NTS LogoSkeptical News for 16 September 2011

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, September 16, 2011

Evolution education update: September 16, 2011

A new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, a preview of Richard Conniff's The Species Seekers, and a landmark for NCSE's YouTube channel.


The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal promoting the accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- is now published. The theme for the issue (volume 4, number 3) is Material Cultural Evolution, edited by Anna Prentis. Articles include "Get Rad! The Evolution of the Skateboard Deck"; "Patterns of Evolution in Iranian Tribal Textiles"; "Exploring Mouse Trap History" (which will be of particular interest to anyone familiar with the use of the mouse trap in the "intelligent design" literature); "Convergent Evolutionary Paths in Biological and Technological Networks"; "Natural Selection and Material Culture"; and "History Written in Stone: Evolutionary Analysis of Stone Tools in Archeology." Plus there are various articles on the teaching of evolution, book reviews, and commentaries.

Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Banning Evolution," NCSE's Eric Meikle discusses the history of statutory bans on teaching evolution, devoting attention to a 1929 article in Popular Science describing how educators in Arkansas and Tennessee were planning to cope with the ban. Despite the eventual demise of such bans, he writes, "Unfortunately, there are still teachers who seem to have imposed a ban on themselves: Berkman and others (2008) report that 2% of high school biology teachers responding to their survey omit the topic of evolution altogether, with as many as 17% omitting the topic of human evolution altogether. ... We may not have advanced as far from the days of banning evolution as we would like to believe."

For Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit:

For Meikle's article (subscription required), visit:


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Richard Conniff's The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth (W. W. Norton, 2011). The preview consists of chapter 11 -- "'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?'" -- in which Conniff discusses "the anxiety inspired by simultaneously encountering other primate species and other human races for the first time" in the age of discovery. He explains, "people in Europe had lived largely apart from apes and monkeys, as well as other human groups, for a period extending roughly from the migration out of Africa 50,000 years ago and the extinction of Neanderthals 30,000 years ago to the start of the age of discovery not quite 700 years ago. It was long enough to develop a considerable sense of separateness from the rest of nature, as well as a splendidly puffed-up notion of their own special place in the world."

The publisher describes The Species Seekers as "The story of bold adventurers who risked death to discover strange life forms in the farthest corners of planet Earth," adding, "At the start, everyone accepted that the Earth had been created for our benefit. We weren't sure where vegetable ended and animal began, we couldn't classify species, and we didn't understand the causes of disease. But all that changed as the species seekers introduced us to the pantheon of life on Earth -- and our place within it." And Carl Zimmer writes, "Modern biology and medicine would not be what they are today if not for the death-defying naturalists who set out to travel the world and find new species. In The Species Seekers, Richard Conniff creates a marvelous rogues' gallery of these brave, sometimes reckless heroes of taxonomy, full of surprising tales of gorillas, platypuses, and disease-laden mosquitoes."

For the preview of The Species Seekers, visit:

For information about the book from its publisher, visit:


Over the Labor Day weekend, NCSE's YouTube channel achieved a landmark: its millionth view. Debuting in February 2009, NCSE's Youtube channel now contains over 220 videos, including presentations by and interviews of members of NCSE's staff, testimony before the Texas state board of education, footage from NCSE's regular trip down the Grand Canyon, the videos specially commissioned for Expelled Exposed, excerpts from news programs, and even the odd debate. And the videos are clearly appreciated: "Thanks for taking the time to upload all these fantastic videos," commented one viewer. "It renews my faith in humanity watching the work you folks do." Over ten thousand people currently subscribe to the channel.

Recent additions to NCSE's YouTube channel include NCSE's Steven Newton's 2011 presentation "Teaching evolution in a climate of science denial" (in three parts), footage from the Texas state board of education's hearing on supplementary material for science classes (including testimony from NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman, and the Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller), NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Alan Gishlick discussing flood geology in the Grand Canyon in 2011, and Eugenie C. Scott speaking on "Creationism, Evolution, Education -- and Politics" to the Greater Phoenix Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in 2011. Tune in and enjoy!

For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit:

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

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

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Klinghoffer can't help himself


Category: Creationism • Culture Wars • Policy and Politics
Posted on: September 15, 2011 3:29 AM, by Josh Rosenau

The problems with the latest reply from Disco. 'tute's David Klinghoffer begin in the title. He claims: "National Center for Science Education Defends Its Association with James Fetzer, Peddler of Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories." NCSE did not address Klinghoffer's specious and slanderous claims; I wrote a blog post on my personal blog. The blog clearly states in the sidebar:

The opinions expressed here are [my] own, do not reflect the official position of the NCSE.

Lest that leave some ambiguity, I added in the post Klinghoffer is responding to:

On this blog, I don't speak in my capacity as an NCSE employee...

Klinghoffer wrongly treats my blog post as an NCSE response, when it is not, as the post itself made clear. Furthermore, I didn't "defend" any "association" with Fetzer; I don't know him and as far as I'm concerned, NCSE is only associated with Fetzer in Klinghoffer's fevered mind. Thus, I see nothing to defend.

He opens the post:

The other day I called on the NCSE, the nation's most prominent Darwin-lobbying group, to assure us it has implemented a new policy ...

And undoubtedly NCSE will give the suggestions of its institutional opponents all the attention they deserve.

After filling half the post with recap (I firmly believe they pay him by the word), Klinghoffer writes:

Wildmon, whom Rosenau ignorantly slurs, isn't now the head of that AFA.

I know. He fell ill and retired a couple years back [Updated: apologies for the premature obit]. Before then, as I noted yesterday, Klinghoffer sided with him against American Jews. Klinghoffer offers no rebuttals to my links showing Wildmon claiming Jews control the media, and therefore are responsible for increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians, nor rebuttals to links showing Wildmon's AFA attributing to a Jewish upbringing such outcomes including: a life of crime, drug abuse, and "a hostile attitude toward Christ." Needless to say, these sorts of claims are the stock in trade of antisemitism, and I see no cause for the claim that my criticism was "ignorant."

The only defense Klinghoffer offers is:

His son Tim runs the group and recently signed a pastors' open letter, published in newspapers and supporting Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Banner headline: "Israel, You're Not Alone. We Stand With You." Does that sound hateful and anti-Semitic to you? No, not to me either.

The fact that that statement wasn't hateful or overtly antisemitic hardly means that the group (or its former head) isn't hateful or antisemitic. Nor is taking a stance in favor of particular political parties in Israel, or defending the existence of that nation, proof of philosemitism. As I noted yesterday, radical rightwing religious groups often support certain policies or outcomes in Israel for their own purposes, regardless of whether those policies are good for Israel. An antisemite could well support Israel in certain ways. For instance, an antisemite could wish to see the Jews in his neighborhood move to Israel, or could wish Israel would pursue bellicose policies, knowing that doing so would place Jews in danger. Or an antisemite could pretend that Jews in Israel will play some important role in the Tribulation, and support Israel in that purely instrumental way, accepting that Jews have to live there. Or an antisemite could believe that supporting Israel (in some sense) will make it easier to proselytize to Jews, thus "perfecting" them.

That "perfecting" language comes most prominently from Ann Coulter, who told a Jewish talkshow host that she considers Christians "perfected Jews." The host called it antisemitic, she defended herself (poorly), and in the end, the ADL "strongly condemn[ed] Ann Coulter for her anti-Semitic comment," saying "the idea that Judaism needs to be replaced with Christianity and that each individual Jew is somehow deficient and needs to be 'perfected,' is rank Christian supersessionism." The American Jewish Committee agreed, stating "Ms. Coulter's assertion that Jews are somehow religiously imperfect smacks of the most odious anti-Jewish sentiment."

You'll recall that Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Bill Dembski was widely credited for having helped write parts of one of Coulter's books which dealt with evolution and creationism. The Discovery Institute has done nothing to distance itself from her antisemitic remarks, and Klinghoffer does not seem to have personally distanced himself from Coulter or Dembski. Perhaps he's agitated internally for such a separation, but publicly he seems at ease with letting Disco. 'tute senior staff dance with this hateful conspiracy theorist. As he seems to be at ease with letting Disco. share the dance floor with conspiracy theorists who deny that HIV causes AIDS.

Nor does he seem troubled by the hateful homophobic positions advanced by Coulter and other groups DI is associated with. Coulter frequently trades in anti-gay slurs, referring to almost anyone she opposes (most prominently John Edwards, during his 2007 bid for the White House) as a "faggot." It was Don Wildmon and the AFA's efforts in support of anti-gay discrimination (not their antisemitism) which earned them the "hate group" label.

If the Discovery Institute stands by the remarks David Klinghoffer has posted on their website, consistency demands that they repudiate the hateful anti-gay comments of Coulter, the AFA, and of other groups and individuals Disco. works with, including the Louisiana Family Forum, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and Howard Ahmanson. If they don't support Klinghoffer's false (and frankly defamatory) statements, perhaps it's time for them to curtail their public partnership with him.

Another Pointless Creationist Prize


Posted on: September 13, 2011 8:46 AM, by Ed Brayton

Our friends over at William Dembski's Home for Wayward Sycophants have posted yet another creationist monetary challenge, a whole thousand dollars. Here's the challenge:

ID is often disparaged as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo." One assumes the point being made is that ID is a stalking horse for theistic creationists. Now, as has been explained on this site many times, while many ID proponents are theists, ID itself stands apart from theistic belief. For the umpteenth time, ID does not posit a supernatural designer. Nor does ID posit any suspension of the laws of nature. To drive this point home UD is going to put its money where its mouth is. UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).

