Thursday, June 30, 2005
A Journey Through Time: Rocks of Ages
Third in a series on the age, formation and geology of the Grand Canyon.
We have dealt with the assertion by creationist John Turney in a commentary in the Cincinnati Enquirer that "evolutionists" assume that "the Grand Canyon's rock always had its current concrete-like consistency." (Scroll down to read our earlier posts.)
Today, RSR will take a look at Mr. Turney's second assertion: "[Evolutionists] were not present during the Grand Canyon's formation. Therefore they turn their assumptions into "fact." What they conveniently fail to mention is that geologically younger rocks are near the bottom of the Grand Canyon, while geologically older rocks are near the top. This is the reverse of what should be found if evolutionary theory were true."
True, no "evolutionist" or geologist was there during the Grand Canyon's formation, but, that doesn't mean we can't learn how it happened by studying the canyon as we now find it. One of the ways that geologists study the history of the earth or a geological feature such as the Grand Canyon is to observe the geological processes that are occurring today -- volcanism, deposition of sediments, erosion, plate tectonics -- to understand how geological features were created in the past.
This is something human beings do all the time. As the popular CBS television show "CSI" demonstrates -- in a somewhat over-dramatic fashion, the methods of science can be used to reconstruct events that happened in the past -- such as a murder -- that no outside observer has witnessed. That evidence is so convincing, it can be used in a court of law to convince a jury of the guilt of a murderer.
The evidence about the formation of the Grand Canyon is as convincing as any forensics testimony introduced into a court of law -- real or dramatized.
Now, let's get back to the canyon...
Below the Tonto Plateau as our group hiked down the last few miles to the Colorado River along Hermit Creek, the canyon narrowed. We were entering the inner gorge. The rock strata turned black. We were now hiking through the Vishnu Schist, an early Pre-Cambrian metamorphic rock first laid down as sediments of shale, sandstone, and limestone beginning about 2 billion years ago.
These sediments were metamorphosed by the enormous heat and pressure of volcanic action -- the result of plate tectonics.
As the sediments of the Vishnu Schist were being metamorphosed, molten magma intruded into seams in the rock forming the Zoroaster Granite. This is important to geologists, because rock from volcanic action, such as the Zoroaster Granite, can be quite accurately dated using radiometric methods.
All volcanic rocks and minerals contain minute amounts of radioactive material. These radioactive elements are unstable, over time they spontaneously decay into more stable atoms.
This decay occurs at a constant rate specific to each isotope -- isotopes are different forms of a single element that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. The rate of decay is usually described in terms of a half-life. Uranium 238 is an example of chain decay. It has a half life of 4.5 billion years. It decays into a stable daughter product, lead 206. Uranium 235, with a half life of 708 million years, decays into lead 207.
By looking at the ratio of parent to daughter isotope, geologist can determine the age of the rock. By looking at the ratio between both Uranium 238 and Uranium 235 and their respective daughter isotopes, geologists get a check on the date of the rock they are testing.
Geologists can also observe simple decay, an example of which is the decay of the isotope Rubidium 87 into the stable daughter atom Strontium 87, or they can use branching decay, as when the isotope Potassium 40 decays into Argon 40 and Calcium 40. In the latter case, 12 percent of the resulting daughter atoms will be Argon 40 and 88 percent will be Calcium 40.
Thus, the most accurate time piece known to humankind -- the atomic clock -- can be used to date the rock of the Grand Canyon -- and to refine and confirm the other data we've looked at over the past few days that, taken together, make an irrefutable case for the ancient age of the Grand Canyon.
Tomorrow, we'll look at human habitation of the Grand Canyon and another dating technique: Carbon 14 that allows us to date objects of biological origin.
Part 1: Journey Through Time
Part 2: Dynamic Forces
Part 4: Human Habitation of the Canyon
Blue Valley Book Ban Rejected
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Journey Through Time: Dynamic Forces
Yesterday, we posted an excerpt from a commentary in the Cincinnati Enquirer by a creationist, John Turney. Today, let’s just examine Turney’s first assertion, “all evolutionists, must make assumptions. For example, they assume the Grand Canyon's rock always had its current concrete-like consistency.”
Evolutionists are concerned with biological evolution. It is geologists who undertake the scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of the earth, and it’s specific structural features, such as the Grand Canyon.
Do geologists “assume the Grand Canyon’s rock always had its current concrete-like consistency”? Don’t be silly. Geologists understand that a formation such as the Grand Canyon is the product of dynamic forces. Forces that are still at work today.
Erosion by ice, water, and wind are just some of the dynamic forces that helped carve the canyon. Volcanism, plate tectonics, and the sediments left behind by advancing and retreating ocean coast lines have all played a role in making the canyon one of the most remarkable geological features on earth.
By the way, creationists like Mr. Turney often focus on how rapidly the waters of Noah’s Flood might have carved out the canyon, but they rarely consider how long it took to form the strata there in the first place.
Here’s something else Mr. Turney might not have considered when he wrote his commentary. Many kinds of rock make up the canyon. On our ramble through the canyon, we examined sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock strata. Some of these rocks are much, much harder than concrete. Others are softer. The varying hardness of those rocks, and their resistance to erosion give the canyon its unique profile.
Let’s wander down through the strata now from the South Rim to the river – a journey of 5000 feet and 2 billion years – and take a look at a few of the rock formations, their characteristics and what we – as interested observers – can learn from them.
On the rim, at the Hermit trailhead where Red State Rabble started down into the inner canyon, we first descended through the Kaibab and Toroweap limestones. Both formations are sedimentary strata laid down during the Permian period from 250 to 255 million years ago.
Limestone is made primarily of the mineral calcite from the shells of marine organisms that settled to the bottom of an ancient ocean. These two limestone layers contain the fossils remains of brachiopods, coral, mollusks, sea lilies, worms, and fish teeth.
Geologists – and other reasonable people – can draw a number of conclusions from these simple facts:
- First, that these strata have not always had their current concrete-like consistency. They started first as ooze or slime at the bottom of an ancient ocean that once covered the area where the canyon now sits in all its arid glory.
- Second, we get a rough idea of how long it must have taken for these deposits to form. The Kaibab layer is from 300 to 500 feet thick The Toroweap ranges between 250 and 450 feet thick. (We’ll take a look at how radiometric dating of igneous rocks found in the canyon helps us to know the age of the canyon’s various strata in a later post.)
- Third, we see evidence for evolution in the kinds of fossils found in these strata. For example, no whale fossils have ever been found in Kaibab and Toroweap layers. That’s because the whale did not evolve from its mammal ancestors until much later, in the Eocene epoch, about 40 million years ago.
Further down in our journey through time, Red State Rabble and crew passed through the Coconino Sandstone. The Coconino layer has been called a petrified sand dune. Like the layers above, it is sedimentary, but it was laid down during a period when the ocean had receded, about 265 million years ago. No fossils have been found in this layer, but there are many tracks of vertebrate land animals.
Although it was late September when RSR was there, the temperature in the inner canyon hit 106 degrees and we stopped for a while to rest here. Scroll down to see a photo of reptile tracks preserved on the surface of an ancient dune near where we took our first break in what turned out to be a 12-hour hike.
