Volume 26 (2006)

RNCSE 26 (1-2): Special double issue.
RNCSE 26 (1-2): Special double issue
Coverage of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial

RNCSE 26 (3)
RNCSE 26 (3)
RNCSE 26 (4)RNCSE 26 (4)

RNCSE 26 (5)RNCSE 26 (5) RNCSE 26 (6)RNCSE 26 (6)

RNCSE 26 (1–2)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" link for list of articles in the print edition.

Print Edition Contents: 26 (1-2)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
2

News

  1. Updates
    News from Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

NCSE News

  1. News from the Membership
    Glenn Branch
    A sampling of our members’ activities and accomplishments.
  2. NCSE Honors “Friends of Darwin” for 2004
    Glenn Branch
    Special recognition for outstanding efforts in support of evolution education.
  3. NCSE Thanks You for Your Generous Support
    Recognizing those who have helped NCSE financially.

DOVER News

  1. Whether ID is Science: Excerpt from the Memorandum Opinion in Kitzmiller v Dover
    Judge John E Jones III
    Some of the major points of the Dover ruling in the presiding judge’s own words.
  2. Closing Statement for the Plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v Dover
    Eric Rothschild
    Summing up the case against the Dover Area School Board’s policy and against ID as science.

DOVER FEATURES

  1. Design on Trial: How NCSE Helped Win the Kitzmiller Case
    Nick Matzke
    From an ordinary day at the office to a landmark case: How NCSE responds to threats to evolution education.
  2. Can I Keep a Witness?
    Wesley R Elsberry
    Expert witnesses for the defense of teaching ID in the classroom vanish!
  3. My Role in Kitzmiller v Dover
    Barbara Forrest
    Finding the "smoking gun" and connecting the dots between old-style creationism and "intelligent design".
  4. The Dover Victory
    Kevin Padian
    Giving the court the evidence for evolution and exposing the deception of ID.
  5. "Ties" to Canada
    Brian Alters
    Testifying about the negative impact of ID on science education and warning bemused Canadians that it can happen there.

FEATURES

  1. The Termination of Baylor's Michael Polanyi Center: Why "Intelligent Design" Contradicts Polanyi's Philosophy
    Richard Gelwick
    A renowned scholar of Polanyi’s work illustrates how ID proponents got it all wrong — again — and missed the point of Polanyi's work and philosophy.
  2. "Intelligent Design": The New Vitalism
    Finn Pond and Jean Pond
    Throughout its history, science has encountered roadblocks and gaps in knowledge. Whenever these were overcome, it was those practicing science who succeeded in getting to the other side, not those who threw up heir hands in favor of a non-scientific (and non-natural) explanation. "Those who ignore history ..."

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. Praise from the Press
    Reactions to the Dover decision from major newspapers across the country.
  2. Books: Darwin, Evolution, and Literature
    Books that show the impact of evolutionary thought on literature and culture.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    An NCSE speaker may be coming to your neighborhood. Check the calendar here.
  4. Letter to the Editor

BOOK REVIEW

  1. Traipsing into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller v Dover Decision by David K DeWolf, John G West, Casey Luskin, and Jonathan Witt
    Reviewed by Tim Beazley

"Ties" to Canada

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
"Ties" to Canada
Author(s): 
Brian Alters, McGill University
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
51–52
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
It was the morning of the trial and I was in my hotel room trying to decide which of two neckties I should wear. It’s funny how such a seemingly trifling thing can become notable. One of the ties was traditionally sedate, the type no one would think twice about. The other was a tie I wore often and never thought that it might be considered inappropriate. It was purchased in a museum; the tag stated it was “Designed for Dr Richard Leakey and the National Museums of Kenya.” The tie depicts skulls of Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and Australopithecus boisei. I brought this tie along merely because I have numerous such natural history ties, enjoy them, and wear them often. So between the two ties I brought on the trip, I chose to wear this tie for my testimony.

When I arrived that morning in the legal office heads turned and eyes focused on my tie. Immediately the attorneys in the room had a brief quiet discussion among themselves — probably discussing the pros and cons of their witness wearing such a tie. In any case, I thought if the tie were inappropriate, then the attorneys would certainly tell me so — and quickly exchange my tie for one of their more jurisprudently appropriate neckwear. Maybe they were thinking they would have to enter my tie as an exhibit in the trial. Whatever their verdict, no further mention was made of my tie that day by anyone — until after my testimony. Outside the courtroom door, a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine asked if he might interview me and take some pictures. He immediately instructed his photographer to make sure the details of the tie would show up in the photograph. The photograph was never used in the article.

So that day the tie was discussed among constitutional attorneys and photographed by Rolling Stone. But alas, other than briefly being mentioned in the Rolling Stone article, nothing really ever came of it. And of course nothing should have; after all, it’s just natural history depicted on neckwear. However, in a trial such as this, it appears that even a tie draws attention. I still think about the trial every time I wear it, something that certainly wouldn’t happen if I had worn that traditional sedate tie. I wonder what would have happened if the defendants’ expert witnesses wore “intelligent design” ties. Are there such things?

Meanwhile, back home in Canada (although a US citizen, I live and work in beautiful Montréal), the Canadians found one media article of the trial to be the most attention-getting and humorous for understandable reasons (having nothing to do with neckwear): “Dover Statement Bombs, Even in Canada” authored by Mike Argento, the HL Mencken of the trial. Even though Argento is a US columnist, this column was talked about across Canada. Argento wrote: “And speaking of hurt feelings, you had to feel bad for Dover Superintendent Richard Nielsen and the rest of the defendants, sitting in the gallery — on the defendant side of the courtroom No 2 — when Brian Alters, a professor of science education and expert in teaching evolution, started talking. It got ugly. The defendants appeared to be relieved when Alters took the stand and said he taught at McGill University. McGill is in Montréal. That’s Canada. You could almost sense the relief among the defendants. Canada? How bad could it get? And then, the good doctor started testifying and in so many words, accused the school board and administrators, essentially, of child abuse. And he was right. Teaching ‘intelligent design’ creationism in science class wasn’t just a bad idea, he said. It wasn’t just bad teaching. It was ‘probably the worst thing I’ve heard of in science education.’ And it got worse. ... it went on and on.”

ID Closer to Home?

Through this, many Canadians felt that they got a chance for some “one-upsmanship” over their southern neighbors in an academic dispute in a high-profile federal case. After all, Canada certainly doesn’t have problems like “intelligent design” pseudoscience being seriously considered on the same footing with evolutionary science, especially not involving any federal level adjudication. Really?!

Thinking there are no “intelligent design” problems in Canada — as do most Canadians I talk with — is very wrong. I find Canadians are less smug about the “American ID problems” when they learn there are ID problems in their own country. More surprisingly, the most recent Canadian ID upheaval has never even occurred in the US. Less than three months after Judge Jones released his ruling, one of the three major Canadian federal funding agencies for academic research issued a shocking funding-denial letter (to a science education proposal), stating what appears to be ID-sympathetic rationales. By the way, the author of that proposal was me!

The proposal title was “Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution’s ‘intelligent design theory’ on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers.” The proposal stated: “The purpose of this study is to measure the extent to which the recent large-scale popularization of ‘intelligent design’ is detrimentally affecting Canadians’ teaching and learning of biological evolution at high school, university, and educational administration.” The impetus of the proposal was the immense publicity that the Dover trial was garnering in Canadian (and international) media.

The reply letter from the federal funding agency, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), states, “The decision rests upon the recommendation of the multidisciplinary adjudication committee which studied your application.” The adjudication committee wrote: “The proposal did not adequately substantiate the premise that the popularizing of Intelligent Design Theory had detrimental effects on Canadian students, teachers, parents and policymakers. Nor did the committee consider that there was adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of Evolution, and not Intelligent Design theory, was correct. It [the adjudication committee] was not convinced, therefore, that research based on these assumptions would yield objective results.”

Within days, the highly prestigious scientific journal Nature broke the story online and in print worldwide. International media followed and carried the story in print, radio, and television — including MTV. This followed with a barrage of stinging open letters of condemnation from major scientific organizations from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the American Sociological Association (ASA), the Canadian Society for the Study of Ecology and Evolution (CSEE), and others. Hundreds of scientists have authored communications denouncing the stance of SSHRC.

After monumental pressure, the SSHRC did finally officially state that evolution is one of the pillars of modern science; however, to date, it has neither retracted nor officially commented on any of the ID-sympathetic language in its letter. SSHRC is the major governmental funding source for science education research in Canada.

Dover may have been a US embarrassment that provided amusement for many Canadians, but I know many Americans who find amusement in this “intelligent design” affair at the Canadian federal level.

Judge Jones wrote about the “breathtaking inanity” of the Dover school board’s actions concerning implementing their ID policy. Whether it be ties to wear in court, or a common border that ties our two countries together, we need to realize that all the breathtaking inanity concerning ID does not reside south of the US–Canadian border, eh?

About the Author(s): 
Brian Alters
Evolution Education Research Centre
3700 McTavish Street
Montreal Quebec H3A 1Y2
Canada
b.alters @ mcgill . ca

Can I Keep a Witness?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Can I Keep a Witness?
Author(s): 
Wesley R Elsberry
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
45–46
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In the Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District (Kitzmiller) case, the defense went to trial with a fraction of the expert witnesses that the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) originally named to help make its case. The story of how this came about and what it meant for the case reflects events similar to those in McLean v Arkansas.

NCSE Public Information Director Susan Spath spent most of two months in early 2005 on analysis of the works of John Angus Campbell, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Memphis. TMLC named Campbell as an expert witness for the defense in Kitzmiller. Campbell, a Fellow of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture (CSC), wrote an expert report. It was Spath’s job to dig through the report and Campbell’s writings to provide the plaintiff’s legal team, and especially Pepper Hamilton attorney Thomas Schmidt III, with items of interest to ask Campbell about at his deposition.

This was a standard procedure for all the named expert witnesses in the case: look at the expert report to see what arguments were being put on the table, see what other things had been claimed by the expert elsewhere, and find out how best to use the defense witnesses to advance the plaintiffs’ case. A designated NCSE staffer was assigned to each defense expert to aid the attorney on the plaintiffs’ team who would question the witness at the deposition. In the case of William A Dembski, the plaintiffs had also named a rebuttal expert, Jeffrey O Shallit of the University of Waterloo.

NCSE’s Spath had the assistance of activists who helped contribute to a Wiki page of criticisms and possible questions for Campbell’s deposition that was scheduled for June 2, 2005. At 9 am on that day, plaintiffs’ attorney Schmidt and legal assistant Kate Henslow were on hand in Memphis, Tennessee, to take Campbell’s deposition. Campbell, TMLC attorney Pat Gillen, and an unidentified lawyer from the Discovery Institute arrived, and Gillen made an announcement: John Angus Campbell was withdrawn as an expert witness. There would be no deposition.

Disappearing Experts

Campbell was merely the first defense expert to withdraw from the case. On June 10, CSC Senior Fellow William A Dembski was withdrawn under circumstances that remain ambiguous to this day. CSC Director Stephen C Meyer’s withdrawal followed on June 13. Philosophy professor Warren Nord of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Richard M Carpenter, an education professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and a commentator for Focus on the Family, were withdrawn between the beginning of the trial itself and when they would have testified. The only expert witnesses left to the defense in the trial were CSC Senior Fellow Michael J Behe, CSC Fellow Scott A Minnich, and Steve Fuller, a sociologist of science at the University of Warwick.

Anti-evolution watchers will recall the McLean v Arkansas case and how some defense experts also failed to deliver testimony there. Most notably, San Francisco State University professor Dean Kenyon was originally slated to testify, was deposed, and even was in Little Rock, Arkansas, during part of the trial, but never went on the stand. In both McLean and Kitzmiller, the experts testifying for the plaintiffs did deliver their testimony as planned.

The common explanation attached to expert witness withdrawals in the Kitzmiller case was that the DI expert witnesses wanted to have their own legal representation during depositions, and not be represented only by TMLC attorneys. This does not explain the eventual testimony of Behe and Minnich, or the withdrawal of Nord and Carpenter, who were not officially affiliated with the DI. In the case of Dembski’s withdrawal, TMLC issued a statement shortly after his withdrawal citing Dembski’s request for independent legal representation and TMLC’s unwillingness to permit such, though they would allow it for Stephen Meyer. Later, TMLC entered a brief in support of a motion to dismiss the case in which they cited Dembski’s withdrawal as being premised upon his desire to protect his affiliates at the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), which published the "intelligent design" textbook at the center of the case. (TMLC also suggested that it was an indication of the pervasive negative influence of "Darwinism" that Dembski should be compelled to take that step.) As Ed Brayton noted in his weblog (http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2005/06/conflicting_explanations_for_w.php), these two constructions of events are not reconcilable.

It is clear that there were behind-the-scenes problems between the Thomas More Law Center as attorneys for the Dover school district and the Discovery Institute as the source of most of the expert witnesses for the defense. These hidden tensions briefly became very public during a televised panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute during the trial phase of the case. The DI representative, Mark Ryland, asserted that the DI had never endorsed policies requiring the teaching of "intelligent design" in science classes. TMLC attorney Richard Thompson contradicted Ryland, citing the various legal briefs and other promotional materials produced by the DI for the apparent purpose of encouraging school boards to insert ID into their curricula.

Discovery Institute analyst Seth Cooper sent an e-mail to the Dover Area School Board in late 2004 stating that its proposed policy was likely to lead to a lawsuit and that it would be better to withdraw this policy and construct a new one that would meet with DI approval. The DI apparently was concerned enough about the Dover case that it felt that there was a considerable risk of a loss in court that could produce a legal decision that could damage the DI’s ability to promote ID as science. TMLC’s intent to use the Dover policy as a test case ignored the cautionary note that the DI had given.

The withdrawals of the expert witnesses began after depositions by Michael Behe and Scott Minnich were completed. It cannot be ruled out that the DI realized just how well prepared the plaintiffs’ legal team was in each of these and concluded that exposing more of the CSC fellows to that level of scrutiny was not in its best interests.

Where’s the controversy?

We may never know with certainty why the five defense expert witnesses were withdrawn from the roster. What is clear is the effect this had on the topics addressed at the trial. TMLC argued that ID should be taught because ID was science, and this provided the secular purpose that would set aside the Establishment Clause claims being made by the plaintiffs. To this end, TMLC put a biochemist, a microbiologist, and a sociologist of science on the witness stand. They had no philosopher of science to rebut plaintiffs’ experts Robert Pennock and Barbara Forrest. They had no educator to rebut Brian Alters. They had no theologian to rebut John Haught. They had no paleontologist to rebut Kevin Padian. In fact, the only plaintiffs’ expert whose testimony the remaining TMLC experts might speak to was that of Ken Miller, who testified on both science and science education, as a cell biologist and co-author of the high school textbook used in the Dover school system.

This is not to say that the coverage that might have been provided by the missing experts would have been perfect. Even if all the originally named experts had testified, TMLC would have fielded no theologians with experience comparable to John Haught. The defense experts who were to speak to issues of science education, Campbell, Nord, and Carpenter, did not have the sort of professional recognition in the field that plaintiffs’ expert Brian Alters brought to the case. In opposition to Kevin Padian, the defense would have called upon philosopher of science Stephen C Meyer, whose claim to expertise in paleontology rested upon the publication of a single review paper that was later repudiated by the publishing journal and his earlier career as a petroleum geologist. The gaps in coverage of defense expert testimony were noted at various points in Judge Jones’s decision, as he would write of statements given by plaintiffs’ experts Miller and Padian, their arguments were made in unrebutted testimony.

The tale of the disappearing witnesses in the Kitzmiller case reflects the earlier experience of the McLean case. While it is unknown exactly why the witnesses were withdrawn, their absence made an appreciable difference in the case. As in the McLean case, the missing witnesses left much of the case made by the experts for the plaintiffs unanswered, giving the strong — and accurate — impression that the defense had no case to make, and contributing to the forcefulness of the decisions handed down in each case.

About the Author(s): 
Wesley R Elsberry
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
elsberry@ncseweb.org

Closing Statement for the Plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v Dover

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Closing Statement for the Plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v Dover
Author(s): 
Eric Rothschild, Pepper Hamilton LLP
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
35–37
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
"What am I supposed to tolerate? A small encroachment on my First Amendment rights? Well, I'm not going to. I think this is clear what these people have done, and it outrages me." That’s a statement of one citizen of Dover, Fred Callahan, standing up to the wedge that has been driven into his community and his daughter’s high school by the Dover School Board’s anti-evolution, pro-"intelligent design" policy.

The strategy that the Discovery Institute announced in its "Wedge document" for promoting theistic and Christian science and addressing cultural conditions that it disagrees with is to denigrate evolution and promote supernatural "intelligent design" as a competing theory.

This is the Discovery Institute that advised both William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell before the board voted to change the biology curriculum. This is the Discovery Institute the defendants’ experts Michael Behe and Scott Minnich proudly associate with, along with intelligent design leaders William Dembski, Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer, Nancy Pearcey, and Phillip Johnson.

This group’s strategy of Christian apologetics and cultural renewal includes the integration of "intelligent design" into public school science curriculum, which is now on trial in this courtroom. Dover is now the thin edge of the wedge.

Let's review how we got here. Beginning with Alan Bonsell’s election to the Dover Area School Board in the end of 2001, the teaching of evolution in biology class became a target of the board, and teaching creationism was suggested as an alternative.

As Mr Gillen told the Court in his opening statement, Mr Bonsell "had an interest in creationism. He wondered whether it could be discussed in the classroom." He didn’t just wonder to himself, he wondered out loud about teaching creationism at two board retreats. He made his opposition to the teaching of evolution known to Mr Baksa and the science teachers.

In 2004, Mr Bonsell became the president of the board and chose Bill Buckingham to head the curriculum committee. When the teachers and members of the community tried to get a new biology book approved, members of the board, including particularly Mr Buckingham, but also Mr Bonsell, insisted in public board meetings that any new biology book include creationism.

There is no evidence that any of the board members that eventually voted to change the biology curriculum objected to this idea. Heather Geesey emphatically endorsed it in her letter to the York Sunday News.

At the same meetings in June where he discussed creationism, Mr Buckingham also made the unforgettable statement that, "2000 years ago a man died on a Cross, can’t we take a stand for Him now?"; and after one meeting said to a reporter that "We are not a nation founded on Muslim ideas or evolution, but on Christianity, and our children should be taught as such."

Around the time of those June meetings, Mr Buckingham received materials and guidance from the Discovery Institute, the sponsors of theistic Christian science. After that, "intelligent design" became the label for the board’s desire to present creationism.

At this trial, plaintiffs have submitted overwhelming evidence that "intelligent design" is just a new name for creationism discarding a few of traditional creationism tenets, such as direct reference to God or the Bible and a specific commitment to a young earth, but maintaining essential aspects, particularly the special creation of kinds by a supernatural actor.

Make no mistake, the leading sponsors on the board for the change to the biology curriculum and Administrators Nilsen and Baksa knew that "intelligent design" was a form of creationism when they added it to the curriculum.

[Consider] the views on the origins of the universe chart that both Casey Brown and Jennifer Miller testified that Assistant Superintendent Baksa circulated to members of the board curriculum committee and faculty. Mrs Harkins testified that she had this document as early as June of 2004.

The second column of this chart provided to members of the board curriculum committee and administration demonstrates clearly that "intelligent design" is a form of progressive creation or old-earth creation. At the bottom of the chart of that column, the second column, under Progressive Creation and Old-Earth Creation, you see the words, "Intelligent Design" Movement, Phillip Johnson, and Michael Behe.

Mr Baksa testified in response to questions from his lawyer that he researched "intelligent design" and [Of Pandas and People] before the board adopted both into the district’s curriculum and that his research included this order form from the Institute for Creation Research, which promotes Pandas, describing it as a book that contains interpretations of classic evidences in harmony with the creation model.

Board President Bonsell and Superintendent Nilsen testified that they understood the definition of "intelligent design" found on pages 99 to 100 of Pandas to be a tenet of creationism.

The district solicitor, Stephen Russell, sent this e-mail to Richard Nilsen advising Dr Nilsen and eventually the board members who received this e-mail that, quote, Thomas More refers to the creationism issue as "intelligent design".

Board members Jeff and Casey Brown and the science teachers also warned the board that Pandas and "intelligent design" are creationism or too close for comfort, and there could be legal consequences for teaching it.

This information, equating "intelligent design" with creationism, did not deter the school board at all. It emboldened them. They rushed the curriculum change to a vote, discarding all past practices on curriculum adoption, such as placing the item on a planning meeting agenda before bringing it to a vote, involving the citizens’ curriculum advisory committee with a meeting, or showing deference to the district’s experts on the curriculum item, the school science teachers.

The record is overwhelming that board members were discussing creationism at the meetings in June of 2004. Two separate newspaper reporters, Heidi Bernhard-Bubb and Joe Maldonado, reported this in articles about the meeting which they confirmed in sworn testimony in this court. Former board members Casey and Jeff Brown and Plaintiffs Barrie Callahan and Christy and Bryan Rehm also testified to these facts.

Finally, at the end of this trial, Assistant Superintendent Mike Baksa, an agent of the defendant Dover Area School District in this case, admitted that Bill Buckingham discussed creationism at the June board meetings when discussing the biology curriculum. After a year of denying that fact, forcing reporters to testify, the truth was confirmed by defendants’ own witness.

And, of course, we saw Mr Buckingham talk about creationism on the tape of the Fox 43 interview using language almost identical to the words attributed to him by newspaper reporters covering the June 2004 board meetings.

His explanation that he misspoke the word "creationism" because it was being used in news articles, which he had just previously testified he had not read, was, frankly, incredible. We all watched that tape. And per Mr Linker’s suggestion that all the kids like movies, I’d like to show it one more time. [Tape played.] That was no deer in the headlights. That deer was wearing shades and was totally at ease.

Testimony from many witnesses called by the plaintiffs and the same newspaper reports established that Bill Buckingham made the statement "2000 years ago" when discussing the biology textbook in June.

After preparing together for their January, 2004 depositions, four witnesses for the defense — Richard Nilsen, Bill Buckingham, Alan Bonsell, and Sheila Harkins — all testified that Buckingham, Mr Buckingham, did not make that statement at that meeting, but rather only at a different meeting in November when the Pledge of Allegiance was discussed.

But every plaintiff, teacher, reporter, and dissenting board member who testified at trial about the June 14th meeting knows this is not true, and defendants’ witnesses Harkins and Baksa conceded that the statement could have been made in June as the contemporaneous, unchallenged news reports suggest.

What I am about to say is not easy to say, and there’s no way to say it subtly. Many of the witnesses for the defendants did not tell the truth. They did not tell the truth at their depositions, and they have not told the truth in this courtroom.

They are not telling the truth when they assert that only "intelligent design" and not creationism was discussed at the June 2004 board meetings. They are not telling the truth when they placed the "2000 years ago" statement at the meeting discussing the pledge and not at the June 14, 2004, meetng discussing the biology textbook. They did not tell the truth in their depositions or, for that matter, to the citizens of Dover about how the donation of the Pandas books came about.

Truth is not the only victim here. In misrepresenting what occurred in the run-up to the change to the biology curriculum, there were human casualties. Two hard-working freelance reporters had their integrity impugned and were dragged into a legal case solely because the board members would not own up to what they had said. They could have just asked Mike Baksa. He knew.

Trudy Peterman, the former principal, has not testified in this case, but we know she was negatively evaluated for what she reported in her April 2003 memo about her conversation with Bertha Spahr. And Superintendent Nilsen continued to question her truthfulness in this court, but he never asked Mrs Spahr what she told Dr Peterman on the subject of creationism.

Had he asked her, he would have heard exactly what you heard from Mrs Spahr in this courtroom. Mr Baksa did tell her that Board Member Bonsell expressed his desire to have creationism taught 50/50 or in equal time with evolution.

And, of course, you’ve heard from board members who were at that meeting, including Casey Brown and Barrie Callahan, that Mr Bonsell did say he wanted creationism taught 50/50 with evolution. In fact, Mrs Callahan had contemporaneous notes recording Mr Bonsell saying just that. And Dr Nilsen also had contemporaneous notes showing that Mr Bonsell talked about creationism at the March 2003 board retreat.

Confronted with Dr Nilsen’s notes, Mr Bonsell finally admitted he talked about creationism, at least then. The Defendants’ smear of Dr Peterman is unpersuasive and inexcusable.

There are consequences for not telling the truth. The board members and administrators who testified untruthfully for the defendants are entitled to no credibility, none. In every instance where this Court is confronted with a disputed set of facts as between the plaintiffs’ witnesses and defendants’ witnesses that the Court deems to have been untruthful, the plaintiffs’ witnesses account should be credited.

And furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, this Court should infer from their false statements that defendants are trying to conceal an improper purpose for the policy they approved and implemented, namely an explicitly religious purpose.

The board’s behavior mimics the "intelligent design" movement at large. The Dover board discussed teaching creationism, switched to the term "intelligent design" to carry out the same objective, and then pretended they had never talked about creationism.

As we learned from Dr Forrest’s testimony, the "intelligent design" movement used the same sleight of hand in creating the Pandas textbook. They wrote it as a creationist book and then, after the Edwards decision outlawed teaching creationism, simply inserted the term "intelligent design" where "creationism" had been before.

Dean Kenyon wrote the book at the same time that he was advocating creation science to the Supreme Court in Edwards as the sole scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. But now, like the Dover board, the "intelligent design" movement now pretends that it never was talking about creationism.

I want to make a very important point here. In this case, we have abundant evidence of the religious purpose of the Dover School Board that supports a finding that its policy is unconstitutional. However, if the board had been more circumspect about its objectives or better at covering its tracks, it would not make the policy it passed any less unconstitutional.

Your Honor, you have presided over a six-week trial. Both parties have had a fair opportunity to present their cases about what happened in the Dover community and about the nature of "intelligent design". Leading experts from both sides of the issue have given extensive testimony on the subject.

This trial has established that "intelligent design" is unconstitutional because it is an inherently religious proposition, a modern form of creationism. It is not just a product of religious people, it does not just have religious implications, it is, in its essence, religious. Its central religious nature does not change whether it is called creation science or "intelligent design" or sudden emergence theory. The shell game has to stop.

If there’s any doubt about the religious nature of "intelligent design", listen to these exemplary descriptions of "intelligent design" by its leading proponents, which are in evidence in this case:

Phillip Johnson said, "‘Intelligent design’ means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology."

William Dembski: "In its relation to Christianity, ‘intelligent design’ should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration." William Dembski again, "Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory."

Michael Behe told this Court that "intelligent design" is not a religious proposition, but he told the readers of The New York Times the question "intelligent design" poses is whether science can make room for religion. He acknowledges that the more one believes in God, the more persuasive "intelligent design" is. The religious nature of "intelligent design" is also proclaimed loudly and repeatedly in the "Wedge document".

The other indisputable fact that marks "intelligent design" as a religious proposition that cannot be taught in public schools is that it argues that a supernatural actor designed and created biological life. Supernatural creation is the religious proposition that the Supreme Court said in Edwards cannot be taught in public schools.

And it’s obvious why this has to be the case. When we talk about an actor outside nature with the skills to design and create and build biological life, we are talking about God.

The experts that testified at this trial admit that in their view, the intelligent designer is God. The Discovery Institute’s "Wedge document"’s first paragraph bemoans the fact that the proposition that human beings are created in the image of God has been undermined by the theory of evolution. Professor Behe admitted that his argument for "intelligent design" was essentially the same as William Paley’s, which is a classic argument for the existence of God.

Who else could it be? Michael Behe suggests candidates like aliens or time travelers with a wink and a nod, not seriously.

"Intelligent design" hides behind an official position that it does not name the designer, but as Dr Minnich acknowledged this morning, all of its advocates believe that the designer is God. "Intelligent design" could not come closer to naming the designer if it was spotted with the letters G and O. The case for "intelligent design" as a religious proposition is overwhelming. The case for it as a scientific proposition, by contrast, is nonexistent. It has been unanimously rejected by the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and every other major scientific and science education organization that has considered the issue, including, we learned this morning, the American Society of Soil Scientists.

The fact that it invokes the supernatural is, by itself, disqualifying. As William Dembski stated, unless the ground rules of science are changed to allow the supernatural, "intelligent design" has "no chance in Hades".

In this courtroom, Steve Fuller confirmed that changing the ground rules of science is "intelligent design"’s fundamental project, and if defendants get their way, those ground rules get changed first in Dover High School.

There’s a reason that science does not consider the supernatural. It has no way of measuring or testing supernatural activity. As Professor Behe testified, you can never rule out "intelligent design".

Defendants’ comparisons to the big bang or Newton’s work make no sense, for those, as with many scientific propositions, we may have at one time attributed natural phenomena to supernatural or divine action before working out the natural explanations that fall under the heading "science". "Intelligent design" is moving in the opposite direction, replacing a well-developed natural explanation for the development of biological life with a supernatural one which it has no evidence to support.

The positive case for "intelligent design" described by plaintiffs’ experts Michael Behe, the leading light of the "intelligent design" movement, and Scott Minnich over the last couple of days is a meager little analogy that collapses immediately upon inspection.

Professor Behe and Professor Minnich’s argument, summed up by the amorphous phrase "purposeful arrangement of parts", is that if we can tell that a watch or keys or a mousetrap or a cell phone was designed, we can make the same inference about the design of a biological system by an intelligent designer. This is, as both experts acknowledge, the same argument that Paley made, the argument that Paley made for the existence of God.

Plaintiffs’ witnesses Robert Pennock and Kenneth Miller explained and under cross-examination defendants’ expert Professor Behe admitted that the difference between inferences to design of artifacts and objects and to design of biological systems overwhelms any purported similarity. Biological systems can replicate and reproduce and have had millions or billions of years to develop in that fashion, providing opportunities for change that the keys, watches, stone tools, and statues designed by humans do not have.

And, of course, those objects and artifacts we recognize as design in our day-to-day life are all the product of human design. We know the designer. In the case of "intelligent design" of biological life, however, that crucial information is, to use Professor Behe’s own phrase, a black box. Because we know that humans are the designers of the various inanimate objects and artifacts discussed by Professor Behe, we also know many other useful pieces of information, what the designer’s needs, motives, abilities, and limitations are. Because we are that designer, we can actually re-create the designer’s act of creation.

Professor Behe admitted that none of this information is available for the inference to "intelligent design" of biological systems. In fact, the only piece of information that is available to support that inference is appearance. If it looks designed, it must be designed. But if that explanation makes sense, then the natural sciences must be retired. Almost everything we see in our marvelous universe — biological, chemical, physical — could be subsumed in this description.

Other than this meager analogy, intelligent design" is nothing but a negative argument against evolution, and a poor one at that. This was made strikingly clear when Professor Behe was asked about his statement that "intelligent design"’s only claim is about the proposed mechanism for complex biological systems, and he admitted that "intelligent design" proposes no mechanism for the development of biological systems, only a negative argument against one of the mechanisms proposed by the theory of evolution.

And, of course, Professor Behe also had to admit, reluctantly, that "intelligent design", as explained in Pandas, goes far beyond the argument about mechanism to attack another core proposition of the theory of evolution, common descent. In page after page of Pandas, the authors argue against common descent in favor of the creationist biblical argument for the abrupt appearance of created kind, birds with beaks, fish with fins, and so on.

The arguments in Pandas are based on wholesale misrepresentations of scientific knowledge, much of which has been known for years or even decades before Pandas was published and some of which has been developed after its last publication, demonstrating that science marches on while "intelligent design" stands still.

Kevin Padian was the only evolutionary biologist who testified in this trial. He described massive and pervasive misrepresentations of the fossil record and other scientific knowledge in Pandas. His testimony went completely unrebutted by any qualified expert.

The board members cannot claim ignorance about the flaws in Pandas. Dr Nilsen and Mr Baksa testified that the science teachers warned them that Pandas had faulty science, was outdated, and beyond the reading level of ninth-graders.

The board members had no contrary information. They have no meaningful scientific expertise or background and did not even read Pandas thoroughly. Their only outside input in favor of Pandas was a recommendation from Mr Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, a law firm with no known scientific expertise. What these board members are doing then, knowingly, is requiring administrators or teachers to tell the students, go read that book with the faulty science.

It’s not just Pandas that’s faulty, it’s the entire "intelligent design" project. They call it a scientific theory, but they have done nothing, they have produced nothing. Professor Behe wrote in Darwin’s Black Box that if a scientific theory is not published, it must perish. That is the history of "intelligent design".

As Professor Behe testified, there are no peer-reviewed articles in science journals reporting original research or data that argue for "intelligent design". By contrast, Kevin Padian, by himself, has written more than a hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Professor Behe’s only response to the "intelligent design" movement’s lack of production was repeated references to his own book, Darwin’s Black Box. He was surprised to find out that one of his purported peer-reviewers wrote an article that revealed he had not even read the book.

But putting that embarrassing episode aside, consider the following facts: Professor Behe admitted in his article "Reply to My Critics" that his central challenge to natural selection, irreducible complexity, is flawed because it doesn’t really match up with the claim made for evolution. It works backwards from the completed organism rather than forward. But he hasn’t bothered to correct that flaw. He also admits that there is no original research reported in Darwin’s Black Box, and in the almost ten years since its publication, it has not inspired research by other scientists.

Professor Behe’s testimony and his book Darwin’s Black Box is really one extended insult to hard-working scientists and the scientific enterprise. For example, Professor Behe asserts in Darwin’s Black Box, "The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system," and "The complexity of the system dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration."

I showed Professor Behe more than 50 articles, as well as books, on the evolution of the immune system. He had not read most of them, but he confidently, contemptuously dismissed them as inadequate. He testified that it’s a waste of time to look for answers about how the immune system evolved.

Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system. It’s the immune system. It’s our defense against debilitating and fatal diseases. The scientists who wrote those books and articles toil in obscurity, without book royalties or speaking engagements. Their efforts help us combat and cure serious medical conditions. By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire "intelligent design" movement are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don’t bother.

Not only does "intelligent design" not present its argument in the peer-reviewed journals, it does not test its claims. You heard plaintiffs’ experts Pennock, Padian, and Miller testify that scientific propositions have to be testable. Defendants’ expert [Steve] Fuller agreed that for "intelligent design" to be science, it must be tested, but he admitted that so far, "intelligent design" had not done so.

Of course, there’s an obvious reason that "intelligent design" hasn’t been tested. It can’t be. The proposition that a supernatural intelligent designer created a biological system is not testable and can never be ruled out.

"Intelligent design" does not even test its narrower negative claims. As plaintiffs’ experts explained and again Dr Fuller agreed, arguments like irreducible complexity, even if correct, only negate aspects of the theory of evolution. They do not demonstrate "intelligent design". It does not logically follow. But "intelligent design" does not even test this negative argument.

Professor Behe and Professor Minnich articulated the test of irreducible complexity. Grow a bacterial flagellum in the laboratory. The test is, as I think Dr Minnich acknowledged this morning, somewhat ridiculous. [That evolution] doesn’t occur over two or five or ten years in a laboratory population doesn’t rule out evolution over billions of years.

But if Professor Behe and Professor Minnich think this is a valid test of their design hypothesis, they or their fellow "intelligent design" adherents should be running it, but they haven’t. Their model of science is, we’ve brought an idea, sit back, do no research, and challenge evolutionists to shoot it down. That’s not how science works. Sponsors of a scientific proposition offer hypotheses, and then they test [them].

Consider the amazing example that Ken Miller gave. Evolutionary biologists were confronted with the fact that we humans have two fewer chromosomes than chimpanzees, the creatures hypothesized to be our closest living ancestors based on molecular evidence and homology. Evolutionary biologists didn’t sit back and tell creationists to figure out this problem. They rolled up their sleeves, tackled it themselves, and they figured it out. That’s real science.

And, in fact, the common ancestry of chimpanzees and humans is real science. It’s the real science that William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell and all their fellow board members who voted for the change to the curriculum made sure that the students of Dover would never hear.

Make no mistake about it, William Buckingham was determined that Dover students would not be taught anything that conflicts with the special creation of humans, no mural, no monkeys to man, no Darwin’s descent of man, his wife’s sermon from Genesis. This was all focused on protecting the biblical proposition that man was specially created by God.

Similarly, Alan Bonsell ensured that the entire biology curriculum was molded around his religious beliefs. He testified in this courtroom that it is his personal religious belief that the individual kinds of animals — birds, fish, humans — were formed as they currently exist and do not share common ancestors with each other.

Macroevolution is inconsistent with his religious beliefs. The only aspect of the theory of evolution that conforms to his religious beliefs is microevolution, change within a species. He also believes in a young earth, thousands, not billions of years old.

Sure enough, in the fall of 2003, as the older of his two children prepare to take biology, Mr Bonsell sought assurances the teachers only taught microevolution and not what the board members call origins of life, macroevolution, speciation, common ancestry, including common ancestry of humans, all the things that contradict his personal religious beliefs.

He received the assurances he was looking for that most of evolution wasn’t being taught. On October 18, this practice of depriving students of the thorough teaching of the theory of evolution, in the minds of the board members, became board policy.

Now, in fairness to the teachers, they weren’t really short-changing the students to the extent Mr Bonsell hoped. Mrs Miller testified that she does teach speciation with Darwin’s finches, her attempt to teach evolutionary theory as nonconfrontationally as possible.

Mr Buckingham and Mr Bonsell also wanted to make sure that the teachers pointed out gaps and problems with the parts of the theory of evolution they did teach. None of the board members cared whether students knew about gaps and problems in the theory of plate tectonics or germ theory or atomic theory. But for evolution, it was essential that the students see all the purported warts.

The resource the board relied upon for information about problems with evolution was not from any of the mainstream scientific organizations, but rather the Discovery Institute, the think-tank pursuing theistic science.

For Mr Bonsell, however, making sure that the teaching of evolution didn’t contradict his religious beliefs wasn’t enough. He then joined Mr Buckingham in promoting an idea that affirmatively supported his religious beliefs. "Intelligent design" asserts that birds are formed with beaks, feathers, and wings and fish with fins and scales, created kinds just like Mr Bonsell believes. And "intelligent design" accommodates Mr Bonsell’s belief in young earth creationism. He is welcome in "intelligent design’s" big tent.

And if there was any doubt that the board wanted to trash evolution and not teach it, it was confirmed by the development of the statement read to the students. There was nothing administration or faculty could do about "intelligent design" because that’s what the board wanted.

But the language they developed about evolution was actually quite honest and reasonable. "Darwin’s theory of evolution continues to be the dominant scientific explanation of the origin of species. Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, there is a significant amount of evidence that supports the theory, although it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is yet no evidence."

If this language had made it into the version read to the students, it would not have cured the harm caused by promoting the religious argument for "intelligent design" and directing students to the deeply flawed Pandas book, but at least it would have conveyed to students that the theory of evolution is well accepted and supported by substantial evidence.

The board would have none of it. The only things that the board wanted the students to hear about evolution were negative things. There are gaps, it’s a theory, not a fact — language that the defendants’ own expert, Steve Fuller, admitted is misleading and denigrates the theory of evolution. As Dr Fuller and plaintiffs’ expert Brian Alters agreed, the board’s message was, we’re teaching evolution because we have to.

As if their views weren’t clear enough, the board issued a newsletter which accused the scientific community of using different meanings of the word "evolution" to their advantage as if scientists were trying to trick people into believing something that there isn’t evidence to support.

Your Honor, you may remember Cindy Sneath’s testimony about her 7-year–old son Griffin who is fascinated by science. This board is telling Griffin and children like him that scientists are just tricking you. It’s telling students like Griffin the same thing Mr Buckingham told Max Pell, don’t go off to college or you’ll just be brainwashed, don’t research the theory of evolution.

The board is delivering Michael Behe’s message. Don’t bother studying the development of the immune system, you’re just doomed to failure. In science class, they are promoting the unchanging certainty of religion in place of the adventure of open-ended scientific discovery that Jack Haught described.

How dare they. How dare they stifle these children’s education, how dare they restrict their opportunities, how dare they place a ceiling on their aspirations and on their dreams. Griffin Sneath can become anything right now. He could become a science teacher like Bert Spahr or Jen Miller or Bryan Rehm or Steven Stough turning students on to the wonders of the natural world and the satisfaction of scientific discovery, perhaps in Dover or perhaps some other lucky community.

He could become a college professor and renowned scientist like Ken Miller or Kevin Padian. He might solve mysteries about the immune system because he refused to quit. He might even figure out something that changes the whole world like Charles Darwin.

This board did not act to improve science education. It took one area of the science curriculum that has historically been the object of religiously motivated opposition and molded it to their particular religious viewpoints.

You heard five board members testify in this court. I focus today on Mr Buckingham and Mr Bonsell who are most explicit about their creationist objectives and who worked hardest to browbeat administrators and teachers to their will. But Mrs Geesey’s letter to the editor establishes her creationist position. Her testimony and Mrs Cleaver’s also demonstrates that they abdicated their decision-making responsibility to Mr Bonsell and Mr Buckingham.

In Mrs Harkins’s case, it’s hard to discern what her motives were beyond depriving students of the book their teachers said they needed while supplying them with books describing a concept "intelligent design" that to this day she candidly admits she does not understand.

The board never discussed what "intelligent design" is or how it could improve science education. Clearly no valid secular purpose can be derived from those facts. All that remains is the religious objectives represented in Mr Bonsell and Mr Buckingham’s statements about teaching creationism and Christian values, the same values that animate the entire Wedge strategy.

Mr Buckingham said that separation of church and state is a myth, and then he acted that way. Mr Buckingham and his fellow board members wanted religion in the public schools as an assertion of their rights as Christians. But Christianity and all religious exercise have thrived in this country precisely because of the ingenious system erected by our founders which protects religious belief from intervention by government.

The law requires that government not impose its religious beliefs on citizens, not because religion is disfavored or unimportant, because it is so important to so many of us and because we hold a wide variety of religious beliefs, not just one.

The Supreme Court explained in McCreary that one of the major concerns that prompted adoption of the religion clauses was that the framers and the citizens of their time intended to guard against the civil divisiveness that follows when the government weighs in on one side of a religious debate. We’ve seen that divisiveness in Dover: School board member pitted against school board member. Administrators and board members no longer on common ground with the schoolteachers. Julie Smith’s daughter asking "what kind of Christian are you?" because her mother believes in evolution. Casey Brown and Bryan Rehm being called atheists.

It even spilled over into this courtroom where Jack Haught, a prominent theologian and practicing Catholic, had his religious beliefs questioned, not as they relate to the subject of evolution, but on basic Christian tenets like the virgin birth of Christ. That was impeachment by the defendants’ lawyers in this case.

It’s ironic that this case is being decided in Pennsylvania in a case brought by a plaintiff named Kitzmiller, a good Pennsylvania Dutch name. This colony was founded on religious liberty. For much of the 18th century, Pennsylvania was the only place under British rule where Catholics could legally worship in public.

In his declaration of rights, William Penn stated, "All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or modes of worship."

In defiance of these principles which have served this state and this country so well, this board imposed their religious views on the students in Dover High School and the Dover community. You have met the parents who have brought this lawsuit. The love and respect they have for their children spilled out of that witness stand and filled this courtroom.

They don’t need Alan Bonsell, William Buckingham, Heather Geesey, Jane Cleaver, and Sheila Harkins to teach their children right from wrong. They did not agree that this board could commandeer the religious education of their children, and the Constitutions of this country and this Commonwealth do not permit it.

[The preceding is a lightly edited version of Eric Rothschild’s closing argument in Kitzmiller v Dover, delivered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on November 4, 2005. For the official transcript of the day’s proceedings, visit http://www.ncseprojects.org/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/trial_transcripts/2005_1104_day21_pm.pdf.]

