a leading bastion of academic skepticism, the University of California at Berkeley.

"So what is Berkeley going to do, ban 'Origin of Species'? Especially when they sell it in their bookstore for $29.95, and we're going to be giving away copies."

As WND reported, Comfort's lively interaction on his Atheist Central blog with scores of atheists and agnostics of all kinds – from young students to decorated scientists – has given him unusual insight into the skeptical mind and led him to conclude atheism rests on a remarkably illogical and unscientific premise that became the title of his latest book, "Nothing Created Everything."

Comfort's new book leading scientists who believe "nothing created everything," including British biologist and unofficial leader of the popular atheist movement, Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins, in his 2004 book "The Ancestor's Tale" wrote, "The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice."

As Comfort offered $20,000 to Dawkins to debate him on BBC radio, but the British scientist has not responded.

Film about Charles Darwin lands U.S. distributor


Two weeks ago we posted an item on the producer of Creation, a film about Charles Darwin, who said he had not been able to secure a U.S. distributor because the evolution theory is too controversial for American audiences.

Now comes word from The Hollywood Reporter that the independent distributor Newmarket has now picked up the film, which was produced by BBC Films and Ocean Pictures.

The film, starring Paul Bettany and Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, recently opened the Toronto International Film Festival.

Interestingly, Newmarket was also behind a number of unexpected breakout films including The Passion of Christ, THR reports.

Posted by Doug Stanglin at 08:43 AM/ET, September 25, 2009 in Health/Science, Media | Permalink

A Creationist Zoo in the English Countryside


9/25/2009 10:54:57 AM

by Keith Goetzman

Noah's Ark Zoo FarmHardcore Christian creationism isn't just for the U.S. Bible Belt. A creationism-based zoo outside Bristol, England, attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year with its mixture of furry animals and fuzzy science, reports New Humanist in its Sept.-Oct. 2009 issue. At Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in North Somerset, owner Anthony Bush perpetuates a unique interpretation of the earth's history, which of course includes a global flood and a kindly man with a large boat who saves all the animals—but also branches into soundly unscientific territory concerning the non-evolution of humans.

New Humanist writer Paul Sims, on his visit to the zoo, found the creationist agenda to be more implicit than explicit in the place's signage and materials. "Rather than providing the headlines, creationist propaganda … was more often than not inserted alongside established science," he writes. "Unless you are actually looking for the creationism you might not even notice it."

But I suspect Sims, in his humanist heart of hearts, is trying too hard to overlook the obvious. The magazine gives enough glimpses of Bush's interpretive displays to establish the zoo as a wonderland of weird science:

One sign reads, "Eating meat was allowed after the flood. Before this most people might have been veggies."

Another describes "30 reasons why apes are not related to man."

And another boldly states, "All the people in the world come from Noah's sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Caucasian from Japheth, Semitic from Shem, Negroid/Mongoloid/Redskin from Ham."

The zoo has made the news a couple of times since the New Humanist article came out: The BBC covered the British Humanist Association's objections to the zoo, and earlier this week one of the zoo's tigers ascended a climbing tower and wouldn't come down.

If the cat is that freaked out by life at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, imagine how it would do aboard Noah's ark.