Thursday, May 26, 2005



Clarence Page
Chicago Tribune

At a time when America's children need to learn how to compete with India, Ireland and other countries to which we are rapidly losing jobs, some Americans would rather fuss and fret about whether man evolved from the apes.

That's what I imagine the master lawyer Clarence Darrow would be saying if he were around to re-defend Charles Darwin's theory of evolution against today's new version of creationism.
I'm sure Darrow would be amazed and amused at last week's events in Topeka, Kan. Eighty years after his famous defendant John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee public schools, the Kansas Board of Education opened hearings in Topeka to hear new challenges to the teaching of Darwin.

School boards in at least a dozen states are grappling with this new movement, even though a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ended the forced teaching of creationism in tandem with evolution.

In keeping with the modern age of media spin, the creationists have reframed their arguments under a new-fangled banner: "intelligent design." The label sounds about as elegantly non-threatening as a Volvo ad, but beware before you buy into it.

Instead of insisting that the Bible's version of Creation be taught in schools, the ID argument merely asks that schools be required to mention that there are alternative theories to Darwinism. ID movement icons, like biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, argue that the Earth must have been created through guided, intelligent events, since everything in the universe is just too complicated to have been created through random chance.

Since their theory only questions and does not actually state who the intelligent designer is, proponents of ID theory insist that their movement is not like the old-style creationists who cited the Bible to explain everything.

That's their story and they're sticking to it. As long as kids are taught that an intelligent design is behind Creation, you might think that the ID movement is completely, objectively and dispassionately neutral on whether school kids learn about the Creator-God of the Old Testament or some unseen, unnamed "force" like the one that empowers the Jedi knights in "Star Wars."

But it usually does not take long for ID proponents to reveal their inner urges to crack the wall of separation between church and state. "Part of our overall goal," William Harris of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network told the British Broadcasting Corp., "is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools."

Of course, when people talk about removing the "bias against religion" in schools or anyplace else, it almost always means that they want to impose their religious values on schools and everybody else.

But it is important to note that the scientific community does not reject religion. In fact, many scientists are quite religious. Unfortunately, the theories and evidence put forth by ID theorists have not held up under the rigor of peer review, publication in scientific journals and other standards by which the scientific establishment operates.

What, then, is the best way to deal with the teaching of ID? Most national and state science organizations boycotted the Topeka hearings in the belief that they were rigged against the teaching of evolution. But many other voices in the scientific community say that scientists need to understand the appeal of ID theory and help students sort out the questions it raises.

"For religious scientists, this may involve taking the time to talk to students about how they personally reconcile their beliefs with their research," says an editorial in the respected British journal Nature. "Secular researchers should talk to others in order to understand how faiths have come to terms with science..... When they walk into the lecture hall, they should be prepared to talk about what science can and cannot do, and how it fits in with different religious beliefs."

Indeed, sometimes the old ways are best. When I was growing up back in the 1950s, my teachers never seemed to have much trouble reconciling science with our personal religious views. Both science and religion were ways for us to understand the universe, they said. The questions that rational science could not explain, we answered with our faith.

We also learned that governments caused trouble when they used science as an excuse to trespass on the faith--or lack of faith--of others. That was not "the American way," we learned. I hope it does not become the American way now.


Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

Is it funnny or scary? I'm not sure which. Evolution IS truth and it fits in the Bible if people will just stop assuming they have God all figured out. HELLO! A day to God is a billion years or more if it's a minute. How can one of our daysh ave any meaning to someone who is timeless? It's sad but funny the arguments these religious fanatics get into.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Damien said...

Still can't beleive that this is a debate taking place in the US. Man is this the start of some mini-dark age? Wow, i think I'm even more concerned about the state of individual beleif in your neck of the woods, man whats going down!

3:38 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

It's easy to see what the next development in this little drama will be...they start teaching ID and a discussion starts about who the "creator" might have been. I don't imagine the Christian fundamentalists will stand for anybody promoting Hindu ideas or stuff from Norse mythology or the theory that it was all put into place by a race of advanced nonhuman aliens. Man, that will be a cosmic can of worms!

7:46 AM  

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