Design on Trial

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Design on Trial: How NCSE Helped Win the Kitzmiller Case
Author(s): 

Nick Matzke, NCSE Public Information Director

Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
37–44
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Just another flare-up

Kitzmiller v Dover is now famous as the first test case on the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" (ID) in public schools, involving a six-week trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, dozens of lawyers and witnesses, nine expert witnesses, 342 filed legal documents, 400 exhibits, national and international media, subpoenas, depositions, lies, videotape, bacterial flagella, the Constitution, civil rights, education, science, religion, history, evolution, the meaning of life, divine intervention, and one recently appointed federal judge. However, it began as just another "flare-up" for the NCSE staff.

A major part of the day-to-day work at NCSE consists of monitoring flare-ups around the country. In 2004, this included about a dozen anti-evolution bills proposed in state legislatures, several battles over evolution in science standards, and 50 or more local level flare-ups, usually school-board controversies over teaching evolution.

When I first became aware of the Dover situation, I had only been working at NCSE for five months. On June 8 and 9, 2004, news articles from the York Daily Record and York Dispatch appeared on my computer screen, reporting on a controversy at a June 7 meeting of the Dover Area School Board (DASB). The controversy was over whether or not the school district would purchase a new edition of the mainstream textbook Biology, by Ken Miller and Joe Levine. A school board member named William Buckingham claimed that Biology was "laced with Darwinism," that "[i]t's inexcusable to teach from a book that says man descended from apes and monkeys," and "[w]e want a book that gives balance to education." Buckingham and another board member, Alan Bonsell, both expressed support for finding a book that would teach both creationism and evolution. Addressing Max Pell, a recent graduate of Dover Area High School who noted during the public comment period that teaching creationism would violate the separation of church and state, Buckingham asked, "Have you ever heard of brainwashing?" and declared, "If students are taught only evolution, it stops becoming theory and becomes fact." Buckingham said that the separation of church and state was "a myth." Apparently to emphasize the point, Buckingham claimed, "This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution," adding "This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such."

The June 9 article in the York Dispatch contained an accurate summary of the legal situation, noting that a 1987 Supreme Court decision (Edwards v Aguillard) had barred teaching creationism in public school science classrooms. The article also quoted Rob Boston, a spokesperson for the civil liberties group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who stated the obvious: "Creationism isn't a science, it's religion, and any attempts to introduce creationism into public school science classes would most likely spark a lawsuit." He added, "The district would almost certainly lose a lawsuit like that. It's not even worth wasting the time and energy to consider."

In retrospect, all of these statements are highly significant, and sometimes prophetic, but at the time they did not seem particularly remarkable. It may sound surprising, but such news stories are not uncommon at the NCSE office. Demagogic politicians issuing blustery uninformed anti-evolution rhetoric are a dime a dozen. The fact that "intelligent design" was not even a part of the discussion early on indicated that the anti-evolutionism in Dover was of a fairly crude and unreconstructed sort. Talk of "monkeys" and "balance" — echoes, respectively, of the Scopes Monkey Trial and the creation scientists' "Balanced Treatment" legislation in the 1980s — only confirmed this impression.

Because the Edwards decision makes the law clear in this area, proposals to teach "creationism" typically fade away when the proponents learn that the Supreme Court settled the issue in 1987. The Dover situation simmered along throughout the summer and fall of 2004, but the opposition to the anti-evolutionists appeared to be strong, and the legal situation appeared to be deterring rash action. The Miller and Levine textbook was adopted after an acrimonious board meeting, and although the ID textbook Of Pandas and People was donated to the school a few weeks later, the newspapers seemed to indicate that a reasonable compromise had been reached. In October 2004, I was about to close the file on Dover. But on October 18, the DASB voted 6–3 to pass a policy inserting "intelligent design" into Dover's biology curriculum, using Pandas as a reference. On the morning of October 19, the front page of the York Daily Record screamed, in big bold type, "'Intelligent Design' voted in." Someone immediately faxed the headline to the NCSE office.

I distinctly recall walking into the office that morning. Genie Scott was already on the phone with someone about Dover, and she waved the newspaper headline at me as I walked past her office. In a true Homer Simpson moment, I slapped my forehead in shock. Evidently the DASB was bound and determined to bring a test case on the constitutionality of "intelligent design".

Set-up

Little did we know that fights over evolution had been going on behind the scenes in Dover for years before outsiders learned about it. We also did not know that the Thomas More Law Center had been seeking a test case on "intelligent design" for at least five years, and that it was TMLC that had encouraged the board to adopt the "intelligent design" terminology and the ID textbook Of Pandas and People as a recommended text, on the understanding that they would represent the school district when the inevitable court challenge came. Because of these behind-the-scenes facts, Dover was destined to develop into the famous case that attracted attention around the world, and by virtue of having been assigned the Dover flare-up at the NCSE office, I was put right in the middle of it.

The Dover ID policy and the initial steps in the Kitzmiller case, filed on December 14, 2004, were described in a previous article, "Design on trial" (RNCSE 2005 Sep/Oct; 24 [5]: 4–9). In late 2004, NCSE joined the plaintiffs' legal team as a pro bono consultant and was included as a core part of the team from the start. Over a dozen lawyers and legal staffers eventually participated in the case. The lead attorneys were Eric Rothschild and Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton, Vic Walczak of the Pennsylvania ACLU, and Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The lawyers were superb in every way, but it is worth noting that NCSE also made some early contributions to the language of the initial complaint, and to the philosophy of the case, that in retrospect proved very important.

Everyone knew that this case would be about "intelligent design". However, NCSE staff repeatedly emphasized the bigger picture, which was that language reflecting the "evidence against evolution" approach (the "gaps/problems" and "theory, not fact" wording in the Dover policy) also needed to be addressed in order to minimize problems associated with dealing with this argument in the future. We argued that because ID is easier to defeat than "evidence against evolution" language, we should try to discredit the latter by linking it with the former. We pointed out that the legal team should take advantage of the link in the Dover policy between the "gaps/problems" and "intelligent design" language since we might not again have the opportunity to connect them in some future lawsuit.

A supporting point we made was that ID itself, as exemplified in Pandas and other ID literature, consists almost entirely of "evidence against evolution", with only a vague argument from analogy presented as the positive explanation for biological complexity. These points became themes in the trial, and were emphasized in the plaintiffs' Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Judge Jones accepted this reasoning, issuing a massive and devastating 139-page opinion that ruled broadly against ID and the various anti-evolution euphemisms in the Dover policy. The ruling was hailed internationally, and the aftershocks are still being felt. For example, the Kitzmiller ruling clearly contributed to the overturning of Ohio's "critical analysis of evolution" lesson plan in February 2006 (details to follow in the next issue of RNCSE). Various other aftershocks may yet come.

How was this amazing result achieved? It was clearly the result of coordinated action on the part of many involved people and organizations. I will concentrate here on my own work in this case, which made up perhaps 5% of the total. Much of the other 95% I only learned about while sitting through the trial, and some of it I am still learning about as I review the case history and legal filings. Imagine an artistic masterpiece such as a famous painting or symphony, the culmination of a lifetime of training and practice. Then imagine getting twenty such masterpieces from lawyers, academics, and creationism nerds and somehow putting it together seamlessly into a court case. Melodramatic this may be, but it gives you some idea of how the Kitzmiller decision came about.

Experts

In the spring of 2005, I was given two main assignments: helping to prepare the plaintiffs' expert witnesses and helping to prepare the lawyers to cross-examine the defense experts. After the Kitzmiller case was filed, Judge Jones put the case on an expedited schedule, setting the trial for the coming fall. The discovery period of the case, when each side may gather evidence through document requests, subpoenas, depositions, and so on, ran through June 15. Expert witnesses would have to be declared on March 1, and expert reports stating the content of their trial testimony would have to be produced on April 1. Rebuttal experts, if any, would be declared by April 15. Sworn depositions would be conducted in May and June.

NCSE suggested the experts for the plaintiffs, whom the legal team discussed. The lawyers chose Kenneth Miller (biology), Robert Pennock (philosophy of science), Jack Haught (theology), Brian Alters (education), Barbara Forrest (history of ID), and Kevin Padian (paleontology). Jeffrey Shallit (mathematics and probability) was added later as a rebuttal expert. Alters and Forrest, of course, are on the NCSE board of directors, and Kevin Padian is president of the board. The ID expert list originally consisted of the A-team: Michael Behe (biochemistry), Scott Minnich (microbiology), William Dembski (philosophy and mathematics), John Angus Campbell (rhetoric of science), Warren Nord (religion in education), Dick Carpenter (education), with Stephen Meyer (philosophy of science) and Steve Fuller (philosophy of science) added as rebuttal experts. This list included five Discovery Institute fellows and most of the "heavy hitters" in the ID movement.

The story of the drafts

Starting with the plaintiffs' experts, I primarily worked with Barbara Forrest, on the history of ID, and with Kenneth Miller, our anti-Behe expert. Eric Rothschild and I knew that defense expert Michael Behe was the scientific centerpoint of the whole case — if Behe was found to be credible, then the defense had at least a chance of prevailing. But if we could debunk Behe and the "irreducible complexity" argument — the best argument that ID had — then the defense's positive case would be sunk. Kenneth Miller prepared an excellent expert witness report, but I suggested that he reference a number of recent papers that had been published on the evolution of new genes, the flagellum, blood-clotting, and particularly the immune system. Since expert testimony is technically limited to the contents of the expert report, it was important include every topic that might be important to discuss. When we got to trial, Miller included segments on each of these topics, all of which were used in Jones's opinion as refuting the arguments of the ID movement and of Behe specifically.

Barbara Forrest was the expert who would have to make the connection between the ID movement and creationism. She had, of course, co-authored Creationism's Trojan Horse, on the origins and history of the Discovery Institute, the "Wedge document", and the leaders of the ID movement. However, the Discovery Institute only established the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in 1996. Of Pandas and People, which is the first book to use the terms "intelligent design" and "design proponents" systematically, and which presents all of the modern ID arguments, was published in 1989. The creationist origin of Pandas and the "intelligent design" phraseology was not covered in detail in previous works on the history of ID, so my job was to dig up everything we could possibly find on the origin of Pandas and "intelligent design". The NCSE archives contain several files on Pandas and on the publisher of the book, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE).

Because Frank Sonleitner and John Thomas had done significant work analyzing the book and tracking FTE's activities in the 1980s and 1990s (see Of Pandas and People resources), I gathered advice and old files from both of them. I also rummaged through the relevant files in NCSE's archives and looked up various books and articles published by the Pandas authors, working through NCSE's collection of old creationist magazines and newspapers. Finally, I examined three recent books that give histories of the ID movement — Larry Witham's By Design and Where Darwin Meets the Bible, and Thomas Woodward's Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design. Although the role of Pandas in the ID movement is minimized in these sources, they nevertheless contained various useful tidbits from interviews with the "academic editor" of Pandas, Charles Thaxton, and other early players in the ID movement.

Examination of all of these sources together — apparently something that no one had taken the time and trouble to do before — revealed some interesting facts about the history of Pandas: (1) Thaxton and the book's authors were working on Pandas for about a decade before it was actually published in 1989; (2) in early references to the Pandas project in the 1980s, Thaxton and FTE's president John Buell described themselves and their work as "creationist" and about "creation" — not "intelligent design"; and (3) the label "intelligent design" was chosen for Pandas very late in the evolution of the book, almost as the last change made before publication. This all built a nice circumstantial case that ID developed from creationism, and this case is made in Barbara Forrest's first expert report, filed on April 1, 2005.

On about April 8, NCSE's then archivist Jessica Moran came across another document in a file in the NCSE archives: a prospectus for a book entitled Biology and Origins, sent to a textbook publisher in 1987. Somehow this ended up in the files of the late Thomas Jukes, a prominent molecular biologist and longtime NCSE supporter. In 1995, Jukes sent the page to NCSE with the handwritten note "I found this in an old file, but it is certainly fascinating!" The prospectus document indicated that Biology and Origins existed in draft form in 1987, and furthermore had been sent to school districts for testing as well as to prospective publishers. The existence of unpublished drafts of Pandas should have been obvious from the evidence mentioned in the previous paragraph, and references to Biology and Origins were known, but we thought of it as just a working title for Pandas. The prospectus document made it clear that Biology and Origins was an actual draft that was widely reproduced and sent out to publishers and reviewers, and also explicitly indicated that the book would "give students the scientific rationale for creation from the study of biology."

This discovery shed light on a rather important historical fact that had somehow been omitted from all previous histories of the origin of the "intelligent design" movement. It has always been obvious that ID arguments derived from creationist sources, but never in the wildest dreams of creationism watchers had it occurred to anyone that the phrase "intelligent design" had quite literally originated as a switch in terminology in an actual physical draft of an explicitly creationist textbook.

I summarized the situation, as I understood it at the time, to the legal team as follows, in a discussion of Dembski's expert report:

Dembski doesn't mention the "version 0" of Pandas, Biology and Origins, which is mentioned in some of the 1980s FTE fundraising letters and other material. I am reasonably sure that the word "creation" would be substituted for "design" or "intelligent design" at many points within that manuscript. This would prove our point in many ways. We have a couple written sources indicating that picking the words "intelligent design" was one of the very last things that Charles Thaxton did during the development of Pandas. We don't know:

(a) Whether any copies of Biology and Origins still exist, e.g. at FTE in Texas or in the files of Thaxton, Davis or Kenyon;

(b) Whether Dembski has seen them (based on the expert report, Dembski either doesn't know the prehistory of Pandas, or is leaving that out).

At the time, it was far from clear that creationist drafts of Pandas still existed. But Eric Rothschild knew what to do. He immediately issued a subpoena to the Foundation for Thought and Ethics for any documents relating to the origin and development of Biology and Origins and Of Pandas and People.

After a failed attempt to quash the subpoena, FTE coughed up the documents in early July. To our amazement, five major drafts were uncovered, and we were able to trace the switch in terminology from creationism to "intelligent design" to just after the Supreme Court's Edwards v Aguillard decision in 1987. Barbara Forrest included all of this in a supplementary expert report and in her testimony at trial, and it became a key piece of Judge Jones's opinion.

Although the Pandas drafts were obviously important in the Kitzmiller case, it is only slowly dawning on everyone just how significant they are. The drafts are nothing less than the smoking gun that proves exactly when and how "intelligent design" originated. This was probably the biggest discovery in creationism research since the finding that the Coso Artifact was actually a 1920s sparkplug (see RNCSE 2004 Mar/Apr; 24 [2]: 26–30). They prove that the cynical view of ID was exactly right: ID really is just creationism relabeled, and anyone who thought otherwise was either naively misinformed or engaging in wishful thinking.

Irreducible Complexity on Trial

The other half of the expert case was the cross-examination of the defense experts. NCSE staff divided up the defense experts to prepare our legal team for their depositions and cross-examination. I took Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, the two biology/irreducible complexity witnesses, and attended their depositions in May.

Three Defense expert witnesses — Discovery Institute fellows William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and John Angus Campbell —dropped out of the case and therefore did not testify, much to the disappointment of the NCSE staff assigned to their depositions (and presumably to the dismay of the defense). The reasons for this remain mysterious, although apparently the last news that Dembski received before withdrawing from his deposition was that Wesley Elsberry and Jeff Shallit planned to attend and pass questions to the lawyer (see "Can I keep a witness?" p 45).

When Eric Rothschild flew out to Berkeley for Kevin Padian's deposition, we discussed how to deal with Behe. One key result was convincing Rothschild that Behe's biggest weakness was the evolution of the immune system. This developed into the "immune system episode" of the Behe cross-examination at trial, where we stacked up books and articles on the evolution of the immune system on Behe's witness stand, and he dismissed them all with a wave of his hand. This clearly made a negative impression on Judge Jones, who mentioned the episode in his opinion. The details of this episode are reviewed in an essay I recently coauthored in Nature Immunology (2006; 7: 433–5; available on-line at http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v7/n5/pdf/ni0506-433.pdf).

The Train Ride

Everyone knows that the trial did not go well for the defense, and that the judge's decision was devastating, but what is not well known is that the case was actually lost between January and September 2005. A real trial, in front of the judge and the media, is like a train ride — by the time the trial gets going, it is too late to change course, find new evidence, or bring new passengers on the ride. In desperate circumstances, people can be thrown off the train (such as when the Defense dropped two more expert witnesses, Warren Nord and Richard Carpenter), but that is about it.

The trial began on September 26, 2005, and lasted for six weeks. My role was to observe the trial, work with the lawyers in the evenings and weekends, and prepare for the next day. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to the media, being careful not to provide details that would harm the case. However, few details were needed, because the daily events were so amazing and so damning for the defense and the ID movement that very little "spin" was needed.

It was clear throughout the trial that things were going badly for the defense. Whether the witness was an expert or fact witness, whether the topic was biochemistry or school board votes, ID was taking hits every time a plaintiffs' attorney was asking the questions — and sometimes when the defense attorneys were asking questions also. The plaintiffs' experts all gave the performances of their careers, bringing to bear years of actual experience and research on exactly the topics the ID movement loves to yammer on about: fossils, irreducible complexity, philosophy of science, and so on. Every scientific point was documented with scientific articles, usually from Science or Nature, and each article was put on the screen for everyone to see, and then entered into evidence as an exhibit. Of Pandas and People took fire from all directions as just another poorly informed anti-evolution polemic with some last-minute editing to introduce the "intelligent design" terminology. Barbara Forrest made a massively documented case that ID really was — as her book had said long before the Pandas drafts were discovered — "creationism's Trojan horse." On cross-examination, the plaintiffs' experts if anything outdid themselves. The Thomas More Law Center lawyers would try the usual ID talking points, but our experts had heard every single one dozens of times before, and would reply with a thorough analysis of the claim and the evidence against it.

The fact side of the case was equally impressive. For some reason, the defense insisted that every single one of the 11 Dover parents who were plaintiffs testify in court. As a result, all of them took the stand and explained exactly why they had joined the suit. Each had a powerful reason — protecting their children's education and their right to teach their children religion themselves. Outsiders might naively think that Dover's one-minute ID statement was not a big deal, but the impact on the Dover community was enormous, precisely because the core issue was that the government was getting involved in promoting particular religious beliefs. The community was torn apart over the issue, and plaintiffs and their children were accused of being atheists and unpatriotic.

After three weeks of continuous bombardment, the defense finally got its chance to attempt a reply, leading off with their star witness, Michael Behe. Due to the withdrawal of the other leading ID experts, it was up to Behe to make the entirety of the case for ID, and apparently he saw his testimony as his chance to prove all of his critics wrong once and for all. The result was a confused mishmash of standard ID talking points and graphics, continuations of old arguments with his numerous critics, argument-by-quote-mine, and soporific bits of biochemistry that I am pretty sure made sense to no one in the court room. One thing Behe did not present was any empirical research testing the ID claims — something that the plaintiffs had repeatedly emphasized as important in their direct case, presenting examples where evolutionary models had been tested and the results published in the research literature. Complaints about your opponents do not a scientific case make. And unfortunately for Behe, "complaining" really describes his testimony rather well. Unlike the cheerful plaintiffs' experts, Behe came across as embittered and downright angry at the scientific community at large — particularly the National Academy of Sciences — for not taking his objections to evolution seriously.

Behe's direct testimony went on for nearly two full days. By the time he got to talking about how Kenneth Miller had wronged him in a debate about the lac operon back in 1999, the courtroom was asleep. Then the cross-examination began.

Unbeknown to Behe, Eric Rothschild had been plotting his cross-examination for months, with help from Kenneth Miller, Kevin Padian, me, and numerous others, including random members of the public offering unsolicited e-mail suggestions ("When you get Behe on the stand, you have to ask him this …"). Rothschild had assembled several dozen lines of questioning that would dissect the irreducible complexity argument, its various supporting examples, and perhaps more importantly the indignant rhetoric that Behe uses to give the impression of an impressive scientific case. Rothschild showed numerous contradictions between Behe's statements and the published evidence (for example, the immune system episode), and between different statements made by Behe. A particularly impressive example of the latter involved blood-clotting.

Rothschild noticed something that I had not in the 1993 edition of Pandas: in 1993, Behe (who wrote the blood-clotting section on p 141–6 of the 1993 Pandas, although he is not listed as an author) defined the irreducibly complex blood-clotting system differently than he did in his 1996 Darwin's Black Box. In 1993, Behe said that if an organism had only the four core components of the blood-clotting system ("Stuart factor and his friends," as Rothschild put it), it would have a nonfunctioning system and would die. However, in 1996, Behe, presumably having become aware of the fact that there is a fair bit of variability in vertebrate blood-clotting systems, said that those four proteins constituted "the system", and furthermore at trial, Behe criticized Ken Miller for ignoring this definition. Rothschild, with mock innocence and a big grin, pointed out the discrepancy, and then let Behe attempt to invent a rationale on the fly. Behe ended up coming up with yet another definition of "the system", but the point was made — Behe protected his irreducible complexity argument from what would otherwise be a clear falsification by redefining the "irreducibly complex system" at will. Contradictory evidence was dodged with word games, rather than accepted. Rothschild set up example after example of this sort of thing, and each time Behe would exercise his substantial powers of rationalization to paper over the problem, or define it away, or provide some excuse about why evolution had produced the scientific goods and ID had not.

Although the pretrial preparation work was the bulk of my contribution to the case, I was able to provide a little more help on the scene. For example, during his direct testimony, Behe claimed vehemently that Darwin's Black Box had received more peer-review than the typical journal article. He even named the reviewers. One was Michael Atchison, a veterinary professor at the University of Pennsylvania. However, I remembered reading an on-line article written by Atchison that told a different story. I gave the Atchison article to Rothschild, who read it to Behe during cross. In short, Atchison never read Behe's book; instead, he spent ten minutes on the phone with Behe's publisher in 1994. According to Atchison, "It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript" (see http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse). The implication of this and numerous other vignettes in Rothschild's cross was not that Behe was dishonest, but rather that he viewed the evolution debate through a set of filters so thick that no contradictory evidence could ever convince him he was wrong.

After the downfall of the mighty Michael Behe, the defense case was probably hopeless, but they gamely staggered on. Unfortunately every day just dug the hole deeper. The defendants — the pro-ID members of the Dover Area School Board — were shown to be either ignorant, liars, or in some cases, bigoted liars. Although the expert side of the case was important, the real heart of the case turned out to be William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell versus the beleaguered Dover science teachers. Cross-examination of the defense witnesses revealed step-by-step how the DASB had applied the screws to the teachers to attempt to get them to stop teaching evolution, despite the fact that teaching evolution was the teachers' job as mandated by the Pennsylvania science education standards. This, not any of the expert testimony, was the most important part of the case: for once, the outright intimidation of biology teachers — by far the most common, though rarely reported, anti-evolution problem in the US — was exposed in all its ugly glory, in open court for everyone to see.

Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton cross-examined Buckingham. Harvey is the nicest man you could ever meet, but somewhere deep down there is a bit of the classic movie lawyer — think of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. It was the movie lawyer who conducted the cross-examination of Buckingham. It turned out that Buckingham, who had said at his deposition that he didn't know who had donated the money to buy the Pandas books for the Dover school, had actually stood up in front of his church and taken up a collection to purchase the books. Harvey confronted Buckingham with a copy of the check that Buckingham had written, saying, "Mr Buckingham, you lied to me at your deposition on January 3rd, 2005. Isn't that true?" After a few minutes of Buckingham's quivering on the stand under such questions, Judge Jones had seen enough, saying "Mr Harvey … I get the point, and you've made the point very effectively."

Alan Bonsell, also caught lying by Harvey, did not experience a tonguelashing from Harvey, because in this case Judge Jones was so annoyed he stepped in and interrogated Bonsell himself. When a witness lies in court, the integrity of the entire justice system is compromised, and Jones raised his voice for the only time in the entire six-week trial to point this out personally to Bonsell, who was reduced from confident gum-chewing to meek apologies.

Against this backdrop, the testimony of the two surviving defense experts, though genuine, had an air of unreality about it. Steve Fuller, a prolific professor from the United Kingdom who studies the sociology of science and who is a fellow traveler with the ID movement, attempted to make the case that it was those in the scientific establishment who were the "meanies" — a bizarre argument in light of the events in Dover. Fuller did not help the Defense case much when he conceded that, yes, ID was creationism, nor when he stated that he believed science needed to have "an affirmative action strategy with regard to disadvantaged theories".

In the last week of the case, everyone began to realize that they were living through and participating in a piece of history. Analogies to the Scopes trial and the McLean v Arkansas trial were a regular feature of discussions. The presence of national media and several documentary filmmakers added to this feeling (one of the journalists/documentarians was Matthew Chapman, a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin himself — and frankly looking a bit like the pre-beard Darwin in his 50s — who regularly sat at the front end of the jury box, glowering at the ID witnesses as if the very spirit of Darwin had showed up to observe the proceedings). As if that weren't enough, Robert Gentry, the final creation-science witness in McLean, pitched up in Harrisburg to watch the last few days of the Kitzmiller trial. He even held a press conference in the nearby state capitol building, giving the same old lines about how polonium halos proved a young earth and how the judge and Brent Dalrymple snubbed him back in 1981.

Scott Minnich, the final witness, probably performed the best of any of the defense witnesses, mostly through his reasonable demeanor and much shorter presentation. However, he had nothing new to add beyond what Behe said and was much less adept at dancing away from contradictory evidence than was Behe. The most memorable episode on cross came with Harvey's first questions, in which Harvey put up young-earth creationist articles (another NCSE contribution), showing that they used the bacterial flagellum in exactly the same way that Behe did, years and even decades before Behe's 1996 book. The ID jig was clearly up at this point in the case and the plaintiffs were just running up the score. This is probably why little attention was paid when Minnich gave away the store yet again. In response to a question from Harvey about evil designs in nature — such as the Type III secretion system, which the bubonic plague bacterium uses to inject toxins into human cells, and which Minnich studies for a living — Minnich replied that such issues were questions of "theodicy". Theodicy is the part of theology that deals with defending the benevolence and omnipotence of God in the face of suffering and evil; Minnich's remark thus bolstered the plaintiffs' case that ID was all about God after all.

On Friday afternoon of the sixth week, Rothschild and Gillen gave closing arguments for each side. Rothschild masterfully wove together all of the threads of the case, putting special emphasis on the eerie parallels between the local situation in Dover, where the school board had adopted ID and denied they wanted to teach creationism, despite abundant written evidence to the contrary, and the national ID movement, which had performed exactly the same operation on a grand scale after the 1987 Edwards decision (see p 26). Gillen's closing argument was not particularly memorable, but he redeemed himself just as the judge was about to close the proceedings:

THE COURT: Counsel, do you have anything further before we adjourn these proceedings? From the plaintiffs?

MR. ROTHSCHILD: No, Your Honor. Thank you.

THE COURT: From the defendants?

MR. GILLEN: Your Honor, I have one question, and that's this: By my reckoning, this is the 40th day since the trial began and tonight will be the 40th night, and I would like to know if you did that on purpose.

THE COURT: Mr. Gillen, that is an interesting coincidence, but it was not by design.

(Laughter and applause.)

With that, I declare the trial portion of this extended case adjourned.

Everyone in the fully-packed courtroom stood up, clapping, as the judge walked out. At this point I halfway expected a movie director to emerge and shout, "Cut it, print it!" This was one of those moments where real life and fiction merged.

A long press conference followed outside the courthouse, where the plaintiffs and their legal team finally felt that they could speak freely to the press without "giving away" any elements of the case. Then followed the post-trial party in downtown Harrisburg where the ACLU handed out little stuffed monkey dolls.

Post-trial

After the trial was finished we still had several weeks of work as the lawyers assembled the Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, a massive task in a six-week case. Primarily I helped the lawyers with the science aspects of these documents (I recall clarifying for one lawyer that organisms and organs are not the same — your NCSE dollars at work!). Once all of this was done, we had a few weeks where we could attempt to catch up with other business. On December 20, 2005, the decision came down, a grand slam home run. I was particularly gratified to see the science section of the case, which contains an amazingly erudite discussion of the science of evolution and the scientific problems with the ID arguments. I imagine that Kitzmiller is the only decision in existence where "exaptation" makes an appearance. December 20 was certainly the biggest media day in NCSE history, with the phone ringing off the hook from 8 am until the evening. Staff participated in several television interviews that week as well as many radio shows.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the aftershocks to Kitzmiller continue. The case was for "intelligent design" exactly what McLean was for "creation science" — the beginning of the end. It is hard to say if there will be an Edwards-like Supreme Court case for ID. The current situation in Kansas could potentially end up there, but first creationist members of the Kansas board of education have to survive the 2006 elections. Regardless, history shows that anti-evolutionism does not disappear after defeat in the courts: it merely evolves. But when it does, NCSE will be there to keep an eye on it.
 

About the Author(s): 

Nick Matzke
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
matzke@ncseweb.org

My Role in Kitzmiller v Dover

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
My Role in Kitzmiller v Dover
Author(s): 
Barbara Forrest, Southeastern Louisiana University
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
47–48
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Philosophers expect to be in classrooms, not courtrooms. Yet in October 2005 I found myself in federal court as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al v Dover Area School District. As the co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse, which documents that "intelligent design" (ID) is both a religious belief and an extension of traditional creationism, I was called to demonstrate this to Judge John E Jones III, who presided over this first ID legal case. While writing the book, my co-author Paul Gross and I knew that creationists at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) had worked for almost a decade to foment a legal test case. This is part of their plan to undermine the teaching of evolution and to "renew" American culture by restoring what they believe is the country’s properly religious foundation. We had therefore taken care to solidify our argument with the best evidence available: the words of ID creationists themselves. This evidence proved invaluable in my testimony as a Kitzmiller expert witness.

The Kitzmiller case was the result of the CSC’s relentless execution of its Wedge Strategy, a well-financed PR campaign aimed at the media, the public, and educational policymakers. CSC creationists have outlined their tactics and goals in "The Wedge Strategy", informally called the "Wedge Document" (various versions of this document are available on-line, including http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html). Preparing for an eventual lawsuit, they broadcast their legal arguments in a 2000 Utah Law Review article. Earlier, in Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook, a 1999 publication aimed at school officials, they explicitly argued that teaching ID is legal. Their long-sought opportunity to use these arguments came in fall 2004 in the form of the Dover Area School Board’s policy requiring teachers to read a statement endorsing ID as an alternative scientific theory. Yet the Discovery Institute wanted no part of this policy. Despite its Wedge strategy goal to achieve "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies," their legal bravado melted away like a snowball in August. What happened?

What happened is that the efforts of pro-science activists, with NCSE’s assistance, have taken their toll. Pushing back against the CSC’s attempts to get ID into their science curricula, concerned citizens in Kansas, Ohio, and elsewhere fought to thwart ID creationists’ plans to hijack their schools. In Kitzmiller, they were joined by eleven courageous parents in tiny Dover, Pennsylvania. Scholars and scientists exposed ID as a creationist sham in books and essays. Consequently, CSC creationists now disavow their own terminology, running like scared rabbits from proposals to teach "intelligent design". They urge supporters to disguise pro-ID policy proposals with code words such as teaching "evidence against evolution". After more than a decade promoting "intelligent design", ID creationists now consider this term a legal liability. But when the Dover board, supported by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), refused to play its linguistic game, the CSC had to face the unpleasant reality that it had lost control of its own agenda. However much it wanted to forestall the Dover trial, it was powerless to do so.

The smoking gun

I had two responsibilities as a witness: (1) to present and analyze empirical data that would demonstrate to Judge Jones that ID is merely a new strain of creationism and, as such, a religious belief; and (2) to show that Of Pandas and People is a creationist textbook. These tasks were not difficult; ID creationists had provided me with excellent resources such as the Wedge strategy. Walking the judge through this document, I explained its major points, which establish that ID is not merely religion in a general sense, but sectarian Christian apologetics. I quoted relevant statements such as this one: "Alongside a focus on influential opinion makers, we [ID creationists at the CSC] also seek to build up a popular base of support [for ID] among our natural constituency, namely Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars." I produced evidence showing that ID leaders themselves understand ID as both creationism and sectarian religion. Phillip Johnson, who developed the Wedge Strategy, defines ID as "theistic realism" or "mere creation". William Dembski, one of the strategy’s chief executors, defines it as "the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory."

But the "smoking gun" — as NCSE’s Nick Matzke put it — was Pandas. The NCSE archivist’s discovery in a 1981 creationist newspaper of an ad by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) seeking authors for a textbook that would be "sensitively written to present both evolution and creation" was an auspicious find. Interpreting the ad as a tip that FTE, publisher of Pandas, might have kept early drafts, plaintiffs’ attorneys subpoenaed all documents related to the book. Among the thousands of pages FTE produced were a 1983 and a 1986 draft, and two 1987 drafts, all written in blatantly creationist language. Beginning with the 1986 draft, "creation" was defined using the classic creationist concept of "abrupt appearance": "Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact — fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc." The 1989 and 1993 published versions preserve this definition verbatim, except that "intelligent design" and "agency" are substituted for "creation" and "creator", respectively.

My analysis of the drafts brought a memorable "Eureka" moment. Working late one night, I discovered a crucial difference between the two 1987 drafts: one was written before the Supreme Court’s 1987 Edwards v Aguillard decision outlawing creationism in public schools, and the other was obviously written afterwards. The first version contained blatant creationist terminology. In the second, creationist terminology had been deleted and replaced by "intelligent design" and other ID terms. A new footnote in the latter version referenced the Edwards decision, indicating a conscious attempt to circumvent the Edwards ruling in the revised manuscript that would become Pandas. The "search and replace" operation must have been done in a hurry: in the post-Edwards manuscript, "creationists" was not completely deleted by whoever tried to replace it with "design proponents". The hybrid term "cdesign proponentsists" now stands as a "missing link" between the blatantly creationist earlier drafts and the post-Edwards versions of Pandas.

Knowing that my testimony would make all of this information part of the legal record, the TMLC tried to have me excluded from the case. When they failed, the saviors of modern science at the Discovery Institute tried to discredit me with ridicule by posting on their website a fake interview of Dr "Barking" Forrest by a fictitious radio host. When I saw this unbelievable silliness prior to departing for the trial, I could only hope that Judge Jones was also consulting DI’s website in his preparation for the case.

Strong community roots

A great deal was at stake in the Kitzmiller case. "Intelligent design" creationism is the Discovery Institute’s logistical contribution to the Religious Right’s decades-long attack on public education and on church and state separation. Our last line of defense, the federal courts, is also in their crosshairs. The Kitzmiller team — NCSE staff, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, and the expert witnesses — understand well the importance of what we did in that courtroom. But we also know that the people most crucial to our success remain in Pennsylvania, doing their jobs as before. Without eleven parents who objected to their children’s education being sacrificed to someone else’s religious crusade, our expertise would have been useless. Without Dover’s science teachers who faced down a school board that tried to use their students in the service of an unconstitutional agenda, we would not have had such courage to inspire us. Without a judge who recognized the truth when we presented it to him and had the integrity to act accordingly, we would not be celebrating the December 2005 ruling for public education and the Constitution that has given our efforts a newly strengthened legal foundation. This is the kind of support we will need to sustain what promises to be a long commitment.

About the Author(s): 
Barbara Forrest
Department of History and Political Science
Southeastern Louisiana University
Hammond LA 70402
bforrest@selu.edu

The Dover Victory

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The Dover Victory
Author(s): 
Kevin Padian, NCSE President
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
1–2
Year: 
2006
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
49-50
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On the morning of December 20, 2005, we were sitting in the law offices of Pepper Hamilton in Harrisburg, waiting for the judge to deliver his verdict in the Dover trial. It was expected to come sometime that day, or maybe the next day; no one could be completely sure. We had heard that the decision was a long one. An office pool had been started, and the bets were in on what time the verdict would be announced. The waiting was getting unbearable. Finally, at about 10:30, the e-mailed attachment began showing up on the office computers. Immediately, people started to download it and print it out. And then, one by one, the whoops and hollers began to be heard from offices all over the floor.

The attorneys, being used to this sort of thing, immediately flipped to the back pages to learn the formal points of the ruling. What they read astounded them. The judge had given us everything we asked for. It was clear that he had carefully read all the testimony, and that he had bowed to no political pressure in rendering his decision. As we began to compare notes on the different passages of the verdict, the exhilaration quickly grew, and the sports metaphors started to come out. This was a grand slam, a shut-out, a slam-dunk. It was like winning the Super Bowl.

The judge agreed with the findings of fact that our side proposed: "intelligent design" was not science, but religion; the Dover school board had acted with a religious purpose; and bogus "evidence against evolution" could not be presented in classrooms as legitimate science. Going into the trial, it seemed that the second point was a sure thing. We felt confident that we could demonstrate the first point, but we did not know how the judge would react. We decided to go for the third point because we knew that if we didn’t, we would be doing this all over again in six months.

My role in the case, as the only full-time evolutionary biologist, was to explain the principles and methods of the field, and to show how the "intelligent design" proponents misrepresented and distorted them. We decided to focus on the Pandas book, because it embodies the teachings of the "intelligent design" movement, and because it was the specific text that the school board placed in the library for students to consult on "intelligent design".

Like many others in the case, I had never been a witness before, let alone an expert witness. In the months since the trial, people have often asked me if I was nervous testifying in a big trial like this. Quite the contrary: I had been waiting all of my professional life to do this. For decades, creationists had maintained that scientists are either deluded or are deluding the public, including their students. Creationists, including the "intelligent design" proponents, had boasted for years that their science was legitimate, that they were victims of discrimination, and that they would win if they ever got their day in court. Well, they got their day in court.

For me, to be able at last to explain in a public forum, under oath, what our science is really about, was the greatest opportunity that someone in my position could ever have. Winding up the case for the plaintiffs was like coming out in the ninth inning to shut down the ballgame. And this game took place on a level playing field, where you had to answer direct questions, even if you didn’t like them. The opposition found out that they couldn’t run and they couldn’t hide. They were questioned relentlessly about the very things they have tried so hard to hide from the public for over a decade: "Intelligent design" is religion, not science. That is now a finding of fact in federal court.

Bringing science to the public

I have been a scientist and an educator for over 30 years. I’ve taught middle school, high school, and university students. And so, in my testimony I was able to explain the science as well as to describe the effects on students of having bogus alternatives to that science taught in their classrooms. I focused on three major kinds of specific problems with the Pandas text. There are of course the general issues that science as a process and as a philosophy is completely misrepresented in this book. There is the further problem that no authors of Pandas are experts in the sciences that have to do with evolution, particularly those that I deal with. This was made clear by the judge in his decision, when he noted that my testimony went completely unrebutted by the other side, and when he accepted my testimony that there are no "intelligent design" proponents who are recognized authorities in any fields related to evolution.

The three major kinds of problems I dealt with were classification, macroevolution, and homology. Classification is based on ancestry, as Darwin showed. But "intelligent design" proponents, like other creationists, do not accept common ancestry of living things, so it is impossible for them to explain classification accurately to students. They also cannot explain macroevolution, because they do not accept that either. They just think it is impossible. They cannot describe it as the patterns and processes of evolution above the species level, because they do not even accept speciation. But the concept of homology was the truly puzzling one in the mix of ID daffynitions. The criteria of homology include relative position, development, and composition of tissues and elements; these were established well before Darwin. Darwin showed that common ancestry explains why the patterns of homology make sense. But the authors of Pandas even managed to distort a concept that is pre-Darwinian. And, perhaps emblematically, they could not even get the anatomy of the panda’s thumb right.

Most of my testimony was spent dissecting the major contentions of Pandas that related to macroevolution. One major implication of "irreducible complexity," as the ID proponents would have it, is that major adaptations cannot be assembled through natural processes of evolution. This is why they distort and misrepresent scientific knowledge on the subjects as they do. In fact, our evidence for many major transitions, including most of the ones discussed in Pandas, is very good. It was easy to show the scientific evidence that the Cambrian Explosion was not instantaneous, but was drawn out over 70 million years. It was a privilege and a pleasure to show the judge all the fossil animals with features transitional between living in water and living on land; between dinosaurs and birds; between mammal relatives who used two bones to articulate the jaws and other relatives who used the same bones to link to the middle ear; and between land-living relatives of whales and the familiar marine behemoths of today.

The legacy of pseudoscience

It is bad enough that "intelligent design" proponents distort and misrepresent legitimate science as they do. More disturbing are the consequences of treating a religious proposition as if it were scientific. To maintain that it is scientific to search for an ultimate designer implies that scientists can ask questions about who the "designer" is and what his attributes are, even though the ID proponents will do anything to avoid this. That will not stop students from asking such questions. They will ask why a designer could not make biological processes capable of giving a flagellum to a bacterium. They will want to know, if a designer is capable of intervening in the affairs of life, why this "agency" does not do so more often to relieve pain and suffering. They will wonder of what use is prayer. These are not hypothetical questions. My students have already raised them. For the ID crowd not to have ready answers to these questions, but to abrogate the responsibility to deal with them even as they demand that teachers do so, is, I believe, criminally negligent.

In the end, to teach "intelligent design" is to mislead students about scientific evidence and concepts, and to lead them toward an outmoded and poorly conceived theology as a replacement for empirical knowledge. To teach that "intelligent design" is science, as I said in the trial, is to make people stupid. This kind of stupidity is worse than ignorance, because people who are ignorant have simply not learned yet; whereas to be misled about common understanding is to be made stupid. It is difficult to imagine a bigger waste of time or tax dollars, or to imagine a more grievous assault on the integrity of science and science education.

This victory is due to the teachers and plaintiffs of Dover, Pennsylvania; to our crack legal team; to our NCSE staff, without whom the plaintiffs could not have prepared the scientific and historical case; to our expert witnesses; and to the supporters of NCSE. This victory is for all of us, and especially for the students who will receive a decent science education.

About the Author(s): 
Kevin Padian
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
kpadian@berkeley.edu

Review: Traipsing into Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
1–2
Date: 
January–April
Page(s): 
61–63
Reviewer: 
Tim Beazley
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Traipsing into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller v Dover Decision
Author(s): 
David K DeWolf, John G West, Casey Luskin, and Jonathan Witt
Seattle (WA): Discovery Institute Press, 2006; 123 pages.
When Judge Jones ruled that the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School Board had violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by mandating a brief statement in biology class about “intelligent design” (ID), he characterized Dover’s action as “breathtaking inanity” (Kitzmiller v Dover, p 138 of the memorandum opinion). Traipsing purports to rebut Jones’s opinion, but virtually every page contains serious factual, legal, or analytical errors; out-of-context quotes; or inconsistent, irrelevant, or trivial arguments — so the rebuttal is very weak.

For example, the introduction accuses Jones of judicial overreach, partly because Jones ruled Dover’s action unconstitutional for two reasons: 1) it had no legitimate secular purpose; and 2) its primary effect would be religious, since ID has no scientific merit. The authors argue that the first reason was sufficient by itself to invalidate Dover’s policy; therefore it was overreaching for Jones to embarrass ID by adding the second reason (p 10–1). That accusation is groundless. When there are several possible justifications for a particular decision, it is common practice for judges to rule on each one. That way, even if appellate courts reject one justification, they might still sustain one of the alternative justifications. It is inexplicable that the authors, two of whom are attorneys, seem to be unaware of such a routine practice.

Chapter 1 says that Jones’s view of ID’s history was partisan, partly because he relied on “polemical ID critics” such as Barbara Forrest (p 20), who testified about ID proponents’ religious statements and creationist connections (Forrest 2005: 133–9 is a typical example). The authors label her testimony “ad hominem attacks” (p 68), which creates the impression that it was improper. Forrest’s testimony, however, merely showed that ID-proponents might be biased. Introducing evidence of bias is entirely legitimate, even according to ID’s own “intellectual godfather” Phillip Johnson (Johnson 1997: 40–1), and occurs in countless thousands of trials. It is unfortunate that the authors used such a prejudicial term for another routine practice.

