Sunday, July 31, 2005


Pharyngula on Blogwatch

Looks like our favorite blogging biologist, PZ Myers, is hitting the big time. His blog, Pharyngula, is cited in the upcoming Aug. 8 issue of Newsweek's BlogWatch, a weekly mainstream-media snapshot of what's hot (and what's not) in the ever-widening world of web logs.

Myers' post on technology guru George Gilder's latest passion, intelligent design "theory" is what gets the attention. As we write this post, we count 91 comments on "The sanctimonious bombast of George Gilder."

Looks like Myers -- having just laid out a bundle to repair his car following a trip to Canada -- may now have to upgrade his server.

RSR is glad that Myers' blog and the criticisms of ID are getting the MSM treatment, but we already dread reading the proforma Evolution News and Views post about how the MSM distorts ID.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Fundamentalist Angst

"Finding and excavating that ark could be the best discovery any scientist or explorer could ever make. I sure hope they find it soon!"

-- From "The Theory of Revolution" in American Daily, news and commentary from the conservative side of things, by Rob Hood.


Stop the Presses!

Over at Evolution News and Views, the blog of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, no slight is too small -- or too far in the past -- to be forgotten.

In a post that appeared yesterday Rob Crowther breathlessly charges that "Theocracy Charges and Ad Hominem Attacks [against intelligent design and it's advocates are] on the Rise."

The evidence of this tsunami of new attacks? A July 6 letter to the Ames Tribune [Iowa] that is critical of the intelligent design film "The Privileged Planet."

Perhaps, because this letter may not exactly constitute the smoking gun promised by the "rise" in charges and attacks promised in the headline, Crowther also appends a response by Discovery's John G. West to a Paul Gross article, “Intelligent Design and that Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.”

West's response was published in -- wait for it -- Nov. 2003.

Red State Rabble has vivid memories of Seattle and Pugeot Sound from the time when we were stationed there in the Navy during the early 1970s. We backpacked on the flanks of Ranier and plied the sound. It's the sort of activity that puts things in perspective. We strongly recommend some R&R -- and a bit of perspective -- to the boys at Discovery.

Friday, July 29, 2005


The New Improved Scientific Creationism

We know we've been pounding this pulpit pretty hard lately, but we can't help noting that others have begun to notice that intelligent design "theory" is already the old, new thing, and creationism is staging a come back.

Here's a guest post from John E. Simmons, the collection manager at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum that looks at the developing creationist strategy:

Having followed the creation/evolution debate now for more than 25 years, particularly the publications of the Institute for Creation Research, I would like to risk making a prediction: the current push for intelligent design is soon going to diminish in importance as a political tool, and in its place will rise an all-new "scientific creationism."

This prediction is based on two factors.
  1. The ID leadership, in trying to make ID sound more scientific, has made it too atheistic for the fundamentalist Christians who are behind the anti-evolution push in public schools.
  2. As revealed in this month's ICR publications (as well as other published sources), the creationists are busy re-defining both evolution and species.

Now, I know what you're thinking--evolution and species are both scientific terms, how can they be re-defined? Simple--by giving the words new definitions for purposes of public policy, such as for what is taught in public schools, or what research is funded by government agencies.

ACTS & FACTS 34(8): The feature story is a report on the ICR trip to the Galapagos Islands to see "where Darwin went wrong." Of more importance is the President's Column, in which John Morris reports on a group of scientists meeting at ICR in June for "strategizing for the upcoming research initiative in genomics." Using published data on the human genome, the group plans to demonstrate "the certainty that man and animals have no common ancestor. A second goal is to establish the limits of the created 'kind,' delineating the limits of biological adaptation." How will they do this? The answer is in J. Morris' secondcolumn, in Back to Genesis...

BACK TO GENESIS #200: John Morris addresses the question, "How could Noah and his family care for the many animals on board the ark?" He reveals the new creationist definitions of species and evolution in this section: "Noah was told to take two of each 'kind' of animal on board, probably represented by today's 'families' or even 'genera' rather than species. For instance, the dog 'kind' includes many species--wolf, domestic dog, dingo, coyote, etc."

So Noah would need only to have taken, say, a pair of wolves on board the ark. After the flood, thewolves would, by the miracle of micro-evolution, become coyotes anddingos and dogs, the biodiversity we see today. But these many representatives of the dog kind would be just variations of the same kind (=the same species), all related only to the dog kind, and without any other vertebrate ancestor.

Thus we have a new definition of species (kind), and a new definition of evolution (micro-evolution is not evolution, it is variation; one kind giving rise to another kind would be evolution, if it ever occurred).

The other article is by Henry M. Morris, "Evolution--impossible to embarrass its believers." This is vintage Henry Morris, concluding that a recent discovery of a well-preserved fossil T. rex means it could not have been in the ground more than a few thousand years; that the failure of geophysicists "to find the so-called Mohorovocic Discontinuity" disproves the evolutionary history of the earth, and so forth, before going on to rant about what flawed human beings evolutionists are.

IMPACT #386: "Polonium radiohalos: the model for their formation tested and verified" claims that because "uranium (238U) and polonium (Po) radiohalos [are] frequently found in granitic rocks [they] had to have formed simultaneously. This implies that hundreds of millions of years of radioactive decay (at today's rates) had to have occurred in a matterof a few days!"

These ICR publications are available at

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Phillip Johnson on the Dover Case

From the East Bay Express, Justin Berton writes that "[w]hen fevered creationists gather outside a Dover, Pennsylvania, courtroom this fall, Berkeley's Phillip E. Johnson will probably shake his head in disapproval."
... Johnson is not at all involved in the first big legal challenge to the doctrine he helped launch [Dover], despite his role as the movement's popularizer and his status as its eminent legal theorist. In fact, he looks down his well-read nose at the spectacle in Dover. He insists that he would rather see the intelligent-design debate remain purely academic. "All of these local controversies are opened up by local people pursuing their own agendas," he says. "They may have in their mind they are furthering the intelligent-design movement, but that isn't necessarily the case and it isn't at our urging that they're doing it."

Red State Rabble has been noting for some time that the intelligent movement is being wrested from the hands of the ID general staff at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. Now the founder of ID Philip Johnson is allowing himself to go on record in opposition to the the co-opting of intelligent design language by creationists on the Dover school board and at the Thomas More Law Center.

The very real problem for Johnson and Discovery is this: creationists don't know -- and don't really care -- who Johnson is. Creationists, who make up the overwhelming majority of antiscience activists, have no interest in playing the long game that Johnson and Discovery envision.

They've shouldered the ID general staff aside and there's nothing either Johnson or Discovery can do about it.

Also, see the Panda's Thumb for a ruling on the The Foundation for Thought and Ethics motion to intervene in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. According to this report from PT, Judge John E. Jones has denied their motion to intervene. More bad news for Dembski et al.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Hope in these Unhappy Times

Josepth P. Kahn has a profile of ID activist George Gilder, co-founder of the Discovery Institute, in the Boston Globe. Gilder is famous for championing ideas just as they go out of fashion. A quick review of his track record should be enough to reassure anyone who is worried about the threat of intelligent design to science education in this country that their fears are utterly baseless.

1970s: Gilder took on the women's movement -- he was named "Male Chavinist of the Year" (a label he still wears with pride) by the National Organization for Women.

1980s: With his book Wealth and Poverty, Gilder became the guru of supply side economics (Reganomics, Trickle Down Economics) which led to the ballooning of the federal deficit.

1990s: "[T]housands of subscribers to his newsletter lost their shirts when the telecom bubble imploded, plunging Gilder into near bankruptcy and tarnishing his reputation as a tech-sector Yoda."

2000s: Intelligent design becomes the new Gilder idee fixe.

Two things:

  1. For Gilder, being wrong means never having to say you're sorry.
  2. The great designer in the sky has an odd sense of humor, doesn't he?

BTW: If, after you've read the Boston Globe article, you can't figure out who the University of Minnesota biologist referred to in the article is, then you really ought to take a look here.


