War Stories: Darwinism vs. ID 04/03/2006 How are things going in the Darwin Wars? The rhetoric is still flying, and there have been gains and losses on both sides. Here are assorted war stories from battle stations and strategic summits:
Golden Rule at Hahvahd: The Harvard Gazette held a panel discussion on “How Do We Teach Evolution.” Richard Lewontin sees the first priority as convincing the doubters that animals do evolve. Reporter Bob Brustman ended with a surprising quote from Michael Ruse: “Whether you’re a believer or not, the quest to understand this magnificent, frightening, exhilarating world that we live in is just as much a moral demand laid upon us as ‘love your neighbor.’ People who don’t want to know the way the world is are spiritually dead.” This seems to beg the question of how spirituality could evolve from particles. Casey Luskin at Evolution News responded to the article with clarifications and definitions.
Establishment Claws: When is the government allowed to buck the Establishment Clause and endorse religious views? Apparently, on the internet. That’s what Casey Luskin complained on Evolution News after a federal judge threw out a lawsuit by Larry Caldwell accusing a federally-funded website, “Understanding Evolution,” of making overtly religious claims.
Called Well: Attorney Larry Caldwell may have lost the suit against the NCSE/UC website, but scored in the Lancaster School District, California, getting them to adopt a policy allowing for criticisms of evolution, reported John West on Evolution News (see also the coverage in a local paper, Antelope Valley Press). The reaction of Science in its “Random Samples” (March 31) was short and probably meant to be sarcastic. All it did was quote Alex Branning, “president of a group called Integrity in Academics, after the board of the Lancaster School District, in suburban Los Angeles, voted last week to adopt a policy stating that evolution should not be taught as an ‘unalterable fact.’” According to the snippet, Branning said, “This is an innovative effort by the Lancaster School District to propel science education out of the 19th century and into the 21st century.” Science headlined the item with the title, “Undeterred by Dover.”
Sunday School: That the previous item was not meant as favorable coverage of Branning was underscored by a larger entry on AAAS Affairs in the same (31 March) issue of Science. It spoke glowingly of the workshop “Science on the Front Line” that AAAS sponsored at their annual meeting February 19 (see 03/14/2006 entry).
Sath Keelana: The South Carolina teaching standards don’t require the teaching of Darwin’s theory, so reporter for The State Cindi Ross Scoppe wondered what the fuss is about. Whether teachers actually do bring evolution into the classrooms is another question, but her article points out the tension between teachers and students over a theory perceived to be hostile to Christianity. MSNBC News, however, reported on a 10-6 decision opposing efforts to “critically analyze” evolutionary theory in the Bible-Belt state.
The Redcoats Are Coming: “Creationist theories about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England,” reported the BBC News. The subject is being included in a syllabus for biology by one of the three main exam boards. Around the same time, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams stated that creationism should not be taught in the schools, a story in MSNBC News reported. British creationist Paul Taylor gave a response about this on Answers in Genesis, while Michael Francisco on Evolution News stressed that his remarks against creationism should not be misconstrued as an attack on intelligent design; the media often conflate the two, he said.
Play Ball – By Whose Rules? Paul Nelson on ID The Future argued against the claim of Ron Numbers, often repeated by evolutionists, that the rules of science require methodological naturalism.
Darwin’s Goliath: Nigel Williams in Current Biology March 21 gave warm press for Richard Dawkins on the 30th anniversary of his epochal book, The Selfish Gene. Williams gave particularly favorable treatment for Dawkins’ anti-religious sentiments. “The gloves are off,” he said. “Dawkins, in his present role as a professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford is fully engaged in challenging these views, but finds the situation increasingly frustrating.”
With Friends Like This: Madeleine Bunting wrote in The Guardian about how evolution foes chuckle approvingly at the anti-religion rants of Richard Dawkins and other hardcore Darwinists. Michael Ruse tries to quiet him down, realizing that his rhetoric reinforces their claims that evolution is a secular, atheist religion. Bunting writes that the “moral responsibility” to generate light, not heat, escapes Richard Dawkins. “His book on religion, The God Delusion, is to be published this autumn,” she ends with a smirk; “Dembski and the intelligent-design lobby must already be on their knees, thanking God.”
Who Needs Enemies: National Geographic interviewed E.O. Wilson favorably. Called “Darwin’s Natural Heir,” the father of sociobiology thinks he can bridge the gap between religion and science by appealing to the shared love of nature and sense of responsibility for it. It will be a hard sell, though; to many creationists, this former Southern Baptist turned secular humanist, who portrays Darwin’s theory as true and correct, is “one of the most prominent enemies they have.”
Ohio: Feint Praise: Jonathan Witt on ID the Future gave sarcastic credit to the Darwinists who succeeded in getting Ohio to vote down its “teach the controversy” lessons on evolution. They found a way to speak out of both sides of their mouth, he says. In Dover, Pennsylvania, they argued that teaching criticisms of evolution is not an argument for intelligent design. In Ohio, they argued that it was. “If the Darwinists can pull that off, I say the sky’s the limit,” he suggested. This tactic should be extended to expunging all the evolutionary claims in science journals that contain arguments on both sides.
Kansas: Clearing the Air: Kansas Citizens for Science has printed a brochure in FAQ form trying to clear up misinformation about its science standards, reported Robert Crowther on Evolution News. The story contains a link to the brochure.
Baylor Backlash: After denying tenure to Francis Beckwith on March 24 (see Baptist Press News), Baylor University (a southern Baptist school) is feeling heat from critics. Beckwith is a distinguished faculty member who happened to write a book favorable to intelligent design (Law, Darwinism, and Public Education). The journal First Things wrote a defense of Beckwith, and Evolution News listed a dozen media articles and blogs criticizing the decision. John West on Evolution News said a scandal is brewing, and Baptist Press thinks this is another evidence of the academic decline of the university which chased away Dembski”s intelligent design center years ago.
Pep Talk: To William Dembski, who qualifies almost as a General in the anti-evolution wars, things are looking up. He told Associated Press (see Kentucky paper Lexington Herald-Leader) that evolution theory is on its last legs, and will likely disintegrate within a decade. Pro-evolutionists quoted in the article don’t share that outlook, of course; UK professor James Krupa denies that evolution is dying and calls it “the driving force, the foundation of all biology.” But Dembski feels that just allowing freedom for critical analysis of evolution will be enough pressure. Evolution is so problematic, he says, it does not need help from intelligent design to collapse.
As these examples show, the issue of intelligent design as an affront to the Darwinian status quo is likely to remain in the news for some time.
Anyone seeing the Darwinians trying to prove their case with actual scientific evidence? No: it’s either strategizing to keep criticisms away, or trying to convince the skeptics that Charlie was actually a friend of religion and therefore not a threat to religious beliefs. Go Dawkins; keep printing those books; thank God.