NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 March 2010

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Monday, March 22, 2010

Rewriting history to support our beliefs

http://www.thesuntimes.com/news/x427979739/Rewriting-history-to-support-our-beliefs

By Richard Mays/ The Legal Pad By Richard Mays/ The Legal Pad
The Sun-Times
Sun Mar 21, 2010, 05:00 PM CDT

Heber Springs, Ark. -

Let us assume that you wanted to write a book about the history of the United States.

How would you go about it? Would you conduct years of research into how our country came into existence and to grow, and each major event that molded us into what we are? Would you be painstaking to record everything as accurately and objectively as possible, and to avoid injecting your biases and prejudices into your writing? Or, would you write it in the way that you would have liked for it to have been?

Unfortunately, the exposure of most people to history is limited to what is taught to them in high school, and maybe even college. After that, most people are more concerned about what happened yesterday than what happened during the days of the Roman Empire or the American Revolution. But, because of the history to which we were exposed in school, we have perceptions of how and why our country was born, the principles upon which it is founded, and how our government works.

Those perceptions are important because, even though we learned them when we were young, they continue to shape our views of what our nation is about and how it should work today and in the future. Consequently, we like to believe that the history lessons that we studied in school that form the basis of our current beliefs were factual, accurate and objective. We do not want to believe that our young minds were subconsciously indoctrinated toward the personal political, social and religious viewpoints of the writers of the history books.

If we believe that our country's history is important, and further, that it is important to describe that history accurately in textbooks, then Americans should be concerned about the actions last Friday of the Texas Board of Education, when a majority of that Board overruled curriculum standards recommended by a panel of teachers and inserted their own personal political, social and religious views into what should be contained in history, economics and sociology textbooks used in Texas schools. It should come as no surprise that the majority were advocates of a conservative evangelical philosophy.

The Board's conservative majority voted to require Texas school books to be rewritten to reflect political, social and religious positions that reflected their views. For example, they voted that history books should state that our Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles in drafting the Declaration of Independent and the Constitution, and cast doubt upon their commitment to a secular government.

The Board voted that history books should question the separation of church and state – some of the members arguing that principle was not to be found in our Constitution. They oppose Darwin's theory of evolution. They even voted that textbooks emphasize "the conservative resurgence" of the 1980s and '90s, and that conservative icons and institutions such as Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association be given prominent mention.

One might think that this is Texas' problem, except for the fact that Texas is the second largest market for school book publishers in the country, behind only California, and the materials that are in Texas' schoolbooks has traditionally be published in the schoolbooks of other states.

Consequently, schoolchildren in Arkansas may well read the conservative-oriented "history" that the Texas School Board has dictated.

Arkansas is certainly a conservative-leaning state, and for many of its citizens, this type of revisionist or tailored history would be perfectly acceptable. There are many people in this country who strongly believe that the United States is, and always has been, a Christian nation; that there should be no separation of church and state; that creationism should be taught in public schools instead of or along with evolution; and that Ronald Reagan's was one of our greatest presidents and that his face should be on the $5 bill.

Those beliefs, based upon the person's own experience or research, are their right and prerogative. If enough people share those beliefs, then they can make the present or the future conform to them.

However, those beliefs – regardless of how strong – do not give that person the right to rewrite history, or to disregard generally-accepted scientific evidence, in order to make history or science more in keeping with those beliefs. History should remain as the record of what the world was like, and should be off-limits to being rewritten.

The philosopher and historian, Aldous Huxley, once said that the most important lesson that history has to teach is that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history. Those men and women who would rewrite history to better accommodate their personal views would deprive us all of the opportunity to learn anything from the lessons of history because what we would be learning was not history, but fiction.

(Richard Mays, a Heber Springs attorney and environmentalist, offers a liberal viewpoint on politics and social issues in each Friday's edition)

Standing up for science

http://www.thesunchronicle.com/articles/2010/03/22/news/7123190.txt

BY MICHAEL GELBWASSER SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
Monday, March 22, 2010 8:41 AM EDT

REHOBOTH - You'll find Ken Miller umpiring fast-pitch high school and college softball games this spring and summer.

Year-round, he goes to bat for the theory of evolution.

The Rehoboth resident and Brown University biology professor is a major national player in the debate between evolutionists and their critics.

A recent story in the Brown Daily Herald noted that Miller was the lead witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a federal court case that "helped prevent the Dover school board from presenting intelligent design theory as a scientific alternative to evolution after 11 parents sued the Dover school board."

Miller also has advised the science unit of the PBS program The NewsHour since 2004, and has co-authored high school and college biology textbooks, and two general audience books, including "Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God & Evolution." In January, Miller was elected as one of 16 new fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization that "promotes scientific inquiry, critical thinking, science education and the use of reason in examining important issues," according to its Web site.

The fellows were chosen for "distinguished achievement in science and skepticism," the group said.

At the same time, Miller notes that, "I've been criticized for my views on the compatibility of faith and reason by some of my scientific colleagues."

The criticism "doesn't bother me one bit," he said.

"Criticism is part and parcel of science, and if one is going to take a public stand on any issue, as I have, then criticism is to be expected," he said.

This interview was conducted by e-mail.

SUN CHRONICLE: You've debated evolution in numerous national forums. How has the debate evolved in recent years?

KEN MILLER: Scientifically, it hasn't changed one bit.

Year after year, the anti-evolutionists make exactly the same arguments against evolution.

They have no new science, so they continue to argue that the fossil record lacks transitional forms between species, that the evolutionary mechanism cannot generate new biological information and that the process of evolution cannot be directly observed in the field or in the laboratory. All of those arguments are false, of course, and that's what I've tried to show on the occasions when I have debated an opponent of evolution.

Tactically, the anti-evolutionists have evolved quite a bit.

They started out calling themselves "creationists," and then changed their self-description to "scientific creationists."

When court cases made it clear that creationism was inherently religious, they cooked up the label of "intelligent design" to conceal their religious roots and make the idea sound more scientific.

Then, when "intelligent design" was exposed in the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005, they stopped using that term, and now argue for "critical thinking" about evolution.

When one looks at the examples of "critical" analysis they wish to insert into schools, however, they turn out to be the same old anti-evolution arguments that have been around for decades. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

SC: What has the debate taught you about yourself?

MILLER: Well, it's taught me that I genuinely enjoy taking the case for science to the public, and that Americans will respond to a clear, vigorous, and informed defense of science and the scientific method.

It's also served to open my own eyes to the extent to which science can be threatening to many people and their world view.

SC: How do you see the debate influencing local biology curriculums?

MILLER: Not very much at all.

Public education in Massachusetts is a national leader across the board, and in no small measure this is because we have managed to keep science education in this state out of the "culture wars" that rage in other parts of the country.

To be sure, some teachers in our state may feel pressure from individual parents, school board members, or even their own students to de-emphasize the teaching of evolution, but these are largely isolated events.

Don't get me wrong. We could do a much, much better job of teaching science in Massachusetts schools. But we still lead the nation in the level of scientific understanding that our students display, and that's something to be proud of.

SC: How do you balance your role as a scientist with your faith?

MILLER: I'm not sure that "balance" is the right word, because it implies a conflict that must be managed.

Classically, Christian thinkers from Augustine to Aquinas have seen faith and reason as complementary, and that is how I see science today.

To me, and to many other scientists who are also people of faith, the effort to understand the workings of the living world is a way of applying God's gift of reason to our everyday work.

SC: To what degree do you hear the debate within your own congregation?

MILLER: In 30-plus years of regular Mass attendance at my local parish, I have never heard so much as a single remark against evolution from any of our clergy.

I think this reflects the Catholic respect for scientific reason, and the leadership of three Popes (Pius XII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI), each of whom has made it clear that evolution is not a threat to the faith.

As if to underline that point, it's worth nothing that evolution is taught, and taught very well, in our local parochial high schools and Catholic colleges and universities.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another example of why I fear for the future of medicine

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/03/another_example_of_why_i_fear_for_the_fu.php?utm_source=networkbanner&utm_medium=link

Category: Alternative medicine • Medicine • Pseudoscience • Quackery • Science • Skepticism/critical thinking
Posted on: March 18, 2010 9:00 AM, by Orac

It's been a while since I wrote about this topic, but I fear for the future of medicine.

Regular readers know what I'm talking about. The infiltration of various unscientific, pseudoscientific, and even anti-scientific "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) modalities into academic medicine seems increasingly to be endangering science-based medicine. Worse, this infiltration of quackery seems at least as bad, if not worse, in academic medicine, so much so that Dr. R.W. coined a most exquisite term for the increasing prevalence of pseudoscience in medical academia: Quackademic medicine. Whether it is the American Medical Student Association promoting quackery, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) funding studies of homeopathy, medical schools adopting pseudoscience wholesale in their medical curriculum, or hospitals using it to attract woo-friendly paying patients, there is ample reason to fear for the scientific basis of medicine. It's not just the U.S., either. All you have to do is to peruse David Colquhoun's DC's Improbable Science to know that this is a phenomenon that transcends national boundaries and has made its way into virtually every industrialized nation, particularly in the U.K. and Europe.

The result, it would appear, is a generation of medical students with far too many students like Jonny Martell. Jonny Martell is a third year medical student at Kings College London, and he has apparently found sufficient time away from his studies to write paeans to woo like The magic of alternative medicine. Sadly, he doesn't see the irony of his chosen title. Alternative medicine is magic, all right. For what is homeopathy, if not magic? What is the idea that a healer can manipulate some sort of "life force" that is undetectable by modern scientific instruments in order to heal people but magic? What are psychics but people who either lie about being able to do magic or have deluded themselves into thinking they can do it? Yet, Mr. Martell feels inadquate around psychics:

I was working next to a world renowned psychic and spiritual healer in the healing sanctuary of a music festival. This made me nervous: my own training in complementary medicine before medical school gave me no such special powers. Many of the people I treated had the customary battle wounds of a sedentary office bound existence. Others came in just to feel better. These people were clearly treating themselves. Who else uses complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and why?

