Sunday, October 30, 2005

Reporters stand by stories on biology curriculum debate, etc

Only two news items about testimony on Friday 28 October in the Dover case (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al), with my comments in square brackets.

Reporters stand by stories on biology curriculum debate, NEPA News/AP, Martha Raffaele, October 28, 2005 ... Two freelance newspaper reporters testified Friday that they accurately reported on school board meetings in which creationism was discussed, even though they did not directly quote any board members using the term. .... Heidi Bernhard-Bubb of The York Dispatch and Joseph Maldonado of the York Daily Record/Sunday News both testified that creationism was discussed at school board meetings they covered in June 2004. In pretrial depositions, school board members have denied or said they did not remember making statements about creationism during the meetings. The board in October 2004 approved the biology curriculum change, which requires students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. ... [Without the reporters having made notes of who (if anyone) on the board mentioned "creationism" and in what sense (e.g. it could have been an answer to a question with "creationism" in it) I doubt that this would carry much weight with the judge. Indeed, why would a reporter (let alone two reporters) not make notes of a Dover board member espousing "creationism"? Sounds fishy to me!]

School board member didn't investigate "intelligent design", Philadelphia Inquirer/AP, Oct. 28, 2005 Martha Raffaele ... HARRISBURG, Pa. - A school board member who voted to include "intelligent design" in a high-school biology curriculum testified Friday that she never independently researched the concept and relied on the opinions of two fellow board members to make her decision. Heather Geesey, a Dover Area School Board member, said she came to believe intelligent design was a scientific theory based on the recommendations of Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham - both members of the board's curriculum committee. "They said it was a scientific thing," said Geesey, who added that "it wasn't my job" to learn more about intelligent design because she didn't serve on the curriculum committee. .... Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the families, noted in his cross-examination of Geesey that the policy was adopted over the objections of Dover High School's science teachers. "The only people in the school district with a scientific background were opposed to intelligent design ... and you ignored them?" he asked. "Yes," Geesey said. ... [Also at MSNBC & York Daily Record. Ideally, Geesey should have herself "independently researched the concept" of ID, although just because she had not done so does not mean she knew nothing about ID and the problems of evolution. And it is possible to make the right decision for the wrong reasons. If intelligent design is true, then the "people in the school district with a scientific background [who] were opposed to intelligent design" are wrong. Board members are presumably elected to represent the public, and polls (e.g. Gallup) show that ~80% of the public reject what these "people in the school district with a scientific background" who "were opposed to intelligent design" stand for:

"... the standard scientific theory [of evolution] 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).

But again, I cannot see how this will carry much weight with the judge, although I think the Dover Board were way over their depth and in their efforts to move from an original creationist to an ID position, do not come across as squeaky clean. It needs to be reiterated that the Discovery Institute did not agree with the Dover board's approach. The danger for ID is that the judge in finding fault with the Dover board, may rule against ID itself, although I doubt that will happen. Indeed, the Dover board's confusion between creationism and ID may be a blessing in disguise because it will enable the judge to clarify the distinction between creationism (based on the Bible = religious) and ID (based on nature = scientific).

I spent yesterday afternoon reading several hundred pages of the transcripts of Mike Behe's testimony on October 17th AM & PM; 18th AM & PM; and 19th AM & PM. I highly recommend it as the latest on Behe's thinking about ID and IC (irreducible complexity). Behe more than held his own under intense questioning by the ACLU's counsel, Eric Rothschild (who the media never seems to mention is a member of the Legal Advisory Board of the NCSE). Here are some nice quotes that Behe cited in his testimony:

"But there is a bigger problem. Most biochemists have only a meagre understanding of, or interest in, evolution. As Behe points out, for the thousandplus scholarly articles on the biochemistry of cilia, he could find only a handful that seriously addressed evolution. This indifference is universal. Pick up any biochemistry textbook, and you will find perhaps two or three references to evolution. Turn to one of these and you will be lucky to find anything better than `evolution selects the fittest molecules for their biological function.'" (Pomiankowski A., "The God of the tiny gaps. Review of "Darwin's Black Box" by Michael Behe, New Scientist, Vol 151, 14 September 1996, pp.44- 45, p.45)
"The fundamental postulate is that unduplipodia and other multimolecular mechanisms arose, like the human eye, by the progressive accretion of ancillary proteins onto some rudiment or foundation that was functionally useful but need not have been an organ of motility. This amplification took place, one gene at a time, under the guidance of natural selection: each modification conferred at least a small selective benefit. On this premise, one can construct schemes that sound plausible and account, in principle, for the origins of crawling motility, mitosis or the secretory pathway. We have no better alternative to offer the inquirer, and in the absence of time travel we may never discover what actually happened; and so a modicum of doubt necessarily persists. We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." (Harold F.M., "The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life," Oxford University Press: New York NY, 2003, pp.204-205)
"I want to continue to examine biochemical evolution because Behe's central contention is one that I enthusiastically endorse. If Darwinism cannot explain the interlocking complexity of biochemistry, then it is doomed. " (Miller K.R., "Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution," [1999], HarperCollins: New York NY, 2000, reprint, p.143)
"THE BRILLIANT theoretical physicist Richard Feynman is rumoured to have said, `If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't understand quantum theory.' I am tempted by an evolutionist's equivalent: `If you think you understand sex, you don't understand sex: The three modern Darwinians from whom I believe we have the most to learn - John Maynard Smith, W D. Hamilton and George C. Williams - all devoted substantial parts of their long careers to wrestling with sex. Williams began his 1975 book Sex and Evolution with a challenge to himself: `This book is written from a conviction that the prevalence of sexual reproduction in higher plants and animals is inconsistent with current evolutionary theory ... there is a kind of crisis at hand in evolutionary biology ..:' [Williams G.C., "Sex and Evolution," Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1975, p.v] Maynard Smith and Hamilton said similar things. It is to resolve this crisis that all three Darwinian heroes, along with others of the rising generation, laboured. I shall not attempt an account of their efforts, and certainly I have no rival solution to offer myself." (Dawkins R., "The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, 2004, p.424)]

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

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