Friday, September 30, 2005

A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit, etc

Here are my comments in square brackets on other articles about the first day (Monday, September 26) of the Dover intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al. I have tried to eliminate duplications and topics that have already been discussed. I hope to catch up at least by the weekend!

A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit, The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, September 26, 2005. DOVER, Pa ... The case is to open Monday in Harrisburg, Pa. But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them - is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools. With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design. What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court. Dover, a rural, mostly blue-collar community of 22,000 that is 20 miles south of Harrisburg, had school board members willing to go to the mat over issue. But people here are well aware that they are only the excuse for a much larger showdown in the culture wars. "It was just our school board making one small decision," Mrs. Hied said, "but it was just received with such an uproar." For Mrs. Hied ... and her husband, ... the Dover school board's argument - that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue - has a strong appeal. "I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied ... Steven Stough ... who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax. "You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn't pass muster," said Mr. Stough ... "In science class, you don't say to the students, 'Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?' "Evolution finds that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions. It is the foundation of biological science, with no credible challenges within the scientific community. Without it, the plaintiffs say, students could never make sense of topics as varied as AIDS and extinction. ... Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs would call six experts in history, theology, philosophy of science and science to show that no matter the perspective, "intelligent design is not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations, is not testable." ... "This is an attempt by the A.C.L.U. to really intimidate this small-town school board," said Mr. Thompson, who will defend the Dover board at the trial, "because the theory of intelligent design is starting to gain some resonance among school boards across the country." The defense plans to introduce leading design theorists like Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, and education experts who will testify that "allowing students to be aware of the controversy is good pedagogy because it develops critical thinking," Mr. Thompson said. ... The legal battle came to a head on Oct. 18 last year when the Dover school board voted 6 to 3 to require ninth-grade biology students to listen to a brief statement saying that there was a controversy over evolution, that intelligent design is a competing theory and that if they wanted to learn more the school library had the textbook "Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins." The book is published by an intelligent design advocacy group, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, based in Texas. ... The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional because it was based on religion. So the plaintiffs will try to prove that intelligent design is creationism in a new package. ... Mr. Thompson said his side would prove that intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible and never posited the creator's identity. "It's clear they are two different theories," Mr. Thompson said. "Creationism normally starts with the Holy Scripture, the Book of Genesis, then you develop a scientific theory that supports it, while intelligent design looks at the same kind of empirical data that any scientist looks at," and concludes that complex mechanisms in nature "appear designed because it is designed." A twist in the case is that a leading proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, removed one of its staff members from the Dover school board's witness list and opposed the board's action from the start. "We thought it was a bad idea because we oppose any effort to require students to learn about intelligent design because we feel that it politicizes what should be a scientific debate," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the institute. However, Professor Behe, a fellow at the institute, is expected to be the board's star witness. ... [The complaint that ID is a "Trojan horse for religion" is a tacit admission that ID itself is not religion. And the DASD did not "mandate the teaching of intelligent design." It merely: 1) criticized evolution; and 2) indicated to students that there was an ID "reference book, Of Pandas and People... available for students who might be interested":

"Text of Statement Read to Students. `The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.'" ("Biology Curriculum Update, Dover Area School District News, February 2005, p.1)

And "Evolution" does not "find... that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions", it is its unproven, and unprovable, metaphysical assumption. There are "no credible challenges [to evolution] within the scientific community" in the same sense that there is "no credible challenges" to the government in a one-party state, i.e. the Darwinists just rule out in advance, by their definition of "scientific" as materialistic-naturalistic, that there even can be "credible challenges [to evolution] within the scientific community". Note how the ACLU's lawyer defined "intelligent design" as "not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations ..." But that commits the fallacy of "True by definition," which "Like the other kinds of logical truth, definitional truth is also innocent of any factual substance ... They give no information about the world, but only about the use of language in reasonable discourse. It is this lack of material content that is referred to when it is said that such truth is tautological or trivial." (see PS and tagline quotes). I am confident that the court will accept ID's claim that "intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible", in which case the evolution side will lose. ]

Court Tackles 'Intelligent Design', CBS, Thalia Assuras, HARRISBURG, Pa., September 26, 2005 ... the opening of the trial in federal court marked the latest legal chapter in the debate over the teaching of evolution in public school. "Intelligent design" is a religious theory that was inserted in a school district's curriculum with no concern for whether it had scientific underpinnings, a lawyer told a federal judge Monday as a landmark trial got under way. "They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious point of view in science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity," said Eric Rothschild, an attorney representing eight families who are challenging the decision of the Dover Area School District. But in his opening statement, the school district's attorney defended Dover's policy of requiring ninth-grade students to hear a brief statement about intelligent design before biology classes on evolution. "This case is about free inquiry in education, not about a religious agenda," argued Patrick Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center ... "Dover's modest curriculum change embodies the essence of liberal education." The center, which lobbies for what it sees as the religious freedom of Christians, is defending the school district. But to some observers, the anti-evolutionists are winning the public relations battle ... Arguing that intelligent design is a religious theory, not science, Rothschild said he would show that the language in the school district's own policy made clear its religious intent. ... But Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas Moore Law Center, which lobbies for the religious freedom of Christians and is defending the school district [said] ... that advocates of intelligent design just want to "teach the controversy."... "It's good education to allow students to know that there is a controversy surrounding biological evolution," Thompson [said] ... Brown University professor Kenneth Miller, the first witness called by the plaintiffs, said pieces of the theory of evolution are subject to debate, such as where gender comes from, but told the court: "There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory." On the other hand, he said, "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community." Miller also challenged the accuracy of "Of Pandas and People" and said it almost entirely omits any discussion of what causes extinction. If nearly all original species are extinct, he said, the intelligent design creator was not very intelligent. ... [Miller contradicts himself: if "There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory" then how is it a testable theory"? And if "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense" then how does he claim to have tested it and found it false? Miller's complaint about "On Pandas and People" that it "omits any discussion of what causes extinction" is irrelevant because the book makes it clear that it is not intended to be a comprehensive biology textbook, but a to be read in conjunction with a biology textbook. His claim that "If nearly all original species are extinct ... the intelligent design creator was not very intelligent" presupposes that he knows that the designer intended that no species should go extinct. Miller claims to be a Christian but he often attacks the designer "as ... not very intelligent" (to the delight of atheists). Having read what Miller has said over a long time, including his book, "Finding Darwin's God," FWIW, I personally, do not regard Miller as a Christian, but a Gnostic.]

US evolution court battle opens, BBC, 27 September 2005 ... Defending the school district, Patrick Gillen said .... "Dover's modest curriculum change embodies the essence of liberal education," he said. The Dover school board instructs its teachers to read a statement to ninth-grade students before classes on evolution, saying that Darwin's theory is "not a fact", and that there are "gaps in the theory". Students are then referred to an intelligent design textbook. However, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says that intelligent design "is not even a theory."... [Declaring ID "not even a theory" makes it plain that evolution itself, by its own testability criteria, would not be a science either!]

Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania, The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, September 27, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa., September 26 - Intelligent design is not science, has no support from any major American scientific organization and does not belong in a public school science classroom, a prominent biologist testified on the opening day of the nation's first legal battle over whether it is permissible to teach the fledgling "design" theory as an alternative to evolution. "To my knowledge, every single scientific society that has taken a position on this issue has taken a position against intelligent design and in favor of evolution," said the biologist, Kenneth R. Miller, a professor at Brown University and the co-author of the widely used high school textbook "Biology." .... The two sides agree that no matter how Judge John E. Jones III decides the case in Federal District Court here, it will probably make its way to the Supreme Court. Casey Luskin, a program officer at ... the Discovery Institute, said in an interview outside the courtroom: "No one is pretending that intelligent design is a majority position. What we're rebutting is their claim that there's no controversy among scientists.".... The board president, Sheila Harkins, said ... "The whole thought behind it was to encourage critical thinking." It was "not true at all," Ms. Harkins said, that board members were motivated by their religious beliefs. ... The plaintiffs are trying to show that intelligent design is just "the 21st-century version of creationism," as a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Eric Rothschild, put it in his opening argument. Mr. Rothschild said that the board's own documents would show that the board members had initially discussed teaching "creationism" - one former member said he wanted the class time evenly split between creationism and evolution - and that they substituted the words "intelligent design" only when they were made aware by lawyers of the constitutional problems involved. The board ultimately settled for directing that a four-paragraph statement be read to the students at the opening of the semester's biology class ... The board's statement "undermines sound science education" by conveying to students that only evolution merits such skepticism, he said. Professor Miller projected slides that he said contradicted the core of design theory: that organisms are irreducibly complex. He also denigrated intelligent design as "a negative argument against evolution," in which there is no "positive argument" to test whether an intelligent designer actually exists. If the theory is not testable, he said, it is not science. Randall Wenger, a lawyer for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics .. said, "If they decide that intelligent design is just a remake of creationism, that horribly undermines" both the Pandas textbook and "the motivation for scientists to study intelligent design." ... [Since scientific materialist-naturalists absolutely control modern science, it is hardly surprising that no "single scientific society ... has taken a position [for] ... intelligent design". But then there once was a time when every single scientific society would have taken a position for intelligent design and against evolution! Again, I am confident that the court will reject the evolution side's claim that ID is "the 21st-century version of creationism" because ID is not based on the Bible, but the evidence of nature. Whether the Dover board are "motivated by their religious beliefs" is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of ID itself. The ID side could just as easily counter that the anti-ID side is motivated by their "religious beliefs" (atheism, agnosticism, gnosticism, pantheism, etc). Again Miller contradicts himself, claiming simultaneously that "Intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense " and that "the Pandas textbook `inaccurate and downright false in every section.'"!]

Trial over 'intelligent design' resumes, CNews, Martha Raffaele September 27, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The opening day of a landmark trial over whether a school district should require students to hear about "intelligent design" felt a lot like a science lecture. Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, the first witness called Monday by lawyers suing the Dover Area School District for exposing its students to the controversial theory, sprinkled his testimony with references to DNA, red blood cells and viruses, and he occasionally referred to complex charts on a projection screen. Even U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III was a little overwhelmed. "I guess I should say, 'Class dismissed,'" Jones mused before recessing for lunch. ... Intelligent design holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force. ... Miller, whose cross-examination was to resume Tuesday morning, said the policy undermines scientific education by raising false doubts about evolutionary theory. "It's the first movement to try to drive a wedge between students and the scientific process," he said. But the rural school district of about 3,500 students argues it is not endorsing any religious view and is merely giving ninth-grade biology classes a glimpse of differences in evolutionary theory. .... Attorneys for the plaintiffs began their case by arguing that intelligent design is a religious theory inserted in the school district's curriculum by the school board with no concern for whether it has scientific underpinnings. .... Miller, who was the only witness Monday, sharply criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who will be a key witness for the district. The statement read to Dover students states in part, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered." Miller said the words are "tremendously damaging," falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution. "What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said. .... On the other hand, Miller said, "intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense and as such it is not accepted by the scientific community." During his cross-examination of Miller, Robert Muise, another attorney for the law center, repeatedly asked whether he questioned the completeness of Darwin's theory. "Would you agree that Darwin's theory is not the absolute truth?" Muise said. "We don't regard any scientific theory as the absolute truth," Miller responded. ... [What is wrong with "undermining the scientific status of evolution" if it is a testable scientific theory and "not the absolute truth"? Again Miller contradicts himself, claiming that "intelligent design is not a testable theory in any sense " but then he "criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents ... Michael Behe".]

Darwin vs God case opens in US Correspondents in Harrisburg September 28, 2005 A COURT case that has gripped the US, pitting Darwin's theory of evolution against the idea that the universe was created by "intelligent design", opened in Pennsylvania yesterday with the world watching. .... The non-jury trial, expected to last about five weeks, is being heard by federal court judge John Jones III, who was nominated in 2002 by US President George W. Bush. Judge Jones presided over a courtroom yesterday where the 47 credentialed members of the media, including many foreign correspondents, far outnumbered the 17 members of the public who sought admission, according to the court clerk. ... [With "47 credentialed members of the media, including many foreign correspondents", quite clearly evolution is more than just a scientific theory! It is the creation story (if not the deity) of secular Western culture.]

See also Lawyers argue over use of intelligent design concept in schools, CBC News, 27 September, 2005 ; Parents challenge US 'intelligent design' teaching, The Guardian, Julian Borger, September 27, 2005 ...

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

PS: I have added the following tagline quotes to a new section of my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... True by definition."

"There is a third variety of true sentences which logicians frequently speak of, `true by definition.' ... Like the other kinds of logical truth, definitional truth is also innocent of any factual substance - the only information it gives is that if you define a term in a certain way, then, the conditions of the definition being met, you can use the term. ... They give no information about the world, but only about the use of language in reasonable discourse. It is this lack of material content that is referred to when it is said that such truth is tautological or trivial." (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B., "Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 25th printing, pp.136-137)

"A tautology is a contentless statement; something true by definition and uninformative of the real world. `All bachelors are unmarried men' is a tautology, as is `All triangles have three sides.' Neither statement informs us that the subject exists. They only mean, `If X exists, then it is X.' If there are any bachelors in the universe, they are unmarried. The tautology does not tell us that a bachelor really exists. ... Tautologies are usually contrasted with empirical statements that have content: `The tree outside my window is an oak.' `The car in my yard is black.' While empirical statements have content, they are not logically necessary. That is, they may be false. Tautologies, on the other hand, are logically necessary, since they are true by definition. They do not say a thing, but they are necessarily true." (Geisler N.L., "Tautology," in "Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics," Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p.714)

"Natural selection is the central concept of Darwinian theory-the fittest survive and spread their favored traits through populations. Natural selection is defined by Spencer's phrase `survival of the fittest,' but what does this famous bit of jargon really mean? Who are the fittest? And how is `fitness' defined? We often read that fitness involves no more than `differential reproductive success'-the production of more surviving offspring than other competing members of the population. Whoa! cries Bethell, as many others have before him. This formulation defines fitness in terms of survival only. The crucial phrase of natural selection means no more than `the survival of those who survive'-a vacuous tautology. (A tautology is a phrase-like `my father is a man' -containing no information in the predicate ('a man') not inherent in the subject ('my father'). Tautologies are fine as definitions, but not as testable scientific statements-there can be nothing to test in a statement true by definition.)" (Gould S.J., "Darwin's Untimely Burial," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," [1978], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.40)

"Methodological Naturalism is True By Definition. So why must a scientist proceed in accordance with methodological naturalism? Michael Ruse suggests that methodological naturalism or at any rate part of it is true by definition: `Furthermore, even if Scientific Creationism were totally successful in making its case as science, it would not yield a scientific explanation of origins. Rather, at most, it could prove that science shows that there can be no scientific explanation of origins. The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.' [Ruse M., "Darwinism Defended," Addison-Wesley: Reading MA, 1982, p.322. Emphasis original] By definition of the term 'science' one supposes; Ruse apparently holds there is a correct definition of 'science', such that from the definition it follows that science deals only with what is natural, repeatable, and governed by law. ... [A] ... puzzling thing about Ruse's claim: it is hard to see how anything like a reasonably serious dispute about what is and isn't science could be settled just by appealing to a definition. One thinks this would work only if the original query were really a verbal question -- a question like: Is the English word 'science' properly applicable to a hypothesis that makes reference to God? But that wasn't the question. The question is instead: Could a hypothesis that makes reference to God be part of science? That question can't be answered just by citing a definition." (Plantinga A., "Methodological Naturalism? Part 2," 1997. Origins & Design 18:2, Access Research Network, January 1, 1998. Emphasis original)

"Third, Emilio has to learn that `science' as defined in our culture has a philosophical bias that needs to be exposed. On the one hand, science is empirical. This means that scientists rely on experiments observations and calculations to develop theories and test them. On the other hand, contemporary science is naturalistic and materialistic in philosophy. What this means is that materialist explanations for all phenomena are assumed to exist. And what that means is that the NABT's definition of evolution as an unsupervised process is simply true by definition-regardless of the evidence! It is a waste of time to argue about the evidence if one side has already won the argument by defining the terms." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, p.21)

"Darwin's theory of evolution was originally stated in risky form. It predicted, for example, that fossil hunters would eventually find a great many transitional intermediates between the major groups (they didn't) and that animal breeders would succeed in creating distinct species (they didn't). Today the theory is usually stated in risk-free form. Naturalistic evolution is identified with science itself, and any alternative is automatically disqualified as `religion.' This makes it impossible to hold a scientific debate over whether the theory is true (it's virtually true by definition), which explains why Darwinists tend to think that anyone who wants such a debate to occur must have a `hidden agenda.' In other words, critics couldn't seriously be questioning whether the theory is true, so they must have some dishonest purpose in raising the question." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, pp.43-44)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Probed! Mother of all brains, etc

Here are science news excerpts, with my comments are in square brackets.