Wow, a thousand dollars! Hell, Kent Hovind offers a quarter of a million dollars and he's in prison. And this challenge is every bit as ridiculous as his. You can see the word games that are inevitably going to be played with the challenge here:

Some commenters have gotten bogged down on whether an immaterial mind counts as supernatural. The answer is "no." If an immaterial mind counts as supernatural and all intelligent agents including humans have immaterial minds, then all volitional acts of all intelligent agents would be supernatural acts. That's a silly way to construe the word "supernatural." It is not how the word is used in ordinary English usage and it is not how the word is used for purposes of this contest. Resolving the hard problem of consciousness is not necessary for this contest. Therefore, we will simply avoid it, and contestants shall operate under the assumption I made in this post. Specifically, I wrote: "Therefore, I am going to make a bold assumption for the sake of argument. Let us assume for the sake of argument that intelligent agents do NOT have free will, i.e., that the tertium quid does not exist. Let us assume instead, for the sake of argument, that the cause of all activity of all intelligent agents can be reduced to physical causes."

Let me just quote the man who owns Uncommon Descent from a 1998 address:

"The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe's irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life."

I guess Dembski will have to award the $1000 to himself. Or he'll have to engage in some mental gymnastics to claim that something that transcends the physical laws of the universe is not "supernatural."

Darwin's diabolical delusions


Posted: September 09, 2011
4:55 pm Eastern

© 2011

Liberals defend the guilty and impugn the innocent not only because they side with barbarians, but because a fair and just system of law challenges their hegemony as judges of the universe.

~ Ann Coulter, "Demonic"

If evolution is so scientific, factual and beyond all rational argument, then why do the proponents of Darwinian evolutionary theory systematically lie about their findings, block and defame other scientists with contrarian ideas like Intelligent Design, creationism and natural law, and in the name of "academic freedom" dominate the majority of the academic journals and university professorships with a Stalinist grip? What of derivative theories of evolution like the Big Bang theory – that all matter and living things in the universe, including mankind, came about 13.7 billion years ago from an explosion? I'm not a scientist, but I was taught in elementary school that explosions destroy things, not create them.

These are exceedingly important questions not only because for over 150 years evolution has indoctrinated and perverted science virtually beyond redemption, but because Darwinian philosophy and its speculative suppositions have totally dominated the entire academy including: law, religion, philosophy, politics, economics, education, culture and society under the ancillary philosophy of Social Darwinism created by Herbert Spencer who also coined the phrase, "Survival of the fittest" – the totalitarian motto 20th-century dictators, including Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and many other tyrants, used as a pretext for control, domination, suppression of liberty and the genocide of hundreds of millions of people.

If you doubt the Gestapo tactics of the Darwin lobby, consider that just last week another case was uncovered about how they routinely block academic papers that criticize Darwin's evolution theory from being published. Writer Casey Luskin recalled a meeting with Wesley Elsberry, a long-time activist for the Darwin lobby and former staff member at the National Center for Science Education, who literally rejoiced whenever Intelligent Design scientists had their papers rejected from journals. Furthermore, Elsberry had the gall to criticize Intelligent Design proponents for not publishing in the mainstream scientific literature (an untrue charge).

Ray Comfort poses 101 questions to shake up the followers of Darwin. Don't miss "Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups"

Luskin wrote a 2-part article on the case of Dr. Granville Sewell and how the Darwin Gestapo unfairly had one of his papers unjustly rejected from a prestigious scientific journal:

As John West has reported, the journal Applied Mathematics Letters has agreed to apologize after pulling a paper by University of Texas, El Paso mathematics professor Granville Sewell which was critical of Darwinian evolution. Sewell is author of "In the Beginning: And Other Essays on Intelligent Design" as well as three books on numerical analysis and dozens of articles in respected journals. As West reports, Applied Mathematics Letters withdrew his paper not because it found any errors in the paper, or because the paper was not peer-reviewed, but because it had received a protest from the Darwin lobby. Because of the journal's inappropriate treatment of Dr. Sewell, it has now issued an apology to Dr. Sewell and paid his attorney's fees in the matter to the tune of $10,000.

The second law of thermodynamics actually holds that entropy/disorder will increase in a closed system. Yet using this law as a predicate to refute evolution is a tempting but fallacious argument because the earth isn't a closed system since it gets energy, heat and light from the sun thus giving Darwinists the allusion that evolution generates new functional biological information.

Sewell did not present Intelligent Design arguments, but postulated that there are certain forms of complexity most people agree will not happen under a natural, unguided environment. Therefore, the fact that a system is "open" does not generally follow that the odds of all events happening is sufficient to make such events possible. Sewell further argues:

But after we define a sufficiently low threshold, everyone seems to agree that "natural forces will rearrange atoms into digital computers" is a macroscopically describable event that is still extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view, and thus forbidden by the second law – at least if this happens in a closed system. But it is not true that the laws of probability only apply to closed systems: if a system is open, you just have to take into account what is crossing the boundary when deciding what is extremely improbable and what is not.

Luskin's articles on Sewell are ipso facto proof that those who dispute Darwinian evolution are not being permitted the academic freedom to publish their arguments to the scientific community as well as to the general public.

I can personally testify to this widespread intellectual discrimination against conservative thought in academic journals. As a conservative academic, I've written over a dozen law review articles; half of those papers were rejected at the 11th hour after having been accepted for publication, cite-checked, edited and peer-reviewed. In some cases I was forced to have my work published with another law journal. For example, in a 2010 law review article, "The Delinquencies of Juvenile Law: A Natural Law Analysis," after being accepted then rejected by an American law journal for no rational reason, I was forced to publish this work in a Romanian journal – the former communist country of the murderous dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. How's that for irony?

Remember that the primary purpose of Darwinian evolution (and later in economics, philosophy and politics under Marxism, Nietzsche and progressivism) was not understood solely as a scientific discovery, but to infuse education atheism throughout every conceivable aspect of culture and society. Influential thinkers like Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Thomas and Aldous Huxley, Herbert Spencer, Max Weber, O.W. Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, C.S. Pierce, John Dewey, Carl Becker, Charles Beard, Richard Hofstadter and many other progressive intellectuals were all atheists and fanatical devotees of evolutionary theory – and they demanded society follow suit.

Tragically, for over 150 years since the publication of Darwin's diabolical, anti-scientific book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," nonpartisan science, truth, logic and deductive reasoning have been ruthlessly suppressed and replaced with state-funded Darwinist propaganda, groupthink, education atheism, liberal fascism and Machiavellian tactics as demonstrated in the Sewell case representing the ongoing battles between the Darwin Gestapo and Intelligent Design scientists.

This existential war on ideas reminds me of a passage from Dan Brown's novel "Angels and Demons" – If science is allowed to claim the moment of creation, (or in Coulter's words, "judge the universe") what is left for God?

Why science questions matter for candidates


Category: Climate change • Creationism • Culture Wars • Policy and Politics
Posted on: September 7, 2011 7:19 PM, by Josh Rosenau

In the last few weeks, and at tonight's Republican debate, lots of national politicians have been asked their views on evolution, and lots of politicians have answered embarrassingly.

We should bear in mind, as I pointed out before:

Like the Miss USA contestants, most politicians (excluding those on local school boards or state boards of education) will have little opportunity to influence how evolution is taught. In answering questions about evolution during campaigns, their goal is rarely to indicate a clear conception of how science works and why evolution is central to modern biology. Instead, they must alienate as few constituents as possible, keep their base happy, and avoid an embarrassing misstep that could draw harmful national mockery. Because of the widespread perception that human evolution carries implications for the nature of morality, the soul, and other central aspects of personal identity and ethics, candidates tend to skirt the issue. They often call for equal time for evolution and creationism and then rapidly transition to the importance of religion in their personal lives.

And lo and behold, tonight we had Rick Santorum commenting about evolution: "Absolutely not. I don't believe it," continuing "For evolution to explain the creation of the human species from nothing to human beings, absolutely not I don't believe in that." A couple weeks ago, Rick Perry replied (falsely) to a 9 year-old's question about evolution by saying:

How old do I think the earth is? You know what? I don't have any idea. I know it's pretty old, so it goes back a long, long way. I'm not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long, how old the earth is. I hear your mom was asking about evolution. You know, it's a theory that's out there. It's got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figured you're smart enough to figure out which one is right.

Pretty much as I predicted (though note that Jon Huntsman has managed to actually endorse science as science). But why should we even care what politicians think about evolution, given that none of these candidates would, should they manage to win the presidency, be able to influence how evolution is taught?

In part, the issue is the President's bully pulpit. Anti-evolution comments by Reagan and George W. Bush both inspired creationist activism at the local level, making life harder for students and teachers.

