Sunday, August 21, 2005

"The Evolution Wars" (TIME, August 15, 2005) #3

This is is part #3 of my multi-part critique of the articles in TIME of August 15, under the cover story, "The Evolution Wars".

By Claudia Wallis [...]

[Continued from part #2. See part #1]

"Both sides ought to be properly taught," said the President, who appeared to choose his words with care, "so people can understand what the debate is about ... I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."
If President Bush did "choose his words with care" it was because he knew that they would be misrepresented by the secularist media (e.g. TIME and The Washington Post), which shows by its hostility that when it comes to the secularist creation story, evolution, it does not want people to "understand what the debate is about" by being "expose[d] ... to different schools of thought"!
On its surface, the President's position seems supremely fair-minded: What could possibly be wrong with presenting more than one point of view on a topic that divides so many Americans?
There is no "seems" about it. It is "fair-minded" and right to "to present... more than one point of view on a topic that divides so many Americans." In fact Darwin himself wrote in his Origin of Species:
"For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this is here impossible." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," [1872], Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.18. My emphasis)
On any other topic, but evolution, there would be no question about it, and those arguing for only "one point of view" to be presented would be rightly regarded as authoritarian demagogues, out of step in a free, pluralistic society. Indeed, this is a point that Republican Senate majority leader, Senator Bill Frist, made when he came out in support of President Bush's comments:
Frist Backs Bush on Teaching 'Intelligent Design' in Schools, David Stout, The New York Times, August 19, 2005. WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 - The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, aligned himself with President Bush today when he said that the theory of "intelligent design" should be taught along with evolution in public schools. Teaching intelligent design as well as evolution "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," Senator Frist, Republican of Tennessee, said in Nashville, according to The Associated Press. "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."
This is important support for President Bush because Senator Frist is a medical "doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School," has shown by his support for embryonic stem cell research that he is is willing to go against the majority conservative position on a scientific issue, and is potentially the next Republican President, which will make it more difficult for the Darwinists (i.e. scientific materialists) to isolate President Bush and marginalise his views as "misinformed", having "confused ... science and belief"; showing a "low level of understanding of science," "anti-science," and "When it comes to science ... wrong."
But to biologists, it smacks of faith-based science.
All science is "faith-based", including biology. Science is based on "the sheer act of faith that the universe possessed order and could be interpreted by rational minds," which in turn was based on "the Christian conception of the nature of God":
"Although we may recognize the frailties of Christian dogma and deplore the unconscionable persecution of thought which is one of the less appetizing aspects of medieval history, we must also observe that in one of those strange permutations of which history yields occasional rare examples, it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself. Many things undoubtedly went into that amalgam: Greek logic and philosophy, the experimental methods of craftsmen in the arts as opposed to the aristocratic thinker-all these things have been debated. But perhaps the most curious element of them all is the factor dwelt upon by Whitehead-the sheer act of faith that the universe possessed order and could be interpreted by rational minds [Whitehead A.N., "Science and the Modern World," Mentor, 1948, pp.4-15]. For, as Whitehead rightly observes, [Ibid., p.17] the philosophy of experimental science was not impressive. It began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor interfere with the forces He had set in operation. The experimental method succeeded beyond men's wildest dreams but the faith that brought it into being owes something-to the Christian conception of the nature of God [Ibid., p. 14]. It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today-is sustained by that assumption." (Eiseley L.C., "Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It," [1958], Anchor/Doubleday: Garden City NY, 1961, reprint, p.62. My emphasis)
And no science is more "faith-based" than evolution, which is "the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis). Clearly it is impossible for evolutionary biologists to know that "God had no part in this process," therefore it is for them an article of faith. Darwinian evolution, in particular, is based on the faith that all mutations in the entire history of life have been random in the sense of unguided, which in turn is based on the faith (and wrong faith at that) that there is "no mechanism" (or intelligent designer/God) "that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random":
"There is a fifth respect in which mutation might have been nonrandom. We can imagine (just) a form of mutation that was systematically biased in the direction of improving the animal's adaptedness to its life. But although we can imagine it, nobody has ever come close to suggesting any means by which this bias could come about. It is only in this fifth respect, the 'mutationist' respect, that the true, real-life Darwinian insists that mutation is random. Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random in this fifth sense. Mutation is random with respect to adaptive advantage, although it is non-random in all sorts of other respects. It is selection, and only selection, that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom with respect to advantage." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.312. Emphasis in original)
Especially when the actual experimental evidence for this was based on a mere handful of studies on bacteria, which led to the criticism in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, that "the biologists' belief in the creative power of chance soon equalled or surpassed the Christian belief in the creative power of God":