Probed! Mother of all brains, ABC/Discovery News, Jennifer Viegas, 28 September 2005 ... All brains originated from a single common ancestral brain that emerged at least 700 million years ago, according to a recent analysis of brain studies. The finding suggests this mother brain for all creatures with a central nervous system - such as insects, birds, animals and humans - evolved only once before each species underwent its own evolutionary course. "What we see today in humans, insects and all other multicellular animals with a central nervous system are probably just variations of one ancient scheme," says Dr Rudi Loesel, who conducted the analysis published in the journal Arthropod Structure & Development. "What this ancestral brain looked like, we do not know. Its architecture might have been very simple, but the basic genetic mechanisms and the principal chemical setup was already there [before 700 million years ago]," says Loesel ... The researchers don't know what the creature that contained the mother of all brains looked like. Some scientists speculate it could have been a segmented flatworm, while others think it was a more complex creature. Loesel says that he, and others who study brain evolution, can't rely on fossil evidence because neuronal tissue is not preserved over time. Instead, they compare the brain architecture of living species, identify similarities and then try to find common characteristics that would have belonged to the mother brain. "Taking the similarities in brain biology in such distantly related animal groups like insects and mammals into account, the origin of the brain - the common ancestral brain - must have already evolved before the major animal phyla diverged, which was approximately 700 million years ago," he says. ... At around that time, invertebrates and vertebrates each branched off from the tree of life. The emergence of the common brain likely occurred just before this branch-off, says Loesel, because brains and associated characteristics of insects known to exist then and now share key aspects with human and other animal brains. Loesel says evidence for the once-shared brain can be seen in certain neurotransmitters, which function similarly in most brains, and in genes that regulate the circadian clock that controls sleep-wake cycles. The same circadian clock genes in insects have been found in mammals. Professor Walter Gehring ... agrees with Loesel that insects and animals share common characteristics related to the brain, such as eyes. Gehring and his colleagues studied Drosophila fruit flies and found a master control gene that regulates growth and development of eyes in most fly species. A very similar gene is present in other insects, animals and humans. "The observation that mammals and insects, which have evolved separately for more than 500 million years, share the same master control gene for eye morphogenesis [the process of cell differentiation into various tissues and structures] indicates that the genetic control mechanisms of development are much more universal than anticipated," Gehring says. ... [Darwinists used to claim that because the eye arose 40+ times, that showed how powerful the Darwinian mechanism of the natural selection of random mutations was. But then it turned out that the underlying molecular machinery of the eye, the Pax-6 master gene, arose only once, as geneticist explained in one of his imaginary letter to Darwin:

"The Pax-6 story tells us that there has been just one origin and one evolutionary line of progression, from the earliest patches of light-sensitive cells to the variety of advanced eye-forms around us. This unavoidable conclusion, Charles, goes against a hundred years of insistence that the widely different structures and operations of eyes (eye cup, pinhole, camera-type with single lens, mirror and compound) arose independently, at least forty and maybe up to sixty-five times. Our old friend Richard Dawkins devoted a chapter in one of his books to 'the forty-fold path to enlightenment', emphasizing the repetitive ease with which natural selection could produce an eye, and so relieving you of the 'cold shudder' you experienced whenever you grappled with this problem." (Dover G.A., "Dear Mr Darwin: Letters on the Evolution of Life and Human Nature," [1999], University of California Press: Berkeley CA, 2000, reprint, p.172)

So now it looks like (pun unintended!) that the molecular machinery underlying brains arose only once too. This means that the Darwinian mechanism of the natural selection of random mutations (RM&NS) could not discover eyes and now brains, despite them being highly advantageous, more than once each in the history of life. The obvious conclusion then is that it was not the natural selection of random mutations that discovered them even once! I have added this to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Animals ... Organs ... Brain arose only once"]

Global warming: Death in the deep-freeze, , The Independent, Kate Ravilious, 28 September 2005 ... As global warming melts the world's ice sheets, rising sea levels are not the only danger. Viruses hidden for thousands of years may thaw and escape - and we will have no resistance to them ... Last week, the latest study to track global warming revealed that Alaska's snowless season is lengthening. As the world warms and ice-sheets and glaciers begin to melt, most of us worry about how the earth will respond and what kind of impact climate change will have. ... All of these are valid concerns, but now it turns out that the impact of global warming could be worse than we first imagined. Ice sheets are mostly frozen water, but during the freezing process they can also incorporate organisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. Some scientists believe that climate change could unleash ancient illnesses as ice sheets drip away and bacteria and viruses defrost. Illnesses we thought we had eradicated, like polio, could reappear, while common viruses like human influenza could have a devastating effect if melting glaciers release a bygone strain to which we have no resistance. What is more, new species unknown to science may re-emerge. And it is not just humans who are at risk: animals, plants and marine creatures could also suffer as ancient microbes thaw out. In 1999, Scott Rogers ... and his colleagues reported finding the tomato mosaic tobamovirus (ToMV) in 17 different ice-core sections at two locations deep inside the Greenland ice pack. Gentle defrosting in the lab revealed that this common plant pathogen had survived being entombed in ice for 140,000 years. "ToMV belongs to a family of viruses with a particularly tough protein coat, which helps it to survive in these extreme environments," says Rogers. .... Imagine if older, more vicious strains, such as the virus responsible for the Spanish flu pandemic, which killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people in 1918 - 1919, were to re-emerge. Not all scientists are convinced by these viral discoveries, and some argue that they are more likely to have arrived in the ice via contamination during the drilling process. .... Thankfully, not all viruses will remain viable after thawing out from hibernation in an ice sheet. "We routinely keep viruses at minus 80C when we want to store them in the lab, so viruses can certainly survive freezing, but they are often fragile to processes such as freeze-thaw," explains Geoffrey Smith ... Only viruses that contain the tough protein coat, like ToMV, are likely to be able to retain all the information they need while being repeatedly frozen and defrosted. This rules out plenty of human viruses, but still leaves a few very nasty options including smallpox, polio, hepatitis A and, of course, influenza. Shoham believes that the influenza virus is the most likely to emerge from the freeze/thaw process in a fit enough state to re-infect humans. "It has the properties that would allow it to survive the ice and the ability to transfer between animals and humans once it is out," he says. ... "Ancient viruses are more dangerous because the natural herd immunity is reduced over time. .... Some scientists are not too concerned, while others think it is worth looking into. "It is certainly conceivable that viruses can survive frozen for thousands of years, but it is not top of the list of my worries. We have enough to think about with the number of dangerous viruses at high concentration around today," says Geoffrey Smith. Meanwhile, Dany Shoham believes that the potential consequences are too dire to be ignored, but agrees that there is little we can do to protect ourselves. "The likelihood of infection from an ancient virus is, in general, low, but once it does take place the impact will be enormous," he says. ... Perhaps the only grain of comfort is that this won't be the first time that viruses have emerged from the ice. We must have survived such an event before. ... [It is hard to believe that frozen viruses, if they are able to survive freezing and thawing, have not been regularly released from glaciers and melting icebergs, etc. Nevertheless, if some viruses have been locked away and we have no resistance to them, this could add to the predicted catastrophic effects of global warming.]

