E-Accountability ALERT: How Do You Prove Intelligent Design?
We should all watch the politico-educational-textbook complex as they start requiring the "intelligent design" theory to be taught in our nation's classrooms. In the Dover Pennsylvania schools, proponents of this theory say they want to give alternatives to Darwinism, but two school board members quit, saying "It's a crusade." Lee Strobel says that "God Did It. Case Closed" Betsy Combier
E-Accountability OPINION: Creationism, Evolution, and "Intelligent Design" are on their way to the US Supreme Court once again. This will be a defining moment for the Bush Administration, for the religious right, and for the future direction of science education in America. Our question, which we hope would be answered by media coverage of court proceedings, is,
"Who is paying for this new direction in America's approach to the beginnings of life?"
We need to know.
Mr. Crane, in a letter to the New York Times, writes:
December 19, 2004
Hypothesis and Science
To the Editor:
Re "School Board Sued on Mandate for Alternative to Evolution" (news article, Dec. 15):
Science is knowledge based on hypothesis, experimentation and observation. It involves manipulating and eliminating variables to support or nullify a hypothesis.
Experiments that eliminate variables are called control experiments. I challenge intelligent design advocates to create a control experiment for their hypothesis.
Intelligent design may be many things; science is not one of them.
Woodridge, N.J., Dec. 15, 2004
The writer is a high school chemistry teacher.
School Board Sued on Mandate for Alternative to Evolution
By NEELA BANERJEE, NY TIMES, December 15, 2004
The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit yesterday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., against the school board of Dover, Pa., saying the board violated the religious rights of several parents and students by requiring the teaching of an alternative theory to evolution in public schools.
Situated 20 miles south of Harrisburg, Dover is apparently the first school district in the United States to require high school biology teachers to introduce students to the alternate theory, known as intelligent design. The theory says the development of the universe and earth was guided at each step by an "intelligent agent."
Proponents say it provides scientific answers for gaps and inconsistencies in the theory of evolution.
Critics, including the groups suing, say intelligent design is a watered-down version of creationism, which the Supreme Court has repudiated in public school curriculums.
Initiatives to introduce intelligent design in curriculums are percolating nationally, and this case could test how far opponents of evolution can go in shaping the teaching of science, said advocates and critics of intelligent design.
"There is reason that the eyes of the nation will be on this," the assistant legal director at Americans United, Richard B. Katskee, said, "because these kind of efforts are going on in other places or are imminent there."
Recent surveys have shown that a majority of Americans favor teaching alternatives in school, and local boards have stepped up efforts to challenge the teaching of evolution. In Cobb County, Ga., the civil liberties group has sued the school district over a disclaimer about evolution inserted into textbooks. In Kansas, conservatives who favor challenging the teaching of evolution recently won a majority on the state school board, and they are generally expected to change the state science curriculum as early as the spring.
The two groups in Pennsylvania say teaching intelligent design violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which calls for the separation of church and state.
The Dover district said in a statement on its Web site that it was reviewing the case.
A major proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, said that the Dover policy was misguided because it was unclear and that it should be withdrawn and rewritten.
Other proponents said the theory was not based on any religion's holdings about creation but on science.
"Students will be made aware of gaps and problems in evolution," said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that promotes Christian values. "What's wrong with that? What gets the A.C.L.U. and others all upset is that those alternatives to evolution might include intelligent design, which might lead to God."
Pa. town puts Darwin on notice
By Kathy Boccella, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 21, 2004
In Dover Area High School biology classes, the Creator will get equal billing with Charles Darwin.
Make that a creator.
The rural, 3,600-student school district, 20 miles south of Harrisburg, is the first in the nation to require the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that holds that the complexity of the natural world offers overwhelming evidence of a supernatural force at work.
Who or what that force is, no one is saying, but some people are wondering whether Dover could become the catalyst for a modern-day Scopes "monkey trial."
"I don't know anybody who has been quite bold enough to go this far," Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, said last week. "We view intelligent design as the latest attempt to teach religion instead of science."
The school board voted, 6-3, last month to change its ninth-grade biology curriculum, making it the latest municipality to tussle over the issue of religion in schools. Two board members quit in protest, and the administration is bracing itself for the inevitable court challenges.
To the faithful, the new curriculum has nothing to do with religion but represents a more balanced way of teaching about the origin of life. However, critics say it's a back door into creationism, a biblical theory that credits the origin of mankind to God.