Below, the Coconino is the Hermit Shale. Mr. Turney doesn’t know this, but the Hermit Shale is very, very soft. Much softer than concrete. You can break small pieces off and crumble them in your hand. Erosion of the shale undercuts the harder layers above causing large blocks to break off and fall onto the Tonto Plateau below.
There are many more sedimentary layers to pass through on the way to the Colorado River. Tomorrow I want to skip ahead to look at the metamorphic and igneous rock formations that can be found in the canyon closer to the river, and what they can tell us about its history.
Reptile footprints preserved in the Coconino Sandstone of the Grand Canyon. Roughly 260 million years ago, a reptile clambered upthe side of what was then a sand dune. It may have been early in the morning when the sand was wet with dew, or perhaps later in the day following a cloudburst. Later, dry wind-blown sand filled the tracks, preserving them over the millenia as the pure quartz sand was transformed by the enormous pressure of strata forming above into sandstone. Erosion exposed the tracks, and one day will erase them, as well, perhaps exposing other hidden tracks below the present surface.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Dembski's Doom and Gloom
The carefully crafted hearings in Kansas have been overshadowed by the antics of Connie Morris and her Florida junket. She also produced a newsletter -- at taxpayer expense -- that makes her born-again motivations completely clear.
The Supreme Court yesterday reaffirmed the Lemon Test in ruling against some displays of the Ten Commandments.
So, it's not too soon to start thinking what might happen if there's a ruling against intelligent design in the courts.
Sure enough, William Dembski is thinking about it on his Uncommon Descent blog.
There are now a number of initiatives nationally in which evolution is being challenged and ID promoted. What would happen if the courts rule against ID, declaring it religion?
Not to worry though. ID is on the ascent, according to Dembski. What about all those thousands of evolution papers being written by real scientists in real scientific journals?
Don't be distracted by the "thousands" of articles being published in the research journals that purport to support evolutionary theory -- this is an artifact of overfunding an underachieving theory. Throw enough money at an inherently flawed idea, and people will writes (sic) thousands of articles about it showing that the flaws really don't exist.Sounds whistling past the graveyard to us. Things must really be getting gloomy in Seattle right now.
A Journey Through Time
Descending through rock strata, and time, on the Grand Canyon's Hermit Trail.
Not long ago, Red State Rabble ran a post titled "The Power of Self-Delusion" that included the following excerpt from a commentary in the Cincinnati Enquirer by John Turney:
"... all evolutionists, must make assumptions. For example, they assume the Grand Canyon's rock always had its current concrete-like consistency. Why the assumption? They were not present during the Grand Canyon's formation. Therefore they turn their assumptions into "fact." What they conveniently fail to mention is that geologically younger rocks are near the bottom of the Grand Canyon, while geologically older rocks are near the top. This is the reverse of what should be found if evolutionary theory were true."
Red State Rabble saw the post as a typical – and amusing – example of the power of religion and ideology to blind its followers to reality. We were surprised at the number of readers who were, to put it mildly, outraged by the willful ignorance Turney put on display.
Were it just Mr. Turney's contention that the Grand Canyon is evidence for a young earth, we would have ignored his ravings entirely but, as it happens, he is not alone.
Two years ago, a book titled "The Grand Canyon: A Different View" by Colorado River guide Tom Vail went on sale in National Park bookstores. The book asserts that the same Old Testament flood that carried Noah's Ark to Mt. Ararat formed the canyon.
According to this view, the canyon is less than 10,000 years old.
In August 2003, Joe Alston, the Grand Canyon National Park superintendent, ordered the book removed from the bookshelves there. But, superiors at National Park Service headquarters quickly overruled him. NPS promised a review of the book, but this was never carried out. Despite protests, by the presidents of seven scientific societies, the book remains on sale.
It happens that Red State Rabble, though ignorant of many things has a little first-hand knowledge about the canyon. In 2000, we backpacked and studied the geology of the inner canyon for six days with a group from the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Beginning on the South Rim, we descended the Hermit Trail to the Colorado River. We camped along Hermit Creek, Monument Creek, and Indian Gardens before ascending to the rim on the Bright Angel Trail.
Ken Walters, a former exploration geologist, who has logged over 9,000 miles and summited 141 buttes in the canyon, led our merry little band. Along with exercises in map and compass reading, Walters insisted that each of us learn the little mnemonic: "Know The Canyon's History, Study Rocks Made By Time" as an aid to orienting ourselves in the canyon's backcountry.
Know -- Kaibab Limestone (250 Million Years Old)
The -- Toroweap Formation (255 Million Years Old)
Canyon's -- Coconino Sandstone (260 Million Years Old)
History -- Hermit Shale (265 Million Years Old)
Study -- Supai Formation (285 Million Years Old)
Rocks -- Redwall Limestone (335 Million Years Old)
Made -- Muav Limestone (515 Million Years Old)
By -- Bright Angel Shale (530 Million Years Old)
Time -- Tapeats Sandstone (545 Million Years Old)
So, what have scientists learned about the formation of these rock strata and their age, and how can culturally literate non-scientists decide for themselve if what they say is true? That is the subject of a series of posts that will appear here, on Red State Rabble, over the next week. We'll approach the subject in a non-technical, but scientifically accurate way that we hope will be of interest to anyone who is not blinded by religious fervor or political ideology.
We’ll start – in tomorrow’s post -- by examining Turney's first assertion that "evolutionists assume the Grand Canyon's rock always had its current concrete-like consistency."
Links to the Journey Through Time series:
Part 2: Dynamic Forces
Part 3: Rock of Ages
Part 4: Human Habitation of the Canyon
Monday, June 27, 2005
The Leonard Dissertation Saga
As has been reported by RSR and Panda's Thumb, among others, Bryan Leonard's defense of his doctoral dissertation at Ohio State University's School of Teaching and Learning in the College ofEducation has been postponed.
Leonard's research for his dissertation asks, "[w]hen students are taught the scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution, do they maintain or change their beliefs over time? What empirical,cognitive and/or social factors influence students' beliefs?"
Leonard testified here, in Kansas, in May as a witness called by intelligent design attorney John Calvert in the evolution show trial organized by a sub-committee of the Kansas State Board of Education composed of young earth creationists Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, and Kathy Martin.
While in Kansas on the taxpayer's dime, Leonard let on that he hadn't read the draft of the science curriculum written by the majority of the standards committee. He was also evasive about his own view of the age of the earth. He was less evasive about common descent. He doesn't believe in it.
Following the hearings, three professors at Ohio State University, Brian W. McEnnis, a mathematics professor; Jeffrey K. McKee, an anthropology professor; and Steve Rissing, an evolution, ecology and organismal biology professor; raised questions about Leonard's research and the composition of his thesis committee. It was stacked with supporters of intelligent design and had no evolutionary biologists or science educators as required by OSU rules.
Until now, we have not been able to see what professors McEnnis, McKee, and Rissing wrote in their letter. Now, Annie Hall (there's a name with a pedigree) has written an article In the OSU Lantern on the Leonard case, "OSU takes closer look at graduate student's dissertation" that gives us our first chance to see what is actually in the letter.
Here is an excerpt that concerns the ethics of what Leonard has been teaching to high school students that goes to the heart of what the intelligent design movement is trying to do to science education in this country:
"We note a fundamental flaw [in teaching scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution-- RSR]: There are no valid scientific data challenging macroevolution. Mr. Leonard has been misinforming his students if he teaches them otherwise. His dissertation presents evidence that he has succeeded in persuading high school students to reject this fundamental principle of biology. As such, it involves deliberate miseducation of these students, a practice we regard as unethical."
