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Walter Watts
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virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public schools
« on: 2004-12-12 16:09:58 »
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Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public
schools

By Charles C. Haynes

First Amendment Center

Is Darwin winning the battle, but losing the war?

As soon as one challenge to the teaching of evolution is beaten in the
courts, another emerges to take its place.

The current contender is "intelligent design," a theory that according
to advocates at the Discovery Institute "makes no religious claims, but
says that the best natural evidence for life's origins points to design
rather than a process of random mutation and natural selection."

Having failed twice to persuade the U. S. Supreme Court that
"creationism" is a legitimate scientific theory, anti-evolutionists have
seized on intelligent design as the next great hope for getting an
alternative to Darwinism into the science classroom.

This year alone, challenges to evolution have been mounted in 13 states.
For example, a Wisconsin school board mandated teaching "various
scientific models or theories of origin." And a school district in
Georgia has been taken to court for putting a label on biology textbooks
stating that evolution is "a theory, not a fact."

But last month the Dover, Pa., school board took the boldest step of all
by voting to include the teaching of intelligent design in science
instruction.

Eighty years after Clarence Darrow debated William Jennings Bryan during
the "Monkey trial" of 1925, millions of Americans still don't buy
evolution. According to a Gallup Poll conducted in November, only 35% of
us believe that Darwin's theory is supported by evidence. Another 35%
say evolution isn't supported by evidence and
29% don't know enough to say.

Scientists take note. Despite winning court battles and dominating
textbooks for decades, evolutionists continue to lose the war of public
opinion. The science establishment blames this on "religious
fundamentalists." But that same Gallup Poll reveals that 45% of
Americans believe that "God created man in present form," while
38% believe "man developed with God guiding." Only 13% say "man
developed with no help from God." Resistance to evolutionary theory can
be found across the religious spectrum.

Theist evolutionists (including the current pope) attempt to reconcile
evolution and faith. But the prevailing view in science holds that
accounts of the origin and development of life are explained only by
non-purposive, undirected natural processes. Hence the appeal of
intelligent design to many people of faith. The design argument
challenges natural selection - leaving the door open for traditional
views of a Creator God.

Critics of evolution understand what's at stake. Of course, religious
alternatives to evolution could be discussed in public schools (in
social studies, perhaps). But intelligent design advocates aren't
content to be relegated to the "non-scientific" arena, especially in
view of the exalted place "scientific truth" holds in our society. They
seek to challenge evolution on scientific grounds.

But is it science? I'm not qualified to say, but a great many scientists
say "no." The National Center for Science Education and other
organizations representing scientists are leading the charge in school
districts across the nation, dismissing intelligent design as a
creationist wolf in designer clothing.

School board members in Dover and other places aren't buying that
argument. Because it's legal to teach "a variety of scientific theories
about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren" (as the Supreme Court
put it in Edwards v. Aguillard), they're anxious to find a theory that
might pass constitutional muster.

Enter intelligent design. Do school boards in Dover and elsewhere
actually know whether or not intelligent design is good science?
Probably not. In fact, few high school science teachers (who are being
asked to teach it) are prepared to answer that question.

It may sound reasonable and fair to vote for including "competing
theories" in the curriculum. But without first understanding what is and
isn't good science, such votes only lead to court battles - and bad
education.

If school board resolutions aren't the answer, who decides what, if any,
critiques of evolution get into the curriculum?

The short answer is - or should be - scientists decide. But many in the
science establishment worry that teaching the controversy - even
conflicts among scientists about some aspects of evolutionary theory -
would open the door to creationist or other religious views. That's why
so many scientists and science educators oppose any attempt to expose
kids to debate over intelligent design or any other challenge to evolution.

But here's the rub. The strategy of exclusion may win court cases (at
least thus far), but it shuts down the debate. And shutting down debate
isn't good for academic freedom or critical thinking. Moreover, it
doesn't work. Without understanding this controversy (and some of the
historical and philosophical reasons for it), many students will
continue to resist or distrust the claims of science.

Yet wouldn't "teaching the controversy" simply confuse students and
undermine the prevailing theory? Not necessarily. Consider the April
2002 issue of Natural History with brief position statements for three
proponents of intelligent design - and three responses from
evolutionists. Surely there's room in the public school curriculum for
exposing students to this debate and helping them to engage the issues.

If the aim of science education is scientific literacy, then students
must learn the prevailing theories in science. But if we expect them to
believe what they hear, they must also learn something about the
conflicts and controversies surrounding those theories.

For anyone who cares about good science education, winning court battles
isn't enough. Winning the hearts and minds of students is what really
counts.

Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, 1101
Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22209. Web: www. firstamendmentcenter. org.
E-mail: chaynes@freedomforum.org.
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Re: virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public schools
« Reply #1 on: 2004-12-13 03:27:08 »
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Thanks Walter - this always makes my blood boil.

Maybe it's exactly what some fanatics want to hear (implicitly classifying
evolutionary theory as religion): but how about labelling the bible such,
"(Not even) a theory, (most definitely) not a fact?"

How about labelling everything "not a fact, cf. Kant et al."?

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Re:virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public
« Reply #2 on: 2004-12-13 05:25:18 »
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Science Fiction
by Gregg Easterbrook
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml%3Fi%3Dexpress%26s%3Deasterbrook121304

Sometime soon a federal court will rule on a disclaimer that the Board of Education of Cobb County, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, has ordered placed on high-school biology textbooks. Stickers bearing the disclaimer say, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.

This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." In many states, opponents of the teaching of Darwinian thought are proposing variations on the Cobb County approach: formal declarations to students that evolutionary theory may be wrong, or alternative instruction in "intelligent design," a quasi-scientific theory that holds there must be a guiding intellect behind life.

National press coverage of the Cobb County disclaimer has been 100 percent negative, invoking, of course, the Hollywood stereotype of narrow-minded Southern rubes rioting at the Scopes trial. Actually the 1925 Scopes trial was an orderly event at which the anti-Darwin faction listened respectfully to pro-science arguments and the word "creationism" was never mentioned in court, but that's beside the point. The Cobb County board protests that it has not ordered the teaching of creationism, only asked for skepticism toward current science dogma, and isn't skepticism healthy? Here is the board's policy statement regarding instruction on natural selection, which says the school district "believes discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education." Hard to argue with that.

Speaking as someone who is on record as thinking it's good for students to debate these topics--here is a 2000 Wall Street Journal article by yours truly saying that students should be taught a range of views regarding the origin of life, then encouraged to argue them through--the Cobb County sticker nevertheless makes me wince, and not just because I don't like the modern fad for disclaimers. What makes me wince is that Darwin's theory has nothing to do with "the origin of living things." The wording of the ridiculous disclaimer shows that the Cobb County Board of Education has no idea what it is talking about.

Darwin's hypothesis and its contemporary interpretations (usually called the "synthetic theory" of evolution for reasons that don't matter here) concern how living things, once they exist, respond to changes in their environments. That living things evolve in response to changes in climate and competitive pressure from other living things seems as close to certain as any assumption of science. Natural selection administers the process, causing adaptations that increase fitness to be favored (in most cases) and adaptations that decrease fitness to fade (in most cases).

Natural selection is driven by chance, namely random mutations in the copying of DNA, but acts as though it were guided, because genes that confer advantages are more likely to be reproduced than genes that do not. The evidence for natural selection in the evolution of living things is overwhelming. Our planet orbits around its star; like charges repel and unlike charges attract; the speed of light is absolute regardless of the frame of reference of the observer; geologic forces are uniform over time; living things evolve in response to change. Only flat-Earth types say otherwise on any of these points.

None of this bears on "the origin of living things," which ranks, with the origin of the firmament itself, with the deepest mysteries of existence. Darwin's theory of evolution is silent on how life began--the great man took pains to say that he did not have the slightest idea. (Darwin mused that a "warm pond" of chemicals struck by lightning might have been the primordial site of first life, but also called this no more than an unsubstantiated musing.) Here, yours truly goes over some of the scientific speculation on how life might have begun; all current speculation is weak, to say the least. Here, Science magazine, the world's foremost technical journal, profiles a German theorist who recently proposed that the first "prebiotic" compounds arose from volcanic activity. The article also details how little is known about the origin of life.

Natural selection believably explains how eohippus evolved into the horse, or how homo hablis evolved into homo sapiens sapiens. But evolutionary theory does not give any clue regarding the manner in which life began, and it remains very, very hard to imagine how chance forces could have caused the leap from inanimate disorder to a living, self-organizing world. Bear in mind that Thomas R. Cech, a 1989 Nobel laureate in chemistry and author of the theory that the earliest self-reproducing cells were based on RNA, has said that the origin of life is so improbable it must have been a "near miracle."

Perhaps there is some natural explanation for the origin of life, so far unknown to us. But if life began on a chance basis in a natural system containing zero knowledge, why have researchers been unable to create life today in labs, working with the advantage of modern understanding of biology? Numerous attempts to create life in the lab have failed. Until such time as a natural explanation for the origin of life may be shown, there is no reason serious people cannot entertain the prospect that we are the result of a system of evolution that was originally put into action by a creator God.