Far more important is that evolution is a shibboleth for a candidate's general attitude towards evidence and ideology. The only basis for rejecting evolution is religious (and political) ideology, and it's worth knowing whether a candidate is willing to toss out science and scientific testing for the sake of ideology. No question that it's important to consider a candidate's values, but people who don't value evidence or expertise should not be in charge of important decisions. I have no trouble drawing a line between George W. Bush's off-handed rejection of the evidence supporting evolution – and the expertise of scientists who tried to explain that evidence to him – and his dismissal of expert testimony and extensive evidence that Iraq did not, in 2003, possess WMDs or active WMD programs. Indeed, name any other policy failure of the Bush years, and a similar prioritizing of ideology over evidence becomes clear.

Precisely because evolution is so distant from presidential policy, it makes a useful way to evaluate a candidate's openness to evidence, to scientific expertise (or professional expertise in general), and to empirical testing more broadly.

The other major topic of science denial at hand – climate change – is trickier precisely because rejection of the science is often a simple way to attack particular policies tied to climate change. Nonetheless, the way Rick Perry fumbled a question on climate change in tonight's debate is informative. Perry was asked to justify his insistence (which Politifact continues to ding as "false") that growing numbers of scientists reject climate science:

I do agree that there is…the science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans' economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that's not settled yet, to me is just nonsense. I tell somebody: "Just because you have a group of scientists that stood up and said, this is the fact" … Galileo got outvoted for a spell. But the fact is, to put America's economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country, is not good economics, and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you put the American economy in jeopardy.

Pressed on what scientists he's found compelling on this issue, Perry dodged and dismissed the idea of listening to "some scientist somewhere."

His opening passage, like his comments on evolution, seem to forthrightly endorse the legitimacy of letting religious and political authority suppress ("outvote," in his words) scientific results. ByDuring the time Galileo was publishing on heliocentrism, the idea was already circulating and widely accepted in scientific circles, including Jesuits. He wasn't outvoted by scientists, he was outvoted by the political and religious leadership of his country.

If that's what Perry is endorsing, then it's a deeply troubling sign. More likely, he's just flaunting his ignorance. Just as when he (or others) endorse balancing evolution and creationism, he's setting forward the principle that we should ignore what experts tell us, ignore the accumulated evidence of a century or more of research, and let that ignorance drive policy.

These candidates' answers don't matter so much because of the particulars of the science they reject: they'll have advisors who can give them facts. These answers matter because they tell us whether these candidates, once in office, would even bother asking for the evidence, would care what the facts even are.

In GOP Presidential Field, Science Finds Skeptics


by Andrea Seabrook

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the new front-runner in the GOP presidential contest, says he believes intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in the schools.

September 7, 2011

Republican presidential hopefuls gather Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California for perhaps the first critical debate of the primary election season.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has publicly doubted the science of climate change and says creationism should be taught alongside evolution, is the new front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. He's not alone in these views. If the topic of science comes up during the debate, the views of all of the GOP presidential candidates will be on display before a national audience.

Ahead of the GOP debate, we compiled the candidates' statements on climate change and evolution.

Two unusual things happened on the East Coast a couple of weeks ago. First, there was an earthquake that rumbled from Virginia to New York. Then Hurricane Irene drove past the usually stormier states in the South to hit the Eastern Seaboard, including Washington, D.C., Maryland, New York and Vermont.

At the time, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who started her political career fighting for creationism to be taught in schools alongside evolution, said at a campaign rally that perhaps God was sending signals to politicians in Washington.

"You'd think by now they'd get the message," Bachmann said. "An earthquake, a hurricane ... are you listening?"

When asked about that by reporters, Bachmann said that clearly she was joking. But she's made similar comments before. In April 2009, she talked to a conservative news website about the recent outbreak of swine flu.

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then, under another [Democratic] president, Jimmy Carter," she said. "And I'm not blaming this on President Obama; I just think it's an interesting [coincidence]."

The outbreak she's talking about actually began in 1976 — under President Ford. But the message is clear — Bachmann believes something other than physical and biological processes drives events on planet Earth.

Perry does, too.

At a campaign stop last month, a child asked Perry what he thinks about evolution. He told the boy, "It's a theory out there that has some gaps in it."

At a voter breakfast in New Hampshire, Perry was asked about the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows human actions are a substantial cause of global warming. While he did agree that the climate was changing, he said that it's been changing since the Earth began.

"Scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change," Perry said.

As for how Perry would fund environmental actions if he were president?

"I don't think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on [a still] scientific theory that has not been proven," he said, "and from my perspective is being put more and more into question."

Now, these comments from Perry and Bachmann do not describe the beliefs of the Republican Party as a whole. There are many in the GOP who strongly support scientific research and evidence-based policymaking. In fact, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another candidate for the nomination, sent this tweet after Perry's remarks on global warming:

"To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

But the comments do show which wing of the GOP is driving the primary process right now: socially conservative, religious Republicans.

A Temporary Boost

Rich Galen, a GOP analyst not working with any campaign, says the comments by Bachmann and Perry could give them a boost — at least for a while.

"It will help them in the early stages, up to the point, I think, the time when people actually begin to vote," Galen says.

Galen predicts that Republican primary voters will decide these candidates are too far to the right to beat President Obama in the general election.

Princeton professor Julian Zelizer agrees that challenging science has a certain appeal for some conservatives, but says it won't play so well among independents and fiscal conservatives.

"The Republican Party was once the party of business and market — and now they could become the party of anti-science," Zelizer says.

That could be catastrophic for the party, says Zelizer, because in order to be relevant, a political party eventually has to attract many more voters than just its base.

Climate, evolution thorny issues for GOP hopefuls


September 06, 2011|Joe Garofoli and Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writers

GOP presidential candidates gathering at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Wednesday will spar over jobs, the economy and foreign policy - but the televised matchup will become especially tricky if it wanders into two topics related to science: climate change and evolution.

Both inspire fiery debate, pitting science and research against deeply held personal beliefs. Discussing them in a debate is politically tricky, as they're a recipe for alienating either the conservative evangelicals in the Republican base or the independent voters who must be courted for a 2012 general election victory.

Listening carefully to the answers will be voters and donors with particular financial and political clout - the executives of Silicon Valley, the innovation capital and a haven for green technology.

Nearly all the major Republican candidates disagree with - and in some cases outright mock - the scientific research supporting climate change. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., called it "manufactured science."

At the same time, several of the candidates put "intelligent design," a critique that says Charles Darwin's natural selection theory doesn't explain some features of the natural world, on par with teaching evolution. Critics say intelligent design is a euphemism for creationism.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry told a young boy on the campaign trail last month that "we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools - because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right." While some Texas teachers might discuss intelligent design, it is not part of the state's official curriculum.

But the Republican candidates' views on climate change are being met with the most raised eyebrows in Silicon Valley, the mecca of political fundraising, tech innovation and venture capital dollars.

California's groundbreaking climate change law, known as AB32, was championed by tech leaders in the region, which attracts one of every two venture capital dollars in America, studies show. The law says the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, returning them to 1990 levels.

"In a valley of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, the science behind climate change is overwhelmingly accepted," said Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents more than 325 of the region's top companies.

On the Fundamental Difference Between Darwin-Inspired and Intelligent Design-Inspired Lawsuits


Casey Luskin September 6, 2011 6:00 AM | Permalink

At his blog, Darwin's-God, Discovery Institute fellow Cornelius Hunter has been providing commentary on the recent settlement in the American Freedom Alliance (AFA) v. California Science Center (CSC) lawsuit. In one post, "Why the CSC Case is Important," he asks:

But is this anything more than the sordid tale of a rogue department gone wrong? Were not the usual lines of authority broken and was not this department operating independently of the greater evolution movement? Surely there is plausible deniability and we cannot equate their many lies with evolution itself. Right?

Hunter provocatively answers:

Wrong. Unfortunately, the CSC case is typical. This is evolution in action. The only difference in this case is the evolutionists were found out. To understand why CSC is representative and not a loose cannon, one first must understand evolution itself.

I don't necessarily agree with Dr. Hunter that evolutionary thinking entails "lies," but I do agree with him that more than just science is driving the behavior of Darwin lobbyists. Politics is at work here as well.

This makes it all the more amazing that one of Hunter's commenters writes in light of the AFA v. CSC lawsuit settlement: "If there was any doubt that ID Creationism is a political movement, this lawsuit should convince skeptics. This kind of media-driven theatrics -- suing for publicity -- lays bare the intellectual bankruptcy of the movement."

The accusations from the commenter are both wrong and hypocritical.

"Litigation" is often treated as if it were dirty word, but to litigate simply means you are asserting a right; this can be done for the good, or it can be done for ill.

In the case of the ID movement and the AFA lawsuit, we are simply asserting First Amendment free speech rights. AFA's lawsuit, which was backed by abundant evidence of viewpoint discrimination, was not motivated by publicity-seeking. The purpose was to defend free speech. Would critics consider it "intellectually bankrupt" to defend free speech?

ID is an intellectual idea, and proponents of that idea are facing illegal discrimination. If you're a proponent of a scientific theory, sometimes litigation is necessary to defend your free speech rights to communicate your intellectual ideas. This doesn't show a "political movement," because the aim of the lawsuit is simply to open up intellectual discussion and debate. Opening up intellectual discussion and fighting discrimination on an important topic like biological origins is a public good, and it can be morally justified to file a lawsuit to achieve that end.