Here's what has Discovery really steamed:
The article [in "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington"] does not make much of a scientific argument. The ''Cambrian explosion," as it's called, lasted millions of years, plenty of time for evolution to work. Evolution has been a mainstay of the biological sciences since Charles Darwin first propounded the theory in 1859 because it has consistently provided convincing explanations of natural phenomena. Darwin's theory may not yet completely explain the Cambrian explosion, but that does not invalidate evolution -- it merely invites further research. Intelligent design, on the other hand, does not advance scientific inquiry.
The Globe gets Meyer's name wrong -- they have him as "Scott" Meyer. RSR suspects the name thing probably hurt Meyers more than any criticism of intelligent design as a false science. Evolution News and Views shows just how hurt by calling the editorial "inane." Who was it that said, pride goeth before the fall?
Kansas Evolution, Intelligent Design, Creationism Poll
- Thirty-one percent said the Kansas State Board of Education should require that theories other than evolution be offered; 24 percent said criticism of evolution should be allowed; 25 percent said only evolution should be taught; and 20 percent were not sure.
- When asked which best described their view on the origin of life, 39 percent said creationism; 26 percent said evolution; 16 percent said intelligent design; and 19 percent said other.
As with other polls on this subject, respondents with more education view evolution more favorably than those with less education. RSR believes that scientists, educators, and culturally literate citizens are not doing enough to educate the public about science issues in general and biological evolution in particular.
The issue is more complicated that simple education, of course, but surely that is where we must start.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
ID Rift Gets Wider
RSR readers will recall that Discovery Institute's Dembski, Stephen Meyers, and John Campbell were fired by attorneys working for the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the Dover School District in a suit brought by parents who object to the school board's mandate that intelligent design be taught to students there.
Amusingly, O'Leary suggests that Dembski was fired because he wants to be protected by his own legal counsel in order to protect the intellectual property represented by "Of People and Pandas" the widely discredited ID textbook edited by Dembski. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics, publisher of the book, has asked to intervene in the suit.
In truth, deeper divisions over strategy appear to be the motive force that is driving the two organizations apart.
Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog has been silent on the firings, but they have posted a letter John West and Seth Cooper sent to the Pennsylvania State Legislature opposing a pro-ID bill under discussion there -- a bill that would have encouraged other districts to do just what the Dover district has done.
West also accused Utah Sen. Chris Buttars -- who has written legislation mandating divine design -- with "hijacking intelligent design" by conflating creationism with intelligent design.
Discovery's public position is that intelligent design is a new "science" -- in other words it's not a ready for prime time player -- and shouldn't be mandated. Discovery prefers, for now, to teach the so-called controversy over evolution.
As RSR has pointed out in the past, there is no real difference between teaching the controversy and teaching intelligent design, because there is no substance to ID beyond a few pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution -- all of which, when you trace them to the source are religiously motivated.
If O'Leary is correct that Dembski is threatening legal action -- and at this moment, RSR has no information beyond what she reports -- this would mark a significant widening of the rift between those who want to move now to inject creationism into the public school curriculum, and those who want to take a slower more measured approach to redefining science.
While the goals of each group are identical, they are deeply divided over tactic -- a division that might just cost them the game.
Whatever the result in Pennsylvania case turns out to be, the leadership of the antiscience movement in the U.S. appears to be slipping out of the control of the general staff in Seattle, and into the hands of right-wing activists on local school boards and in the state legislatures.
Even in Kansas, it is interesting to note, the board is not proposing adoption of the carefully crafted minority report -- a joint project by the Discovery Institute and John Calvert's ID Network. It will adopt instead some hastily scribbled revisions drafted by board president Steve Abrams, himself a young earth creationist.
RSR's Discovery Institute Contest Entry
Science magazine is running a bogus news item asserting that the Kansas Board of Education is considering whether to mandate intelligent design. I challenge Science magazine to produce proof of its claim. If it can do so, I am willing to donate $100 to Science's parent organization, the American Association for the Advacement of Science (AAAS), so that it can promote Darwinian evolution.
RSR would like to get in on the game. If we win the challenge, we'll donate West's $100 to the Kansas Department of Education to help defray the cost of the Connie Morris Florida junket. Here's our proof:
- Intelligent design is unwilling to offer even a hypothesis of its own on how species came into existence, whether or not human beings are a product of common descent, or when the earth was created, It is utterly silent on the who, what, or where of the designer.
- The sum total of the substance of intelligent design theory is a criticism of evolution.
- The Kansas board has cribbed some of the intelligent design "theorists" criticisms of evolution and pasted them into the curriculum standards as benchmarks. Benchmark 3, grades 8-12, for example, states that "the student will understand major concepts of the theory of biological evolution," such as "the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution."
- Therefore, the Kansas State Board of Education in its infinite wisdom has mandated the teaching of intelligent design.
John please send my $100 to the Kansas State Department of Education with a note that RSR wishes to help defray the cost of Connie's Florida hotel room -- although, come to think of it, that $100 wouldn't come close to covering the $339 a night cost.
Morris Junket Not Playing Well in Kansas
"Morris, a conservative Republican, charged taxpayers for six nights in a $339-a-night room in Miami Beach's lavish Fontainebleau Resort. She failed to book a room for the hotel's convention rate of $167, or to take a room a couple of blocks away for $150 or less.
"So much for fiscal conservatism.
"Even more astonishing was her reason for taking a $339 room, more than some rural, western Kansans pay for a month's rent: She didn't want to walk to the meetings...
"Morris' insensitive views are nothing new. Add in her irresponsible spending, and it's clear she's ill suited to make sound decisions regarding education in Kansas."
Demonstrably False Claims
The minority report is based on non-science, demonstrably false claims, and faulty reasoning. As such, it did not receive the recommendation of the standards writing committee, and is invalid as a viable document.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Are ID's First Ammendment Rights Being Violated?
Recently, when the Smithsonian Institution withdrew its sponsorship from a showing of the ID film "The Privileged Planet" we heard more cries of censorship.
Joanne Mariner, a human rights attorney based in New York has taken a look at the issue of censorship and intelligent design creationism in the Index on Censorship, a magazine that covers free expression issues.
Here's what she has to say,
Supporters of intelligent design have mustered up their own First Amendment arguments, however. They claim that the classroom monopoly enjoyed by evolutionary theory violates students’ right to obtain information about intelligent design and other alternative explanations. By teaching only evolution, they assert, the public schools are improperly restricting the amount of information available to students.
There are unquestionably First Amendment interests on both sides of the equation. But a classroom is not a public forum analogous to a street corner where someone should be free to speak without constraint. It is a forum, instead, in which a teacher is given considerable authority over a captive and impressionable audience.
Because students are coercively subject to a teacher’s authority, and because a teacher’s pronouncements carry with them the additional power of the state, the classroom is no place for religious proselytising. Moreover, students are required to attend school for a specific reason: to learn. Teaching necessarily involves choices: the decision to spend time addressing one topic takes away time from another.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
ID Leadership Slipping Away From Discovery?