The Luciferian Conspiracy

Nancy Levant writing in the Sierra Times -- the Internet publication for real Americans -- alerts us to an alarming conspiracy of immense scope that, unaccountably, we have remained ignorant of -- until now. Having been alerted to the danger, we wonder why this immensely urgent subject isn't (yet) being taught in the public schools. Connie Morris, take note.

"... it has as its apex a defined Luciferian religion. [Better known to you pagans as atheism -- RSR] Sadly, that religion has filtered down into all cultural systems with its partnership-stakeholder bureaucracy. This system was invented to steal property, freedom, wealth, and votes. It is a system and a doctrine invented by elite Luciferians who believe in and promote servitude, enslavement, eugenics, and mass murder.

"They believe in centralized wealth -- centralized by systems that collect world wealth and deposit it into their family accounts. They have finally implemented the global coffer siphoning system, and these people are wealthy beyond all understanding. They believe that mankind serves a purpose only if they contribute to their amassed wealth and system of legislated and enforced theft. And equally, they believe in bloodlines, DNA collections, and targeted extermination.

"The ultimate goal is to control the Earth and its inhabitants. Though they are often referred to as The Illuminati, they are master criminals led by the guiding principles of Luciferian religion, which believes in opposing God and acting in opposite to all scriptural mandates. They are masters of deception and have used family fortunes to buy professionalism and Ivy League credentials to retain political power. They control institutes of higher learning, and they also control public school education. They control mainstream media and the world's politicians. They fund and control scientific research and technology, but most importantly, they control global economics. By setting one global government into place, they now have the power to control the global flow of money.

"They intend to eliminate at least half, if not three-quarters of the human population using manufactured and financed wars, plagues, and other scientifically orchestrated catastrophes. They intend to enforce a global taxation system, which will guarantee the massive wealth and power of the very few and force mankind into what appears to be a pharmaceutically imposed enslavement. Any and all dissenters will be put to death."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Catholics and Evolution II

"It also is unfortunate that a cardinal with strong connections to the pope would appear to be used on one side of that battle by a think tank and its public relations arm in the United States."
-- Tom Roberts, From the Editor's Desk, National Catholic Reporter


Catholics and Evolution

John Allen Jr., reporting from Rome, in the National Catholic Reporter writes that "Catholic experts urge caution in evolution debate." Here's an excerpt:

[Schönborn's] article can offer a useful alert if taken at a theological
level. Evolution, they point out, has sometimes been invoked to justify atheism, as well as immanentism (that God is a vague life force) or deism (that God set the universe in motion and has nothing more to do with it). To the extent Schönborn’s point is that Christianity cannot accept a universe without an active, personal God, they say, there’s little to dispute.

If taken as a scientific statement, on the other hand, these observers warn that Schönborn’s insistence on seeing “purpose and design” in nature could steer the Catholic church towards creationism in the bitter cultural debate, especially prominent in the United States, between evolution and intelligent design. Doing so, they say, risks overstepping the bounds of the church’s competence, as well as reopening a divide between science and the Catholic church that had seemed largely overcome.

If you have been following the issue of evolution, design, and the Catholic Church following Cardinal Schönborn's New York Times Op-Ed, this is a must read article -- it gives us more information about who Cardinal Schönborn is, the range of opinion in the church, and additional background on the Pope's probable position.


Kansas Science Revisision Vulnerable to Court Challenge

A couple of days ago, RSR wrote a post (What ID and the New Coke have in common) that suggested that the revisions to the Kansas science curriculum written and adopted by the science subcommittee of the board might be vulnerable to challenge if -- but more likely -- when they are adopted by the full board, as expected in October.

A number of readers have written to ask about our analysis.

First, it is not yet, apparently, widely known that Board President Steve Abrams decided not to move adoption of the recommendations from the ID minority on the science standards committee, but rather to write his own.

As we see it, there are at least three potential problems here.

First, some members of the board sub-committee are on record as having said they don't understand the science, and yet they have now rejected both the majority draft, written by professional scientists and educators, and the minority draft written by ID activists who were chosen because they have some connection -- however tenuous -- to science.

Second, they were hastily and poorly written.

Third, in any court challenge, the motivation of the board in adopting these changes will be examined carefully to see if it has a secular intent. Having rejected the recommendations of the professionals they appointed to the curriculum committee, the public statements of board members Abrams, Martin, and Morris will become fair game.

The courts will certainly be interested in the record that Steve Abrams has compiled from 1999 on. For example, here's what curriculum committee chair Steve Case wrote in an open letter to the board during the science hearings last May:
Dr. Abrams must think that we have forgotten Trial Draft 4A of the science standards that he introduced in 1999. At the time he told us that he was the author of this trial draft of the standards. It was only through a bit of detective work that we found that this was not true. The draft had been written by a young earth creationist group from Cleveland, Missouri.
Surely, the newsletter published by Connie Morris in the midst of the deliberations over the science standards will also come in for some scrutiny. If you've forgotten about her newsletter, published under the letterhead of the State Board of Education, here's a choice excerpt:

First, let me say that I am a Christian and subscribe to the literal depiction of the origin of life as detailed in Genesis. i know that many of you don't adhere to the same belief. In fact, many Christians find no difficulty in reconciling their faith with evolution -- so be it. But the quandary exists when poor science -- with anti-God contempt and arrogance -- must insist it has all the answers.

Then, there's this from Kathy Martin:
"Our nation is a Christian nation. We are based on Christian principles."

In rejecting the recommendations of both the proscience majority of the curriculum committee and the antiscience ID minority, the board subcommittee has taken full responsibility on its own shoulders for the changes.

Because they have been vocal and built a long record concerning the religious motivation for the changes they've made, they have made themselves extremely vulnerable to a legal challenge that asserts there is no secular intent behind their antiscience revisions.

Monday, July 25, 2005



"I believe in dogmas of faith but I don't believe in dogmas of science," Christoph Cardinal Schönborn.

Jeff Israely reports in Time's European Magazine on the row created by the Cardinal's comments on intelligent design.


Speciation Happens

From the BBC News UK Edition, Julianna Kettlewell reports that a butterfly may unlock the evolutionary secret of speciation:

Given our planet's rich biodiversity, "speciation" clearly happens regularly, but scientists cannot quite pinpoint the driving forces behind it.

Now, researchers studying a family of butterflies think they have witnessed a subtle process, which could be forcing a wedge between newly formed species.


Reinforcements Arrive

Niall Shanks, a prominent defender of evolution, and the author of "God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory'' is on his way to Wichita State to take a professorship on the history and philosophy of evolution.

Shanks presence in Kansas is likely to shake things up in the battle with the Kansas State School Board. A veteran of many debates with creationist and intelligent desingn advocates, he is on record as saying the boycott of the hearings was a "a huge, stupid mistake."

"Not debating people is a very dangerous tactic," Shanks says. "Then they go unchallenged."

Welcome to the Kansas, the current frontline in the battle for reason and rationality, Prof. Shanks.


A Modest Proposal

Over at Pharyngula, the venerable PZ Myers has a post up about "The state of high school biology teaching" based on an interview with Randy Moore, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, that was published in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Here's a disturbing excerpt from the interview, "Why Many Biology Teachers Aren't Teaching Evolution" by Richard Monastersky that Myers flags in his post:

Q. Your work shows that many teachers -- nearly 40 percent -- are not teaching evolution, even if they believe it. Why?

A. It's just simpler for them to avoid it, politically. Their kids are on the same Little League teams as the kids of other parents. ... Biology teachers are pressured to not teach evolution and/or to teach creationism. Almost half of biology teachers report being pressured one way or the other, or both for many.

The question of what to do with students who want to attend college, but have graduated from school districts that do not teach evolution was also the subject of some give and take in a Washington Post on-line chat with Peter Slevin a couple of days ago. A participant in the chat from Ashburn, Va. made the following comment:
"A better strategy may be to persuade companies in the biological sciences fields to have policies that they will not locate their facilities in jurisdictions which are anti-evolution, or from universities that will not admit students to the biological science faculties who come from such an education-impaired region of the country. Any thoughts on this?"

We have seen this discussion before, most notably in 1999 when the Kansas State Board of Education voted to de-emphasize evolution.