Chapter 2 attacks Jones’s rejection of ID as science. Seemingly oblivious to the importance of context in interpreting precedents, the authors cite Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals for the proposition that Jones placed too much emphasis on ID’s lack of peer-review (p 54–6); but every lawyer knows (or should know) that rules announced in one context do not necessarily apply in others. Daubert involved a medical malpractice case, not public school education; two private parties, not the government; the interpretation of a procedural rule of evidence, not the constitutionality of a biology curriculum; a jury of adults, not a class of young students; and scientific evidence which was genuinely new, not a theory which, according to the authors, dates back to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (p 17). Where exactly is the similarity of context that makes the authors think Daubert applied to Kitzmiller? Complaining that Jones did not follow Daubert makes about as much sense as complaining that Steven Spielberg did not put any sharks in Schindler’s List.

Michael Behe’s essay at the end of the book (Appendix A; p 79–92) also attacks Jones’s rejection of ID as science. Jones ruled that ID’s negative arguments, in which alleged evidence against evolution is taken as evidence for ID, are illogical, because they are based on a contrived dualism or “false dichotomy” (Kitzmiller, p 64, 71). Behe responds by describing a theoretically valid dichotomy, the essential features of which are that it has two causes, natural and intelligent, which theoretically are cumulatively exhaustive (no other causes exist) and mutually exclusive (the two causes never interact) (p 80). The problem is that the essential features of Behe’s theoretical dichotomy are missing from the negative arguments that ID-proponents — including Behe himself — actually use. Behe seems not to understand that valid dichotomies are like sensible diets: they do not work if we do not follow them.

Jones also rejected ID’s arguments comparing biochemical systems to man-made machines, partly because some of the essential features relevant to the comparison were so dissimilar (Kitzmiller, p 79–82). Since Behe relies so heavily on such comparisons, one might expect his rebuttal here to be sharply focused. Instead, he resorts to frivolous word-games. Jones called the comparisons “analogies” or “inductions” at various times. Behe seizes on that, claims (without explanation) that there is a crucial difference between the two words, and accuses Jones of inconsistency (p 89). Some authorities, however, view analogies as a type of induction (Moore and Parker 2001: 392). Under that view, Jones’s alleged “inconsistency” disappears, making Behe’s argument appear not only frivolous, but wrong. Furthermore, although Behe denies that ID’s argument is an analogy (p 89), he repeatedly used that word himself, explicitly or implicitly, both in his testimony (Behe 2005a: 28, 74, 75; 2005b: 93; 2005c: 59) and in his book Darwin’s Black Box. “I liberally use analogies to familiar, everyday objects to get the ideas across” (Behe 1996: xii). Hair-splitting semantics aside, the point here is that playing word-games on important issues does not help Behe’s credibility.

Behe has his own problems with consistency. He originally indicated that irreducibly complex systems met the standard established by Darwin’s phrase: “could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications” (Behe 1996: 39). Under that standard, merely plausible evolutionary explanations would be effective rebuttals; but whenever evolutionists offer such explanations, Behe arbitrarily changes the standard to “rigorous, detailed explanations” (p 86). Moving the goalposts like that destroys the rigor of Behe’s argument.

Chapter 3 addresses religious issues. Claiming that ID’s religious implications are only indirect religious effects, the authors complain that Jones did not follow the precedent of Agostini v Felton, which held that an otherwise religiously neutral policy is not rendered unconstitutional merely because it has indirect religious effects (p 63–4). But Agostini explicitly emphasized that the challenged action — public school teachers leading remedial classes in sectarian schools — had no impact on curriculum content; while teaching ID obviously does. Given Agostini’s context, its support for ID seems highly dubious, even without considering the issue of whether ID is in fact religiously neutral.

The authors also take Jones’s seemingly innocuous statement that evolution is compatible with belief in God and interpret it as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion (p 68–70). Following that logic, ruling that Copernican theory is compatible with belief in God would also be unconstitutional. I doubt any court would accept such a strained interpretation.

Chapter 4 says Jones’s decision has limited precedential value, partly because district court decisions bind only the parties involved (p 73). Well, the McLean case was also a district level case, and yet it was essentially the death knell of creation science. Judge Overton’s decision there, following a full trial, exposed creation science’s flaws so effectively, that other courts, including the Supreme Court, subsequently disposed of similar cases by way of summary judgment, without wasting time on another full trial. That’s an ominous precedent indeed.

As for the rest of the book, the conclusion is a call to arms to protect academic freedom. Appendix A is Behe’s defense of ID as science. Appendix B contains a very short list of peer-reviewed publications allegedly supporting ID. Appendix C is a supporting brief from 85 scientists. Much of that is irrelevant; some of it contradicts arguments in other sections; none of it is very persuasive.

The fact that Traipsing, written by some of ID’s leading advocates, contains so many serious errors does not inspire confidence in ID’s scientific or constitutional vitality; rather it tends to confirm Judge Jones’s characterization: “breathtaking inanity.”

References



Behe MJ. 1996. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: The Free Press.
Behe MJ. 2005a. Trial transcript (Kitzmiller v Dover). http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/trans/2005_1018_day11_am.pdf. Last accessed on May 9, 2006.
Behe MJ. 2005b. Trial transcript (Kitzmiller v Dover). http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/trans/2005_1018_day11_pm.pdf. Last accessed on May 9, 2006.
Behe MJ. 2005c. Trial transcript (Kitzmiller v. Dover). http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/trans/2005_1019_day12_pm.pdf. Last accessed on May 9, 2006.
Forrest B. 2005. Trial transcript (Kitzmiller v Dover). http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/trans/2005_1005_day6_am.pdf. Last accessed on May 9, 2006.
Johnson PE. 1997. Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Downers Grove (IL): InterVarsity Press.
Moore BN, Parker R. 2001. Critical Thinking. 6th ed. Mountain View (CA): Mayfield Publishing Company.

Legal Cases Cited
Agostini v Felton. 521 US 203 (1997).
Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 US 579 (1993).
Kitzmiller v Dover Area School Board. 400 F Supp 2nd 707 (MD Pa 2005). Memorandum opinion available on-line at http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf. Last accessed on May 9, 2006.
McLean v Arkansas Board of Education. 529 F Supp 1255 (1982).

About the Author(s): 
Tim Beazley
5745 Friars Road, Unit 94
San Diego CA 92110
tbeazley@hotmail.com

RNCSE 26 (3)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
3
Year: 
2006
Date: 
May–June
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" link for list of articles in the print edition.

Print Edition Contents: 26 (3)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
3
Year: 
2006
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
2

News

  1. The "Grill the ID Guys" Event at Biola
    Robert Camp
    It was billed as a chance for ID advocates to confront their "toughest critics" — but in the end it was evasion and posturing.
  2. "Critical Analysis" Defeated in Ohio
    Glenn Branch
    After the Kitzmiller v Dover decision, the state board of education reconsidered the lesson plan and standard that many anti-evolutionists proclaimed as a model for undermining evolution education.
  3. Conservative Ohio Values Led to Change in Evolution Policy
    Martha Wise
    One member of the Ohio State Board of Education describes the reasoning behind the removal of the controversial "critical analysis of evolution" lesson plan.
  4. Updates
    News from Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

NCSE News

  1. News from the Membership
    Glenn Branch
    A sampling of our members' activities and accomplishments.
  2. NCSE Thanks You for Your Generous Support
    Recognizing those who have helped NCSE financially.

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology on Evolution
    A powerful affirmation of the importance of evolution education from FASEB, representing 22 scientific societies with 84 000 members.
  2. Books: Small Things Considered
    Books that examine evolutionary processes at the cellular and molecular levels.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    An NCSE speaker may be coming to your neighborhood. Check the calendar here.

ARTICLES

  1. The Evolution of Biological Complexity
    Finn Pond
    "Intelligent design" proponents argue that there is no naturalistic explanation for biological complexity at the molecular level. This article shows that there is not one, but many, different explanations of ways that biological complexity could arise naturally.
  2. A Common, Conserved Mechanism for all Polynucleotide Polymerases
    Michael Buratovich
    One of the mainstays of the Discovery Institute's "Supplemental Bibliography" is the diversity of complex biochemical pathways and the possibility of multiple derivations. This article shows how the conservation of fundamental functions and structures among these important and apparently diverse pathways reinforces the conclusion of common descent.

BOOK REVIEWS

  1. Darwinian Conservatism by Larry Arnhart
    Reviewed by Timothy Sandefur
  2. The First Humans: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors by Ann Gibbons
    Reviewed by Pat Shipman
  3. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Human Prehistory by Robert J Meier
    Reviewed by Anne Gilbert
  4. Who's Afraid of Charles Darwin? by Griet Vandermassen
    Reviewed by Linda D Wolfe
  5. Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial by Marvin Olasky and John Perry
    Reviewed by George Webb
  6. Fatal Flaws: What Evolutionists Don't Want You to Know by Hank Hanegraaff
    Reviewed by Michael Buratovich

"Critical Analysis" Defeated in Ohio

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
"Critical Analysis" Defeated in Ohio
Author(s): 
Glenn Branch
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
3
Year: 
2006
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
7–11
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The Ohio Board of Education voted 11–4 at its February 14, 2006, meeting to remove both the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan and the corresponding indicator — which called for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory" — in the state standards. Board member Martha Wise, who spearheaded the drive to eliminate the anti-evolution material, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer (2006 Feb 15), "I’m ecstatic ... It’s a win for science, a win for students and a win for the state of Ohio."

The genesis of "critical analysis"

The "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan corresponds to a similarly controversial indicator in the Ohio state science standards, which called for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." When the indicator was introduced, it was widely feared that it would provide a pretext for the introduction of creationist misrepresentations of evolution. The lesson plan proved these fears to be justified. As originally submitted, entitled "The Great Macroevolution Debate", it was riddled with scientific inaccuracies and pedagogical infelicities, and it even explicitly relied on a number of creationist publications.

Facing such criticisms, the proponents of the lesson plan revised it, but only cosmetically — removing the references to creationist publications and eliminating a number of the glaring errors, but leaving intact the basic structure, the choice of topics (which is indebted to Jonathan Wells’s notoriously misleading book Icons of Evolution), and the overall goal of instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. Even as revised, the lesson plan was condemned by the National Academy of Sciences and the Ohio Academy of Sciences, which told Ohio governor Bob Taft (R) that it was "defective because it is not science and has no place in the science curriculum."

Nevertheless, the revision was enough to satisfy a majority of the members of the board. On March 9, 2004, a motion to reject the lesson plan failed by a vote of 10–7, and the whole model curriculum, including the flawed "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, was then adopted by a 13–5 vote. Although teachers were not required to use the model curriculum, it was expected to be widely used because it is based on the standards that also provide the basis for statewide testing. Although there was talk shortly after the March 2004 vote of the possibility of a lawsuit over the lesson plan, the public discussion of the plan subsided for a time.

A related controversy surfaced, though, involving a primary author of the lesson plan, Bryan Leonard. In addition to teaching biology at a high school in the Columbus suburb of Hilliard, Leonard was also pursuing a doctoral degree in science education from the Ohio State University. Testifying at the "kangaroo court" hearings on evolution in Kansas in May 2005, Leonard told a subcommittee of the Kansas state board of education, "the way in which I teach evolution in my high school biology class is that I teach the scientific information, or in other words, the scientific interpretations both supporting and challenging macroevolution."

Leonard's testimony in Kansas aroused the curiosity of three OSU professors, who ascertained the topic of Leonard's dissertation: "When students are taught the scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution, do they maintain or change their beliefs over time? What empirical, cognitive and/or social factors influence students' beliefs?" They consequently wrote in a letter to the interim dean of the graduate school, "We note a fundamental flaw: There are no valid scientific data challenging macroevolution. Mr Leonard has been misinforming his students if he teaches them otherwise" (quoted in The Lantern 2005 Jun 23).

The composition of Leonard’s dissertation committee was also disputed. Inside Higher Ed (2005 Jun 10) reported, "Under Ohio State rules, two members of Leonard's dissertation committee should have been in the science education division. But the three members of the committee were in the fields of technology education, entomology and nutrition." Two of those three are supporters of the "intelligent design" movement. After the graduate school representative on the committee that was to hear Leonard's defense of his dissertation resigned and was replaced by the Dean of the College of Biological Sciences, the defense was postponed, apparently at the request of Leonard’s advisor.

A spokesman for the university was eager to disavow Leonard's dissertation research, telling Inside Higher Ed, "It's a mischaracterization to say that the university was about to award a degree supporting 'intelligent design' or anything else. What we had was a dissertation defense scheduled," adding, "The university was not anywhere close to legitimizing anything that was not close to the caliber for which we give doctoral degrees." Nevertheless, the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan to which Leonard contributed was still in place, with the board’s imprimatur, and it was unclear whether it would be challenged.

"Critical analysis" challenged

Then, on December 20, 2005, in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, the decision in Kitzmiller v Dover was issued: teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was found to be unconstitutional. Subsequently, the prospect of a lawsuit over the lesson plan was re-ignited in Ohio. Robin Hovis, a member of the board, told the Columbus Dispatch (2006 Jan 8), "I think the ruling is a wake-up call to our board that we are out of compliance, at least in that judge's opinion," adding, "I think it would be very unfortunate of us to subject the state of Ohio to costly litigation."

Adding to the pressure on the board was the revelation that the lesson plan was adopted by the board despite warnings from the Ohio Department of Education, whose experts described it as wrong, misleading, and even manifesting "fringe thinking". A marvelously detailed article in the weekly Cleveland Free Times (2006 Jan 31) reported, "at least one unnamed ODE staff scientist debunked all eight arguments Leonard had used to challenge evolution. The scientist's comments run the gamut of 'the challenging answer oversimplifies' to 'the challenging answer is wrong' to 'off-topic' to 'the underlined sentence about transitional fossils is a lie.'"

These warnings about the flaws in the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan were contained in documents obtained by Americans United for Separation of Church and State pursuant to a public records act request. Joseph Conn, a spokesman for Americans United, told the Dispatch (2006 Jan 8), "We've only gotten part of what we’ve asked for, but we see much of the same pattern of introducing religion through a backdoor means." Patricia Princehouse, a philosopher and evolutionary biologist at Case Western Reserve University and a leader of Ohio Citizens for Science, added, "The documents demonstrate this board had a religious intent and that board members who said they had no idea this was bad science lied."

The state’s major newspapers editorially urged the board to take the opportunity to remove the lesson plan and even the corresponding standard. The Dispatch, for example, observed (2006 Jan 10), "It's misleading for the standards to require that Ohio students describe how 'scientists today continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.' The not-so-subtle suggestion is that evolution is on shakier scientific ground than all other theories," and concluded, "The board should do Ohio children a giant favor and, at the same time, spare taxpayers the risk of costly litigation. Drop this bogus standard and its 'disclaimer'."

At the January 10, 2006, meeting of the board, however, a proposal, introduced by Martha Wise, to remove the lesson plan from the model curriculum was narrowly defeated in a 9–8 vote. The meeting was reportedly acrimonious; the Dispatch (2006 Jan 11) reported that after Wise observed that it had been the intention of at least two members to introduce "intelligent design" into the state science standards, her fellow board members Michael Cochran and Deborah Owens-Fink — both firm supporters of the lesson plan — took umbrage. Robin Hovis reminded the board that Owens-Fink had, in fact, introduced a proposal to teach "intelligent design" previously.

The acrimony was not confined to the members of the board. After reviewing videotapes of the meeting, the Dispatch (2006 Jan 20) described a number of board members — particularly Cochran and Owens-Fink — as "badgering and berating" the witnesses who testified about the flaws in the lesson plan. At one point, Cochran began to read a newspaper while Brian McEnnis, a professor of mathematics at the Ohio State University, was speaking; when McEnnis remonstrated, Cochran interrupted both McEnnis and then the president of the board when she sought to intervene. Interviewed by a Dispatch reporter, Cochran and Owens-Fink offered no apology (although they reportedly did later, at the February board meeting).

Both the vote to retain the lesson plan and the behavior of the board members who supported it received criticism from the state’s newspapers. The Toledo Blade"s editorial (2006 Jan 14) was especially outspoken, describing the nine board members who voted in favor of the lesson plan as "right-wing ideologues" and the board as a whole as "a painful carbuncle on the posterior of state government." The Dispatch (2006 Jan 15) noted that "[r]egardless of how board members cast their votes, they owe the people who come before them their attention and respect" and recommended that voters bear it in mind at the next election.

The demise of "critical analysis"

During the January meeting, Cochran tried to defend the lesson plan by referring to the grade of B that Ohio’s science standards recently received in a report conducted by the Fordham Foundation, as if to imply that the authors of the report approved of the lesson plan as well. In response, the authors, led by the eminent biologist Paul R Gross, issued a statement reading, in part, "Any suggestion that our ‘B’ grade for Ohio’s standards endorses sham critiques of evolution, as offered by creationists, is false. ... If creationism-driven arguments become an authorized extension of Ohio’s K–12 science standards, then the standards will deserve a failing grade."

The furor over the meeting evidently sparked the interest of Governor Taft, who told the Dispatch (2006 Feb 3) that there should be a legal review of the lesson plan to ensure that the state is not vulnerable to a lawsuit. "The governor also said he should have asked his previous appointees to the State Board of Education more questions about their position on the controversial issue and that he will be asking about it before making future appointments," the Dispatch also reported. Eight of the seats on the board of education are appointed by the governor, and four of these are due to be vacant at the end of the year; Governor Taft’s term expires in 2007.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to Governor Taft dated February 7, 2006, a large majority (75%) of the members of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee, which helped to develop the Ohio state science standards in 2002, protested the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, describing it as "a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio’s science classrooms," "wholly without merit," and "a disservice to Ohio’s children and an insult to the intelligence of its good citizens".

A further hopeful sign, in addition to the remarks of Governor Taft and the letter from the members of the advisory committee, was that one of the two members of the board who were absent from the January 10 meeting, Virgil Brown, told the Dispatch (2006 Jan 12) that he was ready to "withdraw or amend" the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan, encouraging defenders of evolution education in the Buckeye State. Although consideration of the lesson plan was not on the agenda for the next meeting, it was clear that pressure was mounting on the board to take action.

At the February meeting of the board, Colleen Grady presented a proposal, seconded by Carl Wick, for the board to ask the state attorney general to conduct a legal analysis of the standards and the lesson plan. Martha Wise then introduced a motion, seconded by Robin Hovis, to amend Grady’s proposal by substituting her own, which called for the removal of both the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan and the corresponding indicator in the state standards. Wise’s proposal included a provision to reinstate the Ohio Academy of Science’s definition of science in the standards; Eric Okerson introduced a motion, seconded by Sam Schloemer, which substituted a charge to the board’s Achievement Committee to consider whether to replace the removed lesson plan and indicator.

After a protracted discussion, the president of the school board called for a vote. First the Okerson amendment was approved by a vote of 14–1, with only Deborah Owens-Fink opposed, and then the Wise amendment to the Grady proposal was approved by a vote of 11–4, with Grady, Owens-Fink, Cochran, and Sue Westendorf opposed. The Grady proposal as amended (see sidebar, p 10) was then approved by a vote of 11–4, with Grady, Owens-Fink, Cochran, and Westendorf again opposed. Voting for the removal were Lou Ann Harrold, Martha W Wise, GR "Sam" Schloemer, Virgil E Brown Jr, Jim Craig, Jennifer Stewart, Jane Sonenshein, Robin C Hovis, Stephen M Millett, Eric C Okerson, and Carl Wick; absent from the meeting were John W Griffin, Richard Baker, Emerson J Ross Jr, and Jennifer L Sheets. (Minutes of the meeting are available on-line at http://www.ode.state.oh.us/board/meetings/february06/minutes.asp.)

Reactions and prospects

Anti-evolutionism was no longer enshrined in Ohio’s public education system, and groups that contributed to the victory were gratified. Foremost among them was Ohio Citizens for Science, which commented in a press release, "The Directors and members of Ohio Citizens for Science applaud the Ohio State Board of Education for removing the creationist material from the State Standards and Model Curriculum. We are pleased that Members of the Board have affirmed the importance of honest science education in Ohio public schools, and we stand ready to assist the Board however we can in advancing that effort."

Additionally, NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C Scott described the vote as "a stunning triumph for the students of Ohio’s public schools and a stunning repudiation of the all-too-successful attempts of creationists to undermine evolution education in the Buckeye State. Let’s hope that all such attempts to introduce creationism by the back door meet the same fate." The Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State similarly commented, "This is a great victory for Ohio public school students."

The state’s newspapers also hailed the vote editorially. The Cincinnati Enquirer (2006 Feb 18) described it as "a wise, pragmatic move that could save Ohio money from lawsuits, save schools from the distraction this debate has brought, and preserve students’ best interests in receiving a sound scientific education," and the Toledo Blade (2006 Feb 20) argued that "Ohio school children owe a majority of members on the Ohio Board of Education their gratitude. By a vote of 11–4, board members eliminated a disputed evolution lesson plan, that, like the barred Pennsylvania plan, was really religion masquerading as science."

Patricia Princehouse told the Chicago Tribune (2006 Feb 15) that although the anti-evolution materials would be removed immediately, Ohio Citizens for Science plans to monitor board meetings to ensure that the material is not re-introduced in a new form. "The one thing we learned about creationists," she explained to the Tribune, "is that they never give up." That was a sentiment echoed by the Columbus Dispatch (2006 Feb 23), which observed, "Ohio is not out of the woods yet," warning, "Intelligent-design supporters surely will be back to take another shot at evolution."

The board’s Achievement Committee was charged with the task of deciding whether it is necessary to provide a replacement for the controversial indicator in the state standards. The Dispatch (2006 Feb 20), noting that it was the same committee that approved the controversial indicator in the first place, quipped, "Meet the new committee, same as the old committee." Commenting that on the committee "opinions differ, with both sides accusing the other of being motivated more by politics than science," the Associated Press (2006 Feb 22) concluded, "The debate is likely to take months."

Meanwhile, Steve Rissing, a professor of biology at Ohio State University, prepared a lesson plan on speciation, to illustrate how "current areas of active inquiry and discussion in biology can be presented with grade-appropriate rigor in a pedagogically effective manner." The lesson plan (which is available on-line at Ohio Citizens for Science’s website http://www.ohioscience.org) presents the current controversy over sympatric speciation, referring in the process to the evolutionary biology of two pests (apple maggot fly and corn root worm) that damage Ohio agriculture.

The broader significance of the board’s vote was in its repudiation of the strategy of undermining evolution education by calling for the "critical analysis" of evolution. Although the language of the indicator calling for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory" was innocuous on its face, it was twisted in the service of the creationist agenda. Not only was the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan developed under the aegis of the indicator, but it also proved to be grist for the creationist propaganda mill, which constantly claimed that Ohio was in the vanguard of a movement to challenge evolution in the public schools. (For a discussion of such claims with respect to New Mexico and elsewhere, see RNCSE 2005 May–Aug; 25 [3–4]: 4–8.)

Will the creationists who have cited Ohio’s embrace of "critical analysis" as precedent for their own efforts elsewhere now follow Ohio’s lead in repudiating it? It is unlikely: the board’s vote was characterized by representatives of the Discovery Institute as "an outrageous slap in the face" and as a triumph of "censorship" (United Press International 2006 Feb 15; Cincinnati Enquirer 2006 Feb 15), rather than as a necessary corrective. But certainly it is open to the defenders of the integrity of science education across the country to applaud the Ohio board of education’s repudiation of "critical analysis" and to recommend that policymakers elsewhere emulate it. NCSE will be there to help them to do so.

About the Author(s): 
Glenn Branch
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
branch@ncseweb.org

Review: Darwinian Conservatism

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
3
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
40–42
Reviewer: 
Timothy Sandefur
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Darwinian Conservatism
Author(s): 
Larry Arnhart
Exeter (UK): Imprint Academic, 2005. 162 pages
Larry Arnhart's message, stated in the first line of his book, is that "conservatives need Charles Darwin." But Darwinian Conservatism, like his earlier book Darwinian Natural Right (1998), shows that they need Larry Arnhart just as badly. His new book is an important reform tract: a plea to fellow conservatives not only to see the danger of hitching their wagon to the falling star of "intelligent design", but also to realize that the left has no legitimate claim to the laurels of scientific rationality.

First things first: Arnhart deserves praise for rejecting the notion that science is somehow neutral toward politics or morality. If politics is to solve human problems, then it must be based on an understanding of what humans are, and what they need to survive and to flourish. Unfortunately, many scientists are so eager to keep science strictly separated from messy partisan conflicts that they claim biology has nothing to say about ethics or politics. This is silly. Evolution is the most robust explanation of human nature ever devised, and any political philosophy that hopes to be more than dream talk must ultimately be based on that account. Evolutionary science holds out the possibility of founding politics not on arbitrary value assumptions or cultural relativism, but on humanity's objectively ascertainable qualities and needs. Take property rights, for example. Previous generations thought of property as part of the divine order of the universe. That answer is no longer attractive after Darwin, but neither is the equally contrived answer, common on the left, that property is just a conventional institution that can be altered or revised by wise bureaucrats in the service of noble goals. Like Richard Pipes (1999), Arnhart argues that property rights are a natural need of human beings, rooted in our biological nature, and that they have evolved alongside our physical nature (pages 31, 59–67). He makes the same argument about nineteen other "natural desires" which originate in "a universal human nature," and "motivate [our] moral judgment" (page 26). These desires, he continues, are conservatism's chief concerns, and they are not of supernatural origin, but are the product of evolution. In short, "Natural law is not a 'myth.' It is a rationally observable and scientifically verifiable fact" (Arnhart and others 2000).

It is unfortunate for conservatism that this argument is so unusual. All Arnhart seems to be saying is that conservative values can be grounded in nature, not just myth. Yet conservatism has labored long under the assumption that we need a special magic spark to give us moral significance. Science, according to such conservative mainstays as Russell Kirk (1985: 419), Robert Nisbet (1990), or Richard Weaver (Young 1995: 108–10), leads to a "mechanistic" universe populated by "mere atomistic individuals" who live a graceless life of cost–benefit analysis. But Arnhart argues that there is no need for magic to make us moral creatures. Morality is a function of (evolved) human nature: "Because normal human beings have the human nature that they do, which includes propensities to moral emotions, they predictably react to certain facts with strong feelings of approval or disapproval, and the generalizations of these feelings across a society constitute their moral judgments" (page 44).

But while human nature, and its moral aspects, are not handed down from On High, neither are they arbitrary matters of convention. Throughout the twentieth century, political thinkers on the left have regarded human nature as a function of culture, meaning that it can be changed to serve society's needs. John Dewey, for example, argued that an individual's personality is "something achieved … with the aid and support of conditions, cultural and physical," and that modern liberalism sought the "positive construction of favorable institutions, legal, political and economic" by which individual personality could be formulated, not just liberated (Dewey 1935). In some ways, this Progressive attitude was a consequence of "Darwin's overthrow of essentialism" (Dennett 1995: 39), since it seemed to prove that there was no unique thing to differentiate humans from the rest of the universe, and therefore, that there was no such thing as unchanging categories in politics or morality. Right and wrong, justice and injustice, private and public, could be whatever people decided. As Louis Menand puts it, Progressives rejected the idea that "there exists some order, invisible to us, whose logic we transgress at our peril" (Menand 2000: 439), and adopted anything-goes nominalism instead.

But there is an important way in which evolution does not overthrow essentialism (Matson 1984: 24–6). Humans do indeed have a nature, even if biological evolution has molded them from less sophisticated predecessors. The primary error of conservatives like Kirk or Harvey Mansfield, writes Arnhart, is their assumption "that human nature is not a solid ground of moral norms unless it is eternally unchanging" (page 54). Although he does not spend much time in this book on such complicated epistemological arguments, Arnhart has explained in Darwinian Natural Right why a much stronger explanation of human nature — and a much stronger foundation for naturalistic ethics and politics — is provided by an "evolutionary account of species [that] is neither strictly essentialist nor strictly nominalist" (Arnhart 1998: 233).

In fact, nominalism should also be seen as a rejection of Darwin (see, for example, Menand 2000: 371–2). And yet somehow the idea that natural human conditions like property, inequality, acquisitiveness, or sex roles, have no biological anchor, but can be altered by energetic social planning, has somehow come to be seen as "scientific" by a great many intellectuals (Johnson 1990). This notion really puts leftists in a bind: "On the one hand, Darwinian leftists must accept the Darwinian account of human nature. On the other hand they must assume that human beings are free from the constraints of human nature because they create human history as a cultural artifact" (page 123; see also Johnson 1990: 338–40).

Conservatism overreacted to leftist relativism by searching for eternal, magical solutions; what Daniel Dennett calls "skyhooks" (1995: 74). In fact, some conservatives do not even care whether such solutions really exist, and have argued instead for a "noble lie" whereby "it is the moral and political utility of religious belief that is decisive" (page 91; see also Bailey 1996). But how strong can a political theory be, which consciously grounds itself on a lie? The "deepest question," Arnhart writes, is "whether morality necessarily depends on religious belief…or whether a scientific naturalism can support a natural moral sense (as Darwin argued) that does not necessarily require religious belief" (pages 115–6). His defense of the latter is a significant contribution to conservative thought.

In short, Arnhart rejects both the leftist appeal to cultural or moral relativism and the traditional conservative appeal to magic, by grounding politics on "a universal human nature of natural instincts and desires," which allows us to "judge some societies … as satisfying those natural desires more fully than other societies." Understanding this means seeing that "cultural traditions are not the only source of morality, because the natural instincts of human beings provide a natural ground for the moral sense, just as Darwin argued" (page 23). This is correct, but there are two other important issues to be confronted when discussing the relationship of evolution to politics: the concept of spontaneous order, and the conflict of faith against reason.

The Nobel-prize–winning economist Friedrich Hayek coined the term "spontaneous order" while debunking the leftist assumption that social institutions are, or can be, the products of human design. This assumption, alas, remains common among modern liberals; Laurence Tribe, for example, has argued that there is really no such thing as a free market because "'freedom' of contract and property" are really just "expressions of positive governmental intervention," so that there is "no 'natural' economic order to upset or restore" through government regulation (Tribe 1988: 578–9). But as Hayek explained, the market is not the product of centralized design, but the outcome of countless unorganized interactions between people, gradually producing stable, useful institutions like property or contract law (see, for example, Hayek 1978–1981). In Arnhart's words, a spontaneous order is "a complex order that arises not as the intended outcome of the intelligent design of any mind or group of minds, but as the unintended outcome of many individual actions to satisfy short-term needs" (page 16). Evolution is the most obvious example of this ordering process, but the free market, and, to a lesser extent, common law legal systems, are also spontaneous orders (see also Nozick 1974: 18–21). Hayek made it clear that not only are government planners unnecessary for solving economic problems, they are often downright harmful, since they ignorantly interfere with better, decentralized problem-solving. For example, when bureaucrats demolish a neighborhood to make way for a new subsidized shopping center, they destroy the spontaneous process of neighborhood-building that gives a town character and a sense of place (Curtis 2006). When they implement technical regulations on a trade, they stifle innovation which might not fit official, preconceived notions of how the market "ought" to work (Postrel 1998: 83–111). Hayek argues that it is usually best to leave markets alone to devise solutions, rather than to impose a single, one-size-fits-all solution invented by politically-influenced bureaucrats in faraway capitol buildings. This argument fits very comfortably with evolution. If design does not require a designer, then there is no need for the state to "design" economic institutions. Multiple decentralized choices will tend toward efficiency.

Ironically, this argument actually conflicts with conservative values. While they tend to reject government control over the economy, conservatives are generally eager for government to control other relationships, such as sexual relations or marriage. They distrust the free market precisely because its underlying principles allow individuals to make their own choices in these areas of life also (Schumpeter 1962). Richard Weaver, for example, complained that capitalism leads to a "soulless, desiccated middle class which … destroy[s] the concept of non-material value" (Young 1995: 161), and Russell Kirk saw capitalism as expressing a "modern temper" which "ignore[s] the longings of humanity" such as "the comforting assurance that continuity is more probable than change" (1985: 492) Spontaneous order works through vast number of individual choices, but conservatives oppose individual choice in many personal matters because it disrupts tradition (Sandefur 2001). It is libertarianism, not conservatism, that embraces the dynamic character of free markets (Postrel 1998; D'Souza 2000).

Arnhart glosses over this problem by absurdly suggesting that libertarianism is a variety of conservatism, which it emphatically is not (Barnett 2004: 72). In fact, he seems to suffer throughout from a deep confusion as to the difference between conservatism and libertarianism, and he clings to an interpretation of conservatism that many would reject: namely, the notion that liberty is one of its primary values. In fact, liberty has rarely been a conservative value; it was only the chance arrival of Goldwater and Reagan on the Republican Party scene in the 1960s that drew many libertarians into describing themselves as conservative. These people propounded a theory of "fusion" between libertarians and conservatives (Meyer 1996). But recent events have eroded that fusion significantly, and the future of its union seems bleak.

Another troubling omission is Arnhart's failure strongly to confront the philosophical elephant in the room, and that is the interaction of reason and faith in the post-Darwin world. Evolution is not controversial because of its factual conclusions about the origins of species; it is controversial because it shows that our world can be understood in terms of reason alone, without faith. And since so much authoritarian political philosophy — conservatism in particular — has been based on faith, that account has tremendous social consequences. Arnhart's argument that scientific reason can also support conservative principles may reassure those whose primary concern is for practical policy matters, but in the end it will make little progress against those whose focus is more fundamental. Without taking a position on the conflict of faith and reason — by, in fact, seeming to appease religion — Arnhart cannot advance far on the battlefield where evolution and conservatism contend.

These two problems actually intertwine. Arnhart's reason-based approach is welcome indeed, and it is true that conservatives need it. But I doubt that that approach can be fairly classified as conservatism itself. In fact, for all his talk of Edmund Burke and family values, Arnhart has much more in common with the secular libertarianism of Ayn Rand or Jacob Bronowski than with such basically theocratic thinkers as Kirk (Rand 1968; Bronowski 1965). It would be nice if conservatives would adopt secular libertarianism, but while a society based on an unceasing demand for evidence and rational demonstration would, indeed, be a society of liberty — it would hardly be conservative.

References



Arnhart L. 1998. Darwinian Natural Right. Albany (NY): State University of New York Press.
Arnhart L, Behe M, Dembski W. 2000. Conservatives, Darwin & design: An exchange. First Things 107: 23–8, 30–1.
Bailey R. 1997. Origin of the specious. Reason 29 (3): 22–8.
Barnett RE. 2004. The moral foundation of modern libertarianism. In: Berkowitz P, ed. Varieties of Conservatism in America. Stanford (CA): Hoover Institution Press. p 51–74.
Bronowski J. 1965. Science and Human Values. New York: Harper Perennial.
Curtis W. 2006. Brand new cities. The American Scholar 75 (1): 113–6.
D'Souza D. 2000. The Virtue of Prosperity. New York: The Free Press.
Dennett D. 1995. Darwin's Dangerous Idea. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Dewey J. 1935. The future of liberalism. Journal of Philosophy 22 (9): 225–30.
Hayek F. 1978–1981. Law, Legislation and Liberty. 3 volumes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Johnson P. 1990. Intellectuals. New York: Harper Perennial.
Kirk R. 1986. The Conservative Mind: Burke to Eliot. 7th ed. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing.
Matson W. 1984. Rand on concepts. In: Den Uyl DJ, Rasmussen DB, editors. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand. Urbana (IL): University of Illinois Press. p 21–37.
Menand L. 2000. The Metaphysical Club. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Meyer F. 1996. In Defense of Freedom and Related Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
Nisbet R. 1990. The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom. Oakland: ICS Press.
Nozick R. 1974. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.
Pipes R. 1999. Property and Freedom. New York: Knopf.
Postrel V. 1998. The Future and Its Enemies. New York: The Free Press.
Rand A. 1968. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet.
Sandefur T. 2001. Why conservatives oppose progress. Review of The Virtue of Prosperity by Dinesh D'Souza. Liberty 15 (3). Available on-line at http://www.geocities.com/sande106/ConservativesProgress.htm. Last accessed August 8, 2006.
Schumpeter J. 1962. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper Perennial.
Tribe LH. 1988. American Constitutional Law. 2nd ed. New York: Foundation Press.
Young F. 1995. Richard M Weaver 1910–1963: A Life of the Mind. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

About the Author(s): 
Timothy Sandefur
Pacific Legal Foundation
3900 Lennane Drive, Suite 200
Sacramento CA 95834

Review: Fatal Flaws

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
3
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
46–47
Reviewer: 
Michael Buratovich, Spring Arbor University
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Fatal Flaws: What Evolutionists Don't Want You to Know
Author(s): 
Hank Hanegraaff
Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2003. 112 pages
Hank Hanegraaff's book Fatal Flaws is an abbreviation of his earlier book The Face that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution (Nashville: Word, 1998). For the most part, the book reiterates standard creationist arguments. Previous work by Hanegraaff's Christian Research Institute shows that he and his staff have little tolerance for hucksters and thieves in preachers' clothing (notice their exposés on Benny Hinn), which makes the mistakes and poor research in this book somewhat surprising. There is only room to discuss a few of the many errors in this book.

In the introductory chapter of this book, Hanegraaff, who is a very clever designer of mnemonic acronyms, fashions the acronym FARCE to help the reader remember the alleged problems with the theory of evolution. The letters of FARCE represent Fossil follies, Ape-men fiction, fraud, and fantasy, Recapitulation, Chance, and Empirical science.

In his chapter on "fossil follies", Hanegraaff quotes David Raup, the curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago: "We are now about 120 years after Darwin, and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species, but the situation hasn't changed much. ... We have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time" (p 17). Hanegraaff's reference for this quotation is Paul Taylor's Illustrated Origins Answer Book. If he had read Raup's original article ("Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 1979; 50 [1]: 22–9), he would have discovered what Raup really said on page 25 was this, with the portions quoted by Hanegraaff italicized:
Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information — what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appear to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection.
In contrast to the impression that Hanegraaff is trying to give, Raup is discussing how — not whether — evolutionary change has occurred. Raup clearly accepts evolution, but he is not convinced that the paleontological record supports Darwinian gradualism.

Hanegraaff proceeds to attack Archaeopteryx as a "false link between reptiles (such as dinosaurs) and birds" (p 17–8). He dismisses the reptilian features of Archaeopteryx with a reference to Duane Gish, who has neither formal training nor any record of serious field experience in paleontology. Unfortunately Hanegraaff's glib attitude toward the reptilian characteristics in the skull, vertebrae, ribs, tail and limbs of Archaeopteryx will not make them go away. Archaeopteryx also possesses some bird-like features, but these reptilian and bird-like features are found in the same fossil animal. If this does not make Archaeopteryx a transitional form linking reptiles and birds, then one is left to wonder what Hanegraaff considers a transitional creature.

Hanegraaff's chapter on human fossils has even more problems. His description of Nebraska Man is riddled with errors. The mistaken identification of the tooth by Henry Fairfield Osborn as an ape tooth was largely due to the similarity of cheek teeth in humans and pigs and the worn condition of the tooth. Furthermore, Osborn never designated Hesperopithecus as a human ancestor; there was a healthy skepticism surrounding the validity of Nebraska Man, and the literature of the day makes it clear that Nebraska Man received little backing from other paleoanthropologists.

Hanegraaff does no better with Dubois' discovery of Pithecanthropus erectus ("Java Man"; today known as Homo erectus). Hanegraaff perpetuates the often-repeated creationist conviction that Dubois suppressed evidence from the Wadjak skulls found nearby that would contradict his interpretation of Homo erectus as a potential ancestor to modern humans. However, Dubois did write formal descriptions of these skulls that were published in legitimate journals that were cited by researchers who continued to work on the Wadjak skulls. Furthermore, Trinil, the site where Dubois found Pithecanthropus, and Wadjak, where he found the more modern Wadjak skulls, are about 100 miles apart. Clearly these are not "in close proximity" as Hanegraaff would have us believe. In addition, further discoveries of Homo erectus skeletons have confirmed the validity of Dubois's Pithecanthropus erectus skull cap.

Finally, Hanegraaff's chapter on embryonic recapitulation constructs a straw man. Darwin did not endorse the extreme developmental recapitulationalism of Ernst Haeckel ("ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny") but instead endorsed a modified version of the views of the great German embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer. One of von Baer's famous "laws of development" asserted that the embryo of a higher animal is never like the adult of a lower animal, but does resemble the embryo of a lower animal. This principle influenced Darwin during his seminal work on barnacle classification. The common embryological stage shared by other recognized crustaceans and barnacles, the nauplius stage, convinced Darwin that barnacles were crustaceans and not mollusks, a taxonomic deduction that holds to this day.

Hanegraaff's book contains a great dependence on secondary sources, which leads to a perpetuation of common errors found in the works of many recent creationists. For a better book from a recent creationist perspective, see Ariel A Roth's Origins (Hagerstown [MD]: Review and Herald, 1998).

About the Author(s): 
Michael J Buratovich
Department of Biochemistry
Spring Arbor University
106 E Main St
Spring Arbor MI 49283
michaelb @ arbor . edu

The "Grill the ID Guys" Event at Biola

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The "Grill the ID Guys" Event at Biola, or, "We may not know where we're going, but we're certainly not going away"
Author(s): 
Robert Camp
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
3
Year: 
2006
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
4–6
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On the way to the "Intelligent Design Under Fire" event (also referred to as "Grill the ID Guys") at Biola University, my wife asked me what she should expect. I considered for a few moments and replied, "Well, if the past is any indication you will probably see responses from the 'intelligent design' (ID) guys that begin with a good bit of geniality, and then make a cursory attempt to address the question before digressing into something unrelated about which they wish to talk; that and complaining that a question is unfair, or else ignoring it altogether." As we merged with the crowd meandering toward the auditorium, we noticed that some were wearing shirts with Bible excerpts on the back. "Oh, and watch the audience," I said. "Depending on how it's played, this whole thing could end up being about them."

Waiting for the coals

John Bloom, the event's organizer, took the stage and explained how it all came about. He had noticed that the best part of similar events he had attended were the Q&A sessions, so he put together two panels he thought might produce an interesting discussion. One panel consisted of "intelligent design"'s leading proponents — Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, Guillermo Gonzalez, and Paul Nelson — and another representing ID's "toughest critics" (see sidebar, p 7) — philosopher Antony Flew, columnist and philosopher Charlotte Laws, television correspondent Keith Morrison, retired geology professor Larry Herber, and three faculty members from California State University at Fullerton — James Hofmann (Professor and Chair of Liberal Studies), Craig M Nelson (lecturer in comparative religion), and Bruce Weber (Professor of Biochemistry). Morrison and Laws described themselves as confused but interested outsiders. During the event, Herber made one comment which ended up being more of a clarification of uniformitarianism, and Flew never spoke. It was Hofmann, Weber, and Nelson who asked most of the informed questions.

After introducing both panels, Bloom had Stephen Meyer present a short primer on ID. Once Meyer finished his introduction to ID (essentially undiluted and unrebutted boilerplate), Bloom started things off by encouraging a question from the critics. This format — critic asks question, ID proponents answer — could be effective, but one of its drawbacks is that the interaction can become unfocused. What I have tried to do in this account is to focus on the advertised purpose of this event, the salient questions asked, and the answers given.