"It's a crusade," said Carol Brown, who, along with her husband, Jeff, quit the school board after it approved the teaching of intelligent design, which will be part of the biology curriculum for the first time when students take up evolution in January. "What we're asking teachers to do is illegal. The Supreme Court said you cannot mix church and state."
That was a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional for Louisiana to include creationism in school curriculums. The issue has come up again in Cobb County, Ga., where the school district has been sued for putting stickers in biology textbooks saying that evolution was "a theory, not a fact," and should be "approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically." A court decision is pending.
Top Dover district administrators issued a statement Friday on implementation of the new biology curriculum "to make sure no one is promoting but also not inhibiting religion."
The district, the statement said, "wants to support and not discriminate against students and parents that do have competing beliefs, especially in the area of the origin-of-life debate."
In Dover, a small farming community whose main street is lined with modest Victorian houses once belonging to clothing- and cigar-factory workers, many people consider themselves evangelical or born-again Christians.
"And they're very vocal about it," Brown said. "I even had one ask me if I was born again."
Proponents of the new curriculum say the district does not plan to teach religion, but rather would take a critical look at Darwin's theory of natural selection and present an alternate view of how life began.
"The only thing we want to do is provide a balanced playing field for the students, as opposed to just hearing about the theory of evolution," said school board member William Buckingham, a self-described creationist.
As head of the board's curriculum committee, the retired police officer and former Marine lobbied for the district to purchase Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, an intelligent-design textbook. It would have been used along with the standard biology text. That plan was shelved, but 50 copies of Pandas later mysteriously turned up at the school.
"Teachers are instructed not to play one side over the other, but to play both sides," Buckingham said. The intelligent-design text will be available in the classrooms.
Now that the issues of prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance in schools have been settled by the courts, at least for now, intelligent design is emerging as the newest faith-based battleground. There is growing pressure nationwide for Dover-style policies, said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Association for Science Education.
"These don't come from teachers and scientists," she said. "They come from politicians."
Intelligent design, she said, is "creationism in a lab coat."
The Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that supports scientists who are doing research in intelligent design, says schools should not teach it, but should stick with evolution because that is the predominant theory.
Jim Miller of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said there has "not been any successful competing theory" to evolution, and "intelligent design has not been substantiated in any scientific manner."
But supporters of intelligent design say that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot account for the complexity of life-forms on Earth and that nature shows tangible signs of design by a preexisting intelligence. Unstated is the nature of that intelligence.
"That could be Mother Earth, Buddha, or whoever the Muslims believe in," said Buckingham, who belongs to a fundamentalist Christian church.
The high school's three biology teachers, meanwhile, are wondering just what they are supposed to teach. They say they had no input into the new curriculum and worry that they could be sued.
Intelligent design is "against what we think is right for the classroom," said Jennifer Miller, a teacher of 12 years. The book "wants to say evolution can't be proven. I also think you can't prove intelligent design."
"One of the problems is people don't have a good understanding of what evolution is," she said. "I tell the students from day one that I'm not trying to push them one way or another."
Superintendent Richard Nilsen declined to comment.
Buckingham said many people have expressed support and that most of the opposition has come from teachers and their relatives. But one parent who spoke out at a board meeting, Andrea Heilman, said she thinks the board is "taking us a step back."
Not so at Jim & Nina's Pizza shop, where employees were firmly behind the board.
"The school district is giving them both sides so they can make their own choice what to believe," manager Regina Rhoe said.
"I don't see where it hurts," owner Danny Ness said.
At the high school, though, students seemed divided. Senior Rachel Cashman, 17, said many of her classmates were religious and adhered to creationism, as she did. Cale Latchow, 17, a junior, believes so strongly in the Bible that he put a sticker on his guitar that states, "Darwin lies."
But his classmate, Jeremy Naylor, 18, said he "supports evolution 100 percent. It's backed by scientific fact rather than just someone's beliefs."
How It All Began - the Theories
Darwinism - A theory of biological evolution that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations, increasing the individual's ability to compete, survive and reproduce.
Creationism - The literal belief in the account of creation in the Book of Genesis, thus denying the theory of evolution of species.
Intelligent design - The belief that certain features of the universe and of living things cannot be explained by an undirected process such as natural selection, but only by purposeful power.
Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Case for a Creator
Discover astonishing new evidence
In The Case for a Creator, best-selling author and former-atheist Lee Strobel takes readers on a remarkable investigation into how the universe began. Strobel interviews the world's top experts and follows the evidence wherever it leads. Now this evidence is available to you. Learn how you can confidently make the case for a Creator to your family, your friends and the world. This site provides all of the information, resources, contacts and support you need to learn about the evidence, share it with others, get involved in the intelligent design movement -- and make a real difference.