RSR does not think it's fair to exclude students who attend these benighted school districts, after all, the sins of the fathers -- and mothers -- should not be visited on the children. However, many universities do require students to have a minimal competency in subjects such as math and English. Most schools also have foreign language requirements, as well.

We do not think it unreasonable to test incoming freshmen on their knowledge of evolution, and require those who do not pass to take a remedial course as a minimal requirement for graduation, or acceptance into a major in the sciences or education.


Putting ID and Creationism Back in their Box

Last Tuesday, July 19th, Red State Rabble was invited to drive out to Hays, Kansas to attend a talk by Anne Tweed. She is the retiring president of the National Science Teachers Association. She spoke to middle school teachers from Hays -- and via a distance learning hookup, to Emporia teachers, as well -- on The Nature of Science.

Tweed, who is a Senior Science Consultant with the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) in Aurora, Colorado, is a veteran high school science educator. She was a 1997 Finalist for the state of Colorado in the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching program. She was named the Outstanding Biology Teacher in 1992 by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) and the Distinguished High School Science Teacher for Colorado by the Colorado Association of Science Teachers (CAST).

Tweed's talk in Hays centered on the scientific way of knowing. As she quite correctly pointed out, there are many valid ways of knowing, including a number that are non-scientific. There are explanations of how the natural world changes based on cultural stories, personal beliefs, religious values, superstition, or authority that may be personally useful and socially relevant, according to Tweed, but they are not scientific.

One might, for example, learn much about the world from watching a play by Shakespeare or reading a poem by Yeats. There is truth and much that is valuable in these forms of knowing, but they are different than the scientific ways of knowing.

Tweed honed in on the definitions of fact, hypothesis, theory, and law -- terms that have distorted by creationists and intelligent design proponents, in much the same way Bush, Cheney, and Rove twisted the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Red State Rabble is grateful to have been invited to attend. Tweed's presentation is extremely effective. It should be repeated for every middle and high school science teacher in the country. RSR readers who are middle or high school science teachers would do well to inquire about inviting Tweed to make this presentation in their own district.

This short, well-thought out presentation is just the kind of event that will, in the end, put creationism and intelligent design back in the box -- much as the the Ark of the Covenant is put into a box at the end of the Harrison Ford epic "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

It needs to be presented widely.


Gull Lake Revisited

An article in the Detroit News by Kim Kozlowski, "Evolution battle grows in schools" looks at the debate shaping up in Michigan school districts over whether or not to teach intelligent design is well worth reading. It not only covers the Gull Lake case, but also takes a look at the status of other ID and creationist cases around the country. There's also a sidebar that compares the views of various religions on evolution. Here's a sample:
Jeff Conner knew he had to talk to school administrators when he learned his daughter was shown a video in science class that said evolutionary researchers were not scientists, and when she was assigned an essay about her beliefs on evolution and creation.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


What ID and New Coke Have in Common

Will we look back, sometime in the future, at the middle of a hot, muggy July in the summer of 2005 as the time when the sell by date on intelligent design expired, and it was pulled from the shelves to make way for its somewhat stodgier, but seemingly more durable sister product: creationism?

Making predictions is always risky, and Red State Rabble approaches this prediction with a certain amount of humility -- having been found to be wrong in the prediction business more often than we care to admit.

With that caveat in mind, like the spectacular flameouts of New Coke, Betamax, and Microsoft Bob, we are beginning to see certain unmistakable signs that intelligent design -- a pseudo-theory in search of a constituency -- is in trouble, and that old-school young earth creationism is making a comeback in the market.

RSR has already taken note of a number of ominous developments for the ID theorists gathered around the Seattle-based Discovery Institute:

First, they've been shown the door by the fundamentalist Thomas More Law Center in the Dover case.

This is dangerous for them because the Dover ID case may be the next to be heard in federal court. It could just be the one that sets the precedent for teaching intelligent design in public schools -- and Discovery Institute, the patent holder on ID theory is standing on the platform while the young earth creationists on the Dover school board and at the Thomas More Law Center pull the train out of the station.

Second, Discovery Institute has been forced to issue a series of statements opposing independent moves in the Pennsylvania and Utah legislatures to mandate the teaching of intelligent -- some call it divine -- design.

Finally, their carefully crafted Kansas strategy was derailed when the state school board failed to adopt a science standards minority report -- drafted by intelligent design activists associated with Discovery and the ID Network -- in opposition to mainstream scientists and educators on the state science curriculum committee. The now forgotten minority report took the Discovery line of calling for "teaching the controversy" over evolution.

Instead, the school board science subcommittee -- composed of young earth creationists Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, and Kathy Martin drafted their own revisions -- revisions that are certainly critical of evolution and friendly to ID, but are a bit more ad hoc in nature and, therefore, more vulnerable to challenge.

Perhaps most telling, however, is the symbolic contrast between the obvious success of the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference -- attended by some 2,000 young earth creationists this past week in Lynchburg, Tenn. and the rather pathetic counter announcement by Discovery that "[i]n the last 90 days, 29 scientists, including eight biologists, have signed the "Scientific Dissent From Darwinism."

If you haven't followed the Creation Mega-Conference you've missed something. Reason Online has two excellent articles by Ronald Bailey, and Panda's Thumb also has two great eye-witness posts from Jason Rosenhouse.

Bailey, for example, reports on a presentation at the Mega-Conference by Georgia Purdom, an assistant professor of biology at Mount Vernon Nazarene University who was once attracted to intelligent design, but eventually found it unsatisfying. Here's how Bailey summarizes Purdom's talk:
Purdom explained that intelligent design was just "refurbished natural theology"
... Purdom believes that both natural theology and intelligent design are fine as far as they go, but they don't go far enough. The problem is that nature is a general revelation while scripture is a special revelation and special revelation trumps general revelation.

The problem that creationists have with intelligent design -- and let's not forget that creationists make up the overwhelming majority of activists who oppose evolution -- is that it searches for proofs of God's hand in nature rather than in the good book. For these people, who for the most part slept or doodled on the cover of their notebooks during middle and high school science classes, the cold logic and demand for evidence that attracts some to science can never compete with biblical narrative.

In her magisterial book Doubt, Jennifer Michael Hecht observes that "[i]n the early Middle Ages, something curious happened to the ideas of faith and philosophy. For the first time, belief itself became the central religious duty. "

Doubt and belief are at the center of the evolution controversy for both the intelligent design crowd and their more simple-minded cousins in the creationist camp. What the creationists want is certainty. They get that from the Bible. Anything else, even ID, is dangerous because it might introduce doubt. There are, for example, some -- not many -- ID theorists who are open to the idea of an old earth. For the biblical literalists, this is blasphemy. It brings in doubt about God's word, and doubt, above all things, is something to be avoided.

For them, the revealed word of God is a complete package. It's not going to change. They aren't interested in the debate between ID "theorists" and real scientists. The truth is, they have a real hard time distinguishing between the two.

Inevitably, this division between the creationist shock troops -- numbering in the millions -- and the handful of "scientists" who are skeptical of Darwinism -- now up to 400 and counting -- will expose the boys at Discovery as a general staff without an army.

The legal and political strategy of "teaching the controversy," even if it were to prove successful, will never be enough for the creationists.

The rift between the two is already apparent. It will only grow larger.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Blinding Them With Science at the Creation Mega Conference

There are so many quotes to choose from, but after giving them all due consideration, this is RSR's favorite:

"If I can't directly bring in Christ, I really try to get them to critically try to destroy evolution as much as I can, scientifically, that is," says biology teacher Ron Neff, of New Jersey.


Jonathan Wells and ID's Blind Alley

Not long ago, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute breathlessly announced the publication of a paper by Jonathan Wells in the fringe science journal Rivista di Biologia that supposedly uses intelligent design to formulate a testable hypothesis about centrioles. Wells' hypothesis is that centrioles generate a polar ejection force (PEF) and that an excessive PEF causes chromosomal instability.

In the news release announcing publication of the paper -- the boys at the Discovery Institute ranked it just behind the discovery of penicillin and the first moon landing -- Wells opined:
"Darwinian evolution, despite the claims of its defenders, has been remarkably unsuccessful in guiding practical research in biology and medicine," said Wells. "Although ID is still controversial in the scientific community, some of us are now using it to formulate testable hypotheses."