"In our judgment, 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. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively. We therefore do not think it is appropriate to mandate the theory of intelligent design in public schools."
Do you suppose the cautious legal strategy reflected in the DI letter above could be the reason the Thomas More Law Center fired Discovery's William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell as expert witnesses in the suit brought by a parent's group -- that Thomas More is defending -- against the Dover school board for mandating intelligent design in biology classrooms?
Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog has yet to take note of this development.
RSR wonders if the leadership of the intelligent design movement is slipping from the grasp of the Discovery Institute and into the hands of those creationists on local school boards, in the state legislatures, and employed by law firms such as Thomas More, who have little patience with the ultra-cautious long-march legal strategy espoused in Seattle.
Battle for the Soul
About 150 people attended the event held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. The panel was moderated by Melody Barnes, a Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress.
Panelists responded to the growing belligerence of those on the religious right. They challenged the growing assertion by fundamentalist Christians that those who do not agree with their views on gay marriage, stem cell research, or creationism are irreligious or somehow not good Christians.
Among the panelists there was also general agreement that people of faith who believe in separation of church and state, and mutual respect between people of different faiths must become more vocal, active, and engaged.
"People of faith are not of one mind," on the cultural issues where science and faith intersect, said Rev. Dr. Myron McCoy, President, Saint Paul School of Theology, in welcoming remarks. "Science and theology are complementary," in Dr. McCoy's view, "not contradictory."
Rabbi Levin and Dr. McCoy were joined by panelists Myra Christopher, Executive Director of the Center for Practical Bioethics; Jack Krebs, Vice President of Kansas Citizens for Science; and John Tamilio III, senior minister at Colonial Church, in a discussion the role of science and religion in society.
The discussion ranged from the controversy over the teaching of evolution in Kansas public schools to stem cell research and the Terry Schiavo case.
"Science and religion are different disciplines," said Rev. Tamilio. "Science asks 'how' questions. Theology asks the 'why' questions."
"By labeling those who believe in evolution as atheists," said Jack Krebs, vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, "the intelligent design movement's attack on science is really an attack on the majority of Christians who believe in evolution."
"Good ethics start with good facts," said Myra Christopher, who described speaking with uninformed people who believe that babies are sacrificed for their stem cells, not knowing that the cells are actually derived from tiny clumps of cells called blastocysts.
The Center for American Progress which sponsored the panel discussion is a nonpartisan research and educational institute based in Washington, sponsored a panel discussion in Kansas City Wednesday on the Harmony of Faith and Science.
The Feeble Lance of Reason.
It is religion that recruits their squadrons. Tens of millions ofAmericans, who neither know nor understand the actual arguments for or even against evolution, march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason.
ID, Next Best Thing to Creationism
Here's how Pennsyvania State Rep. Paul Clymer, who is supporting legislation to allow local school boards in Pennsylvania to mandate the teaching of intelligent design sees it:
"A Baptist, Clymer said he tries to "stay strictly on the merits" on issues such as intelligent design, which he sees as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution," reports Alison Hawkes of the Intelligencer. "Clymer counts himself as a creationist, the biblically based belief that God created the universe, but said he realizes that allowing that account in public schools would be unconstitutional."
"'That's out of the question,' Clymer said. 'But the next thing is something I believe should be discussed. It's the hypothesis of intelligent design.'"
Blue Valley Schools Committee Rejects Ban of "Beloved"
Montana to Review Science Standards
About a year ago, the Darby school district in rural southwest Montana voted to include creationism in science classes, but that decision was quickly reversed when one of the creationists on the board lost a bid for re-election.
Republican State Rep. Roger Koopman, of Bozeman, sponsored a bill to allow school districts to teach intelligent design earlier this year, but the bill did not come up for a vote.
Read more in an article by John Fitzgerald in the Billings Gazette
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The Little Institute that Cried Censorship
"The reality is that attempts at censorship and suppressing ideas that people are interested in -- it never works in the long run," the Discovery Institute spokesman notes. "It may work in the short run, but whenever someone tries to silence a public debate about intelligent design in one place, it seems to spring up in 20 other places."
Although the Smithsonian is no longer sponsoring "The Privileged Planet" documentary debut, Richards says the film will still be premiering at the museum's Baird Auditorium on Thursday.
So, let's see if RSR can get this straight. The film will be shown free of charge at the Smithsonian this Thursday, but SI is nevertheless guilty of censorship and suppression. Is this the same censorship and suppression that Discovery cries about at PBS and NPR?
Scroll down to the next post -- where they complain about being invited to take part in a PBS series on evolution, but turned down the offer because it was "a trick" -- and make up your own mind.
Discovery Institute Joins Right in Effort to Defund PBS, NPR
The report relies in part on complaints from the Discovery Institute about how PBS and NPR have reported on their effort to gut science education in public schools and replace it with the antiscience of intelligent design creationism.
Here's an excerpt from the report detailing Discovery's complaints:
On the December 17 NOW show, Moyers turned to another current topic—the ACLU's lawsuits against school districts that want to "teach an alternative to evolution." Anthony Romero of the ACLU told Moyers that "…teaching alternatives to evolution is about teaching religion in our public schools. And in a country as diverse as this one, and in a country where religious belief is such a core belief for so many Americans, you want to keep the government as far away as we can from involving itself in our most important and private institutions…"
Romero's statement was false. Teaching alternatives to evolution does not ecessarily imply the existence of God or the need for religion. Rather it recognizes the problems with a theory holding that random and natural processes cannot account for the origin and complexity of life.
The Discovery Institute, for example, focuses on the issue of whether there is any evidence of design in nature, rather than whether there is a designer. Still, its representatives tend to be portrayed in religious terms not only by the ACLU but by the media.
Those who believe in intelligent design or find gaping holes in the theory of evolution frequently encounter a hostile press. The Discovery Institute provided to Accuracy in Media a thick file of complaints about the way their representatives have been treated by the media, especially CPB-subsidized National Public Radio and PBS. (Emphasis added)
Back in 2001, when PBS aired the seven-part series, Evolution, financed by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul G. Allen, it asked Discovery Institute scientists to appear on the last segment dealing with God and religion. It was a trick. The institute rejected this ploy, saying that its representatives had scientific objections to evolution and that they should be included in the scientific episodes.
PBS went ahead with its one-sided program anyway. In response, the Discovery Institute produced a 152-page viewers' guide, noting that the series distorts the scientific evidence, ignores scientific disagreements over Darwin's theory, and misrepresents the theory's critics.
On April 18, Accuracy in Media sent a detailed three-page letter to NPR's ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, about a pattern of bias in coverage of the evolution controversy. We received in response a one and one-half page letter that essentially glossed over all of our substantial criticisms.
New Web Resource on Kansas Evolution Battle
To Debate or Not to Debate. That is the Question.
"Dr. Scott said that until recently she believed scientists should seize opportunities to debate the opponents of evolution. "I was one of the holdouts, saying yes, appear with these guys, yes, tell them what is wrong with their ideas, go to their conferences, treat them like scholars," she said.
"Like other scientists, she said that if someone identified a flaw in evolutionary theory that could not be dealt with, science would have to modify the theory or even scrap it. But the criticisms raised have fallen in the face of scientific scrutiny, she and others say, yet opponents of evolution raise them again and again.