Agreeing Only to Disagree on God's Place in Science, The New York Times, September 27, 2005, George Johnson ... It was on the second day at Cambridge that enlightenment dawned in the form of a testy exchange between a zoologist and a paleontologist, Richard Dawkins and Simon Conway Morris. Their bone of contention was one that scholars have been gnawing on since the days of Aquinas: whether an understanding of the universe and its glories requires the hypothesis of a God. The speakers had been invited, along with a dozen other scientists and theologians, to address the 10 recipients of the first Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science and Religion. Each morning for two weeks in June, we walked across the Mathematical Bridge, spanning the River Cam, and through the medieval courtyards of Queens College to the seminar room. We were there courtesy of the John Templeton Foundation, whose mission is "to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science," overcoming what it calls "the flatness of a purely naturalistic, secularized view of reality." On matters scientific, Dr. Dawkins, who came from Oxford, and Dr. Conway Morris, a Cambridge man, agreed: The richness of the biosphere, humanity included, could be explained through natural selection. ... Then, just millimeters from complete accord, they forked in orthogonal directions. For Dr. Dawkins, an atheist, the creative power of evolution reinforced his conviction that we live in a purely material world. For Dr. Conway Morris, a Christian, nature's "uncanny ability" to converge on moral, loving creatures like ourselves testified that evolution itself was the handiwork of God. Dr. Dawkins seemed as puzzled by this leap as he was exasperated. "We agree on almost everything," he said. Why insist on adding in a deity? When it came to science, Dr. Dawkins exclaimed, Dr. Conway Morris's God was "gratuitous." Momentarily flummoxed, the paleontologist muttered to himself, and some of the fellows murmured their disapproval. But however abrupt Dr. Dawkins may have sounded, he had scored a crucial point. Science is the name we give to the practice of finding physical explanations about the universe. Anything spiritual you bring to the table is extraneous, a matter of personal belief. ... If the God hypothesis is meaningful, it should be subject to a test. But the theistic gloss Dr. Polkinghorne and others give to science is immune to this kind of scrutiny. It has, by design, no observable consequences. The reconcilers insist that the same is true for the belief that there is nothing but matter and energy, that you can be either a materialist or a theist and still do good research. But for many scientists, entertaining supernatural explanations is a violation of the craft. A study reported in Nature in 1998 found that only 7 percent of the members of the elite National Academy of Sciences believed in God. For biologists the figure was just 5.5 percent. "You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs," Peter Atkins, an Oxford University chemist, has said. "But I don't think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge." ... [Conway Morris' (and Polkinghorne's) problem is that they have tacitly conceded the main point, naturalism (i.e. no supernatural intervention) to atheists like Dawkins and Atkins. If God walked the Earth for ~30 years, only ~2000 years ago (which as Christians Conway Morris and Polkinghorne, as Christans believe) then why assume that God has not supernaturally intervened in the history of life? Conway Morris the Christian's concession to Dawkins the atheist that "The richness of the biosphere, humanity included, could be explained through natural selection" is unnecessary (to put it mildly). For starters, it is not "natural selection" but the natural selection of random (unguided) mutations. But why assume that all mutations in the history of life have been unguided? Dawkins assumes that because, as an atheist, there is nothing else available. But for Christians like Conway Morris and Polkinghorne, there is something else available, as Johnson pointed out:

"Theists who accommodate with scientific naturalism therefore may never affirm that their God is real in the same sense that evolution is real. This rule is essential to the entire mindset that produced Darwinism in the first place. If God exists He could certainly work through mutation and selection if that is what He wanted to do, but He could also create by some means totally outside the ken of our science. Once we put God into the picture, however, there is no good reason to attribute the creation of biological complexity to random mutation and natural selection. Direct evidence that these mechanisms have substantial creative power is not to be found in nature, the laboratory, or the fossil record. An essential step in the reasoning that establishes that Darwinian selection created the wonders of biology, therefore, is that nothing else was available. Theism is by definition the doctrine that something else was available." (Johnson P.E., "What is Darwinism?" Lecture at a symposium at Hillsdale College, November 1992)]

Religion is society's biggest threat: author, The Australian/The Times, September 28, 2005. LONDON: Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published yesterday. The study says belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society, but may actually contribute to social problems. It counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society. The research compares the social performance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. .... The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its "spiritual capital". But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills. Published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, it says: "Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world. "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so." Study author and social scientist Gregory Paul ... compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy. Mr Paul finds that the US is the world's only prosperous democracy where murder rates are still high, and that the least devout nations are the least dysfunctional. He says the rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US are up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffers from "uniquely high" adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates. "The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America," ... Mr Paul says the evidence accumulated by several different studies suggests religion may contribute to social ills. He suggests most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God proved scientifically. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there were a marked decline in religious belief. "The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator," he says. "The widely held fear that a godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted."... [This is fallacious in that you would need to compare what part of US society the "social ills" are coming from, i.e. is it from the committed Christians and members of other religions, or from the nominally religious and non-religious? I would have thought that the reason the USA has such "social ills" has more to do with its large gap between the `haves' and `have-nots', which in turn is a consequence of its greater commitment to free enterprise, compared to European (including Australia) democracies, which traditionally have a greater role for the government in redistributing wealth and funding of social welfare programs. See other criticisms here and here. If this Gregory S. Paul who appears to be an ex-paleontologist (and from his article and references obviously has a strong atheistic, anti-Christian axe to grind) wants to find out what "societal disaster" that "a godless citizenry must experience" he need only look at what happened when atheism gained control of government in the 20th century, "a `tragedy of planetary dimensions' with a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million," as atheist biochemist-turned Christian theologian Alister McGrath pointed out:

"Everyone would agree that some religious people do some very disturbing things. But the introduction of that little word `some' to Dawkins' argument immediately dilutes its impact. For it forces a series of critical questions. How many? Under what circumstances? How often? It also forces a comparative question: how many people with antireligious views also do some very disturbing things? And once we start to ask that question, we move away from cheap and easy sniping at our intellectual opponents, and have to confront some dark and troubling aspects of human nature. Let's explore this one. I used to be anti-religious. In my teens, I was quite convinced that religion was the enemy of humanity, for reasons very similar to those that Dawkins sets out in his popular writings. But not now. And one of the reasons is my dreadful discovery of the dark side of atheism. Let me explain. In my innocence, I assumed that atheism would spread through the sheer genius of its ideas, the compelling nature of its arguments, its liberation from the oppression of religion, and the dazzling brilliance of the world it commended. Who needed to be coerced into such beliefs, when they were so obviously right? Now, things seem very different. Atheism is not `proved' in any sense by any science, evolutionary biology included. Dawkins thinks it is, but offers arguments which are far from compelling. And yes, atheism liberated people from religious oppression, especially in France in the 1780s. But when atheism ceased to be a private matter and became a state ideology, things suddenly became rather different. The liberator turned oppressor. To the surprise of some, religion became the new liberator from atheist oppression. Unsurprisingly, these developments tend to be airbrushed out of Dawkins' rather selective reading of history. But they need to be taken with immense seriousness if the full story is to be told. The final opening of the Soviet archives in the 1990s led to revelations that ended any notion that atheism was quite as gracious, gentle, and generous a worldview as some of its more idealistic supporters believed. The Black Book of Communism, based on those archives [Courtois S., `The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression,' Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1999], created a sensation when first published in France in 1997, not least because it implied that French communism - still a potent force in national life-was irreducibly tainted with the crimes and excesses of Lenin and Stalin. Where, many of its irate readers asked, were the `Nuremberg Trials of Communism'? Communism was a `tragedy of planetary dimensions' with a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million - far in excess of the excesses committed under Nazism. Now, one must be cautious about such statistics, and equally cautious about rushing to quick and easy conclusions on their basis. Yet the basic point cannot really be overlooked. One of the greatest ironies of the twentieth century is that many of the most deplorable acts of murder, intolerance, and repression were carried out by those who thought that religion was murderous, intolerant, and repressive - and thus sought to remove it from the face of the planet as a humanitarian act. Even his most uncritical readers should be left wondering why Dawkins has curiously failed to mention, let alone engage with, the blood-spattered trail of atheism in the twentieth century - one of the reasons, incidentally, that I eventually concluded that I could -no longer be an atheist." (McGrath A.E., "Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life," Blackwell: Malden MA, 2005, pp.112-114. Emphasis original) ]

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

'Intelligent Design' Trial Begins Today

Here is the start of my comments [in square brackets] on articles only about the Dover intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al. I will try to track this trial's proceeding in chronological order on a day-by-day basis. The heading is already out of date because the trial began three days ago, and so I have a bit of catching up to do.

