Saturday, October 08, 2005

Text originally referred to creationism: Biology book revised after Supreme Court ruling, etc.

Here are recent news items with my comments in square brackets.

Text originally referred to creationism: Biology book revised after Supreme Court ruling, CNN, October 7, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Early drafts of a student biology text contained references to creationism before they were replaced with the term "intelligent design," a witness testified Wednesday. Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, took the witness stand in a landmark trial over a school system's use of the book "Of Pandas and People." The text, written in 1987, was revised after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that June that states could not require schools to balance evolution with creationism in the classroom, Forrest said. She reviewed drafts of the textbook as a witness for eight families who are trying to have the intelligent design concept removed from the Dover Area School District's biology curriculum. The families contend that teaching intelligent design effectively promotes the Bible's view of creation, violating the separation of church and state. Intelligent design holds that life on Earth is so complex that it must have been the product of some higher force. Opponents of the concept say intelligent design is simply creationism stripped of overt religious references. Forrest outlined a chart of how many times the term "creation" was mentioned in the early drafts versus how many times the term "design" was mentioned in the published edition. "They are virtually synonymous," she said. Under the policy approved by Dover's school board in October 2004, students must hear a brief statement about intelligent design before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." Forrest also said that intelligent-design proponents have freely acknowledged that their cause is a religious one. She cited a document from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that represents intelligent-design scholars, that says one of its goals is "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." Under cross-examination by school board lawyer Richard Thompson, Forrest acknowledged that she had no evidence that board members who voted for the curriculum change had either seen or heard of the Discovery Institute document. ... [While no doubt effective, Forrest's testimony is an example of the Genetic Fallacy, which is "a type of argument in which an attempt is made to prove a conclusion false by condemning its source or genesis":
"Fallacies of personal attack can take various forms, depending on the nature of the attack. ... One of the simplest is genetic fallacy, a type of argument in which an attempt is made to prove a conclusion false by condemning its source or genesis. Such arguments are fallacious because how an idea originated is irrelevant to its viability. Thus it would be fallacious to argue that, since chemical elements are involved in all life processes, life is therefore nothing more than a chemical process; or that, since the early forms of religion were matters of magic, religion is nothing but magic. Genetic accounts of an issue may be true, and they may be illuminating as to why the issue has assumed its present form, but they are irrelevant to its merits." (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York NY, Fourth Edition, 1990, p.188. Emphasis in original)
That most IDsts are Christian creationists and see ID as a support for Christian creationism does not mean that ID itself is either Christian or creationism. Even if it be granted that ID "effectively promotes the Bible's view of creation" (which I do not grant-there is no God, Bible, days of creation, etc., in ID) the fact is that ID itself is not "the Bible's view of creation": there is no arguments for a young Earth, Adam and Eve, global flood, etc., which was a primary feature of "creation-science" that the courts had banned in previous trials. And there is another important point touched on by the defence lawyer in respect of the "document from the Discovery Institute", i.e. the "1999 ... early fundraising proposal" known as "the wedge document", which contained "a list of the sort of unrealizable goals that are typically generated by think tanks", including "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies":
"The `Wedge' Document Devours Bandwidth. In 1998, an inhouse draft document was stolen in some way from the Discovery Institute. It became known as the `Wedge' document because it outlined a strategy that followed up on Phillip Johnson's use of the term `the Wedge' in the mid-1990s. Johnson had described himself as a wedge because he was trying to open doors for younger scientists whose dissent from Darwinism raised career obstacles. One biologist explained it this way: `Phil is the 'sharp edge' and the rest of us are the ever-widening shank.' The document, a list of the sort of unrealizable goals that are typically generated by think tanks, was never published or formally accepted by Discovery, but it created a furore among Darwin pressure groups. For example it stated `Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics, and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have reopened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.' Of course, most North Americans have never given up a `broadly theistic' understanding of nature, as polls consistently show. Discovery's real target is the metaphysical naturalism and narrow Darwinism of the current science establishment, which the author of the document hoped to replace within two decades by intelligent design theory. That is a pretty ambitious project. ... In any event, there is no conspiracy. Johnson's book, The Wedge of Truth, provides a public statement of his own social goals for the Wedge. For example: `The Wedge has important things to say about science, but it has much more important things to say about the nihilism that infects intellectual life outside of experimental science.... Technology is at the flood tide of rationalist optimism, whereas the fields we call `the humanities' are at the ebb tide of nihilism.' [p.168]" (O'Leary D., "By Design or by Chance?: The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe," Augsburg: Minneapolis MN, 2004, pp.224-225)