Moreover, the list of lawsuits filed by the Darwin lobby goes on and on: Kitzmiller v. Dover, Selman v. Cobb County, Hurst v. Newman, Freiler v. Tangipahoa, Edwards v. Aguillard, etc. etc. etc. If the ID movement filing a lawsuit makes it "political" (which it doesn't), then why isn't Darwinian theory considered a "political" movement because of its long history of suing? It's hypocritical to attack the ID movement as "political" for filing a lawsuit when the pro-Darwin side has been doing so for years.

In that regard, consider the fundamental qualitative difference between recent litigation initiated by the ID movement and litigation that comes out of the Darwin lobby:

Darwin lobby litigation: In every Darwin-inspired case listed above, the Darwin lobby sought to shut down free speech, stopping people from talking about non-evolutionary views, and seeking to restrict freedom of intellectual inquiry.

ID movement litigation: Seeks to expand intellectual inquiry and free speech rights to talk about non-evolutionary views.

Critics of ID should have every right to express their views, but what's unfortunate is when they go further and try to suppress those who support ID. I truly wish it wasn't necessary for the ID movement to have to file lawsuits, but if the Darwin lobby insists on illegally suppressing the pro-ID viewpoint, we will be forced to use the court system to assert our free speech rights. There's nothing intellectually bankrupt or inappropriately political when your purpose is to defend free speech for scientists and educators to expand intellectual inquiry.

Does questioning evolution make you anti-science?


09/05/2011 21:31

Paul Krugman thinks that Republicans are dumb, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. In the not-too-distant future he sees a Republican half-wit delivering his acceptance speech as presidential nominee at the convention in grunts, beating his chest, and bopping his wife over the head with the a club as he drags her on to the stage by her hair.

Writing in The New York Times, Krugman says, "One of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge.

And, in a time of severe challenges – environmental, economic, and more – that's a terrifying prospect."

Terrifying indeed. What's more frightening then the prospect of a bunch of underdeveloped orangutans with their finger on the nuclear button? But saying that Republicans are anti-science is about as accurate as saying that democrats are anti-religion, and one wonders which is more outrageous: the prospect of a primitive party of Republicans getting control of government, or a Nobel-prize winning columnist in one of the world's most authoritative newspapers writing broad generalities about how they're unlettered buffoons who hate learning and science.

What seems even more outrageous is the fact that Krugman's ire was piqued by Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's comment that evolution was "just a theory" and that it had "some gaps in it."

I am not a scientist. But beginning in about 1990, I started organizing an annual debate at Oxford University on science versus religion where the focus was almost always on evolution and which featured some of the world's greatest evolutionists, like Richard Dawkins and the late John Maynard-Smith of the University of Sussex – then widely regarded as the leading evolutionary theorist. While I moderated the first few debates, I later participated in a debate against Dawkins at Oxford that he later denied ever took place, forcing us to post the full video of the debate online; in that video, it can be seen that Dawkins is not only the principal proponent of the science side, but actually loses the debate in a student vote. I later debated Dawkins again at the Idea City Convention at the University of Toronto, the video of which is likewise available online.

What I learned from these debates, as well as from reading extensively on evolution, is that evolutionists have a tough time defending the theory when challenged in open dialogue.

This does not mean that evolution is not true or that the theory is without merit or evidence. It does, however, corroborate what Perry said. Evolution is a theory. It has never been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be true.

Indeed, Dawkins and the late and celebrated Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould fiercely debated basic assumptions about evolution, with Gould arguing that the large gaps in the fossil record make a mockery of a theory of gradual evolution, which is why Gould advocated "punctuated equilibrium" – a variation on Darwinism in which evolution takes place in dramatic periods of change followed by long eons of stasis. Gould maintained this position precisely because, as Perry said, the theory of evolution has "some gaps in it" – in the case of the fossil record, quite literally.

No scientist has ever witnessed evolution directly; science itself says this is impossible given the vast amount of time needed for species to evolve.

Rather, evidence for evolution is found primarily in the fossil record, and evidence for natural selection stems from some famous contemporary observations. For example, prior to the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of peppered moths (Biston betularia), which can produce light or dark offspring, were light in coloration.

However, with the rise in pollution during the Industrial Revolution, the lichens and trees against which the light-colored moths habitually hid from predators were darkened with soot, making the light-colored moths conspicuous to predatory birds and allowing the dark moths to survive.

A similar proof brought for natural selection is the Galapagos Finch, which Darwin theorized was originally a single species but over time changed very slowly in response to the demands of the environment.

For example, the large ground-finch had a big, powerful beak that seemed well-suited to cracking open seeds, while the vampire finch had a long, pointed beak, which allowed it to puncture the flesh of other birds and drink their blood. In each case, Darwin reasoned, beak shape had evolved over time to provide an adaptive advantage.

THE PROBLEM with both these observations is that they are manifestations of horizontal, rather than vertical, evolution, as they document how members of a species may change within the range of characteristics that they already possess. No new traits are generated. Vertical evolution, whereby natural selection can supposedly create entirely new structures, has yet to be directly observed and is thus a theory.

Other challenges remain regarding evolutionary theory, most notably the anthropic principle, which maintains that if the physical laws and constants governing our universe were even slightly different, we would not be here to notice it because the emergence of life could not have occurred.

The English cosmologist Sir Martin Rees argues in his book Just Six Numbers that the values of six numbers determine to a great degree many of the large- and small-scale properties of our universe, and if any of these were changed, even slightly, the universe might not exist at all.

The second number, epsilon, which is roughly .007, describes, roughly speaking, how durable matter is, because it tells us how much energy is required to separate an atom into its constituent particles. If epsilon were .006 – a difference of about 14% – the universe would consist entirely of hydrogen. No other elements would form, because the process of nuclear fusion could not occur. There would be no planets, very little light, no nebulae, no comets and certainly no life.

The value of epsilon is one of the most profound mysteries of the universe.

Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, in his typically flamboyant way, said of it: "It's one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say 'the hand of God wrote that number...'" Many leading scientists, like Francis Collins – described by the Endocrine Society as "one of the most accomplished scientists of our time" – therefore believe that while evolution may indeed be an accurate theory regarding the rise of life, it still requires the guiding hand of a higher power in order to operate.

Indeed, Dawkins himself said in a famous interview with Ben Stein that the intelligent life in our universe may have come from "a higher intelligence" consisting of space aliens that seeded our planet with intelligent life.

IN THE final analysis, however, the biblical account of creation easily accommodates an evolutionary ascent, seeing as the narrative expressly relates that God created the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and finally human life forms in ascending order.

It would be wise of Krugman to remember that the very essence of science is to question, and that stifling doubt is a sin of which religion has been quite guilty in the past – one science should refrain from repeating in the present.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is in the midst of founding GIVE, the Global Institute for Values Education, and is the author of the upcoming book The Church of Evolution. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiShmuley.

Creationism evolves by jerks


Category: Creationism • History
Posted on: September 5, 2011 10:08 AM, by PZ Myers

I think one thing Razib says is exactly right:

One of the most interesting things to me is the nature of Creationism as an idea which evolves in a rather protean fashion in reaction to the broader cultural selection pressures.

Creationism has evolved significantly, but it's not exactly protean: it's punctuated equilibrium. If we had a time machine and could bring a typical creationist who came to age after Whitcomb and Morris's The Genesis Flood face-to-face with a pre-Scopes trial creationist, there would be a fabulously ferocious fight, because their theology and their basic beliefs would be so radically different. They do change in response to the environment, but reluctantly and not without a lot of hysteresis.

I'd say there were four major shifts in the last century.

Where I disagree with Razib, though, is in his impression of eloquence in this clip of Richard Land defending creationism. Maybe it's because I'm so familiar with this stuff, but I was completely unimpressed: he may have spoken confidently, but the impression of fluidity is false, because that was a rote recital of done-to-death creationist talking points. It was Duane Gish spiced with a superficial seasoning of Michael Behe, a lot of 1961 mixed with a bit of glib 1990s, and rather than supporting the idea of a flexible creationism that evolves in response to cultural pressures, that was a beautiful example of stasis.

Here are Land's arguments distilled down:

I would grant Razib the point that creationists do know how to lie boldly, which allows them to sail through unchallenged in many situations. The clip is a good example: it's from a bloggingheads dialog with Amy Sullivan, that apologist for liberal Christianity, who looks on like a stunned fish while Land regurgitates creationist tropes, and then ignores all the wrongness to move on to a completely different point.

I think that's another source of the impression of eloquence: too often, creationists are paired with incompetent or unprepared opponents who grant them the privilege of lying smoothly. If Sullivan had a bit of wit or even a tiny bit of knowledge about what Land was saying, he could have been exposed as a dishonest fraud fairly easily. And that would have been entertaining.

Healing is believing:?Reiki practitioners transfer energy


September 4, 2011

Emily Newman
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Healing with chakras and energy is a technique that has been around for hundreds of years, but Mikao Usui, a Christian minister and doctor, created the present form of Reiki that is used around the world today in the late 1800s.

Jodi Sweitzer of Peace of Me healing out of Cumberland is a certified Reiki master and healer, trained in channeling chi to heal her patients.

"Reiki is a relaxation method that promotes healing, self growth and personal power," said Sweitzer, adding that the energy goes by several names such as chi, or chakras.

According to Sweitzer, in an effort to learn more about healing energy, Usui visited a Zen monastery in the late 1800s where he read ancient Sanskrit teachings of a disciple of Buddha. After 21 days of practice, using the healing energy, Usui emerged and began to heal those who were ill.

