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Thread: The Crusade Against Evolution

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    Post The Crusade Against Evolution

    On a spring day two years ago, in a downtown Columbus auditorium, the Ohio State Board of Education took up the question of how to teach the theory of evolution in public schools. A panel of four experts - two who believe in evolution, two who question it - debated whether an antievolution theory known as intelligent design should be allowed into the classroom.

    This is an issue, of course, that was supposed to have been settled long ago. But 140 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, 75 years after John Scopes taught natural selection to a biology class in Tennessee, and 15 years after the US Supreme Court ruled against a Louisiana law mandating equal time for creationism, the question of how to teach the theory of evolution was being reopened here in Ohio. The two-hour forum drew chanting protesters and a police escort for the school board members. Two scientists, biologist Ken Miller from Brown University and physicist Lawrence Krauss from Case Western Reserve University two hours north in Cleveland, defended evolution. On the other side of the dais were two representatives from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the main sponsor and promoter of intelligent design: Stephen Meyer, a professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University's School of Ministry and director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and Jonathan Wells, a biologist, Discovery fellow, and author of Icons of Evolution, a 2000 book castigating textbook treatments of evolution. Krauss and Miller methodically presented their case against ID. "By no definition of any modern scientist is intelligent design science," Krauss concluded, "and it's a waste of our students' time to subject them to it."

    Meyer and Wells took the typical intelligent design line: Biological life contains elements so complex - the mammalian blood-clotting mechanism, the bacterial flagellum - that they cannot be explained by natural selection. And so, the theory goes, we must be products of an intelligent designer. Creationists call that creator God, but proponents of intelligent design studiously avoid the G-word - and never point to the Bible for answers. Instead, ID believers speak the language of science to argue that Darwinian evolution is crumbling.

    The debate's two-on-two format, with its appearance of equal sides, played right into the ID strategy - create the impression that this very complicated issue could be seen from two entirely rational yet opposing views. "This is a controversial subject," Meyer told the audience. "When two groups of experts disagree about a controversial subject that intersects with the public-school science curriculum, the students should be permitted to learn about both perspectives. We call this the 'teach the controversy' approach."

    Since the debate, "teach the controversy" has become the rallying cry of the national intelligent-design movement, and Ohio has become the leading battleground. Several months after the debate, the Ohio school board voted to change state science standards, mandating that biology teachers "critically analyze" evolutionary theory. This fall, teachers will adjust their lesson plans and begin doing just that. In some cases, that means introducing the basic tenets of intelligent design. One of the state's sample lessons looks as though it were lifted from an ID textbook. It's the biggest victory so far for the Discovery Institute. "Our opponents would say that these are a bunch of know-nothing people on a state board," says Meyer. "We think it shows that our Darwinist colleagues have a real problem now."

    But scientists aren't buying it. What Meyer calls "biology for the information age," they call creationism in a lab coat. ID's core scientific principles - laid out in the mid-1990s by a biochemist and a mathematician - have been thoroughly dismissed on the grounds that Darwin's theories can account for complexity, that ID relies on misunderstandings of evolution and flimsy probability calculations, and that it proposes no testable explanations.

    As the Ohio debate revealed, however, the Discovery Institute doesn't need the favor of the scientific establishment to prevail in the public arena. Over the past decade, Discovery has gained ground in schools, op-ed pages, talk radio, and congressional resolutions as a "legitimate" alternative to evolution. ID is playing a central role in biology curricula and textbook controversies around the country. The institute and its supporters have taken the "teach the controversy" message to Alabama, Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and Texas.

    The ID movement's rhetorical strategy - better to appear scientific than holy - has turned the evolution debate upside down. ID proponents quote Darwin, cite the Scopes monkey trial, talk of "scientific objectivity," then in the same breath declare that extraterrestrials might have designed life on Earth. It may seem counterintuitive, but the strategy is meticulously premeditated, and it's working as planned. The debate over Darwin is back, and coming to a 10th-grade biology class near you.