But please, Cobb County Board of Education, if you must place your idiotic sticker on textbooks, at least make it scientifically accurate. Darwinianism is silent on the origin of life. Whoever is advising the Cobb County Board of Education appears to have no grasp of the theory of evolution, which does tend to play to the Scopes-trial Southern-rube stereotype, doesn't it?

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor at TNR and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
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Re:virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public
« Reply #3 on: 2004-12-14 09:36:01 »
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Heh, the article from "The New Republic" in the last post (which was not dispatched to the mailing list) takes the historically proven approach of withdrawing God as much as necessary but no more

Anyway... since we are into textbook disclaimer stickers, keep these ones handy:

http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/
http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/textbookdisclaimers.pdf

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Re: virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public schools
« Reply #4 on: 2004-12-18 01:50:34 »
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Here are some interesting “Disclaimer Stickers for Science Textbooks”:

    http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers

_____________

Gorogh <gorogh@pallowrun.de> wrote:
Thanks Walter - this always makes my blood boil.

Maybe it's exactly what some fanatics want to hear (implicitly classifying
evolutionary theory as religion): but how about labelling the bible such,
"(Not even) a theory, (most definitely) not a fact?"

How about labelling everything "not a fact, cf. Kant et al."?

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Re:virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public
« Reply #5 on: 2004-12-18 02:08:19 »
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Crap.  I knew I should have sifted through all my e-mail—to see whether anyone else posted a link ot those disclaimers—before posting a link to that myself.  Grr.
    (I especially like the one about gravity.)
_____________

rhinoceros <rhinoceros@freemail.gr> wrote:

Heh, the article from "The New Republic" in the last post (which was not dispatched to the mailing list) takes the historically proven approach of withdrawing God as much as necessary but no more

Anyway... since we are into textbook disclaimer stickers, keep these ones handy:

http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/
http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/textbookdisclaimers.pdf
       
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RE: virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public schools
« Reply #6 on: 2004-12-18 02:31:15 »
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...i dont know if anyone caught this news bit but according to the FCC, of
all "radio content" complaints filed for the year 2003, 99.8% of them were
submitted by a group called the "parents television council" headed by a
Brent Bosell.  democracy at its best?


DrSebby.
"Courage...and shuffle the cards".


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Re:virus: Darwin under fire (again): Intelligent design vs. evolution in public
« Reply #7 on: 2004-12-18 08:31:18 »
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http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/

[LenKen]
Crap.  I knew I should have sifted through all my e-mail—to see whether anyone else posted a link ot those disclaimers—before posting a link to that myself.  Grr.
(I especially like the one about gravity.)


[rhinoceros]
I was not sure myself whether it had been posted before, but that didn't hold me back.

You meant this one:

"This textbook contains material on gravity. Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding a force that cannot be directly seen. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

A very good sticker. Let me try to do as it says and open my mind a bit
As the saying goes, "There is no gravity; the Earth sucks, like a Hoover".


Flat Earthers oppose theory of gravity
http://www.umsl.edu/studentlife/current/stagnant2002/story18.html

Lashing out after years of obscurity, supporters of the Flat Earth Coalition staged a protest outside the Physics Department last Monday, March 25. Waving signs that read "There Is No Gravity-The Earth Sucks," the group was demanding equal time for the teaching of their alternative to the Theory of Gravity in the University's physics classes.

"Every scientist knows there are more flaws in the Theory of Gravity than in the Theory of Evolution, yet the Creativitists get all the attention," asserted spokesperson Mandy Grouchy. "We demand that the Physics Department offer students our "Intelligent Vacuum" Theory, along with the Theory of Gravity. After all, it's only a theory.

Our organization believes that since our holy text does not mention a spherical Earth, it is wrong to assume the Earth is not flat," explained Grouchy. "But we are reasonable, and we developed a scientific-looking response. We know that space is a vacuum, and so the the other side of our flat Earth is a vacuum. This means that it is the suction created by that vacuum on that holds objects onto the Earth, not some anti-spiritual force called 'gravity'. This fact is clearly supported by our holy text. We are further supported our theory by finding flaws in the accepted but mistaken "Theory of Gravity."
<snip>


[rhinoceros]
In fact we Virians have been open minded enough to check other alternatives as well. See for example this thread from a couple yeas ago, when I was nitpicking on an idea of ol' Blunderov's.


A question of momentous gravity
"Earth does not suck, it's the universe that blows!"
http://virus.lucifer.com/virus/5508.html


Unfortunately that discussion was inconclusive, because the experiment  suggested for testing the theory wouldn't work... I think. But I do find a perverse satisfaction in this kind of left-brained jokes -- they are serious jokes

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