Why indeed? I'll give Mr. Martell credit for a modicum--but just a modicum--of awareness about CAM. He does realize that many patients seek it out for chronic conditions for which science-based medicine doesn't have a lot of good treatments, although I would point out that I've come across my share of patients who have conditions that are perfectly treatable for potential cure using modern scientific medicine. Martell's answer appears to be that if symptoms aren't explained well through scientific medicine, then we should try magic to treat it.

And people wonder why I fear for the future of medicine.

Martell gives me even more reason to fear. Although he shows an admirable concern for patients with chronic diseases, his answer is anything but a service to them, as he launches into an essay that shows no sign of recognizing what is and is not science. Worse, he even seems to equate what CAM practitioners do with what the "best" science-based practitioners do:

Several approaches in CAM employ language and metaphors redolent of Eastern concepts of balance and energy flow. These are strikingly at odds with the reductionist technical lexicon of allopathic orthodoxy. This perhaps appeals to patients interested more in the "why" as opposed to the "what." If stripped of its more esoteric overtures, this is of course no different to the best practice offered by general practitioners. A crucial difference, however, is the luxury of time.

Here's a hint: Whenever you see someone refer to science-based medicine as "allopathic" medicine, you know you're dealing with a historically ignorant git. The term "allopath" was invented by the creator of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, ot describe anyone who was not a homeopath. In essence, it was used to describe the physicians of the era, who used harsh treatments like toxic metals, purgatives, and bleeding based on the ancient Greek idea of imbalances in the four humors being the cause of disease. Basically, allopathy is the opposite of homeopathy in that it isn't like curing like, but the opposite curing opposite. The bottom line is that "allopath" is an intentionally derisive term that misrepresents what modern, science-based medicine is, and, in fact, science-based physicians do not practice "allopathy. In fact, the term is rarely, if ever, used by anyone other than practitioners of "alternative" medicine practices rooted in vitalism, like naturopathy, homeopathy, or chiropractic. I weep to see a medical student in his clinical rotations referring to his future profession as "allopathy" because it betrays an ignorance of and contempt for his own future professoin that is breathtaking to behold. Remember, "allopath" is virtually always intended as a derogatory term. Using "allopath" to describe a science-based MD is just like using the term "Darwinist" to describe an evolutionary biologist or a modern-day defender of evolutionary theory. As evolution has progressed far beyond Darwin, "allopathy" has progressed far beyond what it was in Hahnemann's day.

Proving himself irony-proof, Martell continues by pointing out that the doctor-patient relationship in many instances has become too impersonal. He points out a deficiency of touch. Of course, too much touch puts a physician at risk for being accused of improprieties; so I'd be careful there. Unfortunately, Martell describes placebo medicine perfectly but seems utterly oblivious to the fact that that is what he is describing:

Working at the festival brought home to me how the tensions that exist between CAM and allopathic medicine can illuminate each other's blind spots. Where primary care's 10 minute consultation, spot of reassurance, and some tablets fail to hit the spot, I suspect that in some cases the holistic principles underpinning some CAM approaches are as instrumental in making the patient feel better as the intervention itself.

In other words, it's placebo medicine. Most CAM modalities don't do anything active against a disease process, but they do involve showing a lot of attention to the patient, which is perfect to maximize placebo effects. Unfortunately, poor Jonny gets it wrong when he concludes from this that in such instances "the therapy is unlikely to perform too well in randomised controlled trials, focusing as they do on an illusory magic bullet."

Or maybe the reason why such therapies fail to do well in randomized controlled trials is because they are placebos and therefore perform roughly equal to placebos.

If I weeped for the future of medicine before over seeing a medical student deride his own future profession as nothing more than "allopathy," I weep even more at the concluding paragraph of this revealing little post:

A willingness to develop an understanding of the appeal of CAM, despite its shortcomings, might be more likely among doctors if they had a better understanding of the fallible foundations on which their own pedestal of evidence based medicine is built. At the very least, it might make for a bit more humility and less flippant mockery when confronted with the popularity of the clairvoyant shop next door.

It's truly depressing to think that a young man who will soon be a physician apparently thinks that the foundation of evidence-based medicine is so fallable that it is comparable to the "magic" and "mystery" that is alternative medicine and rationalizes the failures of CAM to measure up in randomized clinical trials to its allegedly "holistic principles." By doing so, he profoundly devalues his own future profession. For instnace, if he were to become a primary care physician, he could be a holistic doctor without the need for scare quotation marks. He could be, as PalMD might put it, a real holistic doctor, wielding only the most kick-ass science-based medicine. As for who is the most arrogant, it is not necessarily science-based practioners mocking quackery. Rather, it is the pseudoexperts who think that they can bypass the hard work of showing that their therapies actually work through science and clinical trials in favor of testimonials and magical thinking.

Of Jonny Martell, I'm afraid that I have to conclude by saying that the woo is strong in this one. Sadly, because of the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia, there are more and more Jonny Martell's out there, and they will be taking care of you and me as we age and inevitably begin to suffer the diseases of aging.

It's a thought that scares me.



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Texas whitewashing is latest stage of Textbook Wars

http://trueslant.com/allisonkilkenny/2010/03/19/texas-whitewashing-is-latest-stage-of-textbook-wars/

By ALLISON KILKENNY

It's tempting to dismiss the recent whitewashing of history by the Texas Board of Education as a parochial problem. However, the board's decisions to erase Thomas Jefferson, Cesar Chavez, the separation of Church and State (all while exalting the glories of Capitalism, The Heritage Foundation, and the Moral Majority) are more than poor judgments worthy of collective mockery. This kind of censorship and propaganda presents a grave danger to the public education system.

The Washington Monthly's Mariah Blake wrote a fantastic profile on the Texas Board of Education that I highly recommend be read in its entirety.

Blake includes this fascinating interaction with Don McLeroy, a man who would probably be dismissed as a raving lunatic were in not for the fact that he sits on the Texas Board of Education, and is one of the leaders of an activist bloc that holds enormous sway over the body's decisions.

Then McLeroy cracked the book open. The margins were littered with stars, exclamation points, and hundreds of yellow Post-its that were brimming with notes scrawled in a microscopic hand. With childlike glee, McLeroy flipped through the pages and explained what he saw as the gaping holes in Darwin's theory. "I don't care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say," he declared at one point. "Evolution is hooey." This bled into a rant about American history. "The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation," McLeroy said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis. "But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan – he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes."

You may need to read that more than once because there's a lot of crazy to take in. I guess we need to thank McLeroy for lacking the usual filter/common sense that savvier zealots sometimes possess, which stops them from publicly linking their dogmatic beliefs to a severe hatred of public education and science.

Not good ole' Don. He lets 'er rip. It's startling to see thirty years of a political philosophy's devolution laid out in such stark terms, but there it is. Evolution is "hooey." We are not a secular nation. We are a Christian nation. Ronald Reagan was the second coming. We're still at war with Communists. Lower taxes. Add something about ugly feminists and the fags, slap that on a poster, and hand it to the teabaggers.

But Blake touches on another facet to the story that many observers have overlooked and/or failed to properly emphasize:

"Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, "Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list."

This used to be balanced with the liberal state of California's influence on the textbook market. But thanks to the wise Republican leadership of that state (thanks privatization and The Free Market!) the economy has tanked. California has put off buying books until 2014.

That means McLeroy and Company have the textbook market cornered.

I have to pause here and give the Crazies some props. They really understand the importance of local politics (judicial elections, School Board elections, etc). They — far more than Progressives — know how to hustle at the local level and build momentum from the foundation-up. Who would have thought a school board in Texas could effectively set classroom curriculum for the nation? The Conservatives knew. They've been waging the Textbook Wars for 30 years.

And this 30-year-long war isn't an argument between textbooks being "too liberal" or "too conservative." The target of censorship always appears to be liberalism, art, and science, while the victor is always the conservative agenda. Here is Time's list of "controversial" textbook content that became the target of the censors: the gay rights movement, global warming, evolution, the work of George Orwell, Arthur Miller, and Allen Ginsberg. Where are the conservative concessions? As usual, they're missing. Liberalism bites the bullet in the name of one-sided bipartisanship..again.

Yet, the history of the Conservative infiltration of the Texas Board of Education is really inspiring in a weird way. Blake's article illustrates the power of citizens who are disciplined, committed, and passionate about their ideologies. It's just a reality that crazy people capitalized on the system instead of secularists.

I hear Progressives openly admiring Conservatives' ability to organize, but there really isn't a magic formula at work here. Conservatives simply showed up to school board meetings — a lot. And they loudly asked for crazy things (like the removal of techniques for breast self-examination from textbooks). This happened so often that publishers started to self-censor textbooks to avoid the inevitable Christianity-inspired headaches.

In 1984, the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way analyzed new biology textbooks presented for adoption in Texas and found that, even before the school board weighed in, three made no mention of evolution. At least two of them were later adopted in other states. This was not unusual: while publishers occasionally produced Texas editions, in most cases changes made to accommodate the state appeared in textbooks around the country — a fact that remains true to this day.

Industry obeying the people? If only this worked for things other than censoring textbooks, say for the public option, or ending the wars. Of course, it's easier for religious zealots to make political gains in this country. The anti-science crowd has always been extremely popular with Big Business, which is forever looking for ways to circumvent annoying environmentalists and regulation. And once the cash machine of Big Business got behind the religious crazies and anti-public education crowd, the secularists didn't really stand a chance.

Conservatives swiftly adapted to the few, mild obstructions the state set up to stem their influence on textbook content. When the Texas legislature finally intervened in 1995, making the censoring of textbooks slightly more arduous, Conservatives decided to go directly to the source of action and infiltrate the school board. A decade later, after the 2006 election, Republicans claimed ten of fifteen board seats.

The work of national movements like MoveOn.org is extremely admirable, but oftentimes Progressives overlook the importance of these kinds of local victories. The latest Texas textbook scandal perfectly illustrates the danger in overlooking these battles.