Let the grilling begin

Question 1. Morrison began by asking, "What kind of intelligent being are you proposing, or are you proposing any specific intelligent being?" Meyer looked to his mates briefly, and, after a digression into how the media report ID poorly, he explained that there is a difference between the theory and the religious beliefs of those who hold it. He repeated that ID infers only intelligence, not a specific entity. Critics of ID are quite familiar with this non-response. Thus the first question is met with hand-waving and evasion. Not an auspicious beginning.

Q2. Morrison continued, observing that ID is being embraced by people who take the Bible literally, while scientists and progressive Christians largely dismiss it. He wondered if those on the ID panel were comfortable with that. Michael Behe answered that he was not, but then protested, "Most people don't understand 'intelligent design', and try to fit it into pre-existing categories. Certainly that's true of the scientific community; most people have a skewed view of 'intelligent design' there." Behe went on to expound on initial reactions to the Big Bang (the first of several Big Bang excursions) and how the cell is "incredibly sophisticated technology" (one among many "machine" references). Behe can be credited with a half-answer to this question.

After a bit more discussion, John Bloom got the Fullerton contingent involved. Hofmann suggested that ID can attain legitimacy only by way of evaluation at the relevant conferences and in the appropriate journals, not at Biola (formerly called the Bible Institute of Los Angeles). This brought murmurs of disapproval. Hofmann then introduced Bruce Weber.

Q3. Weber presented several slides that documented studies examining exaptation as a reasonable naturalistic explanation for the evolution of "irreducible complexity" (IC). He noted that research on exaptation is a work in progress, but with very real research results. In contrast, where, he asked, is the ID research? And "why would a scientist abandon the productive research program of the Darwinian modern evolutionary synthesis for one informed by 'intelligent design'?" Behe responded with the opaque observation that what Weber had shown is not really new or supportive research, but "just regular biochemistry which is being spun in a Darwinian fashion." He went on to ignore the question and renew his battle with Ken Miller by showing slides and repeating previous arguments. After Weber tried to get back to his question, Behe attempted to refute recent research on the evolution of complexity (Bridgham and others 2006). Soon thereafter Meyer jumped in and digressed into possible Type III secretory system arguments, asserted that Behe has not been proved wrong and suggesting that proposed naturalistic pathways do not cut it. "Intelligent design" proponents typically attempt to cover the deficiencies of the IC argument in this way — shifting the burden of proof. But the criticism from biologists is of the in-principle argument that there cannot be an evolutionary explanation, and as such does not call for tested and replicated research; it simply requires empirically defensible hypotheses.

At this point, Paul Nelson joined the discussion. He continued Meyer's impassioned defense of Behe, directly addressing the crowd as he complained bitterly about "two sets of rules" preventing guys like Behe from publishing in the scientific literature. The audience applauded vigorously. Meyer carried on playing to the house by recounting the supposedly unfair treatment of Richard von Sternberg in the aftermath of his resignation as editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington after accusations that he manipulated the peer-review process to publish Meyer's paper on the Cambrian explosion. Finally, he asserted that "we cannot take peer-review … [as] the gold standard of scientific literacy." This elicited more applause.

And Weber's long-forgotten question remained unanswered.

Q4. Trying to get back on track, Hofmann talked about research on human chromosome #2 and the data that strongly support a fusion event in the evolution of humans. The point was about specificity of empirical questions (where, when, and how?) in preparation for his next question. For ID to be taken seriously as a science, Hofmann said, it must address two questions: When did a design event take place and how did it take place?

Meyer quickly responded to this with a protest directed primarily to the audience. He complained that design critics set forth rules on the methodology of science, assume their acceptance, and then proceed to dismiss ID on the basis of not following these methodological rules. Returning to the question, he argued that his own work shows that the Cambrian is a good candidate for when an act of design might have taken place (Meyer 2004). He added that the origin of life and the origin of intelligence are other possibilities. "So in fact we do say when, and moreover we say how," he argued, "we say it was done by an act of intelligence." Of course Hofmann meant that ID needs to address these questions empirically. Meyer ignored the need to test his hypothesis (a designer) as well as the requirement to establish testable mechanisms by which the intelligent intervention occurred. Meyer repeated his disdain for the "rules," suggesting that they be changed to accommodate different kinds of explanation.

Jonathan Wells took advantage of the ensuing lull to return to the question of "consensus". He argued that because of previous changes in the scientific consensus (for example, failed ideas such as geocentrism and the fact that at one time even Darwinism was considered incorrect), we should not be so willing to trust the consensus. Hofmann responded that those failed ideas were overturned as a result of the scientific process. Despite Meyer's sparest of partial answers, another question lingered in limbo.

Q5. After some discussion of information, Weber proceeded to ask Behe whether the blood-clotting cascade qualifies as a case of intelligent intervention. Behe replied that "these are difficult questions to address" and that we should not jump to "premature and unjustified conclusions." Meyer interceded to mention again how intelligence is necessary to build digital code, at which point Weber circled back to the earlier issue and suggested that there are natural mechanisms that can produce an increase in information. Meyer decided to answer Weber with a question: "Do you all have an explanation for the information that is necessary for the origin of life?" Weber noted that it is an active area of research. Meyer repeated the question, then scuttled off into an argument about ribozyme engineering.

Behe judged this a good time for him to turn the tables with a question as well, so he asked Weber and the others if they did not already agree that science has reached its limits on these biological questions, "When would you think so?" The audience chuckled knowingly. Meyer complained again about the "rules" of scientific materialism. Weber's question received only more questions.

Q6. Hofmann then asked how far they would be willing to go in abandoning methodological naturalism. Paul Nelson agreed readily that science cannot appeal to magic, and then appealed to the vanity of the audience, musing that "no natural law, no physical process, no algorithm can possibly explain what we're doing here. … It's not spooky, but it's not strictly material either," he said. Upon reflection, his point reduces to: "There's science, there's magic, and then there's the non-material causal agency that we like to infer." Unfortunately, he neglected to explain how this last category is empirically distinguishable from magic. Hofmann responded that science must operate by way of methodological naturalism, otherwise causal inference might be left open to miracles. Behe rejoined with another question: "How would you categorize the Big Bang?"

Q7. Hofmann now got Craig M Nelson involved. Nelson returned to the notion of consensus and asked when ID panelists would consider such a thing important. Meyer answered that they are not saying consensus is not important (of course, in fact they had just said exactly that!); rather, Meyer complained that the position of ID proponents is not even being considered, because their detractors simply appeal to consensus and never listen to what they have to say. It did not seem to occur to Meyer that what they have to say has been considered and rejected. An excellent reason for which rejection might be non-responsive performances such as the one occurring this very evening.

Q8. Bloom brought Charlotte Laws into the discussion. Laws observed that ID is being pushed into schools and asked the panel for their views as to why. Meyer noted that the debate involves the intersection of cultural and scientific ideas regarding origins and implied that people generally get carried away with the religious implications of ID theory. Laws tried to get back to the question, saying that she thinks the movement might have something to do with a general distrust of science, an observation that science currently appears to be vulnerable, and the influence of postmodernism. She also admitted that she thinks it is fine for ID to be in classrooms because it is philosophy and wondered how the panel felt it should be taught.

Wells remarked that they do not advocate required teaching of ID. In fact, he went on to say, ID is already in the textbooks, making reference to a stack of textbooks that he says include a section on ID. (Wells is not always reliable about the content of textbooks; see Camp 2005.) Paul Nelson picked up on this theme, noting that prominent evolutionary biologist George Williams wrote a book in which he discusses whether the vertebrate eye is "wise" design (Williams 1992: 72–3). During further discussion, Meyer came back to the subject of methodological naturalism. He opined that this rule prevents us from concluding design. Of course it does not; archaeologists and forensic scientists conclude design all the time. This is another case of ID proponents' using ambiguous language to confuse listeners to their advantage. Meyer went on to offer another reverse question, asking: "Let's just say, for the sake of argument: The universe really is designed. Would you ever be able to tell, as a scientist, if you held that rule … ?" The gathering rumbled its approval. Laws's query was largely ignored.

Q9. Craig M Nelson extrapolated from Meyer's question to ask one of his own, wondering why theistic evolution is not an acceptable explanation. Is there some reason God could not have worked in that fashion? Behe answered that God can do whatever he wants. Aside from Behe's dismissive non-answer, there was no response to Nelson's query.

Q10. In wrapping up the evening, Bloom reserved to himself the right to ask one last question of the ID panel. "What do you think it would take for 'intelligent design' to be accepted in scientific circles?" Wells answered first. He agreed with an earlier observation that ID needs to be fruitful. He then said that there is real ID research going on around the world. Meyer prodded Wells to talk about his "cancer research". Wells allowed that he would be doing some ID-inspired work that may have cancer implications. Meyer, not content with waiting for the results of the study, proceeded to drive home his point, saying Wells's work is a "direct application of irreducible complexity and design".

Paul Nelson answered next. He agreed with Wells, accepting that scientists want to see results and "new knowledge". Meyer followed by taking issue with Nelson and Wells. He stated that ID does not need to lead to new knowledge and it is already fruitful. Then he mentioned recent studies that suggest "Darwinism has been unfruitful". He moved on to assert that ID is attracting a following and implied that it is only the entrenched majority that is denying "intelligent design" its due. This will come, he suggested, as a result of retirement and turnover in academia.

Behe lined up with Meyer. "It's nice to make a prediction," he said, but the "question is: 'Does this idea explain what we see?'" Judging from the alternative he offers, Behe apparently does not feel the idea must "explain what we see" in an empirically testable fashion. After this, Bloom invited the audience to give the critics (who were offered no chance to comment on the last question) a standing ovation. "They took a lot of heat," Bloom acknowledged, and the proceedings closed with applause.

I went to a cookout…

Let me emphasize that there was much more discussion than could be captured in this short note, but I have tried to concentrate on those moments when questions got asked and answers were attempted. As I tally it, critics asked ten significant questions, including Bloom's softball at the end. The responses to those ten questions included three half-answers (Q2, Q4, and Q10), three evasions (Q1, Q6, Q7), three ignored questions (Q3, Q8, Q9), and one (Q5) answered with a question (though reverse questions also played a part in other responses). Much of the time was spent in digression into matters of dubious relevance.

…and all I got was this bun

The tiny, hopeful part of me that thought, "maybe this time it'll be different" took a severe thrashing once again. My sardonic side, however, was pretty puffed up after this was over. Most of my pessimistic predictions were fulfilled, though familiarity with the history of these events would have led anyone else to the same sad expectations. There was nothing new to be heard this night. In fact, looking back on how few of the questions actually got answered and the form the responses took, it is hard to conclude that there is any acceptance on the part of the ID spokesmen that the "tough questions" even exist. They were either dodged, dismissed, or met with other questions.

One problem with the evening was that the encounter took place in front of an ID-sympathetic crowd. It is hard not to be cynical about the motives for this event when so much of the time ostensibly intended for answering "tough questions" was instead spent reading from the playbook and pumping up the home fans. But the biggest drawback was the clear lack of fortitude on the part of "ID's Top Proponents" to engage the inquiry they invited. The critics, especially Hofmann, Weber, and Craig M Nelson, tried to press them in some cases, but there was no mechanism for detailed examination such as was available in the trial in Dover. Thus, the advertised purpose of the event was swamped by a tide of tired complaints about persecution, repetition of stock talking points, and pronounced public-relations efforts to rally the faithful. It was a sharp portrait of "intelligent design" as a movement with few guiding principles other than the desire to continue to hang onto political market share. Though slowed by the events in Dover, it is clear that the ID machine is still rolling, if with no more scientific direction than before.

References


Bridgham JT, Carroll SB, Thornton JW. 2006. Evolution of hormone-receptor complexity by molecular exploitation. Science 312: 97–101.
Camp R. 2005. Do biology textbooks pit evolution against theism? —A response to Jonathan Wells. Available on-line at here. Last accessed July 25, 2006.
Meyer SC. 2004. Intelligent design: The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117 (2): 213–39.
Williams G. 1992. Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

About the Author(s): 
Robert Camp
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
ncseoffice@ncseweb.org

The Evolution of Biological Complexity

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The Evolution of Biological Complexity
Author(s): 

Finn Pond
Whitworth College

Volume: 
26
Issue: 
3
Year: 
2006
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
22, 27–31
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Introduction

The origin of biological complexity is not yet fully explained, but several plausible naturalistic scenarios have been advanced to account for this complexity. “Intelligent design” (ID) advocates, however, contend that only the actions of an “intelligent agent” can generate the information content and complexity observed in biological systems.

ID proponents believe evolution theory is a failed enterprise that offers no credible explanations for the origins of complexity. They fault evolutionary scenarios for lacking sufficient detail. Furthermore, ID advocates claim to have presented empirical evidence that an “intelligent agent” designed at least some complex biological systems.

In contrast, this paper reviews several scientific models for the origin of biological complexity. I argue that these models offer plausible mechanisms for generating biological complexity and are promising avenues of inquiry. I take issue with ID proponents who dismiss such models for lack of “sufficient causal specificity,” arguing that this criticism is unwarranted. Finally, I look briefly at ID’s proposed explanation for the origin of biological complexity, and consider William Dembski’s “empirical evidence” for the design of bacterial flagella, arguing that his supposed evidence is biologically irrelevant.

The problem of complexity

Biological systems are staggeringly complex. Professional biologists devote their careers to describing those complexities, dissecting those systems by chemical and physical methods, and characterizing their structural components and functional interactions. How can such complex systems evolve? We understand the ways in which the individual components of a complex system can be altered in structure and function by mutation, and the way in which natural selection favors one form over another. Furthermore, in many cases we have traced the family relationships among different nucleic acid and protein variants.

Envisioning ways by which natural selection can construct biochemical and molecular systems that involve dozens of proteins integrated in complex and highly specific ways is much more difficult. How could all the necessary proteins be selected simultaneously with a common endpoint as the goal? Unless each intermediate construct possessed at least partial function, how could natural selection act?

This is the argument put forth by Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996), and championed by ID advocates ever since. Behe contends that the structural and functional complexities found throughout biological systems could not have been established through evolutionary processes. He argues that the bacterial flagellum, for example, is an irreducibly complex system, in which the individual components have no function apart from the whole, and therefore could not have been selected for in nature.

By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution. (Behe 1996: 39)

Biologists recognize that integrated system complexity is a feature of living systems. That is, some biological systems consist of component parts that interact in a coordinated way so that the system as a whole exhibits a specific function. It is questionable, however, whether any such systems are irreducibly complex as Behe claims (see Coyne 1996; Doolittle 1997; Miller 1999; Shanks and Joplin 1999). But even if examples of irreducible complexity are found in living systems, the origins of such systems are not necessarily outside the realm of natural processes (Orr 1996; Miller 1999; Thornhill and Ussery 2000; Catalano 2001). That the function of a highly integrated system may collapse with the removal of a component part does not mean that the system in question cannot be deconstructed to reveal an origin by undirected evolutionary processes.

Behe was not the first to recognize that biological complexity poses a challenge (see for example Cairns-Smith 1986). During the past decade, the discipline of complexity science has blossomed, attracting an interdisciplinary contingent of scientists, including biologists interested in the very question Behe addresses: Can natural mechanisms account for the observed complexity of biological systems? (See Adami and others 2000; Strogatz 2001; Adami 2002; Carlson and Doyle 2002; Csete and Doyle 2002.)

Naturalistic models for the evolution of biological complexity

Several models have been advanced to account for a naturalistic origin of the complexity seen in biological systems. Following are brief descriptions of four models advanced to account for the origin of biological complexity.

Incremental additions model
The incremental additions model hypothesizes that an initial association of components favorable to some function may become an essential association through time (Lindsay 2000; Orr 1996, 2002). The complexity of the system may increase with the addition of new components. Suppose, for example, that a molecule carries out a particular catalytic function. If an association with another molecule enhances that function — for example, through structural stabilization — then natural selection can favor the association. The second molecule is initially beneficial although not essential. The second molecule may become essential, however, if an inactivating mutation in the first molecule is compensated for by the presence of the second.

There are numerous examples of molecules whose function is enhanced in the presence of another molecule. Consider the activity of RNase P (an RNA-protein complex responsible for processing transfer RNA molecules). The RNA component of the molecule possesses the catalytic activity and has been shown to function without its protein partner, albeit at a very much lower activity (Reich and others 1988; Altman 1989).

Work done with hammerhead ribozymes (RNA molecules capable of cleaving other RNA molecules) has demonstrated that the activity of one of these ribozymes increases 10- to 20-fold in vitro in the presence of a non-specific RNA-binding protein (Tsuchihashi and others 1993; Herschlag and others 1994). Furthermore, ribozymes are routinely generated whose activity can be regulated by other molecules (Soukup 1999), and in vitro evolution experiments have generated protein-dependent ribozyme ligases (Robertson and Ellington 2001).

Group II self-splicing introns, although capable of independent cleavage of RNA under some conditions, require stabilization by maturase proteins for effective in vivo functioning. It is generally accepted that the catalytically active RNA components of spliceosomes are able to function because spliceosome proteins stabilize a functional conformation (Lodish and others 2003). Therefore, one might speculate that a ribozyme could lose independent activity through a mutational event and yet continue to function in association with a protein molecule that promotes or stabilizes a catalytically active ribozyme structure.

Scaffolding model
Scaffolding is another mechanism whereby irreducible complexity might be established (Lindsay 2000; Shanks and Joplin 2000; Orr 2002). In the incremental additions model, a beneficial association of components becomes an essential association because mutational events compromise the independent activity of one or more component parts. In the scaffolding model, superfluous components are lost, leaving a system in which the remaining components appear tightly matched as if they were specifically designed to fit and function together. The arch is an example of an irreducibly complex structure that requires scaffolding for its construction (Cairns-Smith 1986; Lindsay 2000; Shanks and Joplin 2000; Schneider 2000; Orr 2002). Scaffolding may also be functional in nature.

Many biochemical systems are characterized by “redundant complexity” (Shanks and Joplin 1999, 2000). Biochemical pathways rarely function in isolation; rather, one pathway interconnects with another (see Nelson and Cox 2000). For example, carbon atoms entering the Calvin-Benson cycle within a chloroplast may find their way into any one of many different molecules and be shunted into other pathways. There are also many cases of a redundancy of enzymatic components, or variant isoforms. Gene duplications increase the number of genes in a species, which can then evolve in different ways. This branching pattern in protein evolution is significant. For example, several different yet related hemoglobin molecules are utilized in human development. These variant forms are understood to have arisen from gene duplication, mutation and selection processes (Lodish and others 2003).

An initial loss of redundant components in a biochemical pathway will not destroy function. However, at the point where a system cannot endure further loss of components without losing function, an irreducible system exists. The redundancy of biochemical components in such a scenario serves as scaffolding. Shanks and Joplin (2000) evaluate this model in reference to several of Behe’s examples of irreducibly complex biochemical systems. Robinson (1996) has also taken a similar approach by explaining in plausible evolutionary terms the origin of vertebrate blood-clotting cascades.

Co-option model
Natural selection acts upon an existing set of structures within a particular environmental context. An altered environment demands altered responses from an organism. Consequently, it should not be surprising to find in the fossil record and in comparative anatomical and physiological studies evidence that some structures have been modified through time to serve different functions. In fact, a common theme of biological evolution is that existing structures are often put to new uses, and new structures are created from the old. “Co-option” is the term used to describe the recruitment of existing structures for new tasks. This recruitment can explain evolutionary increases in biological complexity.

Genes co-opted for new functions can give rise to developmental and physiological novelties (Eizinger and others 1999; Ganfornina and Sanchez 1999; Long 2001; True and Carroll 2002). Genes can acquire new functions when protein-coding sequences are altered, when coding sequences are spliced differently during RNA processing, or when spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression are changed (True and Carroll 2002). Gene duplication followed by differential mutation will give rise to new protein configurations, and the alteration of regulatory controls for gene expression can result in significant developmental and morphological changes.

Many complex biological systems are characterized by a tight integration of component parts. Behe (1996) has argued that it is highly unlikely that such systems could arise through a simultaneous co-evolution of numerous parts or a direct serial evolution of the necessary components. But complex systems, even irreducibly complex ones, need not be assembled this way.

New associations of existing substructures or proteins may give rise to new functions, thus it is not necessary for the system to evolve in toto. Many critics of ID have pointed this out (Miller 1999; Thornhill and Ussery 2000; Miller 2003). A particularly instructive example of probable co-option is seen in the evolution of the Krebs (citric acid) cycle. Melendez-Helvia and others (1996) recognized that the Krebs cycle posed a real difficulty to evolutionary biologists because intermediate stages in its evolution would have no functionality. An analysis of the component enzymes and cofactors, however, revealed that the component parts and intermediate stages had functions apart from their role in the Krebs cycle.

Another example is the V(D)J gene splicing mechanism in vertebrate immune systems (Thornhill and Ussery 2000). True and Carroll (2002) also present examples of how multiple genes linked by a gene regulatory system can be co-opted as a unit for a new function; their examples include the evolution of butterfly eyespots, vertebrate limbs, complex leaves in plants, and feathers.

Emerging complexity model
Some complexity theorists believe that laws of self-organization exist that play a role in the evolution of biological complexity (Kauffman 1993, 1995; Solé and Goodwin 2000). Theoretical work in this area has expanded rapidly in the past decade (see, for example, Camazine and others 2001). The interaction of various component parts, it is argued, leads inevitably to complex patterns of organization.

One measure of complexity is the information content of a system, and Schneider’s “ev” program has demonstrated that new information can indeed emerge spontaneously. The “ev” program was constructed to simulate evolution by mutational and selection events. In the program, certain DNA sequences acted as “recognizer genes”, while other sequences were potential binding sites for the recognizer molecules. During simulations, both the recognizer genes and potential binding sequences were allowed to mutate. Selection was based upon successful binding of recognizer molecules and appropriate binding sites. The change in the complexity of the system was evaluated as a change in the information content of the DNA sequences. Specificity between recognition genes and corresponding binding sites increases the information content of the system, which is measured in bits of information according to Shannon information theory. Beginning with a random genome, the “ev” program leads to the evolution of DNA binding sites and a consequent increase in information. Furthermore, in the simulation, binding sites and recognizer genes co-evolved, becoming an irreducibly complex system. The results showed that processes of Darwinian evolution do generate information as well as irreducibly complex systems (Schneider 2000).

Conceivability vs plausibility: ID’s response
The above models are based upon natural processes that are subject to experimental investigation. Evidence supporting these models is accumulating. These models have been evaluated by ID advocate William Dembski in his book No Free Lunch (2002a). Dembski declared each model inadequate, with his most specific criticism directed toward Schneider’s “ev” program. He rejected Schneider’s claim that information had been generated de novo and accused Schneider of smuggling information into the program by specifying the program’s conditions for survival of “organisms” (Dembski 2002a). From a population biologist’s perspective, the criteria used by Schneider were perfectly reasonable. Nevertheless, Schneider eliminated the special rule that Dembski objected to, retested the program, and found the same results (Schneider 2001a, 2001b).

Arguing more globally, Dembski claimed that the No Free Lunch Theorems make it clear that the program could not do what Schneider claimed. David Wolpert, however, one of the developers of the No Free Lunch Theorems, says that Dembski applies the theorems inappropriately (Wolpert 2003).

Dembski’s criticisms of the other models were more general. He and other ID advocates complain that naturalistic models for the evolution of biological complexity lack causal specificity. According to Dembski, “Causal specificity means identifying a cause sufficient to account for the effect in question” (Dembski 2002a: 240). He argues that, until sufficient details are worked out (presumably in terms of the order in which components became associated, the manner by which these assembled components interacted to improve function, and the mutations that led to obligate dependency) there is no way to evaluate naturalistic scenarios. “Lack of causal specificity,” he says, “leaves one without the means to judge whether a transformation can or cannot be effected” (Dembski 2002a: 242).

Dembski accuses evolutionists of being satisfied with a very undemanding form of possibility, namely, conceivability (Dembski 2002b). Allen Orr reviewed No Free Lunch and took Dembski to task for using biologically irrelevant probabilities and requiring unrealistic details of causal specificity (Orr 2002). In his rebuttal, Dembski said that, for Orr, “Darwinism has the alchemical property of transforming sheer possibilities into real possibilities” (Dembski 2002b). He went on to say that “Orr substitutes a much weaker demand for ‘historical narrative,’ which in the case of Darwinism degenerates into fictive reconstructions with little, if any, hold on reality.”

Dembski positions himself as the critical empiricist, asking only for what all scientists should ask — details by which to determine the validity of Darwinist claims. Howard Van Till reviewed No Free Lunch and commented upon Dembski’s demand for causal specificity:

Many scientific hypotheses regarding the manner in which various transformational processes may have contributed to the actualization of some new biotic structure might fall short of full causal specificity — even though they may be highly plausible applications of mechanisms that are at least partially understood. When that is the case, the ID approach tends to denigrate them as nothing more than “just-so stories” and to remove them from further consideration. (Van Till 2002)

Dembski’s demand for greater details is reminiscent of earlier anti-evolutionists’ demands for more transitional fossils. Undoubtedly, there will always be gaps in the fossil record, and there will always be room for more details in evolutionary scenarios. The biologist’s search for these details is ongoing.

ID’s explanation for the origin of biological complexity

Biologists have proposed a number of models to account for biological complexity. ID proponents have criticized these models for lacking sufficient detail. It is instructive then to examine ID’s own explanations for the origin of biological complexity. Dembski (2002a) claims that certain types of biological systems, such as Behe’s “irreducibly complex” systems, must have been designed by an intelligent agent, because they possess a characteristic he calls “specified complexity.” It is possible, he says, to distinguish objects that were designed from those that arose by natural mechanisms because only designed objects have this characteristic (Dembski 1998, 2002a). ID advocates offer no models to explain the processes by which biological complexity came to be. They argue, nevertheless, that “specified complexity” is empirical evidence that the observed structure or function was intentionally designed.

How can we know that an object possesses “specified complexity”? Dembski says that structures or events that are highly complex will have a low probability of occurring by chance. Therefore a probability assessment must first be made. Because even rare or improbable events might occur by chance if given enough time, Dembski (1998) has set a probability value of 10-150 as a criterion for design.

To be specified, an object or event must possess a pattern independent of or detachable from the nature of the object or event in question (Dembski 1998). In the movie Contact, for example, SETI researchers interpret a radio signal as a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence because the signal contains the first 100 prime numbers. That particular sequence of numbers is specified because it has no inherent relationship with radio waves and is therefore independent of the radio waves themselves. Finally, a designed object or event, regardless of its complexity or specificity, cannot be the outcome of a deterministic natural law.

ID proponents argue that certain biological systems exhibit specified complexity and therefore must have been intentionally designed. But is specified complexity a reliable indicator of design? The validity of Dembski’s approach is questionable at best. Flaws in his argument have been pointed out previously (see for example, Orr 1996, 2002; Miller 1999, 2003; Schneider 2001a; Van Till 2002). But perhaps the best way to evaluate ID’s claim is to consider the application of their criteria to a specific example.

The bacterial flagellum: ID’s test case

Dembski (2000) says, “Design theorists are not saying that for a given natural object exhibiting specified complexity, all the natural causal mechanisms so far considered have failed to account for it and therefore it had to be designed. Rather they are saying that the specified complexity exhibited by a natural object can be such that there are compelling reasons to think that no natural causal mechanism is capable of producing it.” ID advocates have presented the bacterial flagellum as a biological structure that is clearly the result of design. Dembski’s application of his own complexity-specification criterion in the case of the bacterial flagellum, however, fails to demonstrate that the flagellum is either complex or specified (Van Till 2002).

Dembski’s calculation of the probability for the origin of the flagellum treats the flagellum as a discrete combinatorial object that self-assembled by pure chance. In other words, all the proteins spontaneously formed by the chance coming together of amino acids in the correct order, then the chance assembling of those proteins in the correct arrangements. This is not an evolutionary scenario ever postulated by biologists (Miller 2003; Van Till 2002). Evolutionists envision a far different scenario. Proteins are not built or assembled with the intent to construct a flagellar system. Protein variants appear through time, forming new interactions and taking on new functions. Protein assemblies that contribute to the reproductive success of the organism are maintained and shaped by natural selection.

Although Dembski (2002a: 19) stated that, in calculating the probability of an event, it is necessary to take into account all the relevant ways an event might occur, he himself failed to do so. By calculating only the probability that the flagellum arose by sheer chance, Dembski cannot justify his claim that the flagellum is a product of design (Van Till 2002). Dembski (2003) responded to such criticisms by stating that it was not his intention to “calculate every conceivable probability connected with the stochastic formation of the flagellum ... My point, rather, was to sketch out some probabilistic techniques that could then be applied by biologists to the stochastic formation of the flagellum.” Dembski then challenged his critics to calculate their own probabilities using whatever scenario they wish.

The bacterial flagellum is indeed a discrete combinatorial object, and the self-assembly that I describe is the one we are left with and can compute on the basis of what we know. The only reason biologists would refuse to countenance my description and probabilistic calculations of self-assembly is because they show that only an indirect Darwinian pathway could have produced the bacterial flagellum. But precisely because it is indirect, there is, at least for now, no causal specificity and no probability to be calculated. (Dembski 2002c)

There will always be a level of uncertainty in elucidating an evolutionary pathway for the origin of a flagellum or any other biological system. Dembski hides behind this uncertainty, content to continue using a pure chance model regardless of the fact that it bears no relationship whatsoever to our understanding of evolutionary processes.

Conclusions

ID proponents claim that biologists are engaged in a program of inquiry, which is doomed to fail. According to ID proponents, a naturalistic explanation for the origin of genetic information and complex biological organization is not possible. The ID proponents assert that they have developed rigorous criteria by which design in nature can be detected, but they have yet to demonstrate the validity of their criteria. Furthermore, ID proponents fail to engage fully the naturalistic scenarios of evolutionists to explain the origins of biological complexity.

Certainly much remains to be learned about the evolution of complexity, but there is every reason to believe it happened by natural processes. Consider for example the following case. In 1966, Kwang Jeon observed that his cultures of amoebae were dying as a result of a bacterial infection (Jeon 1991). The bacteria had apparently escaped digestion in a food vacuole and were reproducing within the amoebae. Over a period of time, some of the cultures began to recover. Bacteria were still present in the surviving amoeba, though at a much reduced level. Jeon was able to show that the bacteria had become dependent upon their host cell and the host cell was dependent upon the bacteria. Additional work demonstrated that genetic information lost from the bacterium and amoeba genomes had led to their obligate relationship. A mutually obligate endosymbiosis was established, creating what is essentially a new cell organelle. Two component systems became associated, mutated, and are now irreducibly linked to one another. Perhaps ID proponents will argue that the complexity is not sufficient to have required the action of an intelligent agent, but the point here is that undirected natural causes are all that are needed to explain an observed increase in complexity and generation of an irreducible system.

Biologists have advanced plausible naturalistic scenarios for the origins of biological complexity. These scenarios are based upon an understanding of established natural processes. To dismiss them as merely conceivable stories is unwarranted. To demand a detailed chain of causality for evolutionary scenarios is unrealistic. To insist that design has been detected in the bacterial flagellum by calculating the probability of its assembling by pure chance is simply wrong.
 

References

 


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Jeon KW. 1991. Amoeba and x-Bacteria: Symbiont acquisition and possible species change. In: Margulis L, Fester R, editors. Symbiosis as a Source of Evolutionary Innovation. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press. p 118–31.

Kauffman SA. 1993. The Origins of Order. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kauffman SA. 1995. At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lindsay D. 2000. How can evolution cause irreducibly complex systems? Available on-line at http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/evolve_irreducible.html. Last accessed August 28, 2006.

Lodish H, Berk A, Matsudaira P, Kaiser CA, Krieger M, Scott MP, Zipursky SL, Darnell J. 2003. Molecular Cell Biology, 5th ed. New York: WH Freeman.

Long M. 2001. Evolution of novel genes. Current Opinions in Genetics and Development 11: 673–80.

Melendez-Hevia, E, Wadell TG, Cascante M. 1996. The puzzle of the Krebs citric acid cycle: Assembling the pieces of chemically feasible reactions, and opportunism in the design of metabolic pathways during evolution. Journal of Molecular Evolution 43: 293–303.

Miller KR. 1999. Finding Darwin’s God. New York: Cliff Street Books.

Miller KR. 2003. The flagellum unspun: The collapse of “irreducible complexity”. Available on-line at http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html. Last accessed August 28, 2006.

Nelson DL, Cox MM. 2000. Lehninger: Principles of Biochemistry, 3rd ed. New York: Worth.

Orr HA. 1996. Darwin v intelligent design (again): The latest attack on evolution is cleverly argued, biologically informed — and wrong. Boston Review. Available on-line at http://new.bostonreview.net/br21.6/orr.html. Last accessed August 7, 2006.

Orr HA. 2002. Review of No Free Lunch by William A Dembski. Boston Review. Available on-line at http://bostonreview.net/BR27.3/orr.html (link broken). Last accessed August 7, 2006.

Reich C, Olsen GJ, Pace B, Pace NR. 1988. The role of the protein moiety of ribonuclease P, a catalytic ribonucleoprotein. Science 239: 178–81.

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Schneider TD. 2000. Evolution of biological information. Nucleic Acids Research 28: 2794–9.

Schneider TD. 2001a. Rebuttal to William A Dembski’s posting and to his book No Free Lunch. Available on-line at http://www.ccrnp.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/dembski/. Last accessed October 1, 2006.

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Van Till H. 2002. E coli at the No Free Lunchroom: Bacterial flagella and Dembski’s case for intelligent design. Available on-line at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/03_Areas/evolution/perspectives/vantillecoli_2002.pdf. Last accessed October 1, 2006.

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About the Author(s): 

Finn Pond
Biology Department
Whitworth College
300 W Hawthorne Rd
Spokane WA 99251
fpond@whitworth.edu

RNCSE 26 (4)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" link for list of articles in the print edition.

Print Edition Contents: 26 (4)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
2

News

  1. California Schemin'
    Rob Boston
    In Lebec, California, a creationist soccer coach tries a blind-side run, but ends up with a boom ball.
  2. Problems with the Intersession Course
    Eugenie C Scott
    NCSE's executive director describes the scientific and pedagogical flaws of the proposed "philosophy of intelligent design" course in Lebec.
  3. "Critical Analysis" in Ohio: The Return of the Zombie
    Glenn Branch
    The standard that would not die rattles around Ohio's Board of Education.
  4. Evolution Safe, After a Delay, in Michigan
    Glenn Branch
    Despite pressure from creationist lawmakers, the state's board of education stands its ground on evolution.
  5. Legal Troubles Plague Kent Hovind
    Greg Martinez
    The irrepressible "Dr Dino" and his wife are convictedon multiple federal counts of tax evasion.
  6. Updates
    News from California, Texas,Canada, Germany, Kenya, and Poland.

NCSE News

  1. NCSE Welcomes New Staff
    Glenn Branch
    Some new faces you will see and new voices you will hear around the office.
  2. NCSE Thanks You for Your Generous Support
    Recognizing those who have helped NCSE financially.

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. Ten (Eleven) Things Evolutionists Can Do to Improve Communication
    Randy Olson
    The director of Flock of Dodos gives free advice.
  2. Books: Mystery of Mysteries
    Books that examine evolution and speciation.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    An NCSE speaker may be coming to your neighborhood. Check the calendar here.

ARTICLES

  1. Baraminology: Systematic Discontinuity in Discontinuity Systematics
    Alan Gishlick
    Alan Gishlick introduces the main concepts, definitions, and analytical strategies of the creationist approach to systematics intended to show that the pattern of similarity and diversity among living things is one of separation and uniqueness rather than one of common descent.
  2. ANOPA: "Statistical" Systematics for Young-Earth Creationists
    Dan Bolnick
    Research into "baraminology" uses supposedly superior statistical tools. However, they succeed only in giving a less detailed, less clear view of relationships among organisms.

FEATURES

  1. The Basic Types of Life: Critical Evaluation of a Hybrid Model
    Ulrich Kutschera
    In Europe, the creationist concept of "basic types" of life has made headway with a creationist textbook and even some mainstream scientific publications. Is it productive science or just sterile pseudoscience?
  2. Species, Kinds, and Evolution
    John Wilkins
    In order to study speciation, it helps to know what makes a species. Since living things are a stop-frame in an ongoing evolutionary process, defining a species can be done in various ways ...

MEDIA REVIEW

  1. Review of Cladistics: A Practical Primer on CD-ROM by Peter Skelton and Andrew Smith
    Reviewed by Alan Gishlick

"Critical Analysis" in Ohio

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
"Critical Analysis" in Ohio: The Return of the Zombie
Author(s): 
Glenn Branch
NCSE Deputy Director
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
9–11
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Like a zombie in a horror film, the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" effort returned to haunt the Buckeye State, despite a series of stakes through its heart. In 2002, Ohio adopted a set of science standards including a requirement that students be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory" (see RNCSE 2002 Sep/Oct; 22 [5]: 4–6). When the indicator was introduced, it was widely feared that it would provide a pretext for the introduction of creationist misrepresentations of evolution. In 2004, those fears proved to be justified, when, over the protests of the state's scientific community, the board adopted a corresponding model lesson plan that clearly sought to instill scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution (see RNCSE 2004 Jan/Feb; 24 [1]: 5–6, 8–9).

Following the decision in Kitzmiller v Dover and the revelation that the board ignored criticisms of the lesson plan from experts at the Ohio Department of Education, the board reversed its decision, voting in February 2006 to remove the "critical analysis" indicator from the standards and to rescind the lesson plan (see RNCSE 2006 May/Jun; 26 [3]: 7–11). At the same time, however, the board charged its Achievement Committee to "consider whether the deleted model lesson, Benchmark H and Indicator 23 should be replaced by a different lesson, benchmark, and indicator, and if so, to present any recommendation to the entire State Board for adoption." Since it was the Achievement Committee that approved the controversial indicator in the first place, the Columbus Dispatch (2006 Feb 20) remarked ruefully, "Meet the new committee, same as the old committee."

The Achievement Committee, like the board as a whole, was divided over issues concerning evolution education, and thus was expected to take months to decide whether a replacement indicator was necessary. The first development occurred in July. According to the current science standards for the tenth grade, students are expected to be able to "[d]escribe that scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretation of data or about the value of rival theories, but they do agree that questioning response to criticism and open communications are integral to the process of science." At a meeting of the board's Achievement Committee on July 10, 2006, board member Colleen Grady proposed the addition of, "Discuss and be able to apply this in the following areas: global warning; evolutionary theory; emerging technologies and how they may impact society, e.g. cloning or stem-cell research."

The fact that evolution and global warming were the only areas of science cited as examples where scientists disagree was of immediate concern. (A similar pairing occurred in Michigan, where House Bill 5251 called for students to "use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution"; see RNCSE 2006 May/Jun; 26 [3]: 12–16.) Before the meeting, Steve Rissing, a biology professor at the Ohio State University, told the Columbus Dispatch (2006 Jul 9), "This is so transparent ... These are not controversial areas of science," and in reaction to Grady's proposal, Patricia Princehouse of Ohio Citizens for Science told the Dayton Daily News (2006 Jul 11), "We knew they wouldn't just give up and go home. We didn't think they'd come back so soon."

The Dispatch (2006 Jul 11) reported, "Education Department staff will put Grady's proposal into draft form for consideration at the board's September meeting. It is not clear whether there is enough support among committee members to recommend any proposal to the full board." Meanwhile, the Dispatch (2006 Jul 13), took a strong stand against the proposal on its editorial page, declaring, "This fight should have been dead and buried in February ... But a few dogged members still insist on 'teaching the controversy' about evolution, even though the controversy has been manufactured by disingenuous people who wish to introduce the supernatural into science classrooms. ... These few wily board members are the best possible evidence that evolution exists; their tactics mutate every time the public catches on to what's happening."

As the board's September meeting approached, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution — a new organization "fight[ing] for the separation of church and state, individual freedom, scientific progress, pluralism, and tolerance while respecting people of faith and their right to express their beliefs" — urged supporters of the integrity of science education to lobby school board members to reject Grady's proposal should it be introduced. The Toledo Blade (2006 Sep 7) reported that during a teleconference on September 6, 2006, members of the Campaign described the proposal as "a Trojan horse carrying religion into the science curriculum." The Blade added, "Patricia Princehouse, a lecturer in philosophy and evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University, who joined the Campaign to Defend the Constitution group, said treating evolution and other topics as though they are somehow different from the rest of science is a way to sneak creationism back into the science curriculum."

A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education told the Blade that no specific topics would be mentioned in a draft of the proposal, and the Akron Beacon-Journal reported (2006 Sep 7), "The nine-page document itself is evolutionary. Earlier this year, a proposal was to encourage debate of specific issues: Evolution, global warming and stem cell research. Now, it encourages students to conduct research and have open discussion in the classroom." Nevertheless, board member Martha Wise (a strong voice for the integrity of science education in Ohio; see RNCSE 2006 May/Jun; 26 [3]: 11) commented that the proposal "is a lot of gobbledygook — it's just another wedge into the teaching of ID in science classes." Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University worried, "When they teach history, are they going to say some people say the Holocaust never happened?"

The new version of the proposal, now dubbed the "Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues" template, became public before the Achievement Committee's September meeting, and was quickly the subject of — appropriately — a critical analysis of its own. Ohio Citizens for Science issued a statement (available on-line at http://www.ohioscience.org/Controversial_Issues_Response.pdf) regarding the framework, describing it as "incoherent if, as its major proponent has stated, it will have teachers and students 'challenge everything.' It is impossible to challenge everything in each school class; to even attempt such a thing would result in chaos and no learning" (emphasis in original). The statement added, "Clearly the template is in fact the latest step in ongoing efforts to orchestrate a religiously motivated attack on the theory of evolution ... While science relies constantly on genuine critical analysis, it does not use denigrating debate tools based on political propaganda and ill-informed by evidence."

Additionally, Alan Leshner — the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the publisher of its journal Science — forcefully criticized the framework in his op-ed for the Akron Beacon-Journal (2006 Sep 11), writing, "ID advocates who in the past were concerned only with critical analysis of evolution are adding scientific concepts they oppose on religious grounds, including embryonic stem cell research, as subjects where the scientific consensus would come under attack in Ohio's classrooms. Although the advocates have crafted their arguments carefully, a critical analysis of their version of critical analysis suggests it's an old product in a new wrapper — and that it poses clear and palpable threats to the education and future of Ohio's children."

At the September 11, 2006, meeting, the Achievement Committee declined to consider the "Controversial Issues" template. James L Craig, co-chair of the committee, said, "We've run out of time," according to a report in the Columbus Dispatch (2006 Sep 12), and peremptorily adjourned the meeting. The decision not to consider the template was surprising, since, as the Dispatch reported, the board received "national attention and thousands of e-mails" concerning it in recent weeks, owing in part to the campaign organized by the Committee to Defend the Constitution. It was speculated that the committee was dragging its heels in the fear that the board would vote against any replacement.

Although the Achievement Committee decided not to consider the framework at its September meeting, the Beacon-Journal (2006 Sep 13) observed that "the issue could come up for a vote at next month's regularly scheduled board meeting" in October. The Dispatch reported (2006 Sep 12), "Privately, several board members say they support an immediate vote so debate can end. The proposals, they say, are unnecessary and divisive and draw attention from more important topics." Meanwhile, the Beacon-Journal (2006 Sep 17) editorially commented, "Continuing this very political debate promises to harm the quality of education for Ohio students."

