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(2006-02-10 21:08:48)
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[2006/02/10] Darwinists Bemoan Creation/ID Obstinance, Strategize to Improve Darwin Image
Darwinists Bemoan Creation/ID Obstinance, Strategize to Improve Darwin Image   02/10/2006    
The journal Science devoted three articles in eight days to the intelligent design controversy.  Last week, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee used warfare metaphors in a report from Kansas:1 battle, attack, defenders juxtaposed with talk of tiptoeing gently around voters’ concerns about voting in “godless atheists” to the school board.  He spoke of “moderates” like Harry McDonald and Don Weiss trying to unseat incumbents on the board, and how they feel the need to downplay their pro-evolution stance in this region where billboards pronounce “Evolution is a fairy tale for grown-ups.”  None of the candidates are making their pro-evolution beliefs primary issues in their campaigns because of the wide support for intelligent design (what one candidate labeled “faith-based education”) in the state; “McDonald takes care not to come across as a passionate evolutionist,” for instance; another campaigns on “improving the quality of education in Kansas, so that our kids can compete in a global economy.”
    This week, Elizabeth Culotta in Science2 asked “Is ID on the way out?” because of the recent defeats in Dover, Pennsylvania (12/23/2005, 11/09/2005) and Frazier Park, California (01/25/2006).  The short answer is, no.  Despite some premature optimistic claims by Robert Pennock and Joel Cracraft that “ID is on the way out,” the sowers of dissent are busy in Kansas, Georgia, Michigan and elsewhere working on this year’s “crop of antievolution legislation.”  She quotes Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS: “These people are well-financed and ideologues in the true sense, and they are not giving this up.”
    So, how to respond?  Constance Holden reported, “Darwin’s place on campus is secure—but not supreme.”  First, she quoted evolutionist professors lamenting the fact that creationist students are not becoming convinced of evolution, despite “an expanding application of evolutionary theory throughout the sciences.”  Polls show that roughly half the population accepts creation, and many of them recent creation.  “A college degree is no guarantee that the graduate agrees with Darwin,” she said, and reported that professors like Will Provine (Cornell), James Colbert (Iowa State), and Randy Moore (U of Minnesota) among others have become exasperated that few of their creationist students have changed their minds at the end of their evolutionary biology courses.
    Why the resistance to change?, Holden asks.  More students are coming to class contesting the effect of evolution on their Biblical beliefs.  It’s not just in biology class, where professors threatening the validity of Adam and Eve and teaching human evolution are finding more students “far more vocal and in some cases disruptive.”  The earth sciences, too, are encountering more young-earth creationists.  Holden quotes geologist Joseph Meert of the University of Florida, Gainesville.  “I think the earth sciences are on the front lines of this battle,” he said.  “If you have an old earth, evolution has a chance to happen” (emphasis added in all quotes).  For this reason, the Geological Society of America sees the rise of creationism as “a serious attack on legitimate science, not just evolution” (see 10/17/2005).
    Yet the numbers keep rising despite a monopoly of pro-evolution science teaching.  Evolutionary professors feel threatened not just about biology, but all of science.  Holden gave a cameo appearance to Kurt Wise, a Harvard-educated young-earth creationist paleontologist who teaches at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee (hometown of the Scopes Trial).  Wise thinks evolutionists have an exaggerated fear of “fundamentalists like himself” —
But Wise’s is distinctly a minority view.  Most geologists agree with Meert when he says that “it’s time to stop pussyfooting around.... Young-Earth creationism and the ID movement are challenging the foundations of not just biology but also geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and anthropology.
Now that Holden has gotten agreement that something must be done, what should the Darwinists do?  Redesign science classes?  Sign petitions?  Teach ID as mythology, like Paul Mirecki tried at University of Kansas? (11/29/2005).  Veteran warriors Lawrence Krauss (Case Western Reserve U) and Ken Miller (Brown U) have found that “few academics are proposing new approaches to teaching evolution in biology or geology class,” Holden says.  Here’s where a few action items – and works in progress – come to light in her report:
  • Diversify:  Ken Miller says “evolutionary concepts are dispersing in other ways, in emerging fields such as rational drug design, comparative genomics, and computational biology.”
  • Illustrate:  “With a grant from the National Science Foundation, a group is adapting a research platform called Avida to enable undergraduates to watch digital organisms called Avideans develop complex functions through replication, mutation, and natural selection.”  According to Robert Pennock, this computer program “lets students see that evolution works as advertised” and is a good way to teach about science, states another proponent of Avida.