"So a few years ago, she said, 'even I threw in the towel.'"
Fundamentalism Saps America's Intellectual Vitality
Watson goes on to report:
As a result of fundamentalist opposition, America is already falling behind in cloning and stem cell research, now led by South Korean, Italian and British scientists. In February the New Scientist reported a survey in which fully half the scientists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they had been pushed to alter or ithdraw scientific findings for political reasons.
Has Connie Heard About This?
If only Steve Abrams, Kathy Martin, and Connie Morris had thought of this idea! They might have avoided all the controversy over their own plan to water down evolution and slip intelligent design into the curriculum.
If they were truly strategic thinkers, here's the plan they might have implemented:
- Step One: Insist that all the evolution content in biology textbooks be placed after page 201.
- Step Two: Limit science textbooks to 200 pages.
Back to California.
Why did she propose limiting textbooks to 200 pages?
"It's absolutely arbitrary," Goldberg said.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Old Creationist Whine
"In terms of provable science, though, [intelligent design] falls short. And insofar as intelligent design strongly implies a religion-based identity to the Designer, it also fails the test of keeping such instruction out of public schools.
"In the final analysis, it is simply the old creationist wine in new bottles. Those who believe in the separation of church and state should be extremely wary of allowing it to get a foothold in our schools."
Behe Testifys for ID Bill in Pennsylvania House
Behe was asked by Rep. P. Michael Sturla, a Lancaster Democrat, when intelligent design occured.
"Questions like, 'When did the designing take place? ... all are good questions," Behe responded. "We'd love to have answers for them, but they are separate questions from the question, 'Was this designed in the first place?'"
Representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, legislative director Larry Frankel, said adding intelligent design to the curriculum would undermine Pennsylvania's the state's science standards.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Separating ID From Religion in Dover Just Got Harder
Attorneys for Thomas More have essentially told intelligent design "theorists" William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and John Campbell to take a hike -- their services are no longer required.
How will the school board and Thomas More now get past previous court rulings that religion may not be taught under the guise of science in public schools?
RSR sees two big problems.
First, the school board of a taxpayer financed public school system is now being defended by a group that describes itself as, a "law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life."
Second, William Buckingham the Dover school board member and head of the curriculum committee who pushed for mandating the teaching of design describes himself as a born-again Christian -- what else? He believes, he has said, in creationism. Imagine that.
Touchingly, he says “This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else.”
Oh yeah, the York Dispatch also quotes Buckingham as saying, "Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on the cross for us. Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?"
Stephen Meyer and the boys in Seattle must be tearing their hair out. The Dover case, from which they have now been shut out, will undoubtedly be heard first and is therefore most likely to set a precedent on intelligent design in the public schools.
Kansas Science Standards -- Revisions Vulnerable to Challenge
Benchmark 3 states "The student will understand major concepts of the theory of biological evolution." Here, of course, the young earth creationists who make up the sub-committee are riding that tired old "evolution is a theory, not a fact" nag that really should have been sent to the glue factory by now.
Here are some of the revisions to Benchmark 3 from page 78 under the heading of "Additional Specificity" that the biblical literalists feel students should understand:
c. Patterns of diversification and extinction of organisms are documented in the fossil record. Evidence also indicates that simple, bacteria-like life may have existed billions of years ago. However in many cases the fossil record is not consistent with gradual, unbroken sequences postulated by biological evolution. (Those bad old gaps again -- RSR)
d. The distribution of fossil and modern organisms is related to geological and ecological changes (i.e. plate tectonics, migration). There are observable similarities as well as observable discrepancies in the molecular evidence.
e. The frequency of heritable traits may change over a period of generations within a population of organisms, usually when resource availability and environmental conditions change as a consequence of extinctions, geologic events, and/or changes in climate. However, studies show that animals may follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development. (Notice, here, the particularly jarring shift caused by the shoehorning of embryology into a section relating to "change over a period of generations." -- RSR)
One of the most difficult problems of the debate with the intelligent design "theorists" has been pinning them down on what they actually believe. With the revisions to the Kansas science standards, we now have written evidence -- and obvious pseudoscience -- on the so-called gaps in the fossil record, on genetics (the molecular evidence), and embryology that can be easily dissected by science and challenged in court.
An additional vulnerability for the ID movement and their allies on the school board is the fact that the ID witnesses who testified at the Kansas hearings do not meet federal requirements on who may or may not be called as expert witnesses. They may not even be able to testify in a real court of law.
South Carolina ID Bill Filed
Fair says he will put on a major push to have his bill adopted. Legislators rejected a similar proposal in the last session of the legislature.
Fargo School Rejects Book Ban
A Fargo Public Schools committee has upheld a decision not to ban John Grisham's novel, "A Time to Kill," from an accelerated English course at a high school here...The parent who first asked that the book be removed appealed that decision to the district level.
"It's a continuing trend of very bad decision-making at the district level," Pamela Sund Herschlip said of the latest decision. "
Grisham's best-selling novel tells the story of a small-town Mississippi lawyer who defends a black man after he shoots two white men who raped his young daughter. The book describes a rape scene.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
A Split Between Intelligent Designers and Creationists?
These tensions have been most evident in Dover, Penn. where the school board has mandated the teaching of intelligent design and in Utah where State Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) is pushing legislation mandating the teaching of what he calls "divine design" in the public schools there. In each case, the Discovery Institute has opposed mandating the teaching of intelligent design in favor of their legal strategy of "teaching the controversy."
Discovery Institute is very sensitive to the legal strategy -- they fear an unfavorable court decision may upset their whole strategy. The longterm goals of both groups are the same, but Discovery wants to lay the goundwork carefully and play a waiting game until the courts have been pushed further to the right by appointments made by the Bush administration. The young earth creationists are full of fire following the last election and impatient with this long-term strategy. They want to push ahead immediately with a court challenge.
Discovery and the ID Network are running the show in Kansas, but Thomas More is in the driver's seat in Dover, and that case will most likely be decided first. As yet, the Kansas school board has not formally approved the "teach the controversy" approach. That won't come until August, and any lawsuit against the revisions will come after that.
It is interesting to note however, that the revisions made to the curriculum standards in Kansas also go beyond what Discovery and ID Network recommended and may make those revisions more vulnerable than ID proponents would like.
Now, Ed Brayton has a post up at Panda's Thumb reporting that "William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell - have all been withdrawn as expert witnesses" in the Dover case, which is being led by the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as the "sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square."
The York Daily Record reports that William Dembski says the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board, basically fired him because he wanted to have his own attorney present during the depositions.
We now have a very interesting legal situation shaping up, with the more impatient young earth creationists pushing for immediate adoption of intelligent design. The Discovery Institute is waiting in the wings chewing their fingernails and hoping that their carefully planned "wedge strategy" isn't dealt a fatal blow by their more impulsive creationist followers jumping out in front of the general's strategy.
Bryan Leonard testifies May 6 about teaching 10th grade Ohio students the "scientific" evidence for and against macroevolution. John Calvert is in the background (figuratively as well).
Bryan Leonard: What Did He Teach?
An issue has also been raised about whether Leonard violated Human Subjects Review procedures and had parents and students fill out informed consent releases -- since by teaching them intelligent design pseudoscience -- he made them subjects (perhaps against their will) in an experiment he was conducting.