Reiki healing involves practitioners using their hands to transfer the energy, or transferring the energy from afar.

There now are three different levels of Reiki practitioners. Sweitzer is a level three certified Reiki master, meaning that with her training, she can not only practice Reiki, but also teach others how to do it. A person who is in the level two stage is able to do Reiki from afar. Sweitzer said that at level two, if someone not with her had a headache, she would be able to heal them from her own home using energy. Finally, level one is a beginning Reiki healer, one who heals in person with their hands.

Sweitzer said that despite being well known in other cultures and metropolitan areas, it is not a widely used practice in Western Maryland.

"(Local) people don't really know much about it," said Sweitzer.

As with most alternative medicine, Sweitzer said that people are often skeptical of the results. What some may consider an unlikely source, the U.S. government, currently employs Reiki to heal soldiers who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, she pointed out.

"It's working for the soldiers," said Sweitzer.

The Journal of Research and Rehabilitation Development, through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, recommends Reiki for pain management, but has said there are not many conclusive studies on the results and that impact of the treatment varies.

Traditional medicine followers might question the validity of Reiki because of the lack of substantial evidence. Brad Thomas, owner of Oldtown Road Pharmacy, said that positive results are hard to quantify.

"The diagnostics is what I concur with," said Thomas. "Not to say it does not work."

In addition to pharmacy, Thomas is a herbal practitioner and believer in integrative medicine.

Krista Lemons, a resident of Keyser, W.Va., learned Reiki five years ago from her husband. She said that her husband, who is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, was required to learn a healing art by his martial arts master and started practicing Reiki. Lemons said that she became a strong believer after her husband healed her during a hike they were on when she twisted her ankle.

"It really works," said Lemons.

Lemons said that she and her husband do not normally practice Reiki on anyone but themselves and their family.

"We use it on family members," said Lemons. "We like to teach more than practice."

In addition to learning Reiki five years ago, Lemons also had a liver transplant. She said that Reiki really helped her to deal with the pain and healing process following the procedure.

"It's a wonderful healing practice that anyone can give and receive," said Lemons, adding that while it is energy-centric, there is no association with religion.

Emily Newman can be contacted at enewman@times-news.com.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Evolution education update: September 9, 2011

A new poll on evolution and creationism; a voice for evolution from Oregon; and sad news from Kansas of the death of Niall Shanks.


A recent Fox News poll (September 7, 2011) included a question about evolution and creationism. Respondents were asked, "Which do you think is more likely to actually be the explanation for the origin of human life on Earth: the theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin and other scientists, the Biblical account of creation as told in the Bible, or are both true?" The theory of evolution was favored by 21% of respondents, the Biblical account of creation was favored by 45%, the combination answer by 27%, and 7% of respondents said that they didn't know.

Evolution was more popular among Democrats than Republicans (28% to 13%), men than women (24% to 19%), college graduates than non-college-graduates (28% to 16%), the affluent than the non-affluent (28% to 15%), and liberals to conservatives (37% to 11%). In results from 1999, the theory of evolution was favored by 15%, the Biblical account of creation by 50%, the combination answer by 26%, and 9% of respondents said that they didn't know. The poll was conducted by telephone among 911 registered voters from August 29 to August 31, 2011; results based on the full sample have a margin of error of +/- 3%.

For details of the poll, visit:

For NCSE's collection of polls and surveys, visit:


The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a statement on "Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design" from the Oregon Department of Education issued in 2007.

The statement explains, "The Oregon Science Content Standards adopted in April of 2001 clearly require the teaching of evolution" (as do the standards subsequently adopted in 2009). With respect to creationism, the statement quotes from the 1995 document "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law":


Schools may teach about explanations of life on earth, including religious ones (such as "creationism"), in comparative religion or social studies classes. In science class, however, they may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology). Schools may not refuse to teach evolutionary theory in order to avoid giving offense to religion nor may they circumvent these rules by labeling as science an article of religious faith. Public schools must not teach as scientific fact or theory any religious doctrine, including "creationism," although any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught. Just as they may neither advance nor inhibit any religious doctrine, teachers should not ridicule, for example, a student's religious explanation for life on earth.


("Religion in the Public Schools" was endorsed as providing a correct statement of current law governing religion in the public schools by a wide variety of organizations, from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the Christian Legal Society and the National Association of Evangelicals.)

The department's statement is now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

For the statement, visit:

For Voices for Evolution, visit:


The philosopher of science Niall Shanks died on July 13, 2011, at the age of 52, according to the Wichita State University Department of History. Born in Cheshire, England, on January 18, 1959, Shanks received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Leeds in 1979, a M.Phil. in philosophy from the University of Liverpool in 1981, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Alberta in 1987. He was a member of the Department of Philosophy at Eastern Tennessee State University, where he also held positions in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. In 2005, he became the Curtis D. Gridley Distinguished Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Wichita State University. He served as the president of the Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008-2009. Initially focused on the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics, he became interested in evolutionary biology and its implications for biomedical research, writing (with Hugh LaFollette) Brute Science: The Dilemmas of Animal Experimentation (Routledge 1996) and Animals and Science: A Guide to the Debates (ABC-Clio 2002).

Shanks was also profoundly concerned with creationism. In addition to his book God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory (Oxford University Press 2004), which Richard Dawkins described, in his foreword, as "a shrewd broadside in what will, I fear, be a lengthy campaign," Shanks (often with collaborators) criticized creationism in scholarly and popular journals including Philosophy of Science, Metascience, Synthese, Philo, Free Inquiry, and Reports of the NCSE as well as in a contribution to Why Intelligent Design Fails (Rutgers University Press, 2004). His concern was not only academic, though: in 1996, when Tennessee's legislature was considering a bill that would have provided for the suspension or dismissal of any teacher who taught evolution as a fact rather than a theory, Shanks became politically active. He was also not averse to debating creationists, having tangled with the Institute for Creation Research's Duane Gish and the Discovery Institute's William A. Dembski and Paul Nelson. "Not debating people is a very dangerous tactic," he told the Lawrence Journal-World (July 25, 2005), which was reporting on his move to Kansas. "Then they go unchallenged."

For the obituary from the WSU Department of History, visit:

For information about God, the Devil, and Darwin, visit:

For articles by Shanks in Free Inquiry and Reports of the NCSE, visit:

For information about Why Intelligent Design Fails, visit:

For Shanks's debates with Dembski and Nelson (MP3 download), visit:

For the Lawrence Journal-World's article, visit:

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

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

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line:

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Darwinists Like Religion When It Opposes Human Exceptionalism?


The National Center for Science Education has no problem with religious argumentation when it supports neo Darwinism and opposes human exceptionalism.

This is so funny. The National Center for Science Education-which spends a lot of time and money castigating my Discovery Institute pals about wanting to teach intelligent design as supposed "religious advocacy" in public schools (they don't)-apparently have no problem with religious argumentation when it supports neo Darwinism and opposes human exceptionalism. From a promo for a lecture by its Director for Religious Community Outreach, Peter M. J. Hess:

Earth's biosphere is poised on the brink of the sixth mass extinction event during the past 450 million years, this one of human making. Although the factors underlying our looming ecological crises are diverse, one in particular stands at the root: the doctrine of "human exceptionalism." Born of an antiquated notion of the Abrahamic traditions that humans were created to rule over the earth, human exceptionalism has undergirded the philosophy that Homo sapiens--alone of all species--is exempt from biological constraints. This attitude leads to the inevitable failure of our ecological stewardship, and may very well prove fatal to our species and to our planet mates.

Baloney. Human exceptionalism holds, among other tenets, that humans possess solemn duties to the environment and, indeed, to engage in proper "stewardship." Nor does it claim that we are exempt from "biological constraints." That would be ludicrous. I mean, good grief, only transhumanists think that is possible. Moreover, as I have written, religion isn't necessary to believe in HE. Or to put it another way, if being human isn't what requires us to engage in "stewardship," what on earth does?

And get this: Hess's lecture will specifically center around Christian religious concepts-this, by a representative of a science institute dedicated to keeping "religion" out of public schools!

Can we unearth the roots of an alternative theological story that integrates Homo sapiens more fully into creation? Starting from the Pauline conviction that "all creation is groaning together" (Rom. 8:22), I will look at poetic and theological resources within the Roman Catholic tradition that challenge human exceptionalism. I will compare some insights of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Alice Meynell, and Karl Rahner on the relationship between God, humanity, and evolving creation. In the words of Karl Rahner, SJ, "The point at which God in a final selfcommunication irrevocably and definitively lays hold on the totality of the reality created by him is characterized not as spirit but as flesh. It is this which authorizes the Christian to integrate the history of salvation into the history of the cosmos" (Hominization [1958], 55). Creation is the domain of God's redemptive work, capable of bearing the Incarnation and, in turn, of being transfigured by it. Integrating humanity into the evolutionary creation story is essential to articulating a coherent environmental ethic.

What does any of this have to do with Darwinism and "defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools?" These people are shamelessly hypocritical. What a hoot.

Cross-posted from Secondhand Smoke.

Posted by Wesley J. Smith on July 25, 2011 12:51 PM | Permalink

Darwinocracy: The evolution question in American politics


Saturday, September 3, 2011 - Not Your Average Read by Amanda Read

[Editor's note: the Washington Times was founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, under whose editorial control the newspaper operates.]

