Saturday, August 06, 2005

Leading Republican differs with Bush on evolution, etc.

Here are excerpts from news articles, with my comments in square brackets:
Leading Republican differs with Bush on evolution, Washington Post, Jon Hurdle, August 4, 2005. PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A leading Republican senator allied with the religious right differed on Thursday with President Bush's support for teaching an alternative to the theory of evolution known as "intelligent design." Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a possible 2008 presidential contender who faces a tough re-election fight next year in Pennsylvania, said intelligent design, which is backed by many religious conservatives, lacked scientific credibility and should not be taught in science classes. Bush told reporters from Texas on Monday that "both sides" in the debate over intelligent design and evolution should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about." "I think I would probably tailor that a little more than what the president has suggested," Santorum, the third-ranking Republican member of the U.S. Senate, told National Public Radio [Real Player]. "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom." Evangelical Christians have launched campaigns in at least 18 states to make public schools teach intelligent design alongside Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Proponents of intelligent design argue that nature is so complex that it could not have occurred by random natural selection, as held by Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution, and so must be the work of an unnamed "intelligent cause." Santorum ... is expected to face a stiff challenge from Democrat Bob Casey in his quest for re-election next year in Pennsylvania, a major battleground state in recent presidential elections. The controversy over intelligent design is a hot topic in Pennsylvania, where the Dover Area School District in south central Pennsylvania has included the theory in its biology curriculum. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block the policy, calling it a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Most Americans believe that God created human beings or guided the process of evolution, according to a CBS poll last November. Two-thirds said they wanted creationism taught alongside evolution in schools. ... Critics, including many science teachers, say intelligent design cannot be scientifically tested and has no place in a science curriculum. Santorum sided in part with intelligent-design proponents in saying that there were gaps in the theory of evolution. "What we should be teaching are the problems and holes -- and I think there are legitimate problems and holes -- in the theory of evolution. What we need to do is to present those fairly, from a scientific point of view," he said in the interview. "As far as intelligent design is concerned, I really don't believe it has risen to the level of a scientific theory at this point that we would want to teach it alongside of evolution." Santorum had proposed an unsuccessful measure in 2001 that would have required discussing the "controversy" of evolution when the theory is taught in classes. Bush's science adviser, John Marburger, was quoted in The New York Times this week as saying intelligent design was not a scientific concept, and that Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean he thinks the concept should be taught as part of the "social context" in science classes. ..."
[I have just listened to what Sen. Santorum said at the above NPR link, and he did not say that "intelligent design ... lacked scientific credibility." What he said was what the Discovery Institute said (which I agree with), that: 1) ID is not yet ready to be taught in schools as a scientific theory; but 2) the problems of evolution should be taught. This is virtually identical to the Discovery Institute's position:
"President Bush's Support for Free Speech on Evolution and Intelligent Design Draws Praise from Discovery Institute, Staff Discovery Institute, August 2, 2005 ... Discovery Institute opposes mandating the teaching of intelligent design, but it supports requiring students to know about scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory. ..."
According to the Dover Area School District's February 2005, "Biology Curriculum Update," the claim that "Dover Area School District ... has included the theory [of intelligent design] in its biology curriculum", is false:
"Are Dover students taught the theory of intelligent design? No. Perhaps the most widely misreported fact is that Dover school district requires the "teaching" of intelligent design. Students are only made aware of the theory of ID during the one minute statement read prior to the ninth grade biology course ... Students interested in learning more are able to do so by viewing books and materials available in the library."
See also the Dover School District's response to the ACLU's lawsuit. This will only confirm to the Dover area public (including the students) who know this is false, that there must be serious problems with evolution when its proponents have to keep resorting to misrepresentations and untruths to defend it! See also my previous post "Bush reaffirms teaching of both evolution and ID"]
"Earth's Air Trapped in Moon Dirt, Scientist Speculates," Robert Roy Britt,, 3 August 2005. Scientists speculated today on a solution to a longstanding mystery of why the Moon is overloaded with nitrogen. It came from Earth, they say. If the idea is correct, then the Moon could serve as an attic of information that could reveal when Earth's magnetic field was jumpstarted shortly after the planet formed. Let's go back 4.5 billion years. The Moon is thought to have formed when a Mars-sized object slammed into Earth in a glancing blow that kicked up a bunch of superheated material. The stuff orbited Earth, cooled, and condensed into a satellite. It was all so hot that nitrogen and other so-called volatile elements didn't survive, theoretically leaving the Moon bereft of them. But examinations of lunar soil brought back by Apollo astronauts finds plenty of nitrogen. Some would have arrived on the solar wind, but there's more than the Sun ought to have contributed. It's possible the lunar nitrogen arrived via interplanetary dust. But that idea hasn't been proved, nor are the potential quantities pinned down. The Moon was closer In the Aug. 4 issue of the journal Nature, Minoru Ozima of University of Tokyo and colleagues put forth an intriguing alternative. The new scenario is based on the possibility that Earth's magnetic field was not born with the planet 4.5 billion years ago, but developed sometime thereafter when the molten iron core took on a "differential rotation," meaning the outer and inner parts of the core rotate at different rates. Nobody knows exactly how or when all that developed. The magnetic field serves as a protective shield, blocking many (but not all) of the charged particles that stream in from the Sun and keeping cosmic rays largely at bay, too. It also helps prevents Earth-bound particles from escaping willy-nilly into space. Before the magnetic field formed, nitrogen molecules in Earth's atmosphere broke down into nitrogen ions, and ions in the outer atmosphere escaped freely to the Moon, Ozima's team figures. Back then, Earth and the Moon were much closer than they are today, so it would have been easier for the satellite's gravity to lure the ions in. If that's the case, then scientists should be able to find out when the magnetic field turned on by checking if the amount of nitrogen is significantly higher in lunar soil of a particular age. ..."
[See also: Moon has Earth 'air', ABC, 4 August 2005. It sounds like the Earth's magnetic field was yet another beneficial byproduct of "when a Mars-sized object slammed into Earth in a glancing blow" combining their cores and formed the Moon. If so, this will be yet another unique fine-tuned parameter of the Earth for life. I will add this to my "Problems of Evolution," book outline, PE "Solar System's fitness for life ... Moon ... Effect ... Earth's magnetic field?"]
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
Problems of Evolution

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