Now comes news of a study by an international team of 25 scientists led by Harris A. Lewin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and William J. Murphy of Texas A&M University. Their team compared the organization of chromosomes in humans, mice, rats, cows, pigs, dogs, cats and horses at high resolution. (Reported in the July 22 issue of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Would you be surprised if RSR told you that despite Wells' fabulous paper and his fatuous comment about the success of evolution in guiding practical research in biology and medicine that the Lewin -Murphy study has found that "breakages in chromosomes in mammalian evolution have occurred at preferred rather than random sites as long thought, and many of the sites are involved in human cancers."

"This study has revealed many hidden secrets on the nature and timing of genome evolution in mammals, and it demonstrates how the study of basic evolutionary processes can lead to new insights into the origin of human diseases," said Lewin, the director of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois and a professor of animal sciences.

RSR knows that readers will have to weigh carefully whether or not an international team of 25 real scientists can equal the genius that the Discovery Institute's senior fellow brings to his "research," but this paper, coming so soon after the publication of Wells' Rivista paper is almost -- but not quite -- enough to convince RSR that there is a god after all.

We'll leave you with this little Wells' gem:
"Most research guided by neo-Darwinism is a huge waste of time and money. For example, a large number of scientists, and millions of taxpayer dollars every year, are presently devoted to constructing hypotheses ("phylogenetic trees") about how specific organisms might be related to each other through common ancestry. The only fruit has been a mish-mash of conflicting speculations that have produced no real benefits. In other words, fascination with neo-Darwinism has diverted precious public resources down a blind alley."

Oh, really? If knowing how specific organisms might be related through common ancestry is a huge waste of time and money, how can the use of rats in drug research testing compounds designed to treat human diseases be justified?

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Cynthia Davis: Missouri's Answer to Connie Morris

Republican state Rep. Cynthia Davis, who might best be described as Missouri's answer to Connie Morris, has repaid the $1,084 she took from her campaign committe to pay property taxes on her 1,800-square-foot home in Cole County. This is a violation of Missouri campaign finance laws.

"If this is something that causes concern," says Davis. "I’m more than happy to go the extra mile to make sure we’re doing the right thing."

Actually, the right thing would have been to use the campaign money to finance legitimate campaign expenses and to use her own money -- just like the rest of us -- to pay her taxes. RSR is always amazed at how good a game these fiscal conservatives talk when it comes to lowering taxes, and how willing to spend other people's money the suddenly become if it benefits them personally.

Incidentally, Davis cosponsored House Bill 911 in the 2004 session of the legislature to require appointment of:
"a committee of no fewer than five supporters of intelligent design who are knowledgeable about science to develop supplemental materials for interim use by September 1, 2005. Willful neglect of the requirements of the bill is cause for termination of a teaching contract. State-controlled testing must conform with the bill, and a copy of the bill must be posted in each eighth through twelfth grade public school classroom in which onlyscience is taught."

The bill hasn't gone anywhere, yet. That's because Missouri legislators don't yet recognize that we have to teach ID and creationism because evolution -- unlike the Bible -- provides no ethical or moral compass to guide people through life.

Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, especially if you can get your campaign contributors to do it for you. God doesn't mind if you steal campaign funds to pay your taxes. God is a low tax kind of guy.

If you get caught, all that happens is that you have to pay, but you also get an opportunity to issue a ringing public statement about going the extra mile.


Fundamentalist Law Firm Files Dover Motion

According to a news release issued by the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as a law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, papers were filed in federal court yesterday, asking the judge to rule in favor of the Dover school board "in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The ACLU is challenging a recent change to the school district’s ninth-grade biology curriculum, which, in a one-minute statement, informs students that there are gaps and problems in the theory of evolution and makes students aware of intelligent design as an alternative explanation for the origins and diversification of life."

In fact, the ACLU did not bring suit. The ACLU is representing 11 parents of students who were subjected to the board's anti-evolution indoctrination.

What Dover parents might also want to ask is why their public school system is being represented by a law firm that calls itself "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..." and whose "ministry was inspired by the recognition that the issues of the cultural war being waged across America, issues such as abortion, pornography, school prayer, and the removal of the Ten commandments from municipal and school buildings, are not being decided by elected legislatures, but by the courts."

Oh, in case you were wondering, Thomas More also approvingly notes that Judge John G. Roberts, President Bush's nomination for the Supreme Court:

Get the picture?


Recall Connie Morris

Fed up, and can't take it anymore? Now you can sign an online petition to recall Connie Morris. The site has been set up by a grassroots campaign to restore sanity to the Kansas School Board.

RSR signed the petition, but we must admit we were of two minds on the subject. We were torn whether or not to sign because, quite frankly, on those nights when we're a little tired and having a hard time coming up with a sufficiently snarky post on ID or creationism, our girl Connie has come through for us so many times that we've positively come to rely on her.

Nevertheless, we're keeping a stiff upper lip -- confident that pseudoscience is a bottomless well of personalities like Connie. Surely, some one will step forward to fill the void.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Tennessee Group Fights ID

GENES, a grassroots organization committed to ensuring evolution science continues to be taught in Blount County, Tennessee Schools, opposes the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in science classes.

GENES was formed after the Blount County School Board passed a resolution in January that said in part,
Teaching a variety of scientific theories about origins may be done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction... Design theory, in particular, constitutes an inference from biological data, and is not an inference or conclusion from religious authority.

The group has just set up a website. You can visit here.


Scopes Photos Found at Smithsonian

John Scopes, in a recently rediscovered photo in the Smithsonian Institution archive.

Marcel C. LaFollette, an independent scholar, historian and Smithsonian volunteer has uncovered rare, unpublished photographs of the 1925 Tennessee vs. John Scopes “Monkey Trial” in the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

You can view the restored photos here, including one of 0f William Jennings Bryan being questioned by Clarence Darrow during the trial.


Newton's Third Law

It was only a matter of time. The combination of right-wing hate politics with the pseudoscience of creationism and intelligent design -- and the deadly earnest attempt to put them in the public schools -- is getting a response.

Peter Slevin, a Washington Post staff writer, reports in "Classroom Evolution's Grass-Roots Defender":

A grass-roots group troubled by recent Republican triumphs and the influence of the Christian right is fighting back in Northern Virginia by defending the teaching of Darwinian evolution, a battleground in the national culture war.

An e-mail last month seeking support from more than 300 local Democratic campaign volunteers and other potential supporters described efforts across the country to challenge evolutionary theory. It warned against "politically infused theological pseudo-science" and said silence risks undermining Virginia schools and weakening the state's economy.

This article is well worth reading, because it reminds us that eventually the dangerous nonsense of intelligent design and creationism, will force Americans to respond -- just as they have in Kansas with Kansas Citizens for Science, in Pennsylvania with Dover CARES, and in many other states that have fought to defend science education.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Islam and Intelligent Design

Islam Online, which describes itself as a multi-service, multi-lingual website with a universal message and Islamic content, has published an article on intelligent design by Ahmed K. Sultan Salem. a PhD student in the Space, Telecommunications, and Radioscience Laboratory (STARLab) at Stanford University.

Here's an excerpt:
I completely agree with the assertion of ID that the universe shows signs of design. Nevertheless, I have the concern that ID may be a self-defeating exercise. By insisting that the discernment of the existence of an intelligent designer is a clear-cut part of science, ID runs the risk of perpetuating the belief that science is the sole tool for searching for the truth, and that if one does not make scientific arguments, then his or her case is null and void. Though myself being a firm believer in science and the competence of the human intellect, I think the domain of science, albeit huge, is limited. Reason, revelation, experimentation, and intuition should form together the foundations of our knowledge. And, ultimately, it is revelation that provides answers to the really fundamental questions.


Belief and Science

Alan I. Leshner, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science writes,

"At the same time, it is important for scientists to acknowledge that not all questions can be answered by science. Scientific insights are limited to the natural world. For reasons of their own, some scientists argue with some passion that there could not have been an intelligent designer behind the process of evolution. In fact, we cannot answer that question scientifically, because it is a matter of belief that is outside our realm.