OHATCHEE, Al. September 3, 2011 — In Going Rogue: An American Life, Sarah Palin recounts the vetting process she experienced before she was selected to be the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008. While being interviewed as a potential candidate for the McCain campaign, all went smoothly until something made the McCain staffers wince.

"I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism," wrote Palin, the daughter of a science teacher. "But I felt I was on solid factual ground."

During the Delaware senate race of the 2010 midterm elections, Chris Coons ordered Christine O'Donnell to "come clean" with voters during a debate. When O'Donnell insisted she had already come clean on every position, Coons mustered up the most devastating, scandalous, humiliating, skeleton-in-the-closet-detecting litmus test he could think of: "Do you believe in evolution?"

Recently, a woman parroted the same query over her little boy's shoulder to Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. The Texas Governor dared to affirm some skepticism of evolution, calling it a theory that has "got some gaps in it."

(That same day, Jon Huntsman, the Obama-appointed ambassador to China and moderate Republican candidate, quickly disassociated himself from that perspective by telling the world via Twitter that he believes in evolution.)

Atheistic evolutionist Richard Dawkins promptly scolded Perry and the Republican Party for its lack of intelligence, particularly in having the audacity to not swallow Darwinian evolution hook, line and sinker.

He told The Washington Post that "the 'evolution question' deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election."

Dawkins, ever the political scholar in touch with America's needs, also criticized the American political process: "There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of dollars, what rises to the top of the heap is George W Bush. Or when the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin can be mentioned as even remote possibilities."

I'm not aware of any historically successful Darwinocracy, so there is no telling what substitute system the professor would prefer.

On the Origin of Species had not been written when the American system was being crafted, so the American founders didn't have to kiss the ring of the British theology-student-turned-naturalist who wrote it.

Various studies conclude that a well-sized slice of the American public doubts "evolution". If that is true, I don't find it too surprising coming from an American society that descends from revolutionaries who were skeptical of establishments. We could easily be wary of scientific or academic as well as political and religious establishments, if any start looking authoritarian enough.

But for some, the Darwinist establishment is very desirable – and questioning it is virtually a crime.

When Chinese paleontologist Jun-Yuan Chen's criticism of Darwinian predictions about the fossil record was met with dead silence from a group of scientists in the U.S., he quipped that, "In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America you can criticize the government, but not Darwin."

In the book God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by Oxford Professor of Mathematics John Lennox (whom I interviewed a few months ago), Lennox observes how interesting it is that Darwinian evolution has become an inextricable aspect of some worldviews:

"In the contemporary scientific world we thus have the very unusual situation that one of science's most influential theories, biological macroevolution, stands in such a close relationship to naturalistic philosophy that it can be deduced from it directly – that is, without even needing to consider any evidence, as the ancient arguments of Lucretius plainly show. This circumstance is extraordinary since it is very difficult to think of another scientific theory that is in a similar position." (Page 98)

He quotes biologist Douglas Futuyma as saying,

"Together with Marx's materialistic theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin's theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism – of much of science, in short – that has been the stage of most Western thought." (Page 87)

Returning to the topic at hand, how should contemporary Americans – particularly our elected officials and political candidates – properly answer the big EQ when they have doubts about evolution?

Let us begin dissecting the meaning and real controversy behind the predictable interrogation.

Q. Do you believe in evolution?

Depending upon context, this is not a "yes or no" question.

As my secular college biology textbook testifies, the Darwinian theory of evolution has two core principles. One of them is natural selection, the process in which individual organisms' adaptation to their environment selects the traits that will be more frequently passed on to successive generations.

There is nothing unconvincing about natural selection. The same concept is utilized in artificial selection, which has been practiced in animal breeding and plant cultivation since way before Darwin's day. To claim that organisms evolve to some extent within their genome is useful, observable, descriptive science.

The other core principle of Darwinian evolution is common descent with modification, which extrapolates that through natural selection, every living thing on Earth evolved to its present form starting from a single, microscopic ancestor now presumed to have arisen some 3.8 billion years ago.

That's the part of evolution that some of us – scientific or otherwise – don't find very convincing.

Brief answer: I believe that Darwin accurately observed the mutability of species within kinds through natural selection, but I sympathize with scientists who are aware of the limits of natural selection and are skeptical of common descent with modification. I am committed to the cause of academic freedom and look forward to further scientific progress.

Q. Why do you hate science?

This is the follow-up question that makes me laugh.

Maybe it's because I grew up personally obsessed with science, and had a home education that gave me the greatest level of academic freedom a student could ask for.

My grandfather was a biology professor and geneticist (likely one of the few people who truly appreciated my endless menagerie of specimens and quirky experiments that I cluttered the schoolroom with). I still have nature journals and drawers stuffed with plants, insects, little bitty fossils, snakes, shells and skulls collected by me or bestowed upon me by freaked out neighbors who knew the weird little girl down the street would find something valuable in them.

Science was always a respected and important topic in my family, so I certainly have never hated it or feared it. Nor have any of my siblings, my registered nurse mother or Ivy-League educated Lieutenant Colonel father hated science. We were never sheltered from the views of evolutionists, but we knew there was more to science than what their pooh bahs declared.

Conventionally schooled childhood friends of mine who hated science (which was borderline blasphemous to me) were under the impression that it was boring because "scientists had everything figured out". A genuine scientist would never insist that.

But shallow curriculum developers and teachers might imply such nonsense because of their patronizing fear of "confusing" children by mentioning that there are unsettled aspects of popular tenets of science - unsettled aspects that students might, in fact, one day be able to investigate and contribute to.

Unconventional skepticism keeps conventional science on its toes, having to cross-examine conclusions otherwise taken for granted. According to historical precedent, you can't go wrong questioning authority in science.

Q. What about Kitzmiller v. Dover? A federal judge ruled that intelligent design is not science!

This year, a federal judge ruled that human life begins at conception. Are you going to live by that judge's understanding of science too?

In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins defines biology as "the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." Design in nature is apparent. The question is whether or not that apparent design is real (and thus intelligent) or an illusion (and thus ultimately a product of chance processes). Dawkins adheres to the evolutionary model, which only permits the possible plausibility of intelligent design if it was some how done by a natural, extraterrestrial being.

The intelligent design movement is propelled by researchers who do not want to shackle evolution with unrealistic expectations. ID proponents believe Darwinism has limits that need to be admitted and investigated (as Lennox explains in the book I mentioned earlier, mathematics and information technology are becoming an important part of biology - something Darwin couldn't have imagined). Creationists agree, but that is not what defines creationism.

Creationism, in contrast, consists of a comprehensive view about the beginnings of the natural world and its inhabitants involving a particular supernatural Creator (i.e. the Biblical God). This view encompasses historical and cultural data as well as scientific data. A field developed by creationists which investigates common descent within kinds is baraminology, which has been called "surprisingly rigorous and internally consistent" by the National Center for Science Education.

Creationism doesn't need to be taught in science class, but criticism of Darwinian evolution should be acknowledged.

Q. But what about separation of church and state?

I'm surprised anybody has an imagination limber enough to think teaching that Darwinism has some doubtful aspects is violating the establishment clause – especially when atheists are always touting that their own disbelief is not a religious establishment.

The paranoia of Darwin loyalists flows through all levels of academia, the one realm where people are supposed to be able to debate without having to worry about hurting somebody's feelings. The Louisiana Science Education Act simply allowed "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" in public elementary and secondary schools upon request.

It even included a provision specifying that it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

That is still too disruptive to the delicate internal balance of Darwinocrats.

This brings to my mind the irony of atheists wanting to sue over the World Trade Center cross at Ground Zero. These people can stare down a double-helix and not see a clue of semiotic intelligence, but all of a sudden a cross-shaped chunk of metal left over from a destroyed tower screams provocative religious doctrine (yes, they said it gives them "dyspepsia").

If we all abide by their queasy standard of oppression, many of us might as well conclude that every single human being is a walking, talking, physiological violation of separation of church and state.

We've been through the evolutionist interrogation now. Marvin Olasky has outlined some good questions for the candidates who believe in evolution.

Since this is supposed to be an important topic that will determine American presidential candidates' judgment on a wide variety of issues (according to Dawkins), I would like to pose one to our current Darwinist in Chief:

How is that belief in Darwinian evolution working for you, President Obama?

Amanda Read is an unconventional scholar, a Southerner without an accent, a Christian who hasn't been a churchgoer in 17 years and a college student who lives with eight younger siblings. A writer and artist, she blogs at www.amandaread.com and is the author of the historical drama screenplay The Crusading Chemist. Amanda is majoring in history and minoring in political science at Troy University.

Many skeptics to Darwin's theory


Posted: Sunday, September 4, 2011 1:00 am

By Russ Sukhia

The prevailing view in the scientific community is that there was a time when there was absolutely nothing - no stars, no planets, no natural laws and no preexistent creator.

Then, for a reason unknown to us, there was a big bang, and everything that now exists came into being.

Of most interest to mankind, this included our solar system, with a planet ideally suited to sustain life as we know it, along with the raw materials necessary, and the processes in place, which would actually create that life out of non-living matter.