'Intelligent Design' Trial Begins Today, Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2005, Josh Getlin ... DOVER, Pa. - In the beginning, members of the Dover Area School District board wrangled over what should be required in their high school biology curriculum. Some were adamant that science teachers should stick with the widely taught theory of evolution and random selection. Others said the teaching of "intelligent design" should also be required, arguing that certain elements of life, like cell structure, are best explained by an intelligent cause. The debate had strong religious overtones. "Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on a cross for us," said board member William Buckingham, who urged his colleagues to include intelligent design in ninth-grade science classes. "Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?" Today, a trial begins over the board's decision last year ordering that students be taught about intelligent design and flaws in Charles Darwin's theories. Several parents, fearing the intrusion of religion into public schooling, filed a lawsuit to block the policy, backed by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys. Activists on both sides believe that the stakes are high in the case, which has divided this small rural town about 100 miles west of Philadelphia. The proceedings in a Harrisburg federal court will be the first legal challenge to the mandatory teaching of intelligent design, which is championed by a growing number of Christian fundamentalists. The verdict, to be rendered by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, could have a profound impact on America's cultural wars over religion and its role in public life. Witnesses are expected to debate whether the intelligent-design contention is scientifically valid, or a Trojan horse designed to subvert Darwin's theories. "We're fighting for the 1st Amendment, the separation of church and state, and the integrity of schools," said Philadelphia attorney Eric Rothschild, who is teaming up with a battery of Pennsylvania ACLU lawyers to argue the case. "This trial should decide whether a school board can impose its religious views on other students." The statement on intelligent design approved by the Dover school board was read to ninth-grade science students in January and will be read again this year. It reads in part: "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in theory exist for which there is no evidence…. Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin…. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind." Several days after the board's 6-3 vote approving the intelligent-design resolution, the three dissenting members resigned in protest. ... Board members and their allies also believe that freedoms are at stake. They have blasted the ACLU for seeking a "gag order" on what teachers can say. "This issue is bubbling under the surface all over the country, but the Dover board had the courage of their convictions," said Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center. The center promotes and defends the religious freedoms of Christians, he said, and is handling the case pro bono. If all this sounds eerily reminiscent of another case on evolution, it is. Eighty years ago, the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tenn., tested the legality of a state law banning the teaching of evolution. ... As in Dayton, Dover's politics have been roiled. The pages of area newspapers have been filled with letters pro and con. And the national media have increasingly focused on the case. But there is one notable voice missing from the fray. The Discovery Institute, an influential Seattle-based organization that backs the intelligent-design argument, is not supporting the Dover board. "We oppose any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design," said John G. West, senior fellow at the institute. "This is a sideshow where politicians are trying to hijack and mandate it," he said, adding that the institute is also "appalled" that the ACLU has attempted to block the teaching of intelligent design with a "gag order." ..."I wish it would all go away, to tell you the truth," said Jeff Raffensberger, who ... attended Dover High School. "They should be able to teach all kinds of theories in school, and that's how you learn. There shouldn't be a lawsuit that causes all of this commotion for kids." For Beth Eveland, however, the trial transcends all other issues. She is one of 11 plaintiffs and has two young daughters in the public school system here. "The resolution they passed raises the question of whether a rogue school board that doesn't listen to people can impose their own beliefs," she said. "I care about what my daughters learn in school, and religion doesn't belong in a biology class." In a landmark 1987 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana could not require schools to balance the teaching of evolution with creationism, a Bible-based view of natural history. That case has become a key issue for plaintiffs, who argue that Buckingham's statements revealed the board's similar religious intentions. Attorneys for the school board, however, say intelligent design is different from creationism because it does not mention religion. They also note that Buckingham, who has since left the board and moved, has protested that his comments were taken out of context. ... Other students seemed more focused on the dispute. As he hurried home, ninth-grader Giovanni Herman said he was glad to learn about any biological school of thought. "I know there are a lot of people fighting over this, what we should be taught," he said. "But it's all OK with me. In the end, I think I'll make up my own mind."... [Win, lose or draw, ID cannot lose, and the anti-ID side can only lose (ID and anti-evolution is already banned)! Actually losing could be the best result (especially if it is then appealed to the Supreme Court), as it would evoke sympathy among the public and antipathy towards the Darwinists. Comments about "someone died on a cross for us," while confusing ID with Christianity and creationism by an ex-Board member in a different context (see below), are irrelevant, because ID itself is a scientific theory that there is empirical evidence of design in nature , and is not based on the Bible. If ID is disqualified because of the theistic motivations of some of its proponents, anti-ID (Darwinism) should likewise be disqualified because of the atheistic or naturalistic motivations its proponents. The prosecution lawyer Eric Rothschild is BTW "a member of the Legal Advisory Board of the National Center for Science Education." The ironic parallel between the Scopes trial and this is that then evolution was banned and the ACLU was on the side of freedom of speech, but now anti-evolution is banned and the ACLU is on the side of repression of free speech! I agree with the Discovery Institute that ID should not be mandated, but only if the majority of stakeholders agree, and if evolution is taught, it should be `warts and all ', i.e. its metaphysical assumptions and its problem should also be taught, IOW the controversy should be taught. Eveland and her ilk don't seem to realize that their side is "impos[ing] their own beliefs" (and false naturalistic beliefs at that) on the children of the majority of parents who polls show don't accept Darwinism. The reference to the 1987 Louisiana "balanced treatment" trial is apt, because there it was evolution vs "creation-science", i.e. based on the Bible, but here it is evolution vs. intelligent design which is not based on the Bible or any religious text but solely on the evidence of design in nature. So the crunch is going to be whether teaching (or at least making students aware) of: 1) evidence for design in nature; and 2) evidence against evolution; serves a legitimate "secular purpose". A lot has happened in the ~18 years since then, with: 1) the public increasingly aware of the problems of evolution; 2) the rise of ID (it barely existed in 1987); 3) the increased realization that Darwinism depends on its own anti-religious assumptions and is employed aggressively by atheists (e.g. Dawkins) for that purpose. So I expect that the court will lean more to Scalia and Rehnquist's dissenting opinion in that 1987 case, that "The people of Louisiana [and Pennsylvania], including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it" (see tagline), and will find that both teaching pro-ID and anti-evolution serve a legitimate "secular purpose." Anyway, the ultimate irony of this is it is almost irrelevant whether ID is taught in schools. Both students and parents increasingly get their information from the Internet (including blogs like this) and they will know, or will find out, that there are both problems with evolution and a good case for ID. I will post this for now (I have many other Dover articles to comment on) because I have run out of time. Just think-this is going to go on for five weeks!]

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

"In sum, even if one concedes, for the sake of argument, that a majority of the Louisiana Legislature voted for the Balanced Treatment Act partly in order to foster (rather than merely eliminate discrimination against) Christian fundamentalist beliefs, our cases establish that that alone would not suffice to invalidate the Act, so long as there was a genuine secular purpose as well. We have, moreover, no adequate basis for disbelieving the secular purpose set forth in the Act itself, or for concluding that it is a sham enacted to conceal the legislators' violation of their oaths of office. I am astonished by the Court's unprecedented readiness to reach such a conclusion, which I can only attribute to an intellectual predisposition created by the facts and the legend of Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105, 289 S. W. 363 (1927) -- an instinctive reaction that any governmentally imposed requirements bearing upon the teaching of evolution must be a manifestation of Christian fundamentalist repression. In this case, however, it seems to me the Court's position is the repressive one. The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it. Perhaps what the Louisiana Legislature has done is unconstitutional because there is no such evidence, and the scheme they have established will amount to no more than a presentation of the Book of Genesis. But we cannot say that on the evidence before us in this summary judgment context, which includes ample uncontradicted testimony that "creation science" is a body of scientific knowledge rather than revealed belief. Infinitely less can we say (or should we say) that the scientific evidence for evolution is so conclusive that no one could be gullible enough to believe that there is any real scientific evidence to the contrary, so that the legislation's stated purpose must be a lie. Yet that illiberal judgment, that Scopes-in-reverse, is ultimately the basis on which the Court's facile rejection of the Louisiana Legislature's purpose must rest." (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 594 (1987). Dissenting Opinion by Justice Scalia joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist. Emphasis original. )

Monday, September 26, 2005

"100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars ... overkill"

Erik (copy to my blog CED. I cannot remove all your personal details as I usually do, since I refer to one of your posts on my now terminated list CED).

----- Original Message -----
From: [EL]
To: [SEJ]
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2005 3:16 AM
Subject: billions and billions etc.

EL>Hi, It's been a while since I was on your forum, as Erik. I thought I
would see
>what was new and see that you have closed the forum.