Creation vs. Evolution EvidenceWEBWIRE – Friday, March 19, 2010

http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=114496

Contact Information Phil Zedwick
Owner
Timeline Publishing
208-283-6362

A new ground breaking course has been released to the public that exposes the scientific problems with the theory of evolution. It simplifies scientific facts that show why evolution contradicts science. Exposing the Myths of Evolution can be found at http://www.evolutionguy.com.

The creation vs. evolution debate is just possibly the most controversial subject in America today. But there has never been a course like this that simplifies the scientific evidence.

The author believed the theory for decades until he decided to 'dig beneath the usual information that is taught in school textbooks'. He has spent over twenty-five years researching the subject and is attempting to show the weaknesses of the theory.

He has purposely kept the price low so that this information can be available to everyone. "I want everybody to be able to learn about the myths of evolution. I was dumbfounded when I discovered that the stories I heard as a child and university student were all disproved decades ago. Most of us still believe that evolution is backed up by science. It can be mind-blowing to discover the secrets that have been kept from the public for so many years."

Some of the 'myths' that are exposed in this course include the fossil record, laws of science (that the theory contradicts) and the human evolution chart.

This course takes on more than a dozen 'facts' that most students learned in school, and explains why they are no longer valid evidence to support the theory. This e-course takes on those subjects in the creation vs. evolution debate that most never hear about. The author (a teacher for 27 years) breaks each topic into understandable lessons.

For more information go to: http://www.evolutionguy.com.


Friday, March 19, 2010

The Creation or Evolution Debate: A Vital Issue for Today's Church

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?1732

I appreciate the invitation to be here this evening as one of the two speakers on this important and vital issue regarding the Creation/Evolution debate, a subject which is not only a vital one for the Church in the 21st Century but is coming increasingly to the fore even in scientific circles as more and more 'honest' scientists and evolutionists are being faced with the facts of evolution's inadequacy to explain the origin of the universe and of all animate life within it.

Let me begin by reminding you of the well-known words of Genesis 1:1, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. This often memorized opening verse of the Book of Genesis has been the answer, from the beginning of recorded history until recent times, to man's question 'How did the cosmos begin?' But today, in an age of scepticism and unbelief which has inherited the rationalistic criticism of the Bible from way back in the nineteenth century along with the so-called 'indubitable findings' of modern science, can we say that statement is still relevant in this computer space-age? Is this a valid and believable account of our origins?

One thing at least can be said about this opening verse of the Bible, even by its enemies and detractors: it relates time, space and matter in a stunning economy of words, all the more remarkable for the fact that these three most basic entities are not mutually exclusive. (That is to say, no one entity can exist without the other two). Taken quite literally, the statement offers the reader a straightforward explanation for the origin of the universe and all that it contains, making no apology for the fact that the account involves supernatural creation ex nihilo, creation of something from nothing.

We are probably all aware that until the beginning of the 19th Century, the mainstream Christian Church had generally accepted the biblical account of creation as literal and historical fact, those who questioned the account being pretty much on the fringes. However, with the rapid development of the sciences and scientific enquiry in the nineteenth century, and particularly with the rise to notoriety of men like the geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875) - whose book Principles of Geology espoused the age of the earth being not thousands but millions of years in age - and Charles Darwin (1809-1882) who published his On the Origin of Species in 1859 and his Descent of Man later, in 1871, the climate began rapidly to change. Previously, it had been generally accepted that the fossil record had been laid down rapidly in the sedimentary rock formations as a result of the great universal catastrophic Flood (recorded in Genesis 6-9), that the earth itself was of a relatively young age, and that the creation of the universe, plant and animal life (including man) had taken place as recorded literally in Genesis chapter one. But now, in the light of Lyell's teaching based on the millions of years required for the fossil record, and following Darwin's famous sea voyage to the Galapagos Islands (1831-1836) on board HMS Beagle (where he assumed that the micro evolution he observed there, i.e. changes within certain species of animal/plant life to adapt to their own unique environment, could be transferred to the principle of macro evolution, i.e. changes from one actual species into another and higher form of species), things began rapidly to change. Evolutionary theory was about to become respectable and to be embraced almost universally, sadly even in great sections of the professing Christian Church.

So, we have come ourselves to the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species. And, somewhat ironically, as some of you will also be aware here tonight, this year happens to be the 400th anniversary of the birth of the great Genevan Reformer, John Calvin in 1509. John Calvin would have been aghast to see how radically great sections of the Protestant Church have abandoned the biblical teaching on creation and adopted either wholesale, or with supposed modifications, the evolutionary hypothesis with all of its unscientific bases and its undermining of the authority, inspiration and perspicuity of the Scriptures of God's Word.

So much by way of introduction this evening. I want to do four things in this paper, time permitting: (1) To briefly outline the teaching and assumptions of the evolutionary hypothesis, pointing out as I do so its inadequacies. (I believe that Alastair Matthews will be dealing more fully here in his treatment), (2) To outline the attempts of Bible-believing Christians to compromise the biblical account of creation with the evolutionary hypothesis, (3) To focus attention on the biblical account of creation in Genesis 1, and (4) finally to summarize the effects of evolution upon certain vital biblical doctrines.

I. TEACHING/ASSUMPTIONS OF THE EVOLUTIONARY HYPOTHESIS

We are all aware, I'm sure, that the teaching of evolution has become the major hypothesis for explaining the origin of all animate life, if not of the origin of the universe itself as we know it today. This teaching has been in vogue for the past 150 years, popularized through Charles Lyell's work in geology and especially Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in 1859. (I refuse to call it the evolutionary theory, because the definition of a "theory" is that it is an explanation of a phenomenon which has been tested and proved to be a workable explanation, whereas evolution is not a theory at all but merely an unproved - and unproveable! - hypothesis). Its basic teaching is that all forms of life have evolved from single cell organisms, over a period of millions of years, to become animate life as we know it today . . . plants, fish, birds, animals and finally man himself. This is 'macro' evolution, as opposed to 'micro' evolution, i.e. a vertical change of one lower species into a much higher species of life, and not ahorizontal variation within a certain species itself. (We see the latter evidenced continually in our world today, e.g. there are over 200 different breeds of domestic dogs, but they are all still dogs!).

We must say that this whole hypothesis is a highly speculative one, without any foundation in actual fact through empirical evidence, and that it is not even a 'science' but rather a bizarre philosophy or even a religion in its own right. This is doubtless why an increasing number of modern biologists, paleontologists, geneticists and scientists of various disciplines are being forced to criticize and even deny the validity of evolution's claims as to the real origins of life.

The fossil record does not vindicate evolution's claims. Darwin recognized that this should be able to provide indubitable confirmation, by way of empirical records showing the transitional forms of one species changing into another and higher species of life. He recognized that the records available back in his day were inadequate but he was confident that further developments and research would bring this empirical evidence to light in years to come. For instance, if monkeys gradually changed into men, there should be abundant evidence left in the fossil record. Whereas, there is a complete absence of any transitional forms whatever in the fossil record. This confirms creation, rather than evolution. Moreover, whole massive rock strata are often without any fossils at all. It is claimed that 150 million years are needed for invertebrates to become vertebrates, but no record has been left throughout this 'assumed' time-frame! Moreover, all the fossil records show clearly defined species - fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds - many of which are recognizable species today.

Modern research into DNA reveals that while there may be horizontal variations produced, there are never any vertical variations (i.e. producing a higher form of life or change of species).

Supposed extinct species are still being discovered today. (E.g. Japanese fishermen off the coast of New Zealand in April 1977 caught a 4,000lb dead creature in their nets identified as a plesiosaur [a sea-dwelling dinosaur], previously only found in fossils and thought to be extinct).

It is well known that human footprints have been found in the same rock sediments that hold the footprints of extinct dinosaurs, yet evolutionists claim that a vast period of seventy million years separates the age of dinosaurs from the first appearance of mankind.

Darwin's hypothesis requires that mutations are to be beneficial, whereas modern medical research has shown that they are almost always harmful and even dangerous to life, not beneficial, and that they normally revert back to their original forms.

In order to account for the absence of fossil evidence in the rocks, a punctuated equilibrium theory has been propounded (i.e. evolution happened in short spurts, followed by long periods of inactivity, hence the absence of fossils). This cannot be observed or proved and there is no evidence for this process empirically. It is subjective and arbitrary, merely yet another attempt by modern secular man to 'salvage' Darwin's increasingly challenged hypothesis.

Complexity of the cell structure is another challenge to Darwin's hypothesis. Modern research has shown the almost unbelievable complexity of the structure of even the simplest cell with one hundred proteins. Tiny machines, amino acids, memory banks, blueprints etc! Yet macro evolution depends on a single cell being formed by accident, some scientists saying this would require a '10 to the power 20' chance for it to happen! Surely this points to a supernatural creation being necessary! The more so when you consider the sheer complexity of but a single organ in the human body, e.g. the human eye.

Evolution contradicts both the First Law of thermodynamics (the energy level in the universe remains constant) and the Second Law of thermodynamics (that everything is gradually running down).

Various physical phenomena indicate that the earth is comparatively young, and not the millions of years old required by the evolutionary hypothesis. For instance, the salt level in the oceans of the world would be very much higher than they are now; the earth's magnetic field is known to be decreasing slowly and even secular scientists have come up with an estimated age of the earth of only about 10,000 years at most; 14 million tons of space dust are deposited on the earth's land masses and oceans annually, which would have left a deposit 220ft thick if the earth were many millions of years old; and earth's gravitation is slowing down, which would currently be impossible if the world were of an immense age; the moon is also slowly receding from the earth, but it would be much further away if the earth were millions of years old! It is well known that when the first American astronauts landed on the moon's surface, the legs of the landing craft had been fitted with special pods to prevent it from being completely swallowed up in the deep layer of space dust which scientists supposed covered the surface of the moon because of its immense age, whereas to the astronauts' surprise the dust was barely half an inch in depth, once more evidencing the young age of the universe.

The supposed 'missing links' in human fossil remains have proved to be notoriously unreliable. There have been outright 'hoaxes' (such as the famous 'Piltdown Man'), and other discoveries of supposed ancient human remains have often comprised so few fragments that it has been pure 'guesswork' to imagine what the original animal looked like!

