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. ...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:
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.
2. Explore Evolution (supplemental textbook forthcoming in early 2007)Longtime Pandas watchers may be having flashbacks at this point, but there's more!a. Evaluates the main arguments for and against neo-Darwinism (does not teach about ID)i. Common descent (fossil succession, homologies, embryology, & biogeography)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.
ii. Creative power of mutation and natural selection (mechanisms of evolution)
iii. Recent challenges to neo-Darwinism: Molecular machines (irreducibly complex?)
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.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.
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.
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.
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)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.
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)
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.