Sunday, September 18, 2005

"The Evolution Wars" (TIME, August 15, 2005) #4

Here is part #4 of my multi-part critique (in square brackets) of the articles in TIME of August 15, under the cover story, "The Evolution Wars":

By Claudia Wallis

[Continued from part #3. See previous parts #1 & #2]

As far as many Americans are concerned, however, the President was probably preaching to the choir. In a Harris poll conducted in June, 55% of 1,000 adults surveyed said children should be taught creationism and intelligent design along with evolution in public schools. The same poll found that 54% did not believe humans had developed from an earlier species--up from 45% with that view in 1994--although other polls have not detected this rise.

[The differing percentages in various polls in the response to the question about human origins, presumably is due to the way the question was put. But one constant across all polls seems to be the clear majority who want alternatives to evolution, (i.e. "creationism and intelligent design along with evolution"), taught in schools. The public clearly are not buying the Darwinists' self-serving argument that to deny design in nature is "science" but to affirm design in nature is "religion".]

Around the U.S., the prevalence of such beliefs and the growing organization and clout of the intelligent-design movement are beginning to alter the way that most fundamental tenets of biology are presented in public schools.

[Although there does not yet seem to be much overt evidence of it, it is likely that this grass-roots pressure to teach more about evolution:

"JANUARY 29, 2004 - New science standards proposed by the Georgia Department of Education eliminate all references to `evolution' and instead use the term `biological changes over time,' in order to avoid public protest over the lack of thoroughness in how evolution is presented. `This is just absurd. Georgia needs to teach more about evolution, not less,' said Rob Crowther, spokesman for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. `They need to be presenting the scientific evidence both for and against Darwin’s theory. There is a growing controversy among scientists about the ability of natural selection or chemistry alone to explain the complexity of life. Ignoring the word evolution won't make the controversy go away.'" ("Georgia Schools Should Teach More About Evolution Not Less," Discovery Institute, January 29, 2004)
i.e. its philosophical assumptions, its problems, and alternative explanations, is beginning to be felt in schoolrooms across America.]

New laws that in some sense challenge the teaching of evolution are pending or have been considered in 20 states, including such traditionally liberal bastions as Michigan and New York.

[When I started in this debate over a decade ago, the Darwinist claim was that the only opposition to evolution was from `fundamentalitsts' in the `Bible-belt'. But quite clearly the opposition to evolution being the only alternative to be taught in schools is broad-based and increasingly so.]

This week in Kansas, a conservative-leaning state board of education is expected to accept a draft of new science standards that emphasize the theoretical nature of evolution and require students to learn about "significant debates" about the theory. The proposed rules, which won't be put to a final vote until fall, would also alter the state's basic definition of science. While current Kansas standards describe science as "the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world," the rewritten definition leaves the door open, critics say, for the supernatural as well.

[What the Darwinists are upset about is that the new Kansas science standards will not beg the question in favour of naturalism (i.e. nature is all there is: there is no supernatural - which is false BTW) , by using neutral language like, "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation":

Kansas debate focuses on defining science: Would supernatural causes be added to the equation?, MSNBC/AP, John Hanna, May 16, 2005. TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution weren't limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself. Advocates of `intelligent design' are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world. Instead, they want to define it as `a systematic method of continuing investigation,' without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards. The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes."
Note the begging of the question in this last line, "discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes." How in the case of origins (e.g. the origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of life's major groups, the origin of man), do the Darwinists know that the "phenomena" was "natural" and not "supernatural"? As Denyse O'Leary pointed out, what is at the heart of the controversy " is a conflict between a naturalistic definition of science and an evidence-based one":
Kansas science standards approved: Would permit questioning Darwinism, Denyse O'Leary, The ID Report, 07/16/05. The heart of the Kansas controversy over what should be taught in schools is a conflict between a naturalistic definition of science and an evidence-based one. Naturalism is a type of philosophy that argues that nature is all there is, has been, or ever will be. It is opposed not only to theism but to any assumption that nature incorporates design or purpose. (A Buddhist or agnostic, for example, may not believe in gods/God, but may accept that there is design or purpose in nature.) However, many prominent scientists are naturalists, and they have a tendency to think that science is the handmaid of naturalism.
Having a non-question-begging neutral definition of science would permit non-naturalistic explanations (e.g. intelligent design, creation) to be proposed, if they better fit the evidence, without them being ruled out in advance as not "science" but "religion." Under those original standards, if Antony Flew was a Kansas student, he could not "follow the evidence wherever it leads" and conclude from the scientific evidence that God created the first living organism:
Famous Atheist Now Believes in God, ABC News/AP. One of World's Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less, Based on Scientific Evidence ... NEW YORK Dec 9, 2004 - A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England. ... Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates. There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife. Yet biologists' investigation of DNA `has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved,' Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?" ... The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote. ... if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."
but under the proposed new science standards he could, and Kansas students can!

[To be continued in part #5]

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

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