Evolution 'Theory' Case Heads to Court
FOX News, Monday, November 08, 2004
ATLANTA - A sticker in suburban Atlanta science textbooks that says evolution is "a theory, not a fact" is being challenged in court as an unlawful promotion of religion.
The lawsuit, filed by six parents and the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (search), begins Monday and is expected to last four days.
Cobb County (search) school officials adopted the disclaimer after science textbooks it adopted in 2002 were criticized by some parents for presenting evolution as fact. More than 2,000 people signed a petition opposing the biology texts because they did not discuss alternative theories, including creationism (search).
County school officials said their stickers simply encourage students to keep an open mind, but the lawsuit claims the warning promotes the teaching of creationism and discriminates against particular religions.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution.
The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
"I'm a strong advocate for the separation of church and state," said one of the parents, Jeffrey Selman. "I have no problem with anybody's religious beliefs. I just want an adequate educational system."
A lawyer for Cobb County schools, Linwood Gunn, said he expects the disclaimer will hold up in court. He said the stickers "improve the curriculum while also promoting an attitude of tolerance for those that have different religious beliefs."
Wis. City Allows Teaching of Creationism
FOX News, Saturday, November 06, 2004
GRANTSBURG, Wis. - The city's school board has revised its science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism (search), prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed.
School board members believed that a state law governing the teaching of evolution (search) was too restrictive. The science curriculum "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory," said Joni Burgin, superintendent of the district of 1,000 students in northwest Wisconsin.
Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum, language was added calling for "various models/theories" of origin to be incorporated.
The decision provoked more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members to write a letter last week urging the Grantsburg (search) board to reverse the policy. It follows a letter sent previously by 43 deans at Wisconsin public universities.
"Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds," said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Wisconsin law mandates that evolution be taught, but school districts are free to create their own curricular standards, said Joe Donovan, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction.
The Case Against Evolution
In the beginning there was Darwin. And then there was intelligent design. How the next generation of "creation science" is invading America's classrooms
by Evan Ratliff, WIRED Magazine, Issue 12.10, October 2004
On a spring day two years ago, in a downtown Columbus auditorium, the Ohio State Board of Education took up the question of how to teach the theory of evolution in public schools. A panel of four experts - two who believe in evolution, two who question it - debated whether an antievolution theory known as intelligent design should be allowed into the classroom.
This is an issue, of course, that was supposed to have been settled long ago. But 140 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, 75 years after John Scopes taught natural selection to a biology class in Tennessee, and 15 years after the US Supreme Court ruled against a Louisiana law mandating equal time for creationism, the question of how to teach the theory of evolution was being reopened here in Ohio. The two-hour forum drew chanting protesters and a police escort for the school board members. Two scientists, biologist Ken Miller from Brown University and physicist Lawrence Krauss from Case Western Reserve University two hours north in Cleveland, defended evolution. On the other side of the dais were two representatives from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the main sponsor and promoter of intelligent design: Stephen Meyer, a professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University's School of Ministry and director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and Jonathan Wells, a biologist, Discovery fellow, and author of Icons of Evolution, a 2000 book castigating textbook treatments of evolution. Krauss and Miller methodically presented their case against ID. "By no definition of any modern scientist is intelligent design science," Krauss concluded, "and it's a waste of our students' time to subject them to it."
Meyer and Wells took the typical intelligent design line: Biological life contains elements so complex - the mammalian blood-clotting mechanism, the bacterial flagellum - that they cannot be explained by natural selection. And so, the theory goes, we must be products of an intelligent designer. Creationists call that creator God, but proponents of intelligent design studiously avoid the G-word - and never point to the Bible for answers. Instead, ID believers speak the language of science to argue that Darwinian evolution is crumbling.
The debate's two-on-two format, with its appearance of equal sides, played right into the ID strategy - create the impression that this very complicated issue could be seen from two entirely rational yet opposing views. "This is a controversial subject," Meyer told the audience. "When two groups of experts disagree about a controversial subject that intersects with the public-school science curriculum, the students should be permitted to learn about both perspectives. We call this the 'teach the controversy' approach."
