Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Creationists monkey with public education

Here is the letter to the editor of "The West Australian" that I sent tonight. Below the letter are scanned copies of the unwebbed opinion piece by a columnist critical of ID and a short editorial opinion supportive of ID!

I don't know if the letter will be published, so I am posting it here now. I will mention if it is published.

BTW "9/8" in Australia means 9th August (not September 8, as in the USA).

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
"Problems of Evolution"

Letters to the Editor
The West Australian

---------- For publication begins here ----------
Thanks to Andre Malan for his "Creationists monkey with public education" (Opinion 9/8) and for the accompanying editorial "Let's be intelligent about design theory."

However, as a member of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement since 1995, and a recently graduated biologist, I wish to point out that it is simplistic for Mr Malan to equate ID with creationism. Creationism is based on the Bible but ID is based only on the evidence of nature. There are members of the ID movement who are not even theists and there are creationists who are opposed to ID.

ID is a scientific theory that there is empirical evidence of design in nature. ID makes no claim as to who or what the designer was, leaving that question to philosophy and theology. The argument that there is design in nature goes back at least as far as the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who incidentally is widely regarded as the father of the science of biology.

If the proposition that there is no design in nature (as Darwinism maintains) is scientific, then the counter-proposition that there is design in nature, must also be scientific. It is special pleading by Darwinists to claim that the "no" answer to the question, "Is there empirical evidence for design in nature?" is science, but the "yes" answer to the same question is religion.

The ID movement's rapid growth in recent years is based on two main lines of scientific evidence. The first is the many problems with the evidence that the
reigning Darwinian theory of evolution has increasingly experienced over the last 140 years, and the second is the fantastic complexity that biology itself has unexpectedly revealed of the molecular machinery of the cell.

So strong is this latter evidence for design that one of the world's leading atheists, British philosopher Antony Flew, has recently abandoned atheism, citing evidence presented by ID theorists, and claiming that God must have created the first living organism.

The ID movement is not asking for ID to be taught in science classes. All it asks at this stage is for the controversy to be taught in schools. That is, students should be exposed to the problems of the theory of evolution, as well as the scientific evidence for design in nature. Both can be read at ID's two main websites,http://www.arn.org/ and http://www.discovery.org/csc/ .

As The West's editorial put it, "It stands to reason that students should be told about both views of life to help them to make up their own minds."

Stephen E. Jones
---------- For publication end here ----------

Stephen E. Jones

The West Australian

14 TUESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2005


Creationists monkey with public education


In our feeble attempts to understand the mysteries of life, most of us construct some sort of belief system to cling to. Some embrace the inherited faith of the great religions, others latch on to cults or eccentric theories, like the one proposed a few years ago by a respected Ukrainian scientist, Dr Andrei Arkhipov, that humans were created from DNA dumped overboard as sewage from alien spacecraft.

In his book The God Gene: How Faith is Hard-wired into Our Genes, leading geneticist Dr Gene Hamer makes a convincing case that spirituality is one of our basic human inheritances. He believes that while religion is based on culture, beliefs and traditions, spirituality is a genetic instinct that we all share.

For me, more than half a century of constant thought and inquiry has led to a conclusion that is very similar to what has become known as the theory of intelligent design. In other words, I believe in God.

I'm still as confused as the next person, and don't have the faintest clue as to who or what God is. But I do have an unshakeable belief that life in all its exquisiteness and complexity is more than the result of some cosmic accident or chemical evolution. I also believe that even though our lives occupy no more than a blink of an eyelid in time, there is some purpose to them. I accept that I will never see absolute proof that will either confirm or dispel my beliefs, but the comforting part is that I realise I'm not meant to have such a decisive revelation.

This argument that life is so complex that there must have been a higher intelligence involved is once again being used to counter Charles Darwin's widely accepted theory that all life descended from common ancestors and developed through natural selection and random mutation.

Supporters of intelligent design theory received a boost recently from a controversial statement by United States President George Bush that schools should teach both evolution and intelligent design side-by-side.

Now a Sydney group, the Campus Crusade for Christ Australia, is gathering support from educationists, churches, politicians and scientists for intelligent design to be taught in Australian high schools. It could become a hot issue.

It's really nothing more than the re-emergence of the perennial creationism debate that has been dividing educators and communities for decades, most vociferously in the US. However this time the supporters of creationism are likely to find more receptive ears in view of the growing clout of what is becoming known as the Religious Right.

I agree that children should be exposed to different schools of thought, as Mr Bush suggests, and that should include instruction about Christianity and the other religions.

But to teach intelligent design theory as legitimate science in the same way as evolution would be a backward step and a contravention of the principle of separation of church and state.

It leaves people like me in the unusual situation of having to argue against something in which I believe. But to be honest I don't think the answer to the biggest question of all is to be found in the realms of pseudo-science. I happily accept that for me or anyone else to believe in God requires a leap of faith, and that's how it always will be.

It is possible to come to such a belief without literally accepting the story of creation as told in the Bible. In fact, it is not uncommon for scientists to be drawn closer to a belief in God through knowledge and insights gained from science.


Let's be intelligent about design theory

The heat in the long-running battle between creationists and evolutionists has been turned up in the debate on the theory of intelligent design which has surfaced in Australia.

The theory is that life is so complex it must have had a designer of higher intelligence, which is by no means a new idea.

It stands to reason that students should be told about both views of life to help them to make up their own minds.

And whether the intelligent design theory is taught in science or religion courses doesn't really matter.

(c) 2005 West Australian Newspapers Limited All Rights Reserved. [...]

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