At the committee's October 9, 2006, meeting, however, the template was not even on the agenda and so "critical analysis" was still alive, despite a reported promise from Craig to kill the "critical analysis" effort. Patricia Princehouse of Ohio Citizens for Science told the Canton Repository (2006 Oct 10), "He sandbagged all of us." Confiding "I really don't care for the template," Craig cited the committee's inability to arrive at a consensus as the reason for the failure to vote on the template. Steve Rissing offered a different explanation: Craig "probably feared he would lose the election if he openly moved the template forward, so he made reassuring noises to scientists while claiming ignorance of the progress the template was making."

On October 10, 2006, the second day of the board of education's monthly meeting, supporters of the integrity of evolution education turned out in force, armed with copies of the Repository's article printed on bright yellow paper to catch the attention of members of the board and those attending the meeting, and prepared to use the public comment period to criticize the board for its inaction. As it happened, however, board member Martha Wise, who led February's effort to remove the "critical analysis" language, proposed to discharge the Achievement Committee from any further responsibilities concerning possible replacements from that language. Seconded by Rob Hovis, the motion passed 14–3.

After the vote, Wise told the Columbus Dispatch (2006 Oct 11), "It was time to move on." Princehouse thanked the board, saying, "I'm deeply impressed by the leadership and courage of the board with making a clean break from creationism." Similarly, the Dispatch seemed to assume that the controversy over evolution education in Ohio was finally over, headlining its story, "State education board drops evolution debate," and describing the board as having "pulled the plug on its seemingly incessant debate over Darwin's theory of evolution." But the zombie may not be out of action yet: angered by the board's vote, Achievement Committee co-chair Michael Cochran assured the Dispatch, "I will guarantee you that as long as I am chair [sic] of the committee, it's gonna be on the agenda next month."

About the Author(s): 
Glenn Branch
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
branch@ncseweb.org

Baraminology

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Baraminology
Author(s): 
Alan Gishlick
Gustavus Adolphus College
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
17–21
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Creation science comes as a surprise to many scientists, and thus I suspect that the fact that there is creationist systematics will come as an even bigger surprise to systematists. Yet creationists do practice a form of systematics, called "baraminology", and for creationist science it is surprisingly rigorous and internally consistent. It employs terminology and methodology not wholly unfamiliar to mainstream systematists (see sidebar, p 21).

The term "baraminology" comes from baramin, which was constructed from the Hebrew root words bara (created) and min (kind) by creationist Frank L Marsh (1941). Baraminology has also been referred to as "discontinuity systematics" (ReMine 1990; Marsh 1941, 1976). Baraminologists consider the baramin to be a taxonomic rank corresponding to the "created kinds" of Genesis. "Intelligent design" creationists are interested in baraminology as a way of quantifying discontinuities in the tree of life (Scherer 1993, 1998; Hartwig-Scherer 1998) and as a boundary between "macroevolution" and "microevolution" (Scherer 1993, 1998), although they tend to shun the term baramin and prefer the term "basic type" (Scherer 1993; Hartwig-Scherer 1998), perhaps because it avoids religious implications. It is also used as a proof of the actions of a designer or special creator (ReMine 1993; Scherer 1998).

The basic idea behind discontinuity systematics is that there are boundaries in the history of life that cannot be crossed. The aim is to find the "discontinuities" in the history of life, or the limits of common ancestry (ReMine 1993). While Marsh may have originated discontinuity systematics in the 1940s, it has been updated and refined to a form that is rapidly becoming one of the most active areas of creationist "scientific" research, and some of its methodology has been applied in near-mainstream research (for example, Scherer 1993). This area of research is also one of the places where "intelligent design" creationist and young-earth creationist "research" overlap.

What is most amazing is the number of traditional systematic methods and terminology that are employed by baraminologists. While they use many of the same methods as most systematists, from cladistics to the Analysis of Pattern (ANOPA) method, they use these tools to identify the "gaps", rather than the connections in life as most systematists do. This is why baraminologists principally employ phenetic methods of Sokal and Sneath (1963) — which are based on overall similarities in appearance or general features — computing distance matrices for a group of taxa and producing character mismatch statistics based on the matching coefficient of Sokal and Michener (1958). They see phenetics as useful in determining the biological gaps.

In addition, baraminologists employ cladistics for determining intra-holobaraminic relationships, as well as homoplasy (similarity in form not attributed to common descent) for separate groups (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998a). Baraminologists recognize synapomorphy (shared features that are attributed to common descent) as an example both of a feature that unites a holobaramin, and also of a "discontinuity" among groups. The synapomorphy that diagnoses a group suggests a creative event by God (Wood and others 2003). Baraminologists are very much concerned with having an accurate definition of "kind" because it is vague as commonly used (Awbrey 1981) and because a consistent definition will enable the discovery of the basic created kinds — and ultimately a calculation of the number of animals present on the ark, for young-earth creationists.

Baraminology has had deep roots, but more recently there has been an attempt to codify it into a working method of research for creationist biologists. This culminated in the formation of the Baraminology Study Group (BSG) based at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee (http://www.bryancore.org/bsg/index.html). This group has hosted several conferences on baraminology starting in 1997, and has published a book on baraminological methodology called Understanding the Pattern of Life (Wood and others 2003). This book offers a concise and relatively complete explanation of baraminology and its practice.

Baraminological Taxonomy

The role of discontinuity systematics is to establish the boundaries of common descent. To designate their groups and boundaries, baraminologists employ terminology and designations suspiciously similar to that of most systematists, and in particular to Mayr's evolutionary systematics. The baraminological terminology originally codified by ReMine (1993) and expanded upon by Frair (2000) is shown in the sidebar (see p 21).

For baraminologists, these taxonomic designations have different functions. The ultimate goal is to take polybaramins and break them down into their component monobaramins and their respective holobaramins. These holobaramins could then be placed in apobaramins of structurally similar animals. Baraminologists suggest that it is useful to talk about apobaramins because the holobaramins have many similarities that cross holobaraminic boundaries. Apobaramins are considered useful for studying larger groups of morphologically similar animals. Frair (2000) suggests that humans should be compared with the group most structurally and functionally similar to them: the great apes. There is a sort of cognitive dissonance going on with apobaramins, in that baraminologists are still using the power of phylogenetic inference, even though they deny phylogeny. If the groups are not phylogenetically related, why should baraminologists expect them to be comparable?

Once holobaramins have been determined, the phylogenetic relationships of the in-group members of a baramin could be worked out (Frair 2000). However, baraminologists do not think that displaying these relationships in the forms of trees would be useful. After producing trees, baraminologists have suggested that something other than trees may be more informative for depicting relationships; they suggest that other schemes, such as networks, lattices, or pattern recognition projection plots may do a better job (Frair 2000). Apparently, showing trees is a bit to descent-oriented for comfort. This is probably because representing relationships as descent, even within a holobaramin might leave people with the "wrong" impression. If people were to think too much about descent within a holobaramin, they may start to think that it can be extrapolated to apobaramins. However, baraminologists propose a slightly different notion of descent within groups:
[D]ifferent members of a holobaramin could have resulted from a sorting out to the offspring of different genes (DNA) from parental organisms. This is a common occurrence today. Or, since the time of creation there could have been some hereditary modifications of the DNA (mutations), and these were passed on to the diverging offspring. Selection in nature could have influenced the potential for survival of the diverse siblings. (Frair 2000)
Finally, it is interesting to note that baraminologists, like phylogenetic taxonomists, claim to eschew "essentialist" thinking, which seems odd given their notions of limited created "kinds"; however, this is because they recognize that diagnostic baraminological features can be lost through variation within a kind. The result is that combinations of other features in the "kind" are used to unite them in a monobaramin (Wood and others 2003).

Finding the "Discontinuities" of life

Practitioners of discontinuity systematics claim that it carries no model-based assumptions and therefore can be used independently of creation theories. Their claim is that they do not presuppose discontinuities, but rather follow the data to discover discontinuities where they exist (ReMine 1990). In practice, however, this is not the case. Frequently and explicitly, biblical criteria are used when discontinuities fail to be found among groups that "should be" discontinuous, as in the case of humans and chimps in Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998a). Wood and others (2003) explicitly state that the biblical criteria are paramount and that discontinuities are presupposed because of the separate creation events mentioned in the Bible. Thus, baramins may be defined on a number of criteria, but the "scriptural" criterion takes precedence and is the only one necessary. However, because there are no scriptural definitions for much of life, in those cases the other criteria are used.

In these cases, baraminologists use a number of membership criteria to determine the boundaries of the holobaramins. These criteria were first proposed as generalizations by ReMine (1990) and have been fleshed out by subsequent works; however, few have been extensively tested or employed as of yet (Wood and Cavanaugh 2003). Save for the biblical criteria, all measures are considered fallible, and thus proponents argue that multiple criteria should be employed when attempting to diagnose a holobaramin (Wood and Cavanaugh 2003; Wood and others 2003).

Morphological criteria

Baraminologists have spent perhaps the most research time on the morphological criteria.Within these criteria, baraminologists construct measures of baraminological distance corresponding to character mismatches among the features of the groups they are analyzing. To measure baraminological distance, baraminologists employ a wide range of methods for discovering morphological gaps, borrowing traditional methods such as cladistics and phenetics and developing their own methods. In the computation of such units, traditional cladistic consistency measures and phenetic distance measures are used, along with other multivariate statistical methods. Baraminologists are especially enamored of phenetics (as in Sokal and Sneath 1963) because this approach is particularly amenable to a typological view of life (ReMine 1990). Included in morphological criteria are the identification of morphologies, organs, metabolic pathways, cellular processes, or functions that are unique to a group (sometimes considered synapomorphies) and thus supposedly suggestive of separate origins.

In selecting organisms for morphological analysis to divide monobaramins from apobaramins, baraminologists use typical taxonomic procedures. Baraminologists start with a classification, or according to Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998a), a hypothesized phylogeny (which is ironic given their denial of large-scale phylogenetic relationships), because they assume this group would contain truly holobaraminic groups. Animals of closely allied taxonomic groups are selected as in-groups and nearest neighbor groups are selected as out-groups for biological comparability (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1997).

Baraminologists also use cladistic methods. They compute trees using traditional cladistic software. Groups with high correlations within a bootstrapped dataset are considered potentially holobaraminic and then must be tested for phylogenetic discontinuity of their subgroups. High levels of homoplasy are also considered indicative of separate baramins, which baraminologists propose are a result of separate creations.

Baraminologists consider homologies to exist within holobaramins; homoplasies are features shared among holobaramins (Wise 1990). Baraminologists assume that a certain level of homoplasy delineates a phylogenetic discontinuity (Wise 1990), but no discrete criterion has yet been provided. For scriptural reasons, baraminologists think that organisms are too well designed to have true independence of characters (Wood and others 2003), which they argue calls into question the utility of independent character data.

In order to determine the degree of homoplasy, baraminologists compute a "Homoplasy Index" (HI) — the equivalent of 1–CI of traditional cladistic analysis (Kluge and Farris 1969). If the HI is high, then separate baramins are preferred. If the HI is high within a holobaramin, it is proposed to be the result of "gene scattering" from a complex ancestor through hybridization (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998a; Scherer 1993). As with other baraminological measures, there is no specific measure of what degree of HI represents separate baramins and no explanation of why finding high HIs within a diagnosed holobaramin is not evidence that it is really an apobaramin. Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998a) note that there is a 0 homoplasy index between humans and apes in their dataset, which they suggests speaks to an imperfect measure by that criteria in some circumstances — namely those in which the analysis does not produce the answer they want. Therefore they caution researchers about using the HI as a criterion.

Molecular criteria

Baraminologists have recently become interested in molecular criteria to define a baramin because they offer the chance to search for discontinuities at the "fundamental" level of life (Robinson 1997; but see also Marsh 1971). The reasoning is similar to that of traditional systematists, and baraminology uses some of the same data and analytical techniques. Baraminologists believe that all holobaramins went through a severe bottleneck at the time of the Noachian Flood, so mitochondrial DNA should be an ideal systematic tool (Robinson 1997). Like other systematists, baraminologists download sequences from on-line databases such as GenBank and use typical phylogenetic alignment methods. Baraminologists use taxa that they believe are "phylogenetically distinct" for out-groups in molecular analysis. They then compare sequences by percent sequence difference compared to taxonomic rank, use parsimony distance estimates to construct groupings, and finally evaluate these groupings by bootstrap methods. Molecular methods were pioneered by Robinson (1997) for turtle baraminology. Baraminologists also utilize DNA/DNA hybridization and blood serum reactivity measurements to determine baraminological divisions.

Ecological criteria

The ecological criteria were first proposed by Wise (1992), who argued that ecological and trophic differences reflected separate originations or groups. Wise based this on the idea that the taxonomic rank of family reflected created kinds and his observations that the families tend to contain animals with similar ecologies and trophic levels. Thus, different ecological or trophic features should delineate separate baramins. Wood and others (2003) suggest that this criterion would be most useful for single-celled organisms, citing the radically different ecologies and cellular metabolisms found in bacteria and archaea, which, they argue, suggest separate origins.

Fossil or stratigraphic criteria

This criterion is a bit hard to understand and employ. For young-earth creationist baraminologists, the stratigraphic record is not reflective of the ancestral history of living things, but rather of deposition during the Noachian Flood. Thus the stratigraphic position of organisms should be irrelevant under this model.

Hybridization criteria

Based on the early work of Marsh (1941, 1976), the idea is that the limits of a baramin or basic type can be established for a group of organisms by their ability to hybridize. This is proposed as a testable, definable rank above that of species. It does not matter whether the hybridization is natural, or the offspring is fertile, only that hybridization is possible through some means, including artificial insemination (Scherer 1993). In order to establish these criteria, baraminologists collect and catalog hybrid data, supplemented by some hybridization studies of their own (Scherer and Hilsberg 1982; Scherer 1993). Hybridization potential is correlated with other measures of baraminological distance to test whether groups believed to be monobaraminic are capable of hybridization; if they are, then it provides support for an actual phylogenetic relationship between the organisms (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998b). One wonders if they are willing to investigate the hybridization criteria for humans and chimps, which was not discussed in Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998a). A hybridization database is available on-line through the website of the BSG (http://www.bryancore.org/hdb/). Hybridization work is one area where practitioners of "intelligent design" and young-earth creationists overlap.

Biblical criteria

The biblical criteria are paramount and trump all other criteria (Wood and others 2003). There are two grades of biblical criteria; the first whether the Bible specifically references the baramin as specially created, and the second whether the Bible implies that it was specially created (Wood and others 2003). There are a number of studies that show how the biblical criteria are employed in baraminological estimates. Robinson (1997) provides a good example for turtles.

First, baraminologists search for any identification of a baramin in biblical texts. In the case of Robinson (1997), it is suggested that turtles are identified in Leviticus. Second, baraminologists determine whether the animal is "clean" or "unclean", thus determining how many pairs were brought onto the Ark. In Robinson (1997), turtles are determined to be unclean; thus only one pair of each turtle baramin would have been required. Robinson also suggests the marine turtles would not have been on the Ark. In the case of humans and primates, Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998a) conclude that even though other criteria cannot separate humans and primates, the biblical criteria specifically states that humans are a separate baramin, so the other data are in effect immaterial.

To aid their quest for discontinuity, baraminologists have developed two semi-original and supposedly objective methodologies, ANOPA and BDIST, which they use along with more traditional systematic methods.

ANOPA

One of the membership criteria proposed by ReMine (1990), the "true lineage" can be considered part of the morphological criterion and the stratigraphic criterion. The idea behind this is that organisms could be represented as discrete points in a three-dimensional morphospace. If organisms could be connected by a continuous lineage in morphospace, then they could be considered part of the same baramin. Analysis of Pattern (ANOPA) is a statistical tool developed by Cavanaugh to determine whether such lineages exist (Cavanaugh and Sternberg 2004). Cavanaugh claims that this method is useful for investigating three-dimensional morphological data quantitatively; however, it appears to differ little from principal components analysis with a fancy graphical display, and its measures are suspect (see Dan Bolnick's analysis of ANOPA, p 22).

BDIST

Baraminologists have developed their own analysis software, which performs a distance analysis similar to that of Sokal and Sneath (1963). This is called BDIST (Wood 2001) and is available for free download at http://www.bryancore.org/bsg/bdist.html. This program is designed to utilize cladistic datasets in NEXUS format as used by PAUP* (Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony; available on-line at http://paup.csit.fsu.edu).

BDIST computes the "coefficient of baraminic distance" as originally described by Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998a). This coefficient is a form of the simple matching coefficient of Sokal and Michener (1958). This baraminic distance represents the percentage of characters two taxa share in common. If there is a "chain of positive and significant baraminic distance correlations" connecting all the taxa, then they are monobaraminic (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998a). Basically, BDIST computes a phenetic distance matrix.

Overall, however, the BDIST methodology has not been extensively applied, and there is no evidence that the algorithmic effects of large datasets, or the role of missing data, have ever been studied by baraminologists. Baraminologists appear to apply an old phenetic method, without really studying how it works. More interestingly the method might not really work at all. In the published applications of the method so far, in no case did it actually distinguish between two baramins. In cases where it returned results baraminologists could live with, they determined a holobaraminic status for the group. This was the case for felids (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998b), flaveriinae (Wood and Cavanaugh 2001), and fossil and recent equids (Cavanaugh and others 2003). In conditions where it did not return results favorable to baraminologists, other criteria are applied to achieve the desired result. This was the case for humans and primates (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998a) where BDIST did not show a separation. Instead, the authors employed ad hoc "ecological criteria" to achieve separate baramins, while not discussing the "biblical criteria".

Baraminology Glossary
The baraminological groups were originally codified by ReMine (1993) and expanded by Frair (2000).

Holobaramin: All known living and extinct forms understood to share genetic relationships. It is the entire group of organisms related by common ancestry. This would correspond to Mayr's (1963) holophyly or Hennig's (1950) monophyly.

Monobaramin: A group containing only organisms related by common descent, but not necessarily all of them. This could be a group containing one entire holobaramin or a portion of it. This would correspond roughly to Mayr's (1963) monophyly or Hennig's (1950) paraphyly.

Apobaramin: A group consisting of one or more holobaramins. The group of holobaramins may share similar morphology, ecology, and function, but, by definition, not common descent. This may be somewhat like polyphyletic groups.

Polybaramin: A grouping of two or more individuals who are part of at least two holobaramins. It may be a combination of holobaramins, monobaramins, apobaramins, and individuals that by definition do not share a common ancestor. This is consistent with traditional notions of polyphyly.

Baraminologists also recognize a number of taxonomic groupings — archaebaramin (the original created individuals of a holobaramin), neobaramin (the extant individuals in a holobaramin), and paleobaramin (the extinct members of a baramin, or a wholly extinct baramin) — that do not have counterparts in traditional systematics.
Only the study on equids (Cavanaugh 2003) included both fossil and living taxa, and none of the other studies contained datasets with missing data. Therefore, this study served as a template to see how they would investigate fossil and recent morphological datasets. In their treatment of the Evander (1989) data for fossil horses, Cavanaugh and others (2003) removed the missing data by recoding it so that "unknown" data were coded as 0, absence as 1, partial derivation as 2, and presence as 3 and 4 (some characters have more than 2 states). The recoding of unknown data to a specific value that can be used in the analysis makes the dataset use all characters; however, it falsely increases the amount of morphological variation by assigning a numerical value to an unknown. In a sense, the authors artificially create a morphological character state where there is none. This only has minor effects on the overall analysis since it only applies to five characters in a single taxon, so recoding the dataset correctly to include the missing data did not significantly alter the results. However, the effects would be more profound in larger datasets with more widely scattered missing data.

The BDIST software, as configured by Wood, screens out any character with less than "95% relevancy". Why this threshold was chosen is not explained, nor how it is determined. Based on investigation of datasets, relevancy appears to be determined by percentage of missing data for a character relative to total number of taxa. This makes the application of this method to fossil datasets difficult. Surprisingly, characters with no variation (either all 0s or 1s) are not considered "irrelevant" (as they would be in cladistic analyses because they would be "uninformative"). The importance of including characters and taxa with missing data has been shown (Donoghue and others 1989). Recoding missing data as valued, as Cavanaugh and others (2003) have done, however, would have a measurable distorting effect on the results, particularly if the amount of missing data was a larger proportion of the dataset.

When the relative baraminic distances are compared with the phylogenies produced by the datasets, the overall result is a steady, gradual trend in decreasing baraminic distance relative to the phylogeny. These results are comparable to those generated from the Evander (1989) data for fossil horses. Thus, with no significant baraminic distance shifts within the datasets, it could be concluded that dinosaurs and birds belong to the same holobaramin. This makes sense in an evolutionary context: the more transitional features one finds in a set of related organisms, the lower the relative distance between any two taxa will be. In general, including more fossil taxa with transitional morphologies will decrease phylogenic discontinuity, which may explain the datasets that baraminologists have analyzed so far.

Conclusion

Despite its use of computer software and flashy statistical graphics, the practice of baraminology amounts to little more than a parroting of scientific investigations into phylogenetics. A critical analysis of the results from the one "objective" software program employed by baraminologists suggests that the method does not actually work. The supremacy of the biblical criteria is explicitly admitted to by Wood and others (2003) in their guidebook to baraminology, so all their claims of "objectivity" notwithstanding, the results will never stray very far from a literal reading of biblical texts. I will give the baraminologists credit in one area: they are up-front about their motives and predispositions and true to their biblical criteria and methodology, which is more than can be said about "intelligent design" proponents.

References



Awbrey FT. 1981. Defining "kinds" — Do creationists apply a double standard? Creation/Evolution 2 (3): 1–6.

Cavanaugh DP, Sternberg RV. 2004. Analysis of morphological groupings using ANOPA, a pattern recognition and multivariate statistical method: A case study involving centrarchid fishes. Journal of Biological Systems 12 (2): 137–67.

Cavanaugh DP, Wood TC, Wise KP. 2003. Fossil Equidae: A monobaraminic, stratomorphic series. In Ivey RL, editor. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism. Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship. p 143–53.

Donoghue MJ, Doyle LA, Gauthier J, Kluge AG, Rowe T. 1989. The importance of fossils in phylogeny reconstruction. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 20: 431–60.

Evander R. 1989. Phylogeny of the family Equidae. In: Prothero DR, Schoch RM, editors. The Evolution of Perissodactyls. New York: Oxford University Press. p 109–27.

Frair W. 2000. Baraminology — Classification of created organisms. Creation Research Society Quarterly 37: 82–91.

Hartwig-Scherer S. 1998. Apes or ancestors? Interpretations of the hominid fossil record within evolutionary and basic type biology. In Dembski WA, editor. Mere Creation. Downers Grove (IL): InterVarsity Press. p 212–35.

Kluge AG, Farris S. 1969. Quantitative phyletics and the evolution of anurans. Systematic Zoology 18 (1): 1–32.

Marsh FL. 1941. Fundamental Biology. Lincoln (NE): [self-published].

Marsh FL. 1971. The Genesis kinds in the modern world. In: Lammerts WE, editor. Scientific Studies in Special Creation. Nutley (NJ): Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. p 136–55.

Marsh FL. 1976. Variation and Fixity in Nature. Mountain View (CA): Pacific Press Publishing Association.

ReMine WJ. 1990. Discontinuity systematics: A methodology of biosystematics relevant to the creation model. In Walsh RE, Brooks CL, editors. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism. Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship. p 207–13.

ReMine WJ. 1993. The Biotic Message. St Paul (MN): St Paul Science.

Robinson DA. 1997. A mitochondrial DNA analysis of the testudine apobaramin. Creation Research Society Quarterly 33:262–72.

Robinson DA, Cavanaugh DP. 1998a. A quantitative approach to baraminology with examples from the primates. Creation Research Society Quarterly 34: 196–208.

Robinson DA, Cavanaugh DP. 1998b. Evidence for a holobaraminic origin of the cats. Creation Research Society Quarterly 35: 2–14.

Scherer S. 1993. Typen des Lebens. Berlin: Pascal.

Scherer S. 1998. Basic types of life: Evidence of design from taxonomy? In Dembski WA, editor. Mere Creation. Downers Grove (IL): InterVarsity Press. p 195–211.

Scherer VS, Hilsberg T. Hybridisierung und verwandtschaftsgrade innerhalb der Anatidae — eine systematische und evolutionstheoretische Betrachtung. Journal für Ornithologie 123: 357–80.

Sokal RR, Michener CD. 1958. A statistical method for evaluating systematic relationships. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 38: 1409–38.

Sokal RR, Sneath PHA. 1963. Principles of Numerical Taxonomy. San Francisco: WH Freeman.

Wise KP. 1990. Baraminology: A young-earth creation biosystematic method. In: Walsh RE, Brooks CL, editors. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism. Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship.

Wise KP. 1992. Practical baraminology. Creation ex Nihilo Technical Journal 6 (2): 122–37.

Wood TC. 2001. BDIST software, v. 1.0. Center for Origins Research and Education, Bryan College. Distributed by the author.

Wood TC, Williams PJ, Wise KP, and Robinson DA. 1999. Baraminology of the Camelidae. Baraminology '99, pp. 9–18

Wood TC, Cavanaugh DP. 2001. A baraminological analysis of subtribe Flaveriinae (Asteraceae: Helenieae) and the origin of biological complexity. Origins 52: 7–27.

Wood TC, Cavanaugh DP. 2003. An evaluation of lineages and trajectories as baraminological membership criteria. Occasional Papers of the Baraminological Study Group 1 (1): 1–6.

Wood TC, Wise KP, Murray MJ. 2003. Understanding the Pattern of Life: Origins and Organization of the Species. Nashville (TN): Broadman & Holman Publishing Group.

About the Author(s): 
Alan Gishlick
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
gish@ncseweb.org

Problems with the Intersession Course

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Problems with the Intersession Course
Author(s): 
Eugenie C Scott
Executive Director, NCSE
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
6–9
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
NCSE's executive director Eugenie C Scott was asked to write a declaration in support of the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order, and if necessary a preliminary injunction, in Hurst et al v Newman et al. The following discussion of specific problems with the "Philosophy of Intelligent Design" course that was at issue in the case is taken from her declaration.

Introduction

In my expert opinion, the purpose and effect of the course at issue in this lawsuit are not to present a comparative treatment of the various philosophical issues surrounding evolution and creationism.

Rather, the purpose and effect of the class are to disparage the scientific status of evolution and to present as superior to evolution the religious ideas of creation science and "intelligent design". In other words, the course advocates on behalf of a particular religious view, and a sectarian one at that; special creationism is a minority view in American Christianity.

The evidence on which I base that conclusion pervades the course description, the original syllabus, and the revised syllabus — and turns on four general observations.

Lack of diversity

First, although the revised syllabus for the class asserts that the course will present the "world views on origins," the course does not even begin to provide students with the diversity of viewpoints on this matter. (It is worth noting that among the other intersession classes are a class specifically on "Comparative Religion" and another on "Mythology." The first is truly comparative, covering five major religions, and the second is on ancient myths and their influence on books [and] movies, such as Star Wars. This shows that there is at least an awareness at the school of how to treat religious views in a comparative fashion.) Instead, the course presents a single religious viewpoint, namely creationism (whether as creation science or "intelligent design").

Despite the original course title "Philosophy of Intelligent Design," the original version of the syllabus was dominated by creation science — the same view that the Supreme Court in Edwards held could not be taught in public schools.

The course description, which I understand has remained unchanged, emphasizes creation science by, for example, advocating the belief that there is scientific evidence that "the earth is thousands of years old, not billions." It also states that the course will "take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid" (my emphasis).

The revised version of the syllabus emphasizes "intelligent design", but traces of creation science still appear, especially in such course materials as the video Chemicals to Living Cells: Fantasy or Science, which is sold by the creation-science ministry Answers in Genesis.

The syllabi, course description, and course materials make no mention of any non-Western religious viewpoints on the origins of life and its history. In any class purporting to provide a comparative treatment of cultural phenomena, that omission is remarkable. Anthropologists regard origin myths — stories about the ways in which the world and its inhabitants were formed (usually as the work of supernatural beings or forces) — as a cultural universal. There is certainly no shortage of origin myths available for discussion. Yet the course description and the original syllabus here reflect a narrow focus on a particular sectarian account of origins.

Similarly, there is no mention in the course materials of any religious viewpoints, Western or non-Western, that accept evolution. An example of these would be any of the many varieties of Christian theology known as theistic evolution: A number of mainline Christian denominations in the United States regard evolution as no threat to their theological views. For example, a number of prominent religious figures, including the late Pope John Paul II, have expressed the view that evolution is compatible with, or even enriches, their faith. A number of prominent scientists, including Francis Collins (the leader of the Human Genome Project), have made similar claims. But students in this course will not learn about any of these views. Instead, they will be told that evolution and religion are involved in (in the words of one of the videos on the original syllabus) a "War of the Worldviews".

The absence of the viewpoints of other religious traditions from the course materials belies any claim that the course's aim is to present a balanced, comparative, or objective treatment. Moreover, since the only religious viewpoint presented is in opposition to evolution, the effect is to present evolution as intrinsically antireligious. The course thus employs the "two-model" approach (beloved of proponents of creation science and "intelligent design") that Judge Overton aptly described in the McLean case as a "contrived dualism."

Bias in the course materials

Second, the course materials make clear that the class is being taught from an anti-evolution, pro-creationist and pro-"intelligent design" perspective.

The course description promises that the course will present evidence that "Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid" and present evidence "suggesting the earth is thousands of years old, not billions," thereby plainly reflecting a manifestly pro-creationist perspective. Furthermore, the course description's reference to treatment of "the age of the earth, a world wide flood, dinosaurs, pre-human fossils, dating methods, DNA, radioisotopes, and geological evidence" bespeaks a plainly religious agenda, as these are topics repeatedly singled out by proponents of creationism and "intelligent design" as reflecting areas on which evolutionary theory is flawed.

Twenty-three of the 24 videos listed on the original syllabus are one-sided presentations, produced by creation-science ministries and advocating a pro-creationism perspective, without any critical treatment of the arguments or other rebuttal. These videos are not ordinarily regarded as suitable material for the public schools because of their poor scientific quality as well as their religious advocacy. The twenty-fourth video, The Fire Below Us, pertains to volcanic activity rather than evolution and can scarcely bear the weight of holding up the "pro-evolution perspective".

The video selections — including Unlocking the Mystery of Life — also advocate the view that scientific practice should be changed and methodological naturalism should be abandoned in order to accommodate reference to the supernatural.

Similarly, the original syllabus devoted two days each to the "Laws of Thermodynamics" and "Fossil Records and Dating Methods". These are areas of scientific inquiry that proponents of creation science have traditionally attacked, with the scientific community regarding the attacks as lacking any scientific merit.

On the original syllabus, two of the five prospective speakers ([Ross] Anderson and [Joe] Francis) are identifiable proponents of creation science; a third, "David Kopich," is probably meant to refer to a local proponent of creation science named David Coppedge. Of the two prospective speakers on the original syllabus who were supposed to present the case for evolution, one is a local parent [Kenneth Hurst, the lead plaintiff] who opposed the class. The other is the Nobel laureate Francis Crick (misspelled "Krich"), who died in 2004.

The revised syllabus appears to have been revised to de-emphasize creation science in favor of "intelligent design", presumably in the hope that the course would better be able to survive constitutional scrutiny. The revision is thus a microcosm of the national debate, in which "intelligent design" emerged in the wake of Edwards v Aguillard as a form of creationism intended to avoid the Supreme Court's decision declaring the teaching of creation science in schools to be unconstitutional.

"Intelligent design" was recently recognized in Kitzmiller v Dover as unconstitutional for the same reasons as creation science was in Edwards. Although the erroneous scientific claims distinctive of creation science, such as those involving the age of the earth and thermodynamics, are no longer explicitly mentioned in the revised syllabus, "intelligent design", as the progeny of creation science, retains many of the same erroneous scientific flaws. All but one of the videos listed on the revised syllabus are the products of the "intelligent design" movement. Those videos, like the creation-science ones, are not ordinarily regarded as suitable material for the public schools.

Both the original and revised syllabi include numerous videos purporting to address the "evidence against evolution," but not a single video on either list addresses the gaps/problems with creationism or "intelligent design". Because creation science and "intelligent design" are religious rather than scientific viewpoints, advocating the tenets of these viewpoints — as opposed to addressing them in an appropriate context and in an objective manner — amounts to religious advocacy that cannot have a valid secular purpose.

Misrepresentation of the standing of evolution

Third, the course materials present a distorted view of the scientific standing of evolution. Throughout those materials, evolution is presented as a "worldview" or "philosophy". In the anti-evolution movement, these terms are often used synonymously with "religion", in order to suggest that evolution is accepted only on faith, thus converting evolution from a scientific theory (which has a particular meaning and special status in the scientific community) to a belief system (which does not).

In that regard, the very first sentence of the course description reads, "This class ... will discuss the scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid" (emphasis added).

Topics in the original syllabus include "Is Evolution a science or a philosophy?," "Is Evolution based on a religion?," and "Is evolution based on philosophy?" Although those questions are not explicitly answered in the syllabus, the fact that these questions are raised repeatedly in a course entitled "Philosophy of Intelligent Design" strongly implies that the instructor intends to teach or suggest that evolution is based on a "philosophy". The videos on the syllabi, such as "War of the Worldviews," further support that conclusion.

In the revised syllabus, although one topic is "How does the Philosophy of Intelligent Design differ from the Theory of Evolution?" (a formulation that might suggest evolution is no longer going to be presented as based on "philosophy"), the very next topic on that syllabus demonstrates otherwise by referring to "this debate concerning philosophies" — that is, evolution and "intelligent design".

Similarly, the revised syllabus states that "Equal and balanced instructions will be given on all philosophies". Because the only concepts taught are a religious view and evolution, this statement has the effect of labeling both concepts as "philosophies." Neither the original nor the revised syllabus calls for informing the students that the scientific community overwhelmingly accepts evolution.

Inaccurate and irresponsible treatment of evolution

Fourth, and related to the third consideration, is the fact that the course materials do not treat evolution in ways that are either scientifically accurate or pedagogically responsible. A genuine comparative treatment of cultural ideas concerning the origin and history of life would not necessarily have to discuss scientific ideas at all. It would be sufficient, for example, to describe the origin myths of a number of different cultures, to compare and contrast them, and to discuss the role that the origin myths play with respect to the rest of their cultures. But if scientific ideas like evolution are to be discussed in such a course, they should be discussed in a scientifically accurate and pedagogically responsible way. That is not the case with the course at issue here.

As noted, the original syllabus devoted two days to "Laws of Thermodynamics", which is a topic from physics. It is primarily proponents of creation science, and not physicists or other scientists, who regard that topic as relevant to the scientific study of evolution, for creationists incorrectly maintain that the Second Law of Thermodynamics renders evolution impossible.

The revised syllabus describes evolution as a view "on the origin of life". In the sense most common in modern biology, "evolution" denotes descent with modification — the scientific theory that living things have descended, with modification, from common ancestors. The origin of life is a separate question and a separate area of research.

Additionally, there is reason to doubt that the course presents evolution in a way appropriate to the students' ages and level of preparation. In the original syllabus, no scientifically credible and pedagogically appropriate instructional materials about evolution are listed. Apparently Mrs Lemburg was content to have the students learn about evolution almost entirely from creationist sources. Since evolution is typically presented in California only in high-school biology, it is likely that the students in this course would have had, at most, one course in which they were formally exposed to evolution; and some of the students may not have had even that. They therefore would not have the prerequisite knowledge to enable them to evaluate critically the scientific claims contained in the creationist sources.

In the revised syllabus, non-creationist instructional material about evolution was added: the PBS series Evolution, the "Understanding Evolution" website, and Evolution vs Creationism. As a consultant to the first two and the author of the third, I can certainly vouch for their scientific credibility. However, none of these materials was intended to provide a first exposure to evolution. The Evolution series was intended for a general adult audience, and (like any science documentary) was not intended to provide a complete education to its viewers. The parts of the Understanding Evolution website to which the revised syllabus refers are aimed at teachers who are striving to improve their ability to teach evolution effectively. They are not directed, aimed at, or geared to students. While there is a section of the website that provides a basic introduction to evolution, it is not mentioned in the syllabus, and it would not in any case be appropriate as the students' primary source of information about evolution. Evolution vs Creationism is suitable for advanced high-school students and for college students, but certainly not for students who have not yet even taken a biology course at the high-school level. And like the Understanding Evolution website, the book provides only the most rudimentary introduction to the science of evolution; it is no substitute for a real biology class with a competent teacher using a mainstream textbook.

If there were genuine scientific evidence against evolution — that is, if scientists had scientific debates over whether evolution actually occurred — there might be a secular pedagogical reason for teaching students "the controversy." The scientific community, however, overwhelmingly views evolution (the inference of common descent of living things) as a solidly supported scientific view. (The National Association of Biology Teachers writes, "Modern biologists constantly study, ponder and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms and pace of evolution, but they do not debate evolution's occurrence." Similarly, the National Science Teachers Association has stated, "There is no longer a debate among scientists over whether evolution has taken place," and specifically recommends that "[p]olicy-makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of creation science or related concepts such as 'intelligent design', 'abrupt appearance', and 'arguments against evolution'."). Indeed, the consensus of the scientific community is that "[t]he contemporary theory of biological evolution is one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry" (American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS Board Resolution on Intelligent Design Theory, 2002; the AAAS is the largest general scientific society in the world).

Conclusion

Because there is no scientific "evidence against evolution" and there is no pedagogical value in teaching "evidence against evolution," yet there are conspicuous religious motivations for promoting this practice, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the underlying purpose and the intended effect of efforts to require the teaching of "the evidence against evolution," such as those in the course at issue here, are to protect or advance a particular set of religious beliefs.

Presenting evolution in a philosophy class as a philosophy or belief system on a par with the religious view of creationism misrepresents the nature of evolution. It confuses students about what evolutionary theory is, interfering with their education when they are presented with the concept of evolution in their science classes. There can be no valid secular purpose for misleading students about the nature of evolutionary theory in a public-school philosophy class any more than there can be in a public-school science class.

Any citizen, of course, has the right to advocate a religious position, including advocating theism over materialism. But that does not translate into the right to engage in such religious advocacy in the public-school classroom. Mrs Lemburg's "Philosophy of Design" class is just such advocacy. It therefore suffers from the same defect as the teaching of creation science in Edwards and McLean, and the inclusion of intelligent design in the curriculum in Kitzmiller.

[For the sake of readability, headings were added, paragraph numbers and internal references were removed, and footnotes were incorporated into the text; a few corrections and amplifications were inserted in square brackets. For the entire declaration as submitted, visit http://www2.ncseweb.org/hurst/Scott_expert_witness_declaration-20060110.pdf.]

About the Author(s): 
Eugenie C Scott
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
scott@ncseweb.org

Species, Kinds, and Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Species, Kinds, and Evolution
Author(s): 
John Wilkins
University of Queensland
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
36–45
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Introduction

Creationists oppose the idea that species can evolve indefinitely and charge evolutionary biologists with failing to define their terms properly. In this article I want to trace briefly the history of the idea of species and show that it is in fact a virtue of biology that it tries to make its terms follow the evidence rather than to define them all up front. The idea that species were universally thought to be fixed prior to Darwin is simply wrong — many creationist thinkers of the classical period through to the 19th century thought that species could change. The issue of evolution was, in fact, impossible to suggest until the claim was made that species were fixed, and as soon as it was suggested, so too was evolution. There has been a longstanding vagueness about living "kinds" that goes back to the classical era and that follows from good observation. What is more, nothing in the biblical or theological traditions requires that species are fixed, only that kinds exist, which neither evolutionists nor traditional creationists ever denied.

Because the number of species "concepts" in the literature is high, I have also tried to put them into context and list them for easy reference (see this page). That way, when a "concept" is referred to in a text, it can be compared to other candidate conceptions. It is clear to me, at any rate, that there are many conceptions of species, and that biologists use the one that best suits the organisms they study. I think of this as a "conceptual delicatessen" — when scientists need a species concept to suit the organisms being studied, they will typically assemble a custom "club sandwich" from previous ideas. This is not bad practice — if science is about learning and using words to express that learning, then we should expect that they would do this, and in fact they should.

To understand the concept of species, we must understand how the notion developed in the history of biological research. One point that must always be borne in mind: people did not suddenly become smart upon the publication of On the Origin of Species, nor were they bad observers before that date. And keep in mind a related point: religious commitment had little to do with the sorts of conclusions natural historians and biologists reached before Darwin, and it seems that in science, it still does not now.

The evolution of the species concept
Then God said, Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. …

And God said, Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. …

And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1, verses 11–2, 20–1, 24–5, New International Version
So long as people have been farming plants and raising livestock, they have been aware that one organism gives birth to another very like it. That is, they have known that living things come in kinds. This is not confined to the Bible, of course. Aristotle knew it. So did Theophrastus, his student, sometimes called the father of botany. It is not, as they say, rocket surgery.

So given the relatively short time scale of human observation, it followed that people would tend to think that species, living kinds, were stable; and they did. But they did not think species were unable to change for a very long time, not until John Ray, a brilliant English 17th-century botanist who compiled the first complete flora (of Cambridgeshire, and then of England), wrote in an influential work:
After long and considerable investigation, no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed. Thus, no matter what variations occur in the individuals or the species, if they spring from the seed of one and the same plant, they are accidental variations and not such as to distinguish a species … Animals likewise that differ specifically preserve their distinct species permanently; one species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa.
This was the first recorded biological definition of "species", although the logical term had been used in biological contexts for a long time prior to that. But his was not the traditional view. Following a suggestion of Aristotle that new species were formed by hybridization at water holes in Africa, St Augustine, among others (including one of the translators of the King James Bible), happily accepted that new species could be formed out of old ones. Linnaeus himself, who is sometimes regarded as the originator of species fixism, observed hybridization between two plant species in his own garden, and late in life revised his view that species were as the "Infinite Being" had first created them. Certainly there was no tradition in Christian theological circles that species had to be unchanging before then.

During the Middle Ages, little natural history — or biology as we would now call it — was being done. But there was an exception: the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194–1250) was a keen falconer, and wrote, literally, the book on it, finding that Aristotle was sometimes a bit too credulous, and worse that he failed to discuss hawks, falcons, and hunting birds. Frederick had the resources and the time to do a proper study, and he found that bird species were not simple things at all. He settled on interbreeding as a standard. Albert the Great, who had access both to Frederick's falconers and writings, followed this idea. But both still took seriously enough the old idea of spontaneous generation of species from other species to investigate it. Frederick sent envoys to Sweden looking for evidence for or against the idea that the barnacle goose arose out of worms (which is how it got its name). He found no evidence and concluded that the idea was based on ignorance. Albert did breeding experiments and managed to show that the geese laid eggs in the usual manner.

So we should first of all abandon the idea that people before Darwin thought that species were fixed, necessarily. Some did; many did not. Moreover, almost as soon as the idea of species-fixism caught on, it was challenged. Linnaeus made the idea popular in his Systema Naturae, the first edition of which was in 1735. In 1745, physicist Pierre Maupertuis argued in his Physical Venus that species did evolve, that they did so through a crude version of natural selection, and that inherited characteristics were passed on in a 3:1 ratio through both mother and father. While this did not influence many people at the time, it indicates that fixism was not universal among scientists even when it was still a new idea.

Why is it that we tend to think pre-Darwinians were all fixists? In part this is because Darwin has been used as a turning point in modern biology, which of course he was, and so some, the leading evolutionist Ernst Mayr among them, have tried to make him the ultimate source of all that is correct in modern biology. Furthermore, we think that religious belief before Darwin must have forced people to be fixists. But many quite orthodox Christians held to transmutation of species, and in some cases where this was denied, such as by the great anatomist Baron Cuvier, it was not for religious reasons but from a lack of evidence (although Cuvier managed to present the evidence that florae and fauna were not constant through time, even in Europe).