Since the debate, "teach the controversy" has become the rallying cry of the national intelligent-design movement, and Ohio has become the leading battleground. Several months after the debate, the Ohio school board voted to change state science standards, mandating that biology teachers "critically analyze" evolutionary theory. This fall, teachers will adjust their lesson plans and begin doing just that. In some cases, that means introducing the basic tenets of intelligent design. One of the state's sample lessons looks as though it were lifted from an ID textbook. It's the biggest victory so far for the Discovery Institute. "Our opponents would say that these are a bunch of know-nothing people on a state board," says Meyer. "We think it shows that our Darwinist colleagues have a real problem now."
But scientists aren't buying it. What Meyer calls "biology for the information age," they call creationism in a lab coat. ID's core scientific principles - laid out in the mid-1990s by a biochemist and a mathematician - have been thoroughly dismissed on the grounds that Darwin's theories can account for complexity, that ID relies on misunderstandings of evolution and flimsy probability calculations, and that it proposes no testable explanations.
As the Ohio debate revealed, however, the Discovery Institute doesn't need the favor of the scientific establishment to prevail in the public arena. Over the past decade, Discovery has gained ground in schools, op-ed pages, talk radio, and congressional resolutions as a "legitimate" alternative to evolution. ID is playing a central role in biology curricula and textbook controversies around the country. The institute and its supporters have taken the "teach the controversy" message to Alabama, Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and Texas.
The ID movement's rhetorical strategy - better to appear scientific than holy - has turned the evolution debate upside down. ID proponents quote Darwin, cite the Scopes monkey trial, talk of "scientific objectivity," then in the same breath declare that extraterrestrials might have designed life on Earth. It may seem counterintuitive, but the strategy is meticulously premeditated, and it's working as planned. The debate over Darwin is back, and coming to a 10th-grade biology class near you.
At its heart, intelligent design is a revival of an argument made by British philosopher William Paley in 1802. In Natural Theology, the Anglican archdeacon suggested that the complexity of biological structures defied any explanation but a designer: God. Paley imagined finding a stone and a watch in a field. The watch, unlike the stone, appears to have been purposely assembled and wouldn't function without its precise combination of parts. "The inference," he wrote, "is inevitable, that the watch must have a maker." The same logic, he concluded, applied to biological structures like the vertebrate eye. Its complexity implied design.
Fifty years later, Darwin directly answered Paley's "argument to complexity." Evolution by natural selection, he argued in Origin of Species, could create the appearance of design. Darwin - and 100-plus years of evolutionary science after him - seemed to knock Paley into the dustbin of history.
In the American public arena, Paley's design argument has long been supplanted by biblical creationism. In the 1970s and 1980s, that movement recast the Bible version in the language of scientific inquiry - as "creation science" - and won legislative victories requiring "equal time" in some states. That is, until 1987, when the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's law. Because creation science relies on biblical texts, the court reasoned, it "lacked a clear secular purpose" and violated the First Amendment clause prohibiting the establishment of religion. Since then, evolution has been the law of the land in US schools - if not always the local choice.
Paley re-emerged in the mid-1990s, however, when a pair of scientists reconstituted his ideas in an area beyond Darwin's ken: molecular biology. In his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe contended that natural selection can't explain the "irreducible complexity" of molecular mechanisms like the bacterial flagellum, because its integrated parts offer no selective advantages on their own. Two years later, in The Design Inference, William Dembski, a philosopher and mathematician at Baylor University, proposed that any biological system exhibiting "information" that is both "complex" (highly improbable) and "specified" (serving a particular function) cannot be a product of chance or natural law. The only remaining option is an intelligent designer - whether God or an alien life force. These ideas became the cornerstones of ID, and Behe proclaimed the evidence for design to be "one of the greatest achievements in the history of science."
The scientific rationale behind intelligent design was being developed just as antievolution sentiment seemed to be bubbling up. In 1991, UC Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson published Darwin On Trial, an influential antievolution book that dispensed with biblical creation accounts while uniting antievolutionists under a single, secular-sounding banner: intelligent design. In subsequent books, Johnson presents not just antievolution arguments but a broader opposition to the "philosophy of scientific materialism" - the assumption (known to scientists as "methodological materialism") that all events have material, rather than supernatural, explanations. To defeat it, he offers a strategy that would be familiar in the divisive world of politics, called "the wedge." Like a wedge inserted into a tree trunk, cracks in Darwinian theory can be used to "split the trunk," eventually overturning scientific materialism itself.
That's where Discovery comes in. The institute was founded as a conservative think tank in 1990 by longtime friends and former Harvard roommates Bruce Chapman - director of the census bureau during the Reagan administration - and technofuturist author George Gilder. "The institute is futurist and rebellious, and it's prophetic," says Gilder. "It has a science and technology orientation in a contrarian spirit" (see "Biocosm," facing page). In 1994, Discovery added ID to its list of contrarian causes, which included everything from transportation to bioethics. Chapman hired Meyer, who studied origin-of-life issues at Cambridge University, and the institute signed Johnson - whom Chapman calls "the real godfather of the intelligent design movement" - as an adviser and adopted the wedge.
