"Several eminent naturalists... admit that they [evolved species] have been produced by variation, but they refuse to extend the same view to other very slightly different forms. Nevertheless they do not pretend that they can define, or even conjecture, which are the created forms of life, and which are those produced by secondary laws. They admit variation as a vera causa in one case, they arbitrarily reject it in another, without assigning any distinction in the two cases. The day will come when this will be given as a curious illustration of the blindness of preconceived opinion. These authors seem no more startled at a miraculous act of creation than at an ordinary birth. But do they really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth's history certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues? Do they believe that at each supposed act of creation one individual or many were produced? Were all the infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created as egg or seed, or as full grown? And in the case of mammals, were they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's womb? Although naturalists very properly demand a full explanation of every difficulty from those who believe in the mutability of species, on their own side they ignore the whole subject of the first appearance of species in what they consider reverent silence."
-- Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859
A very well researched and thoughtfully-presented discussion of the problems of Intelligent Design can be found here.
And here is a similar, simpler, quicker-reading analysis by another author.
Sorry to be a bore about this but I think it's important. Much more important than a cool new coding technique or a way to drive entrance ramps faster.
Since finishing my reading of the United States District Court's ruling on the Dover Area School District's attempt to inject Intelligent Design into science classrooms (you can read it for yourself here), I am so apalled by the breach of trust perpetrated by the very people empowered to oversee the education of that community's children, and so concerned that it is at this very moment happening elsewhere, including here in Ohio, that I feel compelled to share more of the story along with several warnings for parents of all religious persuasions.
First, let me say that if you have any interest in these matters (and you should), once you get around all the legal references, this opinion reads like the plot for a Grisham best-seller. There are villains, plots, perjury...all we're really missing is a dead body and—considering we're talking about evolution here—you could probably drag one of those up, too, without too much trouble.
Over the past year or so, I've had what is probably more than my share of conversations with friends about this whole ID thing. In all cases, even my most devoutly-religious friends are believers in the scientific basis of evolution and do not deny that evolution has clearly been a part of the development of the world as we know it. Ultimately, the question, in our conversations, comes down to who and/or what started the evolutionary trail? That is, was there a god of some kind who planted the first bacterium which eventually morphed into life as we know it, or did that first spark somehow happen by natural means?
Generally, at one level or another, after enough Scotch and talk, that's pretty much where we end up. We all know there is a long, specific, and almost unbroken chain of evidence of the evolution of the species; we just disagree on what started it all. And, I can live with that. I don't think that first spark was started by a superior being (if so, then you have to go back to the more basic question of what spark started him?), but once you get past that first bit, we're all on pretty much the same page: Something got the ball rolling and it's been snow-balling ever since.
Given a few billion years' time, even small changes can have big effects.
But here's the thing, AND THE WARNING: The people who are trying to push "Intelligent" Design into our schools do not believe there has been any evolution. Not any. None. Nada. They believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, which is to say that one day—literally one day—God waved his hand and created everything we see, as it now is.
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Yesterday, in Dover, Pennsylvania, logic and evidence prevailed over emotion and supposition. The Dover School Board's mandate that science teachers include a disclaimer giving, in essence, equal scientific weight to both Evolution and Intelligent Design was revealed for the fundamentalist Christian sham that it was, and overturned in court.
Driving home yesteday, I heard an NPR commentary (you can hear it for yourself) that, I think, considering the heatedness and stupidity of the debate, rather evenhandedly sums up my feelings.
The commentary was made by Lawrence Kraus, the Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University. I have included his comments below in whole but please note that while I agree entirely with him, these words are the copyright of National Public Radio:
"Parents and students around the entire country are well served by a Judge's decision today that teaching Intelligent Design alongside Evolution in a Dover, PA high school science classroom violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. In a remarkable 139 page decision, the judge cut through confusions that have permeated much of the national debate thus far.
"Nationwide, an invented scientific controversy regarding Evolution is being used by those who innappropriately fear science on religious grounds as a rationale for attacking science itself.
"You see, science is based on falsifiable ideas that are subject to experimental tests. It is independent of questions of divine purpose. This does not make science immoral, it simply makes it different from religion. Neither encompasses all facets of the human experience and confusing this issue does a disservice to both science and theology, as theologians from St. Augustine onward have stressed.