It is also not true that belief in creation as such forced a species-fixist position. Apart from deism, which perceived God as a creator who effectively left the world to run by the laws he created, many Christians held that the work of creation was still under way. And Christians who were natural historians, whether botanists or zoologists, often described species fairly well.

There is another myth — that before Darwin naturalists thought that species were defined by their morphology or their "essence". But morphology was used by taxonomists simply as a way to identify species, not as the cause of them, and even Linnaeus knew that his "Natural System", as it came to be called, was a useful convention, not a natural system at all. Taxonomists argued about how to define species, but in nearly all cases this was about how many and what kinds of characters were reliable. In the early 19th century, there was no "species problem", but only a "species question", which a minor geologist by the name of Charles Lyell called "that mystery of mysteries" — why were there species? It was not a question he, an orthodox Christian, thought could be answered from Scripture. Neither did his eventual disciple Darwin think that.

Darwin's view of species has likewise been misunderstood, in part because he did not really consider the definition of a species to be the primary question. Like many professional taxonomists (Darwin wrote the first and still one of the best descriptions of barnacles), he found the constant squabbling about whether this variety or that was a separate species or the same to be a nuisance to doing the work. He cited with wry amusement one taxonomist, Phillips, who declared "at last I have found out the only true definition — ‘any form which has ever had a specific name'!" And there was, in 1842, a set of standards from which all modern taxonomic rules derive — Darwin was a committee member — which formally instituted the rule of Linnaeus that species had to have a binomial (a genus and species name), and that only professionals could name species (to stop bird-watching enthusiasts naming every different plumage as a species). In the Origin, he wrote:
… it will be seen that I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does not essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and more fluctuating forms. The term variety, again, in comparison with mere individual differences, is also applied arbitrarily, for convenience's sake.
On the basis of this and other comments, he seemed to be saying that a species was not a real thing, but that it was just what we called something for convenience. But in his works overall, he treats species as real things, mostly (but not always) isolated by infertility, with different ecological adaptations. His point was, and it remains a sticking point today, that the difference between a species and a variety within a species was vague. This, of course, is due to the fact that species, like sand dunes, rivers and clouds, have no hard and sharp boundaries between them because of evolution.

About the time evolution had been universally accepted by naturalists (now called biologists), but before the new Darwinism of the synthesis of genetics and evolution had been settled, one EB Poulton wrote a paper in 1903 entitled "What is a species?" in which he addressed what now became the species "problem". This set the agenda for the next century. From being the useful identification of kinds that might vary, in the late Middle Ages and after, through to being a problem of who got to name species and how they were to be differentiated, now species were the "units" of evolution, and of biology in general. And a veritable explosion of attempts to define species followed. By the end of the 20th century, there had been some 22 distinct concepts identified by RL Mayden, and depending on how one divides them, some few others have been added. By my count, there are around 26 concepts (see sidebar, p 42–3).

Well, not exactly concepts. There is only one concept, which we label by the word "species". There are 26 or so conceptions, or definitions, which we define in other ways. This slightly picky philosophical point matters. We are arguing over the best way to define a concept. This depends on scientific data, theory, and other factors (some of them political, within the scientific community). We might deny that the concept even has a useful definition, or we might think that we have been misled by the use of a single word and seek a number of different concepts that serve the purposes of science and knowledge. I mention this because one of the oft-repeated claims made by anti-evolutionists is that if we cannot define our terms, we cannot show that species evolve. This canard goes back to Louis Agassiz, the famous geologist and paleontologist, who single-handedly introduced America to biology. Agassiz wrote:
[I]f species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? And if individuals alone exist, how can differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species?
Darwin rightly snorted to Agassiz's one-time student Asa Gray:
I am surprised that Agassiz did not succeed in writing something better. How absurd that logical quibble — "if species do not exist how can they vary?" As if anyone doubted their temporary existence.
Creationists will often claim that they are not interested in the species level, though. Initially, creationism did require fixity of species. In the 1920s, when George McCready Price equated "species" to the biblical "kinds", he was forced, to allow for the Ark to carry "every kind", to raise the bar higher. Even this was not original. In the late 18th century, Buffon, Cuvier's predecessor, had suggested that there was a "first stock" from which all members of a kind had evolved, so that all cats evolved from an original animal, modified by geography and climate, for instance. So creationists themselves have a "vagueness problem" no less than evolutionary biology does. Life is vague. Certainly the creationist "kind", or "baramin", as they mangle the Hebrew for "created kind", is extremely elastic. Given that elasticity, the motivation for the inference that was made naturally during the 17th and 18th centuries that species do not evolve is undercut. If kinds are not exact in reproduction, why think that the Genesis account is enough to prohibit evolution? The answer is, of course, that biblical literalism is not the primary motivation here for opposition to evolution.

The species problem

Reproductive isolation conceptions
It begins in 1935, when a young fruit fly geneticist named Theodosius Dobzhansky published a paper "A critique of the species concept in biology" in a philosophy journal. Not that there had not been developments after Darwin. Various people had suggested that species were "pure gene lines" or "wild-types" that did not vary much. Mendelian genetics caused a lot of debate about species. Dobzhansky claimed that a species was:
… a group of individuals fully fertile inter se, but barred from interbreeding with other similar groups by its physiological properties (producing either incompatibility of parents, or sterility of the hybrid, or both).
This was the original genetic version of reproductive isolation concepts (Buffon had proposed interbreeding as a test a century and a half earlier, which Darwin rejected). Unfortunately, a version framed by Ernst Mayr got called the "biological" species concept, in contrast to what were seen as "nonbiological" concepts that relied largely on form and based in museum taxonomy, which were called "morphological" concepts by Mayr. But I think it is better to call these Reproductive Isolation Species Concepts (RISC) than "biological" ones, for any decent species conception is biological. Mayr's version changed over the years, but the one taught to most undergraduate biology students is the original:
A species consists of a group of populations which replace each other geographically or ecologically and of which the neighboring ones intergrade or interbreed wherever they are in contact or which are potentially capable of doing so (with one or more of the populations) in those cases where contact is prevented by geographical or ecological barriers.
Or shorter:
Species are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups.
Much of the focus on species after this centered on Reproductive Isolating Mechanisms, or RIMs for short. Mayr's view was that species are formed when part of the species is geographically isolated from the main range and evolves in its own way such that when it gets back in contact, RIMs have evolved, as it were, by accident, and the two no longer interbreed successfully. Selection against hybrids, which are, so to speak, neither fish nor fowl in ecological adaptations, then strengthens the isolation (a process called "re-inforcing selection"). Mayr's version of the origin of species, published in 1942 and reiterated for the next 60 years (Mayr survived to 100, outliving many of his adversaries, and thus getting the last word), is called the allopatric theory of speciation. Allopatry means that two populations, or species, or groups, of organisms live in different areas (allo- = other, patria = homeland). The alternative kind of speciation, which is in effect Darwin's view, is called sympatric (sym- = together) speciation, and it is highly contentious among specialists, with some thinking that it occurs, particularly among fruitflies and lake-bound fishes, where it has been studied, and others thinking that it does not, and the debate goes on. It requires that RIMs evolve in place, so to speak, and the naysayers think this is unlikely to occur. If sympatric speciation does occur, then there can only be one reason — natural selection. Recent theoretical work shows that it is possible if the conditions are right. What we do not yet know for sure is how often the conditions are right.

There is another uncontested class of speciation processes — usually involving hybridization, that old idea of Aristotle. In plants particularly, but also in animals, fungi, bacteria, and so on, sometimes entire genetic complements can double, triple or more, resulting in a condition known as polyploidy. When this happens, sometimes the chromosomes and genes do not line up due to differing genetic structures of the parents, but an extra doubling of the genome, followed by a cell division, can give the cell a paired set of chromosomes, allowing it effectively to found a new species in one or a few generations. When two species interbreed, this allows the resulting organism to have a matched set of chromosomes. It has been estimated that nearly all ferns, for example, have a case of polyploidy in their ancestry, and as many as 7% of actual fern species are formed this way. It has also been seen in flowering plants, corals, grasshoppers, other insects, and reptiles. It is even hypothesized that the entire mammalian branch of the evolutionary tree was started with this kind of event. So in a sense, Linnaeus and Aristotle were right … sort of. Even Mendel thought this might be the reason why new species evolve, which informed his research into hybrid forms, although he studied hybridization within, not between, species.

Evolutionary conceptions
So the RISC conceptions have a lot of leeway for interpretation. But they are not the only conceptions on the board. One kind of conception goes by the name evolutionary species concepts, which is also a misnomer (because all species have evolved). On this view, it does not much matter if two possible species under consideration are reproductively isolated. Even if there is gene flow between them on a regular basis, what counts is whether or not they remain evolutionarily distinct. Dobzhansky's definition has a hint of this, but the original formulation is due to a paleontologist, George Gaylord Simpson. Simpson defined it this way in 1961, although there is an earlier and more technical definition from ten years before:
An evolutionary species is a lineage (an ancestral–descendant sequence of populations) evolving separately from others and with its own unitary evolutionary role and tendencies.
What counts here is that no matter what happens in terms of gene exchange, the populations remain distinct, and have their own forms, adaptations, and fate. The term "lineage" used here is particularly important, as it focused biologists' thinking more in evolutionary terms, and gave rise to yet another class of conceptions — phylogenetic species concepts.

Evolutionary conceptions have been expanded since Simpson to include asexual organisms (which do not, strictly speaking, form populations, since that term involves interbreeding). The important point is that there is a single lineage over time. In contrast, the RISC conceptions involve a single time "horizon", which means that a species is something that at a particular time and place is not interbreeding with other populations, and they also, necessarily, exclude asexual organisms.

Phylogenetic conceptions
There is a group of species conceptions that go under the shared name of phylogenetic species concepts. A phylogeny is, of course, an evolutionary history, and the initial proposal for a phylogenetic conception came from Willi Hennig, an East German entomologist who nevertheless managed to influence a great many biologists during the height of the Cold War. Hennig's methodology and philosophy of classification is known today as "cladistics".

Hennig did not set out to come up with a new species concept. He pretty much assumed something like an amalgam of Mayr's and Simpson's definitions. The difference was that he focused on the lineage element, and combined it with a clear and formal account of making groups logically. In his book Phylogenetic Systematics, translated into English in 1966, he included a diagram about speciation (redrawn above as Figure 1), and when to name a new species.

There are several lineages in this diagram. Ignoring the technical terminology (Hennig was a great one for coining classical names), you can see that each individual organism is part of a genealogical lineage. These, when grouped together, form a species lineage. Clearly what makes a species lineage is the fact that the overall tangled net of genealogical lineages has not yet divided (as in the right-hand diagram marked "phylogenetic relationships"). When it has, says Hennig, the old species is extinguished and two new ones come into being (as in the separate circles at the top).

This provision caused a lot of anxiety. It seemed to be saying that a species has to go extinct when new ones come into being, but of course a new species can evolve without modifying the old one much, if at all. Hennig's convention, as it is known, was more a point about naming species than a definition of their biological nature. When a new species arises, the old name refers to only a part of its descendants and for Hennig that meant it was no longer a "natural" group being named. It is rather like calling rock music "blues" because it is a descendant of blues. What Hennig said would mean that what is still "blues" has to get a new name so that musicologists can talk without ambiguity (so it might get called "traditional blues").

Phylogenetic species conceptions come in three broad flavors. One is the "pure" Hennigian conception described above. But Hennig's methodology also relied on dividing organisms by shared features, which is a diagnostic question. So another phylogenetic conception, which I call the autapomorphic conception (after one of Hennig's technical terms that means "derived forms"), defines a species as the final node on a phylogenetic tree, which is based on comparison of many features. If the analysis does not produce any smaller group, then the organisms in this group constitute a species. This has a side effect of increasing the number of species over the older RISC conception — by as many as five times — and for this reason it is not accepted by many taxonomists. On the other hand, if a species really is just the as-yet-undivided tangled net of genealogical relations, this is what we have to deal with. The autapomorphic conception tends to leave historical issues about whether or not the phylogenetic tree is a good historical representation to one side. The "species" here is diagnostic.

The other conception I call the phylogenetic taxon conception. On this view, a species is just another kind of taxon in a phylogenetic tree — one that happens to be monophyletic and undivided. Monophyly in this case simply means that no descendent of the original species is excluded, so that if a single species did divide into two, it would have been a species before, but is now two species, which is pretty obvious. However, this view allows the old name to be "kept" by one of the descendants.

Phylogenetic conceptions are in a way parasitic on biological conceptions like RISC. In order to know that two organisms are in the same species, one has to eliminate subspecific features such as, for example, different plumages or immune system molecules or genes. Otherwise one can divide the organisms up right down to individuals with novel mutations or slight variations. There are those who do this, too, who intend to eliminate "species" from the working vocabulary of biologists and replace it with "evolutionary group" or "least inclusive taxon"; we may refer to them collectively as "species eliminativists".

Ecological conceptions
In the 1920s, a Swedish botanist named Göte Turesson proposed that there were different kinds of "species", one of which was a response to the local ecology. Though not Mendelian, as Turesson appeared to think the environment changed genes directly, his ecospecies concept has been revived from time to time. Various authors, including Mayr, have suggested that what makes a species is occupation of an ecological "niche", and in 1976 American botanist Leigh Van Valen suggested that a species was a lineage "which occupied an adaptive zone" differently to other species. Van Valen's "proposal" (he did not call it a definition) combined both Mayr's RICS account and Simpson's evolutionary account, for the "adaptive zone" idea is Simpson's as well.

Van Valen's example case was the American white oak complex, Quercus, which will interbreed fairly freely, and yet remains stable phenotypically. This is due, he said, to adaptation for particular ecological needs. Similar cases have been found elsewhere; for example, Australian eucalypts interbreed with more distant relatives, but are often infertile with closer ones.

The idea that underpins this conception is the famous "adaptive landscape". A species, no matter what the gene flow between populations of other species, occupies a "peak" in that landscape (see, for example, the view espoused by Richard Dawkins in his Climbing Mount Improbable [New York: WW Norton, 1996]) where the metaphor of an adaptive landscape implicitly assumes this. Ecospecies are formed when the adaptive landscape "fractures", to use a term from philosopher Kim Sterelny. Recent work on speciation suggests that this is a factor in most cases, although it has a different role in allopatric speciation than in sympatric or polyploid speciation.

A grab bag of conceptions
As with any taxonomy, there are a few things that do not fit neatly into this scheme. Many of the current conceptions mix and match aspects of these conceptions, so a particular description might be characterized as, say, an isolationist, evolutionary, genetic account. But there are also species conceptions that make positive proposals, for example, for asexual species. At one time it was open to doubt that such things existed, or were rare, but apart from bacterial species (which sometimes do not have "sexes" but can exchange genes in various conditions), there are an increasingly known number of "parthenogenetic" species (in animals — in plants they are called "apomictics") that do not need to fertilize their ova or seed. Organisms that are descended from sexual organisms are sometimes asexual, such as the famous whiptail lizards of the southern USA and northern Mexico (genus Cnemidophora). In many cases these are formed by hybridization between closely related species, in animals and plants. Viruses also form "species" called "quasispecies", usually without crossing over their genetic material.

Another species conception is sometimes called "conventionalism", or less accurately but more commonly "species nominalism". This view is very popular among those whose ideas about evolution derive from the work of geneticist JBS Haldane early in the 20th century. It is basically the claim that species are just names, chosen for convenience, so that specialists can talk to each other. However, if species are just convenient fictions, how do specialists know that their terms refer to the same things?

And finally let us consider the problems of identifying species in fossils. Not all information about an organism is recorded in a fossil. We have data about hard parts, and, more rarely, skin or feather impressions, but we are not given their genetics, behaviors, colors, ranges, or mating preferences. And these are often the markers of being a RISC species, or are used to diagnose phylogenetic species. "Paleospecies", as they are sometimes called, may be less arbitrary than conventionalist species, but they do not necessarily map onto "biological" species.

Consider the debate in human evolution over whether Homo sapiens left Africa entire, as it were, or whether a prior paleospecies, Homo erectus, interbred with H sapiens afterwards. Recent work by Alan Templeton suggests there have been three major migrations out of Africa, each of which has left a genetic mark on the modern population. So, are H erectus and H sapiens one species, or two? We may be able to work that out through the sort of work Templeton is doing, but we equally may not.

Knowing species
Now the "biological", the evolutionary and the phylogenetic conceptions have an operational problem for biologists — except in very rare circumstances, it is almost impossible to give the criteria of the definitions for identifying and demarking species. There have been cases where two forms have been identified as the same species because they were observed mating, but there just are not the resources or the time to do experiments of assortative mating to tell in every case. In fact, many "biological" and evolutionary species, such as tigers and lions, which have been isolated for millions of years, can interbreed in artificial conditions, and their progeny are fertile, so mating tests might not help anyway. Back in the 18th century, Buffon established that some species could occasionally interbreed (which is why he thought that there was a first stock for groups of animals). So the definitions, or conceptions as I prefer, are not much help. And so far as evolutionary conceptions go, we simply have no direct access to the evidence we need in the case of extinct and even extant species. It might be true that species have distinct fates, but often we do not know.

It is important to separate the issues of what species are from the issues of how species are known or identified, because while evolutionary biology and genetics indicate some of the processes by which species evolve, the tests we use to find out whether two organisms are the same species or not may in fact be quite incidental to the causes of their being species. Many tests are used, mostly genetic and molecular tests these days. A recent proposal called DNA barcoding uses a particular gene on the cellular organelles known as mitochondria quickly to identify species for conservation and other purposes, but nobody thinks that the gene, COX1, causes speciation. In fact in cases where the "speciation genes" have been studied, they are nuclear genes, not mitochondrial genes (and anyway it is unlikely that the same genes cause speciation in all groups). When creationists attack evolutionary biology for not being able to define the term "species", they are confusing the identification and diagnosis of species and the meaning of the term "species". Occasionally, some scientists do the same thing.

Suppose we take a nonbiological example — "mountain". If we cannot give a universal definition of that term, it does not mean there are no mountains, or even that we cannot tell whether we are looking at one. And the geological theory of plate tectonics explains why there are mountains even when the term is not definable. Definitions are for philosophy, but science can do without them if it needs to. Species are the phenomena of biology that the theory explains, not a priori concepts that have to be clarified exactly. It may be that, as some propose, we ought to replace the term with a range of other terms, such as "evolutionary group", "least inclusive taxonomic unit", and so on. Some "species" will be both evolutionary groups and least inclusive taxa. Some may not. The jury is still out as to the worth of these ideas.

Evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci and philosopher Jonathan Kaplan have proposed that the term "species" is in fact what philosophers call a "family resemblance predicate". This is when being an instance of a general kind referred to by a word (the classic philosophical example is "game") has many criteria, and as long as most of them are met by a particular instance, it is a part of the kind. If evolution proceeds as we should expect from modern theory, then this plethora and confusion of species concepts is easily explained — evolution is a gradual process at genetic and behavioral scales (but it can be abrupt at geological and ecological scales), and so we will see species in all kinds of stages of speciation, extinction, interbreeding compatibility, and so on. On a creationist account, of course, no such explanation is forthcoming. If "kinds" are fixed, we should see only the expression of created variety (and of course that variety could not have possibly passed through the Ark, but let us assume that creationism is separate from Flood literalism), and that should be definite and limited. Instead we see species in groups of varying and ill-defined variety. It is a lot of weight for a simple word — "kind" — to bear. Science does not need it — so long as the ways words are used by each speciality will serve to describe what is observed.

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Rosen DE. 1979. Fishes from the uplands and intermontane basins of Guatemala: revisionary studies and comparative biogeography. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 162: 267–376.

Simpson GG. 1943. Criteria for genera, species, and subspecies in zoology and paleontology. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 44: 145–78.

Simpson GG. 1961. Principles of Animal Taxonomy. New York: Columbia University Press.

Smith AB. 1994. Systematics and the Fossil Record: Documenting Evolutionary Patterns. Cambridge (MA): Blackwell Science.

Sokal RR, Sneath PHA. 1963. Principles of Numerical Taxonomy. San Francisco: WH Freeman.

Sterelny K. 1999. Species as evolutionary mosaics. In: Wilson RA, editor. Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays. Cambridge (MA): Bradford/MIT Press. p 119–38.

Strickland HE, Phillips J, Richardson J, Owen R, Jenyns L, Broderip WJ, Henslow JS, Shuckard WE, Waterhouse GR, Yarrell W, Darwin CR, Westwood JO. 1843. Report of a committee appointed "to consider of the rules by which the nomenclature of zoology may be established on a uniform and permanent basis". Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1842: 105–21.

Templeton A. 1989. The meaning of species and speciation: A genetic perspective. In: Otte D, Endler J, editors. Speciation and its Consequences. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer.

Turesson G. 1922. The species and variety as ecological units. Hereditas 3: 10–113.

Van Valen L. 1976. Ecological species, multispecies, and oaks. Taxon 25: 233–39.

Wagner WH. 1983. Reticulistics: The recognition of hybrids and their role in cladistics and classification. In: Platnick NI, Funk VA, editors. Advances in Cladistics. New York: Columbia University Press. p 63–79.

Waples RS. 1991. Pacific salmon, Oncorhynchus spp, and the definition of "species" under the Endangered Species Act. Marine Fisheries Review 53: 11–22.

Wheeler QD, Meier R, editors. 2000. Species Concepts and Phylogenetic Theory: A Debate. New York: Columbia University Press.

Wheeler QD, Platnick NI. 2000. The phylogenetic species concept (sensu Wheeler and Platnick). In Wheeler QD, Meier R, editors. Species Concepts and Phylogenetic Theory: A Debate. New York: Columbia University Press. p 55–69.

Wiley EO. 1978. The evolutionary species concept reconsidered. Systematic Zoology 27: 17–26.

Wiley EO. 1981. Remarks on Willis' species concept. Systematic Zoology 30: 86–7.

Wu C-I. 2001a. Genes and speciation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 14 (6): 889–91.

Wu C-I. 2001b. The genic view of the process of speciation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 14: 851–65.

About the Author(s): 
John Wilkins
Biohumanities Program
School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
University of Queensland
Brisbane, Australia 4072
john.s.wilkins@gmail.com

John Wilkins is a postdoctoral fellow in the Biohumanities Project at the University of Queensland, Australia. His PhD topic was on species concepts, and he is working in the field of philosophy of taxonomy.

Species Concepts in Modern Literature

Please note: This text is part of Species, Kinds, and Evolution, by John Wilkins, Reports of NCSE 26 (4), 2006.

Summary of 26 species concepts

There are numerous species "concepts" at the research and practical level in the scientific literature. Mayden's (1997) list of 22 distinct species concepts along with synonyms is a useful starting point for a review. I have added authors where I can locate them in addition to Mayden's references, and I have tried to give the concepts names, such as biospecies for "biological species", and so on (following George 1956), except where nothing natural suggests itself. There have also been several additional concepts since Mayden's review, so I have added the views of Pleijel (1999) and Wu (2001a, 2001b), and several newer revisions presented in Wheeler and Meier (2000). I also add some "partial" species concepts — the compilospecies concept and the nothospecies concept. In addition to Hennig's conception (1950, 1966), I distinguish between two phylospecies concepts that go by various names, mostly the names of the authors presenting at the time (as in Wheeler and Meier 2000). To remedy this terminological inflation, I have christened them the autapomorphic species conception and the phylogenetic taxon species concept. Asterisks identify the "basic" conceptions, from which the others are formed.

1. Agamospecies*
Asexual lineages, uniparental organisms (parthenogens and apomicts), that cluster together in terms of their genome. May be secondarily uniparental from biparental ancestors. Quasispecies are asexual viruses or organisms that cluster about a "wild-type" due to selection. See Cain (1954), Eigen (1993, for quasispecies). Synonyms: Microspecies, paraspecies, pseudospecies, semispecies, quasispecies, genomospecies (Euzéby 2006, for prokaryotes).

2. Autapomorphic species
A phylospecies conception. A geographically constrained group of individuals with some unique apomorphous characters, the unit of evolutionary significance (Rosen 1979); simply the smallest detected samples of self-perpetuating organisms that have unique sets of characters (Nelson and Platnick 1981); the smallest aggregation of (sexual) populations or (asexual) lineages diagnosable by a unique combination of character traits (Wheeler and Platnick 2000). Nelson and Platnick (1981); Rosen (1979).

3. Biospecies*
Defined by John Ray, Buffon, Dobzhansky (1935); Mayr (1942). Inclusive Mendelian population of sexually reproducing organisms (Dobzhansky 1935, 1937, 1970); interbreeding natural population isolated from other such groups (Mayr 1942, 1963, 1970; Mayr and Ashlock 1991). Depends upon endogenous reproductive isolating mechanisms (RIMs). Synonyms: Syngen, speciationist species concept.

4. Cladospecies
Set of organisms between speciation events or between speciation event and extinction (Ridley 1989), a segment of a phylogenetic lineage between nodes. Upon speciation the ancestral species is extinguished and two new species are named. See Hennig (1950; 1966); Kornet (1993). Synonyms: Internodal species concept, Hennigian species concept, Hennigian convention.

5. Cohesion species
Evolutionary lineages bounded by cohesion mechanisms that cause reproductive communities. See Templeton (1989).

6. Compilospecies
A species pair where one species "plunders" the genetic resources of another via introgressive interbreeding. See Harlan (1963); Aguilar and others (1999).

7. Composite Species
All organisms belonging to an internodon and its descendents until any subsequent internodon. An internodon is defined as a set of organisms whose parent–child relations are not split (have the INT relation). See Kornet and McAllister (1993).

8. Ecospecies*
A lineage (or closely related set of lineages) which occupies an adaptive zone minimally different from that of any other lineage in its range and which evolves separately from all lineages outside its range. See Simpson (1961); Sterelny (1999); Turesson (1922); Van Valen (1976). Synonyms: Ecotypes.

9. Evolutionary species*
A lineage (an ancestral–descendent sequence of populations) evolving separately from others and with its own unitary evolutionary role and tendencies. See Simpson (1961); Wiley (1978, 1981). Synonyms: Unit of evolution, evolutionary group. Related concepts: Evolutionary significant unit.

10. Evolutionary significant unit
A population (or group of populations) that (1) is substantially reproductively isolated from other conspecific population units, and (2) represents an important component in the evolutionary legacy of the species. See Waples (1991).

11. Genealogical concordance species
Population subdivisions concordantly identified by multiple independent genetic traits constitute the population units worthy of recognition as phylogenetic taxa. See Avise and Ball (1990).

12. Genic species
A species formed by the fixation of all isolating genetic traits in the common genome of the entire population. See Wu (2001a; 2001b).

13. Genetic species*
A group of organisms that may inherit characters from each other, a common gene pool, a reproductive community that forms a genetic unit. See Dobzhansky (1950); Mayr (1969); Simpson (1943). Synonyms: Gentes (singular: gens).

14. Genotypic cluster
Clusters of monotypic or polytypic biological entities, identified using morphology or genetics, forming groups that have few or no intermediates when in contact. See Mallet (1995). Synonyms: Polythetic species.

15. Hennigian species
A phylospecies conception. A tokogenetic community that arises when a stem species is dissolved into two new species and ends when it goes extinct or speciates. See Hennig (1950, 1966); Meier and Willman (1997). Synonyms: Biospecies (in part), cladospecies (in part), phylospecies (in part), internodal species.

16. Internodal species
Organisms are conspecific in virtue of their common membership of a part of a genealogical network between two permanent splitting events or a splitting event and extinction. See Kornet (1993). Synonyms: Cladospecies and Hennigian species (in part), phylospecies.

17. Least Inclusive Taxonomic Unit (LITUs)
A taxonomic group that is diagnosable in terms of its autapomorphies, but has no fixed rank or binomial. See Pleijel (1999); Pleijel and Rouse (2000).

18. Morphospecies*
Defined by Aristotle and Linnaeus, and too many others to name, but including Owen, Agassiz, and recently, Cronquist. Species are the smallest groups that are consistently and persistently distinct, and distinguishable by ordinary means. Contrary to the received view, this was never anything more than a diagnostic account of species. See Cronquist (1978). Synonyms: Classical species, Linnaean species.

19. Non-dimensional species
Species delimitation in a non-dimensional system (a system without the dimensions of space and time). See Mayr (1942, 1963). Synonyms: Folk taxonomic kinds (Atran 1990).

20. Nothospecies
Species formed from the hybridization of two distinct parental species, often by polyploidy. See Wagner (1983). Synonyms: hybrid species, reticulate species.

21. Phenospecies
A cluster of characters that statistically covary; a family resemblance concept in which possession of most characters is required for inclusion in a species, but not all. A class of organisms that share most of a set of characters. See Beckner (1959); Sokal and Sneath (1963). Synonyms: Phena (singular: phenon) (Smith 1994), operational taxonomic unit.

Phylospecies
The smallest unit appropriate for phylogenetic analysis, the smallest biological entities that are diagnosable and monophyletic, unit product of natural selection and descent. A geographically constrained group with one or more unique apomorphies (autapomorphies). There are two versions of this and they are not identical. One derives from Rosen and is what I call the autapomorphic species conception. It is primarily a concept of diagnosis and tends to be favored by the tradition known as pattern cladism. The other is what I call the phylogenetic taxon species conception, and tends to be favored by process cladists. See Cracraft (1983); Eldredge and Cracraft (1980); Nelson and Platnick (1981); Rosen (1979). Synonyms: Autapomorphic phylospecies, monophyletic phylospecies, minimal monophyletic units, monophyletic species, lineages.

22. Phylogenetic Taxon species
A phylospecies conception. A species is the smallest diagnosable cluster of individual organisms within which there is a parental pattern of ancestry and descent Cracraft (1983); Eldredge and Cracraft (1980); the least inclusive taxon recognized in a classification, into which organism are grouped because of evidence of monophyly (usually, but not restricted to, the presence of synapomorphies), that is ranked as a species because it is the smallest important lineage deemed worthy of formal recognition, where "important" refers to the action of those processes that are dominant in producing and maintaining lineages in a particular case Nixon and Wheeler (1990); Mishler and Brandon (1987).

23. Recognition species
A species is that most inclusive population of individual, biparental organisms which share a common fertilization system. See Paterson (1985). Synonyms: Specific mate recognition system (SMRS).

24. Reproductive competition species
The most extensive units in the natural economy such that reproductive competition occurs among their parts. See Ghiselin (1974). Synonyms: Hypermodern species concept.

25. Successional species
Arbitrary anagenetic stages in morphological forms, mainly in the paleontological record. See George (1956); Simpson (1961). Synonyms: Paleospecies, evolutionary species (in part), chronospecies.

26. Taxonomic species*
Specimens considered by a taxonomist to be members of a kind on the evidence or on the assumption they are as alike as their offspring of hereditary relatives within a few generations. Whatever a competent taxonomist chooses to call a species. See Blackwelder (1967), but see also Regan (1926); Strickland and others (1843). Synonyms: Cynical species concept (Kitcher 1984).

Ten (Eleven) Things Evolutionists Can Do to Improve Communication

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Ten (Eleven) Things Evolutionists Can Do to Improve Communication
Author(s): 
Randy Olson
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
4
Year: 
2006
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
23
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
A PDF version of this article is available here.

1) Quality Control: So much of the mass communication of evolution is dull and uninspiring. For example, the AIBS-sponsored video Evolution: Why Bother? is tragically bad — nothing but talking heads and still images. Any introductory film student could have explained to them that in film and video the primary communication takes place through the images presented. When all we show are faces talking, we communicate virtually nothing. We need the simple, honest feedback gained by showing these productions to our neighbors and watching them fall asleep. Just send the sponsors a note that this is not good enough. Raise the bar. It's that simple. When evolution media looks bad, evolutionists look bad. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

2) Attitude: Never "rise above" one of the simple principles we learned in acting class. Whenever we condescend, we lose the sympathy of our audience. When evolutionists call ID proponents "idiots", it just makes the audience side with the people being ridiculed. It is a simple principle of mass communication. Even though Stephen Jay Gould was my hero in graduate school nearly 30 years ago, my students at USC find his style and voice to be arrogant, elitist, condescending, verbose ... the list goes on. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

3) Concision: It is a by-product of the information era. Get used to it. In fact, practice it. The most effective means of communication is through storytelling. The shorter, more concise, and punchier the story, the more engaged and interested the audience. Scientists need to maintain accuracy and precision, but shorter, punchier stories will not hurt anything. Observe Hollywood and advertising pitchmen: they are able to tell entire stories in very few words. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

4) Modernization: A recent CNN poll showed that 44% of Americans get their information on science and technology through television — more than through any other medium. So why isn't the world of science communication geared towards this, even just a little bit? There are now dozens of science writing programs around the country; why no science electronic media programs? Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

5) Setting Priorities: Effective communication costs money — real, cold, hard dollars. Scientists sit through technical talks with bad visuals and poor sound, and seem to accept it as standard practice. On a wider scale, this is mirrored in the tiny allocation for science communication in research grants (occasionally a few dollars are allocated for outreach). Compare this with businesses making products and spending perhaps half of their budgets on marketing and advertising. Everyone needs to accept that we live in an information-glutted world, and if we do not pay sufficient attention to communicating effectively what we have to say, then we will be unheard. It is a matter of priorities. Cost to you of allocating more funds to communication: as much as you can afford, but it is time to make it hurt a little, to make up for the lack of priority on communication in the past.

6) Understanding: Intellectuals are handicapped as mass communicators. I had this line in my film, and took it out because it sounded too insulting, but it's true. Mass audiences do not follow people who think, they follow people who act. Try taking an acting class and you'll get to know about this intimately. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

7) Risk Taking/Innovation: Every stock investor knows you allocate at least 10% of your stock portfolio to high-risk ventures. There are no signs that formal investment in high-risk innovation of science communication has been taking place. You need to ask your science agencies what percentage of their funding is going to high-risk, wild ideas for mass communication. They may sound irresponsible, but without these ideas, you end up with homogenization. Come on, folks, we're talking about basic out-breeding dynamics here. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

8) Humor: This is yet another by-product of the information era. It is no coincidence that news anchors, who were stoically serious 30 years ago, today tell jokes and tease each other, or that The Daily Show on Comedy Central is the most popular form of news for kids (as well as a lot of adults); or that Michael Moore, Al Franken, and Bill Maher have become such popular news critics. Humor has become a major channel of communication. So lighten up, evolutionists. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

9) Unscripted Media and the Mass Audience: This goes with modernization. The mass audience has changed drastically in just the past decade. About half of the acting jobs available a decade ago in Hollywood have been lost to reality television — which is unscripted entertainment. The mass audience is bored and desperate for anything unpredictable. This is why, at our Yale University screening of Flock of Dodos, when evolutionist Richard Prum, in a moment of brilliance, yanked the microphone away from me as I droned on about the need for spontaneity, the audience erupted more than at any other moment in the entire evening. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

10) Sincerity: Even though Prum was a bit ungainly after grabbing the microphone, the audience didn't care. The gesture was so sincere, came from such a visceral level, showed such passion, such risk-taking, so much desire to act (rather than just pontificate as I was doing), that he stole their hearts. There is a great deal to be learned from that. Cost to you of this suggestion: $0.

11) Casting: All advocates are not created equal when it comes to communicating with the public. Suffice it to say: even if you have a Nobel prize and even if you give really great lectures, you still might not be the best person on camera. One bad twitch will set back your cause despite all your knowledge and advanced degrees. But ... pick the right person even if this is only the chair of a state curriculum writing committee— in my movie this was Steve Case, who is the most popular and instantly likable scientist I've ever seen on film — and the impact can be far greater than what you get using any Nobel laureate. And by the way, there's only one group of people who can decide for certain if your spokesperson is effective: your audience. Theirs is the only opinion that matters. Cost to you of this suggestion: potentially bruised egos and $0.

Value of better public understanding of science: priceless.

Review: Cladistics

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
4
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
45
Reviewer: 
Alan Gishlick
Gustavus Adolphus College
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Cladistics: A Practical Primer on CD-Rom
Author(s): 
Peter Skelton and Andrew Smith
accompanying booklet by Neale Monks, 80 pages
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Teaching cladistic methodology has always been a challenge, especially if you want to present an in-depth introduction to the topic as opposed to a brief overview. One of the standard sources for teaching cladistics in upper-level systematics classes was The Compleat Cladist (Wiley and others 1991). That book, however, has long been out of print, and unless you wanted to send your students to a used book dealer to find a textbook, there were few decent choices other than photocopies and primary literature.

With the publication of the Cladistics CD-ROM and booklet, there is now a good introductory resource on cladistics available for teachers. The CD-ROM is meant to be the main teaching source and can be used on its own; the booklet, by itself, can also serve as a good stand-alone text. The descriptions are clear and easily understandable in both media, with the booklet helping to elaborate the concepts presented in the CD-ROM. Used together, they constitute perhaps the best widely available resource for teaching introductory cladistics.

The booklet is meant as a companion for students using the CD-ROM to learn the basics of cladistics as well as the way phylogenies are computed. Its five chapters are well-organized, progressing logically from the very basic concepts behind cladistics to defining characters and character homology, generating cladograms, and testing the robustness of those cladograms, and finally to a practical hands-on exercise that allows the student to generate both molecular and morphological trees of several species of echinoids and to compare the results of the analyses.

The booklet has an excellent introduction to parsimony, and it goes through a series of complex topics with clarity and simplicity. It has a very clear introduction and explanation of molecular-based cladistics absent from previous texts. I do wish that there were more of a focus on morphological characters at the beginning. It contains an excellent discussion of homology and homoplasy in respect to pleisiomorphy and synapomorphy. It also offers perhaps the clearest discussion I have read for determination of homology in molecular data.

The CD-ROM is both informative and interactive. It is especially useful for teaching about molecular characters. The final section gives the student the opportunity to code characters from raw morphological and molecular data and then perform the analysis with the aid of the CD-ROM.

The chapters in the CD-ROM are interspersed with interactive exercises that test the student’s understanding of the various concepts as they are presented. I found them to be, on the whole, rather good. There were a few places where the exercises were not quite clear. Although the CD-ROM gives the student a chance to create matrices from raw morphological and molecular data, I think that there still is a lot of value in working out the transformation series the old-fashioned way, by hand. That is how to acquire a real understanding of what modern computer programs for cladistics are doing inside the “black box”. So there is room for improvement in the exercises, but otherwise I have no problem with them. Indeed, I think that more exercises, especially in the booklet, would be useful.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the CD-ROM is the narration. The text of the CD-ROM is spoken in a rather stuffy and pedantic British accent, which cannot be turned off. This conjures visions of American students sitting in their computer labs imitating the voice in horrible American British accents, saying things like “These parsimony criteria are jolly good.” I mean no offense to speakers of the Queen’s English, whose accents I generally find to be quite pleasant; however, in this case, I could have done without. I have no idea how British students may perceive the narration, but for Americans, the ability to replace the narration with a more familiar accent or at least on-screen text would be a welcome addition to the CD-ROM. Of course, such a minor point should by no means deter both students and teachers alike from acquiring this excellent introduction to a very important topic in the modern life sciences.

Overall, Cladistics is an excellent resource for learning the methods that are universal in systematics today. The booklet is an excellent learning resource useful for students in systematics classes or for people who wish to learn the methods of cladistics for themselves. The interactive CD-ROM exercises provide good hands-on activities, and the focus on molecular methods is invaluable, given their significance to current phylogenetics. Now if only there was a way to turn off the stuffy British narration ...

Reference



Wiley EO, Siegel-Causey D, Brooks DR, Funk VA. 1991. The Compleat Cladist: A Primer of Phylogenetic Procedures. The University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication Nr 19. Lawrence (KS): Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas.

About the Author(s): 
Alan Gishlick
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
gish@ncseweb.org

RNCSE 26 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September–October
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" for list of articles in the print edition.
Please note also special downloadable pdf article.

Print Edition Contents: 26 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
2

News

  1. Evolution and the Elections
    Glenn Branch and Eric Meikle
    Win some, lose some, as the expression goes. Evolution education and whether to teach so-called alternatives were a part of a number of political campaigns in 2006.
  2. Devolution and Dinosaurs: The Anti-Evolution Seminar in the European Parliament
    Ulrich Kutschera
    A member of the European Parliament sponsored a "seminar" on "intelligent design"; some familiar faces showed up to tell the same old stories.
  3. Turkish Creationist Movement Tours American College Campuses
    Pat Shipman
    Active in Turkey for over a decade, the followers of Harun Yahya have begun to spread their message across North America using tactics and arguments familiar to those who follow "intelligent design" proponents and biblical creationists — but with an Islamic twist.
  4. Updates
    News from Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, and France.

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. Knowing the Age of the Earth
    The geological sciences speak out.
  2. Books: Rock of Ages; Ages of Rock
    Books that examine the earth and its history.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    An NCSE speaker may be coming to your neighborhood. Check the calendar here.

ARTICLES

  1. Time to Accumulate Chloride Ions in the World's Oceans — More than 3.6 Billion Years: Creationism's Young Earth Not Supported
    Lorence G Collins
    Chloride ions make up one of the basic components of ocean salt, among other important compounds. Geologists studying the natural processes by which chloride ions accumulate in the ocean waters (mostly as salt) and in other geologic formations can estimate the age of the earth's oceans.
  2. Evolution: Dollars and Sense — A View Beyond the Gas Station
    Paul Caton
    The ultimate challenge for Flood creationists is to locate productive, economically viable petroleum preserves using only their young-earth models of Flood-derived fossil and hydrocarbon deposits.

FEATURES

  1. How Does the Sun Shine?
    Joseph Lazio
    Although "intelligent design" is usually argued on the basis of biological processes on earth, the argument is really about the nature and process of scientific inquiry. This historical example about explaining the basis of the sun's energy reminds us that modern scientific inquiry is valued because it works!
  2. Will the Real ID Please Stand Up?
    Duane Jeffery
    If it is enough for "intelligent design" to generate discussion, then this conference was a success for the movement. However, even scholars predisposed to be sympathetic find ID lacking as science.
  3. "Intelligent Design": A Lamb in Wolf's Clothing
    Geoffrey Dobson
    "Intelligent design" pretends to be hard-hitting, cutting-edge science, but in reality it offers little more than simulacra of explanations with no scientific power.
  4. Hymn of Praise to the Intelligent Designer
    Philip Appleman
    A response to "intelligent design" in verse.

BOOK REVIEWS

  1. Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars by Hugh Ross
    Reviewed by Timothy H Heaton
  2. Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross
    Reviewed by Jeffrey K McKee
  3. Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey
    Reviewed by Neil Wells

Devolution and Dinosaurs

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Devolution and Dinosaurs: The Anti-Evolution Seminar in the European Parliament
Author(s): 
Ulrich Kutschera
Institute of Biology, University of Kassel
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
10–11
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In January 2006, BBC News published an article entitled "Britons unconvinced on evolution", reporting that only 48% of those questioned accept the theory of evolution. About 17% chose "intelligent design" (ID), 22% opted for creationism, and the rest did not know (http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk). Several months later, an anti-evolution seminar was scheduled for members of the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels. The meeting took place on October 11, 2006, and was announced under the following title: "Teaching evolutionary theory in Europe. Is your child being indoctrinated in the classroom?"

The presentation was translated into four languages and publicized by the Catholic Kolbe Centre for the Study of Creation (see its press release "Evolutionary theory dismissed at European Parliament seminar"; available on-line via http://www.kolbecenter.org) and other creationist groups. Much of the tone of the seminar was conveyed by an anti-evolution letter written by a Polish member of the EP, Maciej Giertych (Nature 2006; 444: 265). In this letter, the author claimed that his arguments are entirely scientific and denied any religious motivation.