    At its heart, intelligent design is a revival of an argument made by British philosopher William Paley in 1802. In Natural Theology, the Anglican archdeacon suggested that the complexity of biological structures defied any explanation but a designer: God. Paley imagined finding a stone and a watch in a field. The watch, unlike the stone, appears to have been purposely assembled and wouldn't function without its precise combination of parts. "The inference," he wrote, "is inevitable, that the watch must have a maker." The same logic, he concluded, applied to biological structures like the vertebrate eye. Its complexity implied design.

    Fifty years later, Darwin directly answered Paley's "argument to complexity." Evolution by natural selection, he argued in Origin of Species, could create the appearance of design. Darwin - and 100-plus years of evolutionary science after him - seemed to knock Paley into the dustbin of history.

    In the American public arena, Paley's design argument has long been supplanted by biblical creationism. In the 1970s and 1980s, that movement recast the Bible version in the language of scientific inquiry - as "creation science" - and won legislative victories requiring "equal time" in some states. That is, until 1987, when the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's law. Because creation science relies on biblical texts, the court reasoned, it "lacked a clear secular purpose" and violated the First Amendment clause prohibiting the establishment of religion. Since then, evolution has been the law of the land in US schools - if not always the local choice.


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    Post Re: The Crusade Against Evolution

    I do not mind that they teach evolution, irregardless of which type. The only thing that bothers me (and this is done with other subjects as well) is that they teach theories as fact. If they made sure to teach students that these are unproven theories, instead of proven fact, perhaps there wouldn't be such a conflict of interests like this.

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    Post Re: The Crusade Against Evolution

    Quote Originally Posted by Tripredacus
    I do not mind that they teach evolution, irregardless of which type. The only thing that bothers me (and this is done with other subjects as well) is that they teach theories as fact. If they made sure to teach students that these are unproven theories, instead of proven fact, perhaps there wouldn't be such a conflict of interests like this.
    Evolution is both a fact and a theory. That evolution exists is a fact. Evolution and also speciation has been observed. The mechanisms that lead to evolution are a theory.

    However, observed instances of evolution seem to occur above all on a level of loss of genetic information or its maintenance (recombination). Albeit I might be wrong, I'm not aware of cases where the genetic information has actually been increased.

    The probability for complex organs such as the eye to develop out of nowhere by random mutations is close to zero; it is as small as if random changes of bytes in MS-DOS caused by magnetic issues on the harddrive surface would finally create Windows XP. It is so improbable that the mere possibility can probably be discarded.

    There are surely other mechanisms that drive this. It's still very much a mystery. Maybe Stríbog and others have more information for us.
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    Post Re: The Crusade Against Evolution

    Even one-celled organisms seem to have sensory organelles (spelling?). From these higher sensory organs evolved.

    Believe me, in 1966 when Time Magazine published the article saying that God was dead, I thought that was the end of creationism. I was wrong. And this is something that Europeans simply do not undersand about Americans.

    Creationism is alive and well in the USA. It manifests itself in several ways outside of direct confrontation of the facts. There is something called "Biblical Archaeology". This is actually funded by some universities. They have an agenda. They attempt to prove biblical "facts" using archaeology. Creationists challenge evolution as "a theory". They seem to ignore the fact that natural selection (or selection by humans) is responsible for virtually everything the eat. Then, there is a new breed of "scientist" who try to make people believe in, for example, fossil footprints of dinosaurs and humans being contemporaneous.

    To quote my friend Greg Rowe, when you are introduced to someone, "the second question you are asked in parts of the South is 'Where do you go to church?'.

    Imagine a world in which you only deal with local merchants who attend your church and exclude all others. Imagine religious intollerance between Catholics and Protestants. Imagine, just asking yourself if someone is a Catholic or Protestant when you meet someone?

    It is no wonder that in a world like this, a world which died in Europe with the 30 years war or the War of the Roses, that religious people, people whose guiding influence in life is religion, question the mathematical precision of evolutionary mechanisms.