In this excerpt, Leonard testifies to the nature of his lesson plan and what he teaches students.
JOHN CALVERT: Bryan, thank you for being here. Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, where you're currently employed and-- and a bit about your work on the doctoral degree?
BRYAN LEONARD: Yes. Thank you. My name is Bryan Leonard. I received my Bachelor's of Science Degree in biology education. I received my Master's Degree in microbiology. I'm currently working on my Ph.D., actually a Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University studying science education.
JC: And are you also employed as a high school teacher?
BL: Yes, I am, with-- in a suburban area right outside Columbus, Ohio
JC: Is that a privatized school?
BL: Yes, it is.
JC: And how long have you been teaching high school?
BL: Teaching high school biology for nine years now.
JC: What is the work of your-- you're working on a doctorate degree. Right?
BL: Yes, sir.
JC: And could you tell us a bit about that?
BL: I'm working on basically my doctoral dissertation deals with the area of evolution education, and specifically I'm looking at basically students reactions how-- how students react, how students believe and so and so forth when they're taught the scientific information both in terms of supporting and challenging macroevolution.
JC: Have you been involved in applying that knowledge to lesson plans for a while?
BL: Yes. I was able to be a part of the science writing committee for the State of Ohio in which each of the members on the science writing committee, we had to write exemplar curriculum lessons plans that were in line with the Ohio State standards. And I serve on-- on that committee for those-- (reporter interruption). Writing science curriculum for our 10th graders.
JC: And in your high school you're teaching 10th grade biology?
BL: Yes, I am.
JC: Teaching it how?
BL: Well, the way in which I teach it is similar in a way in which basically we wrote the lesson plan that was-- that-- that serves as the curriculum mono lesson, entitled Critical Analysis of Evolution. So that particular lesson plan, I was the original drafter, however I had a number of people who were involved in generation, shaping and the molding of that particular lesson. Went through an extensive peer review process. And the way in which I teach evolution in my high school biology class is that I teach the scientific information, or in other words, the scientific interpretations both supporting and challenging macroevolution.
JC: How long have you been doing it?
BL: I've been doing it for about-- I think this is probably about my fifth year. About five or six years now.
Note: RSR has skipped ahead in the transcript at this point in order to stick with the subject of what Leonard actually teaches.
JC: You might touch on what were the goals of-- of this product, and does that lead into your power point?
BL: Yeah, it could. Basically the-- the-- the goal of this lesson simply was to help students' knowledge of macroevolution, so that was basically the main goal of our particular lesson. Again, what type of things can we as educators, what type of things we as drafters of this lesson, how can we actually and sincerely put our students in a better position to learn evolution. So as you see here-- I'm going to have to walk. I'm a school teacher, so standing right here pointing is kind of difficult. But as you see here, goal number one with the critical analysis of evolution lesson, as well as my goal as an educator is to increase the students' knowledge of macroevolution. And you'll see here I have the word "students" in red, and the reason why I have it in red is because what-- as you're looking at that you're focusing on that red word. So that's one thing, hey, we need to focus on our students. What type of things are students going to gain most of all as a result of implementing this lesson, so throughout the power point presentation you will see the word "students" in red to-- more so to try and-- a kind of constant reminder in our mind, hey, we want to focus on the students. You know, how we can put our students in the best position to learn macroevolution. So how-- how-- how can we actually increase students' knowledge of evolution. All right. Go back. Go back. Okay. Find out what students are most interested in and teach towards their interests. Teach towards their interests. Yes. I asked my students in my dissertation study here, question: Which of the following would be more interesting to you-- rather, for you to learn, number one, scientific interpretation supporting macroevolution only. Number two, scientific interpretation supporting and challenging macroevolution. So I posed this question actually before I got to the evolution unit, just curious. Again, we wanted to teach towards their interests.
Note: RSR is skipping ahead again -- we know, it's already too long...
BL: … So what is my job as an educator? My job as an educator is actually trying to shape and mold and put my students in the best position to perform well on a test. Okay. You know, we have a set of assessments and various assessments there, so basically a-- I just want them basically to do well on the tests, as well as, of course, a number of other things, which I'll talk about a little later. Next. Teaching contradicting evidence-- I'm sorry, information and multiple points of view suggests supporting and challenging, help students stimulate more complete understanding and critical thinking. In this particular book by Rophy (sp), it is talking about how you present students with information that contradicts other information, discuss, present contradicting information forces students to recognize that the issue is more complex than they thought and stimulates students to develop more complete understanding. So, again, as educators, we want to teach towards the interests there, but also what kind of things can we do as an educator to actually help our students to develop a more complete understanding. Okay. In teaching the-- the scientific information both supporting and challenging macroevolution (emphasis added) I believe should and will do just that. This book entitled "Understanding By Design," this is actually by these two authors there that we use that textbook often, basically in our professional development as educators back in Ohio, or at least particularly in my school…
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Irigonegaray Closing Argument: ID Argument Wrong, Unsupported
Counsel for the Minority has a formula. The formula is evolution equals atheism, atheism equals religion which equals State endorsement, therefore, because the State is endorsing religion we must be permitted to bring our theistic view into the school curriculum.
That argument is legally wrong, logically inaccurate, misleading and would not stand constitutional challenge, and here's why.
First of all, counsel makes the broad statement that atheism, is under the Constitution, considered a form of religion.
You are absolutely correct, but, but, and this is important, it is considered such in a limited scope.
For example, if we think of religion as taking a position on divinity then atheism is indeed a form of religion.
In cases, for example, involving the scope of employment discrimination an atheist is entitled to the same protection as a member of any organized religion.
Clearly certain protections are provided to individuals who assert that they're atheists, because freedom of religion is also the freedom from religion.
Courts have stated that a general-- a general working definition of religion for free exercise purposes is any set of beliefs addressing matters of ultimate concerns occupying place parallel to that filled by God in traditional persons.
Religion, therefore, does not have to be theistic in nature to benefit from constitutional protection, but what does that really mean as it relates to the issues here? It is important that we keep in mind that the right to a religious belief or opinion is very different from the way courts look science and science education.
The Constitution mandates that the government remain secular rather than to affiliate itself with religious beliefs or institutions precisely in order to avoid discriminated -- discriminating among citizens on the basis of their religious faith.
A secular state, you must remember, is not the same as an atheistic or anti-religious state.
A secular state establishes neither atheism nor religion as its official creed.
In County of Allegheny versus American Civil Liberties Union the Court stated that a secular state established neither atheism nor religion as its official creed to mean atheism meets religion.
Allegheny does not state religion includes and typically to religion.
The Circuit literally interpreted the U.S. Supreme Court in Wallace versus Jaffree, the Court places atheism in the correct context, adjacent to religion.
The Court states, just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complimentary components of a broader concept of individual freedom of mind, so also the individual's freedom to choose his creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed established by the majority.
At one time it was thought that this right merely prescribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist or inherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism, but when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation the court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.
The First Amendment is broad enough to encompass both believers and non-believers as far as the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion.
The instruction of evolution, does it advance or inhibit any religion? It is one thing for the courts to recognize that an individual may not be discriminated because she or he does not carry any particular religious ideology, it is quite another for a jump to be made from preventing discrimination-- from preventing discrimination to a finding that evolution equates to atheism, and it is therefore the advancement of religion in violation of the Lemon test.