that, as "Forrest acknowledged ... she had no evidence that board members who voted for the curriculum change had either seen or heard of the Discovery Institute document." And that presumably also applies to the "Early drafts of a student biology text [Of Pandas and People] versus how many times the term `design' was mentioned in the published edition," in which case the Dover Board of Education can only be held accountable for what is actually in "the published edition," which is after all what the students will find in the school library. And the latter contains only arguments for "design", i.e. based solely on the evidence for design in nature, not the Bible. Nevertheless, if in the unlikely event this Court, or the Supreme Court on appeal, rules that ID is "religion" on the basis of this sort of evidence of the influence of Biblical literalism, then that will be good for ID itself in the long run. It may even stop forever ID being taught in schools, but it certainly will not stop the case for ID being made outside of publicly funded schools and universities (in the USA anyway), e.g. in blogs like this, and those listed in its sidebar. I agree with Phil Johnson calling this "the science educators' `Vietnam'" because "they have a determined adversary who [is convinced of the rightness of his cause and therefore] is not going to surrender" and "If the enemy keeps on fighting, he wears you down":
"The first New York Times story on the Kansas decision quoted me as saying that this is the science educators' `Vietnam.' What I meant by this is that in the first place they have a determined adversary who is not going to surrender. They're not gaining ground. That's what the polls show, and that is why there is so much worry. If the enemy keeps on fighting, he wears you down. The second thing is that it is an adversary--that is, the anti-Darwinists--that can appeal to the liberal values of a lot of their opponents, just as the Viet Cong appealed to the anti-imperialist sentiments of the American public. The adversary can say, Let's hear both sides, let's have an open discussion, you don't know the majority position unless you have heard it effectively challenged, and so on. Already the polls show that two-thirds of the public favors something of the `teach both sides, teach the controversy' direction. The Kansas decision is certainly going to encourage other states and localities to do something like this." (Johnson P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Center Conversations No. 4, Ethics and Public Policy Center: Washington DC, September 1999.]
Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible, The Times, October 05, 2005, Ruth Gledhill ... THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true. The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect "total accuracy" from the Bible. "We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision," they say in The Gift of Scripture. The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US. Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in schools, believing "intelligent design" to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began. But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country's Catholic bishops insist cannot be "historical". At most, they say, they may contain "historical traces". ... [This "Ruth Gledhill" claims to be the Times' "Religion Correspondent", so either she is incompetent or disingenuous by making out that a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is something new for the Christian Church in general, and the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, e.g.:
"Many scientists and others have regarded Christianity as an absurd belief system, or at best as a `religious' and by that they mean non-rational, faith. Why? Often it is because the book on which Christianity is based, the Bible, has been said to date the origin of the universe at 4004 B.C., or some such recent date. Seldom considered and discussed are the dozen or more different indicators from the Bible that a literal reading of Genesis demands an ancient, rather than a recent, creation date. early biblical scholarship Many of the early church fathers and other biblical scholars interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time. The list includes the Jewish historian Josephus (1st century); Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, apologist, and martyr (2nd century); Origen, who rebutted heathen attacks on Christian doctrine (3rd century); Basil (4th century); Augustine (5th century); and, later, Aquinas (13th century), to name a few. The significance of this list lies not only in the prominence of these individuals as biblical scholars, defenders of the faith, and pillars of the early church (except Josephus), but also in that their scriptural views cannot be said to have been shaped to accommodate secular opinion. Astronomical, paleontological, and geological evidences for the antiquity of the universe, of the earth, and of life did not come forth until the nineteenth century. (Ross H.N., "The Fingerprint of God," [1989], Promise Publishing Co: Orange CA, Second Edition, 1991, pp.141)
For the same reason, Gledhill is also either incompetent or disingenuous for claiming that those who advocate "intelligent design" "want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in schools (I doubt that even YECs want that). This "easiest way to discredit intelligent design" will increasingly backfire as readers increasingly become aware of the differences between ID and Genesis literalism.