The series of three public lectures at the EP was introduced and moderated by Giertych, who was announced as "Population Geneticist, MA, Oxford University; PhD, University of Toronto". Giertych indeed holds a PhD in tree physiology; he is also an honorary member of the UK-based Catholic creationist organization Daylight Origins Society. At the meeting, Giertych explained his views on what he called the falsified hypothesis of macroevolution (the emergence of new body plans as documented in the fossil record). According to this EP member, genetics research provides no evidence of, but "only disproof" for, the concept of common ancestry of life. Moreover, Giertych questioned the value of teaching such "wrong theories" in public schools. His arguments were reinforced by the aerospace physiologist Joseph Mastropaolo, who came from the United States to Brussels; he claimed that the theory of evolution "consists merely of interpretational evidence" and that "the biological sciences offer no empirical proof of macroevolution, just insurmountable problems".

In response to my published statement that "evolution is a fact that has been explained by a modern theory" (dpa news service, 2006 Oct 30), Mastropaolo offered me a considerable amount of money for evidence for evolution that must be "scientific, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated" (see RNCSE 2005 Sep–Oct; 25 [5–6]: 33–4). In a letter, Mastropaolo contended that "the entire universe is devolving, the exact opposite and excluder of evolution" … and that "evolution is anti-science, because it is based entirely on frauds and forgeries". He sent me his paper presented at the public EP hearing, entitled "Life devolves", and summarized the general conclusions of this seminar as follows: "All of the evidence proved evolution is non-existent, whereas the entire universe has always devolved." In his EP presentation, Mastropaolo revealed his religious conviction that "life … is dynamically engineered with vast disciplined originality" and referred to his papers published in the creationist literature. In one of these papers, Mastropaolo wrote that "the human muscle was meticulously nanoengineered by a designer of unimaginable intelligence using mathematics and creative power" ("The maximum-power stimulus theory for muscle", Creation Research Society Quarterly 2001; 37 [4]: 213–20).

At the EP meeting, the civil engineer Hans-Joachim Zillmer, a well-known anti-evolutionist in Germany, claimed that the fossil record does not provide evidence for the emergence of novel body plans (macroevolution). Zillmer, who was announced as an "expert for paleontology and evolution" and a "member of the New York Academy of Sciences", has not published a single paper in the international peer-reviewed literature. A young-earth catastrophist, Zillmer is the author of best-selling popular books with titles such as Darwins Irrtum (Darwin's Mistake) (Munich: Langen/Müller, 2006 [8th ed]) and Die Evolutionslüge (The Evolution Lie) (Munich: Langen/Müller 2005). These books, written in German and translated into several languages, are full of factual errors and unsupported claims. In Darwins Irrtum, Zillmer asserts that he has found human and dinosaur footprints in fossil-bearing sediments in a riverbed in Texas and concludes that these organisms lived together. Even most creationists have admitted long ago that these supposed "human prints" are fraudulent carvings or artifacts. However, in one respect Zillmer is right: between 1960 and 1966, humans and dinosaurs co-existed — in the animated television series The Flintstones.

In his sequel Die Evolutionslüge, Zillmer argues that marine trilobites, which he confuses with crustaceans, may have co-existed with humans in the Cambrian. Referring to the 5th edition of the book of the German "basic types" creationists Reinhard Junker and Siegfried Scherer (Evolution — Ein Kritischer Lehrbuch [Evolution — A Critical Textbook], Giessen [Germany]: Weyel, 2001; see RNCSE 2006 Jul/Aug; 26 [4]: 31–6 for discussion), Zillmer claims that mutations are always harmful and cannot add information to the genome. In essence, he argues that evolutionary biologists, geoscientists, and the editors of leading scientific journals are incompetent ideologists: these dogmatic Darwinists believe in macroevolution — a modern fairy tale that is unsupported by any evidence. Zillmer and Mastropaolo assert that the scientific establishment actively prevents the publication of the truth — that evolution is a fiction. Zillmer is an advocate of the "young-earth catastrophe" view, which suggests that our planet was struck by a global catastrophe (deluge) about 6 000 years ago. Zillmer believes that either the God of the Bible (which he considers more likely) or an extraterrestrial intelligence (alien life forms) created all forms of life on earth. It should be noted that Zillmer is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He uses this prestigious membership to promote his esoteric pseudoscience among the general public of Europe.

At the end of the meeting, the French Catholic creationist Guy Berthault informed the audience about the results of his empirical research programs concerning the deposition of sediments. According to Berthault, sediments "did not form slowly over millions of years", but "have been laid down within very short time periods". Hence, "fossils can not be dated by the strata that they are found in, nor the rocks dated by the type of fossils found in them."

The public anti-evolution seminar was co-organized by Dominique Tassot, the director of Centre d'Etude et de Prospectives sur la Science (CEP). This is an association of 700 French-speaking Catholic intellectuals that was founded in 1997 by the transformation of a pre-existing informal group. CEP members, who include some active researchers such as Berthault, do not accept macroevolution because it is in conflict with their specific reading of the Bible.

Giertych's bizarre letter to Nature was based on the religiously motivated lectures presented at his seminar. The meeting was part of a novel intelligently designed strategy to distribute and popularize anti-evolutionism in Europe. It is obvious that the reputation of the European Parliament was misused for this purpose. A few weeks later, the journal Nature published Giertych's letter on its Correspondence page. This provocative anti-Darwin letter sparked many angry reactions among the readers of this prestigious scientific journal (see Nature 2006; 444: 679–80).

About the Author(s): 
Ulrich Kutschera
Institut für Biologie, University of Kassel
Heinrich-Plett-Strasse 40
D-34109 Kassel
Germany

Turkish Creationist Movement Tours American College Campuses

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Turkish Creationist Movement Tours American College Campuses
Author(s): 
Pat Shipman
Pennsylvania State University
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
11–14
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The first I heard of it was when I got an e-mail from a Turkish colleague, Cengiz Camci, in aerospace engineering, who had read an article of mine in American Scientist about the threat that "intelligent design" poses in the US. Cengiz told me that representatives from the Turkish Harun Yahya movement were coming to our campus (Penn State) to speak. He asked me to attend to support a small group of faculty and students who were opposed to the Harun Yahya sect and wanted to counter their presentation with pertinent questions and rebuttals.

Cengiz succinctly called the upcoming event "a great example of totally useless 'intelligent design' propaganda." The talk, "The Collapse of Darwinism and the Fact of Creation", was given by Dr Oktar Babuna — an acknowledged student of Harun Yahya — with a very professional-looking presentation (see the websites http://www.harunyahya.com/ or http://www.harunyahyaimpact.com/biyografi.php). Harun Yahya is claimed to be the pen name of a single man, Adnan Oktar or Adnan Hoca, to whom hundreds of books, articles, pamphlets, videos, and PowerPoint presentations are credited (see RNCSE 1999 Nov/Dec; 19 [6]: 15–17; 18–20, 25–9; 30–5). Reportedly, Adnan Oktar was formerly a prisoner and inmate in a Turkish mental asylum, which he sees as a political imprisonment. The enormous output of Harun Yahya and the affiliated Science Research Foundation (known as BAV after its Turkish acronym) suggests that the name is used by a number of people in collaboration.

Harun Yahya espouses a strongly creationist view and is blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, and anti-Freemasonry. Though Turkey's population is predominantly Muslim, the country has long been officially a secular state. Its excellent education system stands out among those of similar countries for the unusually high percentage of women who receive university educations. Harun Yahya is working hard to remove evolutionary theory from the education system and replace it with creationist doctrine. In 2006, hundreds of free copies of a very glossy text featuring numerous color photographs — entitled the Atlas of Creation — were sent to schools all over Turkey in an attempt to promote adoptions. The same book, in French translation, was sent to educators all over France early in 2007 (see "Updates", p 14–15).

In 2007, representatives of Harun Yahya have been contacting Muslim student associations in colleges, universities, and community centers offering to give presentations. In Pennsylvania alone, I was able to track recent talks by the same group, under identical or near-identical titles, at the University of Pittsburgh, Lehigh University, Villanova University, and Temple University. A similar talk was held at the University of Buffalo on January 29 and at Albany University on February 1, 2007.

I expected a slick and well-orchestrated presentation, and I was not disappointed. What did surprise me was the lack of advance publicity. As late as the day before the event, there was no posting on the Muslims Students' Association (MSA) website or on that of Dialog Forum, an interfaith group that cosponsored the presentation. I could not find an announcement of the event on any campus calendar, nor were there posters on campus. I was eventually able to confirm the identity of the sponsors by calling the registrar's office, which books campus rooms for events. On the day of the event, an announcement appeared on the MSA website. I sent e-mail notices to the departments of Earth Sciences, Anthropology, and Biology, and to the Life Sciences Consortium, in order to alert interested parties. My message apparently sparked a notice on the post-doctoral list-serve as well. The turnout was good for a bitterly cold Thursday night in January: about 50 people. I do not know how many were Muslims who normally attend MSA meetings and how many were attendees with scientific backgrounds.

Babuna is a neurosurgeon from Turkey educated both in Turkey and the United States. He and his colleague, Ali Sadun, were elegantly dressed in ties, white shirts, and pin-striped suits with handkerchiefs in their breast pockets. The PowerPoint presentation that Babuna gave was very professionally produced.

Babuna's triple threat

His talk naturally divided into three parts. The first section attempted to link evolutionary theory with evil and social injustice; the second presented calculations intended to show that the proteins and cells of living organisms were irreducibly complex and could not have arisen "by coincidence"; and the third attacked the fossil evidence that should support evolution as either absent or intentionally deceptive.

He began the first part by connecting Darwinism to the ruthless strategies of political figures such as Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and Friedrich Engels. He provided images of each political leader coupled with quotations in which materialism — that is, evolutionary theory — provided scientific justification for the murder or gross maltreatment of thousands. With each image, he solemnly intoned the numbers of people who had been murdered. (He did not, of course, mention the numbers of victims of any religious movement or inter-faith conflict.) He openly blamed Darwinism for terrorism and racism. He posed a strictly dichotomous choice to the audience: either you are for Darwinism and these evil deeds, or you believe that Allah created the world and all of the life-forms in it. "There is no other choice," he said repeatedly.

The second portion of his talk was billed as an objective examination of the evidence for the creationist or the Darwinist approaches. His evaluation was based on three questions: 1) How did the first cell originate? 2) What are the mechanisms of evolution? 3) Is there abundant fossil evidence showing evidence of evolution?

To answer the first question, he gave some calculations to show the enormous complexity of living organisms, such as the number of amino acids that must be correctly assembled in a particular sequence to form a protein and the number of proteins produced by a single cell. He asserted that a change in a single component rendered the whole (DNA or RNA molecule, or protein) ineffectual and nonfunctional.

"There is no trial and error mechanism in nature," he declared, "because if you change one single amino acid or one single protein, nothing functions any more." Such irreducible complexity could not have arisen by coincidence — "and evolution works by coincidence, Darwin tells us" — and must have been deliberately created, perfect and whole in a single, sudden step.

"You see, the whole theory of evolution collapses at the level of a single protein," he concluded.

Babuna chose the (human) eye as an example of an organ that could not possibly have been created by "coincidence". I found this choice fascinating, since a good deal of work has been done on the evolution of the eye. Among other studies, mathematical modeling has shown that a three-layered tissue — with light-sensitive tissue in the middle layer — can be easily transformed into a camera-type eye with a lens and retina by the action of natural selection.

Having declared the evolution of such irreducible complexity to be statistically impossible, Babuna moved to his second question concerning the mechanisms of evolution. He claimed there was not a single piece of evidence that natural selection had ever produced novelty, illustrating his point with a photograph of a cheetah chasing an antelope. "Natural selection may make the deer" — as he called it — "run faster to escape the cheetah, but it does not turn the deer into a horse. Natural selection produces no novelty, nothing new, no transformations into other species," Babuna said.

Babuna also argued that mutations, the second major mechanism proposed by evolutionary theory, were inevitably deleterious and usually resulted in death. Mutations are only harmful, he said: "Sixty years of genetic studies on fruitflies has yet to produce a single advantageous mutation." He also showed a video clip of Richard Dawkins being asked by an interviewer to name a mutation that had been shown to be clearly advantageous. Dawkins thought for some seconds without answering before the clip ended, a bit of clever editing that made this foremost evolutionary biologist look foolish.

The third segment of Babuna's talk concerned fossils. He cited the well-known quote from Charles Darwin regretting the lack of transitional forms, and declared that "there is not a single transitional fossil known." Fossils reveal the history of life, he conceded, but new forms appear suddenly and in their perfect, complex, and fully functional state, "which is very good evidence for creation, not evolution."

One tactic was to show photographs of various fossils which appeared to be identical to their modern form, such as dragonflies and horseshoe crabs. He presented these as evidence that evolution did not occur.

Babuna also attacked the practice of making reconstructions based on fossils as intentionally deceptive. He showed several images of the noted artist John Gurche making full-flesh sculptures of fossil hominins. "These are fakes," he said emphatically as the word FAKE was stamped across each image. "You can tell nothing about the ears, the lips, the hair, or the skin of a fossil from a few bits of skull. There is nothing here but the imagination of the artist." He repeated the demonstration several times, emphasizing the word FAKE.

To emphasize this point, he brought up the case of Ernst Haeckel, a renowned 19th-century biologist who was charged with drawing embryos of various species incorrectly to heighten their resemblance to human embryos. Babuna showed a quote from Haeckel saying that he had done nothing that other scientists did not do, implying that this was an admission of deliberately misleading the public. A more knowledgeable assessment of Haeckel's words would be that he felt he was justifiably generalizing from individual specimens and leaving out unimportant details to make his point clearer.

As a final strategy, Babuna cited various fossils that had at one time been claimed to be human ancestors that were then re-assessed. These including Hesperopithecus (a single pig tooth found in Kansas that was briefly thought to be a hominin tooth), the forged Piltdown skull, Ramapithecus, and Zinjanthropus (now called Australopithecus boisei). With each example, he would quote a scientist claiming the fossil was a human ancestor, and then the date of its revision, saying sarcastically, "Then they apologized" for the discredited claim.

In the case of several fossils (including Zinjanthropus), Babuna incorrectly implied that they are no longer considered to be hominins. In fact, Zinjanthropus or Australopithecus boisei and others are clearly hominins but are no longer thought to be direct ancestors of modern humans.

The audience responds

A very lively, sometimes heated question-and-answer session followed the presentation, and the questions were as far-ranging as Babuna's talk.

One member of the audience, George Chaplin, challenged Babuna "You say God created perfect and complete organisms," he argued. "If God created me, then I am perfect." A silence fell over the room as Babuna confronted this challenge.

"I didn't say perfect," Babuna replied. When the audience reminded him that he had used that very word repeatedly, Babuna said, "I didn't mean perfect perfect."

Asked what his definition of evolution was, Babuna replied "the definition of evolution is that living things come into being by coincidence." A biologist challenged this, saying it was not a suitable definition of evolution, nor was it one that was used by scholars in the field. "Since you don't define evolution in a way that any evolutionary biologist I know of defines evolution, your disproof of evolution isn't very convincing," she said.

When I cited Archaeopteryx as an excellent example of a transitional form, Babuna — who admitted he had never seen a fossil — disagreed. I told the audience about the teeth, wings, tail, brain, claws, tail, and sternum of Archaeopteryx, not to mention the many species of feathered dinosaurs now known from fossils. Babuna countered that there is a bird in South America with claws on its wings, which he suggested refuted all the evidence I had cited.

I also pointed out that his diagram of an eyeball was as "fake" as Haeckel's embryo diagrams or Gurche's hominin reconstructions. "Does an eyeball look like this?" I asked, pointing to his image. "I've dissected them and never seen those things like piano keys that you say are retinal cells. And what about that yellow stuff filling the eyeball? I've never seen that either, or those green arrows. This is as much a fake as the other illustrations you labeled fakes."

"No," Babuna answered. "This is just a diagram from a medical textbook."

A question of credibility

My friend Cengiz asked from the back of the room what had happened to the 80 000 blood samples and all the donated funds that had been raised in Turkey for Babuna's leukemia cure. When asked how that pertained to Babuna's talk, he replied, "It is relevant to his credibility."

Cengiz referred to a massive movement in Turkey started by Babuna and his family in 1999, when Babuna had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed a marrow transplant to save his life. According to Turkish newspaper reports, as many as 160 000 people, attracted by the promise of a large reward if they were suitable donors for Babuna, contributed blood and marrow samples. A great deal of money was also raised to test and process the samples, but both the funds and the samples remain unaccounted for. Turkish legal authorities are investigating.

Babuna has not been entirely open about this matter. In October of 1999, he told the Turkish newspaper he had cured himself of leukemia by prayer (Turkish Daily News, 1999 Oct 3; available on-line at http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/archives.php?id=14352.) However, Babuna does not mention in public that he also received treatment and transplants at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and later at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (http://www.seattlecca.org/patientsandfamilies/international/OktarsStory.htm).

Babuna promised after his cure to "go into politics" and it would seem that he has.

About the Author(s): 
Pat Shipman
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
pls10@psu.edu

Review: Creation as Science

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
35–37
Reviewer: 
Timothy H Heaton,
University of South Dakota
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation-Evolution Wars
Author(s): 
Hugh Ross
Colorado Springs (CO): NavPress, 2006. 291 pages
Those familiar with Hugh Ross and his Reasons to Believe (RTB) ministry will find many familiar themes in Creation as Science. Ross is an old-earth creationist with a background in astronomy who believes that science and the Bible tell the same history. Ross seeks to prove that the universe has been fine-tuned for human civilization by the biblical God and could not have come about by chance. The point of this book is to challenge others, creationists and non-creationists alike, to compare their models of earth history with his, using scientific data as a test.

The "fine-tuning" of the universe is a theme that runs through all Ross's books, but in Creation as Science he takes the concept to even greater extremes: "The Bible says that God works continuously throughout cosmic history to ensure that everything in the universe maintains the just-right conditions for support of human life" (p 72). According to Ross, some of God's purposes in creating the universe were to:
Supply resources for the rapid development of civilization and technology and the achievement of global occupation.

Provide humanity with the best possible viewing conditions for discovering, through a careful examination of the cosmos, His existence and attributes.

Set up the optimal physical theater — including an optimal human life span — for conquering sin and the evil it produces. (p 68)
God's mechanisms for achieving his purposes, according to Ross's model, involve a puzzling blend of naturalistic and supernatural processes. For example, Ross believes that God initiated the Big Bang under a precise set of conditions so that, over 13 billion years later, a planet would form on which God could create humans and where they could survive. Ross never explains why God did not create the universe and the earth in the same sudden and miraculous way that he created humans. Here is an example from the fossil record:
… the Creator worked efficiently and effectively to prepare a home for humanity. A huge array of highly diverse, complex plants and animals living in optimized ecological relationships and densely packing the earth for more than a half billion years perfectly suits what humanity needs. These life systems loaded earth's crust with sufficient fossil fuels and other biodeposits to catapult the human race toward technologically advanced civilization. (p 140)
Here we see Ross's astounding double standard. When it comes to astronomy and geology, Ross believes in an old universe, so he seeks reasons why God needed so much time. But when it comes to biology, Ross invokes a miracle at every turn:
From a biblical perspective, one reason so many apparent transitions appear in the fossil record for whales and horses is that Creation had a particular time, place, and purpose for each one in the ecosystem. Because these kinds of species go extinct so rapidly, the fossil record shows frequent replacements, or "transitions," for them. It seems God frequently created new species to replace those that went extinct. … The biblical creation accounts describe God as continually involved and active in creating new species until he created human beings. (p 143–4)
The irony is this: the direct formation of fossil fuels would require far less creative effort than creating thousands of new species over millions of years. In a similar manner, Ross proposes that God compensated for changes in solar luminosity (apparently outside divine control) with a host of geological and biological miracles on earth and then concludes: "The number of just-right outcomes converging at the just-right times to compensate for the decreasing brightness of the youthful sun seriously strains naturalistic models" (p 132–3).

In astronomy, events follow natural laws, while in biology, every detail is due to a deliberate act by the Creator. If male nipples and human sex drive need special explanations, as Ross suggests (p 160, 170), and so does every individual species that ever lived, then why not the billions of galaxies and the many types of stars that played no role in earth's formation? Why would a powerful God choose to create every individual species by a special act but leave the formation of a solar system (a much simpler structure) to gravity and eons of time? While Ross proposes types, frequencies, and economy for God's miracles (p 70–2), his choice of when to invoke these miracles seems arbitrary. It is difficult to understand what proof and attributes Ross expects us to find for God in such a capricious universe.

Ross's double standard starts to make sense in light of the twofold purpose of Creation as Science. First Ross offers his own reconciliation between science and religion, which he calls the RTB creation model. "This book outlines a model that strives to uphold both scientific and biblical integrity as it attempts to reconcile the goals of the scientific community with the goals of the Christian community" (p 52). Second, Ross invites creationists and evolutionists to engage him in testing competing models to see which one is right. Ross proposes his test with confidence and appeals to humility on the part of the other players "in assigning credit where it is due" (p 202). So what is this game, and why does Ross think he can win?

As I see it, Ross consciously attempts to align himself with what he regards as the strongest positions of scientists and creationists. In particular:

1) Wherever Ross feels that scientists have thoroughly established a conclusion, he accepts that conclusion. Examples include the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe, radiometric dating, and the history of life on earth as documented in the fossil record. Then he uses this scientific evidence to criticize the young-earth creationists for their unscientific views, and he makes predictions for where future research will lead in these areas as a further test of his model. It should be noted, however, that Ross does not apply scientific conclusions uniformly. Due to his training in astronomy and the quantitative elegance of models in physics, he accepts historical conclusions in these areas more readily than in scientific disciplines such as biology and archaeology. For example, Ross does not regard morphologic and genetic similarities between species as proof of common ancestry, but as "shared designs" in progressive creation by God (p 80).

2) Where there are gaps in scientific knowledge, Ross invokes the biblical God. This aligns him with both the young-earth creationists and "intelligent design" advocates. Examples include the initiation of the Big Bang, the origin of life on earth, major gaps in the fossil record, and the peculiar intelligence of humans. Here Ross criticizes mainstream scientists for having weak explanations, whereas the powerful biblical God can fill these gaps with ease. He predicts that future research will continue to have trouble filling these gaps, and that this will be a confirmation of his model. Ross defends the "God-of-the-gaps" concept, saying "if the gap becomes wider and more problematic from a naturalistic stance as scientists learn more, then a supernatural explanation seems in order" (p 34–5).

3) Ross seeks out biblical verses that appear to support his view. For example, he argues that "thousands of years previous to any scientific speculation or research into big bang cosmology, the Bible predicted all of the fundamental attributes of a big bang universe" (p 75). Most of Ross's citations are brief phrases from books like Isaiah and Psalms where the context is either mysterious or constantly shifting. Ross's mental gymnastics become even more pronounced where the narratives of Genesis conflict with his views. He argues that the creation "days" of Genesis 1 are "six creation epochs" during which most fossils were formed and that God's "'day of rest' is ongoing in the context of this universe" (p 72), thus advocating the Day–Age theory. Ross accepts that the Flood of Noah killed all humans and their associated "soulish animals" outside the ark but not that the flood was global: "In fact, careful analysis of the relevant biblical texts shows that Noah's Flood was geographically limited" and "because of its relatively brief duration, would not have left any significant geological or archaeological evidence" (p 79, 224). These interpretations put Ross completely at odds with the young-earth creationists, but he never suggests that Bible scholarship should decide the issues.

4) Ross frequently cites evidence that the emergence of humans is so unlikely that it requires a God: "According to recent studies, for the universe to produce the kinds of galaxies, stars, planets, and chemical elements essential for physical life, the cosmic mass density must be fine-tuned to at least one part in 1060. The cosmic dark energy … must be fine-tuned to at least one part in 10120 [and] even if the universe contains as many planets as it does stars, the possibility for the existence of just one planet or moon with the required conditions for advanced life falls below 1 in 10282" (p 94, 97; footnotes indicate that these studies were conducted by Ross himself).

The book is filled with these sorts of statements. It appears from the footnotes (and from his other books) that Ross spends a lot of time scanning the scientific literature for any suggestion that conditions for life represent an unlikelihood and then accepts these claims as the final word on the subject. He enjoys reducing these probabilities to numbers and then multiplying them together to derive astronomical improbabilities for life appearing on its own — all to prove that the biblical God had to be involved. This line of reasoning is common to creationists, but Ross takes it to a whole new level.

Ross's attempt to find as many cases of "fine-tuning" as possible has led him into serious errors outside his specialty of astronomy. For example, in trying to explain the need for ice ages, he claims that "large, fast-moving glaciers predominant during ice ages contributed to the formation of many of earth's richest ore deposits" (p 173). Actually, glacial ice is exceptionally poor at sorting minerals by density and thus does not concentrate valuable minerals into ore deposits. Another of Ross's claims involves weather phenomena:
If earth's rotation rate slowed to 26 hours per day, no hurricanes or tornados would ever occur. … [Earlier in earth history] 21-hour days spawned enormously more destructive hurricanes and tornados. Placing humanity on earth when the rotation rate had slowed to 24 hours meant that the Creator timed the human era to correspond with the ideal hurricane and tornado era in geologic history — another piece of evidence that the timing of humanity's advent was planned rather than accidental. (p 171)
Earth's rotation is not the main driving force for these storms — solar radiation is. If solar luminosity increased during the history of terrestrial life, as Ross contends, then intensity of storms could have increased. Slowing of earth's rotation would tend to reduce wind speeds, but hurricanes and tornados would not cease if the rotation slowed to 26 hours per day. Since primitive trees and land animals survived during 21-hour days, then there is no reason to doubt that humans could have also. Many other examples of Ross's dubious science could be cited.

Ross devotes 25 pages at the end of the book to proposing, in tabular form, 89 "predictive tests" that should help settle the creationism/evolution debate: 22 for "simple sciences" (mostly astronomy), 52 for "complex sciences" (mostly biology), and 15 for "theology/philosophy". For each of the 89 "tests" he includes a prediction for the RTB Model as well as for three of its rivals: Naturalism, Young-Earth Creationism, and Theistic Evolution. Here is one typical example from each category:

Predictive Test 6 under Simple Sciences

RTB Model and Theistic Evolution:
Evidences [sic] for an actual beginning of space and time will grow stronger and more numerous. These evidences [sic] will continue to place the beginning of space and time at about 14 billion years ago.

Naturalism:
Evidences for an actual beginning of space and time will become weaker and less numerous.

Young-Earth:
New discoveries will prove that the beginning of space and time took place less than about 10 000 years ago.

Predictive Test 37 under Complex Sciences

RTB Model:
Continuing DNA analysis increasingly will establish that humans could not have naturally descended from previously existing hominins or primates.

Naturalism:
Continuing DNA analysis increasingly will establish that humans did naturally descend from previously existing hominins or primates.

Young-Earth:
Continuing DNA analysis increasingly will establish that Neanderthals, archaic Homo sapiens, and Homo erectus are fully human.

Theistic Evolution:
No majority position yet developed.

Predictive Test 9 under Theology/Philosophy

RTB Model and Young-Earth:
As philosophers continue to research the nature of birds and mammals, they will find increasing philosophical evidence that they possess many features that could not possibly be derived or inherited from lower animals.

Naturalism and Theistic Evolution:
As philosophers continue to research the nature of birds and mammals, they will discover increasing philosophical evidence that they possess no features that could not possibly be derived or inherited from lower animals.

I believe that the above predictions illustrate why Ross believes he can win using this strategy. In the realm of astronomy, he knows where the science is headed, and he has done his best to align his model with that science while distancing competing models from it. In the areas of biology, theology, and philosophy, he has made predictions that are so subjective that he can continue to filter the evidence selectively and cite the opinions of authorities that agree with him. He has already dismissed evidence for evolution in favor of numerous ad hoc miracles, so there is no reason to suspect that he will be objective with future discoveries.

While this strategy will undoubtedly strengthen Ross's own faith, it is unlikely to have any impact on those of other perspectives. Philosophical naturalists and theistic evolutionists will continue to find Ross's model biased, arbitrary, and only consistent with selective evidence. Young-earth creationists will continue to insist that Ross is out of harmony with the Bible, which is their primary authority. Even if some of Ross's "predictive tests" fall in his favor, this is unlikely to sway others because his model is internally inconsistent and deliberately constructed to accommodate the data he hopes will vindicate it.

Creation as Science does not live up to its title. While Ross proposes a scientific-style test to resolve a longstanding controversy, in reality it represents an entrenchment on the part of its author into an incoherent model with little hope for widespread appeal.

About the Author(s): 
Timothy H Heaton
Department of Earth Sciences
University of South Dakota
Vermillion SD 57069
theaton@usd.edu

Review: Who Was Adam?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
37–38
Reviewer: 
Jeffrey K McKee
The Ohio State University
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man
Author(s): 
Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross
Colorado Springs (CO): NavPress, 2005. 299 pages.
Among the creationist books that adorn my shelves, Who was Adam? is noteworthy for its fine style and rare candor. Even the introductory section recounting scientific knowledge of human evolution is remarkably well-written, yet nuanced enough to allow a modicum of doubt. And although the authors are irritatingly repetitive as they pound their point home, one can sense their genuine enthusiasm for the subject and their fervent belief in their conclusions. Well-written, however, is not the same as logically sound.

The book revolves around what the authors call the "RTB model." They repeat this term so many times that one easily forgets that RTB means "Reasons To Believe," a Christian apologetics organization of which the authors are president and vice-president. But throughout the book one gets the impression that it could also stand for "Return to Bible," as the authors often do. To wit, "But that's what the Bible says happened" (p 111).

In a sense this is quite refreshing. They do not try to cloak their creationism with the scientific-sounding, yet meaningless, trappings of "intelligent design". They proudly state what others try to hide — that their "science" is strictly guided by the ultimate truths in scripture. Never mind that historical geologists tried to do the same thing until the 1830s, when an embarrassment of riches in fossil discoveries brought an end to William Paley's approach of natural theology, or what we like to call "Paley-ontology".

In reality, Rana and Ross are trying to shoehorn science into the Bible, and vice versa. On the positive side they give science the nod when it comes to the age of the earth. They disagree with the "self-described biblical literalists" (p 24) in favor of "other theologically credible interpretations of Genesis 1" (p 42). That breath of fresh air quickly gives way to the familiarly foul stench of standard creationist arguments, blown by the harsh winds of supposedly "testable" creationism.

For purposes of this review I will focus on my own field of paleoanthropology and dissect the authors' diatribe on human evolution. Most of their approach is to disparage the "notoriously" incomplete fossil record. They are not as harsh on my colleagues and me: "Paleoanthropologists are dedicated and talented scientists who must not be disparaged because their discipline lacks robust data" (p 152). Gosh, thanks, guys. Nevertheless, they use the same fossil record to test the RTB creation model, and amazingly … all of the data fit.

Among the RTB model's predictions are that humanity can be traced back to one woman (Eve) and one man (Noah), with the former having arisen in the Garden of Eden. This fits well with the genetic data that trace human origins to a "mitochondrial Eve" and with the "Out of Africa" hypothesis held in many corners of paleoanthropology. How do they get around the fossil and genetic evidence that point to African origins of Homo sapiens, while acknowledging that most scholars place the Garden of Eden in Mesopotamia? They argue that the boundaries of Mesopotamia may have extended into northern and eastern Africa, particularly Ethiopia — where there are some early Homo sapiens fossils. How convenient!

The authors argue that all other hominin fossil species, such as the Neanderthals or Homo erectus, were not created in God's image because they did not behave as we do. Illustrating a pattern of denial that pervades the whole book, Rana and Ross go to great lengths to distinguish the Neanderthals' tool kit as being very unsophisticated and to deny the existence of intentional burials. Being such primitive brutes, Neanderthals "behaved more like animals than like humans" (p 196). It is true that subsequent peoples had more sophisticated stone tools and art. But by logical extension of the Rana/Ross argument, early Homo sapiens also must not have been made in God's image — they lacked agriculture and permanent shelters, let along MP3 players and nuclear weapons, so they also did not behave like modern humans.

Among the most egregious errors in the book is an argument dealing with the evolution of human brain size. I am not sure whether the authors did not understand statistics or were knowingly deceptive. Nevertheless, they boldly state: "For each hominid species, brain size remains relatively constant through the time it existed" (p 164). They refer to a tidy graph of the average relative brain size for four groups to show the "general pattern of discontinuous leaps." This is curious, because in the same paragraph they document a substantial range of brain sizes within each group, and ignore the fact that later Homo erectus had a larger brain size than early H erectus. Even more perplexing is that they lump three or four different species, with successively greater brain sizes, into Australopithecus, giving one low average brain size over a 3.5–million-year period. My suspicions in this case go with intentional deception.

There are many other gems of illogic, such as an entire chapter devoted to how humans arose at the perfect moment of geological time in terms of the sun's brightness, length of earth days, best solar eclipses, fewest earthquakes, optimal climate, and more. It is enough to tax the credulity of even the most ardent creationists, and give them reason not to believe.

In short, Who was Adam? constitutes a classic case study in the differences between rationality and rationalization. It becomes abundantly clear that rationalizing preconceived ideas is no match for rational science through the testing of legitimate hypotheses.

About the Author(s): 
Jeffrey K McKee
Department of Anthropology
The Ohio State University
Columbus OH 43210-1316
mckee.95@osu.edu

RNCSE 26 (6)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
6
Year: 
2006
Date: 
November–December
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" link for list of articles in the print edition.

Print Edition Contents: 26 (6)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
6
Year: 
2006
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
2

News

  1. Trouble in Paradise: Answers in Genesis Splinters
    Jim Lippard
    The struggle between the US and Australian branchesof a creationist ministry over the organization's message and label reads more like The Prince than the Bible.
  2. The Evolution Award at Ohio's State Science Day
    Jeffrey K McKee
    A Sigma Xi chapter in Ohio comes up with a great way to support evolutionary science for high-schoolers.
  3. The Latest on Evolution from the Pope
    The latest message from the Vatican on evolution reveals a troubling misunderstanding of science.
  4. Updates
    News from Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Tennessee.
  5. Answers in Genesis Opens Creation Museum
    Twenty-seven million dollars spent on a monument to pseudoscience.

NCSE NEWS

  1. News from the Membership
    What our members are doing to support evolution and oppose pseudoscience wherever the need arises.
  2. NCSE Thanks You for Your Generous Support
    You know we appreciate your financial support of NCSE's mission, but we want to let the world know how much you have helped.

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. A New Way to Help NCSE
    Help keep NCSE's archives keep up to date!
  2. Books: From NCSE's Supporters
    Just a few of the books written by NCSE Supporters.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    Check the calendar here for NCSE speakers.

FEATURES

  1. New Creationist Textbook on the Way (Again)
    Nick Matzke
    Still smarting from defeat in Dover, anti-evolutionists are back at what they do best — recycling old ideas.

BOOK REVIEWS

  1. The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism
    by Ardea Skybreak
    Reviewed by Jonathan Marks
  2. Why Darwin Matters
    by Michael Shermer
    Reviewed by Norman Levitt
  3. The Top 10 Myths About Evolution
    by Cameron M Smith and Charles Sullivan
    Reviewed by Leslie S Jones
  4. Intelligent Thought: Science Versus the Intelligent Design Movement
    edited by John Brockman
    Reviewed by Glenn Branch
  5. The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed
    by Anthony Latham
    Reviewed by Stephen Hager and Bradley Cosentino
  6. Intelligent Design vs Evolution
    by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron
    Reviewed by Carrie Sager
  7. Darwin's Nemesis
    edited by William A Dembski
    Reviewed by Lawrence S Lerner
  8. Darwin's Conservatives
    by John West
    Reviewed by Kenneth J Blanchard Jr
  9. Present at the Flood
    by Richard E Dickerson
    Reviewed by Michael Buratovich
  10. Bursting the Limits of Time
    by Martin JS Rudwick
    Reviewed by David Sepkoski
  11. After the Dinosaurs
    by Donald R Prothero
    Reviewed by Kevin Padian
  12. Galápagos: A Natural History
    by John Kricher
    Reviewed by Kenneth S Saladin
  13. Tree of Life
    by Guillaume Lecointre and Hervé Le Guyander
    Reviewed by Kevin Padian
  14. The Creationists
    by Ronald L Numbers
    Reviewed by Francis B Harrold
  15. The Scopes Trial
    by Jeffrey P Moran
    Reviewed by George E Webb
  16. Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent
    by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
    Reviewed by Paul Lawrence Farber
  17. Dawkins' God
    by Alister McGrath
    Reviewed by Evan B Hazard
  18. Darwin Loves You
    by George Levine
    Reviewed by Chet Raymo

New Creationist Textbook On the Way (Again)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
New Creationist Textbook On the Way (Again)
Author(s): 
Nick Matzke
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
6
Year: 
2006
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
28–30
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
A document recently received by NCSE outlines the Discovery Institute's upcoming plans for its so-called teach the controversy strategy. In 2007, the Discovery Institute plans to release a "supplemental textbook" entitled Explore Evolution. According to the document, the textbook and auxiliary materials will teach the students the Discovery Institute's talking points against evolution. These talking points will evidently include the standard list of long-refuted creationist claims promoted by the Discovery Institute, including the inadequacy of the fossil record, biological complexity as a challenge to evolutionary theory, the inexplicability of the Cambrian Explosion, and other common creationist tropes. Students will be taught these talking points via the supplemental textbook and associated slide shows, study guides, and videos, and will be tested on the talking points in Discovery Institute-prepared "quiz questions".

The book is discussed in a handout received by NCSE Supporter Keith Miller at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, which was held from July 28–31, 2006, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The ASA is an association of scientists who are evangelical Christians, and although some members of the ASA are "intelligent design" or young-earth creationists, the ASA is not an anti-evolutionist organization, and many ASA members see no necessary conflict between evolution and evangelical Christianity. Miller received the handout while attending a talk by Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Newton Keas. The talk was entitled, "Teach the Controversy over Darwinism: Sample Curricular Modules" (Keas 2006).

Keas runs the Master of Arts Program in Science and Religion at Biola University (the name "Biola" derives from the university's previous name, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles). The Biola program is the only one in the United States offering a graduate degree in "intelligent design". According to Keas's abstract for his ASA talk, "[s]ince 1999 I have worked with Discovery Institute to develop AP and college biological origins curriculum. Some of this curriculum will be published in 2006." The one-page handout, entitled "Teaching Evolutionary Biology in Public High Schools and Colleges", lists a number of bullet points describing Keas's proposed curriculum modules and resources, including the Explore Evolution book.

The History

News of the Explore Evolution project is particularly interesting when the general history of anti-evolution strategies is taken into consideration. Directly following the 1968 Epperson ruling overturning bans on evolution, Henry Morris and others at the Creation Research Society constructed the "equal time" approach for teaching "scientific creationism" in public schools as an allegedly secular scientific view (Numbers 1992). Their first major foray in this direction was the textbook Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity (Moore and Slusher 1974; see Thwaites 1980). This book was the subject of a number of disputes in the 1970s regarding its use in public schools. However, in 1977 the book was ruled unconstitutional for use in public schools in a strongly worded decision, Hendern v Campbell, from a state court in Indiana (Matzke 2006). Hendren was soon obscured when the issue moved to the federal courts in the 1980s.

In the 1987 Edwards v Aguillard case, the US Supreme Court ruled that teaching "creation science" in public schools was unconstitutional because it was a specific religious view disguised as science, rather than actually science. In the wake of the Edwards ruling, creationists relabeled their view "intelligent design" — a term they first systematically employed in the supplementary high school textbook Of Pandas and People (Davis and Kenyon 1989; see also Scott 1989).

Wielding Pandas, the newly named "design proponents" asserted that their view was scientific, not religious, and pushed for it to be included in biology classrooms in public schools. Again, there were fights over the use of the textbook for years before it hit the courts (see the NCSE Pandas resources page for a history and analysis: http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=21). As everyone now knows, the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover case revealed that Pandas began as an explicitly creationist textbook and only switched to "design" terminology after the Edwards ruling. These facts helped produce the decisive ruling in Kitzmiller that "intelligent design" was not science, but instead creationism relabeled.

Following recent defeats for the "intelligent design" movement in the Kitzmiller v Dover case, in a February 2006 vote of the Ohio Board of Education, and in the August 2006 Republican primary election in Kansas, many observers have wondered what the next step would be for attempts to sneak creationism into the public schools. In response to questions from the media, NCSE staff have predicted that creationists would continue to move toward their so-called critical analysis of evolution strategy, in which long-refuted creationist arguments are claimed to be valid scientific challenges to evolution under the rhetoric of "critical thinking" and "teach the controversy". By not using the terms "creationism" or "intelligent design", creationists hope to teach their views in the public schools while avoiding constitutional challenges from the courts (Matzke and Gross 2006).

The Future

This background may explain why history appears to be repeating itself (again!) with the announcement of yet another "supplementary textbook". As before, the recently failed strategy (this time, "intelligent design" rather than "creation science") is being denied — according to Keas's handout, Explore Evolution will focus on "critical analysis" and allegedly "does not teach about ID". The title also mimics mainstream educational materials: there are numerous instances of legitimate museums, courses, websites, textbook chapters, and lesson plans that use some variant of the phrase "explore evolution".

Despite the "not ID" denial in Keas's conference handout, the abstract simply uncritically repeats the same old tired ID creationism talking points about the Cambrian Explosion:
One way to motivate students to study science and to think critically is to examine case studies of scientific controversy. Through case studies, students will gain insight into the standard scientific procedure of inferring the best explanation from among multiple competing hypotheses. ...

In today's climate of public educational policy, this would mean, at a minimum, teaching not just the strengths of Darwin's theory, but also the evidence that challenges it. For example, any complete theory of biological origins must examine fossil evidence. The fossils of the "Cambrian explosion" show virtually all the basic forms of animal life appearing suddenly without clear precursors.
These sorts of claims have been endlessly rebutted, most recently in Kevin Padian's dissection of Pandas's Cambrian arguments during his Kitzmiller testimony (available on-line, complete with the slides Padian used, at http://www.sciohost.org/ncse/kvd/Padian/Padian_transcript.html), but the creationists seem undeterred. Keas's handout shows that Explore Evolution will be more of the same in other areas as well. According to point #2 of the handout:
2. Explore Evolution (supplemental textbook forthcoming in early 2007)
a. Evaluates the main arguments for and against neo-Darwinism (does not teach about ID)
i. Common descent (fossil succession, homologies, embryology, & biogeography)

ii. Creative power of mutation and natural selection (mechanisms of evolution)

iii. Recent challenges to neo-Darwinism: Molecular machines (irreducibly complex?)
b. When used with a basal biology textbook, this supplemental curriculum provides an effective way to fairly teach the strengths and weaknesses of Neo-Darwinian evolution.
Longtime Pandas watchers may be having flashbacks at this point, but there's more!
c. Our curriculum primarily consists of a colorful 130-page book and a series of PDF slide shows (PC or Mac) that contain the book's main talking points and illustrations (plus additional images). We also include student study guides, sample lesson plans, quiz questions, and other auxiliary materials that may be printed and photocopied.
All in all, this looks like the long-rumored Discovery Institute "intelligent design" curriculum. After the Discovery Institute began moving away from ID and toward "critical analysis", the curriculum probably moved with it. From what the above material shows, the Explore Evolution curriculum closely matches the 2005 Kansas Science Standards and the most recent version may have originally been aimed directly at that market.