"As a scientist, the legal issue in Dover was perhaps less important to me than the question of truth. The School Board was requiring teachers to lie to students about the nature of science. To thrive in a modern technological society, we owe it to our chilren to provide them the best scientific education we can. If a significant fraction of the public has doubts about Evolution, we simply have to do a better job teaching about it. The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it.
"For example, recent studies have shown that 50% of the American public does not know that the earth orbits the sun and takes a year to do it. But if that's the case, does that mean we should teach the Earth-centric view of the solar system along with the correct view, the fact that the sun is at the center? At the same time, a significant fraction of the American public apparently believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, taking what appears to be a literal view of the Bible. Does that mean we shouldn't teach Astronomy or any of the other myriad bits of evidence that the Earth is, in fact, billions of years old? Obviously not.
"The Judge in Pennsylvania concluded with the statement that, "The students, parents and teachers of the Dover area school district deserve better than to be dragged into this legal malestrom." That may be true, but by doing so they have provided Judge Jones an opportunity to help the rest of the country move forward, not backward. For that, I thank him."
Here we go again. At least one school has mandated the teaching of "intelligent design" in their classrooms.
I have blogged on this subject before but it is so incredibly stupid, this intelligent design, that I can't really help myself from doing so again.
This, to me, is so amazingly backward that I have a hard time believing school districts and, for that matter, parents, are even considering it. I'll skip the details but there is a Whole Lot of evidence supporting Evolution. That's "Whole Lot" as in "millions, if not billions, of years' worth."
This evidence was brought to us by scientists and, while I wouldn't suggest that no scientists have agendas of their own, on the whole they're a group who tend toward physical evidence, plausible explanations, provable theorems, apparent facts and, oh by the way, peer review.
They say we came from apes and that the apes came from other life forms, all the way back to the original bacterial strains. And, they have pretty convincing evidence of this. That's "pretty convincing" as in "several million years' worth of physical evidence like bones, fossils, and the like."
On the other side, on the whole, are Evangelical Christian leaders; a group, I probably don't need to point out, who have not been quite as strict in the proof-and-evidence categories. Nor, for that matter--I'm thinking of Ernest Angely, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, etc. here--on the there's-nothing-in-it-for-me category. Quite the contrary.
Somehow they've cooked up--and even more amazingly sold--this idea that because we can't explain it, god must have done it. Therefore, we're doing a disservice to budding young minds not to teach it.
I can't explain how semi-conductors work. Does that mean god made them? Or, closer to the Intelligent Design mantra, that they are too complex to have arisen strictly from man and so, therefore, god must have had a hand in creating the things that created them?
Religions have been around for as long as man has been around. There's always been somebody standing ready to grab control of people by explaining things that couldn't otherwise be explained by invoking a god of some kind. The notion of religion keeps changing. The idea of what these gods meant or really were keeps changing. The concept of what you have to do to be in the good graces of whatever god you believe in keeps changing.
It all keeps changing because science keeps explaining away the lies and misconceptions. As far as I know, we no longer believe Apollo is the Sun God but that, instead, our Sun is just one more of a few billions of billions of stars. Science figured that out. Religion gave us Apollo.
And, Zeus, Jupiter, Seth, Allah, YHVH, God, and all the rest. Religion keeps working out the kinks in the story as science keeps uncovering them. It's not that the religious folks aren't working hard. Oh no, they're burning the midnight altar candles to keep up but, it seems to me, mostly to keep control of the masses. Control, in this case, sometimes actually means control and sometimes means cashflow. Or power. But ultimately it's control of some kind.
Intelligent Design is nothing but a new paint job on a tired effort to get religion back into our schools. I'm saddened to see it working.
Here in Columbus, Ohio, the state school board yesterday voted 13 to 4 "...in favor of lesson plans that some scientists say continue to contain inaccurate information about evolution" (AP Science).
What's going on is simple. They've voted to include information in the curriculum about "intelligent design," the idea that life is so complex it couldn't have just evolved that way...it must have required the input of a superior, sorry, non-specified, power. This against the objections of, among others, the National Academy of Sciences.
Give me a break.
We're not just talking about informing students there are people out there unwilling to accept evolution, this is something that, if accepted, will become a part of the mandatory achievement tests our kids are required to take.
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