Given the above, and since this The Gift of Scripture seems not to be webbed, I don't know whether Gledhill is correctly representing either the document and/or these Catholic bishops (BTW I am a Protestant), in stating that in "the first 11 chapters of Genesis ... two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told". Presumably Genesis 1 and 2 is what is meant, and if so then: 1) Genesis 2 is not even a story of creation (i.e in the same universal sense as Genesis 1):
"Doesn't Genesis 2 present a different creation order than Genesis 1? Genesis 2 does not present a creation account at all but presupposes the completion of God's work of creation as set forth in chapter 1. The first three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry the narrative of chapter 1 to its final and logical conclusion, using the same vocabulary and style as employed in the previous chapter. It sets forth the completion of the whole primal work of creation and the special sanctity conferred on the seventh day as a symbol and memorial of God's creative work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole sequence that has just been surveyed by saying, `These are the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made heaven and earth.' Having finished the overall survey of the subject, the author then develops in detail one important feature that has already been mentioned: the creation of man. Kenneth Kitchen says, `Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the center of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting. Failure to recognize the complementary nature of the subject-distinction between a skeleton outline of all creation on the one hand, and the concentration in detail on man and his immediate environment on the other, borders on obscurantism (Ancient Orient, p. 117). ... From the survey of the first fifteen verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite apparent that this was never intended to be a general creation narrative. Search all the cosmogonies of the ancient civilizations of the Near East, and you will never find among them a single creation account that omits all mention of the formation of sun, moon, and stars or ocean or seas-none of which are referred to in Genesis 2. It is therefore quite obvious that Genesis 1 is the only creation account to be found in the Hebrew Scripture and that it is already presupposed as the background of Genesis 2. ... The structure of Genesis 2 stands in clear contrast to every creation account known to comparative literature. It was never intended to be a creation account at all, except insofar as it related the circumstances of man's creation as a child of God, fashioned in His image, infused with His breath of life, and brought into an intimate personal relationship with the Lord Himself. Quite clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the foundation of chapter 1 and represents no different tradition than the first chapter or discrepant account of the order of creation." (Archer G.L., "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1982, pp.68-69);
2) nor is Genesis 2 intended to be chronological:
"It should be noted that there are no contradictions between [Genesis] chapters 1 and 2. ... According to chapter 2 the order of creation is said to be man (v. 7), vegetation (v. 9), animals (v. 19), woman (v. 21f.). But in answer to this it should be noted that the order of statement is not chronological. Can we seriously think that the writer in intended us to understand that God formed man (v. 7) before there was any place to put him? To insist upon a chronological order in chapter 2 is to place a construction upon the writer's words that was never intended. In reality, chapter 2 declare nothing regarding the relative priority of man and vegetation. Nor does chapter 2 teach the creation of man before the animals. Here again, the chronological order is not stressed. The chapter has described the formation of Eden and the placing of man in the garden. It now speaks more particularly of man's condition, showing his need of a help meet for himself, and that such a help meet was not found among the animals. Verse 1 may rightly be paraphrased, `and the LORD GOD having formed out of the ground every beast of the field, and every fowl of heaven, brought them unto the man.'" (Young E.J., "An Introduction to the Old Testament," [1949], Tyndale Press: London, 1958, reprint, p.55);
and 3) Genesis 1 and 2 are not "conflicting" (see my "A harmony of the order of creation events in Genesis 1 and 2). BTW, a local radio talkback host who described himself as an "atheist" sounded relieved to hear the news that, "the Roman Catholic Church has [stated] ... that some parts of the Bible are not actually true." He confirmed this with a local Roman Catholic spokesman who did nothing to dispel his relief, but seemed more concerned to assure the atheist and his listeners that the RC Church distanced itself from "fundamentalists" (which these days seems to be anyone who thinks the Bible is what it claims to be, "God-breathed" "holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" - 2 Tim. 3:15-17). A truck driver later rang in and said (words to the effect) that that is why the mainstream churches in Australia are losing members in droves to those churches who are willing to defend the Bible as "actually true"!]

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

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