"By keeping ID out of the science venue, are we attempting to stifle it? On the contrary, I believe it is appropriate to teach about belief-based concepts like ID in humanities courses, in classes comparing religious points of view, or in philosophy courses that contrast religious and scientific approaches to the world. However, what is taught in science class should be limited to science. Redefining science to get a particular belief into the classroom simply isn't educationally sound."

Leshner advocates, in RSR's opinion, an extremely sensible approach. It reminds us of Stephen Jay Gould's formulation of NOMA -- Nonoverlapping Magisteria -- which is no longer getting the attention it deserves.


From Ape to Man on the History Channel

Mary and Louis Leakey examine their find, Zinjanthropus Bosei, in Tanzania. Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for The History Channel.

Life has existed for millions of years, but only in the past century-and-a-half have we begun to use science to explore the ancestral roots of our own species. The search for the ultimate answer has taken a number of twists and turns, with careers made and broken along the way. Ape to Man is the story of the quest to find the origins of the human race – a quest that spanned more than 150 years of obsessive searching. Ape to Man is a world premiere on The History Channel on August 7 at 9-11 pm ET/PT. (Source: The History Channel)


Science and the Kansas Economy Conference

The 2005 Kansas Economic Policy Conference is planned for Thursday, October 27, at the Kansas Union on the campus of the University of Kansas. This year's theme is Back to the Future: Science and the Kansas Economy.

Please visit the conference website at for online registration and more information.

Monday, July 18, 2005


We've Got A Major Problem Here

Ken Ham says Catholics need to think carefully before they accept evolution.

"If you're going to believe in evolution," Ham asserts, "and say that God took an ape man and made a soul to make Adam, and God took an ape woman and made a soul to make Eve, then the woman came from an ape woman. She didn't come from Adam. And if the woman didn't come from Adam's side, then you've got a major problem."


"Of People and Pandas" Errata Grows

John Sullivan of Knight Ridder reports from Harrisburg that:

In a pretrial hearing here in federal court, the plaintiff's attorneys said an early draft of the textbook [Of Panda's and People -- RSR] on intelligent design - the theory that the universe is too complex to have developed without some purposeful designer - had used the term "creation."

The lawyers also produced a letter written by the book's publisher, Jon Buell, that said intelligent design could serve as an alternative to evolution that would alleviate the deep hostility toward Christian views of how the world came to be.


The Wit and Wisdom of Chris Buttars

"It's not fact. It's a theory," says Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars. "You know, the trouble with the missing link is that it's still missing."

Buttars, who has withdrawn his proposal to teach "Divine Design" in Utah public school is, of course, motivated solely by scientific facts. That he believes in the literal truth of the creation story in Genesis and that "a lot of people like me who believe that God created man" is utterly irrelevant to the matter at hand.


PA Court to Review Reporter's Notes

Martha Raffaele of the Associated Press reports that:

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III agreed to a suggestion by a lawyer for The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record/Sunday News that he examine the materials privately to determine whether they are relevant to the case before ruling on the lawyer's request to quash the subpoenas.

The lawyer, Niles Benn, said he would turn over notes and story drafts from Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, a correspondent for the Dispatch, and e-mails from Joe Maldonado, a correspondent from the Daily Record/Sunday News, by the end of the day on Tuesday.

"We think the court's going to find that the notes aren't relevant," Benn said after the court hearing.

Attorneys for the Christian fundamentalist Thomas More Law center, who are defending the school board, deny that board members made the statements supporting creationism during a public board meeting that were attributed to them in the articles.

They wouldn't have done that, would they?


What ID Doesn't Get Right -- The Short List

The Catholic News Service column "Washingtion Letter" has a piece about Cardinal Schonborn's New York Times Op-Ed titled, "Let's dance: Viennese cardinal waltzes into U.S. evolution flap," by Agostino Bono that is, dare we say it, less than awestruck by the Cardinal's reasoning. Here's an excerpt from a dissenting view from within the church:

Jesuit Father Kevin FitzGerald, who holds doctorates in molecular biology and philosophy, said that intelligent design advocates "see the unresolved problems of evolution and find data that doesn't fit the theory."

But then "they make a leap from he data" and evaluate it as saying that design and purpose are present in life forms and that this is a better explanation than evolution, said Father FitzGerald, professor of Catholic health care ethics at Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington.

He said that the scientific task is limited to discovering data, "but the data can be looked at from nonscientific perspectives such as philosophy, history, theology, even art."

"The question of design in the universe needs to be addressed and scientific evidence brought to bear. But the ultimate terrain to judge this would be philosophy, not science," he said.

"This is what intelligent design doesn't get right," he said.


Quantum Weirdness Seizes the ID Mind

Over at Panda's Thumb, Ian Musgrave, a neuropharmacologist, has a knockout post about William Dembski's recent embrace of quantum mechanics and neuroscience (see RSR's post on this issue below).

Musgrave, despite his modesty, is much more qualified that Red State Rabble to comment on such matters. Readers who are interested in issues of the relationship between mind and brain will learn much from Musgrave's post.

Still, we think Dembski -- and this paper “Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: a neurophysical model of mind-brain interaction” by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Henry P. Stapp, Mario Beauregard in Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 2005 -- is more quackery than science.

Musgrave takes them seriously -- or at least answers them seriously -- but finds it odd that they resort to quantum mechanics because. "[i]t is not clear if Schwartz et al’s model [quantum mechanics -- RSR] is really needed to explain the phenomena they need to explain." In other words, there are simpler explanations for how the brain works that don't require resorting to quantum mechanics.

If that is the case, then what is the attraction of quantum mechanics?

Well, RSR thinks that is fairly obvious. Dembski himself says it fairly high up in his post:
"it [the Schwartz et al paper -- RSR] argues for the irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms"

For Dembski and the others, the quantum weirdness of wave-particle duality and non-locality is where God comes in. Scientists such as Musgrave can explain -- and there is much to learn from these explanations -- what we know about the brain, about consciousness, and mind.

But the fact is, for the ID movement, quantum weirdness is nothing more than a gap in which they can operate. It is a micro-universe where cause and effect seem not to operate as in our macroworld. A space where God can be said to act in the world.

For readers who would like to learn more about the abuse of quantum mechanics by various quacks -- believe me, Dembski and his friends in the ID movement aren't the first to go there -- start at this article "Quantum Quackery" by Victor J. Stenger, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii and the author of Not By Design: The Origin of the Universe on the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal website.

In this article, Stenger takes a look at claims that quantum physics supports the mystical notion that the mind creates reality, while noting that "objective reality, with no special role for consciousness, human or cosmic, is consistent with all observations."

He also gives an introductory course in quantum mechanics for those who are intimidated by the subject.

Friday, July 15, 2005


ID, Dembski, Quantum Mechanics and Neuroscience

In describing quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle, Werner Heisenberg said, "[b]oth matter and radiation possess a remarkable duality of character, as they sometimes exhibit the properties of waves, at other times those of particles. Now it is obvious that a thing cannot be a form of wave motion and composed of particles at the same time - the two concepts are too different."

Over the years, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and other phenomena associated with quantum mechanics such as nonlocal behaviour, along with the general and special theories of relativity have revolutionized the field of physics.

At the same time, these ideas have been distorted by a strange assortment of hucksters, conmen, and quacks to add a certain scientific luster to parnormal phenomena such as ESP, New Age medicine, quantum healing, out of body experiences, and distant viewing.

Not surprisingly, intelligent design "theorists" have now come to a new appreciation -- if not understanding -- of quantum mechanics, as well.

On his Uncommon Descent blog, ID theorist William Dembski is plugging a paper published by "[m]y good friend and colleague Jeffrey Schwartz (along with Mario Beauregard and Henry Stapp) ... in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that challenges the materialism endemic to so much of contemporary neuroscience. By contrast, it argues for the irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms.

The title of the paper is, "Quantum Physics in Neuroscience and Psychology: A Neurophysical Model of Mind–Brain Interaction."