The much-vaunted carbon dating methods cannot be relied upon, tests having showed that their accuracy is limited at most to a few thousand years, and even the dating methods based on the decay of uranium are based on certain questionable assumptions (e.g. has the rate of uranium decay remained constant?).

Finally, we observe that the supposed long age of the earth's existence is based on the geologic column, which was supposedly formed over millions of years and which has the most primitive forms of life, therefore, at its base. But we note that the geologic column does not even exist anywhere in the world! It is a pure assumption: that is, the column has been organized according to the preconceived notions of natural evolution, with the 'oldest' rock formations being those which have the most primitive life forms as fossils and the youngest rocks the most advanced ones! (If ever there were a case of circular reasoning, it's surely just here! The rocks are dated by the fossils, and fossils dated by the rocks!) So, if there are contradictions in the rock formations - e.g. older rock sediments overlaying younger ones! - this is simply explained away as an aberration. Or, if fossils are found in rock layers where they should not be, this is explained away as 'stratigraphic leaks'!

Summary

Macro evolution is indeed a 'religious' belief that is not only not based on empirical evidence, but it is contrary to the overwhelming evidence which bears testimony against it, some of which we have just cited. Whereas, the evidence points much more directly and convincingly to creation by an Intelligent Designer, with the explanation for a young age of the earth, the fossil record, etc, arising from creation followed by catastrophism (i.e. the universal Flood in the days of Noah).

So, we need to take just a moment to reflect on why evolution is destructive of the biblical faith:

It is openly antagonistic towards biblical revelation, desiring to deny and undermine biblical authority. It claims to put the supposed findings of 'science' above Scripture, thus promoting atheism, secularism and theological liberalism, leading inevitably to the rise of such figures as Karl Marx and Julian Huxley in the secular realm and the promotion of modernism in the ecclesiastical realm.

There is no place for a personal Creator God nor any need for him. Hence, for instance, the rise of the 'Big Bang' theory for the origin of the universe, where pure chance (not God) rules.

It denies the Person and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, who affirmed the doctrine of creation and who quoted or alluded to the Book of Genesis some twenty-five times in the course of his ministry.

Scripture affirms the reality of the 1st Adam and Jesus Christ as the 2nd (or last) Adam. The denial of Adam's creation by divine fiat as the federal head of the human race undercuts the whole basis and plan of man's redemption through Christ, the 2nd Adam.

Death is no longer the result of man's sin as a divine judgment upon him, but merely a natural phenomenon. (We need no reminder that these views resulted in the rise of Nazi-ism and Communism and even in our own culture, the increasing loss of any sense of the sanctity of human life and the seriousness of man's sinful condition before God).

So, there can be no compromise between evolution and creation. Evolution, in its essence, implies the destruction of evangelical Christianity. There cannot be, and ought not to be, any compromise with it. But we should be thankful, nevertheless, that we are living in days when more and more honest and enquiring scientists are questioning the validity of Darwin's hypothesis because of many newly discovered factors and who are therefore no longer in agreement with Thomas Huxley's arrogant assertion that 'evolution is no longer theory but fact and cannot be questioned any more than that the earth goes around the sun'.

II. ATTEMPTS BY BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIANS TO COMPROMISE

(1) The Gap Theory

A widely held opinion among fundamentalists is that the primeval creation of Genesis 1:1 may have taken place billions of years ago, with all the geological ages inserted in a tremendous time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The latter verse is believed by these expositors to describe the condition of the earth after a great cataclysm terminated the geological ages. The cataclysm, which left the earth in darkness and covered with water, is explained as a divine judgment because of the sin of Satan in rebelling against God. Following the cataclysm, God then 're-created' the world in six literal days described in Genesis 1:3-31'. (Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, p.46)

This is most popularly known as the 'gap theory' or 'ruin and reconstruction theory'. Sadly, it was popularized in the mid-nineteenth century by a Scotsman, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), who was one of the foremost figures in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland at the famous Disruption in 1843, when the Free Church left the Church of Scotland over the issue of patronage. Interestingly, and again sadly, this view has also been popularized by the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible (which bases its view on Isa 45:18, 'For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; there is none else'). So, this view has been taught in many of the Bible Institutes and fundamentalist seminaries of the United States for the past century and it was also held by A.W. Pink, C.S. Lewis, and Donald Barnhouse.

The real purpose of this 'gap theory' is to try to harmonize the biblical chronology of a literal six day creation, with the accepted system of long geological ages which was becoming prominent in the days of Thomas Chalmers. The idea was to get rid of the problem of long evolutionary geological ages by simply pigeonholing them in the 'gap' and letting the geologists have all the ages they wanted.

What shall we say of this supposed 'gap theory'?

Even from an evolutionary perspective, it fails. The evolutionist believes in uniformitarianism (the belief that physical processes have always functioned in the past essentially as they do at the present time), which of course precludes any worldwide cataclysm as required in the 'gap theory'. Moreover, a cataclysm of such dimensions which would leave the earth in darkness and inundated with waters would have been nothing less than an immense global explosion which would have obliterated the earth's sedimentary crust and all its (supposed) fossils, thus leaving no evidence whatever of the 'geological ages' which the gap theory is attempting to accommodate.

Not only is it impossible to accept scientifically, but it is also destructive theologically. The moment we accept the geological age system, we are also accepting the fossil record by which these ages are said to be identified. However, fossils speak of suffering, disease and death - of a world where often violent, widespread death was a universal reality. So, if that kind of world existed prior to the supposed pre-Adamic cataclysm, then it existed before the sin of Satan (which is supposed to have resulted in the cataclysm). That is, suffering and death existed for a billion years before the sin of Satan and the subsequent sin of Adam.

However, the Bible says explicitly that death came into the world only when Adam brought sin into the world (Rom. 5:12 & 1 Cor. 15:21).

Furthermore, if suffering and death existed then, God himself was responsible for such a state. And it is inconceivable that a God of love and order would create and use a system based on randomness and cruelty in his creation.

Also, the most natural reading of the text (Gen. 1:1 & 1:2) does not in any way indicate a 'gap', any more than the other pairs of verses throughout Genesis chapter one indicate any 'gap' in time. There is also no biblical foundation for rendering the Hebrew word 'was' ('the earth was without form and void') as 'became'.

Conclusion: The natural reading of Genesis 1:1-2 suggests no such idea of a 'gap theory', nor is it warranted either scientifically or biblically.

(2) The Day-Age Theory

Another attempt by Bible-believing Christians to reconcile biblical creationism with the evolutionary hypothesis is the so-called 'Day-Age Theory'. Sadly, again this was popularized by a Scotsman in the mid-nineteenth century, named Hugh Miller. He lived in the little village of Cromarty, near Inverness in NE Scotland, and I actually visited his cottage on a trip to Scotland last year, the cottage being a national heritage building and under the care of the Scottish National Trust. Hugh Miller was a stone-mason for much of his life and this occupation had made him very familiar with the fossil records in the rocks of NE Scotland. Although a staunch Reformed Presbyterian and a leading figure, like Thomas Chalmers, in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843, Miller was convinced that the fossil record required long aeons of time for its formation, which could not be reconciled with the views of a 'young' earth as held by the mainstream Christian Church for centuries previously. [This view was adopted by James Boice, E.J. Young and B.B. Warfield].

So he inaugurated the 'day-age theory', maintaining that the six days of creation recorded in Genesis chapter one were not literal 24-hour days at all, but long periods of geological ages. He popularized this view in his book Footprints of the Creator. He also maintained that Noah's flood could not have been a universal flood as Scripture affirms, because the fossil record indicated such diversity of species that Noah could not possibly have gotten all the living animals and birds into the Ark! Sadly, in spite of Miller's undoubted orthodoxy in other theological matters and his great usefulness in maintaining the biblical principles of the newly-formed Free Church of Scotland, he was defying the normal accepted interpretation of Genesis 1 & Genesis 6-9, challenging the infallibility of Scripture and denying the obvious implications of the language of Genesis 1 (which speaks clearly of normal solar days . . . 'evening and morning being the cyclical succession of day time and night time). Moreover, there are several other overwhelming objections . . .

The order of creative events in Genesis 1 is very different from the accepted order of fossils in the rocks representing geological ages. (E.g. the first life developed on land not in oceans; plant life came first, not marine life; the earth was created before the stars, not vice-versa; birds before fish & insects; marine life created instantly; stars created on the 4th day, not still evolving etc.)

The necessity of geological ages is based on the fossil records, and fossils speak unequivocally of suffering and death being present in the world. So, we have the same contradiction of Scripture as in the 'gap theory', i.e. that suffering and death are a divine judgment brought into the world because of man's original sin (Rom. 5:12). In contrast, the 'day-age' theory must assume that suffering and death comprises an essential part of God's work of creating and preparing a world for man, which is inconceivable for the biblical God of love, grace and omnipotence.

As we have said, the biblical record itself makes it plain that the days of creation are literal days, not long indefinite ages. The 'days' are literal days and the events described happened in just the way described. Although the Hebrew word for 'day' (yom) may refer occasionally in other parts of the Bible to longer periods of time, the most natural and obvious meaning of the word in Genesis 1 is to the literal twenty-four hour day and therefore cannot be 'stretched' into millions of years! This is further borne out by the clear rationale given by the Lord when he instituted the Fourth Commandment later at Mt. Sinai, 'For in six days, the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it' (Exod. 20:11).

No compromise is possible between evolution and creation! E.g. creation ex nihilo, compared to evolution's insistence on pre-existing matter; creation in six days, contrasted with billions of years; oceans were created before land not vice versa; profound differences in the areas of the hydrosphere and atmosphere; life originated on land not in the oceans; plant life first, not marine life; fruit trees before fish, not vice versa; stars created on the fourth day, not still evolving; birds created before fish and insects; whales before reptiles, not vice versaa; man created before rain; man created before woman,: light existing before the sun; plants before the sun; marine life created instantly; man's body created from the dust, not evolving from an animal ancestry; man as a vegetarian; man's dominion over all creation, from the very first; man's Fall causing death both spiritual and physical, not therefore something already existing previously for aeons of time.