As Stephen Hawking himself reportedly said, "The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous." Protein scientist Douglas Axe wrote in The Journal of Molecular Biology that the likelihood that protein sequences which are required for life formed by purely natural Darwinian processes was "less than one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion."

According to Dr. John G. West of the Discovery Institute, "more than 800 doctoral scientists have signed 'A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism,' announcing they are 'skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life', and urging 'careful examination for the evidence for Darwinian theory.'"

Many Christians, myself included, accept micro-evolution as self-evident. We believe that all breeds of dogs descended from a single pair. But the testimony of our reason agrees with God's Word: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Russ Sukhia


© 2011 Carroll County Times

The Republicans are now the anti-science party


On climate change and evolution, the party's presidential hopefuls are wilfully ignorant

Paul Krugman
The Observer, Saturday 3 September 2011

Jon Huntsman Jr, a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn't a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that's too bad, because Mr Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the Republican party in the United States, namely, that it is becoming the "anti-science party". This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the Republican nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as "just a theory", one that has "got some gaps in it", an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got people's attention was what he said about climate change: "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change."

That's a remarkable statement – or maybe the right adjective is "vile".

The second part of Mr Perry's statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming – which includes 97% to 98% of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences – is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all, you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of the future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilisation-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, "manipulating data" to create a fake threat. In his book Fed Up, he dismissed climate science as a "contrived phoney mess that is falling apart".

I could point out that Mr Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind. Mr Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr Romney, the other leading contender for the Republican nomination, responded to Mr Perry's challenge? In trademark fashion: by running away. In the past, Mr Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But last week he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but "I don't know that" and "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans". Moral courage!

Of course, we know what's motivating Mr Romney's sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21% of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35% believe in evolution). Within the Republican party, wilful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So it's now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party's base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the Republican party, extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of "charlatans and cranks" – as one of former president George W Bush's chief economic advisers famously put it – to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to "fancy theories" that conflict with "common sense", the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyse things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don't know who will win next year's presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges – environmental, economic, and more – that's a terrifying prospect.

©New York Times

Denying Evolution and Denying Global Warming: Is There a Biblical Link?


Michael Ruse
Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University

Posted: 9/3/11 09:51 AM ET

I am fascinated and a little puzzled at the connection that apparently exists today in certain segments of society between evolution and global warming. More particularly, at the connection between denial of evolution and denial of global warming. I don't think the two are necessarily connected. I don't suppose you could think the world was created yesterday and believe in global warming (meaning human-made global warming), but you could surely believe that the world was created 6,000 years ago and believe in global warming. Conversely, you could think that the earth is very old and that evolution occurred and deny global warming.

But the front runners for the Republican nomination for next year's presidential race link the two. No evolution. No global warming. And my question is: Why? Or, more specifically, are the denials connected? I very much suspect that they are and that the link is evangelical Christianity -- the kind that entails an idiosyncratic, supposedly literal reading of Genesis.

People think that Genesis implies no evolution and that Genesis also implies no global warming. My question is whether the link is common cause or cause and effect. Do people find in Genesis independent evidence against evolution and against global warming, or is it a matter of finding evidence for the one that -- even if the link is not logically necessary -- strongly suggests the truth of the other?

I take it that the independence case would be something like: Take the six-day story of creation, throw in Noah's Flood and you simply cannot believe in evolution. Since Genesis is true, evolution must be false. Now take the stuff about God giving us dominion over the animals and all of the earth, and perhaps throw in the promises to Abraham, and if you want to go to Exodus, the bit about milk and honey, and global warming must be false. God is simply not going to let His creation come to a burning end, or at least not through our actions. If He decides to do it, that is up to Him.

I take it that the cause and effect argument would be something like this: Modern science insists on the truth of evolution. But we know that evolution is false. Hence we should not accept modern science, at least not at face value. Why then should we accept warnings about global warming? In both cases we are getting predictions (or retrodictions) about times other than the present. If science is so unreliable about the past, why should we take it seriously about the future? The Bible is the guide to the past. The Bible is also a guide to the future. Leave it at that.

It seems to me that either link is plausible, not in the sense that either is true (I believe in evolution and in global warming), but in the sense that people might be reasoning in either way. I don't think it a priori obvious that being an evangelical Christian literalist means that one option is to be preferred over the other. But I would be interested to know if one option is preferred over the other, if this is generally so and why.

Can a Darwinian be a Christian?: The Relationship between Science and Religion
by Michael Ruse

A Misguided Attempt to Critique Intelligent Design: A Response to John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One


Casey Luskin September 3, 2011 6:49 AM | Permalink

This weekend I'm giving a presentation on the scientific evidence for intelligent design (ID) at a conference in Chicago where the keynote speaker is the BioLogos-affiliated Old Testament scholar John Walton. On the plane flight here, I decided to read Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One (InterVarsity, 2009), which aims to convince readers that the best way to interpret Genesis 1 is to assume it carries no meaningful scientific implications for the modern reader. As I'm not an expert in ancient Hebrew language or Biblical hermeneutics, I have no intention of expressing an opinion on Walton's basic thesis about how to interpret Genesis 1.

But there were two surprising elements that struck me as I read Walton's book: (1) How much space Walton devotes to ID, Discovery Institute, and public education (all topics far removed from interpreting Genesis), and (2) How inaccurate Walton's discussion of ID was. Here I will express some opinions on Walton's claims.

Walton Misses the Positive Argument for Intelligent Design

Like many BioLogos-affiliated ID-critics, Walton critiques false characterizations of ID rather than the actual theory of ID as defined by its proponents. In that regard, Walton frames ID as a purely negative argument against Darwinian evolution:

In other words, ID does not offer a theory of origins. It offers conclusions from observations in the natural world and posits that those observations argue against the reigning paradigm of Neo-Darwinism. It must be noted, however, that even as many might grant weaknesses in the reigning paradigm, ID would only be one among many possible alternatives ... Its basic premise is a negative one: "that natural selection (i.e. natural selection, random mutation) cannot fully account for life as we know it." (pp. 126-127)

One would think that if you're going to define ID then you would quote from a leading ID proponent--say Stephen Meyer or Michael Behe. Not Walton's book. If you'll notice, at the end of this quote Walton is quoting someone else ostensibly defining intelligent design--he's quoting from a book by two outsiders to the ID movement, Thomas Fowler and Daniel Kuebler.

Had Walton defined ID by citing a leading ID proponent like Stephen Meyer or Michael Behe, perhaps readers might have learned that ID is not merely a negative argument against evolution, but rather is based upon a positive argument. This positive argument for design is based upon finding in nature the type of complexity which in our experience comes from intelligence. This means that ID isn't just "one among many possible alternatives," but that ID postulates specific causes which can uniquely explain the data we observe. As Stephen Meyer writes:

[W]e have repeated experience of rational and conscious agents--in particular ourselves--generating or causing increases in complex specified information, both in the form of sequence-specific lines of code and in the form of hierarchically arranged systems of parts. In the first place, intelligent human agents--in virtue of their rationality and consciousness--have demonstrated the power to produce information in the form of linear sequence-specific arrangements of characters. Indeed, experience affirms that information of this type routinely arises from the activity of intelligent agents. A computer user who traces the information on a screen back to its source invariably comes to a mind--that of a software engineer or programmer. The information in a book or inscriptions ultimately derives from a writer or scribe--from a mental, rather than a strictly material, cause. Our experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent. ... The causal powers that natural selection lacks--almost by definition--are associated with the attributes of consciousness and rationality--with purposive intelligence. Thus, by invoking design to explain the origin of new biological information, contemporary design theorists are not positing an arbitrary explanatory element unmotivated by a consideration of the evidence. Instead, they are positing an entity possessing precisely the attributes and causal powers that the phenomenon in question requires as a condition of its production and explanation.

(Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

Similarly Meyer writes in Signature in the Cell:

[T]he discovery of the specified digital information in the DNA molecule provides strong grounds for inferring that intelligence played a role in the origin of DNA. Indeed, whenever we find specified information and we know the causal story of how that information arose, we always find that it arose from an intelligent source.

(Stephen C. Meyer. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design, p. 347 (HarperOne, 2009).)

Walton also tries to portray irreducible complexity as merely a negative argument against Darwinian evolution (p. 126). He's right that irreducible complexity is a challenge to Darwinian explanations, but as Michael Behe explains, it is also a positive argument for design:

[I]rreducibly complex systems such as mousetraps and flagella serve both as negative arguments against gradualistic explanations like Darwin's and as positive arguments for design. The negative argument is that such interactive systems resist explanation by the tiny steps that a Darwinian path would be expected to take. The positive argument is that their parts appear arranged to serve a purpose, which is exactly how we detect design.

(Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Afterward, pgs. 263-264 (Free Press, Reprint), emphasis added.)

Walton never mentions that ID is based upon a positive argument. As a result of wrongly claiming ID is based upon a "negative" argument, he further claims ID "does not contribute to the advance of scientific understanding because it does not offer an alternative that is scientifically testable and falsifiable." (p.127)

Again, Walton is wrong, as ID makes a variety of testable and falsifiable predictions. As explained here, some of ID's concrete and testable predictions include:

In that regard, ID also contributes to an advance of scientific understanding, including:

For more details on how ID helps generate new scientific knowledge, see: Does Intelligent Design Help Science Generate New Knowledge?.