That's correct. After 10+ years of debating on creation/evolution lists between 1994-2005 (including 4+ years on my own list CED 2001-2005), and getting absolutely nowhere with committed atheists (like yourself), I concluded that C/E debates are largely a waste of time. So I started a blog CED and then closed my list, in order that I can post my comments on creation, evolution and design issues without having to waste any more of my time arguing with those who would never be convinced by anything that I said anyway.

EL>We didn't have too much in common back then, since we clearly don't agree on
>what is and isn't science or scientific methodology, but I thought I would
>write again on the one comment you once made about the "billions and
>billions" topic that I raised with you.
>I was pretty well taken aback when you seemed to suggest that (to
>paraphrase)heaven was really all the billions of billions of stars and we now
>know, also planets, that are out there.

Here is the relevant part of what you wrote and my response:

From: "Stephen E. Jones"
Date: Wed Dec 15, 2004 8:14 am

Subject: Re: 100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars ... must seem like ... overkill (was Trying to establish a common ground, at least)


EL>Nevertheless I am still interested to see where common ground lies
>and as this is a "creation/ID" labeled forum and we (I) have not yet
>addressed this area; perhaps I might ask more specifically what the
>believers here think of the universe as we know it from and
>astronomical perspective?
>I'm thinking of things like 13.7 billion years, 100's of billion of
>galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars. There's plenty of
>believers in God who can live with that, but from the Creationist/ID
>aspect it must seem like a lot of overkill since the universe was
>created just for humans; or do I have that all wrong?

Thanks to Erik for this question. This gives me the opportunity to state what I have been thinking for a while now, but more recently. And that is, contrary to popular `Sunday school' impressions about the afterlife, Christianity does not teach that Heaven is floating around on clouds with wings and halos. Indeed, as leading evangelical theologian Anthony A. Hoekema (then but now retired Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, points out), the Bible has much to say about the afterlife being in "new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). Here are some quotes:
"Though the concept of the day of the Lord often connotes gloom and darkness, there is still another Old Testament eschatological concept which has a brighter ring: that of the new heavens and the new earth. The eschatological hope of the Old Testament always included the earth: The biblical idea of redemption always includes the earth. Hebrew thought saw an essential unity between man and nature. The prophets do not think of the earth as merely the indifferent theater on which man carries out his normal task but as the expression of the divine glory. The Old Testament nowhere holds forth the hope of a bodiless, nonmaterial, purely "spiritual" redemption as did Greek thought. The earth is the divinely ordained scene of human existence. Furthermore, the earth has been involved in the evils which sin has incurred. There is an interrelation of nature with the moral life of man; therefore the earth must also share in God's final redemption.' [Ladd G.E., "The Presence of the Future," Harper & Row: New York NY, 1964, pp.59-60] This future hope for the earth is expressed in Isaiah 65:17: `For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind (cf. 66:22). Other passages from Isaiah indicate what this renewal of the earth will involve: the wilderness will become a fruitful field (32:15), the desert shall blossom (35:1), the dry places will be springs of water (35:7), peace will return to the animal world (11:6-8), and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (11:9)." (Hoekema A.A., "The Bible and the Future," [1978], Paternoster Press: Exeter, Devon UK, 1979, p.11)
"The doctrine of the new earth, as taught in Scripture, is an important one.It is important, first, for the proper understanding of the life to come. One gets the impression from certain hymns that glorified believers will spend eternity in some ethereal heaven somewhere off in space, far away from earth. The following lines from the hymn "My Jesus, I Love Thee" seem to convey that impression: "In mansions of glory and endless delight /I'll everadore thee in heaven so bright." But does such a conception do justice to biblical eschatology? Are we to spend eternity somewhere off in space, wearing white robes, plucking harps, singing songs, and flitting from cloud to cloud while doing so? On the contrary, the Bible assures us that God will create a new earth on which we shall live to God's praise in glorified, resurrected bodies. On that new earth, therefore, we hope to spend eternity, enjoying its beauties, exploring its resources, and using its treasures to the glory of God. Since God will make the new earth his dwelling place, and since where God dwells there heaven is, we shall then continue to be in heaven while we are on the new earth. For heaven and earth will then no longer be separated, as they are now, but will be one (see Rev. 21:1-3). But to leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come." (Hoekema A.A., "The Bible and the Future," [1978], Paternoster Press: Exeter, Devon UK, 1979, p.274).
"One question we should face at this point is whether the new earth will be totally other than this present earth or a renewal of the present earth. Both in Isaiah 65:17 and in Revelation 21:1 we hear about "a new heaven and a new earth:" The expression "heaven and earth" should be understood as a biblical way of designating the entire universe: "Heaven and earth together constitute the cosmos." But now the question is, Will the present universe be totally annihilated, so that the new universe will be completely other than the present cosmos, or will the new universe be essentially the same cosmos as the present, only renewed and purified? ... We must, however, reject the concept of total annihilation in favor of the concept of renewal, for the following four reasons: First, both in II Peter 3:13 and in Revelation 21:1 the Greek word used to designate the newness of the new cosmos is not neos but kainos. The word neos means new in time or origin, whereas the word kainos means new in nature or in quality. The ... "a new heaven and a new earth," [Rev. 21:1] ... means, therefore, not the emergence of a cosmos totally other than the present one, but the creation of a universe which, though it has been gloriously renewed, stands in continuity with the present one. A second reason for favoring the concept of renewal over that of annihilation is Paul's argumentation in Romans 8. When he tells us that the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God so that it may be set free from its bondage to decay (vv. 20- 21), he is saying that it is the present creation that will be liberated from corruption in the eschaton, not some totally different creation. A third reason is the analogy between the new earth and the resurrection bodies of believers. Previously we pointed out that there will be both continuity and discontinuity between the present body and the resurrection body. The differences between our present bodies and our resurrection bodies, wonderful though they are, do not take away the continuity: it is we who shall be raised, and it is we who shall always be with the Lord. Those raised with Christ will not be a totally new set of human beings but the people of God who have lived on this earth. By way of analogy, we would expect that the new earth will not be totally different from the present earth but will be the present earth wondrously renewed. A fourth reason for preferring the concept of renewal over that of annihilation is this: If God would have to annihilate the present cosmos, Satan would have won a great victory. For then Satan would have succeeded in so devastatingly corrupting the present cosmos and the present earth that God could do nothing with it but to blot it totally out of existence. But Satan did not win such a victory. On the contrary, Satan has been decisively defeated. God will reveal the full dimensions of that defeat when he shall renew this very earth on which Satan deceived mankind and finally banish from it all the results of Satan's evil machinations." (Hoekema A.A., "The Bible and the Future," [1978], Paternoster Press: Exeter, Devon UK, 1979, pp.279-281)
Therefore (and this represents the new direction of my thinking), I accept that though "the universe was created just for humans", in the "100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars" there may be millions of Earth-like planets, on which at least some of them God may already have created life, but not human-level intelligence ... in readiness for the "new heavens and a new earth," in which the renewed people of God (i.e. Christians and believing Old Testament Jews) will then colonise with God's help and enjoy with Him for the rest eternity. Again, thanks to Erik for giving me the opportunity to put down on `paper' what I have recently (in fact probably on and off in the background for a long time) been thinking on this topic of the purpose of "100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars." [...]

On second thoughts I wish to correct my accepting of your premise that "the universe was created just for humans." That is not a Bible claim and indeed Proverbs 8:22-31 indicates that God (as Wisdom personified, i.e. Christ - 1 Cor. 1:24) enjoyed His creation for its own sake:
"The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed [d] from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind." (my emphasis)
The Bible's claim is that God created all things `just for Him' (to paraphrase your words):
Prov. 16:4 (KJV) "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
Rom. 11:36 "For from him [God] and through him and to him are all things."
Col. 1:16 "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him [Christ] and for him." (my emphases)
Therefore, that the universe (and Earth in particular) was created for humans, does not mean that it was created "just for humans." (my emphasis). God might have had other design goals in creating a such vast and interesting universe including: 1) He enjoyed it (if man is in the image of God [Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6] and man enjoys the workings of complex machinery, then why should not God?); 2) it gives humans a better idea of how great God must be; and 3) it may have some future purpose for humans in the coming "new heavens and a new earth" (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) - see above.