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    Post Re: The Crusade Against Evolution

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Solar Wolff
    Even one-celled organisms seem to have sensory organelles (spelling?). From these higher sensory organs evolved.
    I think we all agree about the gradual process, but it's still a long way from light-sensitive neurons to an eagle's eye. One must keep in mind that progress is not strictly linear. Some improvements depend not on a single base mutation but on dozens or hundreds of such mutations on different genes. As long as the right mutations did not happen, there is no improvement in organ functionality. While (some of) these mutations also could happen gradually, they are infinitely more likely to deteriorate again in the process, as long as there is no survivalist benefit. Even if one considers the long time frame in which life on earth existed, calculations about fair probability for the progress observed -- if they are really random and selected by survival only -- become very disillusioning.

    In addition, it's not only about mutations (genetic information being altered) but about hereditary units being added. I might be wrong, but as far as I'm aware, this has never been observed to occur in such a way that any functionality of an organism would have been improved.

    Creationism is alive and well in the USA. It manifests itself in several ways outside of direct confrontation of the facts.
    Seems like it. Mixing religion and science is never a good idea.
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  6. #6

    'Crusade against Afrikaans!' says party spokesperson

    Opposition parties slam Pandor

    Cape Town, South Africa

    14 February 2007 02:34

    Opposition parties have accused the government of exploiting the schooling and legal systems and of wanting to take control of every single school in South Africa.

    "The minister of education [Naledi Pandor] is exploiting the schooling system and the legal system to lead an ideological crusade against Afrikaans," Democratic Alliance spokesperson Desiree van der Walt said on Wednesday.

    A full bench of the Pretoria High Court ruled on Tuesday that Afrikaans-medium Hoërskool Ermelo must admit English-speaking pupils.

    Tuesday's court victory for the minister threatened to throw the education system into chaos, and might make life even more difficult for some struggling schools, she said.

    Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe and judges Willie Seriti and Natvarial Ranchod, in a five-minute ruling, set aside an earlier order by Judge Bill Prinsloo that suspended a decision that the school had to admit English-speaking pupils.

    Pandor was also granted leave to intervene in a review application by the school against the head of the Mpumalanga education department's decision to replace the school's governing body with a departmentally appointed committee.

    That committee thereafter decided that the school should become a parallel-medium school.

    Van der Walt said the judgement appeared to set a precedent whereby a minority group of pupils could demand that a school with an established language policy change its course to meet their needs, despite the existence of other schools in the area that could serve them.

    "Presumably, this judgement will apply to all official languages, and the implications will be felt across the country if other learners make similar demands for parallel instruction in their language of choice," she said. Parallel-medium instruction was a massive additional expense and administrative burden, which many schools less well-endowed than Ermelo would not be able to bear.

    A further problem was likely to be the lack of sufficient teachers available in the languages required.

    Van der Walt also had concerns about the precedent set for governing bodies.

    The powers of governing bodies had been under sustained attack from the ministry for a considerable period, with various measures, including the Education Laws Amendment Act passed in 2005, being used to undermine their decision-making authority.

    "It is unfortunate that their powers are now likely to be further weakened," she said.

    Andrew Gerber of the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) accused Pandor of "autocratic actions", which had alienated many moderate Afrikaners.

    "The goodwill with which they had helped to manage the very complex education situation in South Africa has changed into disillusionment.

    "It is now quite clear that the government wants to take control of every single school in South Africa," he said.

    The FF+ also wanted clarity on media reports that Ngoepe had interfered in the case following Prinsloo's interim order.

    According to reports, Ngoepe had "posed questions to the legal representatives of the school governing body".

    It was also reported that the state attorney requested that the interim order be reconsidered.

    If these reports proved to be correct, it could rightfully be asked if there had been any political interference in this case, Gerber said. -- Sapa
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    Re: 'Crusade against Afrikaans!' says party spokesperson

    ... What the ANC doesn't seem to realize is that he is actually laying the foundations of a Backlash. It was the suppression of Afrikaans by the British that lead to more Afrikaner Nationalism. ... And me thinks it's happening again:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlHqKJyo3GQ
    "And God proclaims as a first principle to the rulers, and above all else, that there is nothing which they should so anxiously guard, or of which they are to be such good guardians, as of the purity of the race. They should observe what elements mingle in their offspring;..." Plato Politeia

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