Winning the Debate by Defining ID out of Science

In my experience, theistic evolutionists often try to marginalize ID as being outside of science. Walton adopts this strategy, as seen in the following passage from his book:

[E]ven as ID proposes that N-D [neo-Darwinism] fails to provide adequate naturalistic mechanisms to explain the existence of "irreducible complexities," the response of science has not been to admit that there must be a designer. Instead critique from a variety of sources has prompted continuing work to offer alternative naturalistic mechanisms that will remedy the inadequacies of N-D. This is how science works--it seeks out other scientific explanations. If scientists simply threw up their hands and admitted that a metaphysical, teleological explanation was necessary they would be departing from that which is scientific. (p. 130)

The implication, of course, is that if we adopt ID then we have abandoned "scientific explanations." Here, Walton is taking the BioLogos approach of defining the debate such that ID is outside of "science" and ID proponents as not "scientists." But ID is not unscientific, and it's not merely "a metaphysical, teleological explanation." Rather, ID uses the scientific method to make its claims.

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

Thus, ID employs the scientific method to detect intelligent causes in nature.

Missing the Scope and Breadth of Intelligent Design

When discussing ID's arguments, Walton focuses only on irreducible complexity, implying that it is the only argument for design. But there are many other arguments for design. The founding book of the modern ID movement, The Mystery of Life's Origin, written in the 1980s, makes the case for design based upon information in DNA. Many other thinkers have expanded and elaborated that argument, most notably Stephen Meyer in Signature in the Cell. Walton also ignores extensive arguments for design based upon cosmic fine-tuning and a correlation between the requirements for habitability and scientific discovery, as explained and developed by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards in their 2004 book The Privileged Planet.

A final area where Walton oddly ignores the contribution of ID thinkers is in non-scientific areas. I truly do not understand this next comment from Walton, as he can't even admit that pro-ID thinkers contribute to his fields of Biblical interpretation and theology:

They offer no theory of origins nor do they attempt to interpret the Bible or contribute to theological thinking. (p. 128)

Let me get this straight: According to Walton, ID isn't science and offers no scientific theory, but it also makes no contributions to theology. If ID isn't science, and it isn't theology, then what in Walton's view is ID?

In any case, we've already seen that ID does offer a positive theory of design detection. Walton is also wrong to claim that ID proponents offer no contributions to Biblical interpretations or theology.

Ironically, one of the books Walton cites at the end of this chapter (p. 131) is William Dembski's book Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology. Walton's citation leaves off the subtitle, never informing readers that one major aspect of this book is to explore how ID helps us understand theology, namely how we interpret God's actions in the world.

While the vast majority of ID literature is scientifically oriented, you can also find areas where Christian ID proponents help readers understand how ID coheres with Biblical interpretations. Phillip Johnson, for example, explains in his books Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds and The Wedge of Truth that ID can help give religious believers new insights into the meaning of Romans 1 and John 1.

Walton might disagree with ID, but to claim that ID proponents make no contributions to theology or Biblical interpretation reflects a gross lack of familiarity with the writings of ID proponents.

Walton Misstates Discovery Institute's Reasons for Opposing Mandating ID in Public Schools

To his credit, Walton correctly acknowledges that Discovery Institute "do[es] not promote a requirement to teach Intelligent Design." (p. 157) However, he then claims that we have adopted this policy because of a lack of scientific depth to ID:

We have proposed that Genesis 1 does not offer a competing descriptive mechanism for material origins, and Intelligent Design likewise does not currently have a replacement model to propose. The Discovery Institute, a think tank that explores Intelligent Design, agrees with this assessment. They do not promote a requirement to teach Intelligent Design. (p. 157)

Walton wrongly thinks he has the ability to speak for the Discovery Institute, and in fact most people at Discovery Institute would not agree with his assessment that ID is insufficiently developed to be part of a science curriculum.

The reason Discovery Institute opposes mandating ID in public schools stems not from a lack of content to form an ID-based science curriculum. Rather, the priority of Discovery Institute is to see ID develop as a scientific theory, and forcing ID into public schools would take the debate out of the scientific realm and force it into the political realm. Thus Discovery Institute's Science Education Policy page states that our education policies aim to avoid politicizing ID:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community.

So Walton is wrong to claim that somehow Discovery Institute "agrees" that ID lacks a model. ID has a theory of design detection that has been mature for a number of years, and it continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate. Our policy against mandating ID stems from a desire to focus the debate about ID in the scientific realm, not the political arena.

Walton Wrongly Denies Science can Detect Design

We make design inferences every day. Forensic scientists are in the business of discriminating between naturally caused deaths and intelligently caused deaths. Archaeologists have learned how to distinguish between intelligently designed artifacts and natural caused structures. The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is devoted to scanning the skies for radio signals that come from natural phenomena like pulsars vs. radio signals sent by an extraterrestrial civilization.

Yet Walton asserts that science cannot detect design. He writes:

Science is not capable of exploring a designer or his purposes. It could theoretically investigate design but has chosen not to by the parameters it has set for itself ... Therefore, while alleged irreducible complexities and mathematical equations and probabilities can serve as a critique for the reigning paradigm, empirical science would not be able to embrace Intelligent Design because science has placed an intelligent designer outside its parameters as subject to neither empirical verification nor falsification. (p. 127)

Here, Walton has misframed ID as if it studies designers and their purposes rather than seeking to detect design in nature. William Dembski explains how ID actually works:

Given that Walton says that "science can only deal with causation sequences" (p. 116), it would seem that there is no barrier to us understanding how intelligent design is an information-generating cause we can detect in nature. In fact, Behe explains that we can detect design in nature without necessarily studying the designer or its purposes:

The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.

(Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, p. 197 (Free Press, 1996).)

Conclusion: Walton's 'Separate Realms' View Plays Into Atheism's Endgame

John Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One makes the following mistakes about intelligent design:

(As a final item, the book also wrongly claims that ID thinkers don't contribute to theology.)

As noted at the beginning of this article, I am not expressing an opinion on Walton's proposed way of reading Genesis 1. But I do want to offer some parting thoughts about his overall view of the relationship between science and faith.

Walton is adamant that science can say nothing about God or design, writing "Science cannot offer access to God and cannot establish his existence ... nor falsify his existence." (p. 116) While perhaps science cannot absolutely prove God's existence, Walton writes as if science could never detect God's action, and thus suggests that when God acts, He must do it through processes that are "undetectable by science" (p. 139). Walton seems to think that by denying that Genesis can make any meaningful claims about the natural world, and by denying that science can detect design, he's protected religion from any attacks from science. This appears to be a major motive behind his thesis.

Walton appears to have adopted a position something like Stephen Jay Gould's "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA) model of science and religion, where science and religion operate in separate realms. Though Walton doesn't use the term "separate realms," the idea that science and religion are (or at least ought to be) separate realms permeates his book.

Francis Collins, whose endorsement of The Lost World of Genesis One appears on both the front and back covers, would certainly agree. As Collins has stated, "Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science."

But what happens when God doesn't follow Dr. Collins' rules, and religion claims that the "spiritual world" has influenced the natural world in a real, measurable fashion? When Darwinism answers questions traditionally within the religious domain--such as the origin of religion and morality itself--guess who has to shut up and leave the conversation? As ID-proponent Phillip Johnson has insightfully commented, under NOMA, science and religion are "'separate but equal' of the apartheid variety." This parable explains:

One day a NOMA-selling Darwinian scientist and a priest walk into a bar. The evolutionary scientist says, "Priest, our side won't talk about religion if your side won't talk about science." Thinking this deal will protect religion from the attacks of Darwinian scientists, the priest replies "OK."

The next day, the Darwinian biologist goes around arguing that religion and morality were not divinely inspired but evolved by random mutation and unguided selection to help us survive, and that the human mind is just a meat-computer with no soul. "Such is the progress of science," says the scientist, "and you faith-heads better not stand in its way."

Perhaps the priest should have realized that the evolutionary biologist never intended to uphold his end of the bargain.

In Walton's vision, science and religion will be playing wholly different games. In his formulation, this saves religion from any threats from science. In exchange, Walton promises to keep science free of intelligent design. The problem is that the motive for this bargain isn't based upon seeking truth and recognizing that we can detect design using scientific methods; it seems based upon a pragmatic desire to save religion from attack.

Personally, I'm most interested in seeking truth. But if Walton wants to be pragmatic, here's some practical advice:

Many atheists feel that religion in general, and Genesis in particular, make certain truth claims, and they feel those truth claims are overturned by modern science. That's a big part of why they're atheists.

Many scientifically trained religious persons respond to atheists by contending that a fair and accurate assessment of modern scientific findings corroborates, rather than refutes, the truth claims of religion. This rebuttal confronts the false claims of atheism head-on.

Walton wants religious persons to take a different approach and deny that religion make any empirically testable truth claims. Thus, he suggests that we should believe that God is "working alongside or through physical and biological processes in a way that science cannot detect." (p.120) That bland view seems to add an unnecessary and dubious assumption, as we should not assume that God's actions could never be detected by science. If the theory of intelligent design is correct, Walton's assumption might not just be wrong, but it could hinder the progress of science.

Here's a pragmatic angle: Theists who accept Walton's view lose a major rational basis for challenging those atheists. Walton's view leaves many atheist objections to religion totally unanswered--I think the atheists know who got the better end of Walton's bargain.