EL>We never pursued the topic and no one else seemed
>ready to bite; but I'm still curious to know if this belief, as I
>it, is a branch belief of creationists and given how really fundamental (it
>seems to me) it is, whether or not it is also a fundamental tenent of your
>upcoming book?

I am not aware of anyone else answering the `universe is overkill' claim by pointing out that the actual Biblical picture of the afterlife is not "floating around on clouds with wings and halos" but rather is of a "new heavens and a new earth" and that therefore the universe with "100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars" may have a future purpose for humans beyond this present life, or I would have quoted them.

It is not "a fundamental tenet of [my] upcoming book", "Problems of Evolution". But thanks for reminding me of the general "size of the universe is `overkill'" argument (see PS and tagline at the end of this message).

EL>After all, one can either not believe the evidence of the scale of the
>or one can say that one simply doesn't know why it seems such overkill if
>the universe was created for just humans, or one can say as you seem to do
>that it's that large for some benefit of humans after "death".

See above correction of my acceptance of your "created for just humans" premise.

I also don't accept your claim that "it seems such overkill" to most people. The very reason why I, as an atheist, became a theist (or deist) was one night when I looked up at the stars and the thought came over me overwhelmingly that there must be a God. I am sure that is the reason why a lot of (if not most) atheists become theists. The Bible itself indicates that it is the vastness of the visible universe that speaks to man of the existence and greatness of God:
Ps. 19:1-4 "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim thework of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
Ps. 8:3-4 "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
Rom. 1:18-20 "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
Even Darwin admitted that "this immense and wonderful universe" was "a source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings":
"Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist." (Darwin C.R., in Barlow N., ed., "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882: With Original Omissions Restored," [1958], W.W. Norton & Co: New York, 1969, reprint, pp.92-93)
EL>That's a pretty grand statement you make and even though you probably
don't wish
>to have another debate on the topic, I'm curious to know if there is a
>history to this belief, which I have never heard of other than from you.

See above on my correction to the "pretty grand statement [I] ... make." And agreed that I "don't wish to have another debate on the topic." You had your opportunity on my list CED but now I have closed it down and with it my "debate on the [and any other C/E/D] topic", in order to write my book and post my comments to my blog. I am only answering this in so much detail (indeed at all) so can copy it to my blog that others may benefit from it.


Thanks for your message. But it is my longstanding policy to not get involved in private creation/evolution discussions.


PS. I have added a new section, PE 6.2.3. "Universe's fitness for life ... Size of" under which I have included the following quotes to jog my memory when I get to writing that section of the book, PE 6.2.4. "Fitness of the Universe for life ... Fine tuned parameters".

"In recent years, however, a much more important argument has gradually surfaced against this anthropocentric world view. It is concerned with the tremendous amount of time it took after the Big Bang for humans to appear and to rise to any degree of significance on this planet. In the words of Bertrand Russell, `If the purpose of the Cosmos is to evolve mind, we must regard it as rather incompetent in having produced so little in such a long time.' [Russell B., `Religion and Science,' Oxford University Press: New York, 1968, p 216] However, with the tremendous increase in our cosmological understanding in recent years, a devastating anthropocentric rebuttal to
this objection has suddenly made itself known: carbon-based life forms intrinsically require a universe as big and as old as our own in order to exist, because they are physiologically dependent on an adequate supply of carbon and other heavy elements, which weren't in existence in any appreciable quantities immediately following the Big Bang. Instead, they had to be `cooked' for billions of years in the interiors of dying red giant stars, and then subsequently released into the cosmos via colossal supernova explosions. When this striking fact is taken into consideration (along with the other temporal stipulations on planetary and organic evolution), it turns out that ours is the youngest possible universe that could have evolved carbon-based life forms through natural evolutionary pathways. [Barrow J.D. & Tipler F.J., `The Anthropic Cosmological Principle,' Oxford University Press: New York, 1986, p.385] Furthermore, given the fact that the universe is expanding, ours is also the smallest possible universe that could have evolved life through these same natural pathways. [Ibid] Thus, it would take a universe as big and as old as the present one just to evolve a single race of intelligent beings. Accordingly, as long as we accept the stipulation that life must evolve through natural evolutionary pathways, the vast size and age of our universe is perfectly compatible with an anthropocentric world view." (Corey M.A., "Back to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution," University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1994, pp.368-369. Emphasis original)

"All This for Us. Hawking also rejects the anthropic principle, which is the observation that the universe has all the necessary and narrowly defined characteristics to make human life possible. Hawking apparently finds it impossible to believe that "this whole 'vast construction [the universe] exists simply for our sake." [Hawking S.W., "A Brief History of Time," [1988] Bantam: New York, 1991, reprint, p.126] As support for his incredulity, he says that "there does not seem to be any need for all those other galaxies, nor for the universe to be so uniform and similar in every direction on the large scale." [Ibid, p.133] But, he ignores a growing body of research. The uniformity, homogeneity, and mass density of the universe all must be precisely as they are for human life to be possible at any time in the universe's history [Ross H.N., "The Fingerprint of God," [1989], Promise Publishing Co: Orange CA, Second edition, 1991, pp.124-128]" (Ross H.N., "The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God," [1993], NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 1994, Third printing, p.86)

"The mass density determines how efficiently nuclear fusion operates in the cosmos. The mass density we measure translates into about a hundred- billion-trillion stars for the presently observable universe. ... if the mass density is too great, too much deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus) is made in the first few minutes of the universe's existence. This extra deuterium will cause the stars to burn much too quickly and erratically for any of them to support a planet with life. On the other hand, if the mass-density is too small, so little deuterium and helium are made in the first few minutes that the heavier elements necessary for life will never form in stars. What this means is that the approximately hundred- billion-trillion stars we observe in the universe - no more and no less- are needed for life to be possible in the universe." (Ross H.N., "The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God," [1993], NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 1994, Third printing, p.118)

"For example, the mass density of the universe determines how efficiently nuclear fusion operates in the cosmos. ... if the mass density were too great, too much deuterium (a heavy isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus) would be made in the first few minutes of the universe's existence. This extra deuterium will cause all the stars to burn much too quickly and erratically for any of them to support a planet with life upon it. On the other hand, if the mass density were too small, so little deuterium and helium would be made in the first few minutes that the heavier elements necessary for life would never form in the stars. What this means is that the approximately 100 billion trillion stars we observe in the universe, no more and no fewer, are needed for life to be possible in the universe. Evidently God cared so much for living creatures that he constructed 100 billion trillion stars and carefully crafted them throughout the age of the universe so that at this brief moment in the history of the cosmos humans could exist and have a pleasant place to live." (Ross H.N.,"Astronomical Evidences for a Personal, Transcendent God," in Moreland J.P., ed., "The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1994, p.164)

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

The trouble with Darwin, etc

Two different articles on ID with my comments in square brackets:

The trouble with Darwin, Sydney Morning Herald, September 24, 2005, Damien Murphy. As in the US, intelligent design is challenging evolution in Christian schools here. The brawl between evolutionists and religious neo-conservatives over how life began is coming down to the survival of the slickest. For about 150 years Charles Darwin's evolution theory has held sway. But a new American theory, intelligent design, is getting a lot of press as scientists and intellectuals rush to the barricades to dismiss intelligent design as little else than "creationism" rebadged. Already a DVD featuring American scientists claiming intelligent causes are responsible for the origin of the universe and life has become Australia's biggest-selling religious video and intelligent design is starting to permeate school courses. Next year, hundreds of Catholic schools ... will use new religious education textbooks that discuss intelligent design. ... year 9 and 10 students at Pacific Hills Christian School have begun learning about intelligent design in science classes. The chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty, says it is inevitable other schools will follow suit. Until last month, few Australians had heard of it. But debate broke out internationally on August 1 when the US President, George Bush, told reporters he supported combining lessons on evolution with discussion of intelligent design. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," Bush said. Last month, the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, gave intelligent design ministerial imprimatur, telling the National Press Club he thought parents and schools ought to have the opportunity - if they wished - for students to be exposed to intelligent design and taught about it. Nelson's office said his comments were unplanned. But his interest had been pricked by a parliamentary visit on June 20 by Bill Hodgson, head of the Sydney-based campus Crusade for Christ, who left a copy of a DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life with Nelson. The DVD featured a US mathematician, William Dembski, and other leading American intelligent design proponents claiming the complexity of biological systems is proof of an organising intelligence. "ID is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence," Dembski said. The DVD is distributed in Australia by a Melbourne-based Christian group, Focus on the Family. Its executive director, Colin Bunnett, says until Nelson's comments only 1000 copies had been sold over four years. "But it's taken off. We've sold thousands in the last few weeks," he says. The intelligent design debate has more resonance in the US, partly because teaching about the beginning of life is problematic. A Harris poll in June found that 55 per cent of American adults support teaching evolution, creationism, and intelligent design in public schools ... In Australia, the issue has been less hard-edged. ... Of late, leading scientists have rebuffed intelligent design. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist Peter Doherty says it has no place in a science curriculum and the physicist Paul Davies rejects it as creationism in disguise. Dembski ... said it should be taught with evolution in schools but not be mandated. "Evolutionary theory and intelligent design both have a scientific core: the question whether certain material mechanisms are able to propel an evolutionary process and the question whether certain patterns in nature signify intelligence are both squarely scientific questions," Dembski says. "Nevertheless, they have profound philosophical and religious implications." ... [On balance a good summary of where ID is at the moment in Australia. The scientific naturalists still have nothing new to say except their false mantra that `ID is creationism and therefore not science.' This will backfire on them as the public (and indeed other open-minded scientists) realize that for starters, ID is based on the evidence of nature, not the Bible. BTW, I have ordered "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" today.]