(3) Theistic Evolution

Even though the first two attempts by Bible-[believing Christians to reconcile the evolutionary hypothesis with the biblical account of creation (the 'gap theory' and the Day-Age theory) are false, misleading and dangerous, nevertheless they had the merit of at least attempting to treat seriously the account of creation in Genesis 1. However, theistic evolution does no such thing. Its essence is to impose the conclusions of atheistic scientific assertions above the Bible and in place of the Bible's clear teaching about divine creation.

It maintains that step by step, God directed the process of macro evolution, changing one species of life into a progressively higher order through aeons of time, so that Genesis chapters 1-11 are pure mythology or allegory and not to be taken as a literal account of man's beginnings. This is the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, and it has been embraced by countless Protestants as well.

It is not my purpose to go into a detailed refutation of this teaching, because of time-constraints, but it is worth noting that this whole position is plainly contrary to the express teaching of Scripture. For instance, Dr. Henry M. Morris in his fine commentary on the Book of Genesis, The Genesis Record points out that (1) There are at least 200 direct references to, or quotations from, the Book of Genesis in the New Testament. (2) All the books of the New Testament except Philemon, II & III John, contain allusions to Genesis. (3) More than half of the 200 New Testament allusions to Genesis are found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. (4) Sixty -three allusions are to the first three chapters of Genesis. (5) Twenty-five of the references are directly from the lips of Christ himself. (Appendix 4, pp.677-682)

In other words, all the inspired writers of the New Testament scriptures accepted the accounts in the Book of Genesis as literal, historical facts, our Lord Jesus Christ himself referring to the creation events and the great Flood as literal and historical events.

In contrast, to quote Davis Young, 'Theistic evolution is logically and inevitably the death of biblical religion'.

(4) The Framework Hypothesis

This is the most recent attempt to harmonize the creation account with the evolutionary hypothesis, allowing Christians to believe in a process of millions of years. It has been popularized in our day, sadly, by a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Meredith Kline, although the origin goes back to around 1924 in Germany, where a German rationalistic theologian observed a supposed parallelism between the first three days of creation and the second three days in Genesis 1 (i.e. two trios).

The reasoning is very involved, but as I understand it, it amounts to this: the 'six days' are in essence merely a 'framework' for the real emphasis on the 7th Day (when God rested from all his work of creation). So they are merely a device to give us only general information, not to be taken as literal days, but just two triads. So the six days are designed to teach us, not how long God took to create, but the emphasis instead is upon the three spheres (heavenly , earthly, and marine). So that Genesis 1 is merely describing some heavenly truth, which we can only understand in earthly and inadequate language.

The effect, of course, is to eliminate a literal understanding of Genesis 1, because Genesis 1 is unconcerned about chronology & time, and to replace it with merely a poetical and metaphorical description of creation. What are we to say of this extraordinary position? It must be rejected, because:

No other Scripture is safe from similar treatment! (i.e. artistic structure/poetic form). E.g. Christ's resurrection!

This was never espoused earlier than the 20th Century. It is, after all, an assault upon the perspicuity of Scripture (cf. WCF I:VII). The Bible becomes a meaningless book.

Once more, this bizarre explanation assumes that death and destruction were present in the world prior to man's Fall.

It denies and overlooks the plain fact that there is a climax in the six days of creation, leading up to the emphasis upon the 7th Day as the culmination of all of God's creative work.

This whole position is contradicted by the Lord's words in the institution of the 4th Commandment (Exod. 20:11, 'For in six days, the Lord made the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it').

III. THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF CREATION (GENESIS 1)

(1) Some General Comments

It's worth recalling the magnificent language of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter IV) dealing with Creation:

I. It pleased God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost for the manifestation of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning to create, or make of nothing the world and all things therein whether visible or invisible in the space of six days and all very good.

II. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness and true holiness, after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing . . .

Once more, we must admire the amazing skill of the Westminster divines to set out the doctrine of biblical creation with such conciseness and economy of words, merely two short paragraphs amounting to only 150 words in length! Indeed, it summarizes the short, terse statements of God's creative acts in Genesis 1-2, in six literal days, namely, the beginning of time/space/matter . . . the creation of light, the separation of the firmament, the gathering of the oceans, creation of plant life, the sun/moon/stars, animal life and finally man himself.

But, did you know? The first chapter of Genesis is one of the most God-centred chapters in the whole Bible! He is mentioned by name some 32 times in 31 verses . . . and, adding personal pronouns, some 43 times! So that, in the Bible's opening chapter, the Holy Spirit brings us into the presence of GOD and keeps us there! No wonder, therefore, that Genesis 1 is a main focus of Satan's assault, because abandonment of the God-centred truths of this chapter inevitably leads to Satan's triumph. Moreover, if the Holy Spirit's inspiration of Scripture cannot be trusted in the matter of God's work of creation, how can he be trusted later in Scripture when he deals with the vital matter of man's need for salvation? If he cannot be trusted in the first chapter of the Bible, can he be (for example) in the great salvation text of John 3:16? And if what he says about the earth in Genesis 1 can be questioned, what confidence can we have of his description of heaven in Revelation 22?

The magnificent opening verse of Genesis 1 is a sublime statement which sweeps away atheism (by asserting God's existence),polytheism (by declaring he is one) and pantheism (by separating him from matter). Similarly, since we have every reason to believe that Moses was the human author of the book of Genesis, it is striking and instructive that he did not write the account of creation according the theories of his own day and age! That is to say, even though he was 'learned in all the Egyptian wisdom' (Acts 7:22), he did not reflect any of these erroneous and absurd views in Genesis chapter one, viz. that there was once a primeval ocean, out of which appeared an egg and from which emerged the sun God, who in turn had four children (GEB, SHU, TEFNUT & NUT), and their rivalry among themselves led to the creation as we know it! What a blessing that the account of Genesis is not at all like that, but instead like a snow-capped Himalayan peak rising majestically towards heaven. Moses wrote contrary to all the accepted learning of his day . . . he must therefore have written by divine revelation. (Take just one instance as example: the record states that on the third day of creation, all the waters were gathered into one place to form the world's oceans. How could Moses possibly have known that all the oceans of the world form one interconnected body of water, when all that he could possibly have been acquainted with was a limited access to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea? It must therefore have been shown to him by divine revelation!)

N.B. Peter Stoner, a modern mathematician, has noted that the thirteen steps of creation recorded in Genesis 1:1-26 have all been correctly listed and named by Moses in their proper order . . . and he calculates that Moses' chances of being able to do this were one in thirty-one sextillion (i.e. 31 followed by 21 zeroes)! Yet secular humanism today would rather believe Charles Darwin's unsubstantiated evolutionary hypothesis, which completely lacks empirical evidence, than Moses' divinely inspired account of creation! Whereas, apart from any other consideration about the falsity of Darwin's hypothesis, there is one expression, used no less than ten times in Genesis 1, which spells the death-knell to Darwin's claims - namely, the basic command of God for all living things to reproduce 'after their own kind' (vv.11, 12, 21, 24, 25). This alone is surely the rock on which the evolutionary doctrine founders!

(2) Some Specific Observations

The Westminster Confession of Faith is undoubtedly correct when it states, so succinctly, the reason for God's performing the work of creation, viz. 'It pleased God . . . for the manifestation of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning to create or make of nothing the world', etc. As John Calvin aptly put it, the world is designed to be 'the theatre of God's glory'. This is a constant theme throughout the Bible, often used as the motive for men to worship and honour the true God (e.g. Psa. 33:6 - By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth'; Psalms 95, 100 & 136 similarly call for the Creator to be worshipped; Psa. 33:5 reminds us that 'the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord'; Jer. 10:12 that 'he made the earth by his power'; and in the New Testament, Paul reminds us that 'the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are dearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead so that (men) are without excuse', etc. (Rom. 1:20f). Moreover, a number of prayers begin with references to God's work of creation (e.g. Neh. 9:6, Jer. 32:17, Acts 4:20. And we need to remember that even the last book of the Bible recognizes God's work of original creation, and ascribes all honour and power to him because he created all things - Revelation 4:11: 'Thou art worthy, O Lord to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created'. In other words, the creation account is woven into the texture of the whole Bible OT & NT alike!

We surely need no reminder, too, that the Bible asserts that the work of creation involved each Person of the Trinity - the Father (Gen. 1:1 & Psa. 8); the Son (Heb. 1:2, John 1:2, Col. 1:15-16); and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2) - and that it was indeed creation ex nihilo (i.e. not from pro-existing materials, even though in the later stages of creation the Creator did use pre-existing materials, e,g. in the creation of man); and that it was fiat creation (he spoke the universe into existence); and that there was nothing else outside of God himself which he did not create. Surely, too, the repeated expression 'and the evening and the morning' - at the close of each act of creation - most naturally and logically implies six literal twenty-four days of creation, and not long ages of millions of years (vv. 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31)! And all was 'very good'.

We need no reminder, too, that the creation of man had a distinct place in God's purpose, as evidenced for instance by his being created after everything else (in a world prepared and amply furnished for him), and by deliberation ('Let us make man in our own image'), as the image-bearer of God in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and therefore distinct from the other animal creation entirely, with God's law written upon his heart and with a reasonable and immortal soul. Moreover, the record clearly states that mankind's origin was from one human pair, confirmed again in Genesis 10 (the genealogy of the nations) and in the apostle Paul's address to the men of Athens in Acts 17:26. This is fundamental to the biblical doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of the resurrection, as stated clearly in Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21f).

Dr. Henry Morris, in his fine commentary The Genesis Record states the fundamental importance of the biblical creation account as follows (pp.18-20):

Origin of the universe. The Book of Genesis stands alone in accounting for the actual creation of the basic space-mass-time continuum which constitutes our physical universe. Genesis 1:1 is unique in all literature, science, and philosophy. Every other system of cosmogony, whether in ancient religious myths or modern scientific models, starts with eternal matter or energy in some form, from which other entities were supposedly gradually derived by some process. Only the Book of Genesis even attempts to account for the ultimate origin of matter, space, and time; and it does so uniquely in terms of special creation.

