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.