With the recent defeats in Kansas and Ohio, no states have official policies that are highly friendly to the DI's "critical analysis" curriculum. However, creationists are continually pushing "critical analysis" language in states, and have succeeded in getting a "critical analysis" line in the South Carolina science standards. NCSE members should remain alert for bogus "critical analysis" policies as well as for creationist attempts to exploit these policies to get reworked creationist materials, such as Explore Evolution, into the public schools.

[Readers can now view some of the Explore Evolution materials on-line at http://www.exploreevolution.com/index.php.]

References



Davis P, Kenyon D. 1989. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. Richardson (TX): Foundation for Thought and Ethics.

Keas MN. 2006. Teach the controversy over Darwinism: Sample curricular modules. Talk given at the 2006 ASA Annual Meeting, Session V-B: Models for Teaching of Origins, July 31, 2006. Abstract at p 25 of the conference program, available on-line at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/meetings/Calvin2006/Calvin_program.pdf. Last accessed June 27, 2007.

Matzke N, editor. 2006. Hendren v Campbell: Decision against a creationist textbook. Available on-line at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hendren/hendren_v_campbell.html. Last accessed June 27, 2007.

Matzke N, Gross P. 2006. Analyzing critical analysis: The fallback anti-evolutionists strategy. In: Scott EC, Branch G, editors. Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Boston: Beacon Press, p 28–56.

Numbers R. 1992. The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.

Moore JN, Slusher HS, editors. Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity. Grand Rapids (MI): Zondervan.

Thwaites W. 1980. Book review of Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity. Creation/Evolution 1 (1); 38–40.

About the Author(s): 
Nick Matzke
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
matzke@ncseweb.org

Nick Matzke is NCSE's Public Information Project Director. He was the key NCSE staff member on the scene in Kitzmiller v Dover for the duration of the proceedings and the main liaison between NCSE and the legal team.

Review: Why Darwin Matters

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
6
Date: 
November-December
Page(s): 
18-19
Reviewer: 
Norman Levitt
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
Author(s): 
Michael Shermer
New York: Times Books, 2006. 199 pages

The indefatigable Michael Shermer has joined the lists of those authors bent on providing ammunition for the ongoing struggle against that old shape-shifting dragon, creationism, in its latest avatar, the "intelligent design" movement. His new book, Why Darwin Matters, gets high marks for its amiable style, its readability, and the unmistakable moral passion of the author. It is impressive in the wide range of issues and questions it addresses. Most important, it is likely to be a useful contribution to the unfinished task of providing the resistance to creationism, among both scientists and laypeople, with a repository of direct arguments, rhetorical devices, and philosophical themes useful in defeating or deflecting the spectrum of creationist assaults now directed against the educational system. On the other hand, if one is looking for a definitive volume of heavyweight analysis of theoretical questions about evolution and its place among the sciences, or about the history and sociology of American creationism, or about the interface between science and religion, Shermer's brisk little volume is not really in the running. It has flaws, gaps, and lapses, none fatal to its intended purpose, to be sure, but cumulatively serious enough so that it has to be said that a reader armed with this book alone will not be entirely prepared for a full-bore debate with a seasoned creationist, in or out of the context of fights over curricula and biology textbooks.

Among its virtues is the fact that Why Darwin Matters covers a very wide range of topics, citing a host of arguments against standard evolutionary theory from a number of strands of creationist ideology, and providing brief, accessible rejoinders — for the most part effective — to those arguments. Among its defects is the problem that this breadth, combined with the brevity of the book as a whole and its occasional digressiveness, inevitably renders some of the counterarguments sketchy and even shallow. The unpretentious informality of Shermer's style is welcome, but the downside is that some of his debating points have an improvised and off-the-cuff feel to them, and lack the depth and heft necessary to make really telling points in serious debate. They are starting points indicating the possibility of more elaborate and focused lines of argument, rather than crushing weapons in their own right.

The wide range of issues considered by the author also has the lamentable effect of diffusing the ostensible focus of the book, that is, how to counteract the ambitions of the "intelligent design" movement per se. The somewhat haphazard organization of chapters and topics has a similar effect. There are some matters that Shermer ought to have thought through seriously, from both a theoretical and expository point of view. Instead, he seems to have tried to work them out on the fly, at the cost of precision and even relevancy. In particular, the notion of what is supposed to be meant by "intelligent design" is somewhat wooly in this treatment, leading to the needless conflation of very different positions and attitudes.

What does "intelligent design" of the visible universe mean? Presumably, any religion or set of spiritual convictions that posits some kind of shaping intelligence in the cosmos and its history, some kind of entelechy, no matter how vague, providing purpose and direction for the universe, ipso facto incorporates a kind of "intelligent design theory". These belief-systems range from dogmatic, orthodox religion to non-sectarian theism, Deism, and even Spinozan pantheism. Rank atheists (like me) might not cotton to any of these ideas, but the point is that "intelligent design" in this very broad sense includes many creeds not particularly inimical to evolutionary theory or its privileged presence in biology classrooms.

But "intelligent design", as formulated and promulgated by the paladins of the Discovery Institute, is a very different matter. To keep things clear, let's refer to this as Intelligent Design™. This is a very narrow doctrine, or rather, scheme for denigrating standard evolutionary theory. The core tactic is to provide "scientific" arguments purporting to show that the quintessential Darwinian mechanism — random variation at the genetic level acted upon by various selective forces — cannot possibly account for the observed complexity and intricacy of living forms. It is conjoined with the thesis that the putative inadequacy of selection in accounting for various biological phenomena leads inexorably to the inference that a creative intelligence must be directly responsible for these phenomena. Intelligent Design™, moreover, incorporates a highly focused legal, political, and cultural strategy for making its ideals ultimately prevail in popular opinion. Its further goal, which it has been indiscreet enough to display from time to time, is to re-legitimatize the biblical creation story, rendering it immune to scientific refutation. Its ultimate goal is to remake this country and perhaps others as virtual theocracies subject to the dogmas of conservative Christianity.

Shermer finally gets around to defining and analyzing Intelligent Design™, as such, about two-thirds of the way through his book. But first, he spends quite a bit of time refuting some very different aspects of the broad notion of "intelligent design" — sometimes aptly, sometimes not. Finally, he appears to contradict himself, in that he adds a chapter on the desirability of irenic and mutually respectful relations between science and some kinds (necessarily liberal) of religious and spiritual belief. To the extent that these are teleological in character — and it is hard to think of any that are not — they encompass an "intelligent design" in the broad sense indicated above, albeit one that may be quite benign in the context of the current bloodletting over Intelligent Design™.

Shermer would have served his book and its readers better had he focused primarily on Intelligent Design™, its godfather Phillip E Johnson, and its hit squad, notably Michael Behe and William Dembski. Still, a parent or student menaced by an aggressively creationist school board would be well advised to get hold of a copy of Why Darwin Matters as a ready-to-hand source of arguments useful and pertinent enough to force the battle-lines to be accurately drawn.

About the Author(s): 
Norman Levitt
Department of Mathematics
Hill Center
Rutgers University
Piscataway NJ 08854

Norman Levitt is a mathematician at Rutgers University (New Brunswick). He has written widely on the public understanding of science, including the book Prometheus Bedeviled (New Brunswick [NJ]: Rutgers University Press, 1999).

Trouble in Paradise

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Trouble in Paradise: Answers in Genesis Splinters
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
6
Year: 
2006
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
4–7
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
As of 2004, the US market for creationism was at least $22 million — as measured by adding up donations to and purchases of products and services from ten of the largest creationist groups. Of that amount, Answers in Genesis accounted for 59%, making it clearly the dominant player in US creationism (Lippard 2007). But in October 2005, Answers in Genesis (AiG) suffered a schism. This became public at the end of February 2006, when the groups in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa that had operated under the AiG name rebranded as Creation Ministries International (CMI), while the US and UK groups continued as AiG. (As the naming gets complicated, I will refer to the different countries' groups as AiG–US, AiG–UK, and AiG–Australia to distinguish them from the overall AiG organization prior to the split.)

The reasons for this division were not entirely clear at the time to anyone but insiders — and may not have been clear to some who were insiders. Ronald L Numbers writes in the new expanded version of his book The Creationists, "Despite my best efforts, I was unable to pin down the exact cause of the split" (Numbers 2006: 558). As of November 20, 2006, however, through documents posted on CMI's website, the causes of the split have now become known — revealing Machiavellian maneuvering by Ken Ham and AiG–US as they fought measures to distribute power and add accountability (successfully), attempted to seize the assets of AiG–Australia (partly successfully), and tried to gain complete control of AiG–Australia (unsuccessfully). These documents also reveal surprising details of the Australian group's 1987 split with co-founder John Mackay, which include accusations of demonic possession and necrophilia.

There were a few clues available about the AiG/CMI split in early 2006 — on the groups' respective websites, in a mailing from CMI, and in the AiG–US Form 990 filings with the IRS, which I noted on my blog in a March 3, 2006, posting about the split (Lippard 2006a). The biggest change on the websites was that information critical of certain other creationists (such as Kent Hovind and Dennis Petersen) disappeared from the AiG website, but re-appeared on the CMI website. The CMI mailing stated that "the US ministry withdrew themselves [sic] from the international ministry group (with the exception of the UK) with an expressed desire to operate autonomously, without e.g. website content being subject to an international representative system of checks/balances/peer review involving all the other offices bearing the same 'brand name'." The most notable change between the AiG–US's 2003 and 2004 Form 990 filings was the disappearance of several Australians from the board — Carl Wieland, Greg Peacock, and Paul Salmon. Also notable in hindsight is that Brandon Vallorani, AiG–US's Chief Operating Officer and second-in-command to Ken Ham, received a dramatic increase in salary between the 2003 and 2004 filings (more on this below).

These clues suggested that CMI was interested in distributing editorial powers internationally and in being able to criticize fellow creationists for inaccuracy, while AiG–US was interested in maintaining control of content, not being subject to peer review by its international brethren, and refraining from criticism of the work of other young-earth creationists — perhaps because it was selling copies of at least one such CMI-criticized work, Dennis Petersen's Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation.

Struggling for market share

The documents on the CMI website confirm that AiG–Australia was seeking a more equitable distribution of control over content published under the AiG name and distributed internationally, including website content, as well as a decentralization of power in AiG–US. A chronology of events on the CMI site (CMI 2006b) identifies the initial source of friction as a 2004 letter from AiG–Australia's CEO, Carl Wieland, to the AiG–US board, recommending that hiring and firing capability be taken out of the hands of Ken Ham and that he [Ham] be put into "a senior distinguished role as adviser/consultant/speaker, etc." (CMI 2006b: 1). Although Wieland volunteered to make the same change to his own role in Australia, this letter seems to have been taken as a direct personal assault by Ken Ham. AiG–US Chief Operating Officer Brandon Vallorani made the mistake of supporting the Wieland proposal in a letter to the AiG–US board, which Ham then showed to other AiG–US vice presidents. These VPs interpreted the letter as "treason" and "wanting to dethrone Ken", and Vallorani left the organization. According to the CMI chronology, "Brandon [Vallorani] is given a hefty payout, but on the condition that he sign [a confidentiality agreement]" (CMI 2006b: 2). AiG–US's Forms 990 confirm that Vallorani's salary went from $74 432 in 2003 to $90 344 in 2004, despite the fact that he worked less than nine months of 2004. He left the organization in September to become an executive vice president at American Vision, a Christian nonprofit devoted to "equipping and empowering Christians to restore America's biblical foundation."

The documents show that this initial friction in 2004 was followed by a continuing refusal on the part of Ken Ham and AiG–US to interact with Carl Wieland, whom they apparently regarded as attempting to seize control of the US group, and by a growing number of conflicts between the groups over control of website and magazine content. AiG–Australia produced the magazine Creation, while AiG–US managed the website content, and expressed the desire to be able to change the on-line content without prior approval of the Australian (or other) authors. AiG–US (temporarily) abandoned this goal when AiG–Australia emphasized that it owned the copyrights. Intellectual property and US distribution became key points of contention — AiG–Australia owned the Creation magazine content, the domain name "answersingenesis.org", and the AiG trademarks in Australia, but AiG–US controlled the website and distribution of the magazine in the United States — the largest audience for AiG's content. As the groups contended over these issues, AiG–US attempted to register "Creation" as a US trademark in April 2005 without informing AiG– Australia.

As the conflict intensified, interactions between the AiG–Australia and the AiG–US boards increased, but without the participation of Wieland on the Australian side. The AiG–Australia board began to side with Ham's position, apparently fearing the loss of US distribution of the magazine and failing to recognize the value of the intellectual property rights they owned. At an AiG–Australia board and senior staff retreat in June 2005, the AiG–Australia board asked Wieland to step down as CEO in order to put an end to the conflict — with no corresponding offer by Ham to do the same in the US. But when many staff members at the retreat threatened to resign, the board withdrew the directive a day later. To bring the dispute to an end, Wieland and the senior staff agreed to withdraw in writing any recommendations, concerns, or interest in the internal operations of AiG–US.

This agreement was, however, to no avail. The chronology reports that when Wieland was able to interact directly with Ham in Australia, Ham stated "that there is no way that the US ministry will accept in principle any system of voting whereby other countries could outvote AiG–USA on anything" (CMI 2006b: 4). But Wieland and AiG–Australia's senior staff considered this a minimum requirement for a continued relationship with AiG–US. The AiG–Australia board, on the other hand, continued to want peace at any cost, leading to a crisis of confidence in the board on the part of the senior staff. When the AiG–Australia board prepared to travel to the US in October 2005, the group's staff provided directors with a letter, the content of which is on the CMI website (CMI 2005). This letter called for the creation of a class of independent non-director membership in the organization. These members would outnumber the board of directors and have the power to adjudicate any unresolvable disputes between the CEO and the board (a system that has been put in place today at CMI). The Australian board members stated that they would not sign anything in the US without first consulting the Australian staff, but proceeded to do just that.

The document the AiG–Australia board signed was an agreement that gave AiG–US the right to use the content produced by the Australians under the AiG name without cost and to modify it without author approval, and it further guaranteed that authors had consented to such modification (which consent CMI says had not been obtained). Furthermore, the agreement indemnified AiG–US if any author sued for infringement of copyright or moral rights, allowed all fees and charges for use of the respective groups' materials to be set unilaterally by AiG–US, gave ownership of the domain name "answersingenesis.org" (previously owned by AiG–Australia) to AiG–US without any compensation, and stipulated that the Australian trademark on "Answers in Genesis" be transferred to AiG–US if the Australian group were to rebrand (an interpretation asserted by AiG–US, but disputed by CMI).

Wieland and the Australian group's senior staff interpreted this agreement as having "sold the ministry down the river" (CMI 2006b: 5), while the directors on the Australian board saw it as the only way to separate amicably and have AiG–US continue to distribute Creation magazine in the United States. Wieland and senior staff requested a meeting with their board to discuss the matter, but instead, one of the board directors came to their offices on November 7, 2005, to inform Wieland that he had removed as CEO, and asked Wieland to give his approval for him (the director) to become the new CEO. Wieland asked for time to think about it, only to be told that he was immediately suspended from employment and required to leave the premises. The same director entered Don Batten's office and asked him to sign a written "unswerving oath of allegiance" (CMI 2006b: 6) to the new organization. Batten declined, and was likewise suspended and asked to leave. Speaker Peter Sparrow likewise declined such an oath and was suspended, as were several other of the organization's public speakers. Two part-time speakers, Mark Harwood and John Hartnett, contacted the director to ask why their colleagues had been suspended, and failing to get answers to their satisfaction, declined to participate in further work until their colleagues were reinstated. Similar actions were taken by the volunteer leaders of the organization in each Australian state.

In November 2005, Carl Wieland received a telephone call from AiG–Australia's attorney, who had met with the Australian board members and suggested that their best course of action was to offer their immediate resignations and hand control of the organization over to Wieland. At about the same time, Wieland learned that Ham family members in Brisbane had approached various persons to form a substitute board in order to hand over control to them. AiG–Australia's attorney, upon learning of this, spoke with the Australian chairman of the board and persuaded him and the rest of the board to go with his original handover proposal, in exchange for indemnification for their actions with respect to the one-sided agreement. This handover took place on November 14, 2005.

Meanwhile, however, AiG–US considered the agreement to be a separation, and Ken Ham sent out a memo to that effect on November 1, 2006. The CMI chronology states: "in another email we were forwarded that was not intended for us, Ken Ham stated that henceforth only the UK AiG office would be regarded as a 'sister ministry' of AiG–USA, not the other four" (CMI 2006b: 5).

On November 30, AiG–US board chairman Don Landis responded to a letter from the new Australian board chairman Kerry Boettcher, stating that the October 2005 agreement is a "godly" agreement that will not be renegotiated, alleging that the Australian group has engaged in "gossip" and "rumors," and suggesting that the Australians "consider setting up [their] own website" (CMI 2006b: 7).

In December 2005, the Australians learned of a web survey of Creation magazine subscribers in the US conducted by AiG–US, stating that an "upgrade" of the magazine was being considered. The Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa boards of directors consulted with one another and decided to rebrand, effective on March 1, 2006, and drafted a legal letter announcing the decision. Their new name decision leaked out, however, and Paul Taylor of AiG–UK registered the names "CreationOnTheWeb" and "CreationMinistriesInternational" in both the .co.uk and .org.uk top-level domains in February — though he was apparently acting on his own, and he relinquished the domain names when CMI protested after learning of it in late 2006. CMI planned to put an offer of a free booklet, 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History, in the March 2006 issue of Creation in order to obtain e-mail addresses for US prospects. AiG–US thwarted this, however, by announcing in February that it has dropped Creation magazine and that it is "not possible" for them to distribute it, giving readers the impression that the magazine is no longer available in the United States. AiG–US started its own magazine in June 2006, calling it Answers after failing to get approval for a trademark of either "Creation" or "Creation Answers" in the US.

The lasting divide

The new Australian board made multiple efforts in 2006 to resolve its main concerns with the October 2005 agreement, but were rebuffed because AiG–US continued to refuse to have any interactions with Carl Wieland. In August 2006, AiG–US announced visits to Australia under the Answers in Genesis name, in violation of the Australian group's trademarks. Australian creationist John Mackay, who split from the Australian group when it was still run by Ken Ham in 1987, announced in his newsletter that "Ken Ham re-launches ministry in Australia." AiG–US issued a demand that CMI hand over the Australian trademarks for Answers in Genesis, while CMI issued a legal demand that AiG–US cease its infringement of them.

On November 1, 2006, AiG–US sent a letter to CMI indicating that they are ceasing all contact due to "factious and unbiblical conduct" and "spiritual problems" at CMI; a shorter version of the letter was also distributed by John Mackay in his newsletter. CMI asked AiG–US to withdraw this letter, but after getting no response, decided to go public with the dispute on November 21. CMI published on its website the following documents:
  1. A letter dated November 15, 2006, from CMI to AiG–US complaining about the November 1 letter.
  2. An e-mail of November 15, 2006, announcing that letter.
  3. A summary of the October 2005 agreement, explaining how it disadvantages the Australian group and why it attempted to reject or renegotiate it.
  4. An excerpt from the "Deed of Copyright License," which was signed as part of the October 2005 agreement, with comments pointing out the unreasonable terms.
  5. A detailed chronology of events involving the split between the groups (CMI 2006b).
  6. The text of the October 2005 letter (CMI 2005) given to the Australian board before its trip to the US, calling for the creation of a class of non-director members.
  7. Several documents pertaining to John Mackay's departure from the Australian organization in 1987 (CMI 2006c), including a manuscript entitled "Salem Revisited" by Carl Wieland's wife, Margaret Buchanan, and a collection of letters from leaders of various Australian churches and other individuals regarding accusations made by John Mackay against her.
These last items, CMI contends, show that John Mackay had accused Margaret Buchanan, who at the time was Ken Ham's widowed personal secretary, of being a demonically possessed practitioner of witchcraft attempting to undermine the Australian organization and Mackay in particular, as well as of practicing necrophilia. Buchanan was placed on leave for several weeks as the organization initially took Mackay's claims seriously and ultimately rejected them, which led to Mackay's departure. CMI apparently regards AiG–US as now being willing to work with Mackay in order to rebuild its support in Australia, despite the fact that Ham had previously cut all ties with him over his accusations.

AiG and CMI do not appear to be close to a peaceful resolution of their dispute. AiG appears to have the upper hand in terms of resources and the content of the October 2005 agreement, but CMI appears to me to have the moral high ground. It remains to be seen how this schism and the subsequent public exposure of its details will affect the respective groups financially, but one thing that is clear is that creationism continues to evolve in fascinating ways.

[As this issue was in layout, CMI released a detailed complaint against Ham and AiG–US, including its intended lawsuit. Details can be found at http://www.creationontheweb.com/briese2.]

References



[CMI] Creation Ministries International. 2005. Staff reform letter. Available on-line at http://www.creationontheweb.com/images/pdfs/dispute/StaffReformLetter.pdf. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

[CMI] Creation Ministries International. 2006a. Sad dispute between CMI and AiG–USA. Available on-line at http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/4769/. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

[CMI] Creation Ministries International. 2006b. A very brief chronology of events. Available on-line at http://www.creationontheweb.com/images/pdfs/dispute/Chronological_orderSHORT.pdf. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

[CMI] Creation Ministries International. 2006c. Re: John Mackay. Available on-line at http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/4261/. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

Lippard J. 2006a. Answers in Genesis schism: US group goes solo. Available on-line at http://lippard.blogspot.com/2006/03/answers-in-genesis-schism-us-group.html. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

Lippard J. 2006b. More from behind the scenes of the Australian/US creationism schism at Answers in Genesis. Available on-line at http://lippard.blogspot.com/2006/11/more-from-behind-scenes-of.html. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

Lippard J. 2006c. John Mackay and Answers in Genesis. Available on-line at http://lippard.blogspot.com/2006/11/john-mackay-and-answers-in-genesis.html. Last accessed December 31, 2006.

Lippard J. 2007. Creationist finances: some conclusions. Available on-line at http://lippard.blogspot.com/2007/01/creationist-finances-some-conclusions.html. Last accessed January 13, 2007.

Numbers RL. 2006. The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.

About the Author(s): 
Jim Lippard
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
ncseoffice@ncseweb.org

Jim Lippard is a long-time critic of pseudoscience, including creationism. He blogs at http://lippard.blogspot.com/.

Review: Intelligent Design vs Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
6
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
28–30
Reviewer: 
Carrie Sager
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Intelligent Design vs Evolution
Author(s): 
Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron
Living Waters Publications, 2006.
http://www.wayofthemaster.com
includes The Science of Evolution DVD
The latest entry in the "Intelligent Design" is Creationism file, the board game Intelligent Design vs Evolution, is a Ken Ham-endorsed, William Dembski-approved cornucopia of bad science and fundamentalist propaganda (see http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/id-the-board-game/). The game is the creation of Ray Comfort and television's Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains), who beam beatifically out from five of the box's six sides. It combines young-earth biblical literalism with generic anti-evolutionism with a touch of proselytizing, all wrapped up in a package that is aesthetically pleasing but scientifically bankrupt.

The gameplay is simple. Two players or two teams move their plastic brains around a timeline from "In the Beginning" to "End of Time" (alarmingly, only three spaces after the present). As they go, players collect "brain cards" and can be penalized for sins (doubt, ingratitude, compromise) or rewarded for virtues (understanding, humility, God's grace).

To advance along the board, players must answer questions, which can mostly be divided into four categories:

Biblical questions: "True or False? The Bible teaches that intelligence is the reason most people don't seek after God." "False. Pride is the reason most people don't seek after God." Besides providing an opportunity for digs at those smart-aleck scientists, these questions sometimes have penalties if players get them wrong — including double penalties for the ones deemed most important. Of course, since these questions usually have the most obvious answers, the penalties might be for stupidity.

Absurdly long quotations: (often with true/false or multiple choice answers). These tend to be creationists' usual misquotations from scientists: out of context and outdated, with generous use of ellipses. An excellent example is a 1929 quote from DMS Watson: "Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because … no alternative explanation is credible … the theory of evolution itself is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logical coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative is special creation, which is clearly incredible." The question, by the way, is to identify the speaker, the educational value of which eludes me.

Sneaky trick questions: "True or False? Prehistoric man may have sometimes lived in caves." "False. […] Since the first man is mentioned in the Bible's historical record, there has never been a prehistoric man" (emphasis in original).

Inane riddles: "There are two of us. We look the same, but we are not. […] If we faced upwards we would cause big problems in a rainstorm. Who are we?" "Your nostrils." These are frequently used to show the brilliant design of human beings; players never read: "Even though my width can cause knee problems, I am often not wide enough to fit a baby's head through without complications" for the female pelvis.

I enlisted my roommates to help me test the game. Roommate One, with a background in copyediting, was appalled by the number of typos that can be found on the board and cards. Our favorite was a space on the board that reads, "He that belives [sic] not God has made Him a liar" (1 John 5:10). The generally poor grasp of punctuation was distracting but forgivable, but that no one noticed a typo in a Bible quote struck us (perhaps inappropriately) as hilarious. Roommate Two discovered that the secret trick to answering the less obvious questions is to determine which answer could best support design; the hallux probably is not the tip of the nose, because the tip of the nose has no special function, but if it is the big toe, the answer can tell players how awesomely toes help us balance, run, and walk.

It took us about an hour to get through the game. Other than admiration for the physical design of the game ("It's a lot higher quality than I was expecting," said Roommate One), the three of us were unimpressed. Questions were either blindingly obvious or nearly impossible ... and occasionally nonsensical. This made the game more a matter of luck more than of skill or knowledge. Roommate Two made a small noise of relief every time I began reading a question with "True or False?" As a result, most of our enjoyment came from reading questions like, "True or False? The people who waged war in the 'Crusades' were Christians." "False. The Crusaders were misguided Roman Catholic zealots."

The amusement value of the questions is inversely proportional to their scholarship value. Some questions cite Wikipedia as a source ("So that might not even be true!" exclaimed an exasperated Roommate One after getting such a question wrong). One source uses an article in NCSE's Creation/Evolution for a question about "[t]he famed 'Nebraska Man'" — an article that concludes: "The creationists who belittle mistakes by scientists cannot admit that science advances, in part, by correcting error" (Wolf and Mellett 1985: 31).

Questionable sources and questionable quoting of legitimate sources is hardly the only example of deliberate misrepresentation of science. One question refers to an "embarrassing situation" Time magazine ended up in when it reported that Mononykus was a flightless bird instead of a theropodan dinosaur. The implication, of course, is that the evidence for dinosaur-to-bird evolution is faulty and that the media cannot be trusted on the subject. There are several problems with this argument. For one, even a cursory glance at the literature on Mononykus shows that scientists have not reached a consensus about whether or not it is a bird. For another, even if they had, neither classification would negate the fact that it has characteristics of both birds and dinosaurs. Third, and most important, if the classification had changed, as with the "case of Nebraska Man", it would simply be an example of scientists' refining a conclusion based on new evidence. Creationists' continued confusion over this basic aspect of the nature of science is baffling — when not intentional.

Other questions are simply wrong:
Since there are no transitional forms ("missing links"), German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt, speculated that there must have been quantum leaps from one species to another. He wrote, "The major evolutionary advances must have taken place in single large steps. … The many missing links in the Paleontological record are sought for in vain because they have never existed: 'the first bird hatched from a reptilian egg.'" His ridiculous theory is called: (A) cataclysmic escalation; (B) precipitous equanimity; (C) punctuated equilibrium.
There is no (D): None of the above — a choice necessary for an accurate answer to most of these questions. The answer they are looking for is (C): punctuated equilibrium. What's more, the same choices with the same answer are on a different question, this time for a "theory" advanced by a 1958 children's book about dinosaurs. Another pair of questions use the same Stephen Jay Gould quote with different words left out — but one cites the original Paleobiology article and the other from a book by creationist Jonathan Sarfati.

There are only 250 questions in this game, and some of them are repeats. Trivial Pursuit comes with 6000 questions and people complain that there are not enough. In our game, we went through 29 cards, which would give us eight or nine games before we knew all the answers. At $30, this makes each game worth around $3.50 — about the same as renting a movie. So if your goal is to gather a group of your scientist buddies and have a good laugh at Kirk Cameron's blinding ignorance, this is a pretty good value for your money. But that it would be used for any other purpose, particularly an educational one, is terrifying.

Reference



Wolf J, Mellett SJ. 1985. The role of "Nebraska Man" in the creation–evolution debate. Creation/Evolution 16: 31–43.

About the Author(s): 
Carrie Sager
NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
sager@ncseweb.org

Carrie Sager is NCSE's Project Assistant. As the youngest person on NCSE staff, it was decided that she would find a board game most relevant, although she suggested that Grand Theft Auto: Dover would be more fitting for her generation.

Review: After the Dinosaurs

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
6
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
37
Reviewer: 
Kevin Padian
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals
Author(s): 
Donald R Prothero
Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 2006. 362 pages
There are hundreds of books about dinosaurs, popular and technical, but very few about the mammals that followed them. Some are geared for a general audience; some for specialists. Prothero's new book has the advantage of something for everyone, almost. A specialist can read it for a fine overview of many aspects of life throughout the age of mammals; a general reader will get the same overview, plus an introduction to a great many new topics to research further.

Don's strengths have always been in the climatic and faunal evolution of mammals, and the stratigraphic relationships of the deposits in which their fossils are found. This book plays to his strengths, which many of us lack. The result is a comprehensive look at the geology and climate of the Cenozoic Era, including the climatic indicators afforded by isotope studies, invertebrates, and fossil plants. The Age of Mammals is presented here as a series of subdivided slices of time, each with its own distinctive climates, geological circumstances, and faunas.

This is about the most readable volume imaginable in what is one of two classic approaches to the history of life: either one goes group by group or one goes through the time column successively. Because Don takes the second approach, there are hardly any cladograms in the book, and not much discussion of phylogenetic relationships or evolutionary adaptations. There are many reproductions of artists' reconstructions of fossil mammals, but very few skeletons and almost no drawings of teeth, which are the stock in trade of mammalian paleontologists. On the other hand, this is a great source for understanding geological and climatic change, and its effects on the faunas and floras of the Cenozoic Era — a comprehensive coverage found in almost no other book.

This is perhaps not the source to take anti-evolutionists to if you want to explain to them the fine points of how whales evolved from terrestrial animals. On the other hand, this book is unusually good in showing how a great many lines of evidence — from chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, botany, and climatology — contribute to a unified picture of the history of life that accompanies the fossils in the rock record.

About the Author(s): 
Kevin Padian
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Oakland CA 94709-0477
ncseoffice@ncseweb.org

Kevin Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley; Curator of Paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology; and president of NCSE’s board of directors.

Review: Darwin's Nemesis

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
6
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
30–33
Reviewer: 
Lawrence S Lerner
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Darwin's Nemesis
Author(s): 
William A Dembski, editor
Downers Grove (IL): InterVarsity Press, 2006. 357 pages
In April 2004, the leading lights of the "intelligent design" creationism (IDC) movement met at Biola University (formerly the Bible Institute of Los Angeles) to confer on their "godfather", law professor Phillip Johnson, the Phillip E Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth. Thus began a two-day conference entitled "Intelligent Design and the Future of Science." The talks presented there formed the basis for the present volume.

A perusal of the book gives a pretty good picture of what IDC really means to its advocates. The subject matter of the papers ranges widely, and I will try below to give the flavor of some of them. But first let's survey the contradictory faces the IDC movement presents to the general public (it is really science!) and to its friends (our mission is to impose our God on every aspect of society).

In his preface, William Dembski writes of a 1992 meeting, "Here, for the first time, a radical non-materialist critique of Darwinism and naturalistic evolutionary theories was put on the table for a high-level, reasoned, academic discussion without anyone promoting a religious or sectarian agenda" (p 14, emphasis added). And in his conference paper, he writes, "… most reporters who interview me ask how intelligent design differs from creationism. This gives me a perfect opening, and I can explain how intelligent design is not a religious doctrine about where everything came from but rather a scientific investigation into how patterns exhibited by finite arrangements of matter can signify intelligence" (p 98). But given that Darwin's Nemesis is an insider work, that is about all there is of the public face. Almost all of the rest of the book consists of one argument after another supporting the superiority of a theistic — and almost always a specifically "Christian" — worldview, with science reduced to the medieval role of handmaiden of theology. Here are just a few examples:
Christianity is not burdened with the requirement that everything result from natural processes. … either natural or supernatural explanations of nature are allowed. In the study of biology, … Christians have a broader palette of explanations to draw on than do materialists. (Timothy G Standish, p 119)

The revolution from the paradigm of Darwinism to the paradigm of intelligent design will undoubtedly be accompanied by a metaphysical shift from materialism to theistic realism. (David Keller, p 159)

Years before, as a seminary student at Unification Theological Seminary in the late 1970s, I had become convinced that there is a fundamental conflict between theistic religions and Darwinian evolution. Among the former I include Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Unificationism and Zoroastrianism. … Now I realized I couldn't be a theist and a Darwinian. (Jonathan Wells, p 164–5)

[I]f Darwinism is true, Christian metaphysics is a fantasy. (Nancy Pearcey, quoting a 2002 interview of Phillip Johnson, p 228)

Complexity theory views the essence of life as independent of its particular physical medium, consistent with Christian belief. … We are thankful that the God of Christ's love is also the God of purpose and order who superintends complexity and chaos. (Wesley D Allen and Henry F Schaeffer III, p 300)
Clearly, the conference participants quoted above have found it difficult or impossible to reconcile the generally accepted evolutionary theory with their personal religious views. The one speaker at the conference who accepts evolution, the philosopher and "friendly critic" Michael Ruse, summarizes the intention of his contribution in the sentence, "My aim has not been to defend Christianity, but to defend the integrity of the Darwinian who wants to be a Christian" (p 148). In the light of what the other twenty contributors have to say, he was probably wasting his time at the Biola conference.

If there were still reason to doubt that IDC is about religion, not science, a scrutiny of the speakers at this "scientific" conference yields further revelations. Using the biographical information at the back of the book itself, together with a quick internet search, I tallied the disciplines in which the twenty participants (other than Ruse) had degrees. I was able to find 39 degrees identified with a specific discipline (including two non-degree areas of intensive study on the part of contributor Nancy Pearcey and Marcus Ross's PhD candidacy in geoscience). Here is how the disciplines stack up, in order of frequency:
  • 16 degrees in theology, religion, or philosophy;
  • 9 degrees in the physical sciences or engineering;
  • 4 degrees in the social sciences;
  • 3 degrees in biology, microbiology, or biochemistry;
  • 3 degrees in geology and earth sciences;
  • 2 degrees in law;
  • 1 degree in mathematics;
  • 1 degree in environmental biology and public policy.
Not quite the lineup one might find at a conference on evolutionary biology, but not surprising for an evangelical revival meeting.

Let me now turn to some of the more interesting chapters.

Part I, "Portraits of the Man and his Work", centers on accounts of how the authors first met and were influenced (or inspired) by Johnson. Stephen C Meyer rehearses the standard nonsense about "gaps" and "lack of transitional forms" in the fossil record and the supposed inutility of mutations for producing useful structures. Michael Behe, the father of "irreducible complexity" and of nine children (whose names he enumerates in his essay), is more fun. He presents a folksy account of his Catholic childhood in an enormous family, his early uncritical acceptance of evolution as he had been taught it in Catholic schools, and the doubts gradually instilled, first by an evangelical lab technician he dated, and later by a series of other events. In particular, he infers on the basis of a conversation with a fellow Catholic postdoctoral scholar that deep down, biologists in general do not think that life could have originated through natural means. All this is cemented by his early contacts with Johnson, who instructs him in the underlying realities of the biological sciences. Thus enlightened, he encounters (and reflects bitterly on) the scorn with which IDCs are regarded in the scientific community. Specifically, he is taken aback when a letter he has written to Science, criticizing a negative review of Johnson's Darwin on Trial, is not published. But all is resolved when he publishes his Darwin's Black Box.

Thomas Woodward devotes most of his essay to a contrast between Johnson's rhetoric and that of mainline evolutionary scientists. I am not sure what essential contribution rhetoric can make in forwarding the sciences, but Woodward's most interesting point is this: "… I was amazed once to hear a brilliant rhetorician whom I respect very highly describe the issue of God's existence as a nonrhetorical issue, implying that it is a purely subjective (that is, non-rational) issue, one that cannot really be argued at all." In a long footnote, he expands on his objections to this position. They boil down to a dilemma. We can be sure that his intercourse with a very personal God is very extensive; otherwise he could hardly continue as a professor of Bible and Theology at the small Bible college where he teaches. But he wants objective, external evidence of God that will have more weight with others. This would become possible, if only science would pursue evidence of the supernatural, as Johnson insists it should. In this light, Woodward's support of IDC is entirely understandable. Receiving the Holy Spirit oneself is the sine qua non for evangelicals; disseminating it to others is the Great Commission. Even as a non-scientist, he could hope one day to see a newspaper headline something like, "Scientist Finds DNA Sequence That Decodes As 'I Am Who Am.'"

William Dembski leads off Part II, "The Wedge and Its Despisers". I was a bit surprised at the querulous, even angry tone of his essay, beginning with its title, "Dealing with the backlash against intelligent design". The cool, scholarly tone of his writings aimed at the "outside world" is not apparent in this us-against-them piece. The essence of the chapter is pretty well captured in the following quote:
We have this going for us, however, which the evolutionary naturalists don't, namely, the evidence and arguments are on our side. It's therefore to our advantage to discuss intelligent design and naturalistic evolution on their merits. Conversely, the other side needs to delegitimate the debate, … casting intelligent design as a pseudoscience and characterizing its significance purely in political and religious terms. As a consequence, critics of intelligent design engage in all forms of character assassination, ad hominem attacks, guilt by association and demonization. (p 82)
Part III, "Two Friendly Critics," is an odd fit in the general context of the book. The ever-idiosyncratic David Berlinski contributes two short fables. He attributes them to the Argentine literary giant Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986). Though the fables clearly attempt to mimic Borges's dry, witty, and often hieratic style, Borges is a hard act to follow. The first fable ridicules the idea of evolution; the second does the same to the idea of IDC. Both sport a stiff manner that does Borges injustice. Nice try but no yerba maté.

As noted above, Michael Ruse bravely attempts the impossible reconciliation, showing that one can be a Christian evolutionist. That is true, but one cannot be a "Christian" evolutionist — that is, a Christian defined as a member of the subset of evangelicals to which the volume's contributors belong.

Part IV, "Johnson's Revolution in Biology," gets to the heart of the matter. Is IDC really science? If it were, IDC-based papers would be making floods of new, groundbreaking contributions to the sciences and would be vigorously debated in scientific journals. The one paper that actually made it into a journal is reprinted here. Stephen C Meyer's paper "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories" was published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (2004; 117 [2]: 213–39). As Meyer's brief biography notes (p 352), it "created an international sensation." However, the sensation was not about the content of the paper. Rather, it turned out that the editor of the journal, who had no expertise on the subject matter, had creationist leanings of his own. He therefore published the paper, though it had nothing to do with the specialized field of the journal. The result was indeed a sensation — or rather a scandal. The upshot was that the Biological Society of Washington officially deemed the paper "inappropriate". For an analysis of the paper's content, see Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R Elsberry's "Meyer's hopeless monster" (available on-line at http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/08/meyers_hopeless_1.html).

Jonathan Wells has nothing new to say. His piece is a short version of his earlier writing on the evolution of his life's mission: "Just as many of my fellow Unificationists had dedicated themselves to destroying the antitheistic ideology of Marxism, I dedicated myself to destroying the antitheistic ideology of Darwinism" (p 166).

Part V, "Ever-Increasing Spheres of Influence," moves beyond scientific issues into the realm that really concerns most creationists, namely, what they see as the baleful influence of evolution in the areas of theology, philosophy, and the extrascientific world in general. Nancy Pearcey expounds on the connections between "Darwinism" and abortion, sexual promiscuity, and postmodernism. She concludes, "The Darwinian creation story leads to an upper story of postmodern relativism, and ultimately undercuts itself. But Christianity offers a rationally coherent, logically consistent worldview… It lays claim to be truth about every aspect of reality… In that sense it is total Truth" (p 243, emphasis in original).

J Budziszewski takes an essentially Thomist tack: "Nature, then, is a contingent being, not a necessary being like God, and contingent beings need causes" (p 246). For him, the clinching argument is that "'Darwinian' natural law" (whatever that is) is not consistent with Thomist natural law, but IDC is.

In "A Taxonomy of Teleology," young-earth creationists Marcus Ross and Paul Nelson make an elaborate analysis — a mock-cladistic one, no less — of the various types of creationists. The details are tortuous and of little interest, but the conclusion is clear: "Johnson is a creationist, all right — just not a young-earth creationist" (p 275).

The chapter "Complexity, Chaos, and God" is the most intelligent and interesting part of the whole book. In it, chemists Wesley D Allen and Henry F Schaeffer III use a clear if brief exposition of the essence of chaos theory to explicate an ancient theological dilemma: human free will versus the determinism implied by divine omnipotence/omniscience. In some completely classical physical systems, where the uncertainty principle is not relevant, the evolutionary path of the system is so exquisitely sensitive to the initial conditions that it is impossible to predict its exact course. Many real-world systems are chaotic in this sense. Hence, for humans the course of the universe is unpredictable and free will operates; for God, who can perfectly control the initial conditions, the universe is deterministic.

A pretty application of physics to theology; so far, so good. But Allen and Schaeffer lose me, I fear, when they make parallels between chaos theory and the Christian's ultimate fate as revealed in 1 and 2 Corinthians, from which they infer that "[t]he concept of a human soul can be retained in complexity theory as an emergent, nonreducible collection of properties or essences." Well, that's fine, though some theologians may get a whiff of the God of the gaps.

But next, IDC gets dragged into this discussion by the ears, as it were. Specifically, the authors conflate biological evolution with prebiotic evolution — a standard creationist ploy — and then attack prebiotic evolutionary arguments on the basis that they are as yet not heavily constrained by the available evidence. This point, well understood by the scientists in the field, they attribute to Johnson. But again, this is a God-of-the-gaps argument.

Allen and Schaeffer then make the error of taking Dembski's "fourth law of thermodynamics" seriously. As physical chemists, they should know better; the mathematics and physics of Dembski's arguments have been thoroughly and definitively demolished by numerous experts (see Mark Perakh's Unintelligent Design [Amherst (NY): Prometheus Books, 2004], or his "A free lunch in a mousetrap" (available on-line at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/dem_nfl.cfm).

Finally, a word about editor Dembski's preface. The decision of Judge Jones in Kitzmiller v Dover came down as Dembski was preparing the book. Needless to say, the bulk of the book was already complete. Dembski tries to make the best of Jones's devastating critique of IDC, which bears heavily on its essentially and ineluctably religious nature — a point that this book can only re-inforce. But as Dembski writes, "Ultimately, the significance of a court case like Kitzmiller v Dover depends not on a judge's decision but on the cultural forces that serve as the backdrop against which the decision is made." In that, Dembski is absolutely correct. It remains to be seen how American society will react in the broader sense — onward and upward with science or into a new Dark Age with concern for the soul's fate in the afterlife trumping interaction with the material world in which we pass our lives.

For those who want to take the trouble (and it is a good deal of trouble) to delve into the inner motivations of "intelligent design" creationists, Darwin's Nemesis is a good source. Needless to say, I do not recommend it to the casual reader!

About the Author(s): 
Lawrence S Lerner
College of Natural Science & Mathematics
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
Long Beach CA 90840
lslerner@csulb.edu

Lawrence S Lerner is Professor Emeritus in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at California State University, Long Beach, and a nationally recognized expert on state science standards. He received NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2003.