Origin of order and complexity. Man's universal observation, both in his personal experience and in his formal study of physical and biological systems, is that orderly and complex things tend naturally to decay into disorder and simplicity. Order and complexity never arise spontaneously — they are always generated by a prior cause programmed to produce such order. The Primeval Programmer and his programmed purposes are found only in Genesis.

Origin of the solar system. The earth, as well as the sun and moon, and even the planets and all the stars of heaven, were likewise brought into existence by the Creator, as told in Genesis. It is small wonder that modern scientific cosmogonists have been so notably unsuccessful in attempting to devise naturalistic theories of the origin of the universe and the solar system.

Origin of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. The earth is uniquely equipped with a great body of liquid water and an extensive blanket of an oxygen-nitrogen gaseous mixture, both of which are necessary for life. These have never 'developed' on other planets, and are accounted for only by special creation.

Origin of life. How living systems could have come into being from non-living chemicals is, and will undoubtedly continue to be, a total mystery to materialistic philosophers. The marvels of the reproductive process, and the almost-infinite complexity programmed into the genetic systems of plants and animals, are inexplicable except by special creation, at least if the laws of thermodynamics and probability mean anything at all. The account of the creation of 'living creatures' in Genesis is the only rational explanation.

Origin of man. Man is the most highly organized and complex entity in the universe, so far as we know, possessing not only innumerable intricate physico-chemical structures, and the marvellous capacities of life and reproduction, but also a nature which contemplates the abstract entities of beauty and love and worship, and which is capable of philosophizing about its own meaning. Man's imaginary evolutionary descent from animal ancestors is altogether illusory. The true record of his origin is given only in Genesis.

Origin of marriage. The remarkably universal and stable institution of marriage and the home, in a monogamous, patriarchal social culture, is likewise described in Genesis as having been ordained by the Creator. Polygamy, infanticide, matriarchy, promiscuity, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, and other corruptions all developed later.

Origin of evil. Cause-and-effect reasoning accounts for the origin of the concepts of goodness, truth, beauty, love, and such things as fundamental attributes of the Creator himself. The origin of physical and moral evils in the universe is explained in Genesis as a temporary intrusion into God's perfect world, allowed by him as a temporary concession to the principle of human freedom and responsibility, and also to manifest himself as Redeemer as well as Creator.

IV. EVOLUTION'S EFFECTS ON VITAL BIBLICAL DOCTRINES

I have alluded to these effects throughout this paper this evening and there is therefore the need only for a brief summary, as follows:

Denial of the Inspiration and Authority of Scripture

If we cannot trust the creation account in the early chapters of Genesis, doubt is cast upon the inspiration and veracity of the rest of Scripture as well. Moreover, we have seen that all the books of the New Testament, except for Philemon and II & III John , contain allusions to Genesis, and that more than half of the 200 NT allusions to Genesis are found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Sixty-three of the allusions are to the first three chapters of Genesis. Twenty-five of the references are directly from the lips of Jesus himself (including his referencing chapters 1-3 of Genesis).

Denial of the Person and Authority of the Lord Jesus Christ

He was involved in the work of creation (John 1:1-4 & 10, Col. 1:15-16, & Heb. 1:2); he affirmed the divine creation of Adam & Eve (Mark 10:6-7), their being 'one flesh' (Mark 10:8), and he referred to 'the creation which God created' (Mark 13:19). It was the Son of God himself who taught his followers to accept the historical accuracy of the Old Testament in general and the Book of Genesis in particular (Matt. 19:4, 23:35, 24:37-39, Luke 17:19,32).

Denial of the Need for the Doctrine of Redemption

Sin, suffering and death, according to evolution's teaching, are natural phenomena and not the result of divine judgment upon mankind through its federal head, Adam. Mankind is therefore in no need of divine redemption, in contradiction to the Bible's plain teaching that sin was introduced by Adam's disobedience and can only be remedied by the work of the 'second' (or last) Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:19f).

As Morris & Whitcomb say (in The Genesis Flood),

Uniformitarian paleontology dates the formation of the major fossiliferous strata many scores and hundreds of millions of years before the appearance of human beings on the earth. It assumes that uncounted billions of animals had experienced natural or violent death before the Fall of Adam: that many important kinds of animals had long since become extinct by the time God created Adam to have dominion over every living creature: and that long ages before the Edenic curse giant flesh-eating monsters like Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed the earth, slashing their victims with ferocious dagger-like teeth and claws . . . But how can such a description of the history of the animal kingdom be reconciled with the early chapters of Genesis? Does the Book of Genesis, honestly studied in the light of the New Testament, allow for a reign of tooth and claw and death and destruction before the fall of Adam? If not, we have further compelling reasons for questioning the uniformitarian scheme of reading (the fossil record in) the rocks and . . . strong encouragement for finding in the great Genesis Flood the true explanation for fossil formations in the crust of our planet (pp.454f).

Moreover, such clear-cut passages as Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 indicate that Adam's sin and fall introduced spiritual and physical death into the human race. In the Romans passage we learn that through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned; . . . by the trespass of the one many died . . . the judgment came of one unto condemnation . . . by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one . . . through one trespas the judgment came unto all men to condemnation . . . through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners . . . Likewise, we are told also in the Corinthian passage that 'by man came death' and 'in Adam all die'.

The Bible further teaches that all human beings have descended from one human pair (Gen. 3:20 'Eve . . . was the mother of all living'; confirmed by Acts 17:26 'He made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth') and that these first human beings were created directly by God wholly apart from any evolutionary development of man's body from animal forms.

The Lord Jesus Christ stated that 'he who made them from the beginning made them male and female' (Matt. 19:4)

Genesis 2:21-23 clearly indicates that Eve came out of Adam and not from the animal kingdom by some evolutionary process! This is confirmed by the apostle Paul: 'the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man' (1 Cor. 11;8) So, if Eve received her body in this purely supernatural way out of Adam's side, why should anyone postulate an evolutionary development for Adam's body?

The Bible teaches that Adam's body was formed from 'the dust of the ground' (Gen. 2:7), not of evolved animal forms.

Therefore, in the light of this biblical revelation regarding the origin of Adam and Eve, Christians must insist on the essential unity and the supernatural, non-evolutionary creation of the human race. Otherwise there could be no such thing as human sin or eternal salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23, Heb. 2:9, 14, 1 John 1:5-2:2)

Denial of the Future State of Perfection and Glory in Heaven

If there has been no Fall of man and no need of his redemption, there is no place for a future state of man's full restoration. Whereas, the Genesis account is not only important as a history of man's origin, but also as a prophecy of man's future. The Book of Revelation makes this clear, where Paradise lost, in Genesis, becomes Paradise regained, in Revelation. For example, note the following comparisons between the original world and the final world:

Probationary World (Genesis)            Eternal World (Revelation)
Division of light & darkness (1:4)      No night there (21:25)
Division of land and sea (1:10)         No more sea (21:21)
Rule of sun and moon (1:16)             No need of sun and moon) (21:23)
Man in a prepared garden (2:8-9)        Man in a prepared city (21:2)
River flowing out of Eden (2:10)        River flowing from god's throne (22:1)
Gold in the land (2:12)                 Gold in the city (21:21)
Tree of life in midst of garden (2:9)   Tree of life throughout the city (22:2)
God walking in the garden (3:8)         God dwelling with His people (21:3)

(Even more striking is the contrast between the world under God's curse and the eternal world renewed, e.g. Cursed ground/no more curse, . . . daily sorrow/no more sorrow . . . thorns and thistles/no more pain . . . sweat of the face/tears wiped away . . . eating herbs of the field/twelve manner of fruits . . . returning to dust/no more death . . . evil continually/nothing that defileth . . . coats of skins/fine linen, white & clean . . . Satan opposing/Satan banished . . . Kept from tree of life/access to Tree of life . . . banished from the garden/free entry to the City . . . Redeemer promised/redemption accomplished.)

For these and many other reasons, it becomes evident that an understanding of the early chapters of Genesis is vital to an understanding of the eternal purposes of God. The Creation or Evolution debate is a vital issue in today's church.

By Anthony R. Dallison

Faith's slow retreat into irrelevance

http://www.decaturdaily.com/detail/55960.html

In 1981, Langdon Gilkey, professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, found himself embroiled in a church/state battle in Arkansas that would eventually be known as McLean versus the Arkansas Board of Education. The case was the result of a suit filed in response to the Arkansas Legislature mandating that Creationism be taught along side evolution.

Gilkey, a Baptist, was called as an expert witness.

His role was to argue that Creationism was in fact a religious belief and not really science. As such, the Plaintiffs contended, the mandatory teaching of Creationism constituted an establishment of religion and was in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In preparing for his testimony, Gilkey studied the proceedings from an earlier church/state battle—the 1925 Scopes trial. In this famous trial, William Jennings Bryant argued that the Bible was the final authority on all human knowledge. Therefore, subordinating biblical teaching to the findings or speculations of science, he contended, was patently wrong.

Bryant won that court case, but lost the war. In the 1950s and 60s, in response to the growing threat of communism, America began to aggressively beef up the teaching of science in public schools. As a result, science as the primary method for understanding our world marched steadily forward. We see its effects today in the technological whiz-bang that now characterizes our modern world.

But the fundamentalist branch of Christianity continued to resist the idea of evolution.

They refused to accept the conclusions of science complaining that it was a matter of "theory" rather than fact.

Eventually, that resistance generated the ideas behind Creationism; a way of presenting the biblical idea of a Creator in the language of science.

Gilkey found this approach surprising.

Previously, in the Scopes trial, the argument put forward was that faith is superior to science. But in the Arkansas case, creationists argued that their view met the same standards of evidence as any other scientific theory.

Or to say it another way, in order to have the doctrine of creation taught in public schools, creationists were willing to yield to science the role as the final arbiter of truth. If science supports biblical claims, they must be true.

This has become something of a pattern for many Christians.