  • Inculcate:  Holden talks at length about David Sloan Wilson’s “Evolution for Everyone” program (see xx story).  As she summarizes it, “His approach was to face moral and political objections to the theory head-on and have students apply evolutionary theory to a wide variety of behaviors, from drug abuse to yawning,
  • Woo:  “Another approach is being developed at the University of Georgia, where evolutionary geneticist Wyatt Anderson, ecologist Patty Gowaty, and others have established a Center for the Study of Evolution,” the article continues.  “The center will feature speakers from a variety of disciplines, a certificate program, and outreach to public schools.  According to Gowaty, “It’s not as evangelical [sic]” as David Sloan Wilson’s program.
  • Confront:  Alarmed that 45% of Americans and 56% of Alabamans believe God created man within the last 10,000 years, psychologist David Boles (U of Alabama) organized faculty members to hold “a lecture series called ALLELE, for Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution.” 
  • Celebrate:  Last but not least, Holden talks about the value of Darwin Day – or, make that Darwin Week:
    Another means of spreading the word are Darwin celebrations on campus that coincide with the biologist’s 12 February birthday.  The College of Charleston started a “Darwin Week” 6 years ago to combat attempted antievolution “mischief” in the state legislature, says Dillon.  The University of Alabama is having its first “Darwin Day” this year, and Provine says Cornell is considering starting one.  The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has celebrated the great man’s birthday since 1997, when Pigliucci sought to rebut an “equal time” bill being considered in the state legislature.
        “The first time we offered Darwin Day, a local TV station made fun of the whole thing by taking shots of chimps at the zoo,” recalls Pigliucci.  Ecology grad student Marc Cadotte says the media have moved on but that quite a few local high school teachers are attending the Darwin Day teachers’ workshop: “It’s an encouraging sign that our activities are making a difference.
Holden ends on that encouraging note.  Odd, though, all this attention on Charles Darwin (see also 11/17/2005).  Evolutionists often criticize creationists for calling it “Darwinism” instead of evolution; they argue that most of the good thinking about evolutionary theory has occurred well after his time.  Oh well, Darwin Day is Sunday; have fun (see 02/09/2006 commentary).
1Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Strategies Evolve as Candidates Prepare for Kansas Board Races,” Science, 3 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5761, pp. 588 - 589, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5761.588.
2Elizabeth Culotta, “Evolution: Is ID on the Way Out?”, Science, 10 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5762, p. 770, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5762.770
3Constance Holden, “Evolution: Darwin‘s Place on Campus Is Secure—But Not Supreme,” Science, 10 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5762, pp. 769 - 771, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5762.769.
These articles can be celebrated by creationists and proponents of intelligent design as more indicators of the imminent demise of Darwinism.  Why?  Because they said nothing about evidence for evolution, but talked only about strategies to keep Charlie as their figurehead.  Notice several things.  Despite a complete monopoly on education from kindergarten to graduate school, and far more hours of instruction than any church provides, they can’t get a large number of students to believe their theory.  Students are coming prepared with hard questions.  They are not becoming convinced.  Evolutionists keep losing at the polls.  Their only remedy to elected school boards who try to provide opportunities for criticism of evolution is to threaten lawsuits.
    This must be terribly exasperating for the Darwin Party.  Notice also that the same names keep popping up: Ken Miller, David Sloan Wilson, Will Provine, and a few other usual suspects: is the Darwin Party itself losing champions?  Their methods of fighting back are laughable.  One-sided lecture series (no opportunity for rebuttal), computer games (be sure to read Royal Truman’s critique of Avida), and organized indoctrination programs like Wilson’s smiling “Evolution for Everyone” by The New Teacher (aka Facilitator, see 12/21/2005 commentary), and most ridiculous of all, the carnival-atmosphere Darwin Day parties with Charlie in his New Clothes.  Incredible.  Have you ever considered the possibility, Darwinists, that all these opponents might find your best arguments unconvincing?  Why not just calmly join the debate and let’s all talk about the evidence?  You’ve had plenty of time and opportunity to give your side, so listen for a change.  These critics can’t all be the dunderheads and religious fanatics you portray them as.  In fact, since everyone is someone else’s weirdo, you look like fanatics to them.  Might as well cool your jets now before you become the laughingstock of history.  Apparently natural selection is weeding out Darwinism.  Survival of the fittest, you know.



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