[2005/03/24] NAS President Calls on Scientists to Defend Darwinism
NAS President Calls on Scientists to Defend Darwinism 03/24/2005 The
man who described a cell as “a factory that contains an elaborate network
of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of
large protein machines” now wants his fellow scientists to oppose efforts to attribute this
factory to design. Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy
of Sciences and editor of The Molecular Biology of the Cell, gave
fellow Academy members a “call to arms” on evolution, according to USA
Today. Alarmed over the gains of the intelligent
design movement and the “increasing challenges to the teaching of
evolution in public schools,” Alberts said in a March 4 letter to
colleagues, “I write to you now because of a growing threat to the
teaching of science” (emphasis added in all quotes). He
claims, “one of the foundations of modern science is being
neglected or banished outright from science classrooms in
many parts of the United States.” His letter was motivated in part
by a survey by the National Science Teachers Association, showing that a
third of teachers feel pressured to either diminish the teaching of
evolution or include alternatives to it.
One bad habit we need to help the media
overcome is the practice of putting “ism” on creation but not on
evolution, but for USA Today, this was a surprisingly balanced article;
it consisted largely of a back-and-forth series of charges and responses
from both sides. Let’s put some of the claims through the Baloney Detector:
Gerry Wheeler (Natl. Science Teachers Assn): I’m hoping it will
give teachers the energy to make sure they stand for high-quality
science teaching – non-sequitur;
evolution has nothing to do with the quality of science
teaching. Good science teachers promote critical thinking, not
USA Today: To most scientists, evolution is defined as
changes in genes that lead to the development of
species. – equivocation.
Evolution is much more than change; it is the claim that all of life
has common ancestry in one or a few original life forms that came from
non-living chemicals. Bandwagon:
do most scientists really feel this way? Where are the
numbers? Even if this claim is correct, what most scientists
think is not the issue, but what position the evidence supports.
USA Today: They see it as a fundamental insight in biology
How a scientist or teacher feels about a belief is irrelevant.
An insight is only a hunch or preference till proved right.
USA Today: Creationism is the belief that species have divine
origin – straw
man. Fixity of species is not what creationists believe.
USA Today: Alberts complains that creationists, under the
guise of intelligent design, have attempted to push
evolution out of textbooks and classrooms in 40 states – big
lie. No one is trying to push evolution out. They are
trying to add critique of evolutionary theory and give alternatives a
Alberts: one of the foundations of modern science is
being neglected or banished outright from science
classrooms in many parts of the United States – glittering
generalities, big lie and fear
mongering. Again, evolution is not being banished, and if
teachers are neglecting it, it is their own problem (perhaps inability
to answer the questions perceptive students are asking), not due to
laws or pressure. Alberts is turning parents and students into
bogeymen, when they are just acting as good citizens and getting
involved in a controversial issue that affects their lives. Just
let Alberts show all the evidence for evolution and explain his
statement about the factory of molecular machines, and tell us how it
came about by chance. The foundations of modern
science were laid by Christians and creationists (see online book) long
before Charlie and his Musketeers usurped control of the scientific
Stephen Meyer: My first reaction is we’re seeing evidence of
some panic among the official spokesmen for science – a
fair assessment; why else would opponents of ID resort to
fear-mongering and pressure?
Meyer: intelligent design is not creationism but a scientific
approach more open-minded than Charles Darwin’s theory of
evolution – equivocal and potentially misleading unless terms are
defined, which Meyer and other ID leaders have done elsewhere.
“Creationism” has become an unpopular buzzword
that ID leaders avoid, but Meyer is right that ID is not concerned
with the who or how of creation, but only with design
detection. It is true also that ID is more open-minded, because
it does not rule out intelligent causes a priori.
USA Today: Biologists retort that any reproducible data
validating intelligent design would be welcome in science
journals – big lie.
Why the uproar, then, when an intelligent-design paper passed peer
review and was published in a legitimate science journal? In spite of the bias against overt ID, many
papers do publish implicit evidences of exquisite design in living
things, with no attempt to give it an evolutionary explanation.
Jeffrey Palmer: If there were indeed deep flaws in parts of
evolutionary biology, then scientists would be the first to charge in
there – half
truth. We have printed a number of stories about scientific
papers by evolutionists pointing out serious flaws with evolutionary
theory. On the other hand, scientists are
usually strangely silent about these problems when called as expert
witnesses by courts or school boards.
Meyer: There are powerful institutional and systematic
conventions in science that keep (intelligent) design from being
considered a scientific process – he has evidence of this from his
own recent experience and that of double-PhD editor Richard Sternberg
(see Sternberg website).
Barbara Forrest: Oh, baloney; they aren’t published because
they don’t have any scientific data – big, big lie
Alberts: In his letter, Alberts criticizes Lehigh University
biochemist Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design, as
being representative of the “common tactic” of misrepresenting
scientists’ comments to cast doubts on evolution – half truth;
quoting opponents as hostile witnesses is a legitimate debating
technique; Alberts is bluffing
that Behe misrepresents them; let him provide an example.
Behe: Behe calls this “outrageous,” saying he simply points out
that even establishment scientists note the complexity of biological
structures – a fair response, since there is plenty of
documentation right here to support Behe’s assertion.
Susan Spath: proponents need to work together more proactively
in educating the public about these issues. The silver
lining may be that this is an opportunity to enhance public
understanding of science – glittering
generalities and positive spin doctoring. Nice sentiments,
if the pro-Darwinists would follow her advice. If the public got
educated about these issues they would throw the Darwinist rascals
out. We know from experience what the NCSE means: stifle debate,
put up a facade, shield student eyes from incriminating evidence,
redefine science as naturalistic philosophy, and demonize all
opponents. The last thing they want to do is show students the
real scientific evidence, until in graduate school they have passed
the temple rituals and sworn allegiance to Pope Charlie.
Parents, teachers and scientists who are unhappy with the
Darwinist arm of the Democratic Party had better understand the tactics of their opposition and
be prepared to confront them. Remember that the goal is more and
better science. Don’t let them portray this debate as trying to
“banish” evolutionary teaching. If anything has been banished, it
is criticism of his highness King Charlie the Usurper by the ruling
Darwinist elites. The battle is to allow more evidence to
be heard, and help students learn to evaluate all the evidence with
critical thinking skills. So now you’ve seen the head
of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, a man who knows
intimately the complexity of the cell, bluff his way past the opposition
as if taking personal charge of a crusade. It shows that the
battle over origins is a major issue in educational policy with
important ramifications for all of us. Concerned citizens need to
get informed and involved. Don’t underestimate the power of the
Darwin Party, but if you are well armed with evidence, don’t let them
intimidate you, either.