Here's the abstract:

Neuropsychological research on the neural basis of behaviour generally posits that brain mechanisms will ultimately suffice to explain all psychologically described phenomena. This assumption stems from the idea that the brain is made up entirely of material particles and fields, and that all causal mechanisms relevant to neuroscience can therefore be formulated solely in terms of properties of these elements. Thus, terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (e.g. ‘feeling’, ‘knowing’ and ‘effort’) are not included as primary causal factors. This theoretical restriction is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three-quarters of a century. Contemporary basic physical theory differs profoundly from classic physics on the important matter of how the consciousness of human agents enters into the structure of empirical phenomena. The new principles contradict the older idea that local mechanical processes alone can account for the structure of all observed empirical data. Contemporary physical theory brings directly and irreducibly into the overall causal structure certain psychologically described choices made by human agents about how they will act. This key development in basic physical theory is applicable to neuroscience, and it provides neuroscientists and sychologists with an alternative conceptual framework for describing neural processes. Indeed, owing to certain structural features of ion channels critical to synaptic function, contemporary physical theory must in principle be used when analysing human brain dynamics. The new framework, unlike its classic-physics-based predecessor, is erected directly upon, and is compatible with, the prevailing principles of physics. It is able to represent more adequately than classic concepts the neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.

You can read the paper here.

According to his bio on the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, Dr. Schwartz is a seminal thinker. "He received an honors degree in philosophy from the University of Rochester, and in the 1970s began to immerse himself in Buddhist philosophy--in particular, the philosophy of mindfulness, or conscious awareness. This is the idea that the mind is an active participant in the world, and that when the actions of the mind have an effect on the workings of the brain. It became his goal to find a scientific underpinning for the belief that mindfulness affects how the brain works."

Oddly, there is no mention of any degree (or study of) physics.

Deepak Chopra move over. Can ID's embrace of crystals be far behind?


Cardinal Schönborn Issues Follow-up Remarks

An article in Tidings, the weekly newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, titled "Scientific data supports design in evolution, says cardinal" reports that, "[a]ny evolutionary position that denies the 'overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science' and incompatible with Catholic teaching, said Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna."

But it also goes on to say this:

In follow-up remarks published July 11 by Kathpress, an Austrian Catholic news agency, Cardinal Schonborn cited Popes Pius XII and John Paul II as saying that the theory of evolution --- as long as it remains within the realm of science and is not made into an ideological "dogma" which cannot be questioned -- is in conformity with Catholic teaching.

The cardinal quoted Pope John Paul as saying in 1985 that "the properly understood belief in creation and the properly understood teaching of evolution do not stand in each other's way."

Cardinal Schonborn did not include this papal quote in The New York Times article although several quotes from a 1985 papal general audience were included. The 1985 quotes stressed that human reasoning holds that the evolution of living beings points to the existence of a God who created the universe rather than to the formation of life through chance as advocated by materialistic philosophies.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


You Can't Argue With Faith

"You can't argue with faith because that's the point of faith," writes Jon Carroll in his San Francisco Chronicle column, "it's something you believe despite any arguments against it. In fact, your steadfastness against the arguments is proof of the strength of your faith. The idea of arriving at the truth by disputation and experiment -- no longer on the menu."

And that friends, is why we're making a terrible mistake if we allow faith -- no matter how sincere and firmly held -- to replace science education in our public school classrooms.

There's nothing wrong with faith, just as there's nothing wrong with science, as long as we use them in their proper domains. But, using faith to explain the features of the natural world is like using a screwdriver to drive a nail. Likewise, using science to explain existenial questions such as, what is the meaning of life, or why am I here, is like trying to drive a car from New York to London.


Dover ID Lawyers Want to Cross-Examine Reporters

Lauri Lebo of the York Daily Record, which has been covering the intelligent design controversy in Dover, Penn. reports that attorneys from the right-wing Christian fundamentalist Thomas More Law Center, who are defending the Dover area school board in a suit brought by 11 parents who oppose the intelligent design mandate issued by the board, have gone to court to force two reporters, Joe Moldonado and Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, to testify about articles they wrote in 2004:

The articles were regarding discussions on a proposed biology book during which board members discussed creationism. But in sworn depositions in January, board
members denied the remarks attributed to them in the newspaper articles. And in a motion filed earlier this summer, attorneys for the school board asked the court to require Maldonado and Bernhard-Bubb to appear for depositions in the First amendment lawsuit over intelligent design.

"Only the reporters possess information about their bias, prejudice,
interest and motive in their reporting," the motion states.

But Niles Benn, attorney for both newspapers, said the accusations aren't about reporter bias.

"We don't feel there was any bias at all," he said. "The statements were made by the persons quoted. They never asked for retraction, they never asked for a correction."

Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, said he also wants to be able to examine the reporters' notes from the meetings, in order to ascertain whether "they were fair in their stories and were presented in an even-handed manner.


Scientists Ask Pope to Clarify Position on Evolution

The International Herald Tribune picks up a report by Cornelia Dean in the New York Times that "three scientists, two of them Roman Catholic biologists, have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the church's position on evolution in light of recent statements by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn , an influential theologian, that the modern theory of evolution may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

"The scientists asked the pope to reaffirm statements on the subject by Pope John Paul II and others "that scientific rationality and the church's commitment to divine purpose and meaning in the universe were not incompatible...

"Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, wrote the letter on behalf of himself and the two biologists, Francisco Ayala of the University of California at Irvine and Kenneth Miller of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Ayala is a former Dominican priest, and Miller is a Roman Catholic who has written on the reconciliation of science and faith."


Arkansas School Board Votes to Remove Evolution Stickers

Joseph Goldstein of the Searcy (Arkansas) Daily Citizen reports that the "Beebe School Board voted Monday to remove stickers describing evolution as a controversial theory from their science textbooks.

"Three members of the five-member school board voted to remove the sticker, said Beebe School Board President Butch Rice. Two members, including Rice, voted to keep the sticker at the front of science textbooks.

"The stickers declare that "any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact" and suggest "an intelligent designer."The stickers had attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter in January to the school board requesting the removal of the stickers."


A Scientist's Faith

"Children who are not taught science, who are taught biblical information as if it were science, suffer enormously," Lane said. "We know that the whole foundation of biology is Darwinian evolution as it has been revised through the years based on scientific findings. It's the whole foundation of basic biology, including medical research and all the treatments that cure people.
"It's important for scientists to get that story out to parents. Evolution is very important to their children and their children's children."

--Neal Lane a professor of physics at Rice University and former director of the National Science Foundation
Read more in this this column by Jim Spencer in the Denver Post.


Kathy Martin: Science Advocate Extraordinaire

If you want to read about the latest Kansas Board of Education outrage on science teaching in all its gory detail, read the poorly headlined but otherwise excellent "Evolution criticisms win more support" by Barbara Hollingsworth in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Here's an hors d'oeuvre to whet your appetite:

"We want scientific evidence," says Kathy Martin, board member and young earth creationist from Clay Center, Kan. who is supporting the intelligent design redefinition of science. "We don't want any other kind of evidence."

"I think we are perilously close with this document of finding ourselves in court, but I'm in the minority," says Sue Gamble, a Republican moderate on the board who has been a consistent supporter of real science. "I'm not going to prevail, so the sooner the six votes pass the better."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


October Surprise?

A final vote on the Kansas science standards may not come until October, according to Board Chairman Steve Abrams. The board's conservative majority sent it's latest antiscience changes back to the science-writing committee for review -- after warning the committee not to make changes to the ID content. When the science committee reports back to the board, the standards are expected to be sent out for external review.


Kansas Conservatives Push More Changes in Science Standards

John Hanna of the Associated Press reports that conservatives on the Kansas State Board of Education continue to "tweak" the science standards. Kathy Martin, for example, has added a change that defines biological evolution as an "unguided" process without a set purpose.

"I keep finding things that the only justification for them being here is intelligent design and creationism," says Sue Gamble, a moderate board member from Shawnee.

RSR thinks the courts will find intelligent design and creationism are the only justification, as well.