Out of a desire to have faith validated and affirmed by wider culture, some in the Christian community have allowed their beliefs and practices to be hijacked and used for other purposes.

Examples of this hijacking are everywhere.

Worship and Scripture have been snatched away from local churches and given into the hands of political operatives.

That which is intended to satisfy our deepest spiritual longings is manipulated in an effort to get votes. I don't know which is worse—that politicians do it, or that we fall for it. Either way, it is authentic faith that loses.

And the losses are serious. As we allow faith to be redefined as scientific truth, or political ideology, what we are actually doing is subordinating faith to these other realities. Faith as science or faith as politics is really just science and politics.

Faith is not a tool we use to make the world be what we want it to be. Faith and its disciplines are instruments of grace that God uses to make us into what the divine will wants us to be.

Our failure to understand faith in this way will almost certainly contribute to its steady decline.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama. He can be reached at faithmatters@mindspring.com.

Creationism in Connecticut? Pushing Pseudoscience in the Name of Religion

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-zimmerman/creationism-in-connecticu_b_504914.html

Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.Founder, The Clergy Letter Project
Posted: March 18, 2010 06:08 PM BIO Become a Fan Get Email Alerts Bloggers' Index

Connecticut may seem like a surprising place to find creationism being promoted, but that's exactly what's happening these days. The recent election of Chester Harris to the school board serving the Connecticut towns of Haddam and Killingworth is very troubling and worthy of widespread attention.

Harris defines himself as a creationist, and in his first weeks on the job he's already met with science teachers to discuss the issue. There are serious problems with every aspect of this situation, from his discussions to the reasons he articulated for his anti-science position.

Let's start with the fact that he met with teachers to discuss the science curriculum. An article in the Hartford Courant quoted Charles J. Macunas, principal of Haddam-Killingworth High School, as defending Harris's actions. "As a new board member, he was just trying to get a handle on content that's taught in an area he's very passionate about." Given the power imbalance between principal and board member, could anyone possibly expect the former to do anything other than defend the actions of the latter?

The balance of power is skewed even further when science teachers are pitted against a board member. The fact that Harris is "very passionate about" creationism just raises the stakes even higher and makes it unlikely that this was just a friendly chat.

A while back, I published research examining the opinions high school biology teachers held on the evolution/creation controversy. That research has something important to teach us about the current situation. High school biology teachers reported that members of the administration were one of the leading sources of pressure to alter the teaching of evolution. From the people on the ground, the ones responsible for teaching our students, there simply can't be any idle conversations about this topic with a passionate member of the school board.

What about Harris's reasons for this position -- a position completely at odds with that of the world's scientific community and with the State of Connecticut's Core Science Curriculum Framework?

He asserts, "Evolution is basically an assumption that there is no God."

Wrong!

Evolution simply notes that alleles, alternative forms of genes, change in a population over time. More importantly, though, evolutionary theory, like all scientific theories, is silent on the existence of any god; such an issue is well beyond the boundaries of science. Religious leaders as well as scientists fully understand this point. Indeed, more than 13,000 religious leaders in the United States have joined The Clergy Letter Project and have signed one of three Clergy Letters imploring school boards to teach evolutionary theory in science classes.

Harris goes on to note that proponents of evolution "haven't proven anything. It's all still theory and faith."

Wrong! Wrong! And Wrong! It is amazing that Harris can make three significant errors in a mere nine words.

First, biologists have most certainly observed evolution in action in both the field and the laboratory. Second, since theory is as good as it gets in science, saying that evolution is "still theory," is actually quite a compliment. After all, it takes a huge amount of data for an idea to rise to the level of a scientific theory. Evolutionary theory is as comprehensive and robust a scientific theory as exists in any discipline; it offers us far more insight, for example, than does gravitational theory. Third, faith has nothing to do with evolutionary theory. If the data were to pose problems, scientists would be compelled to leave evolutionary theory behind. But the data, from genetics to developmental biology, from physiology to molecular biology, from every corner of the biological world, provide support for the theory of evolution.

Finally, Harris proclaims that "it's time for balance."

Wrong!

In fact, there's simply nothing to "balance." Evolutionary theory is the framework for all of biology -- it is the one thing that ties all portions of the subject together in a meaningful manner. As the great population geneticist Theodosious Dobzhansky said in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." For teachers today to imply that evolution is a controversial topic within the scientific community would be doing our students a grave disservice.

Even though Chester Harris's opinions are so very wrong, that doesn't make them unpopular. State legislatures around the country continue their political assault on evolution -- often in the name of religion. Just since the start of this year, for example, troubling bills have been introduced in Kentucky and Missouri.

Those of us who want our children to be scientifically literate and for our public school curricula not to be controlled by proponents of a single, narrow religious persuasion need to be vigilant. We need to educate our neighbors when people like Chester Harris make pronouncements that are so far from the facts. And, oddly enough, in this battle to protect science education, we need to heed the words of thousands of clergy members who have come together to proclaim , "We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge."

New Smithsonian Exhibit on Human Origins Devoid of References to God, Creation or Pre-Natal Existence

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/62986

Thursday, March 18, 2010
By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer

The stages of human development also are highlighted, but visitors will not find any references to God, creationism, or pre-natal existence. The exhibit's Web site says fossils "provide evidence that modern humans evolved from earlier humans."

The "What Does it Mean to Be Human?" exhibit was mostly funded by a $15 million gift to the museum by David H. Koch, a billionaire and one-time vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian party. Located in a hall named after Koch, it includes almost 300 objects, including 75 skulls, a "time tunnel," and realistic busts of seven ancestors of Homo sapiens by artist John Gurche.

When asked by CNSNews.com why the exhibit does not include any reference to God or address the debate – even in scientific circles – about Darwinian evolution, Potts replied that the Natural History Museum "is a science museum, and all the objects that a museum can possibly display about the origins of humans have been uncovered in the context of doing the science of evolution."

Nothing in the exhibit has "come about as the result of reflection and commitment to a particular religious belief," he added. "The Smithsonian cannot really be involved in picking which aspect of which religion to represent to the American public or the international public."

Potts said that he and others involved in the exhibit have worked to create a "welcoming place."

"We've titled this all 'What Does It Mean to Be Human' out of respect for the fact the people bring a whole variety of perspectives on that subject – about the meaning of humanness," Potts told CNSNews.com. "And what we want is to make sure that there is a respectful and welcoming place in the Smithsonian for people to come, including people who may be averse to the topic of evolution, and let them see what science has uncovered."

Potts said the project includes a "broader social impacts committee," which is not part of the exhibit but is named on the Web site that was launched in conjunction with the exhibit. "They are all very excited about providing the American public, including their own religious communities, with an opportunity to see what the science says," Potts said.

"Engagement takes many forms, including personal efforts by individuals to integrate scientific and religious understandings, statements by religious organizations that affirm and even celebrate the scientific findings, and constructive interactions between theologians and scientists seeking common ground, respect, and shared insight into how the science of human evolution contributes to an awareness of what it means to be human," Potts wrote.

Religion also is addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions portion of the Website, which makes a distinction between religious "stories" and scientific fact.

"Societies worldwide express their beliefs through a wide diversity of stories about how humans came into being. These stories reflect the universal curiosity people have about our origins. For millennia, they have played a vital role in helping people develop an identity and an understanding of themselves as well as of their community. This exhibit presents research and findings based on scientific methods that are distinct from these stories."

"Well this is not exactly a hall of human biology – a hall of human biology or physiology would certainly talk about the reproductive cycle that exists in human beings today," Potts said. "Instead, what we wanted to do as we pick and choose among the things that we need to present in a hall about human origins -- I believe the artifacts and the fossils, the stone tools and the art objects that illuminate where we have come from and the process of becoming human as opposed to the process of an individual becoming human in utero."

A film shown continuously to introduce the exhibit states that the first Homo sapiens came into being in Africa some 200,000 years ago during "challenging" times that included extreme weather.

The script of the film also says that at one point, humans faced extinction and numbered only 10,000.

The differences between people around the globe are "only skin deep," the film says – the result of evolving differences "as we adapted to different environments."

"You are part of this 6-million-year epic story of adaptation and survival," the film tells visitors. "With the billions of other humans living today, you can say: 'We are all one species.'"

The exhibit will be open during regular museum hours beginning on March 19.

In conjunction with the exhibit, a panel discussion entitled "Religious Perspectives on the Science of Human Origins" will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 21, in the museum's Baird Auditorium.

Smithsonian's Hall of Origins and creationism

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/18/AR2010031800815.html

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010

We had to ask: What about creationism?

"There's no Adam and Eve here," curator Rick Potts says flatly. If you believe that the world -- and man -- was created in seven days, and that it's only thousands of years old, you might have a little problem with an exhibition that talks about a process of 6 million to 8 million years. Not to mention with the wall panel stating that we're not just related to apes, but to the banana tree, too.

For the majority of people, regardless of their beliefs, the material in the Hall of Human Origins should not be about conflict. "This is not a classroom. Remember, the themes of the show are questions," Potts says. The scientific evidence is presented in such a way that most visitors can weigh it on the scale of the belief system they entered with. "We believe in putting all the fossil evidence out there," he says, "where everyone can see it."

That being said, the hall does make several strong arguments against certain claims used to rebut the theory of evolution, such as the assertion that the fossil record is weak or filled with unexplained gaps. "Some have said that you could fit all the evidence in a cigar box," Potts says. He gestures to the hall's vast array of early human skulls, more than 75 in all. "Well, no."

According to Potts, the Smithsonian's view is that there need not be any disconnect between science and religion. In fact, if there's anything he hopes visitors will take away from the exhibition, it's what he calls a "sense of the sacred."

When Is it Appropriate to Challenge the "Consensus"?