`Intelligent design' faces first big court test, MSNBC, September 23, 2005. A federal judge in Pennsylvania will hear arguments Monday in a lawsuit that both sides say could set the fundamental ground rules for how American students are taught the origins of life for years to come. At issue is an alternative to the standard theory of evolution called "intelligent design." Proponents argue that the structure of life on Earth is too complex to have evolved through natural selection ... Instead, contend adherents of intelligent design, life is probably the result of intervention by an intelligent agent. Intelligent design has been bubbling up since 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not teach the biblical account of creation instead of evolution, because doing so would violate the constitutional ban on establishment of an official religion. Critics deride intelligent design as creationism gussied up for the courts; advocates say it is an explicitly scientific construct that makes no supposition about the identity or nature of the designer. .... the trial that opens Monday is believed to be the first time a federal court has been asked to decide the fundamental question: Is intelligent design religion or science? Finally, a chance for a definitive ruling The Pennsylvania case "is probably the most important legal situation of creation and evolution in the last 18 years," said Eugenie Scott.... "This will be the first legal challenge to intelligent design, and we'll see whether they have been able to mask the creationist underpinnings and basic orientation of intelligent design," she said. Regardless who wins, "it will have quite a significant impact on what happens in American public school education." The suit, brought by 11 parents, challenges the Dover Area School District's adoption last year of an addition to the science curriculum directing teachers - in addition to teaching evolution - to tell students about intelligent design and refer them to an alternative textbook that champions it. ... Their case was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation for Church and State, with support from Scott's organization. The school board is being defended pro bono by the Thomas More Law Center ... The case is being heard without a jury in Harrisburg by U.S. District Judge John Jones III, whom President Bush appointed to the bench in 2002. Science organizations have generally turned their backs on forums in which they have been challenged to defend Darwinian evolution, on the theory that engaging the intelligent design school in any way is to take its ideas too seriously. ... The Pennsylvania case, however, gives scientists the chance to go on the attack, forcing intelligent-design advocates to defend their beliefs. But because local school boards have almost complete latitude to set the content of the curriculum, the plaintiffs must navigate a narrow path. It isn't enough for them to discredit intelligent design - indeed, that is almost irrelevant to the legal question. Instead, what they must do is show that the school board's decision would have an unconstitutionally religious purpose and effect, Scott said. Even so, Scott and others make no bones about their principal motivation: Intelligent design as science is bogus, they insist, and teaching it is a grave disservice to students. "Intelligent design is simply the most recent version of creationism, which is admittedly a religious concept," said Alan Leshner ... of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science ... "There is no scientific basis to intelligent design." ... This is where things get sticky, because it all boils down to a basic argument over just what is evolution and what is religion. Advocates have labored for years to have intelligent design be taken seriously as science. Although many of the leading thinkers in the movement openly acknowledge their Christian faith, they also sport Ph.D.s in hard science and maintain that their suppositions are rooted in principled observance of the scientific method. And they generally have no problem with much of evolutionary theory, which can - in part -be stated as the change of species over time. Evidence, they agree, amply bears out this observation, which is known as micro-evolution. Where they dissent is in what's known as macro- evolution - the transformation over time of a species into another species. The distinction is drawn in "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins," the alternative text endorsed by the Dover school board: "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact - fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings. Some scientists have arrived at this view since fossil forms first appear in the rock record with their primitive features intact, rather than gradually developing." In other words, their argument is not so much with evolution per se as it is with what they see as the failure of evolution to account for how it all started. It is perfectly reasonable as science, they believe, to explore whether an outside agent triggered diversity of complex biological structures seemingly engineered to sustain life on Earth. Intelligent-design supporters are careful to say they don't know who or what that outside agent was, but to the large majority of biologists, that's beside the point: Science is concerned with the natural world, while intelligent design supposes an agent independent of the natural world. You can teach such concepts, Leshner and Scott say; indeed, you should - just do it in philosophy and religion and literature classes. Don't do it in science classes, because, by definition, that's religion. It isn't science. "If we human beings evolved as a result of natural cause, are we special to God? Does life then have some sort of purpose?" Scott asked. They're legitimate questions, but "these are issues that are outside of science," she said. "These are not issues that should be part of the science curriculum." ... The Dover case raises difficult issues for many advocates of intelligent design, who sometimes feel as if they're dismissed as rubes or Bible thumpers trying to wiggle God back into the classroom in a white lab coat. Indeed, the Discovery Institute - the Seattle-based think tank that is the intellectual engine of the movement - finds itself opposing both sides. While it criticized the ACLU for pursuing an "Orwellian" stifling of scientific debate, it also disagreed with the Dover school board's vote last year. "Discovery Institute strongly opposes the ACLU's effort to make discussions of intelligent design illegal. At the same time, we disagree with efforts to get the government to require the teaching of intelligent design," the institute said in a statement this week. "Misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District are likely to be politically divisive and hinder a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design among scholars and within the scientific community, points we have made repeatedly since we first learned about the Dover policy in 2004." Regardless, the end result could be some judicial proclamation of that kind. Because the losing side is likely to appeal every step of the way, the case may well end up at the Supreme Court, leading to a ruling that could set a national precedent. That is "a disturbing prospect," the Discovery Institute said - judges should not be telling scientists "what is legitimate scientific inquiry and what is not." ... [See previous post on this. A good summary of the issues in this case. I agree with Scott that this "is probably the most important legal [case] of creation and evolution in the last 18 years" (even though ID is not "creation"). But I strongly disagree with "Of Pandas and People", that ID "means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact - fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings." That is confusing separate creations with ID, and contradicts what other IDists have said, e.g.:

"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110)

However, I agree that sudden appearance and stasis is a problem for Darwinism, and therefore indirectly evidence for ID. Leshner and Scott are irrational when they say that it is OK to teach ID "in philosophy and religion and literature classes" but not "in science classes." If teaching ID really is a violation of the First Amendment then it would be just as unconstitutional to teach it in non-science classes as in science classes. Anyway, as Scott points out, the anti-ID side " must ... show that the school board's decision would have an unconstitutionally religious purpose and effect", and this is where IMHO they are going to come unstuck. In 1987 the issue was teaching "creation science", which was Bible-based. But in 2005 the issue is teaching (in fact just reading out a 1-minute statement!) "intelligent design" which is based on the evidence of nature, not the Bible. Also, in 1987 one of the world's leading atheists, Antony Flew had not yet concluded that the scientific evidence for intelligent design in the origin of life and complexity of DNA was so strong that God must have created the first living cell, as he did in 2004! So hopefully Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion, that:

"The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools" (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 594, 1987)
will prevail. That the judge is a Bush appointee makes that seem more likely. It will be interesting to see if they lose this case, the Darwinists decide not to appeal to the Supreme Court because of the risk of losing there also, which would be catastrophic for them. OTOH, if the ID side loses here, they would have little to lose and much to gain by appealing to the Supreme Court.]

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