The Vast Darwinist Conspiracy (Fiction)

RSR reader Bill F. has read and reacted (strongly) to the Discovery Institute news release that blames "Darwinist pressure groups" for Bryan Leonard's problems with his dissertation committee at Ohio State University. Bill writes:
Darwinist Pressure Groups; must be for young folks, eh? How ironic is that? The Discovery Institute which has been called a creationist think tank (I prefer creationist septic tank) acting as a lobbying group, working state by state as "agitators" (remember that from the '60's?), but it's an organization that exists, has funding, directors, fellows, lawyers and the whole nine yards, referring to"Darwinist pressure groups" that don't exist, have no organization, no building, no fellows, no nothing. The DI creates this phantom cadre of evil. Not unlike the "vast right wing conspiracy" of HilaryClinton. Fictional, made up bogeyman.


An Evolution T-shirt with True Intelligent Design

babyPolitico, describes itself as a company that produces t-shirts and one-pieces for politically savvy kids. They have released a t-shirt that promotes teaching evolution. Timed with the 80th anniversary of the Tennessee Scopes Trial, babyPolitico wants to do its part to support science education in public schools.

For more information take a look here.

Please note that RSR has recieved no compensation from babyPolitico -- we just thought it was a cool idea.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Bryan Leonard Testimony: Shaping and Molding His Students

A statement issued yesterday by Robert DiSilvestro, a Professor of Human Nutrition, and Glen R. Needham, an Associate Professor of Entomology at Ohio State University -- both members of Bryan Leonard's dissertation committee have made a big issue out of the fact that those who question the composition of the committee and have expressed concern about the ethical basis of his research have not read his dissertation.

However, it is not impossible to find out about Leonard's research. A transcript of his testimony at the Kansas science hearings last May has been available on-line for some time now.

Here's an excerpt of Leonard describing his research of intelligent design attorney John Calvert [RSR has broken long responses into paragraphs to make them easier to read]:

John Calvert: And in your high school you're teaching 10th grade biology?

Bryan Leonard: 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.

[Skipping ahead in the transcript –RSR]

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 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.

[Skipping ahead in the transcript again –RSR]

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 [If RSR believed in Freudian analysis, we’d be tempted to call that a Freudian slip]suggests supporting and challenging, help students stimulate more complete understanding and critical thinking. In this particular book by Rophy (sp),[transcriber’s note from the official transcript – RSR]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 I believe should and will do just that.


Discovery Institute Files Public Records Request in Bryan Leonard Case

A news release from the Discovery Institute announces it has filed a public records request with the Ohio State University (OSU) seeking all documents related to the
"Darwinist attacks on OSU doctoral candidate Bryan Leonard." The request was submitted under the Ohio Public Records Act.

"We are requesting all communications to and from university officials involving Mr. Leonard's Ph.D. candidacy in order to determine if university officials have violated his rights," said Cooper. "We also want to determine the extent to which university actions may have resulted from a coordinated campaign by outside pressure groups to deprive Leonard of his academic freedom and his constitutional rights."

What this amounts to is a desperate bid to change the subject away from Leonard's manipulation of OSU's School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education rules on the composition of dissertation committees and the ethics of human experimentation.

Robert DiSilvestro and Glen R. Needham, both intelligent design proponents on Leonard's dissertation committee have already admitted the rules weren't followed in a statement issued yesterday:

Although we have now learned of an apparent policy within T&L that there be two members from science education on science education dissertation committees...

What the open records request, following so closely on the heels of the statement by DiSilvestro and Needham, indicate is that they -- and Discovery -- have already given up on making their case through university channels and are laying the groundwork either for a legal challenge or a face-saving public relations campaign.


Cavalier Attitude

As long-term readers of RSR will know, we have engaged from time to time in a long-running debate with Dr. Richard Weikart, an intelligent design proponent and Discovery Institute fellow, who writes books and gives lectures that assert Darwin, evolution, and science are key factors in the rise of Hitler, the Nazis, and eugenics.

You would think that this line of thinking -- which, it turns out, is really taken directly from the Karl Rove playbook: Demonize your Opponents -- would make the intelligent design movement sensitive to issues involving the ethics of human experimentation.

But it does not.

The latest evidence comes from the statement issued yesterday by Robert DiSilvestro, a Professor of Human Nutrition, and Glen R. Needham, an Associate Professor of Entomology, at Ohio State University. Both are members of Bryan Leonard's dissertation committee. (Scroll down to read the earlier entry on this statement.)

Here's their cavalier dismissal of the ethics of human experimentation in Leonard's research:

The Ethics of Mr. Leonard's Research. It has been alleged by three OSU professors at that Mr. Leonard's dissertation was "unethical human subject experimentation" because it examines the question: "When students are taught the scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution, do they maintain or change their beliefs over time?" According to the Columbus Dispatch, these professors acknowledge they have not read Mr. Leonard's dissertation, but they believe that Mr. Leonard's dissertation research must have been "unethical" because there are no valid scientific criticisms of evolution.

What DiSilvestro and Needham conveniently forget to mention in this statement is that Leonard gave detailed testimony on his teaching methods at the Kansas science hearing roadshow in May.

Can teaching "the controversy" to a captive audience of impressionable, first-time biology students really amount to an ethical problem? Let's make a comparison.

Let's say we have a well-intentioned homeopathy advocate hired by a hospital to teach cancer patients how to follow their chemotherapy regimen. He decides to teach them about the controversy between medicine and homeopathy. Is there an ethical problem?

How about this, let's say we hire Tom Cruise to counsel women suffering from post-partum depression and he teaches them the controversy between Scientology and medicine. Ethical problem? You be the judge.


Dover Board Resignation: Leaving His Mess Behind

Activists who support quality schools -- and oppose placing intelligent design in the biology curriculum -- in Dover, Penn. are waiting to find out if School Board member Bill Buckingham will formally resign before Sept. 5.

Yesterday, it was reported that Buckingham, the man who pushed to mandate intelligent design in Dover schools, will move to North Carolina because, he says “[t]he winter in North Carolina starts later and ends earlier."

If Buckingham, who has already sold his home in Dover, formally resigns before Sept. 5, Dover Cares, the citizen group that is fighting for good schools there, can put another candidate on the ballot for the November election -- as can the intelligent design faction -- board candidate Bernadette Reinking tells Red State Rabble.

If he waits until after Sept. 5, the board will appoint someone, presumably a supporter of intelligent design, to finish his term in office.

"People who do not agree with him are happy that he is moving," says Reinking, a candidate for school board on the Dover Cares slate, "but mention that he is leaving his mess behind."

Supporters of the Dover Cares slate for school board, which includes, Bernadette Reinking, Terry Emig, Bryan Rehm, Rob McIlvaine, Judy McIlvaine, Larry Gurreri, and Patricia Dapp, will be going door-to-door to take their case to the voters.

Here's where Dover Cares candidates stand on the issues:


Leonard Dissertation Committee Issues Statement

The Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog has posted a statement by Robert DiSilvestro, a Ph.D. Biochemistry, Professor of Human Nutrition, and Glen R. Needham Ph.D. Associate Professor of Entomology, both of Ohio State University, and members of Bryan Leonard's dissertation committee.

Leonard was part of the intelligent design roadshow that performed in front of the credulous on the Kansas school board last May.

In June, The Lantern, the student newspaper at Ohio State University, reported that, "Ohio State doctoral candidate Bryan Leonard's dissertation is being investigated by the School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education as a result of controversies surrounding Leonard's views on evolution, his use of human subjects for testing and his public association of his beliefs with OSU."

OSU professors Brian W. McEnnis, a mathematics professor, Jeffrey K. McKee, an anthropology professor, and Steve Rissing, a biology professor, wrote a letter to Carole Anderson, an interim dean in the graduate school, saying that, "There is evidence that Mr. Leonard's dissertation committee has been improperly constituted and that his research may have involved unethical human subject experimentation."

DeSilvestro and Needham, both intelligent design proponents assert in their statement that:
Although we have now learned of an apparent policy within T&L that there be two members from science education on science education dissertation committees, it does not appear that this policy is either widely known or consistently applied.

Although DeSivlestro and Needham say in their statement they know of instances when the policy has not been consistently applied, they offer no specifics.

The statement is also long on assertions that no one specifically told Leonard about the university's policy on dissertation committee composition, but is utterly silent on Leonard's responsibility to have read and understood them, himself. Ignorance of the law, as they say, is no excuse.