"Then came 1952. J. and E.M. Lederberg designed an ingenious experiment which demonstrated that bacteria could become resistant to streptomycin without coming into contact with it. What was worse, the experiment was equally effective in verifying the pioneering finding of Luria & Delbruck. As far as Lamarckism was concerned, that was virtually the end ... The theory was not only overthrown, it also became thoroughly discredited. It did not occur to the jubilant Darwinists that they had yet to show that all adaptive mutations in nature occur purely by chance. ... Because of the euphoria which attended the triumph of Darwinism, the effect of those experiments on the thinking on evolution was most profound. First, the long-held conjecture that chance alone produced the favourable variations which natural selection preserved was deemed, without any justification, to have been experimentally verified. Then everything that evolved was designated the lucky beneficiary of chance. Enzymes, proteins, and even man himself, were held to be the products of mere chance. In short, the biologists' belief in the creative power of chance soon equalled or surpassed the Christian belief in the creative power of God." (Opadia-Kadima G.Z., "How the Slot Machine Led Biologists Astray," Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 124, 1987, pp.127-135, p.129. My emphasis)
So TIME's Claudia Wallis hit the nail right on the head, when she observed that President Bush's preference for "presenting more than one point of view" is especially "provocative" in the case of evolution, because that "rekindles a turf battle that goes all the way back to the Middle Ages":
And that is provocative not only because it rekindles a turf battle that goes all the way back to the Middle Ages ...
That is, evolution functions for most evolutionists, as it does for Harvard's Edward O. Wilson, "as [a] secular religion ... a [creation] myth that is now ready to take over Christianity. ... [which] will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competition":
"Things have continued in much the same way to the present. There is professional evolutionary biology: mathematical, experimental, not laden with value statements. But, you are not going to find the answer to the world's mysteries or to societal problems if you open the pages of Evolution or Animal Behaviour. Then, sometimes from the same person, you have evolution as secular religion, generally working from an explicitly materialist background and solving all of the world's major problems, from racism to education to conservation. Consider Edward O. Wilson, rightfully regarded as one of the most outstanding professional evolutionary biologists of our time, and the author of major works of straight science. In his On Human Nature, he calmly assures us that evolution is a myth that is now ready to take over Christianity. And, if this is so, "the final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competition, as a wholly material phenomenon. Theology is not likely to survive as an independent intellectual discipline" [Wilson E.O., "On Human Nature," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1978, p.192] ... there is indeed a thriving area of more popular evolutionism, where evolution is used to underpin claims about the nature of the universe, the meaning of it all for us humans, and the way we should behave. I am not saying that this area is all bad or that it should be stamped out. ... I am saying that this popular evolutionism-often an alternative to religion--exists. ... we who cherish science should be careful to distinguish when we are doing science and when we are extrapolating from it, particularly when we are teaching our students. If it is science that is to be taught, then teach science and nothing more. Leave the other discussions for a more appropriate time." (Ruse M., "Is Evolution a Secular Religion?" Science, Vol 299, 7 March 2003, pp.1523-1524. My emphasis)
This explains the ferocity and implacability of evolutionists' opposition to intelligent design (and creation) being taught in science classes. It is to them the equivalent of another religion being taught in their temples.
... but also because it comes at a time when U.S. science is perceived as being under fresh assault politically and competitively. Just last week, developments ranging from flaws in the space program to South Korea's rapid advances in the field of cloning were cited as examples that the U.S. is losing its edge. Bush's comments on intelligent design were the No. 1 topic for bloggers for days afterward.
This last is significant in that through the Internet, the controversy has already circumvented evolutionists' control of the scientific journals and the media. They are trying to prevent students learning officially in school what many (if not most) of them, and their parents, already know unofficially from the Internet and news media anyway!
"It sends a signal to other countries because they're rushing to gain scientific and technological leadership while we're getting distracted with a pseudoscience issue," warned Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the 55,000-member National Science Teachers Association in Arlington, Va. "If I were China, I'd be happy."
A similar alarmist claim was made by Fred Spilhaus of the American Geophysical Union:
"President Bush, in advocating that the concept of 'intelligent design' be taught alongside the theory of evolution, puts America's schoolchildren at risk ... Americans will need basic understanding of science in order to participate effectively in the 21st century world. It is essential that students on every level learn what science is and how scientific knowledge progresses" (Spilhaus, F., President Confuses Science and Belief, Puts Schoolchildren at Risk, American Geophysical Union, 2 August 2005);
This is an absurd claim that if Americans don't accept evolution, then American technology will suffer, when in fact polls have consistently shown that the majority of American's never have accepted evolution in the fully naturalistic sense, while America has all along retained its technological world leadership. But the really interesting implication behind these last two comments, is that they implicitly assume that if American school students were presented with the evidence against evolution and for intelligent design, they would, in large numbers, choose intelligent design!

[Continued in part #4]

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

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