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/03/when_is_it_appropriate_to_chal.html

Discovery Institute senior fellow Jay Richards has an excellent piece at The American titled, "When to Doubt a Scientific 'Consensus'," that gives 12 criteria to help us decide whether it's appropriate to doubt a particular "consensus." Richards of course notes that the very term "consensus" is often used to shut down scientific debate—but that hardly means the scientific "consensus" is necessarily wrong. Indeed, some wrongly challenge the consensus when it ought to be affirmed. Richards threads this needle carefully, explaining why we must carefully examine the scientific, sociological, rhetorical, and political dynamics of a debate to determine if the consensus deserves our assent, or our skepticism:

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are not immune to the non-rational dynamics of the herd. Many false ideas enjoyed consensus opinion at one time. Indeed, the "power of the paradigm" often shapes the thinking of scientists so strongly that they become unable to accurately summarize, let alone evaluate, radical alternatives. Question the paradigm, and some respond with dogmatic fanaticism.

We shouldn't, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are always cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there's someone somewhere—easily accessible online—that thinks it's all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they're just cranks whose counsel is best disregarded.

So what's a non-scientist citizen, without the time to study the scientific details, to do? How is the ordinary citizen to distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, "between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? Conversely, how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?" Are we obligated to trust whatever we're told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?

Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, maintains, and communicates the ostensible consensus. I don't know of any exhaustive list of signs of suspicion, but, using climate change as a test study, I propose this checklist as a rough-and-ready list of signs for when to consider doubting a scientific "consensus," whatever the subject. One of these signs may be enough to give pause. If they start to pile up, then it's wise to be suspicious.

Many of Richards' criteria are clearly applicable to the debate over intelligent design (ID) and neo-Darwinism. For example, Darwin's defenders make heavy use of personal attacks, and Richards suggests we ought to consider skepticism "When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate." Likewise, Richards' criteria of "When scientists are pressured to toe the party line" or ""When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish" also have immediately obvious relevance to the ID-evolution debate.

But what about Richards' first criterion: "When different claims get bundled together"? Does it apply to the ID-Darwin debate? According to Richards:

Usually, in scientific disputes, there is more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there's the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There's also the claim that human emissions are the main cause of it, that it's going to be catastrophic, and that we have to transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different assertions with different bases of evidence. Evidence for warming, for instance, isn't evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet, Newfoundland become a popular place to tan, and that wouldn't tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

There's a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There's even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four propositions are frequently bundled together, so that if you doubt one, you're labeled a climate change "skeptic" or "denier." That's just plain intellectually dishonest. When well-established claims are fused with separate, more controversial claims, and the entire conglomeration is covered with the label "consensus," you have reason for doubt.

Indeed, this criterion is highly applicable to the debate over Darwinism. Darwin's defenders often refuse to recognize that Darwin-skeptics have nuanced positions, affirming that evolution has occurred (and continues to occur) occur but typically doubting the importance of the causes being given, and often doubting the scale of evolution possible from material processes alone.

So the "bundling of claims" occurs dramatically in the Darwin debate as well, where modern day Darwinians bundle (1) "change over time," (2) "common descent", and (3) "random mutation + natural selection as the primary mechanism driving change" into one claim – "Evolution" – but they refuse to acknowledge the nuanced positions of critics who may accept (1) and/or (2), but doubt (3).

Finally, it's worth noting that Richards final criterion – "When we keep being told that there's a scientific consensus" – is perhaps the most important one. The late Michael Crichton would agree. As he eloquently observed, "The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. … There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period. … Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way."

Posted by Casey Luskin on March 19, 2010 10:10 AM | Permalink


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reading and Writing and 'Rithmetic

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-brauchli/reading-and-writing-and-r_b_502961.html

"The stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations, misleading generalizations, inadequate formulations, and unconscious prejudice is rarely appreciated by those who obtain their scientific knowledge from textbooks."

-- James Bryant Conant, Science and Common Sense

He lost the election but probably not the war. Thanks to his enlightened efforts and the efforts of his like-minded colleagues (if the use of the word "mind" in the same sentence as a description of him and his colleagues does not offend) text books around the country will never be the same. I'm referring to Dr. Don McLeroy. In the March 2nd primary in Texas he was defeated in his bid for a second term on the Texas Board of Education of which he'd been a member since 1998 and its chair since 2007.

Students throughout the country will enjoy the benefits of his efforts and those of his colleagues since as Texas goes in the schoolbook world, so goes much of the nation, Texas being one of the largest purchasers of text books in the country.

The every 10-year process of setting standards for Texas textbooks is drawing to a close. One of the areas addressed in 2009 was science and two of the most contentious issues were evolution and global warming. At its meeting on March 25-27, 2009, the board added the requirement to the study of evolution that students must examine "all sides of scientific evidence" which includes the side that says the age of the earth is 6000 years, give or take a couple hundred. This enlightened approach delighted those who have long been troubled by the whole idea of evolution and who are, themselves, living proof that evolution does not occur in all humans. The Discovery Institute that promotes the idea of intelligent design said the board had chosen science over dogma. It called the revised standards a "huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution. In an interview with Mariah Blake of the Washington Monthly, Dr. McLeroy said: "Whooey. We won the Grand Slam, and the Super Bowl ... Our science standards are light years ahead of any other state when it comes to challenging evolution!" The National Center for Science Education, on the other hand, commented that the board "voted to adopt a flawed set of state science standards, which will dictate what is taught in science classes in elementary and secondary schools, as well as provide the material for state tests and textbooks, for the next decade."

Darwin was not the only one to take a hit. Global warming was another. The Board added the requirement to the chapter dealing with Environmental Systems that students should "analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming." Dr. McLeroy said: "Conservatives like me think the evidence [on global warming] is a bunch of hooey."

Almost one year to the day since evolution and global warming were dispatched, social studies found itself under the microscope. Once again, the charge was led by Don, ably assisted by Cynthia Dunbar. In the piece by Ms. Blake she refers to Cynthia's self-published book in which Cynthia says public education is "tyrannical" and "a tool of perversion" and sending kids to public school is like "throwing them into the enemy's flames." Nonetheless, she serves on the board and is involved in rewriting the textbooks.

The changes to the social studies section come as no surprise to those who read Ms. Blake's interview with Don. In the interview he said to her "we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan - he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes." The new standards require that when dealing with the civil rights movement the Black Panthers be studied as well as Martin Luther King. Language was added saying that Republicans supported Civil Rights legislation. That language was added by David Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party and one of the drafters. He is quoted in Ms. Blake's piece as saying that at one time African Americans owe their civil rights almost entirely to Republicans and were treated atrociously by Democrats.

As was noted at the outset, Dr. McLeroy lost the election but not the war. The new standards will be voted on in May and the new textbooks will appear in 2011. In talking with Ms. Blake about the Texas Board of Education he said: "Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have." If being able to intellectually impoverish a generation of students is what he's referring to, he's certainly got that right.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Darwinism: A Bad Idea With a Worse Name

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-zimmerman/social-darwinism-a-bad-id_b_489197.html

Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.Founder, The Clergy Letter Project
Posted: March 14, 2010 06:30 PM

As has been well reported by now, the Texas State Board of Education has just finished the first round of its work rewriting the state's social studies curriculum. This is the same group that dismantled the state's science standards last year.

They did make one change, however, that might well serve as a model that could productively be emulated. According to the report in The New York Times, "They also replaced the word 'capitalism' throughout their texts with the 'free-enterprise system.'" The move was carefully explained by one board member: "'Let's face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,' said one conservative member, Terri Leo. 'You know, 'capitalist pig!'"

Unlike "capitalism," "social Darwinism" is a concept whose woeful misnaming has led to serious damage. Social Darwinism is a bizarre name in that it has precious little to do with either Darwin or the theory of evolution to which his work gave rise.

Indeed, social Darwinism is a bastardization of the largely meaningless concept of "survival of the fittest," coined by Herbert Spencer rather than Charles Darwin. Social Darwinism has been used by its proponents to advance a wide array of causes from eugenics to the belief that government should not fund social programs because such programs simply help the poor, or, as some crassly express it, the less fit, survive.

As it has been constructed as a social policy, social Darwinism is despicable. Many have used it to attack evolutionary theory, somehow thinking that an unpopular social policy that sounds like science can undercut sound scientific ideas.

Consider a recent pronouncement from Answers in Genesis, the creationist organization that built the creation museum-cum-theme-park in Kentucky: "Social Darwinism is not a perversion of the principles of Darwinian evolution. On the contrary, it is taking them to their natural, logical conclusion. Further, if there were no connection to evolution then why is it called social Darwinism?"

Exactly! Why is it called social Darwinism? It shouldn't be -- and it is time we changed the name to stop the confusion.

Except for those, like the folks from Answers in Genesis and Ben Stein in his film Expelled, who use the term shamelessly to attack evolution, people on all sides of the political spectrum should rally around this call for change. After all, conservatives who disparage evolution love to fall back on social Darwinism when advancing their attacks on health care initiatives, welfare policies and unemployment benefits. They can't be comfortable endorsing something that seems tied to evolution when they're so opposed to the concept of evolution.

In addition to knowing that social Darwinism is unrelated to evolutionary principles, proponents of evolution also understand a larger truth. They understand that even if the two were actually linked, human society allows us to move beyond some biological imperatives. Just because we are part of the animal kingdom does not mean that we have to act in the same manner as other members of that kingdom; we can exercise choice to create a social network not observed in other species.

Perhaps the world's best known popularizer of evolution, Richard Dawkins, made this point exceedingly well in a 2005 interview published in Die Presse. He said, "No self-respecting person would want to live in a society that operates according to Darwinian laws. I am a passionate Darwinist, when it involves explaining the development of life. However, I am a passionate anti-Darwinist when it involves the kind of society in which we want to live. A Darwinian state would be a Fascist state."

Let's stop this confusion and find a better name for social Darwinism -- one that makes intellectual sense and permits people to understand its intent.

In that spirit, I'm creating a contest calling for suggestions of a name change. The new name needs to be short and catchy. It needs to be fully expressive. It needs to be divorced from the science with which it has nothing to do.

Offer your suggestions coupled with a brief explanation. The winning entry will earn a prize to be determined later. Judging will be done by a panel to be determined later. All I can say at this point is that the judging will not be conducted by the members of the Texas State Board of Education.