When RSR was a graduate student, there was a student handbook that covered such matters. We'd be very, very surprised to find that OSU's School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education doesn't have such a document, too.


Subterranean Heresy

H. L Mencken covered the Scopes Trial for the The Baltimore Evening Sun. Here's an excerpt from his July 11, 1925 report.

Life down here in the Cumberland mountains realizes almost perfectly the ideal of those righteous and devoted men, Dr. Howard A. Kelly, the Rev. Dr. W.W. Davis, the Hon. Richard H. Edmonds and the Hon. Henry S. Dulaney. That is to say, evangelical Christianity is one hundred per cent triumphant. There is, of course, a certain subterranean heresy, but it is so cowed that it is almost inarticulate, and at its worst it would pass for the strictest orthodoxy in such Sodoms of infidelity as Baltimore. It may seem fabulous, but it is a sober fact that a sound Episcopalian or even a Northern Methodist would be regarded as virtually an atheist in Dayton. Here the only genuine conflict is between true believers. Of a given text in Holy Writ one faction may say this thing and another that, but both agree unreservedly that the text itself is impeccable, and neither in the midst of the most violent disputation would venture to accuse the other of doubt.


80th Scopes Anniversary

In the 80 years since the Scopes Trial, creationism and its brainier cousin, intelligent design, have made monkeys out of more than one of their supporters.

Monday, July 11, 2005


The Numbers Paradox

A few days ago, we reported on a nationwide Harris Poll of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone by between June 17 and 21, that found nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults believe human beings were created by God.

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the survey was that when pollsters asked, "Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not?" 54 percent of respondents said no. That's up from 46 percent in 1994.

The Kansas City Star also published the results of a poll on public attitudes toward teaching evolution, intelligent design, and creationism that showed 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.

And yet, the numbers don't seem to tell the whole story. Consider, these recent, real world reversals for Christian fundamentalists, intelligent design, and creationism:

It seems that poll numbers don't tell the whole story. In many cases, when parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and legislators are confronted with an actual challenge from intelligent design and creationist forces, they tend to unite behind science education.

This is not to ignore the counter-examples from Cobb County, Georgia; Dover, Penn.; and the expected vote to add pseudoscience to the Kansas science standards later this summer. But, even in those cases, the issue has galvanized people in those communities to step forward to defend science education. As in Kansas in 1999, we can expect that some of those decisions can and will be reversed.

It could be that people respond reflexively to pollsters questions -- it may seem more democratic to teach all the "theories" when first confronted by the question -- but when they begin to pay attention to the issue, are forced to think more deeply, or when they actually see the antiscience forces in action, they begin to change their minds.


Dover ID Leader Heads for Sunnier Climes

Lauri Lebo of the York Daily Record reports that Dover School Board member Bill Buckingham is heading for sunnier climes. Last October, Buckingham introduced a motion, which passed 6-3, to add intelligent design to the district’s science curriculum.

"The man who championed the fight to bring intelligent design into Dover’s biology classroom is leaving town.

"But Dover Area School Board member Bill Buckingham said he will still be involved in September’s First Amendment trial over the district’s science curriculum.

"As a board member, he is one of the defendants in the lawsuit.

"Buckingham’s departure raises questions about his responsibility to the district. Should the district lose what will likely be a costly legal battle, the plaintiffs would likely sue to recoup legal costs, leaving district taxpayers to foot the bill.

"He said he’s not worried.

“'We don’t expect to lose,' he said. 'We believe we’re right.'

"Buckingham has already sold his Dover Township house and said he will be moving to Mount Airy, N.C., for health reasons. He said his body can no longer stand Pennsylvania’s cold winters since having six back surgeries and three knee-replacements.

“'The winter in North Carolina starts later and ends earlier,' he said"


An Answer Based on Absence

"ID is an answer based on absence," writes Dr. James Randerson, a life-sciences news editor with the international science news weekly magazine, New Scientist. "'If Darwin can't explain it, then it must be the work of a designer.' But a lack of explanation is not good enough for science. Who or what is this designer? How does he or she or it operate? When should we expect to see the designer operating in today's world? None of these questions is answerable, because the designer falls outside of natural processes. This answer simply does not fit the definition of a scientific explanation."

You can read all of this tightly reasoned article here.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


It Was 80 Years Ago Today...

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off in the Scopes Monkey Trial on July 10, 1925 in the Rhea County Court House in Dayton, Tenn.

Here's an excerpt from the trial transcript as Darrow moves that a "Read Your Bible" banner be removed from the courthouse on the trial's seventh day.

Darrow: [Clarence Darrow, Scopes Defense Attorney] Your honor, before you send for the jury, I think it my duty to make this motion. Off to the left of where the jury sits a little bit and about ten feet in front of them is a large sign about ten feet long reading. "Read Your Bible," and a hand pointing to it. The word "Bible" is in large letters, perhaps, a foot and a half long, and the printing--

The Court: [Judge John T. Raulston] Hardly that long I think, general.

Darrow: What is that?

The Court: Hardly that long.

Darrow: Why, we will call it a foot....

Darrow: I move that it be removed.

The Court: Yes.

McKenzie: [Ben G. McKenzie, Assistant Attorney General of Tennessee, member of the Prosecution Team] If your honor please, why should it be removed? It is their defense and stated before the court, that they do not deny the Bible, that they expected to introduce proof to make it harmonize. Why should we remove the sign cautioning the people to read the Word of God just to satisfy the others in the case?...

Darrow: Let me say something. Your honor, I just want to make this suggestion. Mr. Bryan says that the Bible and evolution conflict. Well, I do not know, I am for evolution, anyway. We might agree to get up a sign of equal size on the other side and in the same position reading, "Hunter's Biology," or "Read your evolution." This sign is not here for no purpose, and it can have no effect but to influence this case, and I read the Bible myself--more or less--and it is pretty good reading in places. But this case has been made a case where it is to be the Bible or evolution, and we have been informed by Mr. Bryan, who himself, a profound Bible student and has an essay every Sunday as to what it means. We have been informed that a Tennessee jury who are not especially educated are better judges of the Bible than all the scholars in the world, and when they see that sign, it means to them their construction of the Bible. It is pretty obvious, it is not fair, your honor , and we object to it....

The Court: The issues in this case, as they have been finally determined by this court is whether or not it is unlawful to teach that man descended from a lower order of animals. I do not understand that issue involved the Bible. If the Bible is involved, I believe in it and am always on its side, but it is not for me to decide in this case. If the presence of the sign irritates anyone, or if anyone thinks it might influence the jury in any way, I have no purpose except to give both sides a fair trial in this case. Feeling that way about it, I will let the sign come down. Let the jury be brought around. (The sign was thereupon removed from the courthouse wall.)

Saturday, July 09, 2005


New York Times Article on Cardinal Schönborn Op-Ed

Today's edition of the The New York Times has an article By Cornelia Dean and Laurie Goodstein "Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution" that digs deeper into the role played by the Discovery Institute in the Op-Ed written by cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna.


Scott: Anti-evolution Activity on the Rise

"We have been facing more anti-evolution activity in the last six months than we have ever faced in a comparable period before. Just in 2005 we have had 12 states in which anti-evolution or co-creationism legislation has been introduced. That's more than we have ever had in any single year."
-- Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education


Behind the Scenes

Here in Kansas, we've been told that the move to "teach the controversy" over evolution in our public school is motivated solely to put the science that supports intelligent design before our children.

There is no connection between ID and religion, and there are, we've been assured, no hidden agendas. Just the facts.

That's why we were so surprised to read this fund raising letter from the Institute for Creation Research, a San Diego-based young Earth creationist outfit that researches, which says in part:
"Enclosed you will find the July issue of 'Acts & Facts,' our monthly creation magazine. I trust it will be a great blessing as you see how the work and message of ICR is impacting the public schools in places as varied as Kansas and Latvia. In Kansas, ICR's behind-the-scenes consultation is encouraging a great effort which might begin a national dethroning of evolution's monopoly in the schools. In Latvia..."

Wonder what that "behind the scenes consultation" involve?

By the way, didn't Latvia suffer enough under the Soviets? Do they really deserve ICR?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?