For Discovery, the "thin end" of the wedge - according to a fundraising document leaked on the Web in 1999 - is the scientific work of Johnson, Behe, Dembski, and others. The next step involves "publicity and opinion-making." The final goals: "a direct confrontation with the advocates of material science" and "possible legal assistance in response to integration of design theory into public school science curricula."
Step one has made almost no headway with evolutionists - the near-universal majority of scientists with an opinion on the matter. But that, say Discovery's critics, is not the goal. "Ultimately, they have an evangelical Christian message that they want to push," says Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State. "Intelligent design is the hook."
It's a lot easier to skip straight to steps two and three, and sound scientific in a public forum, than to deal with the rigor of the scientific community. "It starts with education," Johnson told me, referring to high school curricula. "That's where the public can have a voice. The universities and the scientific world do not recognize freedom of expression on this issue." Meanwhile, like any champion of a heretical scientific idea, ID's supporters see themselves as renegades, storming the gates of orthodoxy. "We all have a deep sense of indignation," says Meyer, "that the wool is being pulled over the public's eyes."
The buzz phrase most often heard in the institute's offices is academic freedom. "My hackles go up on the academic freedom issue," Chapman says. "You should be allowed in the sciences to ask questions and posit alternative theories."
None of this impresses the majority of the science world. "They have not been able to convince even a tiny amount of the scientific community," says Ken Miller. "They have not been able to win the marketplace of ideas."
And yet, the Discovery Institute's appeals to academic freedom create a kind of catch-22. If scientists ignore the ID movement, their silence is offered as further evidence of a conspiracy. If they join in, they risk reinforcing the perception of a battle between equal sides. Most scientists choose to remain silent. "Where the scientific community has been at fault," says Krauss, "is in assuming that these people are harmless, like flat-earthers. They don't realize that they are well organized, and that they have a political agenda."
Taped to the wall of Eugenie Scott's windowless office at the National Center for Science Education on the outskirts of Oakland, California, is a chart titled "Current Flare-Ups." It's a list of places where the teaching of evolution is under attack, from California to Georgia to Rio de Janeiro. As director of the center, which defends evolution in teaching controversies around the country, Scott has watched creationism up close for 30 years. ID, in her view, is the most highly evolved form of creationism to date. "They've been enormously effective compared to the more traditional creationists, who have greater numbers and much larger budgets," she says.
Scott credits the blueprint laid out by Johnson, who realized that to win in the court of public opinion, ID needed only to cast reasonable doubt on evolution. "He said, 'Don't get involved in details, don't get involved in fact claims,'" says Scott. "'Forget about the age of Earth, forget about the flood, don't mention the Bible.'" The goal, she says, is "to focus on the big idea that evolution is inadequate. Intelligent design doesn't really explain anything. It says that evolution can't explain things. Everything else is hand-waving."
The movement's first test of Johnson's strategies began in 1999, when the Kansas Board of Education voted to remove evolution from the state's science standards. The decision, backed by traditional creationists, touched off a fiery debate, and the board eventually reversed itself after several antievolution members lost reelection bids. ID proponents used the melee as cover to launch their own initiative. A Kansas group called IDNet nearly pushed through its own textbook in a local school district.
'Intelligent Design' Misleads
Editor, New Era: An open letter to the Dover Area School Board in York County:
As scientist, scholars and teachers, we are compelled to point out that the quality of science education in your schools has been seriously compromised by the decision to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design" along with evolution. Science education should be based on ideas that are well supported by evidence. Intelligent design does not meet this criterion: It is a form of creationism propped up by a biased and selective view of the evidence.
In contrast, evolution is based on and supported by an immense and diverse array of evidence and is continually being tested and reaffirmed by new discoveries from many scientific fields. The evidence for evolution is so strong that important new areas of biological research are confidently and successfully based on the reality of evolution. For example, evolution is fundamental to genomics and bioinformatics, new fields which hold the promise of great medical discoveries.
According to the Nov. 23 York Daily Record, you issued a statement claiming that "Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence." This is extraordinarily misleading.
While one can refer to the general body of modern evolutionary knowledge as "theory," the same is true of all other scientific knowledge, such as the theory of relativity or the theory of continental drift. It is