In McLean versus Arkansas Board of Education in which the defense argued that evolution was in effect a religion and that by teaching it school created an establishmentPage problem that could be redressed only by giving balance treatment to creation science.
The Court responded that if creation science was in fact science and not religion, it was difficult to see how teaching it could neutralize the religious nature of evolution.
Assuming that evolution was a religion or religious tenant, as the Minority would suggest, the remedy would be to stop teaching it, not to establish another religion in opposition to it, which is precisely the recommended that the Minority is suggesting the Board should apply. (emphasis added)
However, the MacLean court went on to say that it is established in the case law and perhaps also in common sense that evolution is not a religion and that teaching it does not violate the statement clause.
So the argument of the Minority is not only legally incorrect, it is illogical, for they suggest to you that mainstream science teaches through the process of methodological naturalism, atheistic view, i.e., atheism, and that the way to cure it is to bring their religious belief into the classroom.
That is simply wrong.
It is not supported by law.
And at the appropriate time I will provide both counsel for the Minority, as well as the Board, our formal brief with the citations.
But it should be made very clear evolution-- the teaching of evolution as it is taught in science curriculums all across this country has never been determined by the court to be theistic.
The science, the teaching of evolution is not an atheistic process.
It is merely a process of explanation of the natural world around us.
The jump that the Minority makes is to try to make that theistic, to argue that therefore in order to balance, their theistic view must be taught.
Clearly the court has stated the remedy, if, in fact, a theistic view is being taught, is not to bring additional religion, but to stop completely the teaching of theistic views in the science curriculum.
That is a very important distinction.
The Old Soft Shoe
"With five board members facing election next year - four of them conservatives, including Morris - the current show will go on the road. Then, Kansans will decide whether they view it as melodrama, comedy or farce, and whether some of its leading actors remain employed."
Does God Hate Science?
For David Wilcox, a biology professor at Eastern University, an evangelical college in St. Davids, the challenge is to teach students that it’s possible to embrace evolution “without intellectual schizophrenia.”
“Frequently, they’ve been taught that evolution is another way of saying atheism, and they just shut it out,” said Wilcox, author of “God and Evolution: A Faith-Based
Understanding.” “They say, ‘Why do I have to learn this stuff — don’t you know
that God hates science?’”
“We have to make them wake up and smell the coffee. God doesn’t hate science — he invented it. We try to get them to see that evolution happened and it’s not so scary ... that evolution is the way God did it.”
Friday, June 17, 2005
Connie Makes A Splash in the Wichita Eagle in this editorial cartoon "Unintelligently Designed Junket" by Richard Crowson.
ID Links Up With the Science of Krishna Consciousness
The mission of the Hare Krishna movement, says its website, is to promote the well being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to Bhagavad-gita and other ancient scriptures.
Well, the science of Krishna consiousness -- that certainly adds some much needed scientific credibility to the ID movement.
Irigonegaray: Board Advancing a Narrow Sectarian Theological View of Science
"The Minority position is a theological view of God that rejects science as atheistic, and, whereas, the Minority position also rejects commonly held theistic views, including those of many Christians-- mainstream Christians, and, therefore, by advancing the Minority position through these hearings and other actions the State Board is advancing a narrow sectarian theological view of science over many other faiths, and, therefore, the Board, through its actions, raise real and serious legal questions about violations of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution and the Kansas Constitution and abuses of Kansas statutory authority and discretionary power."
"There are two theories, and you have a choice: that's the formula of an enlightened obscurantism; that's the principle of revisionism with a liberal and tolerant face; that's the act of faith of a dogmatism reconciled with freedom of speech and thought; that's the subtlest, most underhanded, most cunning, and at bottom most dangerous ideological maneuver of the American Right in years."
Turning the Other Cheek
So much for all that "the meek shall inherit the earth" nonsense.
Each of the sub-committee members claim their editing of the science standards is based on the testimony of intelligent design witnesses at the hearings, but...
"Several members of the subcommittee admitted both before and during the hearings that they couldn't understand the technical arguments," says McDonald. "The final transcript of the hearings was not available when the committee recommendations were drafted, so it can't be claimed that an extensive review of the hearings influenced the recommendations."
RSR attended the board meeting where Abrams reported the revisions -- our impression was that they were hastily drafted and poorly written -- Kathy Martin, undoubtedly trying to make a case that she'd finally read the draft, offered a number of grammatical and typographic corrections, although she was often overruled by Connie Morris.
If you've read Connie's newsletter, you already know she doesn't know any more about writing and grammar than she does about science.
If you haven't read the newsletter yet, Josh Rosenau has posted it on his Thoughts From Kansas blog.
Mich. Schools Supt. Clarifies ID Remark
Last Friday Flanagan was asked about the teaching of "intelligent design" in Michigan schools on WKAR's "Off the Record" program.
"We've got to at least teach the scientific theory," Flannagan was quoted as saying, "and I'm also comfortable with teachers exposing kids to a couple of different options."
With the controversy in Gull Lake fresh in everyone's mind, it was widely reported that Flanagan was okay with teaching of intelligent design.
According to the Lansing State Journal, Flanagan told them by phone that "[w]hat I meant was exposing kids in some other context... such as a current events class. That's what was in my mind."
"We believe in teaching scientific theory in science classes. ..." a spokeswoman for Mich. Gov. Jennifer Grantholm told the Journal. "We would see evolution as scientific theory."
Will Kansas School Funding Battle Keep Schools Closed This Fall?
"Some Republicans who control the Legislature want to defy the court, arguing it cannot tell them exactly what to spend on anything. Their tough talk has educators and others worried the court will order schools to remain closed until legislators comply.
"Such orders have been issued or threatened in other states, and a Kansas judge even told the state last year that it could not spend a penny on its schools until legislators fixed the funding system, a decision that would have kept classrooms closed — and 445,000 students at home — had the Supreme Court not put it on hold."
In other circumstances, state school board members might be expected to act as advocates for schools, but in Kansas right-wing zealots control the board. They are backing legislators who are taking a hard line stance against funding education, and, in any case they are too busy gutting science education to play any positive role in winning adequate funding for Kansas school children.
Buffalo Tree Ban Reversed
"A 12-year-old boy recounts his day-to-day battles in a juvenile detention center," says a The Publishers Weekly review of The Buffalo Tree. "Graphic images and a narrative heavily seasoned with slang and expletives make Sura's hellish story all the more real and immediate." It is recommended for ages 12 and up.
Teachers played a key role in turning back district censorship of the book and getting it back in the classroom.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
"The Privileged Planet" Climbing a Stairway to heaven
In the 22 odd centuries (see note below) since Ecclesiastes wrote those lines, we humans have often convinced ourselves of the absolute novelty of this or that hip new idea. But, the truth is, for each truly original thought, there are a thousand tiresome re-workings of the old.
The intelligent design film, “The Privileged Planet” is a case in point. The film comes clothed in the lab coat of modern physics and cosmology. Sporting the latest in computer-generated graphics, it is designed to subliminally assure viewers they are being let in on the very latest, state of the art science. And yet, its hypothesis – that we humans occupy the center of a god-created universe – is one of the very oldest known to man.
Despite its trendy surface shine, the film forcefully reminds us of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes’ words: There is nothing new under the sun.
Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of the book "The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery" says the premise of the Discovery Institute film is that the conditions that make Earth habitable show it was designed for humans. He said the book also goes a step further by arguing the universe was meant for discovery and that Earth is the optimal place from which to study the universe.
In Ecclesiastes' day, each tribe or nation thought of itself as God's chosen people. Each had its own sacred places that were thought to be close to god. Often these sites were marked by a memorial stone, a sacred pillar, or temple. Later, the great cathedrals of Europe would be built on such spots.
Isaac's son, Jacob, Chapter 28 of Genesis tells us, was on his way to Padanaram to pick out a cousin to be his wife when he stopped after sunset to rest at a place then called Luz.
The weary traveler used the stones of this ancient and already sacred place (said to be the spot where Abraham came to sacrifice Isaac) as a headrest, and dreamt of a stairway that rested on the good earth but reached up into the heavens. Messenger angels traveled up and down the stairway as the Lord stood above.
When he awakened Jacob cried out in awe, "This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven."
Jacob set his stone pillow up on a pillar and re-named the spot Bethel, or the house of God. Later, it would be called Mount Moriah. In 825 BCE Solomon built the first temple there.
The Kabbalah claims that the foundation stone of the Temple Mount, where Jacob laid his head, is the place from which the earth was born at the time of creation. Those who believe the Kabbalah's teachings think of it as the place where the physical and spiritual worlds touch.
While touring York Minster, in the north of England, in the mid-90s, Red State Rabble's eyes were drawn to the famous astronomical clock located in the North Transept of that old cathedral built amidst the Roman ruins.
In the center of the ornate clock is an outline of York Minster. Around it swirl the sun, the moon and the planets.
York Minster is more than 1,000 years old, but the astronomical clock is of more recent origin, having been donated by the Royal Greenwich Observatory to commemorate the 18,000 Allied airmen who lost their lives in World War II.
The outline of York Minster at the center of the solar system on the astronomical clock can be interpreted prosaically as a simple guide to orient the observer to the night sky above, or more spiritually, as a metaphor for the centrality of the cathedral's place in the heavens -- something the builders of York Minster took for granted.
Seen in this light, "The Privileged Planet" offers nothing new, just the self-conscious repackaging of ancient myth for a world downsized by cheap air travel, cell phones, the Hubble telescope, and the Internet.
If Ecclesiastes had seen the Discovery Institute's film, he might have advised of them futility of their effort. "Vanity," he might have said, "all is vanity."
Reader note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly read "220 centuries" an alert reader spotted my innumerate lapse. Thanks Dan.
In response to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling forcing legislators to boost school funding, Decker wrote that the Lakin school district spent $250,000 on an activities bus; that the Salina district installed artificial turf on a sports field; and that the Dodge City district was rumored to have purchased a $20,000 desk for its superintendent.
All of Decker's allegations have since been proven false. She issued a statement Tuesday grudgingly apologizing "to the school superintendents who feel they were maligned by my article."
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Intelligent Design: Bringing Us Together
The board made no decisions on the standards, and likely won't until August.
Connie Morris, Fiscal Conservative
It seems that Connie Morris, the conscience of the board, took part in a little magnet school junket to Miami Beach last April. Now, it's true there are no magnet schools in Morris' mainly rural district, but that didn't stop her from submitting a travel voucher billing Kansas taxpayers $339 a night for her shabby little room at the Fountainebleau Hilton Resort, or $150 for meals -- hey, they don't give it away down there. Oh yeah, $147 for two taxi rides. And no, RSR isn't going there.
Oh, did we mention that Morris is billing the taxpayers for her now infamous newsletter in which Connie says she is a Christian who believes in the literal truth of the biblical story of Genesis, says that evolution is "poor science" insists it has all the answers, and is filled "with anti-God contempt and arrogance."
By the way, following the Kansas Supreme Court ruling that the legislature must approve additional funding for the state's schools, Morris said state schools didn't need any funding above the $142 million that Republicans originally approved.
Well, as long as she gets hers.
Will the Circle be Unbroken
What are the parallels between the ID debate and the environmentalism debate, according to Dembski? We suspect it is this from a commentary in the Daily Telegraph by Bjørn Lomborg titled, "Forget global warming. Let's make a real difference."
"This is perhaps the strongest indication that well-meaning scientists have gone beyond their area of expertise and are conducting unsubstantiated politicking ahead of next month's meeting of the G8."
An intelligent design theorist thinks scientists are going beyond their area of expertise? Isn't that what psychologists call projection?
Connie Morris and the Wisdom of Solomon
Teach the Controversy (But Not in Science Classes)
... "teach the controversy" is the reasonable-sounding appeal of creationist or "intelligent design" thinkers who want their distinctly minority view to be smuggled into science classes with some kind of parity against the theory of evolution. They have a point, but they're applying the idea to the wrong classes.
Schools should teach the controversy over evolution and intelligent design in classes on history. Or social studies. Or philosophy. Or mythology, in the best sense of that term. They should teach about religion, society and education. They should examine creation stories from many religions and cultures. They should study the moral and literary merit of religious texts, especially but not exclusively the Bible.
Eugenie Scott: Divine Design
While a majority of Americans call themselves Christian, [Scott] said the opposition to teaching evolution comes from a small percentage calling themselves "Born Again Christians."
Many of them, she said, want teachings to include the possibility that the world was created by "Divine Design," but they don't say what the designer was."There are efforts to get various kinds of Creationism in our schools," she said.
"And there's an effort to get evolution out of curriculum. Some teachers feel inhibited about teaching evolution, so they don't."
Kansas Hearings Bill: $30,000
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Lessons of Ohio
The debate in Ohio drew so much attention that the state board was inundated with 40,000 e-mails, letters and petitions, said Owens-Fink, the board member who promoted the intelligent design view. That kind of pressure, many agreed, helped push the board in October 2002 to insert language into the standards that said: “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolution.”
When the Discovery Institute immediately claimed victory, Wise said, she negotiated additional language that said the October clause did not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design. The board included that language when it approved the standards unanimously in December 2002.
But the controversy did not end there.A committee then began working on suggested lesson plans for teachers who wanted help implementing the standards. By late 2003, rumors began circulating of lesson plans that contained intelligent design concepts. The board ended up approving one of the plans that called for critical analysis of evolution.
If you taught intelligent design, what would you teach? The so-called "theory" has no substance. Its proponents won't even entertain a hypothesis about when or how life developed or evolved on the planet. The truth is that all there is of intelligent design is a half-baked critique of evolution. If there were no theory of evolution, there could, by definition, be no intelligent design theory.
In essence, "teaching the controversy" is teaching intelligent design -- there is nothing else.
The Wit and Wisdom of Connie Morris
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Here at RSR we suspect that it was "The Privileged Planet" dust up that pushed Phil over the edge. Here's what he says:
"Over the course of time, you’ll be seeing more rebuttals — no, debunking — of creationist claims here. I’ve had enough, and this threat is real. They want to turn our classrooms in a theocratically-controlled anti-science breeding ground, and I’m not going to sit by and watch it happen."
Wander over and take a look. By the way, P.S. Meyers at Pharyngula has a nice post up about Phil's throwing down of the gauntlet. Let's hope more and more scientists follow Phil's example.